10 Ways to Stay Well Inflight on an 18-Hour Long Haul Trip

Frequent flyers are all too familiar with how stressful and unhealthy air travel can be. But what do they do to combat it and stay well inflight?

Certified Personal Trainer and wellness expert Ana Costa shares her tips for how to stay well inflight.

What is wellness, anyway, and how do we go about getting it as travelers?

Wellness is a combination of physical, mental and emotional wellbeing. The most common symptoms of un-wellness related to long flights (both during and after) are body aches, indigestion/constipation, fatigue and insomnia or sleepiness.

The overall goal? Feeling comfortable during the journey while simultaneously preparing oneself for a better arrival and adjustment to your destination’s time zone (i.e. less jetlag).

As with many good things—like a great home-cooked meal and a well-programmed workout—staying well on an 18-hour flight requires some planning in advance before stepping foot on the airplane.


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My motto about airport wellness? Keep your body moving! Most travelers wait to board seated at their gate on phones and electronic devices. But on a recent trip heading home from Singapore to NYC, we knew we had an 18-hour flight ahead of us so we kept moving creatively until our boarding was called.

10 ways to stay well inflight on long haul journeys

1. Get a good night’s sleep

Start your journey out on the right foot. Make sure you are well-rested. That means 7-9 hours of sleep the night before your big trip.

PHOTO: Ana Costa

2. Hit the gym

Before you’re going to be sedentary for 18 hours, move that fabulous body of yours. A 45-60 minute strength training session will boost your metabolism, circulation and digestion pre-flight.

My version? I joined my big brother and his personal trainer for a motivating hour-long lower body workout that smoked us! My legs were happy to be resting on the plane later that night.

PHOTO: Ana Costa

3. Get into nature

If you have kids in tow, they need to move too! Getting into nature before hitting the airport can be a great way to get everyone moving and in a technology-free zone before the airplane and inevitable TV binge.

My version? We took the kids to Singapore’s Botanical Gardens to explore the 150-year-old tropical paradise that is teaming with life and surprises.

This magnificent and lusciously sweaty adventure is one of UNESCO’s World Heritage Sites and should not be missed when in Singapore.

stay well inflight with physio peanuts
PHOTO: Ana Costa

4. Get comfy!

Retire your footwear for the flight in the space below your seat or the overhead compartment and slide into the socks and slippers provided for you on Business Class. Traveling economy? Come equipped with your own pair of clean comfy socks to put on.

Since you can’t control the temperature in the cabin, it’s always good to have something extra to wrap around your head/neck if the AC is blasting too high while you sit/sleep.

5. Hydration

Say “no gracias” to the bar, sleeping pills, coffee, and caffeinated tea. What to order? Water, sparkling water, herbal tea, and hot water with lemon. Sip on the water like it’s your job. Your body will adjust to your new time zone much better (and thank you) for not consuming alcohol or caffeine on the journey.

RECOMMENDED: Why Drinking And Flying Don’t Mix

6. Bathroom breaks

Yes, I know, drinking lots of water means lots of trips to the bathroom. But remember, those are your only movement/stretch sessions in your 18-hour journey—enjoy them! Do some gentle range of motion in each joint as you wait in line for the bathroom (or hover by the flight attendants prep area).

Include circles of your neck, shoulders, scapula, wrists, ankles, knees, hips, and a standing cat/cow spine. It may not seem like a lot but it will boost your circulation and help you stay well inflight.

7. Hot towel facial

Cleanse your face before dropping off to sleep with the hot hand towel provided or bring a little washcloth in a plastic bag to make your own. First, clean off the grime and any pre-flight makeup. Then lather on some moisturizer.

Did you know that most airplane cabin environments are extremely dry—less than 20 percent humidity! In comparison, the World Health Organization recommends our home environment humidity to be kept between 30 and 50 percent.

So traveling with a three-ounce sized or single-use packets face moisturizer and lip balm are a must.

My version? I love Power Repair Nourishing Face Cream from Super Salve Company and Burts Bees lip balm.

8. Physio peanut (magic!)

An item I never travel without. A physio peanut consists of two small balls joined together. You can purchase one or make it yourself by putting two tennis balls in a sock and fastening the ends with a rubber band.

While awake and enjoying a film, place the physio peanut between your back and the seat. Gradually shift the placement of it from your upper back, mid-back and down to your lower back.

Hamstrings getting grumpy from extended periods of sitting? Place the peanut between your leg and the seat. The balls are a form of self-myofascial release and can help with circulation, pain and muscle soreness from sitting for extended periods.

9. Sleep

Set your clock to your arrival location’s time zone and begin to prepare yourself mentally at that time by arranging your eating and sleeping times on the flight. Heading home from Singapore to NYC, our flight left at 11:45 pm. We were exhausted but I kept myself and the kids up for a few hours with a meal and a movie before crashing. That way we could begin regulating our inner clocks to Eastern Standard Time.

You cannot control the light in the cabin, but you can control the light going to your eyes by wearing an eye mask & hitting the “Do Not Disturb” button for your in-flight sleep sessions. Sleep is one of the most obvious but frequently overlooked factors to help you stay well inlight.

RECOMMENDED: Guide To Sleeping On A Plane: Interview With The Sleep Ambassador®Nancy H. Rothstein

10. Breath and savor

No accessories needed for this one! Traveling, while enjoyable, can also produce anxiety for some. Two of the best tools we have for calming/altering our brain, thoughts, body and central nervous system are breathwork and appreciation.

Sit back, close your eyes and begin to notice your breath. Start silently counting as you inhale for about 4 to 5 seconds and extend you exhale for 8 to 10 seconds.

The closer your exhale gets to be double that of your inhale, the better you will stimulate your parasympathetic nervous system. This is the system responsible for the “rest and digest” autonomic functions of your body (aka the opposite of “fight or flight”).

After following your inhale and exhale for a few minutes, bring your attention to something that you are grateful for. Perhaps the gift of traveling to a new place, your health, someone you will see on your trip or your return home.

Sometimes I simply savor the act of sitting still. At that moment there are no dishes to wash, no house to clean, no work to do. Just the joy of sitting, breathing and savoring the moment!

Don’t forget these tips for how to stay well inflight on your next long haul journey. Boa Viagem!

Ana Costa

Ana Costa is a certified personal trainer, Capoeira Anogla practitioner, mother of two and world traveler. A graduate of Columbia University, she received her certification in personal training through the National Academy of Sports Medicine. Raised in rural Liberia, urban Kenya, and upstate New York, her cross-cultural upbringing and diverse athletic training inspire her dynamic and holistic fitness programs. Whether traveling with her children or solo she loves finding ways to stay active and healthy along the way in order to enjoy every trip to its fullest!


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