Ask wellness pros how they stay healthy while traveling, and most of them will tell you it involves drinking lots of water in flight. Consuming extra H20 on board helps counteract the arid conditions on airplanes that can dehydrate you. Which is why women’s functional medicine expert (and Well+Good Council member) Robin Berzin, MD, recommends drinking five times more water in flight than you think you need.
So, what’s the best way to follow the doctor’s orders? To find out, I tapped flight attendants, who, thanks to countless frequent flyer miles, have ample time to road test (air test?) the best ways to do everything from pack a carry-on to combat jet lag to (you guessed it) to properly hydrate on a plane. Scroll down to see three flight attendant-approved hydration hacks to try next time you fly.
3 natural ways to flavor water
Who says hydrating on a plane has to be as boring as a flight with no WiFi? Steve F. (who prefers to keep his anonymity in case your paths should ever cross in a cabin) has been a flight attendant for over 20 years and swears by adding lemon to his water. “I try to drink at least one gallon per day,” he says. You can also pop mint leaves, fruit, or herbs into your water bottle to make your own flavored H2O in flight.
Try adding muddled berries, slices of cucumber or citrus, sprigs of lavender, rosemary, thyme or basil—or a combo of a few fresh ingredients to your reusable water bottle before heading to the airport. (Cucumber mint, strawberry lemon, or watermelon basil are all good ones, IMO.) Once you get through security, top up before boarding you plane (most airport restaurants or cafés will be happy to help you out). And if you *really* want to double down on the hydrating powers of you water, consider adding either trace minerals or marshmallow root in to the mix. Both are able to help your body better absorb water, which means your cells receive more hydration from any H2O you consume that contains them.
It’s safe to drink coffee or tea on a plane in a pinch
The flight attendants interviewed for this story say they usually stick with bottled beverages to quench their in-flight thirst. (Maybe that has something to do with an EPA study that claims one in eight airplanes fail to meet safety standards with their tap water….)
But seven-year airline veteran Nguvu Tsare says the plane’s water isn’t so bad in the case of a hydration emergency—as long as it’s hot. “I’m not afraid, like some, to drink hot beverages that are made from the potable water on the plane,” he says. “I’ve been drinking airplane coffee for seven years and have never gotten sick.”
If you opt to go this route, it’s still a good idea to limit your caffeine intake—since it’s a diuretic that’ll make you have to pee more, thus thwarting your extra-hydration efforts. Ask your cabin crew for a cup of decaf or an herbal tea instead. Most airlines only offer a black tea option like Lipton. So, it might be worth BYOB (bringing your own bag) of team. Try chamomile, peppermint, or ginger.
Should you be the type of early airport arriver who has time to kill at her gate before takeoff, opt to pick up a hot beverage at a terminal café before boarding to avoid the above SOS scenario entirely. Bonus points if you pack your own reusable thermos or mug.
Don’t drink alcohol on a plane
Just like coffee, alcohol is a diuretic. So, while a glass of pinot grigio may seem appealing when the drink cart comes by, boozing on a long flight can further dehydrate you (just as it does on the ground). Even the extra antioxidants from a glass of red wine aren’t enough of a reason to imbibe in flight. If you want to boost your polyphenol levels, try reaching for a handful of almonds instead. New research has discovered that not only is the nut a great healthy travel snack because it’s packed with protein that’ll keep you feeling full for longer, but an ounce also has about the same amount of the healthy compounds as a cup of green tea.
Same goes for cocktails—those ice cubes aren’t doing you any favors, either. “Skip the hard liquor,” advises Cathy Thompson, who’s flown with various different airlines over the last few decades. “Waking up with a hangover to find out you’re landing soon isn’t fun.” Especially not on top of jet lag.
Save the celebrating for when you get to your final destination feeling hydrated, healthy, and ready to make the most out of your travel plans. Doesn’t that sound so much better to cheers to anyways?
Originally published November 7, 2017; updated May 18, 2018.
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