Five Foods to Avoid Before Flying

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Pre-flight anxiety — spurred by endless baggage lines, security checkpoints and screaming children — need not extend to fears of repeat trips to the airplane lavatory. But eat the wrong thing before you fly, and you may be contending with more than just an awful in-flight movie or space-invading neighbor.

Unfortunately, airport dining options — like a greasy fast food burger, oily pizza or a liquid lunch at the concourse bar — are rather limited. Still, if you’re disciplined, avoiding the gut-busting trifecta of grease, alcohol and carbonation can help contribute to a bloat-free flight. There are even a few surprisingly nutritious foods on our “don’t eat” list that are best avoided before you take to the sky. And for the long-haulers wondering if there’s anything to do to prevent jet lag as they zoom from New York to Beijing, there may just be a food-based remedy: Eat nothing at all.

Remember to drink lots of water, eat some carrot sticks and nuts, and check out our five foods banned for pre-flight consumption.

1. McDonald’s Extra Value Meal

According to the medical community, the body doesn’t do so well digesting foods laden with sodium and saturated fats in the first place — and digestion at 35,000 feet proves even more difficult. So it’s common sense to avoid these worst offenders before flying. But beyond the digestion problems, there’s also the issue of in-flight blood circulation. Sitting squished and immobile in a pressurized cabin hinders blood flow, setting off a physiological chain that can lead to swollen feet, or worse, deep vein thrombosis (DVT). DVT involves the formation of a blood clot deep inside the body that when breaks free can lodge in the brain, lungs or heart, causing severe damage, even death.

2. The Gas Giants

For obvious reasons, it’s smart to avoid foods that encourage intestinal expansion, as the nature of the pressurized airplane cabin promotes further bloating. Chief among such foods are fried and super-saturated dishes, but even certain “healthful” foods — onions, cauliflower, cabbage, beans, lentils — can make you feel like an over-filled balloon. The aforementioned high-sodium foods can cause you to retain water, further contributing to that bloated feeling.

3. Alcohol

For many fliers, downing a few cocktails is part of their pre-flight protocol. It helps allay the fear of flying  and serves as a liquid sleeping pill. But doctors (yes, them again) say that consuming alcohol before or during a flight should be avoided, at least in excessive amounts. Alcohol causes dehydration, which is already a concern for most fliers given the ultra-dry air and salty meals on planes. If having a drink is a must for you, counteract the effect of the booze by consuming plenty of water.

4. Carbonated Beverages

When flying, and especially on a long-haul, it helps to think of yourself as a super athlete, competing against the forces of dehydration, boredom, rude flight attendants and the smelly guy sitting next to you. As an athlete, you’d never consume a Pepsi during a triathlon, would you? You need to be at your peak, and carbonated beverages contribute to bloating and cramping, two enemies of the long-haul athlete. Again, we’re suggesting that you avoid foods that impede digestion, cause gas and potentially cause distress to you and your fellow passengers.

5. Everything

In a study published in the journal “Science,” researchers suggested that fasting for about 16 hours before a long flight may actually help to fend off jet lag.

Here’s the study in a nutshell: Normally it’s light that triggers an internal clock that controls when we eat and sleep. But according to the study, a second clock seems to override the first when the body senses that food is in short supply. So researchers believe we might be able to faster adjust to time zone changes by manipulating this second clock, based on hunger. In essence, if you make your body think it’s starving, you’ll be able to remain awake and alert until it’s dinner time in your new destination, resetting your body’s light clock in the process.

 

Travel Hygiene Tips: Staying Fresh on the Road

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If you’ve ever stepped off a plane with stained and rumpled clothes, a pore-clogged face, a jet lag-induced headache, and a mouth that still tastes like hours-old airplane food, you know how tricky it can be to stay clean and rested while traveling. And that’s just the first leg of your trip. Where do you turn when access to basic facilities — like a shower and sink — becomes a distant memory?

If you’re properly prepared, you’ll be ready for whatever travel trial comes your way: to use an apple or lemon to improve your breath, to take a shower without water, or to fall asleep in even the most cramped, cacophonous of airline seats.

Hands

Those travelers devoted to hand sanitization are religious about the act — and for good reason.You may be more than 100 times likelier to catch a cold while flying than you would on the ground, thanks mostly to low cabin humidity. One important way to protect yourself is by keeping your hands clean.

Face

A clean face can do a lot to offset dirty hands and foul breath. When considering your face on the road, there are two things to keep in mind: the climate of your destination and your skin type. Leaving for Egypt’s desert sands? Pack plenty of lip balm and moisturizer. Hiking the rain forests in Costa Rica? Nature will help you out a little. But no matter where you’re traveling, sunblock is absolutely essential if you’ll be spending any time outdoors.

Mouth

Is bad breath the greatest enemy to overall travel freshness? Your fellow airplane passengers apparently think so. So what to do to avoid that foul, sticky taste in the mouth and that look of revulsion from your neighbor on the plane or metro? Beyond the obvious mints or gum, there are a number of products that promote oral hygiene on the road. Colgate Wisps are disposable mini-toothbrushes that provide a quick and easy mouth-freshening option when you can’t brush your teeth for real. The brush head has a freshening bead that releases a mouth cleaning liquid when you scrub, and a pick on the opposite end provides a floss option. It requires no water to use, and the ingredients are safe to swallow.

Body

For the body, clothing can go a long way in at least giving the impression that you’re cool and dry. But when you’re in a water-free environment and desperate for a shower, there are a number of “soap” products that can be used without water. The aptly named No Rinse Body Wash is a popular option for adventure travelers. Known in the health care field (for use with bedridden patients) and also good for campers/trekkers who don’t have the luxury of a shower, No Rinse products utilize a water-based odor neutralizer to provide a quick wash. Of course, the benefit here is that you don’t have to rinse.

 

Tips for Finding Cheap Airfare

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Think you need a vacation now? Just wait until you’re scouring dozens of booking sites, aggregators and airline websites to find cheap tickets for your next trip — then you’ll really be ready for a week off!

Unfortunately for weary travelers, there’s no real shortcut to finding cheap airfare. As with any purchase, you need to shop around to get the best deal — by trying different booking sites, altering your dates and waiting until just the right time to purchase. But if you’re willing to put in a little time and effort, you could save big on your next flight.

1. Buy Early

Especially during peak travel periods, making reservations late in the game can cost you a lot of money. Airline ticket prices typically go up in the last two weeks before flying, so if you’re planning ahead, try to make the call before this deadline. And if you’re traveling internationally, you’ll want to book even earlier — from three to six months in advance — for the best deals.

2. Buy Late

Sometimes you can buy tickets at the very last minute for a great price if the airlines have failed to fill their planes. You can find such fares at specialized sites or sometimes on airline websites and online booking sites such as Expedia. If you can stand the suspense, and if you are flexible with your itinerary and dates, you can find fantastic money-savers to very attractive travel destinations. 

3. Shop Around

No matter how good it sounds, you should never book the first fare you see. Start your search by checking a few of the major online travel providers.

4. Know When to Buy

The hardest part of booking a flight is knowing when to stop tracking fares and make that final purchase. Kayak.com can help you reach that decision, offering fare predictions for most major cities. Just plug in your itinerary and the site will advise you either to book now or to wait, depending on whether the fare is expected to rise or drop. It also shows a fare history graph, allowing you to see whether your fare is headed in an upward or downward direction.

5. Be Flexible

If you live close to more than one airport, check out the fares from all of the airports near you. Many online fare searching engines will ask you if you are willing to depart from or arrive in more than one city. Yes! Also, experiment with different travel dates; shifting your itinerary by a month, a week or even a few days can make a significant difference in fares. You’ll usually find the lowest fares for travel on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Saturdays.

6. Don’t Forget the Discounters

As their nickname suggests, discount airlines can save you a bundle, but they’re not always easy to find. Luckily for consumers, discounters are cropping up more frequently on aggregators and booking sites (Kayak now offers fares for JetBlue and Spirit, for example) — but there are still a few holdouts, such as Southwest and Allegiant Air, whose fares can’t be found anywhere but their own websites. If you’re traveling outside the U.S., don’t forget to check the international discount airlines as well.

 

How to Take a Digital Detox Vacation

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When airlines first started offering Internet access on planes, there was an outcry from many folks who were connected almost around the clock and therefore cherished the precious time in the air when no one could call, email or text them. Many saw this quiet time as one of the most enjoyable elements of what were otherwise arduous business trips.

Similar debates raged over whether or not to allow cell phone use on planes. Do we really want to interrupt the relative quiet of an airplane with ringing phones and inane conversations?

Most of us know at least one person who has posted something to Facebook or Twitter along the lines of “Aircraft doors closing, stack of magazines and neck pillow at the ready,” with some sort of anti-digital hashtag.

The fact that so many folks announce delight in time away from devices and social media via a device on social media seems as good an indicator as any that there may be something to the growing popularity of digital detox vacations.

Why Do a Digital Detox?

Should I Do This While Traveling — and How?

In some respects, a vacation is a perfect time to eschew all types of digital stimulation; you are out and around, often in an entirely new environment, and have far less exposure to the moments of boredom or distraction that lead folks back to their screens again and again.

On the other hand, most of us know how helpful our devices are when traveling in an unfamiliar place. In fact, it could be argued that a smartphone shifts from a source of distraction to a superb tool when navigating new cities, finding things to do and dealing with travel snafus.

– Be ready for withdrawal symptoms
– Plan to enjoy (and not regret) missing out on what everyone else is doing
– Be prepared with things like paper maps and written phone numbers
– Set small goals (maybe a 24- or even 12-hour detox instead of a week the first time out)
– Plan something that will occupy and entertain you

This last item in particular suggests that travel might be the perfect time to try a digital detox; spending your afternoon snorkeling can make it really easy to skip fitful checks of your phone.

 

How to Escape While Staying Connected

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Leave the laptop behind, dump the mobile device and otherwise abandon anything that could be called “always on” — so goes a frequent recommendation to stressed vacationers. The thinking is that if it’s too easy to stay in touch via phone and email with work, social obligations and the daily grind, you’ll never really get away from it all.

Sounds like sound advice — except that I’m not sure I agree. I have found that sacrificing a little bit of free time to staying connected while traveling typically makes exit and re-entry — when the most draining work of travel and vacationing takes place — go much more smoothly. In the end, checking in a few times during your vacation is a small price to pay to avoid returning home to a chaotic swarm of neglected responsibilities.

Some folks wouldn’t take a walk without all their devices, while others can’t wait to jettison everything and get off the communication grid. When my own five-year-old cell phone suffered some water damage,

Laptop, cell phone, tablet — take ’em along, leave ’em home, take your pick? Let’s say most of us have three primary email addresses (work, home, alternate) and matching triple voice mails (work, home, cell). That’s a lot of stuff to check while you’re trying to unwind; a couple of hours can pass in a blink by the time you have gotten through them all.

Less to Do Before and After Your Trip
As mentioned above, I believe the most compelling reason to stay connected on the road is to reduce the strain of both leaving and returning. As comfortable as home can be, few things can diminish the glow of a good trip quite as quickly as arriving home to find that two weeks of the detritus of modern life has been accumulating in your absence and that it’ll take days to clear it out.

I would say that the only thing worse than a pile of junk mail in a plastic USPS box and fading newspapers on your stoop is a “mail box is full” message on your voicemail and a couple dozen screens worth of email on your first login when you get home.

And it’s not just when you get home. Leaving notes for dog walkers, putting your house in order and letting everyone who might want your attention know that you will be away is almost always more trouble than checking email for a few minutes in a hotel room every day. While traveling, if you can dispatch tasks and information with short, concise emails written in a few seconds during your trip, there is a lot less accumulated clutter when you return, and less to do before you leave.

Fewer Surprises
The only thing worse than returning from a trip to an inbox full of nuisance emails is finding out too late that a major problem has come up. Keeping in touch with work and personal email semi-regularly is the best way to keep on top of big events. It also gives you…

Increased Control
Trying to fix big problems from a hotel is not a fun place to find yourself. If you have a speedy laptop stocked with all your likely contacts, you’ll be well positioned to deal with anything that goes wrong.

Lowered Expectations
An “away” or “vacation” auto response message followed up with an email with a footer that reads “sent from my cell phone” lets you get away with murder in terms of brevity and specificity — folks are just grateful to get a reply so they can keep working on or stop worrying about whatever it is for which they needed your attention.

 

 

Packing Tip: Your Beauty Routine

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If you use eight different products to tame your wild curls or have an elaborate face-washing regimen down to a science, let loose a bit when you travel instead of carrying an army of beauty products with you across the globe. Trust us — you won’t look like a cave woman in your vacation pictures if you use a shampoo/conditioner combo for a few nights. If you’re adventurous enough to leave home and explore an exotic destination, we bet you can also handle leaving behind a few hair products.
If you are staying at a major chain hotel that will offer complimentary toiletries — use them! Don’t bring your own 24-ounce shampoo and conditioner bottles to the hotel and then stuff the hotel ones in your suitcase to take home. If you don’t use them on the road, you’ll probably never use them at home. There are lots of products that have multiple uses. Opt for a shampoo/conditioner combo. Bring a tinted moisturizer with SPF. Let your moisturizing body wash double as a shaving cream. Share your shampoo, soap or toothpaste with your traveling partner. Buy a makeup compact that contains more than one color, such as an eyeshadow quad. Lose the bulky containers. Instead, try zip-top bags. We stuff and pour everything we can into them, including hair products, lotions, cotton balls and even sunscreen. To prevent spills, put all of your liquid-filled baggies in a larger plastic grocery bag — and be sure not to pack it next to any fishing rods or freshly sharpened pencils.