Holiday Travel: 4 Ways To Avoid The Airplane Cold

A week ago I was returning to Seville from Warsaw, and I had every intention to talk about bleisure and shifting work-life perspectives until my recent flight to NYC. As many will be traveling to be with familia + amigos the closer the holidays near, I felt it'd be somewhat more appropriate to talk about ways to avoid getting sick. (Plus I was uber inspired by last week's Whine About It.)

So if you're flying for the holidays, here are a few tips to give your immune system a little extra TLC.

Stop, Drop + Stretch

Ah, yes, the Open-Mouth Cougher, and in fact, the inspiration of this very post. I simply couldn't believe that the señora with the plague only one seat away didn't have the common courtesy to cover her spontaneous coughing throughout our nearly 8-hour long vuelo.

Beneficial if you're feeling ill or not, some of the best ways to get the blood circulating and oxygen flowing is moving your arms and legs, stretching, and standing every now and then. (It'd be ideal to perform a movement such as hand-to-mouth when, let's say, having a coughing fit.) Added bonus? It happens to be one of the best ways to show that you are mindful the space of those around you by containing your contagiousness as best you can.

Don't blame the air

It's said that airlines use a special air purification system to filter out the bacteria being circulated; it's actually a huge fabrication that you'll get sick from breathing the circulated air while flying. Some say that in-flight air might possibly be cleaner than inhaling all what Times Square has to offer.

Sure, you could dare to be different and wear a face mask for extra protection, but the air isn't really as big of an issue as people make it out to be. You are, however, sharing it with your neighbors, so the chances that you'll catch something will increase if you're in what is referred to as the "Hot Zone".

Avoid the Hot Zone

According to the WSJ, those more exposed to germs are usually the ones sitting right where I am: within a two-seat radius of someone with a cold. Other popular places for germs on a plane include the restrooms, seat pockets, tray tables (it's very likely that a diaper or two was changed on the very spot you're enjoying your chicken or pasta), and the aisle seats. Yes, the aisle seats, due to passengers walking up and down and using headrests as support on their way to and from the restroom.

This article does a fine job illustrating how gross it really is, but I still think I'd rather an aisle seat than crammed in the middle.

If you're lucky enough to change where you're sitting, go on a solo adventure from a window seat. (Hats off to you if you can accomplish this, friend!) If not, some other suggestions are to wipe down your tray table (and TV screen), position the overhead air duct over your seat to push the air around, and (if you can) wait until landing to use the restroom.


The conditions your body undergoes throughout a flight can cause dehydration and weaken your immune system. Simple solution: drink up what my grandma calls City Gin, or WATER. I've seen some passengers use small water spritzers to absorb moisture through the skin, but drinking water before, during, and after your flight will help you stay hydrated.

At the end of the day, if you catch a cold, do your best to rest up. Relish your travel experiences, take the good with the bad; it's all part of the journey.

As I sip my third glass of agua from my aisle seat (sans overhead air nozzle), I wish you all happy -- and healthy -- travels this holiday season!