- Grab a pillow and blanket as you board. It can be very difficult to find these items once the plane has taken off, so even if you don’t anticipate needing these items, it’s a good idea to snag one or both when you settle into your seat.
- Remove your shoes once the plane takes off. Your feet swell at high altitudes, making your shoes a tighter fit during air travel. Slipping out of your shoes and loosening belts or other tight-fitting clothing can increase your comfort level. (That said, stinky shoes are better left on than off—just loosen the laces instead.)
- Dress comfortably. Smart but casual, loose-fitting clothing is best for air travel. The temperature on a plane changes frequently, so the trick is to layer. Wear short sleeves, even in winter, and pack a sweater or light jacket in your carry-on, even in summer.
- Drink plenty of water when you fly. With the dry air in planes, water is your great weapon against fatigue, dehydration, and combating that overall feeling of staleness. Just remember that water from the airplane lavatories is not meant for drinking. Best to bring your own supply of bottled water.
- Avoid or limit alcohol. Airplane air dehydrates passengers, and altitude changes can quicken the effects of alcohol. A cocktail may relax you, but it’s also apt to drag you out, and possibly even worsen symptoms of jet lag.
- See if melatonin is for you. Consider taking the nonprescription drug melatonin. Research suggests that the body uses this hormone to set its time clock. Because melatonin seems to control when we go to sleep and when we wake up, a number of scientists advocate supplements to alleviate jet lag. Some studies suggest that taking 5 milligrams of fast-release melatonin prior to bedtime for several days after arrival in a new time zone can ease the transition.
- Stay in your seat until it’s your turn to leave the plane. This may seem obvious, but it’s worth stating that many travelers needlessly work themselves up when they get up out of their seats and stand, hunched over beneath the luggage bins, for five or ten minutes while waiting to leave the plane. Standing up isn’t going to get you out the door faster. Why not sit back, relax, and wait to stand up when there is actually room to do so.
- If you’re sensitive to noise, be prepared. Many travelers forget how sensitive they are to noise until they are sitting on an airplane surrounded by screaming children, rambunctious travelers, and talkative flight attendants. To combat the noise, bring ear plugs. Better yet, buy a pair of noise-canceling headphones (Bose carries an excellent model).
- Bring something to read. Travelers on long voyages like to think they’ll be able to sleep for those endless overseas flights. Alas, it’s not always possible. In these instances, you’d better have something to read. That or be prepared to go out of your mind. That said, small paperbacks are more practical traveling companions than cumbersome hardbacks of many pages. Another idea is to bring several newspapers and magazines.
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