Easy Ways to Prevent and Avoid Jet Lag on Long Flights

Updated on July 29, 2016

Jet lag - that dreaded ailment that strikes travelers, making vacations seem shorter and leaving you feeling like you need a break just to recover once you get home. Due to time changes, traveling long distances does impact your body's schedule, but jet lag doesn't have to ruin your next business or pleasure trip. Believe it or not, jet lag is mostly caused by dehydration. This means jet lag can be mitigated if you understand what causes air travel dehydration and how to counteract it.

Air travel is much more dehydrating than a normal day.
Air travel is much more dehydrating than a normal day. | Source

Why Is Air Travel Dehydrating?

Air travel is much more dehydrating than a regular day, so it is easy to become dehydrated, even if you drink normal quantities of fluids. Here are some of the many factors that make a plane trip so dehydrating:

  • Walking (maybe even running) long distances in airports with bags in tow.
  • Overly dry plane air. On a flight from Newark to Tokyo, I was trying desperately to stay hydrated, but the air was so dry it hurt my now and throat every time I breathed.
  • Coffee. Early morning flights, long days of travel, and abundant airport coffee shops make a cup of Joe very tempting, but caffeine is a diuretic. Because coffee has a lot of caffeine, you can lose a greater volume of liquid than the amount of coffee you consume!
  • Alcohol. Airport bars are temping when you have a layover, and you might want an in-flight drink to pass the time, but alcohol is also dehydrating.
  • Prepared foods. Many prepared foods and fast foods have absurd amounts of sodium. Other quick foods, like chips and granola bars, are dry and dehydrating, even if they don't have too much sodium.
  • Not drinking enough water. In 'the good old days' you could bring your own bottles of water to the airport. If you try that today, your water will be confiscated at security. Once inside the airport, shops will gladly sell you water at two or three times the price you paid before leaving home. Even if you have water on the plane, many people simply do not drink enough in flight because they don't want to pester other passengers and ask to be let out of the row to use the restroom.

Do you know what foods you can bring through security?
Do you know what foods you can bring through security? | Source

Some foods are treated as liquids and must go in your quart bag along with everything else!

How Can I Prevent Dehydration While Flying?

There is nothing you can do about the extraordinary dryness of airplane air (except book your next flight on a Dreamliner, once it is re-cleared for travel), but you can take steps to mitigate the other dehydrating, jet lag-inducing factors.

  • Don't drink coffee before boarding the plane (or while on it!). I know this is a tough one! If you love coffee or feel sluggish, you'll want to stop at Starbucks. If you simply cannot resist the coffee urge, try to get something less dehydrating, like decaf or a small shot of espresso.
  • Don't drink alcohol in the airport or on the plane. It may seem like a great way to get your vacation started, but it's also a great way to spend your first day away feeling poorly!
  • Bring your own snacks. If you are flying domestically, you can pretty much bring anything you want to eat (except soups). If flying to an island or internationally, there may be some restrictions on fruits and vegetables. However, some foods, such as peanut butter, are treated as liquids. Make sure to check the TSA site for the most recent rules!

Eating plenty of fruit can help stave off jet lag.
Eating plenty of fruit can help stave off jet lag. | Source
  • Eat lots of fruits and vegetables while traveling. Unlike dehydrating pretzels and peanuts, fruits and veggies are full of water, helping you stay hydrated.
  • Bring your own water bottle. Note that I did not say bottle of water - bring a water bottle. Empty water bottles may pass through TSA screening. Bring your favorite reusable bottle and simply fill it for free at a water fountain. Some airports even have cool vertical water bottle filling fountains!
  • Stash a travel sized lotion in your quart bag of liquids. No, this won't exactly keep you internally hydrated, but it can help your skin feel less horrifically dry.

Do you get bad jet lag?

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Preventing/Avoiding Jet Lag

When it comes to jet lag, staying hydrated is more than half the battle. You'll still have to internalize the new time zone (and maybe even a new date!), but proper hydration can dramatically decrease your recovery time. Sleeping half your vacation or feeling tempted to take sick days just to recover from one is never fun! Follow these tips and you're sure to improve your next flight experience.


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    • Natashalh profile imageAUTHOR


      5 years ago from Hawaii

      Thanks! I've been lucky enough to only take short flights in recent months, but there will be more long ones in the next few!

    • aerospacefan profile image

      John Lannoye 

      5 years ago from Chicago

      Loved this hub. Very practical information and easy to understand. Jetlag is terrible. Good tip on fresh fruits!

    • Natashalh profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago from Hawaii

      I'm flying again tomorrow, but luckily it's a very short flight! Thanks for stopping by and I hope these tips are useful one day.

    • Vinaya Ghimire profile image

      Vinaya Ghimire 

      7 years ago from Nepal

      I'm not a frequent flyer. But I will remember your tips to prevent jet lags when ever I board a plane.

    • Natashalh profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago from Hawaii

      Yikes! I can believe it - that is a super long haul flight! Thanks for stopping in!

    • pstraubie48 profile image

      Patricia Scott 

      7 years ago from North Central Florida

      Great hub. I wish I had known this when I traveled to and fro Japan in the seventies. The flight both ways was long and taxing and it took weeks to fully recover and I was a week young woman then.

      Hopefully those who travel will read and heed your words.

      Angels are on their way to you ....ps :)

    • Natashalh profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago from Hawaii

      THe humidity on planes is appallingly low! As in single digits. THe restrictions on liquids are so annoying, aren't they? At least it is possible to bring a reusable bottle through. I didn't realize that for a long time.

    • Glimmer Twin Fan profile image

      Claudia Mitchell 

      7 years ago

      Jet lag sucks. I always chug water, but with the restrictions these days it's harder. Really useful hub.

    • Natashalh profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago from Hawaii

      The air in airplanes is so super dry! It absolutely incredible. The humidity is literally in the single digits. Wow. So glad you enjoyed this one, too!

    • Tonipet profile image

      Tonette Fornillos 

      7 years ago from The City of Generals

      One of the mistakes many people do is drinking coffee during stopovers, I'm guilty! Lol.... so it shouldn't be. I think this answers some of the questions regarding motion sickness, as well. I am sharing!

      Thank you for this, Natashahl. Very useful. Hugs!:=)-Tonette

    • Natashalh profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago from Hawaii

      Yes, working towards your destination time zone does help, but air travel is so super dehydrating that even that won't do it all! One of the reasons the Boeing Dreamliner is such a big deal is that it fliers lower and has moister air so it isn't as bad with the jet lag. Unfortunately, it also has lots of problems and isn't currently cleared to fly. Since they're made where I'm from, we get to hear lots about them.

    • Maren Morgan M-T profile image

      Maren Elizabeth Morgan 

      7 years ago from Pennsylvania

      Thanks! How about an article on switching your body to the new time zone of your destination? That would help me.

    • Natashalh profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago from Hawaii

      Wow - do you have a direct flight? If so, that's cool! I flew in to Honolulu Monday, but I went Charleston SC to Phoenix to Honolulu. Last year I flew in and out of California to get from SC to Hawaii. I need to look for something with fewer connections next time!

    • Hawaiian Scribe profile image

      Stephanie Launiu 

      7 years ago from Hawai'i

      I've got an 8 1/2 hour flight from Honolulu to Atlanta tomorrow. Your hub was a timely reminder of what I can do to avoid jet lag. Thanks so much. Aloha, Stephanie

    • Natashalh profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago from Hawaii

      It's what I did today before dive training! It worked well. I was awake and didn't have needing to go to the bathroom problems. =)

    • epbooks profile image

      Elizabeth Parker 

      7 years ago from Las Vegas, NV

      That's a good idea. I'll give it a whirl next time!

    • Natashalh profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago from Hawaii

      Billrrrr - You are, of course, correct. The absolute easiest way to avoid jet lag is not getting on a plane! You cannot take a train across The Pond, but you can still take a liner. It's actually a dream of mine. I guess you could say it's on my bucket list. =)

      Randomcreative - Thanks! I've done a lot of flying in the past couple of months and I'm always trying to improve my 'not feeling like crap for several days' techniques.

      Epbooks - Yep, it is difficult to skimp on the coffee! I totally understand. Try some espresso - the smaller volume makes it less dehydrating. It's what I do when I 'need' coffee but can't afford the volume!

    • epbooks profile image

      Elizabeth Parker 

      7 years ago from Las Vegas, NV

      All good tips. I fly fairly often and follow a lot of these rules myself (except for the coffee because I'd be a zombie without it)! I've seen people getting drunk on airplanes and I could only the imagine the hangover they are going to have from dehydration!

    • randomcreative profile image

      Rose Clearfield 

      7 years ago from Milwaukee, Wisconsin

      Great job with this topic! Even experienced flyers can always use a few new travel tips. There is something here for everyone.

    • Billrrrr profile image

      Bill Russo 

      7 years ago from Cape Cod

      Nice job on this Natashalh. I must point out however that the best way to avoid jet lag, is to take the train!

      Alas, if you are going from Boston to London it's a little difficult - you have to pass over the Canadian border and have to have a passport to go from the U.S. to Ontario!!!!!!

      Don't laugh. London is a great city of over 300,000 people and it does have the Thames River. For real!

    • Natashalh profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago from Hawaii

      That's a great tip about taking a power nap! I should try that when I make the trip 'home' in a couple of months. Amsterdam sounds fun! I've never been. Thanks for stopping by!

    • kidscrafts profile image


      7 years ago from Ottawa, Canada

      Interesting hub! I know that those long flight are hard on the body! I never did a flight as long as Newark -Tokyo. The longest trip I did was Newark -Buenos Aires. I must say the flight attendants were quite good and brought water on a regular basis.... and I went to pick up some more water at the back.

      Usually, I take one of those little bottle of wine they offer on the KLM flights (Montreal - Amsterdam) but you are right to say that it dehydrates the body. So next time... no wine for me. To help fight the jet lag, usually, I try to sleep about one hour within a few hours of my arrival... and then live at the new time zone and go early to bed. It works very well for me.

      Thanks for sharing this hub :-)

    • Natashalh profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago from Hawaii

      Billybuc - I can't afford to fly anywhere, either. I'm lucky to have found a guy who's willing to indulge my artistic endeavors and finds my company worthwhile. I just got to Hawaii where I'm "patiently" awaiting his return from deployment at some point this month!

      Rose - Thanks! I once heard it said that it takes a day to adjust for each hour of time difference. That may be, if you don't pay attention. I just got to Hawaii and, after a good 12 hour sleep in, I'm hoping to be totally normal by my second day!

    • rose-the planner profile image

      rose-the planner 

      7 years ago from Toronto, Ontario-Canada

      I thought this was quite informative and you offered some great tips on avoiding jet lag. I have experienced jet lag before and sometimes it takes a couple of days to get back to normal. Thanks for sharing. Take care. (Voted Up) -Rose

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 

      7 years ago from Olympia, WA

      So I would actually have to fly somewhere, right, before I experienced jet lag??? LOL I'll remember this if I can ever afford to fly. Good suggestions, Natasha.

    • Natashalh profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago from Hawaii

      It obviously really depends on where you are, but some 'city water' is actually 'better' than bottled water. I just don't stress about things like that when I'm traveling! My man is always buying bottles of water, though, so I totally understand if that's your style. Thanks for stopping in!

    • KawikaChann profile image

      Kawika Chann 

      7 years ago from Northwest, Hawaii, Anykine place

      Hi Natashalh, you are so right... we usually purchase the large bottles of water once we get through security, but carrying an empty water container is a great idea. I just wish that there were filtered water at the airport that we could use. Nice job. Upvoted/useful/follow. Peace. Kawi.

    • Natashalh profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago from Hawaii

      I hope you have fun on your trip! Staying hydrated can be difficult, but it makes such a difference. I always try to book an aisle seat so I don't feel funny about asking people to get up all the time!

    • FlourishAnyway profile image


      7 years ago from USA

      Thank you for these tips. I'll be going on an international trip soon so I'll put your good counsel to use!


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