There are a few well-known things that can make air travel significantly worse than it has to be. Forgetting to bring snacks, for example (these days, airlines can be pretty stingy with their selections), or getting a seat in the back row right next to the bathroom. For some, it’s skipping the compression socks.
One thing we don’t think about enough, though, is how easy it is to get dehydrated on a plane. And between the price of bottled water at the airport and the mostly unpleasant experience of using an airplane bathroom, many of us actually drink less water on planes than usual.
“Airplane conditions are much different than those experienced every day on the ground,” Mezher said. “Air cabins typically circulate cooler, drier air, maintained at lower pressures. The relative humidity can be as low as 10-20%, which causes moisture to be lost at higher rates from our respiratory system, skin, eyes and more. Sitting for long periods of time also redistributes the fluid balance to the lower extremities, changing the blood viscosity and possibly contributing to increased fluid loss.”
OK, so we know it’s really easy to get dehydrated up in the air. But why will that make your travel experience so much worse, and how can you make sure you drink enough water? Here’s everything you need to know.
Why Staying Hydrated During Air Travel Is So Important
Since our bodies are made up of 55-60% water, we need water to function properly, and dehydration can cause symptoms like dizziness, fatigue, increased heart rate (but low blood pressure) or confusion, according to Mehzer. These aren’t symptoms we want to experience at any point, much less on a plane.
And if you’re already anxious about travel? “Dehydration can make anxiety worse, with negative effects emotionally and mentally,” Mezher said. “It can also affect digestion and contribute to constipation, which is already a risk with the change of environments and time zones. It’s never fun to land at our destination and feel worse off than when we left.”
Tips For Staying Hydrated
If you want to stay hydrated without increasing the frequency of your bathroom visits (fair enough), Maggie Michalczyk, registered dietitian and founder of Once Upon a Pumpkin, is all about loading up on electrolytes.
“Consider adding electrolyte powders or tablets to your water,” Michalczyk said. “These can replenish essential minerals lost through sweating and help maintain hydration levels without increasing the frequency of bathroom visits. I also like coconut water as an option to help replenish electrolytes.”
She also suggested avoiding caffeinated and alcoholic drinks both at the airport and on the plane. Not only will these beverages make you need to pee more, but they’ll dehydrate you, too. You can also eat foods that have high water content.
“Snack on fruits and vegetables like cucumbers, bell peppers, celery and fruit, which have high water content,” she said. “These foods can supplement your hydration efforts.”
Moisturizing before you fly can also be helpful. “Apply a moisturizer or a hydrating mist to keep your skin hydrated during the flight. This can help prevent dryness and discomfort,” Michalczyk said.
If the issue is less related to wanting to avoid the bathroom and more related to the inconvenience and price of drinking water at the airport and on the plane, Melanie Lieberman, managing editor of global features at The Points Guy, is all about the reusable water bottle.
“It’s ultra lightweight when it’s empty, and the top easily clips to the outside of my bag, so I can travel easily through the airport with it empty and fill it up once I’m past security,” she said.
Lieberman also suggested drinking more water than usual the night before. “I try to always drink more water than usual the night before, and instead of dumping my water bottle before going through airport security, I’ll finish my water beforehand for an extra hydration boost.”
Finally, there’s no harm in saying yes when flight attendants come through and offer you those tiny cups of water. Every ounce counts toward a more hydrated and comfortable plane ride.