Jayne McAllister

Travel Wellness Expert and Author


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Want to avoid getting sick while traveling this holiday season?

MILEHIGH_FRONT_FINALTraveling from sunny Florida to colder climes always presents a problem with getting sick. I take all the precautions I can to be resilient but every now and again, I succumb. On my most recent trip to England, I happened to be staying with family who both had a throat infection when I arrived. Given that touch is the most common way to transfer germs, I couldn’t exactly wear a Hazmat suit as I arrived on their doorstep. Nor did I feel inclined to insult my hosts by disinfecting all flat surfaces or asking them to wear gloves while preparing my meals.

Five days later my voice disappeared. In all fairness, I’d also undertaken 11 hours of flying to get there. If I’d taken my own advice better, what could I have done? Here’s an excerpt from my upcoming book “Mile High and Healthy: The Frequent Traveler’s Roadmap to Eating, Energy, Exercise and a Balanced Life.”

“Travelers often complain that they have picked up a cold or flu after flying. I’ve certainly blamed the odd cold on fellow passengers. Confined spaces, reused blankets and pillows and proximity to other passengers over the course of several hours mean exposure from breathing, coughing and sneezing as germs are released into the air.

You can easily catch a cold by sharing an office, train, bus or room with infected people. However, a 2004 study in the Journal of Environmental Health Research revealed that twenty percent of passengers reported colds five to seven days after a two and a half hour flight.

According to Mariana Calleja, M.D. and founder of travelthy.com , ‘Touch is the most common way to get infected during air travel. For example, everyone without exception has some kind of contact with other people’s germs whenever they go to the toilet and grab the door handle, or when they touch seat heads as they walk through the aisle during flight, or when they are talking to a hotel’s front desk staff, exchanging documents and waiting with arms on the counter during the check-in process.’  Dr. Calleja says the simplest way to avoid infection is to wash one’s hands as often as possible.

By the way, it’s wise to monitor yourself for a few days after a trip because symptoms of ailments may not appear immediately.  Continue to hydrate and look for signs such as digestive trouble, unexplained fevers or headaches and skin reactions.

Proximity to others is the primary factor that causes germs to spread. There is a misconception at large that the recirculating air in the aircraft cabin is to blame.  A 2002 study by the Aerospace Medical Association concluded that there was “no evidence that organisms pass from one person to another through the aircraft ventilation system.”  Note that in newer aircraft fifty percent of the air in the cabin is recirculated and passes through filters that remove bacteria, fungi and most viruses.  The other fifty percent of the air comes from outside.  This evidence about the ventilation system was corroborated by further studies in 2010.

A 1997 study in the European Respiratory Journal suggests that low humidity impairs your ability to resist germs because the mechanism that protects against colds slows down or stops when there is low humidity.  This would be your Mucociliary Clearance System which traps viruses and bacteria before moving them from the nose and throat to destruction in the stomach.  When dry, the mucus becomes too thick to be moved by the cilia (little hairs) that normally push it along.  The infectious bodies hang around and you get sick. This is another most excellent reason to stay hydrated. “

Mile High and Healthy: The Frequent Traveler’s Roadmap to Eating, Energy, Exercise and a Balanced Life will be available for purchase from December 7th. To reserve your copy, please click here.


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Good to Go: 8 Weeks to a Healthy Body and Mind, by Jayne McAllister

Join Maiden-Voyage.com members on my 8-week course for business travelers who want to get/stay fit and healthy on the road.

maiden voyage: the blog

Fotolia_61209081_XSEvery time I turn on the TV, I’m bombarded with weight loss ads and quick, sure-fire ways to lose the requisite poundage to fit into the world’s itsiest bitsiest bikini/evening dress/lingerie. Straightforward enough perhaps, but what these weight loss wizards fail to take into account is that there are several million of us juggling airport transits, hotel dining, client entertaining, in-flight meals, substandard workout rooms, odd hours and jet lag. Oh, and family. We’re supposed to keep everything together, look and feel fabulous, and be the best ever at our job.

Flashback to five years ago and there was I charging through airports grabbing lattes and muffins for breakfast, skipping lunch unless it was with a client, and hoping I’d get to my destination before the bar closed so I could knock down a glass of Merlot or two to help me sleep. At times I was skinny, although puffy…

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7 Ways to Make Your Conference Healthier

Frustrated colleagues playing at conference callI’m planning a conference in London later in the year (much more about that in due course). Given that I spend most of my life helping people stay healthy while they’re traveling, I want my event to reflect that. The last conference I attended was in the bowels of a huge property with room-less windows. We had soggy sandwiches in brown paper bags for lunch (the bags were delicious). Breakfast was cheap coffee, sugary muffins, and under ripe bananas. Thankfully we were on our own for dinner and had plenty of good options locally.

Being subjected to artificial light all day while being sustained by sugary foods has a profound effect on morale and energy levels. It doesn’t have to be that way. Here are my tips for making conference experiences healthier, more comfortable and more productive.

  1. Make sure you have healthy dining options at every meal or break. The purpose is not to have delegates gnawing on granola for the sake of it, but to provide foods that will sustain and nourish them, meaning that mid-morning and afternoon energy slumps will be avoided. “Options” is the key word. Some folk will want their cookies and cakes. It’s about making sure that attendees aren’t obliged to eat one way.
  2. Bored business training at officeBook a room with windows. Many conference facilities are tucked away in basements and don’t have natural light. Being deprived of the opportunity to visually connect with the outdoors leads to low energy and morale. Even if artificial light is going to be used, having a room with a view of the outside world will make attendees more productive, less fatigued and more positive.
  3. Allow plenty of breaks. It’s unreasonable to expect delegates to sit for hours at a time and stay focused and attentive. Ninety minutes is the recommended maximum for continued input without a break. People need to get up and move around after sitting and listening for long periods so they can recharge and be ready to absorb information from the next session.
  4. Have stretch breaks. Sitting for several hours will lead to spinal compression and low energy. After coffee, tea, and lunch breaks, have someone lead 4 to 5 minutes of stretching so that attendees feel revitalized for the next session and more aware of their posture. Local yoga and Pilates studios will usually be glad to help out.
  5. Hydrate. Check what kind of water the property is prepared to offer during your event. Mineral water with its high electrolyte content is much better than tap or filtered water for cellular balance, energy levels and overall feelings of wellbeing. Make sure your contract with the venue includes an unlimited supply of mineral water.
  6. Offer opportunities for exercise. If delegates are staying overnight, make sure the property has a decent work out facility (or a nearby gym), swimming pool or safe jogging paths.
  7. Make sure the property is in a safe location, especially for female attendees. My pal Carolyn Pearson, founder of Maiden-voyage.com says it’s crucial to work with a female-friendly hotel so you can take the quality of accommodation and service for granted, leaving you free to focus on your program content and delegates.


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7 Tips to Keep Your Relationship Grounded While You’re On the Road, by Jayne McAllister

Here’s a guest blog about relationships that I wrote for maiden-voyage.com, the networking site for female business travelers.

maiden voyage: the blog

woman talking on phone on bed 400 correctTechnically – and I mean technically – there should be no reason to encounter relationship issues when you are on the road, thanks to Skype, FaceTime, and unlimited mobile phone plans. We’re much more connected these days, right?

That said, on a recent evening, I was working in my hotel room and heard shouting from the next room, a man yelling at his partner (I assumed) on the other end of the phone.  “Don’t you realize that I’m here working on a f***ing million dollar deal and all I get from you is grief.  F*** off and find somebody else.  I don’t want to hear it right now.”  He repeated the scenario the next morning.  Not the best way to use one’s unlimited phone plan, evidently.

Here are seven strategies to keep the flame kindled, and to let sanity and order reign, so that the course of true love can…

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Three Tips for Getting A Good Night’s Sleep On An Airplane – in Economy Class

squashed on flightThis is the first in a series of articles about getting a good night’s sleep as a business traveler. I’m a nine hour’s a night girl so I have to make sure that I sleep well on the road, or in the air as is the case today. The luxuries of a first class cabin lay-flat bed aren’t always available to me. My class of service on an airline is determined by how many miles I have available to upgrade (transatlantic) or on which airline I have status (domestic flights). Needless to say, there are times when all the miles have been used up or I’m flying on very full flights on which it’s impossible to upgrade. Economy it is then. With the people, crammed into a seat with a 30-inch pitch. Here’s what I do to make myself more comfortable:

1. Use Seat Guru. I’m over upgrading on redeyes. I paid for an upgrade from LA to Orlando not that long ago thinking I’d be able to grab a good night’s kip in first class. The flight left at 11 PM so I wasn’t interested in the meal service. Sitting in the bulk head, I curled up, leaned against the window (I can’t do aisles on an overnight flight since I woke up with my head on a complete stranger’s shoulder) and started counting sheep. I drifted off but was wakened by a droning. It wasn’t the engines. My proximity to the galley was the problem. With service over, the flight attendants were seated for several hours, chatting away loudly. They yakked all night. I began to understand why it was a nonstop flight – it was a reference to their vocal cords.

My new trick is to go to www.seatguru.com and check out their recommended seats. For example, instead of upgrading on red eyes, I get row 16 or 17 in coach on an American Airlines 737 in which the middle seat is blocked off. This provides a bit more room and plenty more space for belongings. Avoid seats near the galley (as I learned) and the rest rooms. The queue for the loo can be quite disturbing.

travel_eye_mask-300x2262. Wear an eye mask. The lights in a plane will keep you awake all night, and mess with melatonin levels, which the body produces naturally to regulate sleep. Even if the lights are dimmed, you’ll still perceive that they’re on and you won’t enjoy quality slumber.

Wearing a mask will ensure melatonin production and save you from taking a supplement or, heaven forbid, a sleeping pill. If you really want to boost melatonin levels, consume natural sources such as pineapples, bananas, oranges, oats, sweet corn, brown rice, tomatoes and barley the day before you fly.

Don’t worry about looking silly with a mask. That’s only an issue for ladies wearing lots of make-up which rubs off on the mask and leaves them looking like a startled panda.

3. Eat Before You Fly. True or false? You sometimes eat on planes because you’re bored and service breaks the monotony. If you have the chance to eat before you fly, you’ll be able to make better choices, and maybe even add a salad to improve digestion and lessen the effects of jet lag. A heavy meal will interfere with your sleep patterns even more at 35,000 feet than it does on the ground.

Think about what’s going on inside your body. Cabin pressure is causing gases to expand and blood volume is decreasing from the lack of oxygen. Your organs are working harder to function normally yet you’re seriously thinking of eating everything on that little tray in front of you? On a regular day, your liver goes to work digesting and detoxing typically between the hours of 10 PM and 2 AM. If you’re eating closer to those hours because of inflight service and your liver’s already working harder because of in cabin conditions, it won’t do its job properly. You can say goodnight to dreams of uninterrupted slumber.