I just got back from Los Angeles on a red-eye flight yesterday morning. Despite the fact that I was very tired when I arrived, it was a relatively short and painless flight (only 4 hours and 40 minutes gate to gate) and I had a free seat next to me to spread out a bit.

Long trans-oceanic flights are a different matter of course. Since the topic is currently fresh to my mind, I thought I’d give you a few of my air travel tips, followed by a colourful infographic at the end!

Choosing your seat

Unless I absolutely want to see the view upon take-off or landing (rarely that special), I try to get an aisle seat, preferably in the middle section. Flights over four hours are normally on wider planes with a middle section of seats. On a long flight, you’ll need to get out of your seat several times to go to the bathroom and an aisle seat in the middle section means that you won’t have to disturb anyone or get disturbed by your neighbour.

You also have more chances to have an empty seat next to you that way. Check the airplane seat map before picking your seat.

Be careful picking exit row seats, as they may not recline (in order not to block the emergency exit window). The bulkhead seats have more legroom but they appeal to people with babies. Enough said.

Food and drink

I don’t need to comment on the quality of airplane food (especially on North American carriers). What’s worse is that you’re often served food when you’re not hungry (and trying to sleep) and then starving at other times. For this reason, I always carry some snacks with me. Don’t take fruits or veggies as these will be confiscated at customs. Wrapped up treats like cereal bars are safer.

I also try to refill my water bottle at a water fountain after passing through Security so I’ll have water whenever I need it during the flight. It’s important to stay hydrated.

I stick to plain water or juice on the plane. The air gets very dry in the cabin and alcohol will dehydrate you even more. I’m no saint though, and have been known to grab one of those mini wine bottles with my meal when they’re complimentary! 🙂


Most people, me included, have trouble sleeping on planes. If I’m flying during my normal sleeping hours, I will manage to get several hours of interrupted sleep, which I guess is better than nothing.

Melatonin is a natural substance that will help you fall asleep, although its effects wear off the more you take it. You may also want to get some earplugs, or noise-cancelling headphones. The headphones also have the advantage of making movies a lot more pleasant to listen to, without having to crank up the volume to dangerous levels.

Wear comfortable clothes and keep a sweater or jacket around in case you get cold (which happens to me every time). Air Transat flights are notorious for cranking up the AC right after take-off in the hope that you’ll purchase one of their blankets. I just bring a scarf to wrap around my neck and face until I can complain.

I tried using a neck pillow a few times, but it never did much for me. It seems to keep my head propped forward when all I want is to recline as much as possible.

Health challenges

The two worse strains on your body in an airplane cabin are the cramped space and ultra-dry air.

Besides getting up every few hours to use the bathroom and stretch out a bit, I also do leg stretches and ankle rotations in my seat to avoid deep-vein thrombosis (blood clot in a deep vein due to long periods of immobility).

On a long flight, I also keep skin moisturizer handy. I think I’m going to start using eye drops as well because my eyes now get dry and itchy very quickly.

On a big plane full of people you can pretty much guarantee that somebody has a cold (or worse). Given the dubious quality of the air, I make sure to boost my immune system before take-off by getting plenty of rest and eating well. I also take Cold-FX, an immunity-booster which is popular here in Canada. Echinacea is a natural substance that also helps enhance the immune system. And of course I make sure I get plenty of sleep once at my destination.

A few more things…

Don’t forget to bring some reading material and/or puzzles (I love sudoku) if you know that the plane’s entertainment system won’t be enough to keep you, well, entertained. They’ll also come in handy during possible long waits at the gate.

You may also want to have a case, or at least a pouch, to put your glasses in while you nap. I always forget that one!

Fly well and fly far. 🙂

(Note: If you have other air travel tips, please add them in the comments.)

Air Travel Health Hacks #Infographic
(You can also find more infographics at Visualistan)

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