When we flew back to Seattle a month ago from Costa Rica, Yeison and I had booked a quite interesting itinerary. As we were looking for the cheapest tickets, we found one on Momondo that was exceptionally cheaper than the rest but it included a couple long layovers. I figured, eh what the heck! It’s worth it.
- San Jose, Costa Rica to Panama City, Panama. 1.5 hour flight. Layover time: 4 hours
- Panama City to Los Angeles. 6 hr 44 minute flight. Layover time: 9.5 hours
- Los Angeles to Seattle. 2 hour 47 minute flight. HOME!
Total travel time: 24 hours.
To give you a better idea of the difference, it normally takes me about 9 – 10 hours to fly from Costa Rica to Seattle, with one layover in ideally Houston for a couple hours.
Unfortunately, the morning of our flight I woke up with terrible pain in my throat and a pounding in my head. “Babe” I croaked. “I think I’m sick.” And sick I was alright. Somewhere between our drive from Playas del Coco to San Jose, I had caught something and within the next 12 hours, the virus had set in and I was feeling like complete crap.
I’m happy to report that I made it back to Seattle in one piece but my goodness was it a tough 24 hours. I hope that you never have to use these tips but just in case what happened to me happens to you, here is my advice on how to survive a long flight when you’re sick.
Tips for Surviving a long flight when you’re sick
Fluids are your best friend
There’s nothing new about this tip but people don’t drink as much water as they should even when they’re healthy so don’t forget this one. Drink a TON of fluids the whole time you are traveling.
Channel your inner fish and gulp it all down.
The air on the plane is dry, cold and stifling and it was painful for me to breathe the entire time we were in the air.
I brought a water bottle with me on the plane but I also gulped as much orange juice as I could to soothe my sore throat and get my Vitamin C. I probably could have drank the whole plane dry if they let me!
Bring an empty water bottle with you (two if you can) and fill it up once you get past security. Stick mostly to water but citrus fruit juices are good too, just don’t drink too much since they have a lot of sugar.
When you’re waiting to board, buy a cup of hot tea with honey. Try to drink hot water on the plane too.
Tissues are your second best friend
Holy crap my nose was like a leaky faucet that day. I must have gone through at least 5 tissue packets on just one flight! I tried to keep my nose blowing to a minimum on the plane, going to the bathroom to do it whenever I could but sometimes… well sometimes the body fluids just can’t wait. I don’t think I could have survived without tissues, I would’ve needed to throw my sweater away at the end!
Don’t forget hand sanitizer
After I blow my nose, I always try to wash my hands with water and soap but sometimes it’s not accessible. The seat belt sign is turned on and you’re not allowed to leave so bring your hand sanitizer. Kill those germs!
If you can, buy these medicines
Most airport stores will have a pharmacy section where you can buy medicine in travel size. At the San Jose airport, I stocked up on cough drops, Panadol, Zepol and allergy (or decongestant) medicine. The cough drops help coat your throat immensely, Panadol is over the counter cold medicine for pain relief (like Tylenol), Zepol is like Vapor rub which feels really good if you rub some on your chest and allergy/decongestant medicine helps with congestion and stuffy/runny nose.
All are huge lifesavers.
It’d be smart to buy a first aid kid or travel medicine pack for your trip regardless. It’s always good to be prepared and sometimes the airport doesn’t sell all the medicines or you don’t have time to stop at a pharmacy before your flight.
Your body needs as much rest as possible and traveling is stressful enough without those bad viruses floating around inside you. Nap as much as you can on the plane so buy one of those neck pillows to get comfortable.
Before our flight, I rearranged my backpack to bring an extra sweater and my travel scarf for a blanket. Airplanes get super cold too so bundle up and stay warm. Yeison let me sit in the window seats so I bundled up and got comfortable with tissues in my pocket and a water bottle in the seat holder in front of me.
Prevent contact with others
When you’re on the plane and you need to use the bathroom, grab a tissue to open and close the door with. Also use a paper towel to close any faucets and try to minimize contact with other objects people touch as much as possible.
In an airplane, passengers are constantly passing germs back and forth between each other and you never know what could be hanging around. Prevent the possibility of contracting more germs as much as you can, you don’t want to get more sick! Don’t touch the seats when you’re walking back to the seat and wash your hands or use hand sanitizer.
For sore throats, gargling salt water is incredibly soothing. I gargled as many cups as I could without feeling sick from the salt but it helped my throat so much before we got to the airport. Unfortunately this is only temporary relief and it might be hard to get access to salt water but if you get a chance, do it.
And for the overnight layover?
Unfortunately for our LA overnight layover, there was nowhere for us to go except to wait on the check in floor which really sucked. There were no chairs anywhere, absolutely nowhere to sit! Luckily my dear Yeison created a makeshift bed for me on the floor by laying down some of his clothes and used the luggage to hide me from the public as I tried desperately to stop my runny nose and get some shut eye under my scarf. Thanks babe 🙂
What to do if you’re really sick
If you are walking around in a delirious state, shaking, have the chills, vomiting or have diarrhea, then flying might not be such a great idea. We push ourselves to get through the flights because we all know how tough it is to negotiate anything with an airline. They won’t give you a refund and instead happily charge you a fee to do the right thing instead of switching your flight.
If you are in a seriously unfit state, there are some things you can do with the airline to help your situation without paying hundreds of more dollars.
- If you call the airline, get to a manager. Skip the customer service agents that might not exactly understand what you’re saying and talk to someone higher up. You’re more likely to find one that has a bit of sympathy.
- Get a doctor’s note. I’ve heard some stories where airlines will refund a cancellation or change fee if you show them a doctor’s note.
- Stand your ground. If the airlines give you an ultimatum to either board or lose your ticket due to your sickness, stand your ground and defend yourself. Ask your other fellow passengers if they’d enjoy a flight with someone constantly wheezing and hocking up phlegm. Probably not. If they tell you it’s now or never, ask the airline to re-book you on a later flight and be firm about not being charged fees.
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