man sitting an an airport against glass panelled window with planes in the background

Flying With a Hangover: 5 Steps to Overcome

We’ve all been there: you wake up the morning of your flight home, and realize that you may have overdone it at that Full Moon Party/pub send-off/celebratory bar crawl last night. You’re tired, you’re nauseous, everything’s too bright… and you have to board a plane in the next few hours.

Whether you’re flying for less than an hour or buckling in for a long-haul flight, we know that sometimes your judgement while travelling isn’t quite as great as it may be at home, and sometimes you’ll be faced with the inevitability of flying with a hangover. We’re not here to judge, or to offer useless advice like well, why did you drink the night before a flight anyway? We’re here to help: with our five steps to survive flying with a hangover, you’ll be home in bed sleeping it off in no time. 

1. Have a good breakfast

While it might seem like the very last thing you need is a greasy breakfast, your body is screaming for some nutrition, and even if it doesn’t feel great in the moment, you’ll be grateful later! If you have time before your flight, check out some local hangover cures – they swear by ceviche in Peru, South Africans offer up ostrich egg omelettes, and you can’t leave the UK without a Full English breakfast!

If there’s no time for that, try to eat somewhere in the airport – most airports have long since ditched the grimy cafeterias for upscale dining options and chain favourites. If you absolutely must wait until you board the plane to eat, try to bring some of your own food with you – you never know what kind of food you’ll be offered on board, if any, and airplane food doesn’t exactly have a great reputation. 

the crowd at a concert
Enjoy everything your trip has to offer, but be prepared for the morning after! | © Danny Howe/Unsplash

2. Drink lots of water

If you can’t quite stomach a full breakfast yet, the first thing you should do is get some water in your system! Hangovers are often mostly the result of severe dehydration, so if you didn’t think to knock back a few glasses of water before bed the night before, put that high on your to-do list.

  • Many airports have refillable water stations so you don’t need to buy plastic bottles, and keeping hydrated is one of the only ways to guarantee a speedy recovery.
  • Water is always best, but if you need a bit of a pick-me-up and you can find a sports drink that advertises its electrolyte content, that’s also an option.

3. Wear noise-cancelling headphones

This is a great tip for any flight: noise-cancelling headphones are the perfect way to block out that crying baby four rows back, the couple arguing in the seat beside you, or that guy who doesn’t understand how to turn his iPad’s volume down.

When you’re hungover, though, what are usually small annoyances can make it feel like you’re head is going to explode! A good pair of noise-cancelling headphones will be your best friend when you’re flying with a hangover: most airports will sell them, though the mark-up is usually pretty steep, so if possible try to buy them outside of the airport. 

Another great benefit of flying with noise-cancelling headphones is the quiet often helps you sleep on the plane – with enough water and quiet sleep, you may even land feeling refreshed!

A woman wearing headphones sitting at an airport gate
Noise-cancelling headphones are a great way to decompress on a plane | © VanveenJF/UNsplash

4. Get an aisle seat

Between all that water you’re drinking, and the fact that you may not exactly be feeling the freshest, you don’t want to bother the people beside you every time you need to get up to stretch your legs, use the bathroom, or just change positions. It’s always a good idea to have a bit of an escape plan handy!

  • If you can grab an aisle seat right away, or if you were lucky enough to be randomly placed in one, kick back and enjoy.
  • If the people beside you seem reasonable, always feel free to ask if they’d be interested in switching places with you – if you look sick enough, you’ll find few people will argue!
A woman sleeping against the window of a plane
Try to get some sleep on the plane | © Ethan Sykes/Unsplash

5. If all else fails…

Look, we’re not here to be the voice of reason. If you’re still feeling terrible by the time you board your plane, there’s one tired and true strategy: you can’t be hungover if you’re still drinking! While on-board drinks are often ridiculously expensive, desperate times call for desperate measures. After all, you’re still technically on vacation until you set foot back in your home, and a hangover sounds like something tomorrow-you should have to worry about. 

No one wants to fly with a hangover, but we all know that sometimes – especially if you’re coming home from a destination known for its vibrant nightlife or party scene – you need to take a deep breath, get some electrolytes in your system, and board that plane. With a little care and preparation, flying with a hangover is completely doable, and you’ll make things much easier on yourself if you accept you aren’t feeling your best and go along for the ride.

What are your favourite hangover cures? 

Maggie is a life-long traveller who, after three years abroad, has returned home to Toronto, where she works as a Content Editor at TourRadar. When she's not reading, writing, or dreaming about her next trip, she can usually be found cooing over other people's dogs or hunting down Mexican food.

Vendor selling simit from a red push-cart in Istanbul, Turkey
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