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Travel Tips for Transatlantic Flights

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Flying the red-eye from Los Angeles to Paris sounds glamorous right up until you get in that security line. But an overnight to Europe in the age of full body scans and 2 ounce limits on toiletries leaves a lot to be desired. The good news is that learning a few simple tricks (phone a friend with a private jet) can help you to avoid the fate (bad hair, dry skin, poor circulation, hangover, stinky breath, exhaustion…)  that seems to befall everyone around you. Ask any true jet setter and she will tell you the key is in designing your own custom survival kit for your carry-on bag. A good survival kit will allow you to not only stay hydrated, but will support you nutritionally and provide a handful of necessary comforts. Traveling in style is easy if you are prepared. Following are 18 tips to help get you there.

TSA Pre-Check and Global Entry

U.S. Citizens and lawful permanent residents should take the time to apply for TSA-Pre-Check status with the Transportation Security Administration. No longer a sure thing, Pre-Check status still greatly improves your chances of skipping straight through to expedited screening. Global Entry, the program for U.S. Citizens, Lawful Permanent Residents, and select foreign nationals, allows for expedited entry back into the United States, and also prequalifies you for TSA-Precheck benefits. Be sure to apply for either of these programs well in advance of your trip.

Hydrate Hydrate Hydrate

My first priority after getting through Pre-Check screening and finding my gate is always to stock up on hydration supplies. There will be plenty to drink on the plane, but I always supplement with my own bottle of mineral water. If there is a Duty Free shop, I pick up a bottle of Evian or Vichy Water spray mist too. If you want to go all out, a saline nasal spray and eye drops will keep you 100% hydrated and happy at 30,000 feet. As a side note: well hydrated nostrils do a much better job of keeping out those pesky airplane germs which waylay so many frequent fliers.

Protect your Eyes

A good eye mask is an essential for blocking out reading lights and glare from other people’s laptops and TV screens. Mine is made of a long-strand mulberry silk charmeuse that doesn’t get caught in my long hair, from Manito Silk of Vancouver, B.C.  (see travel pillows, below)

The Balm is the Bomb

I take advantage of my discount as a Pink Sheet staff writer and stock up on Kensington Apothecary’s yummy Rose Butter Facial Balm. I like to pop it in the fridge the day before my flight and keep it, ice-cold, in my carry-on bag. While in flight, I smooth the cold butter around my eyes and lips, on my cuticles and any other area that is at risk for feeling dried out. I have even been known to slather it on my underarms to help fight in-flight stink.

Tea Time

One of my all-time best tips is to bring along a couple of organic herbal or white tea bags and brew them up in flight. White tea is a great antioxidant boost without too much caffeine. Once the tea bags cool down, I pop one over each eye for a few minutes of depuffing. I find it helps with dark circles and fatigue without staining my skin or clothing like black or green tea can. (To use: drink the tea, let the bags cool in a cup with ice, ring out excess water, then lean back and apply to your eyes for ten minutes.)

Protecting your Legs and Feet

Bring a small tin of Badger Balm Foot Cream (Whole Foods Market) to massage into your feet and calves. This minty balm will sooth your aches and boost your pressure-challenged circulation. Add a pair of comfy socks — microfiber ones. You don’t want peppermint leg cream soaking into your best cashmere socks! To shuffle to and from the WC, slip on some Tieks foldable ballet flats (available online).

What to Wear

Whether your idea of comfort is a cozy cashmere and silk sweater and legging set by The Row or a Velour track suit from Zara, dressing for comfort is (thankfully) now the height of chic. Most of the top designers even boast a sneaker in this season’s collection — find the one that fits your style and leave the chic healed booties in your checked baggage. You won’t be able to get them on your swollen feet when you land anyway, and if there’s an emergency water landing, those heels will wreak havoc with the inflatable raft.

We’re All Ears

I’m personally fond of curating the soundtrack to my life, so my iPod ear buds are never far away. If blocking sound altogether is more your style, try EarPlanes Disposable Ear Plugs. They helps relieve air pressure and are said to do a decent job of muffling noise. Finally there are those sleek Bose Quiet Comfort noise-canceling products — available in various models as both headphones and ear buds. The boys all seem to love them, so there might be something to it beyond sheer gadget envy.

Glossy Hair

My Mason Pearson Wide-Tooth Hair Rake is the first thing I put in my carry-on. It tames my hair painlessly under the driest, most staticky conditions. And really, what else can you buy at Barney’s for a mere $35?

If you’re the travel pillow type, the Manito Silk Travel Pillow and matching Sleep Mask make for a chic ensemble. I bring one of their mulberry silk pillowcases to cover the standard airline pillow. Added bonus: the silk charmeuse helps avoid bed head and sleep lines on your face. Available online.

You might be tempted to add a travel-sized bottle of dry shampoo to keep hair from looking oily on arrival, but if you shop nontoxic and all-natural like I do, Dry Shampoos are a definite No-Go Zone. Instead, why not head in the opposite direction with a good scented hair oil or pomade? Once again, I multitask with my Rose Butter Facial Balm. The scent of pure Rose Otto is an added bonus.  You can slick back your hair to look sleek and polished all the way to your hotel, and when you shower and shampoo off the rest of the grime from your flight, your hair will be gleaming, hydrated and glossy. Remember to warm the balm by rubbing it between your palms for a few moments before applying to your hair.

Snacks and Meals

Find the willpower to skip the processed free snacks and melty first class chocolate chip cookie and plan your meal ahead, stashing raw nuts, carrots, dried fruit, a protein bar or similar healthy treats in your bag. Some people swear by ordering the vegan or vegetarian meal, believing them to be the safest bet on nutritional balance. Personally, I find them too “carby”. Besides, I’ve had some surprisingly decent filets in Virgin Atlantic Upper Class over the years.

The Hard Stuff

It’s hard to resist a cocktail or two on a long-haul flight, but alcohol does nothing to ease the inevitable jet lag. Do you best to go easy on the speakeasy. If the sugar in that glass of champagne is hitting your head, switch to a gin and tonic, which has a much lower glycemic score.


Powdered electrolytes with minerals, zinc and Vitamin C added to water work wonders to boost your immune system. They are made by a number of brands and come in little travel packets. I go through several per flight. To ward off inflammation, my naturopath recommends two turmeric and black pepper capsules, twice a day for three days before flying. Spirulina, Chlorella and other mega-green supplements aid in detoxifying the blood and are packed full of minerals and water-soluble B vitamins, which can get depleted when you are dehydrated. You might have your own go-to vitamin cocktail you can’t do without, so bring it along — travel size, bien sûr.

Chez Le Doctor

My best girlfriend keeps prescriptions of Fluconozol and Macrobid in her bag if she is going to be gone for more than a month. Apparently, there’s nothing less stylish than having to stumble your way through the Parisian medical system with a good old American UTI. (Bonjour, Bidet!) With situations like that in mind, I present the Essential Medical Kit: travel sized aspirin or ibuprofen, recurring yeast and UTI medications as needed, Midol, condoms, a diaphragm, BCPs or the sponge, allergy medicine, multi vitamins and minerals, probiotics or similar supplements, Colace and magnesium citrate tablets for traveler’s constipation, and cough drops or mints for dry air. Add to or subtract from this list to suit your own personal situation.

Yoga at 30,000 Feet

It’s important: Get up and stretch every hour or so, stand at the galley for ten minutes, and do basic yoga stretches whenever possible to combat leg swelling or more serious conditions. Shrug your shoulders, do some neck rolls, flex your toes and stretch your spine.  Not the yoga type? Do what feels right for your body. Air China flight staff goes through an entire stretching routine before landing, and nearly everyone joins in. So even if you don’t know your Uttanasana from your Garudasana, you can still take a tip from Mao* and wring out those muscles before you land.

Arrive Refreshed

For a quick clean up, Ole Henriksen’s The Clean Truth Brightening Cloths are loaded with Vitamin C and CoQ10. For an all-natural option try Accure Organics Argan Oil Wipes. But don’t over-think it: in a pinch, I recommend WaterWipes unscented baby wipes, available online. And for heaven’s sake, don’t forget to hit those pits before you reapply your deodorant.

After all that mopping and grooming, there’s only one choice for an all-around pick-me-up serum: Skin Serum #1: Ageless Beauty by Kensington Apothecary with Marine Algae Bioactives and Fig Fruit extracts in an Organic Rose Hydrosol and Aloe Vera base that maintains hydration, volume and tone for even the longest of flights. I drop mine into a cup of ice before applying. Zing!

Hollywood Smile

Just because you’re doing the Continent, doesn’t mean you have to smell like it. Why not go American-obsessive and carry a few tiny disposable toothbrushes for a beautiful smile and fresh breath? Hager Pharma Happy Morning Xylitol Pre-Pasted Toothbrushes are popular with business travelers. A good xylitol gum will also help. G-U-M’s Periobalance lozenges contain patented oral probiotic strains that fight bad breath and plaque while promoting overall gum health.

Cultural Cues

Take the time to immerse yourself in your host culture before you get there. Pack your iPad with some inspiring foreign flicks and an atmospheric playlist to get you in the mood. Jet-setter language tip: mentally practice the physical gestures of the people in the countries you plan to visit — half of getting by in a foreign language is mastering the nonverbal cues – the way people use their hands, their eyes, their shoulders and their lips to convey the deeper meaning behind their words.

The Wrap Up

The landing gear is down, you are rolling toward the gate. Packing up your kit, you should feel hydrated, refreshed and ready for anything that comes. But remember, if all else fails, you can always wrap a cheerful Pucci scarf around your hair, apply a fresh coat of lip gloss and sunscreen, pop a breath mint, and slip on your most Continental sunglasses. Darling, it’s official: you have landed!


*It has been pointed out to me that referencing Chairman Mao, a mass murderer many times over, may be in poor taste in a fluffy lifestyle piece such as this. However, if you’ve ever landed at Beijing Airport on a Chinese airliner, you would agree that the communal calisthenics everyone joins in before landing are positively Maoist.