How To Avoid Getting Sick When You Fly This Winter

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If you are planning any air travel this holiday season or winter you need to have a game plan in place to prevent catching something nasty inflight.

 Airplanes are hermetically sealed germ incubators. Whatever time of year you are flying you are always at risk of contracting whichever virus or infection the person next to you is carrying or the person before you left behind. Winter just seems to make it worse.

I have spoken before on this blog about getting a vicious upper respiratory infection on a flight to Australia several years ago. I thought I was going to die it was so bad. The doctor in Noosa who treated me told me that several times per week he sees upper respiratory infections like this, caught on planes. He also gave me advice on how to make sure it doesn’t happen again, which I will re-share in this post.

I have had multiple friends and acquaintances in the past three years contract the highly contagious Norovirus. Some on cruise ships, some on planes. All of them have had gastrointestinal problems and mad diarrhea for months on end, and have been very, very sick.

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This got me to thinking about all the people traveling by air this holiday season and this winter, and what you can do to prevent getting sick, allowing for the fact that no doubt multiple people on your flight will be sending their cold, flu and heaven only knows what other illnesses through the recycled air.

Before You Fly

Wellness begins before you board your flight. Staying on top of a few items can make all the difference in the world.

Sweet Dreams

Try to get a decent night’s sleep the last couple of nights before you fly. A tired body is more susceptible to opportunistic infections.

Avoid Bad Foods

You already know this but it is worth repeating. Foods that are high in sugar and/or salt, and junk foods should all be avoided at least in the 24 hours prior to flying. Airports are notoriously full of eateries selling high sugar, high sodium and essentially junk foods. Eating these means your body has to work overtime to break them down and deal with them instead of using its energy to fight off germs.

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Load Up On C

The days before you fly, the days you are away, and the first few days you are back home you should load up on extra Vitamin C. Take much more than the recommended daily dose – Vitamin C is the best fighter vitamin, and can be your best friend when you are exposed to colds and flus.

In-flight Tricks

There are also several important steps to take once you are on the plane. Some might surprise you!

Disinfect

This is the big tip the doctor in Australia drilled into me when I was so sick. Take disinfectant wipes onboard the plane with you and disinfect everything.

Arm rests, seat belt buckle, tray table- front and back, head rest. Everything you will touch during your flight. Assume the person occupying your seat before you had something highly contagious, and clean that thing down!

Airplanes don’t get disinfected in between flights. At best the tray table might get a wipe down overnight, but judging by the early morning flights I’ve been doing, don’t hold your breath!

Trust me, just one savage sickness caught on a plane and you too will be a convert! In all the years since I got sick on that flight I have never, ever boarded a flight and not disinfected everything. I couldn’t care less if it makes me look weird.

image via NY Times

Bathroom Rules

If you are on a shorter flight do whatever you can to avoid using the airplane lavatory. Pee before you fly and then hold on til you land if at all possible. Airplane toilets are more germy than you think.

On top of all the infections waiting to happen via the bathroom, recent studies have shown the water you wash your hands with is actually quite perilous too. Dangerous levels of Ecoli and Salmonella have been showing up in the water tanks, so dangerous in fact that it was recommended you not wash your hands, instead opt for handwipes and hand sanitizer.

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Hydrate

Before, during and after your flight drink loads of water. Part of the reason we get travel fatigue (that exhausting, headachy, feel like crap thing that happens after flying) is because we dehydrate so much in flight. I have read that we lose an additional 8 ounces of water for every hour we are in the air.

Either buy a bottle of water once you have cleared the TSA checkpoint or bring an empty bottle with you and fill it at any of the filling stations inside the terminal

I often add Airborne or EmergenceC to bottled water when I fly, just for the extra boost of the good stuff.

Hose Your Nose

Once you are in flight the pressurized cabin of the plane makes the air really dry. Dry air makes you more susceptible to colds, so doctors recommend using a nasal spray to keep the area hydrated.

Nasal sprays are also super helpful to travelers who suffer from allergies, sinus problems and headaches.

Neosporin Nostrils

One of my makeup artist friends who is constantly flying across the country and around the world for work always puts Neosporin on her nostrils when the plane takes off. Her theory is that she is killing germs on their way in. I don’t know if this works or not but I have started doing it too just in case!

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Stay Warm

Airplanes are notoriously cold so it is important to plan ahead and stay warm while you fly. The days of taking bulky sweaters and coats when you travel are well behind us now, the better option being super fine, thin merino layers and easy to fold, super warm puffer jackets.

Although I am from New Zealand I am a relatively new convert to the benefits of merino wool. As a rule I can’t wear wool – it’s too itchy scratchy on my skin. Merino is an entirely different experience. It is super thin, incredibly warm, wicks away both moisture and smells, and can be layered. Merino is also good in warm weather as it keeps you cool, making it the perfect travel fabric. It is also super soft and doesn’t itch.

Whether you invest in a base layer long sleeve Like This One from Icebreaker or a merino dress Like This One (there are loads of merino products for men too)

Merino is a great way to help fight off catching cold on the plane. An added benefit of wearing Merino when you travel is that it is cool in warmer climes.

Puffer jackets are still a big deal for travelers. They keep you really warm, even in frigid temps (especially with a super thin Merino base layer underneath!) and they fold down to nothing, so you aren’t trying to haul a heavy coat on and off the plane with you.

I’m in love with this one (pictured) from Michael Kors. It is available on Amazon, but I found it online for much less at Nieman Marcus Last Call here. I also like this one from Calvin Klein, available on Amazon. There is a huge selection of affordable puffer jackets on Amazon, including their most famous one, which you can see here. It costs less than $50!

My Secret Weapon…

This one may be a little much for some, but again I swear by it. I don’t always get to do it but invariably make it happen before all international flights.

Vitamin IV therapy basically takes vitamin protection to an entirely new level. Whether you choose a Myers Cocktail or a Super Immune blend, the practitioner adds to saline solution intense quantities of Vitamin C, B complex, minerals, everything from zinc to magnesium to selenium – all the fighter vitamins and minerals. These then make their way directly into your bloodstream via an IV drip.

Vitamin IV therapy has all kinds of beauty benefits. Your skin will glow, the whites of your eyes go super white, your hair gets really glossy and healthy. You start feeling amazing as soon as the drip gets going. It has been my saving grace when I travel and also when I am just working an extra punishing schedule here at home.

The easiest way to find IV Vitamin therapy places is to google Myers Cocktail and your city. You can read more about Vitamin IV therapy here.

Safety Alert! What Information Needs To be On Your Luggage Tag

What Information Should You Put On Your Luggage Tag?

Do you have your own luggage tags or do you just use the paper ones the airlines provide? Have you ever thought about the specifics of what information goes on your luggage tag? What is too much information and what is too little?

Regardless of how or where you are traveling it is essential to have luggage tags on your suitcase. Should you and your suitcase become separated there has to be a clear and easy way to get you reunited.

Why You Need Luggage Tags

So many suitcases look the same or very similar, making it very easy for tired travelers to make mistakes and leave with the wrong bag. The easiest way to make sure no one walks off with your suitcase is to put something very distinctive on your bag, such as a sticker on a hard-sided case or a bright handle grip or strap on a soft sided case. You also need a covered luggage tag.

When you travel by plane you know there is a chance your suitcase won’t arrive with you. Surprisingly it doesn’t actually happen that often and 97% of bags are returned to their owners within 2 days.

Airlines provide paper luggage tags and they also attach their own barcoded tags to ensure your bag gets on your plane. But. Things happen. Paper can rip off, leaving your bag tagless. Earlier this year I sat on a plane and watched 2 suitcases marooned on the tarmac in the pouring rain. I imagine the baggage guys rescued them before we took off, but heaven only knows what state the paper tags were in by the time the bags were rescued?

I had a traveler on one of my tours whose suitcase arrived in Rome 8 days after she did. She was on an eleven day tour, so having no suitcase was quite drastic.

While she flew from JFK in New York to Rome, her bag did its own little tour, first stop Boston, then La Guardia New York, then Amsterdam, then all over the place before heading back to JFK, and then coming back to Europe and ending up in Rome on day 8.

One of the things that contributed to her bag being gone for so long was that she didn’t have a luggage tag on it. At no point along the way could anyone reach out to her and say they had her bag. When I asked her why she said because her suitcase looked different from everyone else’s.

Although that is a definite advantage at the baggage carousel it is no help at all when a bag goes missing. Your suitcase must have a luggage tag on it. A covered tag that secures by looping through itself instead of buckling on. Buckles break under stress.

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Safety first

Have you noticed yet that I keep saying you need a covered luggage tag? There is a safety reason for it.

Several years ago I was on a flight home from a makeup job in Nashville, sitting in the dreaded middle seat. The fellow sitting next to me was chatting with me during the flight and suddenly asked me if I ever went to restaurant X, which was not far from my house.

I hadn’t said anything about living in Phoenix, let alone where in Phoenix I live. When I questioned him on it he told me that he had been standing behind me at check in and had read it on my luggage tag.

I thought I was going to throw up.

I wondered if I was sitting next to a serial killer or a madman. I was stuck in the middle seat on a full flight, next to a stranger who knew too much about me. And he knew too much because I had made a careless, thoughtless mistake. Two of them actually.

(The end of that story is that he was probably just a nice enough fellow who thought he had something cool that we could chat about. So I lucked out.)

Covered Luggage Tags

Covered luggage tags keep both you and your suitcase safe. Brightly colored luggage tags help to make your suitcase easily identifiable.

 

My first mistake was not having a covered luggage tag. When you buy a luggage tag it is essential for personal safety that your information is covered up. If someone needs to find out who the suitcase belongs to they can open the tag to read it.

You seriously don’t want strangers knowing your personal information. That includes the strangers you may encounter as you maneuver your bags through the airport and also the strangers handling your bags one you have checked in.

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What Information Should Be On Your Luggage Tag?

The information on your luggage tag should be printed clearly so that it is easy to read. Don’t write in script or in goofy, swirly letters. Keep it simple and legible.

Your name. Use your first initial and your surname. That’s all. Using your Christian name can make your gender easily identifiable. No one needs to know that.

Bill Smith becomes B. Smith. Barbie Smith becomes B. Smith.

Your Phone Number: Either your phone number or your work phone number. The fastest way to connect you to your suitcase should it go missing is to be able to phone you.

An Email Address: Yours or someone you can trust to stay actively on top of reuniting you with your suitcase. I just use my own because no one is going to be as proactive as me when it comes to tracking down my suitcase!

No Street Address: You don’t need to put a street address on your luggage tag. The airline can track your address easily enough because it is part of your booking information. When they see a suitcase that has a tag saying B. Smith with a phone number (555) 123-4567 and an email address of BSmith99@yahoo.com, they can connect that to B. Smith’s flight info and get all the details they need.

Don’t Notify The Burglers:

Your address on your luggage tag is everything a burgler dreams of. They can read that and know with certainty that you will not be home for the next however many days.

Business Card:

Some suitcases have a sleeve for a business card. So long as there isn’t an address on the card, or the address doesn’t lead a stalker to your door or your office door, slip your card in there. Its an easy way to reach you.

No Flag:

Having your country’s flag on your suitcase although patriotic is not necessarily a good idea. I am all about being an individual, but when you are traveling you don’t necessarily want to draw that attention to yourself.

The flags of countries that are everyone’s friend such as Canada, Australia and my country, New Zealand, are pretty harmless, but you may want to think twice about having the flag of a country that is considered hostile or problematic or the enemy of another country. Most of the time you won’t have a problem, but why take the risk?

Bonus Content

Getting ready for a big trip can be quite stressful – there are so many details and important things you need to take care of before you fly out. From having a hold put on your mail to ordering foreign currency to not leaving your passport on your bed – the list is long!

I have made a Pre-Travel Checklist PDF that you can download and print off before each trip. Broken up into 3 months before you travel, 2 months , 1 month, 1 week, 1 day and the day you leave, these checklists take the stress out of getting ready for a trip to anywhere. You check off items as you get them done and can see clearly and easily what is next on the list!

Click Here To get Your Free Pre-Travel Checklists.


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Hidden City Flights – What you Need To Know Before You Buy

When I fly to Europe I always start my trip in Los Angeles, where I don’t live, instead of Phoenix, where I do live. It saves me as much as $800 on my round trip flight. I will fly to L.A on Southwest airlines for around $50 each way and with no checked luggage fee (yay Southwest!) which means my total flight cost goes up, but I still end up saving $650+ on my airfare.

Sometimes as stupid as it may seem, my flight from L.A routes back through Phoenix on its way to or from Europe.

But it costs me massively less money to not start or finish my air travel here. I can’t just get on the plane in Phoenix and I can’t just get off it here either, unless I want to pay hundreds of dollars more.

Last year my flight from Rome to JFK got delayed and so I missed my connecting flight. The fabulous person from Delta Airlines told me “Honey this is just plain dumb. I’m putting you on a direct flight to Phoenix!”, saving me hours of extra travel time.

Theoretically I could have just deplaned at Phoenix anyway (if I didn’t have checked bags), making it a hidden city flight, but I had bags checked through to Los Angeles, so that tactic wouldn’t have worked. So God bless the Delta Airlines transfer desk staff!

But it brings me to what I want to talk to you about today, and that is Hidden City Flights, or Hidden City Ticketing, and what you need to know about them.

What You Need To Know About Hidden City Flights

Hidden City Flights

What Is A Hidden City Flight?

So what exactly is a hidden city flight??

Say you want to fly from Los Angeles To Philadelphia and the ticket costs $795. (I’m making up prices for the sake of the example). Then when you dig a little deeper you find a flight from Los Angeles to Chicago that routes through Philly, for $375. You could buy the cheaper L.A – Philly – Chicago flight and just get off at the Philly stopover, saving yourself $420. Philadelphia would be the “hidden city”.

Hidden city ticketing or booking a hidden city flight in this example would be booking that flight to Chicago, but not continuing past Philadelphia.

Seems smart, right? Maybe not…

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Are There Restrictions?

If you were to book a hidden city flight there are some restrictions you would need to be aware of.

Cabin Bags Only

You can’t check bags if you are doing a hidden city flight. When you check luggage it gets checked through to your final destination, so in the above scenario the suitcase would go to Chicago and you would be in Philly.

Taking carry on only can be tricky too – if the overhead bins are small or if they are full the gate agent may have to check your bag before you can get on the plane. They don’t check it to the next stop, they check it to the final stop.

One Way Only

You can only do this on one way flights. If you miss a leg of your flight it cancels out the entirety of the rest of your ticket. So with the example above had you purchased a round trip Los Angeles to Chicago flight you would forfeit everything after that first Philly stop.

No Frequent Flier Miles

You can’t use your frequent flier miles when you do this. There is a chance that the airline will invalidate your frequent flier account if you do.

If There’s An International Connection

If you are part of a flight plan that is international you will need to have your passport and any required visas for the final destination.

Here is an example, and again I am making this up. If you wanted to go from Seattle to Chicago and the airfare was $725 but you found a super cheap flight from Seattle to Iceland for $300, and the flight plan was Seattle – Chicago – Rekyavik you would have to show your passport at check in, even though the flight to Iceland was departing from Chicago. Technically once you landed in Chicago you would be walking to a transfer gate, and not passing back through airport security.

Even though we don’t need a travel visa for Iceland, for the sake of the example let’s pretend that a US passport required an entry visa for Iceland, you would had to have acquired it prior to going to the airport.

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Is It Legal?

A website called Skiplagged uses this technique to get cheap flights. Both Orbitz and United Airlines have filed federal lawsuits against Skiplagged, but lost due to a technicality. The contract is between the passenger and the airline, not Skiplagged and the airline. Sooooo you could be the one on the hook.

As far as I know (and I’m not a lawyer) using this loophole is not illegal. It is controversial, is probably unethical, and can have consequences.

Airplane

Consequences

The Visa Application

There is a chance that you could be breaking the law with your visa application. I haven’t had to do one for a while, but last time I did I had to specify the dates that I would be in the other country, and provide a reason for my travel. You could be opening yourself up to a world of trouble. Without knowing the specific legalities I would emphatically advise against it. You just don’t know when something like this could come back to haunt you.

Re-Routing

Planes sometimes get re-routed. There can be many reasons why, from weather to a passenger getting sick during the flight, to an airplane issue, to a terror threat, to who only knows what else. If you fly often enough you will at some point run into re-routed flights.

Using our L.A – Philly – Chicago example you could find that there was a maintenance problem with that plane so now all the Chicago passengers are being put on a plane that is going from L.A to Dulles to Chicago, and the Philly passengers are being put on a later flight. You would have no recourse in this situation, and the airline would not have to get you on a plane to Philadelphia.

Global Priority and TSA Pre-Check

Everything you do is tracked now, so you have to question whether you are jeopardizing your Global Priority or TSA Pre Check status, or perhaps making yourself ineligible to get them down the line. Just because you don’t have or want them now doesn’t mean you won’t in the future.

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Ethics

There is an ethical question involved with this too, and this is what really bothers me with the concept. If the airline hasn’t been informed that you are not getting back on board, the plane will sit there on the tarmac while they try to find you. There are layers of follow on problems that can cause for other passengers.

Those who are on their way to an international connection can miss that flight, causing them to lose the first day/days of their vacation.

Passengers with a tight connection to another domestic flight can end up missing it because everyone is searching for you.

Airport security now has to find a missing passenger inside an airport terminal – just think for a minute as to how much chaos that can create. In a post 9/11 world I have zero patience or tolerance for any airport hijinx.

The plane can’t take off until they are certain that you didn’t have any checked bags and that you haven’t left anything on board.

These days most of the flights that I go on seem to be full, which means that there is a good chance that someone else needed that seat that you disappeared from.

Conclusion

I fly a lot and would not be willing to take the risk of doing a hidden city flight. I am always working the angles, looking for cheaper ways to fly and looking for the best possible deals, and although this may initially sound like a good idea I don’t think it’s worth it.

I am also a huge advocate for on-time flights and air travel safety, so although I get that its a money saving concept, it doesn’t sit well with me. I wouldn’t do it.

What are your thoughts?

Have you read my book? Glam Italia! How To Travel Italy is available worldwide on Amazon.com


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