Easy Ways to Prevent and Avoid Jet Lag on Long Flights
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.
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.
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!
- 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.
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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