Dreaming of the Holidays? Healthy Travel Tips

Are you dreaming of a white Christmas or colorful Thanksgiving with loved ones but avoid travel due to health issues? There are things you can do make the long trips, including by airline, smoother, healthier, and more fun.

Like crisp mornings, thoughts of flying to join loved ones for the fall and winter holidays are in the air. Unfortunately, travel challenges can put a shiver in your spirit, and with good reason. According to a study recently published in the Journal of Environment and Planning A, Scott A. Cohen of the University of Surrey in England and Stefan Gössling of Lund and Linnaeus Universities in Sweden reviewed and synthesized previous research to shed light on the detrimental effects of hypermobility that extend beyond fatigue. And, according to Newsweek, extensive journeys have hidden health dangers, so maintaining good health while traveling often requires special considerations discussed in this article.

Here are some simple health issue tips and solutions to make your next trip happy and healthy.

Although airline travel is often the quickest way to reach your destination, it poses hidden threats to travelers with preëxisting health conditions. As airlines reduce leg room between seats to accommodate more passengers it can even have physical drawbacks for healthy travelers.

To help you make healthy travel choices, these dangerous conditions are listed from life-threatening to physically uncomfortable and some simple solutions for a more robust, and ultimately safer trip.

Cabin pressure from air travel can exacerbate existing circulatory issues.

The three most common severe health issues most affected by cabin pressure are heart disease, lung disease, and circulatory problems. Listed below are the top five reasons existing health problems can become life-threatening during long journeys.

  1. hours of immobile during flights,
  2. cramped seating that constricts,
  3. restricted and limit circulation,
  4. dehydration due to dry recirculate of air in the flight cabin,
  5. and circulation affected by altitude.

Altitude can be a real killer and affects your body in many different ways.

Discomfort due to compression of the blood vessels and expansion of gasses within the body is a typical result of lengthy flights which are defined by the —–as six hours or longer. However, some passengers may suffer the same effects from shorter trips. These long flights may also cause health issues by impeded circulation resulting in a deep vein thrombosis (DVT).

Altitude also affects your breathing.

According to BMJ Medical Journal Throx, if particular care is taken, it is possible to travel with pulmonary problems and respiratory conditions like COPD. Always consult your physician before flying, especially if the flight is a long one. Patients with mild forms of the diseases should do fine while traveling, even if oxygen is required.  On trips which are six hours or more oxygen can be arranged for onboard access. To meet air travel requirements be sure to contact your airline well in advance of your travel date for guidance, rules, and regulations pertaining to in-flight oxygen access.

What can you do as a passenger to make flying a healthier experience?  Here are helpful suggestions and healthy solutions to travel challenges.

Break up long flights with connections. This may seem like an inconvenience, but it may be a lifesaver.  If possible keep flights to no more than four hours long.  Use the time between the legs of your trip to stretch your legs. Walk around the terminal. Eat a healthy meal before your next flight. Your body will thank you.

For flights four hours or longer, move your legs every hour to alleviate health issues. If you cannot move around, stand up and sit down in place. Walk to the bathroom. If it is not possible for you to walk up and down the aisle march in place while seated, or stand and march next to your seat for thirty seconds. Change your leg position at least every twenty minutes. And, if you have circulatory issues, consider wearing the compression stocking on board the plane to help prevent blood clotting or a deep vein thrombosis.

Pregnant travelers are much more susceptible to blood clotting disorders. Therefore, the advice listed above is especially important for expectant mothers. Airline requirements exist preventing third-trimester mothers-to-be from flying because all above-mentioned health issues due to flying can also affect a fetus in similar ways.

If you have a cough or cold be considerate to fellow travelers and flight crew. Wear a surgical mask.  How often have you felt yourself leaning away from a passenger who has a persistent cough or sneezes only to find yourself with a sore throat the next day? Catching a cold on board a plane has ruined many holiday vacations. So, if you have an immunize deficiency condition wear a mask as a preëmptive preventative measure.

If you suffer from an immunize deficiency condition such as anemia be aware that recirculated air in cramped conditions may contain harmful bacteria. Breaking up long flights with connections may be helpful.

Drinking alcohol, caffeinated coffee or tea, and sodas dehydrate the body. Any alcohol consumed during a flight is the equivalent of drinking two alcoholic drinks, and according to the Federal Aviation Administration may affect different people differently. Drink water and limit your alcohol consumption during flights.

Water is the word to the wise and should be your liquid of choice.              

Due to air-conditioning and seasonal weather, an airline cabin can be uncomfortably chilly. Wear loose, layered, comfortable fitting clothing. Take a sweater on-board the plane because cabins can get cold. Stay hydrated with water.

Foot exercises are something almost everyone can do to help with lower body circulation.

One of the best foot exercises is writing the alphabet in capital letters in the air using your toes. The letter Z uses all the muscles in your foot and calf.

Now that you have simple solutions for healthy holiday travel enjoy the festivities with your friends love ones, worry-free.


Kat O'Keefe-Kanavos
Kat O'Keefe-Kanavos
Kathleen (Kat) O’Keefe-Kanavos is the award-winning author of Surviving Cancerland, and co-author of Dreams That Can Save Your Life. She’s a three-time cancer survivor, and co-publisher/editor of WEBE Books Publishing. Her dreams diagnosed her illness as seen on Dr. Oz, Doctors, NBC News, American Express Open, in Newspapers and magazines. She’s a Contributor to Chicken Soup for the Soul, TV/Radio Host/Producer- Dreaming Healing on DV7Radio/TV Network, Wicked Housewives On Cape Cod™, Kat Kanavos Show, Internationally Syndicated Columnist in BIZCATALYST 360°, Dream Columnist in Positive Tribe Magazine, and Desert Health Magazine, Keynote Speaker, Performance Coach who taught Special Ed & Psychology @USF, and Lecturer who promotes patient advocacy and Spiritual guidance. She is co-author to the inspiring books; Chaos to Clarity: Sacred Stories of Transformational Change and Crappy to Happy: Sacred Stories of Transformational Joy

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  1. Excellent advice! I have a ritual of buying a large Smart water at the airport before every flight. I also will frequently choose an isle seat to allow for movement during the flight. It may sound strange but my husband and I will sit across the isle from each other when there are three seats to avoid one of us being crammed in the middle. Happy Holiday travel to all!

    • Thank you Raissa Urdiales. I know they work because I use them when I fly coast to coast for the holidays.

    • My husband and I sit across from each other in the isle-seat also because I too drink so much water I need to use the restroom often and that way I do not disturb him. Great minds think alike Raissa!

  2. Kathleen, refreshing article, you see, for a long time I would not fly but slowly did accept my fears, then once accustomed to the idea of flying I began to look at ways to make my flying less fearful, first by choosing where I sit, understanding the makeup of the machine itself, the amazement of the crew and what they deal with and not being concerned about disturbing the passenger next to me so that I can get up and walk and use the ladies room. I will re-read your article more than once. Thanks for the reminders of making travel less invasive.

    • Lynn Forrester, thank you for sharing your innermost feelings and fears with us, and how you overcame them. I find that fascinating. The fear of flying is shared by many so your comment is a hand for them to hold as they board the plane and face their fears.