When flying on a plane, it’s important to be mindful of what you consume from the drink cart. While it may be tempting to indulge in alcoholic beverages to calm your nerves or soda to get a caffeine boost, some drinks are better avoided while flying due to dehydration, impaired judgement and other factors. In this article, we will explore some of the most common drinks that are best not consumed when flying and why it’s recommended to avoid them. We’ll also provide healthier and safer alternatives to stay refreshed and hydrated during your flight.
Why you should limit alcohol intake on flights
Alcohol is commonly served on flights, but drinking too much can lead to dehydration, especially in the already dry cabin environment. Alcohol is a diuretic, meaning it makes you urinate more frequently leading to fluid loss. Dehydration causes headaches, fatigue and jet lag. Plus, drinking impaired judgement at 30,000 feet is dangerous if there is an emergency. Alcohol intensifies effects of medications like sleep aids or anti-anxiety pills. It’s safest to avoid it or drink only one serving.
Effects of alcohol at altitude
Pressurized cabins mimic an altitude of 8,000 feet. At higher altitudes, the body absorbs alcohol faster as oxygen levels are lower. Just one drink feels stronger at altitude, impairing coordination and judgement. Consuming multiple drinks multiplies these risks. Keep alcohol intake minimal or avoid it completely for health and safety when flying.
Why carbonated sodas aren’t ideal
Fizzy sodas like Coke or Sprite may quench your thirst temporarily, but can leave you feeling bloated or dehydrated. Carbonated drinks fill your stomach with air, which expands at altitude. This can cause uncomfortable bloating, gas or cramping. The phosphoric acid and caffeine in many sodas are diuretics leading to dehydration. If you must drink soda, go easy on serving size and avoid caffeine. Also avoid drinking through a straw which causes more air ingestion.
Healthier alternatives to soda
If you crave bubbles, try sparkling water with a dash of cranberry juice or squeeze of citrus for flavor. Coconut water contains electrolytes like potassium that rehydrate. If you need caffeine, try iced green tea for antioxidants without harsh soda ingredients. For kids, dilute small amounts of juice with seltzer or bring caffeine-free organic sodas. Avoid dark sodas which stain teeth. Overall, limit carbonation to avoid bloating discomfort in-flight.
Why coffee and tea need moderation
Caffeinated beverages like coffee and black tea are diuretics, meaning they stimulate urine production leading to dehydration. While a cup or two spaced out over a flight is fine, drinking caffeine continually can interfere with sleep if you hope to nap on board. The cabin air also dries out the body, so too much caffeine exacerbates dehydration. If you drink 3 or more caffeinated beverages, increase water intake and use the bathroom regularly on long flights. Avoid caffeine entirely at night to reduce jet lag.
Tips for drinking coffee/tea on planes
If you crave a warm drink, choose herbal caffeine-free teas. To enjoy coffee, go for one small cup with breakfast on a morning flight. Avoid ordering coffee right before sleep. Request decaf if drinking coffee later in the day or evening. Choose small sizes instead of mega cups. Avoid creamy additions like half-and-half which worsens dehydration. Drink plenty of water between caffeinated drinks to stay hydrated at altitude.
Dangers of drinking too much juice
Fruit juices like orange, apple, cranberry or grape seem healthy, but consuming too much can irritate bladders. Citrus and cranberry have acids that may increase your need to urinate. Sugary juices like apple, grape or cranberry spike blood sugar then energy crashes. This causes fatigue exacerbated at altitude. Juice is also filling without providing long-lasting hydration. Limit juice to 4 ounces diluted with water or seltzer. Avoid juice entirely before sleep which worsens nocturia.
Better alternatives than juice
If you want vitamin C, eat an orange slice or berries which provide fiber. For hydration, infuse water with fruits like lemon, lime, watermelon or strawberries. Coconut water contains electrolytes that rehydrate better than juice. Milk and herbal teas also hydrate without spiking blood sugar. If kids want juice, dilute it at least 1:1 with water or seltzer to minimize sugar and acids. Overall it’s best to avoid juice and opt for lower sugar drinks on planes.
Why milk isn’t the best airplane drink
Milk is often served alongside coffee and tea on flights. While nutritious, milk is not the best beverage choice at altitude. Lactose intolerant travelers may experience gas, cramping or diarrhea. Milk is filling but doesn’t hydrate well long-term. The proteins and fat in milk actually require more fluid to digest properly. Milk can also exacerbate mucus production in the dry cabin. Those prone to respiratory illness may feel phlegmy. Opt for lactose-free milk or avoid it altogether on planes.
Alternatives to milk
If you need something creamy, request almond milk or oat milk added to tea or coffee. They contain nutrients without the bloating, phlegm and hydration issues of dairy milk. For kids, pack shelf-stable vitamin D fortified milk boxes. They contain less lactose and protein than milk for easier digestion. Water, herbal tea and electrolyte drinks hydrate better than any type of milk in-flight. Overall it’s wise to limit milk intake when flying unless you’re lactose tolerant.
Drinks to avoid before sleeping on flights
Trying to sleep on the plane? Pay attention to beverages consumed close to bedtime. Alcohol, coffee, tea, soda and juice can all interfere with quality rest due to bathroom trips, jitters, sugar crashes and dehydration. Unfortunately late night drink offers coincide with peak sleep hours for red eye flights. Avoid any drinks with caffeine, alcohol or acids within 3 hours of planned sleep.
Better nighttime drink choices
When it’s time to rest, stick to water, herbal caffeine-free tea, or electrolyte blends to stay hydrated without disruption. Warm milk without caffeine or almond milk can induce drowsiness. Tart cherry juice contains melatonin that relaxes you. Limit total fluids to prevent nocturia. Bring your own caffeine-free herbal tea bags if the aircraft lacks them late night. Proper hydration is key, but time beverages wisely for peaceful sleep.
What to drink instead of alcohol on flights
Abstaining from alcohol when flying? You have many refreshing options besides boring water. Sparkling water with lemon, lime or bitters scratches the cocktail itch. Kombucha tea provides probiotics without alcohol or caffeine. Coconut water hydrates with electrolytes. Iced green, black or herbal teas bring antioxidants without diuretic effects. Lychee, ginger or fruit teas offer exotic non-alcoholic flavors. Virgin bloody mary’s and margaritas capture classic tastes alcohol-free.
Mocktail and cocktail alternatives
For kids or non-drinkers, mocktails mimic fun cocktails using creative mixers. Add juices like pineapple, cranberry, orange or pomegranate to sparkling waters. Spice it up with ginger beer, mint, fresh berries or basil. Opt for fancy drink glasses, swizzle sticks, tiny umbrellas – presentation goes a long way. Being at 30,000 feet in a metal tube is exciting enough without alcohol. Proper hydration is critical when flying, so make non-alcoholic drinks appealing.
What to drink instead of coffee/tea on flights
Prefer to avoid caffeinated coffee and tea inflight? You can still enjoy a warm satisfying beverage. Chamomile, peppermint, ginger and other herbal teas bring calming flavors without caffeine or diuretics. Roasted dandelion root tastes similar to coffee without the caffeine. Turmeric lattes provide an earthy golden milk flavor. For kids, make hot chocolate with warmed milk, cocoa powder, honey and cinnamon. Carry powdered coconut milk for a creamy dairy-free twist.
Ideas for caffeine-free hot drinks
For an energizing hot drink without caffeine, try mate – a South American herbal tea. Its antioxidant content boosts focus without jitters or insomnia. Alternatively, sip warming bone broths infused with anti-inflammatory spices like garlic, ginger and turmeric. Opt for electrolyte mixes you just add hot water to for mineral hydration. Decaf coffee scratches the itch when you crave a warm mug to wrap hands around. Don’t let caffeine addiction deprive you of cozy inflight beverages.
What to drink if prone to bloating/gas
Prone to bloating or gassiness when flying? Some beverages can exacerbate discomfort more than others. Avoid carbonated drinks like soda or seltzer which fill stomachs with air causing cramping at altitude. Skip cruciferous juices like orange, grapefruit, pineapple or cranberry which may irritate bladders. Limit caffeine and alcohol which can trigger gut issues. Stick to still, non-acidic, low-gas drinks.
Low gas/bloat beverage ideas
If you’re bloat-prone, stick to flat water – ideally with a pH over 7. Coconut water contains electrolytes without gases. Herbal teas like chamomile, ginger and fennel ease stomachs. Tart cherry or aloe vera juice reduce inflammation. For kids, flat milk, apple juice diluted with water and caffeine-free teas are gentle options. Avoid drinking through straws which ingest more air. Careful beverage choices prevent turbulence in your gut.
Best hydrating drinks without caffeine
Plain water is always go-to for hydration without additives. But if you crave flavor, many options hydrate better than caffeinated beverages. Coconut water has natural electrolytes – especially potassium. Milk and almond milk contain hydrating nutrients. Herbal teas like chamomile, mint and ginger refresh without dehydrating effects. Fruit-infused waters bring sweetness without sugar. For kids, diluted juices, smoothies and milk prevent dehydration. Stay hydrated on planes without caffeine’s diuretic downsides.
Creative ideas for hydrating beverage options
Take hydration up a notch with real fruit. Frozen grapes or raspberries cool you from inside out. Infuse a water bottle with berry, citrus and herb combinations for homemade spa water. For bubbles minus caffeine, make Italian soda mixing seltzer with a splash of juice. Smoothies with banana, berries, spinach and nut butter pack electrolytes and potassium. Homemade lemonades and fruit punch made with real juice hydrate kids. When flying, water gets boring fast – liven it up with creative hydrating options.
What to avoid drinking when taking medications
Some beverages can interact poorly with medications taken pre-flight. Alcohol intensifies effects of sleep aids, anxiety meds and pain pills – increasing sedation and impaired coordination. Caffeine interacts with some antidepressants and ADHD drugs potentially worsening side effects. Grapefruit juice contains compounds inhibiting drug metabolism. Certain drugs require plenty of water which caffeine and alcohol counteract. Talk to your pharmacist about in-flight beverage precautions with your specific prescriptions.
Safer drink options with medications
To avoid beverage-drug interactions, stick to water, diluted juices and caffeine-free teas when taking medications while flying. Limit alcohol to one drink accounting for amplified effects at altitude. If your prescription requires hydration, avoid all diuretics like coffee, tea and soda – just drink water. For reduced drug interactions, limit grapefruit juice. Read medication labels carefully and when in doubt, consult your doctor or pharmacist for in-flight beverage advice tailored to your prescriptions.
What to avoid drinking when pregnant on flights
When you’re expecting, take care with beverages consumed at altitude. Avoid alcohol which crosses the placenta to your baby. Caffeine also reaches the fetus, so limit coffee and tea intake. Juices high in sugar spike blood glucose, which can increase risks for large babies and gestational diabetes when weight gain is already accelerated in pregnancy. Drink water as your primary beverage to stay hydrated for your health and your baby’s.
Best pregnancy beverage choices when flying
Focus on hydration, electrolytes and vitamin-rich drinks ideal for pregnancy: Water with lemon, lime or cucumber; coconut water for potassium; milk or kefir for calcium; fruit/veg smoothies packed with nutrients; broth-based soups to prevent dehydration; herbal teas including rooibos, ginger and chamomile to soothe nausea. Avoid: alcohol, excessive caffeine, sugary sodas and juices. Flying while pregnant warrants extra care – stick to the healthiest beverage options.
What to avoid drinking when breastfeeding on flights
New moms who are breastfeeding should also use caution with inflight beverages. Alcohol passes into breast milk, possibly affecting your baby. Excess caffeine also reaches breast milk, causing irritability or poor sleep after feeding. Dehydrating drinks like coffee, tea and soda mean less milk production. Spicy, dairy-heavy or gas-inducing drinks may upset your baby’s stomach. Drink plenty of hydrating, low-acid options like water, herbal tea and juices.
Best inflight drinks while breastfeeding
Opt for water, ideally with electrolytes, to stay hydrated for ample milk supply. Herbal teas like fennel, ginger, lemongrass and chamomile aid lactation while keeping moms caffeinated. Low-acid juices like apple, pear, aloe and coconut water hydrate without gastric irritation. Avoid gassy veggies if baby gets stomach upset. Limit caffeine and alcohol which transfer to milk. With the right beverage choices, you can stay refreshed inflight and keep milk flow steady.
Takeaway tips for smarter drink choices when flying
– Limit alcohol to 1 drink or avoid completely to prevent dehydration, intoxication and medication interactions at altitude
– Reduce carbonated sodas which can cause uncomfortable bloating in-flight
– Enjoy coffee, tea, and juice in moderation since caffeine and citrus acids act as diuretics
– Milk is filling but not very hydrating long-term, opt for lower lactose choices
– Avoid caffeine, alcohol and acidic drinks near bedtime to maximize sleep
– Alternate alcoholic drinks with mocktails and electrolyte-rich options to stay refreshed
– Carry along herbal tea bags so you have caffeine-free options on-board
– If prone to gas or bloating opt for low-acid, non-carbonated beverages
– Water is best for pure hydration, but infuse it with fruits and herbs for more appealing options
– Check medication labels for beverage interactions and avoid accordingly
– Pregnant women should emphasize water and avoid alcohol, excessive caffeine and sugary drinks
– Breastfeeding moms need hydration and should limit alcohol, caffeine and anything that causes gassiness
By being mindful of what you sip from that drink cart, you can make choices that keep you properly hydrated, comfortable and healthy for the entire duration of your flight.