Between the routine disruption, free-flowing drinks, overuse of hand sanitizer and dry airplane cabins, staying hydrated while flying is no small feat. But it’s one of the most vital steps to ensure you arrive at your destination feeling fresh and ready to go.
“When at altitude, commercial airliners bring in outside air as part of the normal circulation process,” explains Bob Bacheler, managing director and in-flight nurse at Flying Angels. “One advantage of this is air is exchanged more often than [almost] any other building, making the air safer to breathe from a viral transmission perspective. The downside of this is the lack of humidification, usually around 15% to 20%, which is half of what people find comfortable.”
According to Bacheler, the human body loses about 8 ounces of water per hour on an aircraft at altitude, mostly from breathing. As such, the Aerospace Medical Association (AsMA) recommends drinking about 0.25 liters (or 8 ounces) of water per hour while on an airplane.
That said, staying hydrated while on a long-haul flight can be tricky — especially if you’re not exactly one to guzzle water in the first place. If you struggle to stay hydrated while flying or simply want to ensure you’re doing everything right by your body, you’ll want to read on.
We spoke to a handful of frequent flyers and nutritionists to get their top tips on how to stay properly hydrated on a long flight without having to shimmy into the aisle to run to the bathroom every couple of hours. These are our favorite, expert-approved tips for making sure you stay properly hydrated on your next flight.
Consider the power of chia seeds
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Do you know why many athletes love chia pudding, overnight oats with chia seeds or other eats with chia seeds such as smoothies? Hydration. Travelers typically think of liquids as their only source for hydration, but chia seeds should be a part of your hydration strategy.
“When we fly, we often bring muffins with chia seeds or try to get our overnight oats through security,” says Erin Kaese, managing editor at Athletic-Minded Traveler. “And if we aren’t bringing the food on the plane, we load up prior to the flight. Chia seeds can absorb thirty times their weight in water, which means body fluid regulation. Travelers can prepare their body for the long flight with a pre-flight meal that is heavy — about 1 tablespoon — on chia seeds.”
Get a good water bottle
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Bring your own water bottle. It seems simple, but it's often overlooked. “Bringing your favorite water bottle will often force you to go fill it up at a water station,” says nutritionist Juliana Tamayo. “When we do not bring our water bottle, we are more tempted to spend money on other things, such as snacks or magazines, instead of water. Bringing your bottle is also a subtle reminder to drink more water every time you see it in your purse or bag.”
We like the Larq Water Purification Thermal Bottle in particular for a solid travel mug option. The water purification vessel allows you to fill up your bottle wherever you are thanks to the UV light-equipped lid that filters up to 99% of waterborne bacteria and viruses in under three minutes.
Enlist the help of a digital tracker
“If you have trouble remembering to drink water, consider drinking on a schedule,” suggests Steve Theunissen, registered dietitian, nutritionist and certified personal trainer. “Water-drinking apps such as Aqualert or Hydro Coach are available to download for free and will remind you to sip enough water to stay properly hydrated while flying.”
Aqualert specifically will calculate your daily water requirements and send notifications directly to you during the day to keep you on track. It’s free to download, though there are in-app purchases available to enhance the experience.
Turn to tea
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Water might be the best liquid for staying hydrated, but if you really struggle to drink a glass of still water many times over, there are other options that’ll help keep you properly hydrated while flying. “While plain water is best for staying hydrated, other drinks and foods can help, too,” says Theunissen. “Fruit and vegetable juices, milk and herbal teas add to the amount of water you get each day.”
Consider bringing your own herbal tea bags while flying. They’re TSA-compliant and all you’ll need is a source of boiling water and a good travel mug to keep your tea piping hot. Flight attendants will generally be more than happy to provide hot water and you can even find hot water dispensers at many public drinking fountains in major airports around the country.
Think beyond water
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Theunissen also suggests eating more fruits and vegetables when you're flying. Many of these foods contain water, particularly fruits like pineapple, melon, watermelon and berries or vegetables like bell peppers, cucumbers and celery.
Packing these foods or grabbing them at the airport can help you stay hydrated when you fly. But pay close attention to the rules regarding where you’re traveling. Specifically, don’t bring any raw fruit or vegetables on international flights, as most countries do not allow the import of foreign produce or seeds.
Multiply your water intake
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“These days, staying hydrated is not very difficult as you can find hydration water packets everywhere,” says Tamayo. “I suggest carrying some of these in your bag or purse and adding them to water during your flight. This will ensure that you get the right amount of vitamins, minerals and fluid you need to stay hydrated. I particularly like Liquid I.V. but you can also buy Propel water or Gatorade G2 at the airport, although the latter has a lot of sugar.”
Keep your face moisturized
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Tamayo also suggests keeping a travel-sized moisturizer on hand to keep your face and neck comfortably moisturized for the entire flight. “Your skin is a good sensor for how hydrated you are and being in a plane for long periods can dry your skin due to the altitude and pressurization in the plane,” she explains.
We suggest using the travel-friendly leave-on recovery mask by Lanolips. The Australian-founded beauty company created the Aussie Flyer with long-haul flights in mind. The super-thick face mask is extremely hydrating and the leave-on formula will help to lock in moisture for much longer than a regular mask or face cream.
Don’t forget your eyes
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“You’ll also want to consider using tear eye drops to keep your eyes properly hydrated,” says Tamayo. The lack of moisture in the air combined with the stress of travel can quickly result in irritated eyes — especially if you’re already prone to dry eyes.
A hydrating spray is a game-changer
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The travel-sized Evian Facial Spray is something that all long-haul travelers should keep in their carry-on bag. The natural mineral water spray offers bursts of superior skin hydration while the convenient spray nozzle allows you to apply moisture to your face and neck discreetly and right from your seat.
Pack a hand cream
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Between the cold and dry cabin air and the abundance of hand sanitizer you will have no doubt applied between getting to the airport and arriving at your destination, your hands will likely be in sore need of hydration. The CeraVe Moisturizing Hand Cream is going to be your best bet for long-lasting and quick-absorbing hydration.
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