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Our Ultimate Hacker’s Guide to Air Travel

Since 1903, powered flight has gone from a dream in North Carolina’s sandy Outer Banks to a global industry topping $800 billion in annual sales.

Every year, billions of passengers take to the air, crisscrossing the globe in half-a-million kilogram behemoths.

There’s no sign of slowing down, either. Based on the latest data, 2017 experienced the highest growth in air traffic since 2010.

Following up on that, the International Air Transport Association (IATA) has predicted that the number of annual travelers will come close to doubling — to 7.6 billion — by 2036!

Upon hearing these impressive stats (and with summer travel drawing ever closer), we thought we’d try to help make air travel a more affordable, enjoyable and healthy venture for both you and your family.

Below, you’ll find some of our top travel hacks to employ the next time you and yours head to the airport…

Source: Getty Images

To drink…Or not to drink…

Well, the answer to that question may depend on what exactly it is that you plan to imbibe…

For the answer to this dilemma, we turn to the former System Chief Pilot of one of The Motley Fool’s favourite companies, Southwest Airlines. In a 2017 interview with Travel & Leisure, R.J. Deutschendorf had a few tips that the company’s pilots believe help them beat jet lag.

First and foremost, he says hydration is key. Just don’t get caught up drinking sugary sodas or juices, as these only serve to accelerate dehydration, which is something that doesn’t require any assistance up in the friendly skies. For them, water is the only answer.

You see, while at altitude, the air pressure inside the cabin drops noticeably from what most folks are used to on the ground. This results in much drier and thinner air shortly after takeoff. In fact, humidity levels tend to drop close to 0%, and you’re your breathing rate picks up in an attempt to draw in more oxygen. Both of these contribute excess water loss for the duration of your flight.

And this brings us to the bad news R.J. broke during his interview…

Even if you’re getting ready to kick off a highly anticipated vacation, save the alcohol for after the flight.

We know. We know. It’s not what you want to hear, but the science is there to back him up. The truth is, alcohol acts as a diuretic, causing you to urinate more often due to alcohol’s interaction with your kidneys.

To make matters even worse, it’s recommended to avoid coffee and other caffeinated beverages, as they act as diuretics, too. Though, some studies have shown that caffeine isn’t nearly as strong a diuretic as alcohol is.

Admittedly, it may be tough to avoid both alcohol and caffeine while traveling. So, if you choose to stray from R.J.’s advice, it may be a good idea to chase that Caesar Cocktail with a bottle of water.

Keep your air vents open!

I got this tip from my dad (a very frequent traveler) a few years back, who, in turn, had heard it from several people over the years prior. After he told me, I decided to look it up, and sure enough, the science bears it out.

Source: Getty Images

One of the best things you can do while flying to help keep airborne viruses at bay is to keep your air vent open and aimed at your face.

I know. I know. Considering that flights tend to be a bit chilly already, this may not be the most popular suggestion. But hear me out…

As it turns out, cabins of airplanes are divided up into sections. Each section, or “zone,” is usually only a handful of rows big and typically filters its air every few minutes using highly effective HEPA filters. This air is also blended 50/50 with fresher air from outside of the plane.

Experts say that this continuous ventilation could be the key to avoiding illnesses ranging from the common cold to the measles. The travel health expert from Telegraph Travel has even said that you are most at risk while the plane is still on the ground and the ventilation is turned off.

Remember that the next time you bum-rush the line to be first on the plane…

Get up and streeeeeetch

With so many of us sitting most of the day at work, claims of “Sitting is the new smoking” began to emerge a few years back. Despite our increasingly sedentary lifestyles, our bodies still aren’t built to sit as statuesquely still as we do on flights for up to five…ten…even eighteen (!) hours straight.

This level of inactivity oftentimes results in blood pooling in travelers’ feet and legs, leaving them uncomfortably swollen. While it may not be a serious issue for most of us, complications can arise for those suffering from certain medical conditions or who are taking specific medications.

On top of this, for those of you who may have something going on immediately after landing, it’s important to stay active. As we discussed earlier, oxygen levels while in flight are much lower than normal. Surprisingly, oxygen levels in your blood can drop between 5%-20%, depending on your trip’s duration.

You’re also circulating what the reduced oxygen intact less efficiently. When these factors are combined, it can lead to increased fatigue and a decrease in mental acuity.

To combat this, experts suggest getting up to move around, if possible. In addition to, or in lieu of pacing up and down the aisle, try out some stretches while seated. These can be as simple as flexing your feet or crossing your legs. Just try doing something while cruising amongst the clouds.

Surf and save

Source: Getty Images

Finally, it’s time to potentially save yourself some money should you be traveling out of the country with a group.

Despite many feigned attempts to “disconnect” on vacations, it’s simply not always possible. For this reason, buying or renting a MiFi device may be worth your while.

These mobile hotspots are offered by a variety of companies. They’re portable. And many provide access in over 100 countries.

What makes them even more attractive to groups than perhaps buying an international plan on individual cellphone plans is that most of them allow multiple users to connect for one set price. Many that we’ve come across (and used) can get you (and yours) connected for as little as $8 per day.

When you consider that an international plan can run each person several times that for a month, it makes it well worth further investigation.

Foolish Bottom Line

For something that often leads to a lot of fun and/or success, flying can be rather stressful. Heck, the whole process is even designed to be that way to keep things moving as smoothly as possibly for everyone.

We hope these tips go a long way towards combatting this, along with helping you arrive to your final destination feeling just as, if not more, happy and refreshed than before you left for the airport.

Onward and upward!