10 Ways to Make Plane Travel Healthier

Being up 30,000 feet in the air doesn't mean you get to take a break from being healthy.


By Megan Harrington


With cramped seats, stuffy air, and convenience food at every turn, air travel can throw even the most experienced travelers for a loop. But with a little bit of research and some advance planning, it’s possible to maintain a healthy lifestyle -- even at 30,000 feet.

1. Research your airport and airline. Check out the websites for the airports and airlines ahead of time. Does the airport have an on-site gym (some do!)? Can you request a heart-healthy or vegetarian meal from your airline? Try to map out some healthy decisions before you embark on your trip.

2. Plan out healthy meals and snacks. If you’ll be grabbing food on the go, try to choose what you’ll order ahead of time. Most coffee chains offer plain oatmeal and bananas and a salad with lean protein is usually a safe bet from a sandwich shop. If you’re pressed for time, look for fresh fruit, greek yogurt, or nuts at a newsstand.

If you can, bring a healthy snack or two from home, but skip anything with liquid -- it won’t make it past security.

3. Stay active. If you can squeeze in a workout before your travels begin, you’ll start off your trip in a healthy mindset. If you have some spare time at the airport, wear comfortable shoes and take laps around the terminal.

4. Shore up your immune system. Between recycled plane air and germy armrests, getting sick after traveling is all too common. Be vigilant about washing your hands and wipe down any surfaces your foods or hands will come in contact with. Do your best to eat nutritious foods and log some shuteye - those things will go a long way in keeping your immune system running at top speed.

5. Get some rest. If you’re hoping to catch some z’s, consider bringing along your own neck pillow, ear plugs, eye mask, or small blanket from home. If you can’t doze, try to close your eyes and rest. Even if you don’t nod off, the rest is better than nothing.

6. Dress comfortably. The temperature on planes can vary wildly, so wear layers to stay comfortable. Pack a sweater or large scarf in case things get chilly and wear comfortable shoes you can slip off and on.

7. Choose your seat wisely. Blood clots can be a real concern during long haul flights. To avoid them, you’ll want to move your legs frequently. Choose an aisle seat, so that you can more readily stand up and stretch. If you’re stuck in your seat, try moving your legs in circles or making the letters of the alphabet with your foot.

8. Stay hydrated. Plane travel is dehydrating, so be sure to drink lots of water before, during, and after your trip. Limit alcohol and caffeine as they both exacerbate the effects of dehydration. To make hydrating easier, pack your own empty water bottle and fill it up after you pass through security. Bring along lemonade or Emergen-C packets if you want to add a little flavor.

9. Avoid jetlag. If you’ll be traveling west, in the days leading up to your trip, try going to bed a bit later and waking up later to adjust. If you’re traveling east, try hitting the hay earlier. When you arrive at your destination, get some exposure to sunlight to reset your internal clock. Most importantly, try to get on your new schedule ASAP - stay awake until a reasonable bedtime. A late afternoon nap is tempting, but it’s probably best to push through.

10. Pack your own entertainment such as an engaging novel, a book of crossword puzzles, or a knitting project. Bring along something that relaxes you -- air travel is stressful enough!

The next time you travel by plane, try out some of our tips and you’ll arrive at your destination feeling energized instead of lethargic!

Megan is a writer, RRCA certified running coach, and new mom living and training in rural upstate New York. She competed in DIII track and cross-country at Wesleyan University and now focuses on the half-marathon and marathon distance.

Main Photo Credit: Nina Lishchuk/; Second Photo Credit: Adriana Nikolova/; Third Photo Credit: Undrey/; Fourth Photo Credit: Halfpoint/