Nothing like a long plane flight to make you feel like you’ve instantly aged ten years. What’s the best way to arrive fresh and rested? Over the years of enduring many a long flight, I now have my list of items and things to do that help make the trip more comfortable. Thought I’d share the contents of my carry-on bag and my special tips for the benefit of other road warriors.

Dehydration is one of the key enemies on a plane flight, so my key items all help to fight it:

  • Refresh Tears eye drops (use every hour or two),keeps your eyes moist
  • Saline nasal spray like Ocean brand (the ear nose and throat doctor who originally suggested this to me said he uses it every 15 minutes while on a plane, I do every hour or so), keeps your nasal passages moist
  • A good moisturizer (I slather on this mask (which is more like a really thick moisturizer) at the beginning of any long flight)
  • A good hand cream (I particularly like the little tins of 100% shea butter from L’Occitane)
  • An Evian Brumisateur mini mister bottle – spray face frequently!
  • During flight, drink as much water as possible. Before the ban on bringing liquids onto flights I used to bring a 1 liter bottle of Smartwater with Electrolytes on each flight and force myself to drink the whole thing. I don’t know why nobody has thought to sell this at the airport.
  • A good lip balm (the shea butter can double for this purpose).

Other key goodies in my bag:

• My Bose noise cancelling headphones. Yes these are expensive but they really are worth it!

• Energy bars – sadly I am a connoisseur of these. My favorites after extensive taste testing and scrutiny of the nutritional labels are ProBar Superfruit Slam and Larabar Cherry Pie and Pecan Pie flavors.

Airborne – reputed to help prevent catching colds on planes. Some people say that Airborne doesn’t actually help so much, but I don’t think it hurts to have some extra vitamins. On my last trip I took it after I got a cold and it helped with that, so good to have with you in case you catch something after arrival.  I don’t care for some of the flavors but the Zesty Orange and the Grapefuit are good. 

• To help promote shut-eye, a satin eye mask and an inflatable u-shaped neck pillow (don’t lug around those buckwheat stuffed ones!).

• I tend to get chilly on planes, so I’ve started carrying a Japanese haramaki in my carry-on – a knitted tube of fabric that goes around your waist and keeps the middle of your body warm.  (For those of you who remember the old Tora-san movies, he was often sporting one.)  It really does work well.

Other tips for surviving plane travel:

1. When flying coach I always order a Hindu vegetarian meal, which is usually edible (some sort of curry) as opposed to the dreaded chicken or beef drenched in gloppy gravy. Usually you’ll get your meal first too.
2. Deep vein thrombosis (so-called “economy class syndrome”), in which inactivity promotes dangerous clots, is a real danger. Two people I know came scarily close to dying from it, and these were young healthy people. To prevent this problem, be sure to get up and move around as much as possible during flight. Every time I use the restroom, I stop in the space near the emergency exit and do a mini yoga routine of stretching, followed by “legs up the wall pose.” This was suggested to me by a yoga teacher. The top half of my body is on the floor, and my legs are vertical resting against the jump seats for the cabin attendants, in a kind of L shape. This re-circulates the blood in your body. I try to lie there for at least 5 minutes, up to 15 or so if I can. Yes, I get a lot of stares, but would rather have that than a scary blood clot. I also wear compression socks on the plane, which keep the blood from pooling in your legs and feet.  I also take fish oil and systemic enzymes (such as Vitalzym, nattokinase, or serrapeptase) when flying because they thin the blood and can help prevent clots. Again, better safe than sorry.
3. If you have time, get a massage at the airport before you depart. Many airports now have these, such as Xpress Spa in SFO’s international terminal. By the time I’ve scurried around for several days and neglected my exercise routine before departure, not to mention staying up way too late the night before finishing my packing, I usually need a massage! Definitely helps to start the flight with as few sore muscles as possible!

I firmly believe that half the battle in preventing jet lag is to lessen the toll that the flight takes on your body.  Hope these ideas are helpful, and happy travels!

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