Air Travel Tips for Adrenal Fatigue

By: Michael Lam, MD, MPH

Air travel tips for the unique challenges faced by AFS sufferersMost of us take air travel for granted. Those with Adrenal Fatigue Syndrome (AFS) often find this a grueling and dreaded experience. The weaker the adrenals, the higher chance that air travel can trigger an adrenal crash. The following air travel tips serve to prepare you and ensure you arrive in the best shape possible.

Air Travel Tips: Before You Go

  1. Always travel with a designated travel companion. As your travel partner, their duty is to take care of your every need during the trip.
  2. Make sure your carry-on has wheels for ease of movement. Do not get a backpack for a carry-on. All carry-on baggage should be light. Any excess weight should be in your checked baggage.
  3. Travel during the time when you are the freshest.
  4. Arrive at the airport well ahead of schedule so there will be no stress.
  5. Have your travel companion drop you off at the terminal while the car is parked or returned.
    Try to avoid red eye flights. Your circadian cycle may be altered.
  6. Avoid layover flights as much as possible. If you have to stop, it is best to try to layover for 48 to 72 hours allowing the body time to adjust.
  7. Make sure to bring a neck or regular pillow, as well as lumbar support for the plane ride.
    Print out the boarding pass ahead of time with the seat assignment on it.
  8. Pre-pack the vast majority of your belongings and essentials into your bags a few days prior to your departure date. Do this at a leisurely pace. Remember to pack a variety of pre-packaged snacks in your carry-on baggage.
  9. If there is a weight limit imposed by the airline, weigh your baggage prior to your departure to the airport to avoid last minute surprises.
  10. Many international airports provide short-term beds and showers at reasonable prices within the terminal. Take advantage of these.
  11. Confirm your seat assignment if possible to avoid being “bumped.”
  12. Make sure your travel documents are in place and that you have copies stored in your carry-on baggage.
  13. Take an additional recommended booster dose of your supplement prior to departure.
  14. No strenuous exercise on the day before and day of departure, this is to conserve your energy.
  15. Bring along pillow, blanket and lumbar support as needed to increase comfort during the trip.

Air Travel Tips: At Check-in Counter

Avoiding standing too long and finding a place to sit down in the terminal and rest are air travel tips

  1. Once you are inside the departure terminal, find a place to sit down. Do not stand in line unless there is no choice. Use your luggage as a seat if needed. Wait for your travel companion to meet you.
  2. Luggage is best checked-in at curbside. If that is not possible, ask for help from the porter to the check-in counter. Do not lift any heavy baggage by yourself.
  3. Ask your travel companion to check-in for you while you rest by sitting on a nearby chair or on the luggage. Try to stand as little as possible.
  4. Ask for an aisle seat for convenient access to bathrooms.
  5. Ask for the seating towards the front of the plane or close to the bathroom to avoid excessive walking back and forth.
  6. Ask for the “meet and assist” wheelchair/golf cart service (this is usually provided free of charge) from the check-in counter to the gate, especially if the walk to and from the gate is long.
  7. Make sure you have an empty water bottle with you to bring past the security checkpoint, unopened snacks, and extra supplements accessible at any time.
  8. Have your music devices, books, and/or noise cancellation headphones readily accessible.

Air Travel Tips: From Security Check Point to Gate

This is often the most chaotic place in the airport. The brain is bombarded by the noise, x-ray emission, and the many instructions you have to follow to pass through the security gate; including taking off your shoes, belts, hats, etc. The process is extremely energy draining. Use the these air travel tips to reduce the amount of energy spent.
Avoid running and exerting yourself as little as possible are important air travel tips

  1. Sit down on your carry-on baggage, if possible, for rest if you have to stand in line, or lean against your companion as needed. Do not force yourself to stand for a long period of time as this can drain your body.
  2. Sit down if you are tired after you pass the security screening. Do the Adrenal Breathing Exercises. Ask your travel companion to get your water bottle filled immediately. As a precautionary measure, drink some water and eat a snack, even if you may not feel like you need it.
  3. Take your time and rest for a few minutes as needed prior to continuing to the gate. If needed, proceed to the bathroom where you can sit down and do the Adrenal Breathing Exercise.
  4. Ask your companion to guide you to the gate. Do not get up to look for the gate number unless you are traveling alone.
  5. Do not stop to window shop along the way.
  6. Walk slowly to the gate. Do not run. Always use any electric conveyer to help get to the gate rather than walk. If you have to take a terminal train, always sit down immediately once inside. If you have to take a terminal bus, always ask your companion or the driver to help you with bags, do not haul it up and down the bus yourself. Once inside, always sit down and do not stand.

Air Travel Tips: At the Gate

Finding ways to stay relaxed and comfortable like listening to your own music are good air travel tips

  1. While waiting in departure lounge, sit at the least congested place possible, away from computer monitors, TV screens, and loud music. Sit close to a water fountain and bathroom.
  2. Do your quiet reading or enjoy personal music to keep yourself relaxed.
  3. Do not chit chat unless you have to. This can drain your energy.
  4. Go to the bathroom immediately before pre-boarding.
  5. Do Adrenal Breathing Exercises along the way as much as needed.
  6. If you are not on wheelchair service, be the last to board, so you don’t have to line up.
  7. Purchase a meal at the airport, once you are past the security checkpoint, to bring with you on the plane, so your mealtime is kept the same.

Air Travel Tips: On the Plane

Staying relaxed in the airplane can involve decreasing light exposure, eye shades and closing the window are air travel tips

  1. Ask for help to put away any overhead baggage. Do not do it yourself.
  2. Do not watch action TV or any videos. Enjoy music that you like.
  3. Put down the window shade to shield from bright sunlight.
  4. Put on eye shades if needed.
  5. Stand up, walk to bathroom and stretch as often as needed, but watch the bathroom line. Do not let yourself be caught standing in line for a prolonged period of time.
  6. Take lots of fluid frequently as the air is very dry inside the plane.
  7. Ask for seat change if your current seat is disrupted by children or infant noise.
  8. Tell the stewardess ahead of time not to wake you if you are sleeping but ask her to save your meal, which you can call on at anytime.
  9. Do not depend on the airline for the proper food. Always bring your own. If you have a tendency to be hypoglycemic, make sure you have a large variety of snacks with you all the time and eat according to your body schedule and not according to the airline’s schedule.
  10. If you anticipate being tired upon arrival, inform cabin crew who can pre-arrange wheelchair/ golf cart “meet and assist” on arrival.
  11. Fill in any arrival forms well ahead of actually landing.
  12. Do Adrenal Breathing Exercises at any time and frequently.
  13. Fill up the water bottle frequently. Do not allow it to be totally empty.

On Arrival:

The baggage claim is another place where stress can overwhelm those with AFS, be sure to follow as many of the air travel tips as you can

  1. Unless you are well in front of the plane, let others go first so as not to be rushed.
  2. Ask for help retrieving your overhead baggage. Do not do it yourself.
  3. Upon deplaning, go to the bathroom and freshen up.
  4. If the walk to the baggage claim is long, take some water and eat a snack even though you may not feel the need.
  5. Do not stop to shop.
  6. It is normal to be excited upon arrival to your destination, but please do try to control your emotions. Remain calm and serene throughout.
  7. At the baggage claim, always ask for assistance instead of doing it yourself, if you are traveling alone. Otherwise, ask your travel companion.
  8. Upon arrival to your final destination, take a mandatory nap prior to embarking on any other activities.

© Copyright 2013 Michael Lam, M.D. All Rights Reserved.

Dr. Lam’s Key Question

Air travel can disrupt the biological rhythm, and that can weaken the adrenals.

Air travel tips for the unique challenges faced by AFS sufferers
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Just wanted to thank you as well for putting together this information. I have found the subject of adrenal hormones so confusing, and a lot of websites do a poor job of explaining it. Finally, a site that cuts through it all in a straightforward way!



  • Johnny says:

    I fly frequently and I see people all the time feeling very uncomfortable about traveling conditions. This article does have some great tips to reduce the stress of travel. Thanks Dr Lam.

    But why sit next to a water fountain or a bathroom ?

    • Dr.Lam says:

      That is strictly for convenience as many with advanced AFS find ambulating difficult due to lack of energy etc.

  • Debbie says:

    Are there any supplements that I can take that will help my body stay on course while I travel?

  • Savannah says:

    Is there any significance to having a full water bottle at all times other than keeping hydrated?

  • Dorothy says:

    Wow these ar great tips! I never thought to bring an empty water bottle and just fill up after security! Thanks so much!

  • Denver says:

    Can adrenal fatigue cause consistent head pressure?
    I had resolved my issues but took a trip to across the world and really came down, head pressure returned.

  • Angus says:

    This is an interesting article. I travel or business and often have to discard many of my nutritional goods due to restrictions. I will take your advice and update this blog if I can add any pointers to it.

  • Aasif says:

    Hello Dr. Lam. I am very nervous to travel into the United States. Is there any way to make the transition through security less stressful on my body?

  • Charlie says:

    This information is truly for the win. My family travels a lot and we always weight our baggage ahead of time and show up super early so we have extra time to get through the lines and then relax. Also gives us more time to meander around the gate shops.

  • Victor says:

    How severe can symptoms get before air travel is not a healthy way to travel?

  • Edmund says:

    I have been able to do a little traveling with my AFS, but I do get anxiety from time to time. Are there any gentle and natural ways to fight anxiety without putting too much stress on my already stressed body when I travel?

  • Pauly says:

    I travel often for my job, but in the last 6 months (about the time I really started to feel AFS symptoms) the air pressure changes from altitude seem to be harder to deal with. Is this something common with AFS?

  • Cindy says:

    Thanks Dr. Lam. This is good advice. I will use all these concept in my daily activities. I especially like the advice not to chit chat. I don’t like chit chat and find it very draining, and it always seems to reach a maximum just before leaving and having to go somewhere else. Now I can give myself permission not to chit chat.

  • Rosemary says:

    Would taking a nap on the way to the airport be a good idea? Or would it leave me feeling more groggy when I got there?

  • Drake says:

    Thanks for the excellent reminders! I’ll definitely be using them when traveling for the holidays

  • Mandy says:

    What is the best way to transport supplements that are needed to be taken on the same day.

  • Shana says:

    I found these tips to be very helpful! Thank you so much!

  • Rachelle says:

    Hi dr. lam. My doc can’t find anything wrong, b ut when ever I travel, my stomach gets very upset. Any advice?

    • Dr.Lam says:

      you need to continue looking for clues. could be stress, water, temperature, altitude difference, for example.

      Dr Lam

  • George says:

    Are there some snacks better than others to bring on a long trip?

  • Holly says:

    Dear Dr. Lam! I am so thankful to have found your site. I currently work as a Flight Attendant and am EXHAUSTED. I have flown for my airline for 12 years. I just found out my adrenals are only working at 51%. So, it occurred to me that now is the time to take my health in my hands. I have applied for a medical leave from work for the next 3 months. Do you think that will be an appropriate amount of time to heal my adrenals? I wonder if I should start to think about a different profession as well. I am so torn on what to do as I love working for the Airline but need to work on restoring my health.

    • Dr.Lam says:

      Air travel can disrupt the biological rhythm that weakens the adrenals. Recovery time varies depending on stage and the person. Generally, if you are on the right program, recovery should be felt in a matter of weeks to start but the entire process can last up to a few years if the condition is serious. you do have to make sure you read these articles. Many people get worse. Click 7 Adrenal Fatigue Recovery Mistakes for more information. Click Biological Rhythm Disruptions & AFS for more information.

      Dr Lam

  • Mick says:

    These are excellent tips. You must travel frequently. Do you know if these guides are international ?

    • Dr.Lam says:

      The longer the travel distance, the more important it is to adhere to these guidelines so you arrive in better shape.

      Dr Lam

  • Rick says:

    I tend to get a lot of anxiety when I fly! Especially with everything going on in the world right now!! What is the best thing that I can do to help get me over this?

  • Tammy says:

    Any suggestions for making it through a two week cruise? Not sure how to handle the sea sickness/trapped feeling if it comes on :/

    • Dr.Lam says:

      The key is to keep well hydrated, avoid food that are not good for you, avoid sunlight, and keep your activities manageable . These are general recommendations. Specific recommendation is personal specific.

      Dr Lam.

  • Horace says:

    I often travel during the summer but have recently started to get quite exhausted going through airport security. I’ve even started using a cane. Is there something natural I can take to calm my nerves before going through the airport?