With February break around the corner, many of us are already thinking longingly of our upcoming travel plans, and maybe dreading the stresses that can accompany airline travel. Vacations are supposed to be a time to relax, take a break from our daily lives and rejuvenate. Instead, however, we sometimes return home feeling more like we need a break than before we left. With some simple planning, you can make the most of your days off and reap the benefits of a relaxing, healthy and fun vacation.
Before you fly:
There are some preparations you can make to ensure that your trip goes off without a hitch. First, be realistic about what you actually need on the flight. You most likely aren’t going to be reading the complete works of Shakespeare or finishing two weeks worth of homework during your time in the air, so check any items that you can live without for a few hours.
With most airlines now charging fees for checked bags, there may not be any room for your carry-on in the overhead bins. Packing your essential items in a bag that fits below the seat in front of you can keep you from having to check your bag after boarding.
Keep in mind that if you miss a connection and need to spend the night at a hotel, you may not have access to your checked bags. Prepare for this possibility by making sure medications are kept in your carry on, and that you bring along a toothbrush, deodorant, toothpaste and a change of clothes.
Make use of your airline’s website to see if your plane is on schedule, select your seat and even print your boarding pass before heading to the airport. You should also pack healthy snacks for yourself and your family before departing, as finding healthy and inexpensive food is a hard task at most airports.
The organizational experts at the Martha Stewart website suggest that you make photocopies of all important forms such as your license, passport, emergency contact information and health insurance card before traveling. It is also advisable to call your health insurance company before your trip to predetermine your vacation coverage in the event of an emergency.
Health magazine’s Tracy Minkin lists the three main health concerns of air travel as jetlag, dehydration and deep vein thrombosis. Fortunately, there are easy ways to minimize your health risks while flying.
Jetlag occurs when your body struggles to adjust to a change in time zone, leaving you feeling groggy and exhausted at inappropriate times. Minkin recommends booking an early flight if you are flying east or a late flight if you are headed west. Taking a short (20-minute) nap if tired, and going to sleep at the time appropriate for the new time zone will help you adjust. When you wake up at your new destination, head outside for a stroll in the sun. This will help your body to regulate the hormones that control your sleep cycle.
Dehydration is one of the biggest problems with air travel and can even increase jetlag. Minkin recommends forgoing coffee and alcohol while flying, both known diuretics. Instead, while on the plane, drink an eight-ounce glass of water an hour.
Deep vein thrombosis (DVT), while rare, is a potentially dangerous condition in which a blood clot forms in a deep vein, commonly a leg vein. Sitting still for long periods can increase the risk of developing DVT, which can then lead to a pulmonary embolism (PE) or stroke. If you have any pre-existing blood clotting issues or have suffered from DVT or PE in the past, talk to your doctor before you fly. Getting up and moving around while flying is the surest way to prevent DVT, so stretch and move your legs while seated, and walk in the aisles when permitted.
Air travel doesn’t have to be stressful. Accept the difficulties you cannot change such as occasional long lines at security checks, and plan ahead to avoid issues you can prevent.