How to Get a Good Sleep on a Plane
Remember how well you slept on your last flight? How the hours in the air just melted away in a haze of happy dreams, and how you woke up refreshed and ready for your vacation?
Neither do we.
But we do have great advice on how to make your next flight the most restful ever. Our authority is Roy Raymann, PhD, the resident sleep expert at SleepScore Labs (sleepscore.com) and former “sleep czar” for Apple, where he helped developed NightShift and Bedtime. Here, Raymann’s easy steps to grabbing maximum shuteye at 30,000 feet.
1. BOOK A WINDOW SEAT
While the window is prized by travelers who want to watch takeoff and landing and spot landmarks like mountain ranges and lakes down below, Raymann says the window seat also has an advantage for those who want to sleep: Lean against the window, and enjoy the relative peace and quiet of not being disturbed by seatmates who have to visit the plane’s restroom.
2. GET COMFORTABLE
Raymann recommends that you wear comfortable clothing (including sleep socks), pack a neck pillow, use the airplane blanket (or pack your own). The more your airplane seat feels like a comfy home away from home, the greater the chance you’ll stay asleep and wake up refreshed.
3. SHUT OUT NOISE
Most of us need quiet to sleep properly. Raymann recommends that you use earplugs to dampen the noises of the plane’s engines, flight crew, and fellow passengers. Or employe noise-cancellation headphones and listen to something relaxing, such as nature sounds or gentle music.
4. EMBRACE DARKNESS
People sleep better in the dark. Pack a sleep mask to help you create your own personal darkness and to discourage you from opening your eyes.
5. EAT & DRINK IN MODERATION
While it’s not a good idea to try to sleep on an empty stomach, it’s also a mistake to eat large portions or fatty or spicy meals. Opt for light, healthy snacks, such as nuts. And while drinking wine, beer, or spirits may help you fall asleep, remember that it will likely make it more difficult for you to actually stay asleep.
6. RECLINE & STRETCH
Use what legroom you have to stretch your legs and recline your seat (remember to do so politely). Raymann recommends straightening your legs, bent slightly at the knees in order to fall asleep more easily, and leaning back tells your brain that you want to rest or sleep.
WHAT ARE YOUR FAVORITE WAYS TO GET A GOOD SLEEP ON A PLANE?
We want to know what sleep tips work for you. Post a comment, email us at info@BudgetTravel.com, or follow us on social media to join the conversation.
7 Eco-Travel Tips for Earth Day—and Every Day!
You already know that the best vacations aren't just about you, right? Seeing the world brings a new appreciation for that world, and a natural desire to leave it a better place. And it's never been easier to be good to yourself and the planet at the same time. Here, our top trip tips for an environmentally friendly—and totally brag-worthy—vacation. 1. PACK FOR THE PLANET Between disposable snacks, Ziplocs, water bottles, batteries for electronic gear, and wrapping paper for gifts, just one carry-on can contribute an awful lot of junk to airport trash bins. Multiply that by the nearly 2 million people who pass through security in the U.S. each day and you've got tons of garbage headed straight to landfills. Instead, opt for reusable options such as sandwich bags from ReUseIt.com, clear Tupperware containers for toiletries and souvenirs, re-chargeable batteries, and BPA-free plastic or metal water bottles. And in place of gift paper, wrap presents in light fabric that can be used (either by you or the giftee) again. 2. STAY AT AN ECOLODGE The notion of a resort that does no environmental harm—or even gives back to the Earth with sustainable practices—would have sounded a bit like science fiction a few decades ago. Now, stylish lodges across the globe offer luxury, adventure, and sustainability all at the same time, and many will set you back less than $200 per night. Some of the highlights of an eco-stay can include imaginative architecture that often relies solely on local materials, solar power, innovative water filtration systems, environmental education programs like guided tours and nature walks, employment of local residents and native peoples, and restaurants whose kitchens rely on locally sourced produce—often grown right on the lodge's grounds. 3. TAKE A VOLUNTEER VACATION There's no better way to say thank-you to America's phenomenal parks and trails than by volunteering your time to build or repair a trail. Right now, there are ample opportunities to volunteer to help Puerto Rico recover from the devastating hurricanes last fall. And right here in the lower 48, the American Hiking Society offers weeklong stints that can include backpacking or day hikes with a group of up to 15 volunteers and a group leader. Lodgings are simple: cabins, bunkhouses, or just campsites. The work? Trail maintenance and construction, bridge and shelter renovation, and native species reestablishment in national parks and forests, state parks, wildlife preserves, and other unique environments across the U.S. 4. GET TO KNOW THE LOCALS It doesn't matter whether you're in the heart of the Amazon or on a crowded boulevard in Paris—reaching out to the people who actually live year-round in your travel destination is the easiest and most reliable way to deepen your experience. It can be as simple as asking locals to recommend a public park or a favorite hike. Over the years, Budget Travel has highlighted readers' True Stories, often demonstrating how a smile, nod of the head, or a politely asked question can turn a tourist into an honorary local, privy to sights, tastes, and feelings unavailable to those who simply pass through. 5. SEE THE U.S. We're not suggesting you pass up the opportunity to see every corner of the world—we're all about stretching and crossing boundaries—but the simple fact is you'll be responsible for fewer carbon emissions (and save more than a few bucks) if you explore closer to home. And you don't have to go coast-to-coast to savor homegrown delights. This weekend, visit the nearest state park, historical society, or winery. Next time you've got a few days on your hands, we've got budget destinations across America you'll love. 6. SHOP AT A FARMERS MARKET Here in the U.S., we tend to think of farmers markets as a groundbreaking component of the local food movement—and no doubt the explosion of markets in recent years has helped bring home cooks back in touch with the folks who actually grow their food. But, of course, green markets have been a staple of civilization for centuries and can be found just about anywhere in the world you might be visiting. Dive in to local markets, try fresh fruits and vegetables you've never eaten before, ask farmers and locals for recipes, and if you have access to a kitchen, bring home a bagful of homegrown produce, fresh flowers, and the satisfaction of having contributed to the livelihood of a farmer. 7. WALK, RIDE A BIKE, OR TAKE A TRAIN Being on vacation shouldn't be an excuse to put more car and bus fumes into the air. No matter where you're staying, opt for walking tours over buses, rent bikes, and get to know the public transportation system.
How to Survive an Air Disaster
In the wake of the uncontained engine failure on Southwest’s flight 1380 earlier this week, we feel a responsibility to remind our audience, in no uncertain terms, that you already know the best way to ensure your safety on a plane: It is vital that you learn how a plane’s oxygen masks work, listen and watch the crew’s safety demonstration, and understand the layout of the plane every time you fly. Southwest flight 1380 experienced engine failure that appears to have caused pieces of the engine to pierce the exterior of the plane, killing one passenger and injuring others and triggering a decompression that required the flight crew to rapidly descend to an altitude where oxygen was adequate. Of course we hope you’ll never face a situation anywhere near as harrowing as the one that passengers on that flight endured, and Patrick Smith, a Delta pilot and author of Ask the Pilot (askthepilot.com) reminds readers that prior to the tragic events on flight 1380 week, U.S. air carriers had not had a fatality since 2005. Here, the essential, common-sense steps every flier must take to survive and thrive at 30,000 feet: PAY ATTENTION TO THE SAFETY DEMONSTRATION You think you’ve seen and heard it all before - and the flight crew may even joke a bit about how difficult it is to hold your attention as they demonstrate how to buckle and unbuckle a seatbelt - but the fact is most passengers zone out and miss vital information about the plane’s exits, proper use of oxygen masks, and the importance of wearing seatbelts even when not absolutely required. LEARN HOW TO USE AN OXYGEN MASK There’s evidence that most passengers don’t know how to deploy oxygen masks properly, meaning that in a serious emergency, on top of the anxiety of cabin depressurization and the plane descending tens of thousands of feet in a matter of seconds, unprepared passengers find themselves gasping for air. Surprised? Well, do you know how to use a plane’s oxygen mask? The simple solution? Watch the safety demonstration to see how the oxygen mask should cover your face. WEAR YOUR SEATBELT (EVEN WHEN YOU DON’T HAVE TO) Sure, seatbelts on a plane sometimes seem like an unnecessary pain. You know what else is an unnecessary pain? Getting tossed around by major turbulence or an emergency descent. Wearing your seatbelt even when its not required, especially if you plan to fall asleep for the flight, is always a good idea. KNOW WHERE THE EXITS ARE LOCATED This is simply a matter of listening to the safety demonstration and watching when the crew directs your attention to the exits. Memorizing the exits when you’re relaxed and settling in for your flight is a lot easier than scrambling to figure out where they are during an emergency. UNDERSTAND THAT DECOMPRESSION IS RARE AND EASILY MANAGED Movies and TV, urban myth, and frantic social media posts have taught us all to believe the cabin decompression is a disaster on an epic scale. Not so, says Smith in his recent post on Ask the Pilot. “Essentially, the pilots don their oxygen masks and initiate a rapid descent to a safer altitude (normally ten-thousand feet). Passengers, meanwhile, have ample supplemental oxygen if need be. An emergency descent might feel very abrupt, but it will be well within the capabilities of the airplane,” Smith notes. DON’T LET MEDIA COVERAGE AND ‘PASSENGER ACCOUNTS’ FREAK YOU OUT Smith also points out that, in the wake of air emergencies, first-hand accounts from passengers via social media and the news media can sometimes be less than reliable. “Claims that the jet was in ‘free fall,’ was ‘diving toward the ground,’ or was in any way out of control are simply untrue,” he reminds readers.
Why You Should Drink Tomato Juice When You Fly
The Twitter backlash against United Airlines earlier this month quickly escalated to fever pitch, and it had nothing to do with aggressive passengers or legroom or malfunctioning seatback screens. After the airline announced a plan to scrap tomato juice from its drink repertoire, it nearly caused mutiny—people threatened to ban the carrier, some posted humorous memes, and some contemplated why they were obsessed with the salty red beverage when they fly. If you’re among the significant proportion of passengers who find themselves overcome with a hankering for a disposable cup filled with room-temperature crimson canned tomato juice, you understand the outrage at the thought of it suffering the same fate as SkyMall, which went to the great shopping catalog graveyard in the sky in 2015. The digital uprising caused a quick reversal, and United tweeted “You say tomato. We say, we hear you. Tomato juice is here to stay. #letscallthewholethingoff” on May 10. TOMATO JUICE: BETTER THAN BEER? But the viral hullabaloo wasn’t just a game by a few bored trolls. Science is involved. Tomato juice, while rarely ordered at sea level, is an appealing choice at 30,000 feet because of the effect that altitude has on our tastebuds. Perhaps the most solid research came from a 2010 study by the Fraunhofer Society, a German research institute that was hired by Lufthansa when the German airline realized they were going through 53,000 gallons of tomato juice in a year. Compare that to 59,000 gallons of beer. The thought of tomato juice giving beer that kind of competition seems ludicrous, so it’s easy to understand why executives were confounded. FLYING AFFECTS YOUR SENSE OF TASTE Fraunhofer's experiments involved replicating cabin conditions, including the 10 to 15 percent humidity level that’s standard on airplanes. Those levels dry out your nose and mouth, diminishing your sense of taste. Add to that the low pressure, which decreases oxygen levels in your blood, thus dulling odor and taste receptors, and the appeal of a strongly flavored beverage like tomato juice starts to make more sense. "We learned that tomato juice being on ground level is rather... I'm not saying moldy, but it tastes earthy, it tastes not overly fresh," Lufthansa catering executive Ernst Derenthal told NBC New York when the findings were released. "However, as soon as you have it at 30,000 feet, tomato juice shows, let's say, its better side. It shows more acidity, it has some mineralic taste with it, and it's very refreshing." There’s actually another factor: sound. A 2015 study by Cornell University points out that we hear 85 decibels while soaring through the sky in a metal tube at 575 miles per hour. According to a release, Robin Dando, assistant professor of food science at the university, said the study confirmed that taste is compromised when exposed to extremely high noise levels, but only specific tastes. Sweet receptors are deadened, but sense of umami, the Japanese term for that elusive balance of sweet and salty flavor, is enhanced. Tomato juice is strong in umami. EVERYBODY'S DOING IT But wait—there’s more! There’s one more factor at play here: the power of suggestion. Picture it: you’re out to dinner with friends and you’re debating on what entree to order. Your friend tells the waiter he’ll have the sea bass. Suddenly, your decision is made. So next time you’re flying and the guy next to you orders tomato juice and the flight attendant cracks open a can and you start to salivate, go on and ask for one too. And if you want to add vodka to transform that sad little can of tomato juice into an iconic mile-high Bloody Mary, we won't tell.
BT on the Weather Channel: Hurricane Season Travel Tips
Hurricane season officially arrives in June, and sticks around like an unwanted house guest till November. To minimize the impact of storms in your vacation, especially to the Caribbean and southern coastal regions, Budget Travel Editor in Chief Robert Firpo-Cappiello shares common sense safety tips on the Weather Channel’s morning show, AMHQ, on Saturday June 2 at 7:40 and 9:40 Eastern. Here's what you need to know before you go: DOUBLE CHECK YOUR RESERVATIONS First, double-check the cancellation and refund policies of the airlines, hotels and car rental companies you are booking for your trip. UNDERSTAND TRAVEL INSURANCE Make sure your travel insurance policy covers delayed flights and weather-related trip disruptions and cancellations. BE PROACTIVE If the hurricane happens before your trip, you'll want to make sure that your travel insurance plan includes trip cancellation for hurricanes and natural disasters and that it will refund you any pre-paid non-refundable trip expenses if you have to cancel before your scheduled departure due to a hurricane. READ THE FINE PRINT Read the fine print. The policy has to be purchased pre-hurricane in order to cover for the hurricane. CONSIDER ‘CANCEL FOR ANY REASON’ OPTIONS You can purchase “cancel-for-any-reason” insurance, which lets you decide whether you want to risk travel when a storm is being predicted. PACK FOR SAFETY AND COMFORT If you do head off to the Caribbean in the midst of a hurricane warning, pack an emergency kit: cash, a radio and batteries, a flashlight and batteries, non-perishable food and water for three days, rain gear, bug repellant, sunscreen, and any prescription meds you need. (Yes, this will all take up space in your luggage, but you’ll appreciate it if/when the time comes that you need it.) WATCH THE WEATHER CHANNEL And, of course, always keep your eye on the experts at The Weather Channel (weather.com) for up-to-the-minute forecasts and breaking news.