Hello World Travelers! 

As a frequent international flyer, I read articles devoted to increasing my comfort level, maximizing sleep opportunity, and dealing with other passengers and their expectations on long-haul flights. However, I rarely see the tips addressing my well-being. What is going to ruin your vacation or business trip faster than bad weather or missed connections? Arriving at your destination sick, that’s what! 

Airplanes are notorious for “making” people sick. Fortunately, I’ve got the inside scoop on some practices that will keep you healthy on the plane and a head start on staying healthy during your travels.

Start taking immunity support products BEFORE you begin your trip.

Immunity support products come in a variety of forms: effervescent tablets, gummies, and pills. They are not designed to cure you when you’re sick, but they are designed to prepare your body for physical stress by loading you up on the vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants that support great immune system functioning. Think of these products as fuel for the journey. 

If your body is depleted at the beginning of the trip, any germ or bacteria is going to have easy access to your system. Get those defenses in place a few days before travel and give your body the best chance to stay healthy.

Antibacterial wipes are your best friend.

Take a minute to think about that airplane. How many people are touching literally every surface with hands that have blocked a sneeze, been coughed into, changed a diaper, or held the handrail of the moving sidewalk? Don’t forget to count the people who were on the flight before you boarded. 

Take along plenty of individually wrapped antibacterial wipes and use them everywhere. Yes, some passengers may think you’re a germaphobe, but believe me, most will look at you with envy and wish they had brought some too. And the flight attendants will know you’re a genius. Wipe down the armrests, the seat belt buckle (oh, that one surprised you, right? No one thinks of that except flight attendants, and guess who told me to do this?), the tray table and latch, and the remote control for the in-flight entertainment. I usually swipe over the touch screen on the entertainment screen as well. 

Here’s a related bonus tip:  Use those wipes in your hotel room as well!

Wear slip-on shoes.

I have seen many articles instructing passengers to wear socks on the airplane for comfort, and I’m fine with that. However, if you walk down the aisle in your socks, or even worse, use the restroom, the bottom of those socks are going to pick up all kinds of nastiness. Most people use their hands to take off socks whenever they arrive at the destination. You probably don’t use your hands to take off your shoes though; we tend to kick them off or use a foot. So wear shoes when you move around on the plane! Let your shoes provide a barrier to whatever might be lurking on the floor. 

International flights are long, and there are a lot of people on the plane, including children. That’s a huge number of people using the restroom multiple times. Please wear your shoes! If you have ever even considered going barefoot in a plane, no matter how short the flight, you are beyond my help, and I hope you recover from your illness soon.

Use lip balm, but not on your lips.

Airplanes are terribly dry and the air is pressurized. Your lips are going to be dry, but more importantly for your health, your nasal passages dry out quickly. Dry nasal passages are unable to provide good defense against airborne germs. Remember all those passengers touching surfaces and using the restroom? They’re also breathing the same recycled air as you. 

Do yourself a favor and use your finger to swipe some lip balm under your nose. It will help moisturize your nasal passages and keep you comfortable.  Lip balm is odorless and colorless, so it won’t attract attention or bother anyone else. For international flights, I replenish every couple of hours.

Don’t drink coffee.

Right, we have seen this tip on every travel article ever published as they advise us to lessen jet lag by limiting caffeine. Let’s think about this from our pro-active healthy flight mindset though. Do you know how often the coffee pot is washed? My dear flight attendant friend (she of the “wipe the seat belt buckle” advice) told me how often. Rarely to never. 

Here’s what happens: the plane lands and needs to be prepped for boarding the next group of passengers. A flight attendant dumps the leftover coffee in the sink and thinks, “The next flight attendant can wash this.”  The new flight crew comes on board and thinks, “I’m sure the pot is clean; let’s brew a fresh pot.” No one ever takes responsibility for washing the coffee pot.  I am not saying that that mold is growing in it – it gets too frequent usage for that. However, I am saying that the pot is never washed, perhaps not even rinsed.  You’re better off sticking to single-serve drinks such as bottled water and canned soft drinks.

Listening to headphones on an airplane

Be selective about following instructions.

At the beginning of the flight, there is usually an announcement from the captain introducing himself, letting you know where you’re going, and politely requesting that you refrain from walking around the cabin or standing in the galley. This is the one instruction I want you to ignore! 

International flights are up to 18 hours in duration. You must get up and walk around occasionally! You can stand in the galley and do some leg stretches – just go up and down on your toes a few times, no downward dog or corpse pose please! Take a couple of laps up and down the aisle. As long as you’re considerate, try to not to bump into aisle seats, and keep in mind that most people are sleeping, no one will mind. 

Deep vein thrombosis (DVT) is a real thing and is often caused by prolonged inactivity such as sitting. Compression socks, while not attractive, help your restricted blood circulation as well. 

For sure, you should read the articles about how to be more comfortable on a long-haul flight. But, please follow these common-sense health tips, too! I hope you’ll arrive at your destination healthy and productive. Bon, voyage!

Are you looking for a chance to apply these international flight tips while earning course credit, understanding other cultures, and exploring other parts of the world? Sounds like you’re a perfect candidate for one of our many Study Abroad opportunities! Check out our website for more information.