Airplane travel is awesome. Once inside the aluminium tube, snuggled up with a blanket, good book and movies, the daily grind is well and truly behind you. Hours later, you’re in another world, another time zone. What’s not awesome however, is arriving dehydrated with body aches and jet lag. So what can you do to arrive feeling great?
1. Choose the aisle seat
As charming as watching the ground disappear beneath you can be, the window seat just isn’t the pick for long-haul flights. Regular travellers always choose the aisle, swapping a view of the clouds for that little extra legroom and easy access to the loo.
Sure, you’ll have someone clambering over you occasionally. But any reason to get up and get moving during a long flight is good. Popular apps for finding the seat that best suits you include SeatGuru and SeatPlans.
2. Get a flight upgrade—if you’re lucky
3. Move and stretch on board
Sitting in the upright position, immobile for long stretches of time can make you feel sore and tired. Your blood flows more sluggishly when you’re sitting and your muscles contract. And thanks to gravity, it’s much harder for your blood to circulate back to your heart.
That’s why your feet swell up during flights, and why you end up with body aches and fatigue. Some studies have even linked prolonged immobility with blood clots in a deep leg vein—a condition known as deep vein thrombosis. So the best way to arrive in great shape is to exercise and stretch during the flight.
Get up, stretch tall and walk around every half hour if you can. And avoid crossing your legs when seated. According to the World Health Organization, even "a regular trip to the bathroom is a reasonable measure" to help increase blood circulation. Check out the Qantas Inflight Workout video for simple exercises you can do in your seat.
4. Eat less
Since you won’t be moving much, it’s best to limit the amount you eat. As tempting as it can be, try not to eat everything on your tray-table out of boredom. To stave off hunger drink more water. Honestly, you’ll feel better when you arrive.
5. Drink more
The air you breathe on a plane comes from outside which, at 2440 metres above sea level, is as dry as a desert. With such low humidity inside (less than 25 per cent), you can quickly end up dehydrated. Your body is (on average) roughly 60% water. Lose a fraction of that and your cognitive function, mood and energy levels can drop.
Dehydration can also dry out your eyes, nose and throat, leaving you feeling itchy and irritated.
6. Beat jet lag—factor in some buffer time
Jetlag is kind of unavoidable if you’re crossing time zones. Moreover, the older you are, the more intense the jetlag is likely to be. With upset to sleep, eating and energy rhythms all highly probable, give yourself a little extra time either side of the trip to adjust to your new environment.
If you arrive during the day, go for a walk and take in some sunshine. Sunshine and fresh air are naturally stimulating, and might help you stay awake until ‘bedtime’. If you didn’t eat much during the flight, you’ll arrive feeling peckish. Nourish with a healthy snack and try to have your main meal as close to the local mealtime as possible.
Drinking lots of water helps curb jetlag too. Can’t stress this one enough!
7. There’s an App for everything
There are a number of apps on the market designed for beating jet lag. We haven’t tested any (yet) so can’t make a confident recommendation. Suffice to say, if you have trouble resetting your body clock, you might find one that works for you? Alternatively sleep and meditation apps like Sleep Genius and Simply Being might help you nod off and wake up at the right time.
Luke Tscharke is a freelance photographer based out of Sydney's Northern Beaches. He's won a ton of awards, captured the milky way for Australian Geographic's June 2015 cover, and we love his work. Special thanks to Annabel Archer and Ruth Chope for sharing their personal selfies, shot perfectly in low-light conditions.