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.
But steering clear of too much H2O is a mistake, explained Tanya Mezher, a registered dietitian and lead functional medicine practitioner at Malla.
“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.
Want your flight to be even more comfortable? Check out this list of flight attendants’ must-haves.
HuffPost may receive a share from purchases made via links on this page. Every item is independently selected by the HuffPost Shopping team. Prices and availability are subject to change.
A 3-in-1 foldable magnetic wireless charger
Promising review: “I’m a flight attendant, so I’m constantly on the look out for items that will make my travel days easier, but most importantly, LIGHTER. This by far has been the best investment. My phone, watch, and earbuds are all Apple and all work seamlessly with this product. The magnets are a slower charge then a normal charger, but being able to carry ONE item to charge three pieces of technology at once, is PRICELESS. It’s super easy to throw in my bag when I’m packing up and mindlessly easy to set up when I get to my layover. I would come back and buy this 10 times over again if I could!” — Lissette Nunez
A sturdy, lightweight eight-compartment pill organizer
Promising review: “Flight attendant–approved! These pill containers are simply amazing! The latch and seal on them is very secure due to its rubber gasket around the inside. I put my daily medications in each of the six smaller compartments on one side and then use the larger two containers for vitamins and supplements. I keep this in my tote bag for work and I am not concerned at all about it opening. I can’t tell you how many times some of the other pill boxes I used have opened up, tossing prescription medications into the smallest corners of my bag. Well-designed and well-executed!” — Christina S.
A comfy, ergonomic Trtl neck pillow
It also easily attaches to backpacks and luggage handles, weighs less than half a pound, and is machine-washable. Available in four colors.
Promising review: “This is the best travel pillow ever. As a flight attendant, I travel all the time. This makes getting stuck in a middle seat palatable. I’ve used this in cars, planes, trains, etc; it’s great. In fact my sister was so jealous on our last trip to Italy that she kept trying to steal it off me. Ordered her one for Christmas.” — Amazon customer
A luggage drink caddy
Reviewers say it’s ideal for a suitcase that can roll on four wheels! If you have a suitcase that has to tilt while it rolls, just be careful if the drinks are open at the top. Available in 31 colors and other styles.
Promising reviews: “This cup holder is perfect! It helps me a lot! Last time I took a plane with a suitcase and a cup of coffee, when it’s my turn to check my passport and ticket, the coffee cup fell to the ground and coffee sprinkled. It was a nightmare! This time I bought this cup holder, and it did do me a favor! I don’t have to worry about where my cup and phone are! I can free my hands to do other things. I love it so much! Hope you love it too.” — Philip
“Great tool to keep your hands free. I’m a flight attendant and I love this, especially the [hook and loop fastened] ‘quick detachment.’ It’s the best! I had one before that just stretched over the handle and it was a PAIN! This one is great. There’s room for two large drinks and a slim pocket for phone or wallet. Many people see it and ask where I got my clever little caddy!” — Debra G
A TSA-friendly toiletries set
The set includes a zippered bag, four soft silicone bottles with leakproof caps, three compact jars, and two toothbrush caps. Available in 13 variations.
Promising review: “If it wasn’t for me forgetting them in the hotels, I wouldn’t have to buy more. This is my third set and I love these things! I’m a flight attendant and these are easy to fill, use, and pack!” — Raena Hill
A lightweight, compact, and high-speed portable charger
This highly rated slim option holds about 2.25 charges for iPhone 12, 1.6 charges for Galaxy S20, and 1.2 charges for iPad Mini 5 and comes with a Micro USB cable (to charge the charger) and a travel pouch.
Promising review: “Very handy! I’m a flight attendant and travel a lot. This has come in handy on the airplane and in the airport. Perfect size and lightweight.” — Rae
A simple luggage strap to smaller bags or jackets
Promising review: “Definitely what I needed for my luggage as a flight attendant. Very heavy duty and perfect for me. Works great with my extra luggage and lunch bag to hang on my suitcase. Thank you so much. Will definitely buy again.” — Mary
A carry-on friendly travel Gillette razor
It comes with one handle and one blade refill.
Promising reviews: “I am a flight attendant, and space is limited in my bag. This is a great product for your travel bag.” — Caitlin Hemphill
“I got this for a vacation and it was great! The little carrying container is awesome, and keeps you from having a weird, loose razor floating around in your suitcase. Plus, the heads are the same as a regular-sized razor, so you can keep using it when that one is worn out!” — Tegan H
A pack of four Apple AirTag trackers
When an item’s misplaced, the app will make the attached AirTag beep until it’s found. You can also attach it to your wallet, keys, pets, and more.
Promising review: “These are definitely worth the money. I put one in my flight attendant bag when ever I have to check it. I put one on my dog and the other on my keys. I was very impressed and surprised by how easy they were to set up. I would definitely invest in these if you have a child. There are keychains you can put them in and put them on their backpacks. 10/10 from me for these!” — Micky D
A popular, versatile off-the-shoulder jumpsuit
Available in sizes S–3X and 36 colors/patterns.
Promising reviews: “It is a favorite among our flight attendant group when we are traveling. We call ourselves the sisterhood of the traveling jumpsuit! I absolutely love it, it’s comfortable, inexpensive, easy one piece, dress up or dress down. I add a belt and it’s perfect! I am planning to purchase more colors!” — Floridagirl0611
A portable door lock
Promising review: “My best guy friend bought this for me and I love it. I’m a flight attendant and am in hotels 4–5 nights a week. Sometimes the ‘locks’ just don’t feel sturdy enough. This device gives me an extra layer of security and allows me to sleep at night. I keep it in my flight bag.” — Emilia Duren
An electronics organizer
Available in four colors and two sizes.
“I am a flight attendant and I LOVE this organizer! I keep my iPad, passport, cords, paperwork, and hand sanitizer in here. It keeps me organized! Definitely recommend to anyone who travels and needs to keep organized.” — amazonislife
A resealable travel-size pack of antibacterial wipes
This contains 20 packs of 10 wipes each.
“As a flight attendant I always need wipes. These small packs are great for putting in your purse and having on the go. The bundle pack is a great value.” — SJ1326
A weighted sleep mask
Promising review: “I am a flight attendant and have a wild work schedule. I frequently have to sleep during the day. These are SO comfortable and cool as well. I have ordered and tried out at least 10 eye masks from Amazon and have found these to be the best. They are SO comfortable and do not have velcro on the straps, for which I am thankful, because I usually sleep on my back and am sensitive to the thickness of eye masks which have the Velcro straps.” — SW
Maitland Quitmeyer / BuzzFeed
A mini travel steamer
This mini steamer heats up in about 90 seconds and steams about five garments before needing to be refilled.
Promising review: “This steamer is very compact, easy to use, and well-made. I am a flight attendant so this has helped my life tremendously. I never even pick up an iron anymore. It works extremely well on my uniform and also just to get wrinkles out of my clothes while on layovers. The best part is that it doesn’t take up too much space in my bag. I hate ironing with a passion, so I am so glad that I found this product!” — Amazon customer
A mini, lightweight flat iron
It also comes with a heat-resistant pouch for easy carrying.
Promising review: “This fits perfectly in my toiletries travel bag that I take with me as a flight attendant. Anything that comes in a small size and still works well is perfect for me.” — Kathy S
A collapsible water bottle
It’s lead-, latex-, and BPA-free, dishwasher-safe, and can be used for hot or cold drinks. Available in eight colors.
Promising review: “Just what I was looking for! I’m a flight attendant and was looking for a collapsible water bottle that did not leak. I’ve had this for two weeks now and I love it! Easy to roll up, clean, and drink from.” — Selene Marie
A pair of super soft compression socks
Available in sizes S-XL, and many color/pattern combos.
“LOVE THESE SOCKS!! I’m a flight attendant and these have saved my legs.” — Henry L.
A jewelry organizer
Available in two sizes and nine colors.
“I am a flight attendant and am away from home for long periods at a time. This is perfect for traveling! It fits so many things, bracelets, necklaces, SO many earrings, rings, etc. that you will not have to worry about leaving behind your favorite pieces of jewelry because they don’t fit. I looked at many other travel jewelry holders before and this one is the best because it packs so much yet isn’t bulky. Honestly this is like my 5th bag from Bagsmart and I just love everything they have.” — Hope Ayala
A compact, carry-on friendly portable espresso maker
It lets you use Nespresso pods and is totally hand-operated, with no battery or electricity needed.
Promising review: “I’m a flight attendant so I travel a lot and spent a lot of money on coffee when I wasn’t home with my Nespresso machine. This has been a GAME CHANGER. Very easy to use and clean. Very travel-friendly!” — Rikki
A reusable and collapsible coffee cup
It’s also microwave-safe! Note that the 12-ounce size does not include a straw, but both the 16-ounce and 24-ounce sizes do. Available in four sizes and in 23 colors.
Stojo is a small biz founded by three New York dads who wanted a better way to get their convenient coffee fix without all the waste. Now they make stylish collapsible essentials in a variety of sizes and colors, including bottles and food storage containers.
Promising review: “I love this cup — I am very glad I decided to get one as being a flight attendant I don’t always find paper cups in the hotel rooms and ewwww, don’t always want to have to clean a mug in the room. Having this is great! I like that it comes with a holder much like the cardboard ring that coffee shops provide — I always use it and it helps the cup be extra sturdy!” — AuthorEP
Abby Kass / BuzzFeed
A waterproof Kindle
Available in 16GB.
“Love it so far ! I am a flight attendant and I love to read so it’s so much easier to have a Kindle instead of carrying around multiple heavy books. The charge lasts what seems like an eternity. And I love that it’s waterproof because I leave to read while on the beach or by the pool.” —Tiffany
A pair of anti-nausea wristbands
To use, put them on both wrists. They help with nausea related to motion sickness, morning sickness, migraines, cramps, and more.
Promising reviews: “FLIGHT ATTENDANT–APPROVED! They work. In my experience, 100% of the time.” — Jessica
“I was skeptical about these but I was quickly all about them when I put them on. I get really motion sick when flying but this weekend I did not get motion sick at all during a four hour flight! I was even able to read my book for a while on the plane without sickness! I have never been able to do that before. I love these and they are now a must-have whenever I travel again. 10/10.” — Rosse
A USB-chargeable mini handheld fan
Promising review: “This is the best little fan ever! Three speeds of pure bliss! I’m a flight attendant and it gets very hot on the aircraft. This little dynamo works great. You can hold it in your hand or set it to stand hands free. It folds up to easily fit in your hand bag. Recharges quickly. Perfect for hot flashes also. Worth every penny!!!” — Mary C. Jones
An assistive zipper puller attachment
Promising reviews: “This thing is great! If you have issues with the puller disconnecting, head to the directions, because you probably aren’t hooking it up correctly (I know this from experience). Zipuller saves my life on a weekly basis.” — MoniqueRamsey
“I am a flight attendant. Our uniform dresses are so hard to zip up in a hotel room when you are by yourself. This is the best. It works wonderfully and is great quality. I would recommend this to anyone who isn’t a contortionist. Excellent product!!!!!” — L. ward