Summer is the time many people break away from their usual routines, but traveling to far-away destinations can wreak havoc on your body. Sure, it’s fun to visit family and friends or experience new places on vacation, but sitting for long periods of time on an airplane can leave you feeling tired, stiff, and sore—not a good way to start the fun.
Prepare for air travel the same way you’d prepare for an athletic event. Before your trip stretch muscles at home or in an airport--don’t be embarrassed to swing your arms or do a forward bend. Cool-down with a brisk walk during layovers or after arriving at your destination.
Additionally, summer ushers in a couple of high volume travel times, and travel around holidays such as Memorial Day, Fourth of July, and Labor Day (popular because they allow extra days to visit for most people) brings increased stress when flying to your destination.
Tips for finding the best values with fewest inconveniences, no matter when you travel:
- Plan ahead. Book your flight as early as possible to get the best rates and times. You’ll have fewer choices as the holidays get closer.
- Be flexible. Prices may be lower at alternate airports for both departure and arrival. If possible, move your travel dates a day or two either way to see if a change affects rates.
- Fly during the week. Better prices are generally found on weekdays.
- Check discounters for deals. In addition to checking with a particular airline, go online and look for good deals with consolidators. Also, consider packaging your flight with hotel and/or car rental for better rates.
- Ask about special discounts. If you’re over age 60, traveling with young family members, or traveling with a companion, you may qualify for special discounts from the airlines.
- Fly at night. Taking a red eye or late night flight may mean one less night in a hotel.
- Arrive at the airport early. On holidays, more people traveling means longer lines and wait times. Arrive two hours early for a domestic flight and at least two and a half hours for international.
- Dress comfortably. Wear layers to account for temperature fluctuations. Avoid tight clothing around upper thighs and torso. Slip-on shoes make security checks go faster.
- Prepare children. Gradually adjust the child’s sleeping schedule prior to your trip if you’re traveling through several time zones or leaving during normal sleep times. Pack a bag with plenty of supplies and activities to keep kids occupied and happy.
- Be courteous with carryon bags. Pack only what you can lift into the overhead bin by yourself—and stick with the allowable type and number of items.
Tips for arriving at your destination feeling energetic instead of worn out.
- Check bags heavier than 5-10 percent of your body weight.
- Avoid turning or twisting your head and neck when lifting bags to the overhead bin.
- Avoid sitting directly under air controls, as this could cause tension in neck and shoulder muscles.
- If you have food allergies, call ahead to order a special meal, or pack your own “safe” snacks.
- Use a support behind your back to reduce strain, pain, or injury. Place pillows or blankets just above the beltline to maintain the normal “S” curve of your spine.
- Put another pillow in the gap between your neck and the headrest.
- Vary position frequently while seated to improve circulation and avoid cramps. Reach arms over the seat back. Do in-seat spinal twists and ear-to-shoulder neck exercises.
- Exercise your legs by opening toes wide and holding to the count of 10. Tighten calf muscles, hold for five counts, then release. Do the same for thighs and glutes. Move knees up and down; massage legs and calves.
- If prone to blood clots, wear compression hosiery to prevent blood from pooling in legs.
- Roll shoulders up and back. Make sure your head isn’t leaning too far forward.
- Make a fist and then loosen fingers to improve hand circulation and decrease fatigue.
- On long flights get up and walk the aisles every two to three hours.
- Drink plenty of fluids, especially water, to stay properly hydrated in dry, re-circulated air.
- Avoid salty foods, alcohol, tea, and coffee as these can be dehydrating.
- Moisturize your face and hands as often as possible and use eye drops to reduce wear-and-tear on your body due to dryness.
- Try not to sleep on daytime flights, as this disrupts your body’s regular sleep rhythm.
- Don’t skip or delay meals. Eat as close to your normal diet as possible.
- Wash hands often.
Health items to take on your travels:
- Prescription medications—Take at least a week’s supply in your carryon in case checked luggage is lost.
- Over-the-counter anti-diarrheal medication or ginger tablets for a queasy stomach
- Cold symptom medications including decongestant and throat lozenges
- OTC pain relievers like acetaminophen, aspirin, or ibuprofen
- Antifungal and antibacterial ointments
- Lubricating eye drops
- Allergy medications, including Epi-pen if a severe reaction is possible
- Hand sanitizer
- Sunscreen, if you’ll be outdoors
- Mild sleeping medication on overnight flights
- Extra pair of eye glasses, prescription sunglasses, or contact lenses