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The Art of Flying Comfortably
The Art of Flying Comfortably
by Isabelle Velleman
You've been dreaming about your next vacation and planning it for months. The moment has finally arrived for you to leave home and take a flight to more pleasant climes. Although most of us associate vacations with relaxation, flying is a physically stressful and tiring experience. Fortunately, preparing properly and following a few simple steps can easily reduce the physical discomforts associated with flying.
Before you leave
What to expect When you fly, your body has to deal with several destabilizing factors that can make you feel very tired, and this applies to passengers who are in excellent health. This is why you should factor in all of your activities and lessen the effects of stress on your body before you leave for the airport.
Start by making sure you are well rested. Try to avoid getting ready at the last minute. Instead, complete tasks every day in the week leading up to your departure. Make a list, and give everyone going on the trip several tasks to do. This will ensure that you have everything you need for your vacation and that it will go off without a hitch.
On the day of your departure, avoid leaving at the last minute. Take traffic into account, and leave yourself enough time to get to the airport. Being stuck in traffic and worrying about missing your flight won't put you in a good frame of mind for your trip. Consider using the shuttle services offered by many airports. Shuttles are a relaxing way of getting to the airport without having to worry about luggage and fighting traffic.
A healthy body
Although sports are a great way to combat stress, it's best not to practice your favourite sport on the day before your flight, to avoid aches and pains the following day. Instead, consider doing a few stretches to relax you or, even better, have a massage. Not only will you sleep better, but you'll be fresh and ready for your trip and in a better position to put up with the discomfort associated with long hours sitting in a seat.
A well-rested body is also more apt to adjust to changes in climate, jet lag and diet. You can also reduce the effects of jet lag by adapting to your new schedule a few days in advance. If you're travelling to Europe, for instance, try going to sleep an hour earlier each night. Travellers heading west should try going to sleep an hour later each night.
In the same vein, avoid needlessly taxing your digestive system by eating foods rich in fat and sugar. Ideally, you should eat as lightly as possible around 48 hours prior to your departure to detox your body and lessen the discomfort caused by bloating and other excess acidity. The tricky part is going to be explaining to your friends why you can't celebrate your upcoming vacation! You should also bear in mind that from the time you leave home until you get your first meal on the plane, several hours may have gone by. You should pack a snack so that you don't get on the plane feeling starved and impatient! Fruits, nuts or sandwiches can be taken on board but must be eaten before you land. Snacks also come in handy when you arrive since you'll probably have to wait for your luggage or you may be delayed at customs. Granola bars or some other type of individually wrapped snacks are a healthy and inexpensive choice.
Once you're on board
Less is more You arrived at the airport early, your luggage has been checked in, all that's left to do is to sit down and relax. Be sure to wear comfortable, loose clothing as this will add to your comfort. Because it's sometimes cold on planes, take along an extra pair of socks and a light but warm sweater, just in case.
Sitting for long periods may cause cramps and aches. Passengers should stand up frequently and walk around in the plane to get their circulation going. When you get back to your seat, unlace your shoes and do some stretching and relaxation exercises you'll find in in-flight videos and magazines. These exercises are created with flying in mind and target parts of the body that are most sensitive to lack of movement.
Drink, drink, and drink some more!
Dehydration caused by cabin pressure is the most significant source of discomfort during a flight. The best thing to do is to drink a lot, but not just anything! Alcohol and soft drinks should be avoided, as are stimulants such as tea and coffee. Water is the best thing to drink during a flight. Try to take a 2 litre bottle of water with you. During flights, the body needs twice as much water as it does on land. A 2 litre bottle should keep you well hydrated.
Sleeping during a flight
If you're taking a night flight, you'll probably want to sleep as much as possible. If you can, try to buy an inflatable neck pillow, which provides excellent support and stops your head from dropping to the side. After all, no one wants to start their vacation off with a case of whiplash! A face mask is handy because it eliminates ambient light. Most airlines provide face masks on board.
Noise on board planes is another major problem, so you should consider buying earplugs. Some airlines offer them free of charge, but it's best to buy earplugs before you leave. Another solution is to take your own relaxing music with you and listen to it during the flight to cut down on ambient noise.
Try to avoid taking sleeping pills, even light ones. The effects of sleeping pills often last longer than most long-haul flights, and you may end up feeling groggy and disoriented when you arrive.
Travellers on medication or with special needs
If you are elderly, suffer from chronic health problems, or are recovering from an illness or injury, we recommend that you consult your doctor a few days before your flight. This will enable you to have all the information you need in case of emergency, and to confirm that you are able to fly. Passengers with fractures or who are wearing casts should contact their airline before their departure to ensure they will allow them to board the plane, especially if the accident was recent. Cabin pressure can, in some cases, prevent your injury from healing. A tight cast can also be very uncomfortable and even cut off your circulation. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure!
Visiting your doctor is also a good idea because you can ensure that you have enough medication to last you through your trip. If your trip involves a big time difference, make sure you know when to take your medication, especially if it has to be taken at a specific time. Moreover, you should notify your airline if you have to travel with syringes. Most airlines will allow you to take syringes on board, but some require a medical certificate. It's best to inform the airline one to two weeks in advance.
When you do contact the airline you'll be flying with, find out which in-flight services they offer. Most major airlines offer special meals that will enable you to follow the diet prescribed by your doctor. If you have difficulty moving around, ask the airline if you can use a wheelchair or if you can be assisted by a flight attendant when it's time to board the plane.