I don’t know if it was the burning sensation of heat on my face from my ondol (heated floor) or the pain in my arm from laying on it for several hours, but when I awoke that Sunday morning in my apartment in South Korea, I was hungover.
Recounting how much soju I had the night before, I staggered into my kitchen, hunched over and using the wall as my crutch, searched for my usual lineup of hangover remedies.
Hangovers, no matter where they happen, can be nothing short of a nightmare, and if you’re traveling, they can quickly put a stop to the most well-planned itinerary.
I’m going to discuss how to get rid of a hangover while traveling, and I’ll focus only on the bare essentials. The hangover is here and it’s not going away. What can you do to get rid of it?
General Tips for Beating a Hangover
Whether you’re in a hotel, apartment, or airport, there are several universal things that you can do to get rid of your hangover.
Avoid the “Hair of the Dog”
The hair of the dog is an old expression that means if you want to avoid a hangover, drink more the morning after.
Despite what your traveling buddy may tell you, there are no studies showing the effectiveness of this supposed hangover cure. Best case scenario is that you delay the symptoms of the hangover.
Yes, you need water when you’re hungover. What do you need more?
Mineral water doesn’t have to be some fancy bottle of Perrier. It simply means that it contains key electrolytes such as sodium, potassium, calcium, and magnesium.
If you don’t have access to mineral water, sports drinks like Gatorade are a great substitute.
You can also make your own electrolyte water by combining a teaspoon of baking soda in filtered water. Not the tastiest option, but it does the job.
Whether you’re hungry or not, you’ll want to get something light in your stomach.
Try the BRAT diet first: bananas, rice, applesauce, or toast. If you don’t have these exact items, try similar items such as crackers, quinoa, oatmeal, and bread rolls.
Work your way up to more solid whole foods. Eggs, chicken noodle soup, pickles, and berries are great options.
Avoid overly processed and fried foods, which means no sugar-based snacks or fast food.
Water First, Caffeine Second
It’s tempting to reach for a caffeinated beverage immediately, but you’ll want to properly hydrate yourself first.
Caffeine is a diuretic and it might contribute to dehydration, which is the reason you feel the way you do.
When choosing a caffeinated beverage, I recommend tea, not coffee because the acidity of coffee can irritate your stomach and trigger feelings of nausea.
Get Some Sleep
Studies show that alcohol consumption negatively impacts your sleep by preventing you from entering the deepest sleep cycle, the one where your body begins its usual repair and recovery processes.
It’s the reason why you can sleep for 12 hours after a night of drinking and wake up feeling like you didn’t sleep at all.
After hydrating and eating something light, try getting some sleep. This is usually enough to alleviate the symptoms, if not rid your body of the hangover.
Focus on Your Breath
One thing that many people overlook is how they are breathing during a hangover. Since you are more focused on the pain in your head and the nausea in your stomach, you’re more likely to breathe from the chest, resulting in short and shallow breaths.
Chest breathing might exacerbate the symptoms of a hangover, putting you more into a panic about getting sick.
Take a moment to redirect your breathing down into your belly.
Breathe in deep for a few seconds, hold the breath for a moment, then let it out slowly.
Focus on doing this for a few minutes and you may find that you’re more relaxed and the symptoms of your hangover don’t seem as severe.
Get Up, Get Moving
Once you’re back up, I’d recommend boosting your blood flow so your body can process the toxins from the previous night. This would also be a good time to drink a caffeinated beverage.
Ideally, you’ll feel well enough to go for a light stroll in the sunlight. At the very least, try walking around your room. If space is extremely limited, perform jumping jacks.
If you are staying in a spa-friendly city and you feel up to it, visit a sauna. Be sure to double the amount of water you drink while you’re there.
If you’ve done everything above, but you’re still feeling like you’ve been hit by a truck, consider taking a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID).
There are three types of NSAIDs that are available around the world as an over-the-counter medication:
- Aspirin: Common brands include Bayer, Bufferin, and Excedrin
- Ibuprofen: Common brands include Advil and Motrin IB
- Naproxen: Common brands include Aleve and Synflex
Keep in mind that these specific brands may not be available if you’re travelling outside of the United States, but the type of NSAID (e.g., aspirin and ibuprofen) is available more often than not.
Keep in mind that NSAIDs should be a last resort because they can irritate the stomach, but sometimes that’s a fair trade off in order to feel better.
Getting Rid of a Hangover in a Hotel / Hostel
If you have the good fortune to go battle your hangover in the comfort of a climate-controlled hotel or hostel room, you’ll have the added benefit of two more ways to get rid of a hangover while traveling.
Once you feel up to standing and moving around, take a cold shower.
Blasting yourself with cold water – and I mean cold – is an effective way to shock your system and alleviate inflammation.
One research review demonstrated that contrast bathing – one minute of hot water immediately followed by one minute of cold water for several minutes – has been shown to reduce pain, alleviate inflammation, and mitigate the symptoms of that hangover headache.
It’s not fun, but it works.
If you’ve never ordered room service before, now’s the time to treat yourself. The potential cure for your hangover could be a phone call away.
Most hotels have menus in the room that you can order from. It might be pricey, but it could also shorten your recovery time.
Most hotels also have an in-house store that carries over-the-counter medications such as aspirin and ibuprofen and electrolyte-based sports drinks, which room service can also bring up to your room.
Traveling on a Plane or Bus with a Hangover
Arguably, one of the last places you want to be with a hangover is on a plane going through turbulence or a bus riding over a bumpy road.
But sometimes it can’t be helped and you don’t have a choice but to travel while nursing a hangover. Here are a few things you can do to make traveling with a hangover more bearable.
Before you board your plane or bus, I highly recommend paying a visit to the store inside the airport or bus station to pick up the bare essentials:
- Electrolyte-based water or sports drink
- Anti-inflammatory medication
- Motion sickness medication (e.g., ginger pills or dimenhydrinate, commonly called Dramamine)
- Light snack items (e.g., crackers, sandwich, apple)
If possible, set up shop in a cool part of the airport or bus station, sit down, focus on hydration and eating something.
Once you have something in your stomach, take the medications for inflammation and motion sickness.
If you’re traveling out of a small airport or bus station that doesn’t even have seating for waiting passengers, the two things you can count on being there is bottled water and trash bags.
I recommend picking up a barf bag before your flight or bus ride in these situations because there’s no guarantee there will be one on the plane or bus.
Whether you’re on a plane or bus, spend the extra cash and get a comfortable seat that reclines.
If you’re flying a budget airline, sit in the front of the plane or no further back than the wing as this is where you’ll feel bumps and turbulence the least.
If you’re riding a bus, sit close to the front to avoid those road bumps.
Being hungover and stuck in a confined space that’s hot can make you feel like you’re in an oven, triggering nausea.
If you can, turn the air vent towards you on the plane or bus. If there’s no air conditioning or fan on the bus, get a window seat that allows you to open the window.
Have Your Own Tips on How to Get Rid of a Hangover While Traveling?
Have you been hungover while traveling? Did you use any of the tips I mentioned above? Have your own routine for getting rid of a hangover while traveling? Share your experience in the comments below.