We’ve all been there: You take a long flight home on a crowded plane—perhaps an international flight—and a day or two later you aren’t feeling so well. Soon you’re spending your weekend under the covers with a full-on case of the flu. 

Getting sick while flying can unfortunately be an all too common occurrence. When you’re surrounded by hundreds of passengers on a commercial flight, it’s more than likely that at least one passenger is carrying a contagious illness like the flu. And given the enclosed nature of the cabin, you’re liable to pick it up yourself.

In fact, if you’re sitting immediately adjacent to a sick passenger, you’ve got an 80% chance of catching what they’re carrying. And the longer the flight, the higher your risk.

But you can’t simply postpone all flights out of fear of getting sick. You’ve got business meetings to get to, family vacations booked, and in-laws waiting for you to arrive for a long overdue visit (okay, maybe that flight can be postponed).

The good news is, there are things you can do to minimize your chance of getting sick on your next flight. From eating right and staying hydrated to traveling with a homemade “health kit”, here are 5 tips that can help keep you healthy and happy during (and after) your next trip.

Maintain a Healthy Lifestyle

When you maintain a healthy lifestyle, your immune system is likely to be stronger and more able to fend off the flu and other illnesses before they get the best of you. Follow these tips to keep your immune system in top performance:

Eat right

Your immune system relies on a steady supply of vitamins and minerals to stay in operation. That means you need to eat lots of veggies and fruit.

Stay hydrated

Dehydration weakens your immune system, so the more water you can drink while traveling, the better. At least 8 oz per hour of flight time is recommended.

Get plenty of sleep

Not getting enough sleep is one of the easiest ways to get sick. Sleep helps maintain your cortisol levels, which is an important factor in keeping your immune system strong. Shoot for at least 8 hours a night. But when traveling, the more the merrier.

Work out

Exercise helps strengthen your immune system. And even if you’ve already picked up a nasty virus, working out can speed up your recovery time. At the very least, try to walk around in the airport and on the plane itself on long flights. Do your best to stick to your regular exercise routine while traveling, too.

Step into the sun

Sunshine provides vitamin D, which is a great boon to your immune system. Slap on some sunscreen and get outside as much as possible!

Travel with a “Health Kit”

Arming yourself with some defensive tools is a good way to ward off the flu. Here are some items to include in your homemade travel health kit:

Wet wipes

Use these to clean off your tray table, arm rests, and other items in the plane before you touch them. These are also great to wipe your hands before touching your face, eyes, or mouth, which are common entry points for the flu virus.


Your immune system relies on getting the proper vitamins and minerals to stay strong. You can’t always eat healthy when traveling, which is where supplements can help. Vitamin C by way of Emergen-C packets and zinc lozenges are some must-haves.


Whether you need to blow your nose or sneeze, a simple tissue can help contain germs from spreading. Use them yourself and offer them to the sick neighbor sniffling next to you.

Pain medication

Aspirin or Tylenol is helpful if you start having some aches and pains while in-flight.

Keep Your Germs to Yourself

If you do everything you can to prevent spreading your germs while traveling, then it’s less likely that other people will get sick.

Some germ containment tips:

  • Cover your mouth when you sneeze or cough.
  • Wash your hands regularly, especially before and after touching doorknobs, faucet handles, and even the in-flight magazine.
  • Use a mouthwash to kill germs in your mouth and throat—this can help keep you from getting sick and prevent the spread of harmful bacteria.

Get Vaccinated

There’s no better guarantee against the flu than the flu shot. It takes a while to take effect, so try to get yours at least 2 weeks before traveling.

The flu shot is especially important for individuals with weaker immune systems. That means kids, people 65 and older, pregnant women, and people with chronic diseases.

Fly Private

The ultimate reason you get sick on a plane is because someone in the airport or on your flight is sick. You came onboard healthy and reached your destination with a new friend—the flu.

But what if there was no one else on board? This is one of the many perks of flying private. It’s just you and your friends and family on board.

And the perks go well beyond avoiding a cold. Flying private is faster (show up at your plane shortly before takeoff) less stressful (no security lines) more comfortable (enough leg room for Andre the Giant) and of course, private.

Finally, it’s just as safe as flying commercial.

Whether you’re sick of getting sick, or are looking for a more efficient and comfortable flying experience, it might be time for you to look at making the jump to private.

Read our blog on when it’s time to ditch first class for a private jet »