In less than a week, I’ll be hopping on a plane, well, 3 planes, and heading off to Vienna, Geneva and Munich. While this vacation has been almost a year in the making, I’m excited to explore historical landmarks, run through the English Gardens and, of course, try some new foods– but I have to get there first. And I’d like to do it in relative comfort.
As a passenger of tin cans in the sky since the age of 1, I’d consider myself a seasoned traveler. Then, back in the day as an athlete traveling every weekend to random college tracks, who needed to learn how to get comfortable on a plane and be ready to compete the next day, I learned a few solid travel tips. Trust me, they expand beyond “Bring lots of snacks,” though that is sound advice. Now I’m preparing to get back on a long haul flight and I’d really like to share with you how an active person successfully handles being on a plane for the equivalent of a full day. In this 2-part series, I’ll share with you the must-dos of long haul flights for active people. Read on!
Embrace the Downtime
As running and fitness are a part of my daily life, it makes me a little anxious to think about not being able to get some activity in while traveling. It’s not that I have a problem taking a day off, it’s that I have a little beef with being forced to take a full day off in lieu of being active and exploring. What’s my answer? Plan. If, like me, you’re going to be faced with 18+ hours of travel, get your fitness in before you go. That might just mean working it out the day before your departure, but be sure that when you land and get to your final destination, you have a place to release some of that inevitable pent up energy. Where are the local parks? Do your accommodations have a fitness center or pool? Do the research and that way you can feel more comfortable upon arrival. Heck, you might be exhausted from all that travel, so allow yourself that nap and pick up your fitness routine where you left off the day, or two, before.
Wear Compression Socks & Wander
While the 5-minute time investment required to put on compression socks may seem like a lot (and kind of a strength workout in and of itself), you’ll consider it worth it when you exit your plane without “plane legs,” which can include swollen calves and ankles. I don’t catch a flight without my compression socks because I learned the hard way how heavy my legs can feel on a run following a flight without those adorable knee-highs. Compression socks, while completely stylish, also limit the possibility of developing Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT), which is an oft-mentioned side effect of being immobile on long flights. It is the formation of blood clots and you need to do yourself a favor by pointing and flexing, writing the alphabet with your feet to get those ankles moving and taking a little stroll through the aisles. And while you’re up, go bother the flight attendant for some more water. And maybe do a few sideways lunges down the aisle.
Don’t Arrive Drunk or Hungover
While it sounds funny, I’m totally serious about this one. I know that runners like to work hard and play hard, but do yourself a solid and don’t go on a bender 12 hours before your transatlantic flight. By consuming alcohol the night before a long flight or even the day of, you put yourself at risk for jet lag and dehydration. You also maximize the opportunity for sleeplessness and increase your risk of developing DVT. Remain hydrated (think 2-4 times as much water as you would normally consume, which I know is A LOT, dear runner friends), but don’t just stick to water. Electrolyte balance, as you athletes already know, is essential to optimal body function, so consider bringing individual packets of Gatorade or a tube of my favorite, Nuun tablets. They’re tasty, they fizz, they’re a nice change from water and they’ll help you get your electrolyte balance on. Hey-o!
Get Your Comfy Pants Look On
I’m a huge fan of traveling in comfort, but I’ve long since passed the days where a full set of matching team sweats are socially acceptable. Enter: comfy, stylish travel threads. Since I’m used to being clad in stretchy materials, I often opt for leggings, a comfortable t-shirt and a flowy sweater or cardigan. Planes are notoriously cold, so I can wrap myself up in said flowy sweater or, if for some reason I get too warm (one too many teas?), I can remove the sweater and ball it up to use as an extra pillow.
Ladies get the style advantage on this one, but guys can pretty much pull off the hoodie look for a lifetime, so they get the ultra-comfy advantage. Gentlemen of the active, but plane-ready, variety are often spotted in jeans and fleeces, hoodies or sweaters, which all hit in the cozy category, but we need to have a chat about footwear.
Make sure you’ve got shoes on that are both comfortable and easy to slip on and off. Oddly enough, I find my go-to Chuck Taylors are more of a pain at security than my riding boots, so I usually opt for the latter. And since I’ve already got on my compression socks, I don’t have to worry about cold ankles on the plane, regardless of my shoe choice. Sometimes, when the mood strikes, I throw on a cute pair of running shoes or sporty footwear (like most men you’ll see in airports), which is a solid maneuver because, despite your best efforts, your feet will likely still expand a bit in the air and if you remove your shoes to maximize comfort on your flight, there might be a bit of a struggle waiting for you when you put your fitted footwear on your swollen feet for landing.
Now that you’ve got everything pre-flight under control, I think you’re ready to get to the airport, board that plane and take to the friendly skies. Check out part 2 of this series for ways to get the best seat, sleep and stay sniffle-free.