How to handle flying when you’re hungover

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Few things are worse than boarding a flight hungover. A close second? Sitting next to someone who is drunk. However, with our tips, you can weather even the worst morning-after (or, perhaps, pass along our advice to your seatmate).

While drinking too much the night before an early flight is not advisable, we’ve all been there. Sometimes your cheapest option is an early flight and a night spent on vacay can get away from you, especially when you’re caught up in exploring a new place or enjoying time with friends. So, the scenario goes: you’ve drunk to excess, and now you find yourself in the enclosed plane cabin with hours to go before you land. Here are some tips for surviving the flight hungover (and not ending up the center of attention in-flight).

Tips before takeoff

man drinking a glass of water
Feeling tipsy? Try these tips. (Image: Jan Jablunka, via Flickr CC BY 2.0)
  • Drink Water. When possible, drink at least one glass of water per alcoholic beverage, advises frequent traveler Pippa Ushio. Hydration with any non-alcoholic beverage is key. “A lot of our East Coast clients have that Sunday or Monday morning 6 a.m. flight, so they want to party at a nightclub until it closes at 4 a.m. and head to the airport after. We always recommend they order tonic water or club soda with lime right around the time the club closes to lessen the hangover during the flight,” said Rodric Hurdle-Bradford, managing partner of Las Vegas personal concierge service company VegasLuxuryVIP.com.
  • Know thyself. If you have been hungover before (and we bet that’s a good number of you), know the cures for what ails you. Ushio turns to hangover helpers Pedialyte, coconut water and over-the-counter pain relievers like ibuprofen.“Pedialyte is a great rehydration tool, but it looks really odd when an adult drinks it and one wouldn’t want to carry it around on a regular basis,” said Ushio. Gatorade works wonders too, according to travel enthusiast Luke Orlando, who resides in Houston, Texas. “Before even heading to the airport, you should make sure to hydrate thoroughly. Water is good but Gatorade or Pedialyte is better due to the added electrolytes. As for nausea, taking a Dramamine or similar motion sickness medication will help,” advises Orlando.
  • Treat the symptoms. Whether its anti-nausea medication or a pain reliever (ibuprofen works best), you will likely feel better faster with some help.“The sooner you can keep a glass of liquids down with a pill, the better,” said blogger Ashley Migneault of tothewild.co. To combat nausea, Orlando recommends taking a motion sickness medication like Dramamine. He finds using a natural sleep supplement like melatonin is also helpful. Products created especially to treat the symptoms of hangovers, like First Aid Shots, can also provide relief.
  • Get comfy. Being comfortable is key. Wear sweatpants or other loose clothing, advises Hurdle-Bradford. Frequent traveler Alexandra Caracciolo, an events coordinator for a bespoke travel and events company in Melbourne, Australia, recommends wearing comfortable shoes. Samantha Duffield, founder of luxury travel blog Travelling King, likes to wear comfortable soft clothes with a hooded jacket and flip flops or comfortable boots if it’s cold.
  • Accessorize. Not only do accessories make the outfit, they might also save the day.“I always wear sunglasses and loose clothing. Comfortable shoes make a big difference,” said Migneault.
  • Pack a goodie bag. Migneault likes to pack wet wipes for her face.“You can make yourself feel more human over the course of a long flight. Face refreshing spray is great as well,” said Migneault. Karen Klopp, author of Packing for Travel, recommends packing a pashmina.“Never travel without a pashmina or wrap. It can function as a blanket, a pillow, or as a cozy escape from a pushy seatmate, all-important considerations for some feeling slightly (or very) under the weather,” said Klopp. You can also whip up your own perk-you-up products. Stephanie Chambers, marketing director of Amrita Aromatherapy recommends adding 10 drops of lemon essential oil into water and putting it in a small spray bottle to spritz on your face during the flight. Caracciolo also recommends bringing noise-canceling headphones, a neck pillow and an eye mask.
  • Don’t ride in the backseat. In the taxi, that is. “Avoid sitting in the back of a car on the way to the airport. While riding shotgun with your taxi driver may be awkward, it is your best bet to avoid a bumpy ride,” said Orlando, who has traveled to 20 countries in the past 18 months.
  • Upgrade. In worst-case scenario hangover situations, upgrade your seat to business or first class. “If you can afford this, then book it. The seats will be much more comfortable and you will have the ability to lie down,” said Duffield. “If this isn’t an option, try to get as close to the bulk head in economy as possible. You will get more room here, and it’s usually in front of the engines.”
  • Selective seating. If you can’t afford to upgrade, then be strategic about your seat. If you think you might get sick or need to make frequent trips to the bathroom, get an aisle seat relatively near the bathroom, said Ushio. “If you aren’t able to get an aisle seat, tell the person next to you that you aren’t feeling well and will be getting up during the flight. At this point the majority of people will switch seats with you,” said Ushio. If you think you can fall asleep, then take the window seat, advises Marcela Faé of Fotostrasse, a travel and lifestyle blog. “Try to find a seat by the window and use the walls of the plane to lean and sleep,” said Faé. Use personal preference to choose your seat. Hurdle-Bradford advises his VIP clients to sit in the back because seats at the back of the plane are closer to bathrooms and have the best chance of remaining empty. However, others prefer the front rows. “Choosing a seat away from the back of the plane reduces the experience of turbulence,” advises Orlando.
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How to beat a hangover at 30,000 feet

air sickness bag
Don’t let it come to this. (Image: Stefan Krasowski, via Flickr CC BY 2.0)
  • Blast it. The air-conditioning that is. Adjust the nozzle to make sure the overhead air is blasting directing on you.
  • Bag it. Ask for a sick bag even if you have one. “You are secretly alerting the cabin crew to the fact that you may throw up. That way, they are more prepared and hopefully more sympathetic. I once told a cabin crew member that I felt really nauseous and I was moved into first class,” said Ushio.
  • Eat, drink and (try) to feel merry. Continue to drink a lot of water as flying can seriously dehydrate you, and snack on high protein foods. Nutrition is also important.“I will eat organic foods including healthy fats such as almonds, walnuts and cashew nuts because these will slow alcohol absorption,” said Carolyn Dean, MD, author of The Magnesium Miracle. Some travelers believe having another drink aids in recovery.“I would add a little ‘hair of the dog,’ namely a Bloody Mary. The alcohol will relax you, while the vitamin rich tomato juice energizes, and the spices go to work to cleans your blood stream,” said Klopp. Bob and Ellie Tupper of blog CulturAle Press agree.“Beer combines the benefit of modest alcohol and a good deal of liquid. The old phrase ‘hair of the dog’ has persisted because there’s some truth to it,” said Bob Tupper, co-author of “Drinking In the Culture: Tuppers’ Guide to Exploring Great Beers in Europe.”
  • Sleep. You need to try to sleep it off, advises Faé.

What not to do

beer cans
NOT ideal in-flight drinks. (Image: nicoleleec via Flickr CC BY 2.0)
  • Be honest. While alerting in-flight crew during your flight can be affective, sometimes honesty isn’t the best policy.“Don’t tell the airline reps at the gate that you aren’t very well. I have done this before and I nearly missed the plane because they insisted that I was checked over by the doctor,” said Ushio.
  • Mix dark and light colors. Just like when doing the laundry, mixing dark and light colors (liquors) before a flight is a bad idea, notes Hurdle-Bradford.
  • Go on a caffeine binge. Don’t drink caffeinated beverages, which are dehydrating, advises Caracciolo.
  • Eat fatty foods. “I also try to avoid the greasy food I would normally run to during an awful hangover,” said Caracciolo, who frequently takes long-haul flights between Australia and the United States and blogs at The Urbon Vivant. “While on a flight, especially for 10-plus hours, this sort of food ends up sitting in your stomach like a brick. It’s hardly an ideal feeling and, most often, the grease doesn’t ‘sop up the leftover alcohol’ as you’d wish it would.
  • Read. Now is not the time to catch up on reading. If you must, avoid reading on bright electronic devices like e-readers and cellphones.
  • Watch movies. Now is also not the time to binge-watch your favorite shows or the latest Hollywood blockbusters.“If you cannot sleep, don’t try to read or watch fast-moving in-flight entertainment as they can spur nausea,” said Orlando.

If you’re traveling with alcohol, check out our tips for bringing alcohol on a plane.

Main image: iStockPhoto/gremlin

How to handle flying when you’re hungover was last modified: May 6th, 2016 by Lauren Mack
Author: Lauren Mack (266 posts)

Lauren Mack has traveled to 40 countries on five continents, including Cuba, New Zealand, Peru and Tanzania. For many years, she called China, and then Taiwan, home. Countries at the beginning of the alphabet, particularly Antarctica, Argentina and Australia are on her travel bucket list. Lauren is a multimedia travel and food journalist and explorer based in New York City.