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Travel tips: Staying healthy while flying

In-flight wellness begins at the airport before you board, and after checking in at your hotel

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Now that we are all flying again, I thought I’d share my travel tips to help you have a safe and healthy flight.

Before you fly

When booking your flight, view the seating configuration and select your seat. Consider the distance from the exit door, as this will determine how soon you get off the plane on arrival. Rows nearer to the front are also less bumpy. Avoid the last row in each section of the cabin, as these often lack recline functionality. Choose the seat that will give you the most comfort, and be prepared to pay more. I always choose an aisle or exit row seat for more room, in a quiet zone if available. Others prefer the window so they can sleep against it. If the airline offers a seat upgrade, consider bidding for it, especially for a long flight. Advise of any special meal requests, and a bonus is you’ll be served ahead of everyone else, or pre-purchase your meals.

Check and ensure your passport is up to date and that you satisfy all entry requirements. Complete this well before your flight.

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At the airport

From endless queues to brisk officials, airports can be stressful, so have patience and be prepared to use it abundantly. Check in online, and arrive at the airport well ahead of time. Be organised to proceed through each stage, for check-in, have your travel documents and passport ready to show and make sure your bags are not overweight. Then proceed through immigration and the security checkpoint. Now that that’s over, you can relax.

Airports offer a wide range of dining options, so consider having a meal before your flight, and fill up your empty water bottle.

In-flight wellness

Minimising jetlag
Be active before, during and after your flight to combat the effects of jetlag. Try to reset your body clock by changing your meals and sleep patterns to the time of your destination when you first board the plane. Skip airline meals if the times are out of whack, relying instead on your own healthy snacks. Drink lots of water, and avoid alcohol and fizzy drinks. When it’s morning at your destination, open the window shade, and kick start your day. On arrival stay awake until bedtime and you’ll be adjusted in no time.

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Comfort
To minimise muscular aches and pains which come from sitting still for hours, try shoulder rolls, tapping your feet, ankle twirls, squeezing your toes, walking up and down the aisle, and exercising in the space by the exit rows – everything stretchy helps.

Air travel can play havoc with your gut, causing constipation and bloating. To minimise discomfort, avoid culprits such as beans, onions, nuts, dairy products and dried fruit. Stay well hydrated, do some deep breaths, and move your body by twisting your midsection from side to side.

Another travel tip is to wear layers of loose-fitting clothing made from natural fibres, comfortable expandable footwear, and if prone to legs swelling, wear compression stockings. Don’t expect a toiletries pack, unless you’re flying business or first class, so pack a toothbrush, ear plugs or noise cancelling headphones, eye patch, any medications you may need, and small fleece blanket. Given the dry air, pack moisturiser, Vaseline for the lining of the nose, and lubricating eyedrops. Organise your bag with lots of see through zip lock bags, with only the necessities for what you’ll need inflight, as your bag competes for space under the seat in-front. Always keep your valuables with you – a pouch or money belt are good for this, never in the seat pocket. Complete forms as soon as they’re handed out and always carry a pen.

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Other passengers
There are certain protocols with flying that passengers are expected to observe. Seats need to be in the upright position for take-off and landing and during a meal service. And passengers are entitled to the space of their seat and not to be disturbed by other passengers. If you experience any issues, advise the flight attendant, and if necessary, ask to be moved.

Passing the time
Plan how you’ll pass the time inflight – preload your device with music and programs to watch, and bring a book to read. If the lights are dimmed, use the reading light, but only for short periods to avoid eye strain. If children are flying with you, have lots of surprises – small games, puzzles, stickers, books, toys and snacks to keep them occupied.  A less known travel tip is fastening the seatbelt over the blanket, so it’s visible and if you do sleep! Just leave a sticky note to say “do not disturb.” I’ve been woken at 3am and asked if I’d like an apple!

What looks clean may not be
When you take your seat, use a hand wipe to wipe down all touch areas – the remote, arms of the seat, TV screen and tray table, use antiseptic hand gel frequently, and carry a mask in case the person beside you is unwell. I also carry lavender oil to mask any cabin odours.

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On arrival

Have a plan for knowing how to get to your hotel. On my most recent trip, a YouTube video showed exactly how to take the airport train. Take a walk as soon as your get to your hotel. Explore your surroundings. It helps with jet lag and gets your circulation going. Give yourself time to relax and recharge, at least a day before joining any tours or cruises, in case of delays or cancellations, and to recover from your long flight.

Hope these travel tips make for a pleasant journey!

READ MORE: 4 ways to keep kids learning while travelling

Petra ONeill
Petra ONeill
After growing up in Australia's outback she enjoys visiting remote destinations in Australia for the wildlife, vast open spaces and brilliant night sky and travelling overseas to exotic destinations to experience different cultures. Her bag is always packed and ready for the next trip

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