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How to Recover from a Long Haul Flight (or what to do after a long-haul flight)

If you’re a seasoned traveler, then you may wonder just what to do after a long-haul flight. And I know you’ve taken one. You know, the ones that lead to the type of pain and suffering that results from a modern form of torture known as the long haul flight (okay it’s not waterboarding but it’s annoying), like the one I took to Seoul, South Korea (one of my least favorite long-haul flight destinations), which was over twelve hours long. I mean I had my long-haul flight essentials but the flight seemed to drag on, kind of like you crossed into some eternal space-time continuum. Throw in some screaming babies and a rather rotund person next to your right and you have what I like to refer to as a living hell masked as a luxurious vacation. My body will literally recoil in disgust as it begins to slowly disintegrate from lack of use. And don’t forget the added necessity of being an Olympic hurdler as you leap over five people every time 
you need to use the bathroom (and I love LOTS of diet coke so you do NOT want to sit next to me during a flight. That’s why I usually try to score an aisle seat. I wanna be like, “Please sure, I always pee some more”).

After all this, you emerge from the plane exhausted, achey, smelling of dragon breath and looking like something that someone dragged out of the black lagoon after about a thousand years of decay. On top of all that, your joints scream in protest and you literally feel like an eighty-year-old woman who needs her hover round scooter (mine better have a bell and rainbow streamers for added swag) just to make it off the plane.

I have been there. I have felt the very real pain that we all endure for the sake of travel. To this I say both “no more” and “never fear” because there are many out there, who are WAY smarter than me. These giants of aviation have educated me on surviving the evils of long-distance travel and I am here to share these expert travel hacks with you. So without further ado, (I know, not the sexiest topic ever but hopefully it helps someone out there in the internet cosmos) 8 Tips on How to Recover from a Long Flight!

1. Kick your feet up and relax awhile

Sadly, I’m not referring to a hammock and an umbrella drink on a pristine beach in the Carribean. That type of relaxation only happens after you get off the plane. When I say kick up your feet, I literally mean that after your flight, you should kick your feet up against a wall for ten minutes right after you land. Why you may be wondering? Is this some new, Rhythmic Gymnastics pose in which I adeptly catch a ball in mid-air to distract you from my horrible flexibility, poise, and grace? Nah, it all has to do with Bill Nye level science. The truth is that when you sit for a long period of time, all the fluid in your body rushes to your feet and as a result, they tend to swell and ache.

I have also found that getting up and walking around during the flight helps, as well as compression socks. These type of socks are tight fitting and designed to enhance the blood flow throughout your legs and reduce the build-up of lactic acid over time (I actually got my compression socks to “encourage” me to run. Still waiting for the encouragement to kick in. I have since used my socks for travel and they work quite well). Doing yoga during or after the flight is also a really good option for all those aspiring yogis out there. I’ll take a hard pass on yoga though because, in one class, I was asked to leave because I was so bad that I was actually making those around me worse.

***Looking for the perfect long-haul flight outfit? I am not a fashionista so I choose comfort over style every time. Except when it comes to crocs because I do maintain a small semblance of dignity while traveling. Typically, I’ll rock some compression socks, a funky pashmina (since it looks good and acts like a blanket when you feel like you’re traveling in a refrigerator and not a plane), a baggy cotton top (comfy will forever and always be my best friend. As well as elastic), a super stretchy pair of jeggings (they look good and are super comfy), a hoodie (it may not be fashionable but it keeps you warm, acts as an obnoxious person deterent when you put it over your eyes like an eye mask, and if you’re hot, you can roll it up like a pillow), and Superga women’s flats (they make all the “best shoes for travel” lists and if you buy them, you’ll know why). Remember, gotta stock up on those long haul flight clothes!

2. Adjust your sleep pattern to your Destination

Everyone is different so bare that in mind, but I am a pretty awful sleeper in general. Seriously everyone else will be asleep on the plane and my brain will be contemplating the 12,000 ways that the plane could suddenly fall out of the sky. Yeah, there’s a reason I am medicated for anxiety and not just long haul flight anxiety. But not surprisingly, when it comes to adjusting my sleep schedule to a new time zone, I suck. Therefore, the first thing I do is look up the arrival time of my flight, and adjust my sleep habit accordingly.

So if the plane arrives at night, obviously I’ll drink a Monster energy drink when I try and stay awake on the plane so that I can actually sleep when I arrive. But if I arrive in the morning, obviously I’ll sleep on the plane with the addition of Magnesium pills and Melatonin (This vitamin is amazing and so helpful. Seriously, I cannot recommend it enough. Get 3 mg though because it’s potent). I love Melatonin so much that I’m gonna name my first born after this vitamin. Okay, just kidding because that’s something weird celebrities do but this vitamin is one of the only things that help me sleep on a plane.  But try and sleep on the plane so that you arrive looking less like the Crypt Keepers and more refreshed and ready to go, kind of like a Cover Girl only with less Botox and more emotion. Actually no, Cover Girls are usually young and probably haven’t drunk the Botox Coolaide yet.

Watch your sleep patterns, another tip on how to recover from a long flight.

3. Don’t Sleep In When You Arrive 

To be perfectly honest, I don’t think I have ever slept 18 hours straight in my life, even when I had a kidney infection. But I get it. I love to sleep, hate mornings, and will only speak in half-coherent sentences when I have had at least two cups of coffee.

However, even though I loathe mornings like they are a scourge on humanity, I never really tend to sleep the day away, no matter how exhausted and sleep deprived I am. But if you’re one of those sleep addicts that can sleep for eighteen hours after being up for a while, don’t do that. This is totally obvious but sleeping the whole day away will undo any of your efforts to adjust to your new sleep schedule. That’s why it’s a good idea to set your phone alarm on your first night so that you don’t engage in the most epically long sleep session EVER.

4. Carbs are Your Friend!

I feel like you will never ever see this again since the carb-loving, low fat extolling diets of the early nineties are a thing of the past. That’s why this tip makes the chubby girl within me squeal in delight!! Because like most people, I love carbs and hate Dr. Atkins for ruining them for me. I actually used to eat bagels because I thought they were healthy. Oh, how ignorance is bliss. Now though, I generally try and avoid carbs because I don’t want to look and feel like fudgy the whale, especially if I’m traveling to a location where bathing suits will be worn.

However, carbs are your best friend during and after long flights since they create high levels of insulin that help your body adjust from your regular feeding-and-resting schedule to a new one. So hooray, you can now justify eating all the carbs you want because um, how else will you ever adjust to a new eating schedule (Hello pizza and goodbye icky protein bars. You will NOT be missed.)? Exactly. So glad we’re on the same page with this. 

Carbs are the best thing ever and a great tip on how to recover from a long flight.

5. Flush your Nose with Saline Solution

Ok, so I am sure we have all heard the urban legend that basically insinuates that you will drop dead as a result of all that gross, recycled air that you breathe in on a plane. Ok, death is a bit of an exaggeration because this isn’t the movie Outbreak but you get the idea.

I know I’m always super paranoid that I’m gonna get sick during my flight and take like 5 airborne tablets just to kick up my vitamin C defenses and make my immune system look more like the Rock in his prime.

However, flight attendants say that this trick really isn’t that effective (You actually just pee out the extra vitamin C). Instead, beef up your immune system by flushing out your nasal cavities with saline solution (just not while you’re on the plane because that’s gross and messy). The saline solution will remove a lot of the dust and germ-carrying particles that make you sick. Therefore, you won’t have to walk around like a diseased plague victim after your flight.

6. Exercise in the Fresh Air

Okay, I don’t really do exercise in the “gym” sense of the word, but I do love to walk. Therefore, I usually try to get outside and explore my vacation destination, on foot, for at least thirty minutes before I crash (This usually isn’t that hard for me to do since I am super excited to get off the plane and discover a brand spanking new city). I do this because not only does it provide me with a great excuse to eat whatever the hell I want, but exercise also helps move the blood away from your swollen,

How to recover from a long flight? Drink lots of water!

Shrek like feet and into your other extremities. Plus, fresh air is always good since the nasty, recycled, cabin air is super dry and low in oxygen; hence the reason why when you leave the plane, you feel super lethargic and like you need a hundred year long, Rumplestiltskin level nap. Fresh air will help wake up your brain and get the oxygen circulating throughout your body.

7. Book a Massage (can you say long-haul flight comfort?)

This one is my absolute favorite because I love massages, except the one I got when my back was insanely sunburned (not my finest moment). Generally, though, massages leave me feeling like the happiest piece of jello ever (it’s alive). SOO good. But they are even better for you after a marathon flight. Like has been said before, they enhance circulation and help reduce the build-up of lactic acid during the flight. So if medical science is telling you to get a massage, you should really just do it (Yes, it’s mandatory since that pesky lactic acid keeps sneaking right in there).

8. Water

Gotta make sure you’re H2 okay, am I right? Okay, lame joke but staying hydrated during a flight can be tricky since the air is so dry. That’s why water is your best friend at 8,000 feet and you should drink a ton of it, within reason. You don’t want to be THAT person that gets up every five seconds to use the toilet. Oh and if you’re a drinker (not it), then limit yourself to one alcoholic beverage so that you don’t get too dehydrated and feel like you have the hangover from hell.

You Now Have Your Long Haul Flight Kit. Please Exit the Cabin through the Door to Your Right.

Sorry but you know me, I just had to throw in some cheesy flight reference before I wrapped this post up like Nicki Minaj at a Summer Jam concert. Ahh, there I go again with the bad puns. I swear, it’s like a disease or something. Anyway, these are some of my absolute fave long haul flight hacks that will help you feel a whole lot better after you emerge from the plane, recoiling from the light like a vampire in a trashy Twilight novel.  Honestly, though, this long-haul flight advice is practical and filled tons of stuff that you can easily implement into your flight routine.

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