How I Stopped Getting Colds when Traveling Internationally

Over the last couple years I’ve assembled a set of tricks that have turned what used to be an exhausting, and literally sickening, experience of international flying…into a (mostly) enjoyable one.

Here are my top 7 internationally traveling tips:

1. Don’t Catch a Cold

I used to get sick after 50% of flights I took. It got so bad I started wiping down every surface around me (seat belt, tray table, arm rests, nearby children, bathroom door knobs, etc.) w/ anti-bacterial wipes, while marinating my hands in sanitizer.

Unfortunately, that didn’t work.

What has worked though, is a simple nasal spray.

Low-cost saline solution, sniffed at the beginning of your flight, and whenever your nose starts to feel dry-thereafter (every 2–4 hours for me), combats the dry air on the plane by keeping your nasal passage moist.

Turns out, the best defense against germs isn’t to try to eliminate them all together, it’s to make sure your perimeter defenses are properly functioning. In this case, that means making sure your nose is moist enough to be able to trap the germs that are circulating throughout the plane’s air.

If you tend to catch colds after flying, grab some nasal spray at Target/Walgreens/etc. It’s been a $1.50 miracle for me.

2. Always Carry an Extra Battery

When you’re traveling ‘round the world, you’re never sure the next time you’ll see an available (and operational) outlet.

Carrying an extra battery will not only keep the tunes, movies, games, flowing throughout the entire journey, it’ll relieve the anxiety that creeps in when you’re at 3% and need an Uber from the airport.

3. Shove Stuff in your Shoes

I feel like this one might be obvious, but just incase its not, use the empty space in any shoes you’ve packed to cram socks, underwear, etc.

Flying internationally with checked bags always increases the risk of missed connections, not to mention the hassle of waiting for your bags when you arrive at customs, so try to pack all your stuff in a carry-on.

4. Pack a Guilty Pleasure

What’s worse than sharing arm-rests with strangers, without leg room to stretch out, surrounded by all sorts of noises you can’t control?

Experiencing all of the above while you’re hangry.

Pack plenty of your favorite snacks, and at least one that you normally feel too guilty to eat when your feet are planet on firm ground. You’ll be surprised how eager you are to get on the plane, when you know you get to treat yourself as soon as you fasten your seat belt.

TJ’s Peanut Butter Pretzels: my guilty pleasure

5. Take a Shower During your Layover

If you upgrade to business class on at least one of your flights, you’ll usually get access to that airline’s club/lounge if you fly through one of their hubs.

Inside the many lounges you’ll find not only free snacks, drinks, and wifi, you’ll often find free showers.

You’ll be amazed how rejuvenating it is to grab a quick, private, shower during your layover. Check out the video above to see what one looks like.

Oh, often times you can get a day-pass to a lounge for $40 — $60. If the lounge has a shower, it’s a no-brainer for me.

6. Bose Noise Cancelling Ear Buds

They’re pricey ($249) but few things will make the actual flight more relaxing than being able to forget you’re surrounded by hundreds of strangers and jet engines.

Heads up: Amazon will kick me back a couple bucks if you use the link above.

No joke, I can binge on a season of Narcos and forget I’m even on an airplane for hours on end.

Fwiw, I tried less expensive noise canceling ear buds and they were useless. These ones, are not.

7. US Global Entry

For folks in the US traveling internationally, Global Entry is a fantastic program that makes going through customs in the US a breeze:

  1. Get off the airplane
  2. Get your finger prints scanned and photo taken at a kiosk
  3. (Skip all lines)
  4. Hand the printed receipt to the customs agent
  5. Go home!

All Global Entry participants also get TSA Pre-Check for free, which I’m leaving off this list because it’s so helpful that I assume you already have it.

If you live in the US and don’t have TSA Pre-Check, stop what you’re doing and get it right now.

If you travel internationally and aren’t a fan of the customs lines and interviews when you return home, check out the Global Entry program.

8. Motion Sickness Remedy (cure?)

No matter how much Dramamine I take:

  • I can’t go snorkeling in the open ocean
  • I can’t be the passenger in a car for more than 30 minutes
  • I can’t look at a sailboat

…any of the above will result in motion sickness.

So when I read a rave review of the Reliefband from someone whose motion sickness was even more sensitive than mine, I thought I’d give it a shot.

Heads up: Amazon will kick me back a couple bucks if you use the link above.

I don’t get motion sick that often because I do my best to avoid situations that cause it, but during turbulent landings, or on most prop-plane flights, I’ll get a case of it.

On this most recent trip to Brazil, I had a 2-hour car ride waiting for me after wrapping up a 24-hour day of flying, so I wanted to use this as a test case for the Reliefband.

So far, so good! During my 2-hour drive here (I’m writing this from Lajeado, Brazil), I had problems what-so-ever — but was that due to the Reliefband, the placebo effect, or just because it was dark outside, it’s hard to tell.

That said, I took a 10 minute bus ride without the band yesterday, and a few minutes in, I started to feel the rumblings of motion sickness — so I think it’s had an effect.

I can’t guarantee it’s a cure for motion sickness, but it doing a pretty good job so far.

Note: there’s a newer model available than the one I link to but the reviews of it aren’t as glowing as the previous one.

What am I Missing?

Any tricks you use to make long-haul flying more enjoyable? I’d love to hear them!