Living in Belgium with most of my family still back in Canada means that each year I’m guaranteed at least two long-haul flights. Combined with our general love of travelling has meant a lot of flying on the books! Last year alone I made 4 big long-haul trips some with multiple legs. Maybe not travel-blogger status but still a challenge nonetheless!
If I can be allowed to complain about one thing (not that I want to complain about amazing travel opportunities at all!) it is the fact that most return flights from North America to Europe for me are red-eye flights. There’s only one direct flight a day from Toronto to Brussels and it’s an overnight one. Unless I want to get creative with stopovers and add hours to my journey, my hands are a bit tied; and it’s these overnight flights that routinely take a lot out of me.
I struggle with some anxiety when flying, and I’ve had flights where it has prevented me from being able to get any sleep in – even once on a flight where I was able to use travel points for a free business class upgrade.
I’m not a pro yet at coming off these flights in tip-top condition, but below are some of the strategies I take to relax onboard and nourish my body as best as possible.
Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate!
This one cannot come as a surprise, as it’s part of every single article already written on this topic! But it is seriously true, and I still find it amazing how many people don’t drink water on flights. I’ve sat next to people who have only knocked back coffee or wine the entire trip and I can only imagine how they must have felt after the flight ended. Recently I sat next to a young man who drank nothing and didn’t get up once to go to the washroom during an 8-hour flight!
Our body mass is 55-60% water, and it plays a huge role in a whole host of different bodily functions and processes. Flying is extremely dehydrating, and if you become even just 2% dehydrated you can already start to feel fatigued. Other signs of early stage dehydration include anxiety and irritability, headaches, muscle cramps, and cravings.
You might not know, but you can actually bring your own water bottle through security as long as it’s empty. Most airports have water fountains where you can fill up before your flight – so you can’t use the crazy price of water in airports as an excuse not to get your H2O on!
BYOT (bring your own tea)
One of my Christmas presents this year (to myself!) was a thermal tumbler that boasts keeping drinks hot for 12 hours and cold for 24. I was skeptical, but it really does work! So in addition to my water bottle, I also brought my thermos with me as carry-on and got it filled up at a kiosk with an herbal tea before boarding. Just be sure to grab an herbal, non-caffeinated tea as caffeine is a diuretic and could do you more harm than good while flying.
Once on the flight, I kept the cup provided with dinner and poured myself cups of tea throughout the journey. This was key, as the thermos kept the tea so hot that it would have burned my mouth to drink directly from the bottle!
Keep up your night-time routine
On an overnight journey I try my best to wind down and get some sleep in. Going through my regular night-time routine plays a big part in getting my system to make that transition. After the dinner is cleared away, I’ll head to the bathroom and do my usual thing: cleanse my face and brush my teeth (with my own water!), and most importantly, apply a good portion of skin cream.
I use a simple cream made from olive oil, shea butter, and essential oils (either lavender or lemongrass). These oils help nourish and hydrate the skin, but are also antimicrobial and have really helped me stop getting travel zits during the flight! The essential oils trigger my brain that it’s time for bed, not to mention their innate relaxing qualities. A super simple hack for this would be to fill a small travel-sized container with coconut oil and apply this to your face instead.
Then I head back to my seat, get comfy with a thick pair of cabin socks, put on an eye mask, and settle down for the “night”! If I’m sitting in the aisle, I also make sure to let my seatmate know that I’m planning on sleeping so they can also get out for a stretch before settling in and hopefully not disturb me mid-sleep.
If I’m feeling particularly anxious, I’ll get out my meditation app and meditate before trying to sleep. I’ll do a 10-15 minute meditation that focuses on the breath and guides you in relaxing each part of your body. It can really help decrease my stress levels and calm my brain down in order to actually fall asleep.
Use white noise
In addition to the eye mask, I use to also wear earplugs while sleeping on a plane. But while they dim the noise around you, it doesn’t block everything out; not to mention I find them really uncomfortable after awhile. What I have started doing instead is popping in my ear buds and putting on some white noise. In addition to the meditations on the Calm app they have a great selection of different noises you can listen to non-stop. For me, I have gotten my best airplane sleep while listening to the sound of rain.
Those are my favourite flying habits! How do you manage red-eye flights, any tricks I should be adding to my repertoire?