Things You Should Never Do on an International Flight

Taking an international trip is exciting — whether for business or pleasure, you get the opportunity to explore somewhere new and experience a different culture on a daily basis. International flights, however, are anything but exciting. They’re long, uncomfortable, and the source of major jet lag.

To keep your international flights bearable, be sure to avoid the following mistakes.

1. Drinking alcohol or caffeine

A sad looking Coffee Cup

Coffee will increase jet lag. | iStock.com/A_crotty

Having an alcoholic beverage or a warm cup of coffee might seem like a great way to relax and feel comfortable on a long flight. However, both of these drinks can impair your ability to sleep (the best thing to do on an international flight). “Passing out after three gin-and-tonics on the plane does not actually provide meaningful rest,” reports CNN Money. “Booze also dehydrates you and wrecks your skin.” Though cozy and comforting, a strong cup of coffee will keep you up and can make you feel even more jet-lagged upon arrival.

2. Avoiding drinking water

Happy man seating in the aircraft and drinking water

Drink a glass for every hour you’re flying. | iStock.com/Halfpoint

Many people avoid drinking too much water on long flights for fear that they will have to keep getting up to go to the bathroom, disrupting their seat neighbors in the process. But not drinking enough water (especially on longer flights) can have some very negative effects, like severe dehydration and irritated skin. The Aerospace Medical Association says you should drink about eight ounces of water every hour you’re in the air. An article on CN Traveler suggests that getting up to go to the bathroom every so often is actually encouraged; it helps keep the blood flowing in your legs, preventing serious medical issues like blood clots and deep vein thrombosis.

3. Packing lightly

woman packing a luggage for a new journey

Double check your packing list. | iStock.com/Tatomm

There’s something to be said about overpacking; at least you’ll never feel unprepared. Packing lightly is a common goal when traveling, but it can often lead to forgotten items. Based on this 2012 Statista report, these are the things most often left behind: cell phone chargers, sunscreen, razors, toothbrushes, and sunglasses. Don’t get so caught up in packing lightly that you forget the essentials. If you’re going on an international flight, chances are you’re checking a bag anyway — so don’t be afraid to fill it up.

4. Putting your passport in your checked luggage

Boarding pass and a passport on a suitcase

Keep your passport within arms reach. | iStock.com/Olga Mendenhall

This happens more than you think. You have a million things to keep track of when going through an airport: Your ticket, license, cell phone, passport, and the list goes on. It can be tempting to try to keep everything together by putting it all in the luggage you’re going to check. Just be sure to not put anything in your luggage that you’re going to need at any point during the security check or the flight. It’s best to keep your passport on your person or in your carry-on items.

5. Forgetting to stretch

Young woman standing on an airplane

Don’t forget to get that blood pumping a bit. | iStock.com/ImageSource

International flights are notorious for leaving passengers feeling cramped, stiff, and just plain uncomfortable. On long flights, it’s not uncommon to see passengers bashfully doing half-hearted squats or holding onto their ankles one a time to get a nice hamstring stretch. Still, passengers definitely don’t stretch enough. This New York Times article offers tips for stretching throughout long lights, even offering some in-seat stretches that are less noticeable. “To improve circulation through your lower back on long flights, be sure to twist every so often. While in your seat, plant your feet on the floor and twist to the right (you can put your left hand on the outside of your right knee to deepen the twist),” writer Stephanie Rosenbloom suggests. “Always include your head and neck in the twist. Switch sides.”

6. Eating the airline food

child eating in the airplane

Bring some healthy snacks of your own. | iStock.com/Vsurkov

According to The Points Guy, airline food contains a ton of sodium and can exacerbate dehydration when flying. He suggests loading up on healthy food prior to the flight, which gets your eating out of the way early and lets you concentrate on trying to sleep. Additionally, “I also invest in a mega-size bottle of water, because it may be over an hour in the air before you get service from the flight crew. By that time, my sleeping pill is in full force and I’m getting quality Z’s,” he notes.

7. Putting device chargers in checked luggage

Charger plug phone on car

Keep it handy for when you need it most. | iStock.com/Casezy

Often, international flights include in-flight chargers to keep your phone, laptop, and other devices charged. However, it’s not a guarantee, and even if your flight does have charging stations, they might not work. If you’re bringing devices on your trip, it’s best to keep their chargers in your carry-on bag.

8. Failing to pack a toothbrush

toothbrush, toothpaste

Get fresh breath after hours in the air. | iStock.com

After a long flight, two of the best feelings in the world are taking a hot shower and brushing your teeth. You can do one of those things at the airport, so why wait until you get to your hotel? If your mouth is feeling particularly dry and gross mid-flight, you can even brush your teeth in the airplane bathroom. It can help keep you feeling fresh and clean on long, international flights.