Many people travel this time of year. College kids head home after the semester, vacations are taken, and family is visited. We’re headed to Germany this week to visit Dominik’s family. If you’re planning on traveling this season, by plane, train, or automobile, here are some tips for sane and healthy travel: (It is a long post, so feel free to skip to the sections that apply to you or your family.)
Note: Some of these tips can be applied to train travel also.
- Use SeatGuru to assist in the selection of your seat. If you are on a long haul flight, this can be extremely important, especially if you’ve ever ended up near the toilets or in a bulkhead seat that doesn’t recline. Type your flight number into SeatGuru and review the pros/cons for each seat.
- Bacteria can survive for up to a week on plane surfaces (1). It is a good idea to wipe the surfaces around your seat down with an antibacterial wipe, especially if you have children or a compromised immune system. Also use hand sanitizer after returning from the toilet (even if you washed your hands- you still probably touched the door or a seat on your way back) or before eating.
- Don’t drink or use the bathroom water to brush your teeth. As recently as 2004, high levels of fecal bacteria were found in plane water (1). The EPA now says it is safe to drink unless you have a compromised immune system. Your immune system is already a little compromised while flying, so this is another reason to use sanitizer after returning to your seat. If you need to brush your teeth or take medicine, use a bottle of water or ask for a cup of water.
- Although airborne transmission of bacteria is less likely, if you’re in the “misting zone” of a sneeze or cough you can still be infected. Respiratory illnesses have also been shown to spread as far as seven rows, so Dr. Mark Gendreau of the Lahey Medical Center in Peabody, Massachusetts suggests always keeping a bit of air turned on and shooting right in front of you, so you are primarily breathing in the filtered air (1).
- Dehydration is one of the biggest concerns when flying. The air system keeps the humidity very low and skin and bodies dry out quickly. I usually put an extra layer (or two) of this on my face, keep this for my hands, and always have a refillable water bottle with me that I’ll fill up after security. The recommended amount while flying is 8 ounces an hour. Those little plastic cups filled with ice might hold about 4 ounces if you’re lucky, so don’t be afraid to ask for more water!
- Get up and move! Most people have heard of Deep Vein Thrombosis (or DVT), so why don’t more people get up? I was once on a 9 hour flight to Germany and the young man by the window didn’t get up once! If you’re drinking 8oz an hour this isn’t even possible, but you should be standing up and walking around at least every few hours. Move around in your seat a bit and move your legs around if you’re on a long haul flight. Most long hauls give you a card or video with leg exercises.
- Avoid carbonation and heavy foods. Your digestion is slowed while flying, so light meals/snacks and foods are recommended. Ice-cold beverages, carbonation, and heavy foods can contribute to bloating, gas, constipation, and further impaired digestion. See below for my favorite plane snacks.
- If you’re flying with babies or children, keep in mind they are unable to equalize the pressure in their ears. Babies can breastfeed or take a bottle upon takeoff and landing and older children can chew gum or suck on something like a lollipop. Tips for entertaining kids on long trips below.
- Wear comfortable layers. Your plane might go from stifling to freezing in a few minutes. The little tiny blanket on longer flights isn’t much of a help, so bring a sweater or travel blanket.
- If you’re on a long flight and plan on sleeping, consider earplugs, an eye mask, and a neck pillow. I have this eye mask and Dominik has this neck pillow and we recommend them both.
- Set your watch to the destination time when you get on the plane so you can acclimate once you get there. If jet lag is a problem, try to spend as much time as possible in natural light (outside or near large windows). Long walks are perfect for this!
- Airplane snacks! Since most airplane food is neither good nor healthy, here are my favorite plane snacks: (Just keep in mind the agricultural restrictions on food items at your destination- international or Hawaii. Most international locations allow you to eat what you want on the plane as long as you don’t leave the plane with things such as fresh fruit. Hawaii does not allow this when returning to the mainland.)
- Quinoa salad with vegetables: no mess, protein and nutrients, and it will hold up during your travels.
- Veggies with hummus
- Fruit and nut or coconut butter
- Hard boiled eggs (use these directions so they aren’t stinky)
- Flax or rice crackers with hard cheese or nut butter
- Fruit (unless you’re returning from Hawaii- mine were confiscated every time by security)
- Granola or trail mix
- Jerky (check the ingredients)
- Bars: I like Epic Bars, Bearded Brothers Energy Bars (these are local!), and Lärabars, but many people enjoy Quest bars also (just check the ingredients).
Ah yes, the road trip. If your travel plans include a road trip, be prepared with the tips below.
- Sleep well. Especially if you have kids, you may have been up late the night before packing everything and getting ready. Make sure the driver can get enough sleep to drive safely.
- If you have room for a cooler, pack it full of healthy drinks (we love LaCroix on road trips), healthy snacks, or even a picnic lunch.
- Load your car correctly and carefully. You shouldn’t have anything above the seat line in the back if you have a SUV. In an emergency situation those items will fly forward and can injure you. The only resource I could find on this was from Ireland, but it is a nice starting place. If you need to carry more than will safely fit, consider purchasing or borrowing a roof rack or hitch rack. Waterproof roof bags can be great options for parents traveling for Christmas who want to keep some of the presents hidden from their kids.
- Ensure kids and pets are all safely secured. If you have any questions about the installation of your child’s safety seat, you can find local inspectors here and here. Pets can be injured (or injure you) in the case of an accident. Visit your local pet store or check online for a pet harness for the car.
- Have a winter car emergency kit if you’ll be traveling anywhere that winter weather conditions could occur. Here is one example, but be sure to pick one out for your specific needs.
- Check your tires, fluids, and wipers. We had to stop part of the way back home from Thanksgiving at WalMart on a Sunday to buy new wiper blades. Be prepared ahead of time and make sure your car is in good condition for travel.
- Stretch your legs. Stop a few times along the way so everyone can get out and stretch. You should be drinking enough to stop every few hours anyway, so use that time to stretch and walk around.
Traveling with Kids
Pick the best ideas below based on your travel plans and the ages and personalities of your kids.
- Have a small backpack or bag for each child with their favorite items and a water bottle.
- If you’re traveling by car, make sure the bags are reachable by the kids while in their car seats.
- If you’re traveling overnight on a plane, pack your kids’ pajamas in your carryon. Let them change before they get on the plane so they are comfortable and can rest.
- Activity ideas:
- Picture books or books to read
- Activity books (stickers, paper dolls, dot to dot)
- Coloring books and crayons that won’t roll away in a plane (these or these)
- Finger puppets like these
- If you’re traveling by car, bring a bag of fun scarves, hats, gloves, sunglasses, and jewelry. The kids can dress up while still in their seats.
- Pipe cleaners can be a great mess-free toy for the car or plane
- Mini magna doodle
- Dental floss (unflavored) and a bag of cheerios- they can make a necklace then eat it!
- Origami kits can be fun and mess free
- A disposable camera! Yes, these still exist. Sure, you can give them an inexpensive digital camera, but disposable cameras can also be fun.
- A few notepads or spirals and pens or markers. You never know when you’ll be in the mood for a game of hangman or the license plate game.
- Load up some kid friendly games or DVDs on your iPad or portable DVD player. Don’t forget the splitter if they’re going to share. Amazon is offering a special on the Kindle Fire for $49 right now! (Don’t rely on seat back entertainment on long haul flights. The selection of kid friendly movies has improved, but it could be broken or they could have a hard time seeing it since it is designed for adults.)
- Don’t forget their headphones!
What are your top travel tips that I haven’t mentioned above? Share in the comments below or on social media.
I hope everyone has safe and happy travels! We’ll have a guest post with a family recipe while I’m traveling on Thursday. Be sure to check it out!