UThe end of the year is upon us, and so is the holiday travel rush. AAA estimates that 115 million Americans will head 50 miles or more from home during the holiday season, making it the second-busiest year-end travel season since the company began tracking in 2000, surpassed only by 2019
If you’re joining the many people heading to the airport for a break or return home, here are some frequently asked questions and tips for long flights. While some answers depend on personal preference, they also include advice from travel and health experts.
How do I prepare my body for flying?
Jeff Kahn, CEO of sleep tracking app Rise Science, said Condé Nast Traveler that the best way to ensure you travel and sleep well is to start a trip with a “low sleep deficit”. A few days before a long-distance trip, you can also start to gradually adjust your sleep time so that you are more in sync with the time zone of your destination.
Before boarding, Going (formerly Scott’s Cheap Flights) suggested exercising to get tired and ready for sleep, especially if the flight is later in the day. Elsewhere, flight attendants said they book red-eye flights because they’re usually quieter and emptier, and the weather can help you get over jet lag.
Staying away from screens, avoiding alcohol and caffeine and, if possible, choosing a sitting position that’s best for you to sleep are among other top tips.
Should I eat before or during the flight?
Traveler Andrea Bennett, writing for the flight search site KAYAK, recommends drinking plenty of water, not alcohol or caffeine, before a long flight so you can be as relaxed and hydrated as possible—a tip echoed by other travel professionals.
Flight Attendant Major also advised that eating before a long-haul flight can maximize your sleep time without being interrupted by in-flight meals. However, you may not have time to do so or may not want to spend money on airport food beforehand. He suggested bringing your own snacks, especially if you’re traveling with children or have dietary needs, as you won’t be served food for at least an hour after your flight takes off.
If you’re eating in-flight, you may want to consider adjusting your meal times to coordinate with your destination to help combat jet lag, which a 2017 study found may work.
What to wear?
Flight search website Skyscanner recommends wearing several loose, comfortable layers to regulate your temperature while flying, as planes can be chilly. Closed-toe shoes are better than flip-flops in an emergency, according to the travel site, but travelers are encouraged not to wear shoes that are too tight, as legs can swell at high altitude.
If you plan to take your shoes off, make sure your socks are clean so you don’t bother other passengers with odors, flight attendant Chris Major told CNN Travel.
Packing sandals or bathroom slippers is also highly recommended, although not everyone will have room for these in their carry-on.
How can I make my economy seat more comfortable?
Some travel pros have suggested taking a neck pillow, a portable footrest or leg hammock, and/or a blanket. However, if you don’t have room to carry extra items, you can use upcycled clothing, such as a scarf that folds easily and can double as a pillow.
Many experts, such as certified sleep science coach Alex Savi, recommend using noise-canceling headphones or earplugs and an eye mask to help you sleep.
If you’re worried about turbulence, Major advised sitting near the front of the plane because passengers will feel less turbulence there than in the back. If sleeping is your priority, consider paying more for a window seat so you can lean against the window.
Bennett said if you’re tall, you might want to sit in the row next to the exit, but pointed out that’s also where passengers with babies put bassinets, so if you’re worried about crying, this might not be the place for you . The higher you sit, the quieter the engine noise will be, but the back may be less strained, although it’s best not to sit right next to the toilets as this can be disruptive.
Should I exercise and do compression stockings really work?
Sitting for long periods of time without moving can increase the risk of developing a deep vein thrombosis, or blood clot, which can be dangerous, UCLA doctors advise. Blood clots can best be prevented by frequent walks in the cab, doing in-seat exercises such as ankle circles, foot curls, knee lifts and shoulder and neck rolls, and wearing compression stockings.
“Even people without physical risk factors can benefit from wearing compression stockings on long flights,” the doctors said.
Healthline also recommends not crossing your legs on a plane, wearing loose clothing, and staying hydrated to keep blood flowing and prevent clots.
Even just wiggling your toes while sitting in your seat can help, Major said, although it’s best for people with circulation problems to talk to a doctor before long flights.