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Long distance air travel (10+ hours)

Does anyone have any recommendations on where to find health tips for long distance flights? I would like to know the best types of food/snacks and beverages when one travels on a plane for 10-15 hours. Trying to be healthier but not very experienced at it.
What do you eat or drink?

Posted by
6369 posts

What Bob said. Eat light, drink lots of water, avoid alcohol and soda.

Posted by
4637 posts

No alcohol, no caffeine. Exercise your legs especially calves to avoid clots. If you can, sleep. Drink a lot of water or juice.

Posted by
269 posts

Thank you for the suggestions. I do not drink alcohol and most of the time I do drink water. However I do like to have a pop with food. I also get up and walk around the plane because of my back and legs. I was wondering if anyone knew of a specific resource on flying great distances and what health precautions one should take being stuck in a tube. Sorry, I will not wear a surgical mask. Anyone know if dried fruit is as beneficial as the fresh stuff?

Posted by
865 posts

Check your airline's website to see if they have a "wellbeing in the air" section. Not food or drink, but at some point during those 10+ hours, you may be grateful for a lip balm and some hand lotion.

Posted by
158 posts

A lot of people have suggested taking Airborne or Emergen-C before your flight. I take hand sanitizer and disinfectant towelettes to wipe down the armrests and tray table. Take an empty water bottle and fill it up at a drinking fountain once you are past security. My last long flight I took an apple, bag of popcorn, and granola bars. You could probably also take a packet of oatmeal and get hot water from the flight attendant. Just light easy snacks.

Posted by
1020 posts

Sleep is the key to getting off the plane at the other end in reasonably good shape and minimizing the affects of jet lag. Do what you need to do for it: ring pillow, eyeshades, ear plugs, sleep aid, whatever. Some people tell the flight attendant they don't want to be awakened for a meal. If you do that have a favorite snack, preferably protein, to tide you over if you miss one. Reserve a seat away from toilets. The blankets on airlines are not hygienic so I use them only over my legs and also around the ankles if necessary which usually isn't the case as flight socks are warm. Research the benefits of those-they help prevent deep vein thrombosis. I put on a sweater so I don't get cold and wake up. Hydration is important but I still like a glass of wine with the main meal. I've experimented with not having it and found that it makes no difference for me. My wife feels the same. When going to Europe we prefer flights that leave late in the day so we have dinner more or less at the usual time. Then we usually have no trouble getting to sleep. Get up and move around during the flight. There's usually enough space someplace to do some knee bends. Getting out of the seat makes you feel better and aids in avoiding DVT.

Posted by
1804 posts

On really long flights it's all about staying hydrated and getting up to move around when you are able and stretching your legs. If you drink a lot of water that's best, but it is ok to have a can of Sprite or Ginger Ale with your meal as they don't contain any caffeine. If you can't sleep, at least try to get some rest and quiet with earplugs or noise canceling headphones. You may also want to pack a sleep mask in your carry-on so you aren't woken up by your seat mate turning on the overhead reading lights. For snacks to pack, try fruit and some granola bars.

Posted by
11450 posts

How do you pack fruit unless it is dried? I thought is was forbidden to take fresh fruit or vegetables over borders unless they are cut up or prepared in some way.. I recall seeing fruit in a bin at the security check point , it looked like food that had been taken away . I have taken on a prepared salad and that got through,, but I think fresh fruit may be different. For flying I drink lots of water,, and I do not like water, but sodas contain sugar and that can be dehydrating, and I find sugar consumption before I try and sleep keeps me up.. and I do try and sleep on long flights. From where I live almost all the flights to Europe seem to be red eyes. So I eat,, drink water, and then try and sleep( and yes I take something for that , sometimes just meletonin,, sometimes something else).

Posted by
31319 posts

John, There are lots of health tips available on the Internet, such as the Harvard website mentioned in a previous reply. You could also have a look at This Website. Regarding food and snacks, I usually just eat the meals provided by the airline. Depending on the length of the flight, there will usually be one full meal (small portions but not too bad) and a Continental breakfast shortly before landing. There are typically two choices for entrees (ie: Chicken or Beef), but if you have any special dietary requirements, you'll need to notify the airline at the time of booking. While many of the "experts" recommend against caffeine or alcohol, I sometimes enjoy a glass of wine and always have coffee. It's important to stay hydrated due to the dry air, so I always buy a 500 mL bottle of water after going through security, and then just get water from the Flight Attendant to refill during the flight. The F.A.'s will periodically walk through the cabin offering water, and I always accept that. It's also important to do a walkabout periodically during the flight to exercise the legs and hopefully prevent DVT. You may want to speak with your Physician if you have any concerns about that. Some people can sleep on flights, but I've never had much success with that. If you think you might want to sleep you might consider getting a window seat, as that provides a convenient "head rest". Happy travels!

Posted by
81 posts

I read somewhere a few years ago that before getting on airplane you should rub some vaseline-petroleum jelly inside your nostrils to trap unwanted germs before they can enter your nasal cavitity. I have tried to do this whenever I fly and I have never had any "colds" or flu while on vacation. I know it sounds weird but it is such a little thing that perhaps might have some merit?!?

Posted by
1816 posts

"How do you pack fruit unless it is dried? I thought is was forbidden to take fresh fruit or vegetables over borders unless they are cut up or prepared in some way.. I recall seeing fruit in a bin at the security check point , it looked like food that had been taken away . I have taken on a prepared salad and that got through,, but I think fresh fruit may be different. " If you eat it on the plane it never corssed the "border". So you can take it on the plane just not off. Same thing is ture with plants etc. So if your loved one gives you flowers to say goodbye... they won't get to go into Europe with you. (this happened to a friend of mine :) )

Posted by
1976 posts

I agree with the others - stay hydrated, try to sleep, and get up and walk around. I also buy a big bottle of water, around a liter, after I pass security. I take granola bars on every trip for snacks not only on the plane but also for when I'm out sightseeing. And get up at least every 2 hours.

Posted by
988 posts

@Laurie
Learned the same thing from my grandmother except we use Vicks Vapo Rub. As long as it works.....as it has so far.

Posted by
4 posts

I remember a 12 hour flight to the orient that I took once, if you can, try to go business class. I don't know how much expierence you have with long distance flights. 8 hours and less economy is usually fine if you are ok with little sleep. But regardless, if you are worried about DVT, their is a shot that you might want to talk about with your doctor. This shot you take before you board the plane and reduces your risk for clots. As far as healthy eating, I think you can request special meals when you book the flight. Here is an example from Delta http://www.delta.com/help/faqs/special_needs/index.jsp#diet "What if I have special dietary requirements?
We offer a variety of meals to comply with special dietary requirements on flights that have scheduled meal service. Advanced notice is required and you should ask about meal options when purchasing your ticket by phone. For example, we offer vegetarian, diabetic, low-sodium, and low-cholesterol meals on request." So you might want to try low sodium, if you want to stay hydrated.

Posted by
3565 posts

You will probably be fed at least two meals on a long flight, and perhaps a snack or two, with beverage services. If you have dietary concerns, contact the airline ahead of time to see what special meal choices are available. In the air, you can get water from the cabin crew but take your own if you want. But carrying "healthy" snacks? The airline will feed you as many calories as you need, or more, for an inactive situation. Constant snacking is a health risk too.

Posted by
269 posts

Thank you all for your travel tips. We will be in the air at least 12-13 hours and we are flying first/business class. I have not had a problem with 8-9 hour flights. I never used to wonder about my health either but I'm not getting any younger. Thank you also for the links, the Air Canada link was an interesting read. My main reason for asking is I am not a healthy eater so I am not sure what would be the better choice(s) if I were to change my habits.
Happy trails to you all. You are much appreciated.

Posted by
11450 posts

john, I have only been able to fly first class twice, once cross country and once to Europe.. I cannot see how anyone can complain about a long flight in first class,, I thought I had died and gone to heaven,, I arrived in Paris from west coast Canada absolutey fresh and relaxed, nothing like flying cattle class at all where one arrives feeling like they have been crumpled into a cigar tube for 10 hours, lol Have a good flight and don't worrry about a thing., If you start to feel a bit cramped or uncomfortable in any way,, just step to back of your section and look through the curtains, lol

Posted by
3419 posts

Flying business class helps ALOT! You can stretch out better and have more space to walk around. The food is better, too and some airlines provide an 'open' snack and drinks area for you to get something whenever you want between meals. They usually have candy, chips, granola or similar bars, dried friut, etc. and sometimes apples or bananas, or other fruit. Some even have cheese and crackers. Plenty of water, soda, coffe and teas, too. I agree with the suggesstion to carry some kind of lip balm and lotions. Usually (not always) your first/business class amentities kit will have that, but if you are like me, you'll be more comfortable with your own. If you think you'll have problems sleeping, talk with your doctor about taking a benedril, dramamine or something like advil pm (those products are just the pain reliever with benedril). Or the dr. might want to prescribe Ambien or similar- it jsut depends on YOUR medical conditions and other meds you take. One glass of wine or beer with a meal before sleeping is not a problem- just don't over induldge.

Posted by
693 posts

Perhaps this was already mentioned but it would be a very good idea to cut way back on salt one or two days before your flight.

Posted by
653 posts

Last summer a bottle of water was taken away from a passenger in the boarding area. You can take a bottle and fill it up on the plane. I start a few days before travel by eating more fruits, veggies, and yogurt. On the plane I immediately set my watch (does anyone else wear one?) to local time. I don't drink caffeine on the plane until the morning coffee service. If you have access to a footrest at your seat, you can do some leg exercises without standing up, but I also try to get up and walk around whenever possible.

Posted by
167 posts

I don't recommend No-Jet-Lag® pills... tried them flying to Paris and they upset my stomach.

Posted by
269 posts

Great tips from all, thanks! I am going to pay attention to the food tips before & during flight. Pat, I have been on the receiving end of the curtain look. My wife was in first & I was in coach. We are using miles for this upcoming long flight. I cringe to think my poor long legged & tall daughter is going 1 month before us in coach. We couldn't get her an upgraded coach seat.
It is usually 8 hours to Europe & 9 back which we have done many times before without issue. Maybe I am being overly concerned.