Healthy Travel Tips: Staying Hydrated While Traveling

Healthy Travel Tips: Staying Hydrated While Traveling

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Flying sky-high can leave you feeling depleted from low humidity levels on the plane — but it doesn't have to.

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A woman drinks a glass of water on an airplane.

JUNE 26, 2023   2 MINUTE READ

When you're getting ready for a trip, staying hydrated while traveling might not be on your radar — but it should be. Air travel can be surprisingly dehydrating, setting you up for possible effects of mild dehydration, such as headaches, dizziness and fatigue, before you even arrive at your destination. Not getting enough fluids can interfere with short-term memory, attention and mood, too.

If you're wondering how to stay hydrated while traveling so you can start your trip on the right foot, these healthy travel tips can help.

How Air Travel Affects Hydration 

Generally speaking, the ideal humidity level for human health and comfort falls between 30% and 60%. However, humidity levels in most planes hover between 10% and 20% at cruising altitudes. Combined with low oxygen pressure, this can cause water to evaporate from your skin and lungs as you exhale. Avoiding fluids to reduce trips to the bathroom or forgetting to drink water can further exacerbate dehydration from fluid loss.

3 Tips to Stay Hydrated Every Day Micrographic 3 Tips to Stay Hydrated Every Day Micrographic

Signs of Dehydration During Air Travel

In-flight dehydration can sneak up on you. While thirst may be one of the first signs, many people don't feel thirsty until they're already dehydrated.

These common signs of dehydration can clue you in:

  • Dry eyes, mouth and skin
  • Dark urine
  • Decreased urine output
  • Headache
  • Chapped lips 
  • Dry nasal passages
  • Fatigue
  • Dizziness

How to Stay Hydrated While Traveling

The trick to staying hydrated while traveling is planning in advance. Follow these healthy travel tips to keep dehydration at bay:

1. Toss a refillable water bottle into your carry-on bag. Don't be shy about asking the flight attendant to refill it once you've finished.

2. Bring along a few Pedialyte® Powder Packs, which have electrolytes and can keep you hydrated longer than water.

3. Take advantage of in-flight beverage services. Flavored seltzer, herbal tea and milk are all excellent alternatives to plain water if you’re looking to mix things up.

4. Avoid alcohol, which increases urine production and leads to additional fluid loss.

5. Satisfy the urge to snack with hydrating foods such as sliced fruit, precut veggies or a container of yogurt.

Remember to pack lip balm, saline nasal spray and travel-size hand cream, too. If you usually wear contacts, opt for a pair of glasses on the plane to avoid dry eyes.

There's no hard and fast rule about how much fluid you need while flying, but the Aerospace Medical Association recommends drinking roughly 8 ounces of water per hour in flight. If you plan to nap or get lost in a movie, setting an alarm on your watch or cellphone can be a helpful reminder. 

Defend against these dehydration causes

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If you or a family member are feeling tired, headache-y or cranky, it's easy to assume that a cold or virus is coming on. However, the real culprit could be dehydration. "The stomach flu, fever, morning sickness, sweltering temperatures, exercising heavily on a hot day, and even travel are all common dehydration causes," says Jennifer Williams, M.P.H., a research scientist at Abbott.

Dehydration is basically a loss of body water. This includes both water and vital electrolytes such as sodium, chloride and potassium. Water is so critical it makes up about 60 percent of body weight in adults, and up to 75 percent of body weight in infants. We need it for important jobs such as regulating body temperature, maintaining healthy skin and joints, digesting food, removing waste and helping our brains function at their best. 

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The Importance of Hydration Explained

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Water makes up close to 60 percent of the human body, yet we often underestimate the importance of hydration. Even though water keeps your brain firing at top speed, your muscles moving and your heart healthy, a lot of people still don't get enough water to stay properly hydrated.

Research in ACSM's Health & Fitness Journal shows that losses of just 1 to 2 percent of body fluids can be accompanied by serious side effects like impaired cognition. For a 150-pound person, that's the equivalent of close to two pounds in water weight.

Do you need a hydration refresherJennifer Williams, MPH, research scientist and hydration expert at Abbott, shares the six most common causes of dehydration — and how to take control of each.

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