In the early days of air travel, travelers looked at flying as a great adventure. Nowadays we often see it as a chore to endure before the real trip can begin. Here’s how to ensure that your next flight will be safe and pleasant so you’ll be all set and ready to go when the fun starts.
1. Bring your own meal or snack. These days, few airlines offer free meals; you’re probably out of luck if you’re flying economy class or you’re on a relatively short flight. The meals and snacks that airlines do offer are not only expensive and unsatisfying, but unhealthy to boot. So tuck a turkey sandwich, pasta salad, an apple, or whole-wheat crackers and low-fat cheese into your carry-on bag along with some napkins and a plastic fork if you need one.
2. Book an aisle seat. You might be tempted to pity the person on the end of the row who has to get up whenever someone else wants to leave their seat. But that’s the person who will arrive at his or her destination less cramped and more energized than anyone else, so seek out that seat, and use every opportunity to get up out of it. Sitting in a plane seat for hours on end raises the risk of deep vein thrombosis (DVT) or blood clots in the legs. Many factors often associated with diabetes—being overweight, being 60 or older, having poor blood circulation, and having a history of heart disease—are also linked to DVT, which can be life-threatening if the clot travels through the bloodstream and blocks blood flow to the lungs.
3. Set a digital reminder to get up. Time can easily get away from you while you’re flying if you’re sleeping or watching an in-flight movie. The next time you fly, wear a digital watch with an alarm, and set it to go off 60 or 90 minutes after takeoff. When the alarm goes off, stroll to the restroom and back, then reset your alarm to go off in another 60 or 90 minutes. Repeat this exercise throughout the flight.
4. Use airport time to burn calories. Catching a plane involves a whole lot of hurry up and wait. While you’re waiting for your plane to board, use that spare half-hour to tool around the terminal rather than grabbing an overpriced candy bar from the newsstand. If you combine the calories you’ll burn moving your feet and the calories you save not chomping the chocolate, you’ll end up a grand total of 420 calories behind where you would have been.
5. Buy some bottled water once you’ve cleared security. Yes, the flight attendants on the plane will come around with the beverage cart once or twice, depending on the length of your flight, but you should drink more often than that to avoid dehydration, which can give you a headache and possibly raise your blood sugar. If you have to get up more often to use the bathroom, that’s not a bad thing. Don’t buy your water before you pass through security or you may be required to throw it out.
6. Ask at the gate for an exit row seat. These are seats you can only book once you’re at the airport, and you can do it even if you already have a seat assignment—something not many people know. In an exit row you’ll have oodles more room to stretch your legs.
7. Keep your feet on the move. To keep the blood flowing, do these simple foot exercises every half hour. With your heels on the floor, lift your toes up as far as possible. Hold for a few seconds, then release. Next, lift one foot slightly off the floor and draw circles in each direction with your toes. Repeat with the other foot. Finally, lift one heel as high as possible, keeping your toes on the floor. Repeat with the other foot.
8. For less stress, time your arrival at the airport just right. Nervous fliers can reduce their flight anxiety by leaving plenty of time to travel to the airport safely, park, check in with the agent, and get through security. Not leaving enough time to do these things will surely stress you out, which in turn will increase your blood glucose levels. For domestic flights on which you’re checking a bag, arrive at the airport 90 minutes before the flight. For international flights, show up at least two hours before departure. Arrive 30 to 60 minutes earlier than that if you’re flying during the holidays.