Welcome aboard WH Air... where no one catches a cold, gets hobbled by jet lag, or is served inedible food. We don't really have our own airline, but if we did, it would be (wo)manned by these four flight attendants, the fittest in the biz. Take note of their travel tips and prepare to fly the healthy skies.
1/5 Photograph courtesy of Alex Da silva
1. Drink BEFORE YOU GO.
The humidity on planes is typically around an arid 10 percent. Dry air makes Heather headachy and groggy, so preflight, she downs at least 12 ounces of water.
2. CREATE A CATNAP KIT.
For sweet dreams at 30,000 feet, Heather suggests stowing these items in your carry-on: a neck pillow, noise-canceling headphones, and an eye mask with built-in eye cavities to block out light without smudging your mascara (try ones from dreamessentials.com or flight001.com).
3. ROLL OUT STRESS.
To nix neck and back aches, Heather totes a tiny hand massager she picked up in Japan. Try a similar one, like Pressure Positive Knobble II ($9, massagewarehouse.com). She also suggests this in-your-seat stretch: lightly squeeze the top of your left trapezius muscle (it runs between your shoulder and the base of your skull) while turning your head to the right. Repeat on the other side.
4. TAKE A HIKE.
Heather's fix for flight-swollen feet? Every hour, walk the length of the cabin to prevent blood from pooling in your feet (which causes them to puff up) and to ward off clots, something you're at greater risk for if you take oral birth control, are pregnant, or are on a flight longer than eight hours.
Is sitting really bad for your Health? Watch this video to find out:
2/5 Photograph courtesy of Kathy Hall
5. SKIP THE FREE OJ.
Sugary sips from the cart can lead to a mid-flight crash that can make you cranky, so Kat brings a less-sweet homemade green juice. Once you're past security, grab one, like Evolution Fresh's Sweet Greens at Starbucks, which has half the sugar of OJ.
6. HIT THE GROUND AND RUN.
"I have memberships at SoulCycle and 24 Hour Fitness, so I can work out in most cities," says Kat. If you don't belong to a national gym chain, pick fitness-savvy hotels: The Kimpton chain offers no-charge bikes to ride and free in-room yoga mats; for $5, Westin Hotels will lend you New Balance shoes and clothing for your stay.
Related: 5 Ways to Stay Fit When You're Traveling
7. WATCH THE CLOCK.
When New York-based Kat has an overnight to L.A., she stays on NYC time. Copying her move will prevent jet lag if you're crossing time zones for a single night. For longer trips, stay up until 10 p.m. local time—then in the morning, go out in the sun for 15 minutes to help reset your body clock. (Hit the reset button—and burn fat like crazy with The Body Clock Diet!)
8. HAVE PERSPECTIVE.
Kat knows better than to stress about cancellations. "I remind passengers that what matters is that we arrive safely," she says. To avoid feeling frazzled by the rebooking process, call customer service or reach out via Facebook or Twitter; these methods often elicit the fastest response.
3/5 Photograph courtesy of Kiara Jenkins
9. TURN OFF THE TV.
Rather than zombie-watching Friends reruns, do stuff you normally put off (cleaning out your e-mail inbox, writing thank-you cards). Kiara makes her grocery list for the week and plans her social schedule, things she procrastinates doing at home.
10. DON'T SNACK ON LAND.
"The pressure changes on flights make me nauseous and bloated if I eat close to takeoff or landing," says Kiara. The science-backed why: Gas expands in your gut when you ascend, causing a puffed-out belly and potential pain. To sidestep sickness, eat mid-flight or nibble ginger (try Gin Gins ginger candy, $8 for 2 packs, amazon.com).
11. CUT THE CARBS.
Processed grains leave Kiara feeling sluggish, so her go-to picks are the airline's fruit-and-cheese platter and banh mi sammie; with the latter, she ditches the roll and eats the vegetables and chicken inside like a salad. Do this with any veggie-packed sandwich for energizing protein and produce sans refined carbs.
12. ZEN OUT FOR Z'S.
Kiara recommends this full-body meditation to nab elusive in-flight sleep: Starting with your toes, visualize each part of your body (e.g., feet, ankles) relaxing. "I'm usually zonked out by the time I reach my hips," she says.
4/5 Photograph courtesy of Cindy Hermosillo
13. PACK EARLY.
And not just your clothes. The night before a 5 a.m. start, Holly preps her snack (a banana wrapped in a paper towel and foil to protect it from bruising, plus a packet of almond butter) and sets her keys and passport on the table to avoid a last-minute scramble.
14. SHRUG IT OFF.
To stay cool when passengers take out their frustrations on her (it's not her fault your seat doesn't recline, people!), Holly mentally conjures a mantra: "Extend love to others no matter what." Repeat it when small offenses and agitations (crying babies, an armrest-hogging neighbor) threaten to ruin your flight.
15. GO GREEN.
If it's daytime when you reach your hotel, ask the front desk clerk to point you to the nearest park. "Wiggling my toes in grass and enjoying sunlight—and vitamin D—makes me feel good after a long day of travel," says Holly. No kidding: A pile of research links time in nature with a boost in mood.
16. BRING A BIT OF HOME.
If you have trouble nodding off in a strange hotel room, take a reminder from home. Holly loves soaking in a hotel bath with Young Living Lavender Essential Oil ($31, youngliving.com), so she brings along a small bottle. Even packing your own pillowcase can provide the same comfort.
Related: 10 Secrets Hotel Employees Won't Tell You
5/5 Getty Images
17. The H2O
Drink bottled water to be safe. The storage tanks for the jet's "tap" water are difficult to thoroughly clean, and studies show bacteria like E. coli can linger in them. Skip coffee and tea—some airlines make it from that H2O. The ice is okay, though; it's catered.
18. The Air
Planes pump out a 50-50 mix of recycled and fresh air. To ward off airborne nasties, turn your vent on low (wipe down the nozzle with an alcohol wipe first) and point it toward your lap to blow potentially infectious particles away from your face.
19. The Tray Tables
They contain nearly 10 times the bacteria of a toilet flush button, per a Travelmath study. One reason: People change their kids' diapers on them. Bring alcohol wipes or use a couple of drops of 60 percent alcohol-based hand sanitizer on a tissue to disinfect yours.
Related: How Germy Are Airplanes, Really?
20. The Blankets and Pillows
If they come in a sealed bag (or you had to pay for them), they either haven't been used before or were washed, so snuggle up and get comfy. If not, they were likely used before and tossed in the overhead compartment without being cleaned.
21. The Headrests
More carriers are going toward a leather-type material that's easily wiped down. If you're skeeved out by an old-school paper cover, remove it or drape a jacket over it (though know this: There's zero evidence lice are spread from these, despite rumors to the contrary).
Sources: Mark Gendreau, M.D., aviation medicine expert, Lahey Hospital & Medical Center in Boston; Michael Zimring, M.D., travel health expert, Mercy Medical Center in Baltimore
This article originally appeared in the June 2017 issue of Women's Health. For more great advice, pick up a copy of the issue on newsstands now!