One of the struggles that comes with air travel is staying healthy and not letting a long flight bring you down. Airplanes harbor a lot of germs, and many of us have found ourselves catching a bug soon after we get off the plane, or just feeling run down and “yucky.” But there are a few things you can do to increase your odds of staying healthy and refreshed after a long flight, so you can kick off your vacation on a high note. Here are some of our favorite tips:

Sanitize Everything

Be sure to pack hand sanitizer, hand wipes, surface wipes…the whole shebang! If something has been touched by a lot of people, assume it’s dirty and has germs. Re-apply hand sanitizer frequently throughout the flight, especially before eating and drinking, and wipe down everything around your seat. Pay close attention to the the tray table, which is never cleaned and known to be a hotspot for germs. To encourage kids to use hand sanitizer, give them their own small bottles. And keep reminding them to keep their hands away from their face and mouth. This is how most germs make their way in!



It is important to stay hydrated while flying because airplanes can get very dry.  The dryness can cause your throat and nose to feel parched. That’s because the lack of humidity at high altitudes takes away the mucus that acts as your body’s natural defense against germs. So make sure you’re well hydrated before you even leave for the airport, and plan to drink water continuously throughout your flight. To do this,  you must be prepared, because you won’t be able to get enough water from the tiny cup that the flight attendant gives you when she takes drink orders. Since you can’t bring  water through security, it’s most economical to put a large reusable water bottle in your carry-on bag and then fill it at a water fountain once you get to your terminal. And remember that caffeinated drinks will only dehydrate you more.  So keep the water coming!

Keep the Airways Free and Clear

If you’re already congested heading into the flight, ask your doctor to recommend a decongestant. Take it an hour or so before taking off so that airways clear somewhat before the air pressure changes. This could alleviate potential ear pain. Taking off and landing can be excruciating for someone who already has a lot of head congestion or, even worse, a full-fledged ear infection. In this case, be sure to have pain relievers on board as well.


Use it and Toss it

Add some disposable placemats to your carry-on bag, especially if you have young children in tow. This will put your mind at ease while eating and doing whatever you wish on your tray table without the fear of picking up germs. The placemats come in packs, so you can also use them in restaurants while you’re traveling.


Fly Fresh

Sometimes washing your hands just isn’t enough after a long flight. Packing some facial cleanser in a travel-sized bottle could be just what you need to feel fresh after several hours in the air, especially if you plan to hit the ground running. Facial wipes are also a great alternative to hold you over until you get to your hotel or wherever you plan to stay.


Try Sheet Masks

If you want to take freshening up to a whole new level, consider sheet masks, which are designed to refresh and renew skin that’s stressed out from traveling. These masks require little to no clean up and can help you walk out of the plane glowing. A major benefit is that you can use them while sitting in your seat on the plane — although you might get a few funny looks!


“Family Travel with Colleen Kelly” staff members Lauren Baackes and Rupa Palla helped research and write this blog.

Related articles:

Don’t Let Your Vacation Sabotage Your Healthy Habits

7 Packing Tips for a Better Vacation

Healthy Dining on a Family Vacation…Is it Possible?

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Updated 10/15/23.

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