Mile High Club
Traveling is a doozy. I remember when I used to dream about being able to travel. Anywhere really. Now I am on trip one to three times a month. Depending on the available flights, that means I can be on two to 12 planes a month. That’s crazy. It’s also not what you think it’s going to be when you are dreaming about it being your reality.
It’s exhausting. It dehydrates you. It’s hard to eat healthy. Hotel food is the worst. Especially hotel chicken. Gross. It’s dry and unseasoned and plain nasty. When I have a lot of work trips, you can find me living off of soup and grilled cheese, if I am lucky. This is not the worst diet for a soup and cheese lover, but it doesn’t help an anemic much.
So, what are my go to travel foods? They aren’t the best, but they are my favorite travel snacks. Kind of like how Spaghetti O’s are my favorite illness cure-all. It varies by travel, but since I spend the majority of my time in airports, I will start there.
Airport food isn’t bad, but I have gotten my travel routine down to a science. I arrive at the last minute I can check my bad, toss it in curb side, park and zip through TSA with Pre-check and Clear like a pro. This leaves me time to grab water, Cheetos, a coffee, use the bathroom and read a chapter or two before I board the plane, load in my half broken headphones and fall asleep.
Right, so I eat chips, coffee and water at airports…when I am traveling for work. When I am traveling for vacation, you can find me at an airport bar or restaurant, drinking wine or margaritas while gnawing on some tasty grub before flying the friendly skies to my destination. If it’s the morning I am probably having mimosas or a bloody mary. You won’t find me drinking on a plane though, unless it’s an international flight and it’s with my meal.
Why don’t I drink on planes? Because it’s really bad for you; for many reasons. Flying makes you dehydrated already, then toss in the low humidity and it won’t help. For people like me, who live in crazy humid climates, it makes it worse because we are very used to the wet air. I should have said moist there, but that is the worst word ever so I don’t want to.
According to an article on Food.ndtv.com, the humidity on flights is lower than in the desert. As I am in Arizona right now, I can tell you that I am just as thirsty here as I am on my flights. You actually lose about two liters of water on a ten hour flight. Add in alcohol to that and it makes your water content even lower!
Cabin pressure is pretty low, when compared to places on land. What does this mean? It means that your body's ability to absorb oxygen is reduced which leads to feelings of hypoxia. Hypoxia is similar to feelings of drinking, so doubling that up can lead to trouble.
I don’t know about you, but I have a lower tolerance at higher altitudes, so imagine how much lower that can get when you’re a member of the Mile High Club.
Also, I would like to talk to someone who has actually had sex on a plane because it seems near impossible and it’s interesting. I mean, I am a small human and I would not know how to cram myself and my boyfriend into that tiny bathroom.
Since airplanes are a dry environment, the mix of the diuretic effects of alcohol make it far worse. You get dehydrated, dry, have less oxygen and find yourself drunk faster. If you have to drive when you land, this is a rough combo guys.
To me, the main reason to not drink on a flight is to not have to use that bathroom. Gross. No thanks. I try my hardest to not ever have to use that thing, not even on international flights.
Honestly, I rarely drink coffee, but I always want it at the airport. Considering how it can encourage dehydration as well, it’s not the best thing for me to drink. I also probably should not eat chips since they have salt in them and that enhances the dehydration as well. I know better, but it’s still my thing.
I drink about 50-80 ounces of water each day. Sometimes I knock it into triple digits, but that is only a few times a month. I love drinking water. If I don’t drink enough, I feel it all day. Traveling makes me super thirsty, all the time. I go through a liter of water before the plane lands and many times I need more on the flight.
But why do you get so dehydrated on planes? Airplanes use outside air to circulate in the cabin and that is the main problem. This makes the humidity to drop, causing the moisture in our bodies to evaporate very quickly.
Not staying hydrated will lead you to a dry mouth, fatigue, headaches, nausea, dry skin and so much more. To help combat this, drink water before your flight, during your flight and after your flight. In general, stay away from alcohol-based moisturizers and don’t drink if at all possible. And we’re grown-ups, so you can avoid it. I don’t all the time and I can tell.
And you can get more sick, not just because all the germs all over the place, but that the air is dry so it makes the cilia in your throat less effective at keeping bacteria and viruses out of your body.
And let’s take a moment to discuss plane etiquette shall we? There are things you just should not eat on a plane. Most things. I know, this seems harsh, but come on people. You don’t heat up fish in your office kitchen (if you do this, stop immediately) and you should not do that on a plane either. Basically, don’t bring anything warm onto a plane. This includes meatball subs, chicken, stir fry, dear Lord anything fish, even pizza guys. If it’s warm, don’t bring it onto the plane. If it’s noisy, leave it alone. If there is an odor associated with it, just stop. This goes for cold tuna and hard boiled eggs also.
For real, bring snacks onto a plane. If you need food, eat it before or after. This is not your car, where you can do whatever you want. This is an enclosed space miles in the air with a bunch of strangers. Have some respect.
Also, shower. Please. This should not be something I have to say, but here I am.
What about road trips? I usually pack a cooler for road trips so I only have to stop when needed, mostly for pee breaks. This way I can have 10 bottles of water that is room temperature instead of cold, like I prefer it. I can make sandwiches, pack yogurt, grapes, lots of cheese, etc. All depending on how long the road trip is of course.
The main random thing that I always grab is a bag of Bugles. Not sure why. They are always too salty and I never finish the bag, but I can’t help but grab them. Somewhere on the road trip I will grab something with caffeine, preferably a Wild Cherry Pepsi. Not just for the pick-me-up, but to have something other than water for a change. I also like grabbing coconut water as well. So tasty. My boyfriends’ go-to road trip snack is GORP; otherwise known as “good ole’ raisins and peanuts.”
What makes Wild Cherry so wild? This is a real question, so if anyone knows, please let me know.
What can you pack to maintain a healthy diet while you travel? Pre-pack stuff like fruit, cheese, sandwiches (or separate items to make sandwiches, in order to prevent soggy sandwiches), granola or snack bars, dried fruits, trail mix, oatmeal cups, pretzels, veggies, nuts, yogurt, and things like that. It’s not as hard as it seems and this will not only fill you up on healthier snacks, but also save you money, time and calories in the long run.
When I am traveling to a new place, which is every month, I research the places to eat before I go there. I look up the best restaurants as well as find the places to eat around my hotel and place I am working. I do mostly mission work and we tend to stay by the airport or in very low income, needy neighborhoods since that is where we are serving the needy. This makes it important to find places to eat in advance, or I will end up avoiding the dangerous areas of the neighborhood since I don’t get to eat until late and wind up at McDonald’s or grabbing chips at the hotel. That is not ideal for this almost 40 year old.
Like I said before, frequent travel can wreak havoc on your body. You get bloated, can have poor circulation, some people can even get blood clots, jet lag is a real struggle, you can get nauseous or sick, and deal with back pain (because sitting ain’t easy).
Some serious health risks can come about from frequent flying as well. You can be exposed to radiation, which isn’t a big deal if you only fly a few times a year. But, if you’re like me and fly a dozen or more times a year, jet lag and radiation put us frequent flyers at higher risk for cancer and other chronic health issues.
No joke, frequent flyers are exposed to radiation that exceeds the amount of exposure that nuclear workers are. Pilots, flight attendants and aircrew are considered to be radiation workers, that is how much they are exposed to radiation.
Then there’s jet lag actually disrupts genes that influence aging and also heightens the risk of a heart attack. The constant disruption of these biological processes for the chronic jet lag folks, effect biological aging influences, the switching off of immune system genes, increased chances of heart attack and stroke and even memory impairment.
Travel is fun, yes. It is also exhausting and hard on your body. So if you know someone who travels a lot and tends to be tired and struggling sometimes, cut them a break. Help them with their laundry. Cook them a meal. Okay, maybe I am asking for a favor but you get the point! LOL :)
NDTV Food, Here’s Why You Should Never Drink Alcohol While On A Plane, by Sarika Rana
Travel and Leisure, Why Do I Get So Dehydrated When I Fly?
Life Hacker, How to Keep Properly Hydrated on a Long Flight, by Patrick Allan
Food Network, 20+ Healthy Foods to Pack When You Travel, by Toby Amidor
Cosmopolitan, All the ways flying can affect your body, by Catriona Harvey-Jenner
Vox, Frequent flying seems glamourous, but it comes with serious health risks, by Julie Belluz