5 Cheap and Healthy Airport Tips
Airline travel, you either hate it, or hate it. I don’t know of anyone that really loves it. Shuffling through security where they scrutinize everything from your toothbrush to your shoe choice. Starving and forced to pay exorbitant prices for meager meals of deli meat with plastic cheese. Everyone seems pissed off except the one woman with “Newlyweds” emblazoned across her t-shirt, and the guy trying not to be seen in his matching shirt. With all the shitty parts, we felt it would be beneficial to cover 5 healthy airport tips that are cheap and easy to make airports and flying suck less for your body. After all, airports are a necessary evil if you want to travel the world for cheap!
Airports are a mecca of bad decisions. However, they’re usually a necessary evil for the type of traveling that we enjoy. They don’t have to be all terrible though. With some foresight, and a little motivation, you can easily lower the affect that traveling will have on your body. A few ways you can make the airport healthy is through food, stretching, hydrating, walking, and avoiding stress.
Healthy airport tips #1: airport food is shit. And airline food is even shittier. The prices are astronomical, the options are limited, and the overall quality is more disappointing than you are to your parents. The good news is that you can easily disrupt this pattern by packing food with you. Bringing food can literally have the exact opposite effect. It’s much cheaper, healthier, and the options are endless. Emily and I usually bring a couple pieces of fruit, trail mix, protein bars, and occasionally something a little heavier like a sandwich or other food from home. The great news about this is that, obviously, you get to pick the foods. Have any allergies? You’re set. Want to eat paleo? It’s so easy, a caveman could do it.
From the Airport
If you aren’t interested in bringing food from home, you can try to lower the risk of shitty food by being mindful of what you’re ordering. This option may seem more convenient, but that convenience typically comes with a price. Airports usually have very limited options, and those options consist of fast-food or fast-casual places. The higher quality places are the price of a used car, and more often than not are all fluff. However, if you can find a little shop that sells protein bars, fruit, nuts, and trail mix, you’ll have a fulfilling and healthy snack that can hopefully hold you over to your in-flight meal, or your destination. These snacks will be expensive, but likely cheaper than a shitty meal at a restaurant.
From the Lounge
Another option is to get a credit card that grants you free access to a priority lounge. We suggest the Chase Sapphire Reserve, which gets you access to Priority Pass’s 1200+ lounges and restaurants in over 500 airports. Sure, the card itself has a $450 annual fee. However, they offset that cost with a $300 travel credit, access to the lounges, free TSA Pre√ or Global Entry, and 50k points (after spending $4k in 3 months) that are worth 50% more when you book travel through Chase. The lounges always have a solid spread that has fresh cooked food, fruit, salads, trail mix, juices, and many serve free alcohol. You also get access to 30 restaurants in a number of major airports in the US. In this situation, the Priority Pass membership gets each person (three people: card holder and two guests) $28 worth of food for free. However, the restaurant access with Priority Pass is no longer available with Amex card holders. So your best bet is the Chase Sapphire Reserve or the Citi Prestige (Citi card costs $45 more per year, and comes with $50 less travel credit, so not as good as the Chase in our opinion).
Healthy airport tips #2: airports are horrible for the human body. First, you sit in traffic to get to the airport. Next you rush through security only to get to the terminal and sit. You get up from the terminal to get on the plane and continue your marathon of sitting for potentially hours. Heaven forbid your flight gets delayed. That’s just added time of your body getting tight and sore from sitting on your ass.
Sitting, particularly with a back rest, causes your core muscles to essentially shut down because they no longer have to support your upper body. Your hips also become tight from the flexed position that your legs stay in. Working on a laptop while you sit? There’s a good chance that you’re sitting with poor posture. Hunched shoulders and a rounded upper back are only going to become worse, and increasingly more painful and weak. Mindlessly scrolling on your phone instead? Tight upper shoulders and text neck are common symptoms of ‘text neck’.
The good news is that you can combat all these things by performing a few simple and easy stretches. The hip flexor stretch, seated figure 4 stretch, lying lumbar activation, and upper back chair stretch are all very effective and easy to do in an airport without too many people thinking you’re bat-shit crazy. Although, you shouldn’t care what people think since you’re the one taking care of yourself.
It is important to mention that you shouldn’t feel any pain while doing this. It might not be comfortable, but if you are pushing into pain, you’re doing too much and it won’t be as effective. With that out of the way, here are the stretches.
Hip Flexor Stretch
This is an easy stretch that is essentially a static lunge. It will help loosen your hips before and after all the sitting you’ll be doing on this trip. You take a knee, tighten your core, and squeeze your ass which should cause you to feel a stretch in your hip on the side with the knee down. Tip: think about dragging your knee across the floor forward while you are doing this stretch, it helps take it to the next level. Another progression of this is to have your foot elevated. You will feel it much more, but it isn’t for the faint of heart.
Seated Figure 4 Stretch
An even easier stretch that is really simple to do, and shouldn’t draw much attention to you at all. This stretch also focuses on the hips, but it throws in the glutes and even low back. Which you will definitely appreciate with all the sitting in uncomfortable chairs. While sitting, take one ankle, and set it on the opposite knee. From there, there are two directions you can go: 1. Lightly push on the knee of the leg that you have the ankle up; 2. Pull on the knee of the side with the ankle up. One stretches your piriformis, while two stretches your glutes.
Lying Lumbar Activation
This one is going to garner the most looks out of the bunch. Also, you’ll need to be willing to lay in the floor. After a few nights spent in the airport, this is no longer a concern of ours. With this stretch, you can help activate your core and lower back to alleviate pain and tightness. Anyway, you’ll want to lay on your back with your legs in a chair at 90 degrees. When lying like this, you’ll likely have a small space at your lower back that isn’t touching the floor. The goal here is to make that space disappear.
Roll your hips forward and press your back into the floor. Dig your heels into the chair and activate your hamstrings. Take 10 slow, deep breaths. Expanding your ribs as much as you can when breathing in, and thinking about touching your belly button to your spine when breathing out. Tip: imagine someone is trying to slide a piece of paper under your ass, they should be able to get a single sheet under there, but nothing more.
Upper Back Chair Stretch
I lied earlier. This stretch will likely be the most inconspicuous. It’s incredibly easy, but effective at stretching your upper back, and your chest at the same time. While sitting in a chair, put your hands behind your head with your elbows out, and lean back. It’s as easy as that. Breathe deeply, and think about touching your elbows together in the back, while also trying to make your spine as long as you can.
With these four simple stretches, you should be able to mitigate the shitty way your body feels after a day of travel. You might still be tired, but hopefully your body won’t be as tight. Again, don’t worry about what people think of you while you’re stretching. Know that you are being healthy in the airport, and that is enough to fortify your mind from the judgement of mere mortals. A lion doesn’t concern itself with the opinions of sheep. You’re the lion in this case, so own that shit.
Healthy airport tips #3: walking at the airport is going to have numerous health benefits. First, your body won’t be as tight and sore. Second, you’ll be getting exercise which will improve your heart health, lung capacity, blood pressure, strengthens your bones, and more. Third, you won’t have enough time for someone at your gate to piss you off because you are strolling the entire terminal, so it’ll improve your mood and lower stress. Fourth, it’s free, and can help you resist spending money out of boredom. Fifth, it’s hard to walk in a busy airport, and focus on your phone. This means it’ll help you avoid mindlessly scrolling on social media. Seventh, you get to see more of the airport. This may sound as appealing as having your teeth pulled, but a number of airports are starting to have exhibits, artwork, interactive displays, and more. Just don’t fall into the trap of shopping. The airport has replaced the American Mall. Finally, walking helps kill time waiting for your flight which is the whole goal anyway.
Healthy airport tips #4 is: despite all the temptation, getting drunk isn’t a good idea. Drink plenty of water. More than you think is necessary. TSA makes it a real bitch to get water through their checkpoint, but we bring our own reusable water bottles anyway. Just make sure they’re empty when you go through the Azkaban-esque security area. The Dementors running the place are looking for any reason to suck any happiness out of us muggles.
Many airports now have the water re-filling stations which we like more than trying to maneuver our bottles under the tiny dribble that is flowing from the water fountain. This will save you from having to over pay for a shot glass worth of water.
There is literally a whole book on the health benefits of hydration so we won’t get into it too much here (although it is a great book!). Just know that the airlines are not offering nearly enough water on the flights. Also, most people are drinking coffee, tea, or alcohol on the flights which are all diuretics which flushes water out of your body and can cause dehydration faster. Dehydration also makes jet-lag worse. Drinking plenty of water isn’t a cure, but it is usually prescribed to alleviate or avoid the effects of jet-lag.
Healthy airport tips #5: try to chill the fuck out. Stress causes a laundry list of negative health effects, but we are going to highlight a couple. Stress increases cortisol levels, which can cause you to gain more weight. Corticosteroid levels increase with stress, which lower your immune system. Stress increases heart rate and blood pressure leading to cardiovascular issues and even heart attacks. And worst of all, it decreases hormone production, leading to reduced infertility and sex drive.
There is good news, though. With our healthy airport tips, we can help you avoid many small stressors. Food is now taken care of, so no need to worry about that. Stretching, and walking releases dopamine in the brain, which make you happier and less susceptible to stress. Staying hydrated can reduce cortisol levels which can help your body regulate and avoid stress. A couple more tips to avoid stress are: only pack a carry on, and arrive early.
Only bringing a carry-on helps you reduce worry and stress about your bags making it to your final destination. Because the bag is with you, you can ensure that you’ll have everything you need. Also, packing a carry on will save you a ton of time because you won’t need to get to the airport as early to check a bag, you can just go straight to security, and when you land you can go straight to the exit without worrying about the baggage carousel. For more info on how to survive with only a carry on, check out this article from Emily!
Arriving early gives you an opportunity to hit up the lounges, stretch, and walk around the airport without worrying about missing your boarding. And because you haven’t checked a bag and need to worry about the lines at the counter, ‘early’ is getting later and later.
Dealing with airports is a small price to pay for the opportunity to travel to exotic locations and make tons of memories. However, they are designed to coerce you into over spending, over eating, under exercising, and over stressing. Using our healthy airport tips will tilt the scales in the right direction and give you the power to start your trip on the right foot healthily and cheaply.