While You’re on the Plane

You’re finally on-board your international flight for your volunteering trip abroad!

Now what?? Focus on Staying Healthy and Passing the Time.

Staying Healthy On-Board

Contrary to the public’s perception, the air circulating on airplanes is actually very clean and sanitary. But, you still must take steps to avoid germs that might lead to cold or flu. Why? The dry air plus the germs from fellow passengers.

1. Avoid Germs On-Board

  • Keep your nasal membranes moist – by frequently drinking water and using saline nasal spray.
  • Keep your hands clean – use hand sanitizer.
  • Keep all surfaces clean like arm rests and trays – with hand sanitizer or anti-bacterial wipes.
  • Increase the ventilation at your seat (to avoid saliva droplets from sneezing, coughing and conversation from passengers).
  • Cover your mouth and nose with a travel mask.

2. Move Around — Often

Walk around and exercise your calf muscles at least every hour, in order to prevent Deep Vein Thrombosis and avoid potential body aches and stiffness. My favorite is to walk to the back of the plane — to just chill out, do some stretching, chat with passengers, and occasionally sneak an extra snack or beverage from the galley.

3. Eat Light & Healthy

Flights present a prolonged period of immobility and pressurization. This can slow down your digestive system, making you fatigued and even cranky. It is best to east light and healthy meals and snacks – especially fresh foods like fruits and vegetables and carbohydrate-based meals (think pasta and rice; avoid red meat). Nuts and high-fiber bars are a good idea as well. All of these strategies will help you fight post-flight constipation and fatigue.

4. Drink Water

It’s easy to get dehydrated on-board — from the salty food to the dry micro-climate. Dehydration can lead to fatigue, crankiness, constipation and even expose you to germs as mentioned above. How much water should you drink? Everyone’s different, but try a couple of tall glasses of water per hour and see how it goes.

5. Avoid Alcohol & Caffeine

Caffeine and alcohol disrupt sleep patterns and cause dehydration. So avoid caffeine and alcohol on the days before, during and after your flight.

6. Avoid new Foods

Your in-flight meal is NOT the time to try spicy food for the first time! Or any other foods that are new to you. Yes, you SHOULD try new foods as you go through life, for lots of reasons. But on your international flight, it’s best to avoid foods that your system may not tolerate well. If you’re going to get “Delhi Belly” on your trip, at least wait until you actually land in India.

Passing the Time on the Flight

1. The Usual Suspects.

Sleeping, reading, movies, music, journal writing, and drawing. Also, more and more airlines — especially outside the US — are offering in-flight Internet access.

2. Mimic your destination’s time zone.

Stay awake and sleep according to the time zone in your destination. This will help you recover from any jet lag symptoms, allowing you to adjust more quickly to the local time zone.

3. Talk to fellow passengers.

Shy? Intimidated by all those accents, saris, hijabs, or African headdresses? Get over it :=). Smile and say hello to people. Perhaps you’ll make a new friend, and maybe learn about your destination – especially if the folks you talk to are returning home.

4. Look out the window!

You are 30,000+ feet above the earth! Isn’t is amazing to see the clouds, stars, the moon, the ocean, even other planes from this perspective? You’re traveling perhaps half-way around the world in less than 24 hours. These things were unfathomable to humans not even a century ago. Consider yourself very fortunate.

5. Take photos and videos.

Capture yourself, the scenery out the window, perhaps even a new friend(s). You might not realize it now, but looking at these photos and images after the trip – especially after many years – will keep your memories of this special trip alive and vivid for you and others.