Ask any frequent flier for their tips on how to land at your destination feeling refreshed, and proper hydration will surely rank at the top of the list. Because the level of humidity in most airplane cabins can dip as much as 55% lower than that in a typical room on the ground, passengers must work especially hard to make sure they compensate for the extra-dry air.
The key, says trainer and fitness expert Jennifer Cohen, lies in battling dehydration before you even get off the ground. "The bottom line is, people don't drink enough water," she says. "Dehydration causes other maladies, aches and pains, and can mask many other things including fluctuating hormone levels." So, not only does Cohen recommend drinking at least 30-50% more than the sea-level recommendation of 64 ounces a day, but, she says, avoiding foods high in dehydrating sodium in favor of those with a high water content (lettuce, cucumber, jicama) is crucial as well. Besides water, which Cohen says goes down easier—read: quenches your cells more quickly—liquids like herbal tea and aloe water help the body stay hydrated.
Carolyn Paddock of In-Flight Insider, the lead flight attendant for a privately held Gulfstream IV corporate jet, has flown more than 10 million miles. "Dehydration in flight is no small matter," she says. "For passengers, it ranges from discomfort to fatigue. For pilots and flight attendants, it's critical that they keep their bodies, but more importantly, their brains, hydrated so that they can function at full capacity for a safe flight."
During Paddock's many years in the air she's learned a few tricks to share with her fellow travelers. In addition to regular water she suggests drinking coconut water, which is rich in minerals and electrolytes, before and after flying. In some cases airlines have added coconut water to their beverage options, and brands like Purity Coconut Water have engineered the formula in single-serve powder packs that travelers can carry on through security and mix with fresh water during the flight.
Paddock also recommends packing a carry-on with pure saline eye drops and a non-medicated nose spray like Ocean to help keep nasal passages from drying out. Bioponic Phytoceuticals makes a nose spray with tumeric root and spearmint called Flight Spray that helps alleviate dryness and enhance the body's ability to fight infection. It's also important not to neglect one's skin, which can dry out quickly while in the air. The sign of a seasoned jet setter—one-ounce moisturizer on-hand to apply frequently throughout the flight.
Veteran flight attendants reassure us that they're always willing and ready to keep coming back with water during the flight, and self-proclaimed "travel insider" John DiScala (AKA Johnny Jet) offers up a helpful hint that goes beyond just skipping alcohol and caffeine, two more notorious dehydrators. "Choose an aisle seat," he says, "because you'll be getting up often, but you won't get dehydrated."