Self-Care & Healthy Options at the Airport

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by Waheeda Harris

I love flying. But flying doesn’t love me.

For over 20 years I’ve circled the globe for work and vacations, regularly jetting from YYZ to every continent except Antarctica.

I’ve had the pleasure of flying in the jumbo jets, the puddle jumpers that seat 12, seaplanes, helicopters, hot air balloons and numerous trains, buses, taxis, and ferries. Always eager to explore, my adventures come with a caveat: travel is not kind to me.

My internal alarm clock adores adjusting to my destination – but avoids the reset when I return back to Canada, waking me up at disparate times of the day and night. My swollen ankles are a sign of my recent up in the air status, while my skin craves moisture the same way kids want candy.

Persistent in my on-board prevention, I’ve been the recipient of many a side eye as I twist and stretch on a plane, trying to boost my circulation as I chug water like a competitive athlete. As I tried to overcome travel’s effects on me, I realized the source of my problems could also be where I found solutions: the airport.

Water became my raison d’etre for every flight. I was an early adopter of having a water bottle in my carry-on entourage, not relying on the minimal glasses of water offered onboard.

I also became budget-(and eco) conscious, only purchasing water in places where bottled water was the only option. As I’ve become a pro at tilting my water bottle at drinking fountains, I’ve been thrilled with the increase in airports installing complimentary water dispensers for bottles.

Scanning the shelves of airport sundry shops, I can source replacements for my on-board kit bag: travel-sized moisturizers and sunscreen, as well as lip balm and hydration tablets.

And being able to chill out is easier despite the crowds: rocking chairs can be found in several American airports (CLT/ Charlotte was the first), and so are massage chairs, like Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport, where four euros buys eight minutes of shiatsu massage in the AMS Massage-O-Matic design chairs, a quick solution to boost my circulation during a layover.

No need to skip a workout while on the road now either: at YYZ (Toronto) a $ 15-day pass allows access to the Terminal 1 location of GoodLife Fitness (another $10 includes Reebok gear rental).

YYZ travelers can also find meals for a wide range of diets (and some of my go-to choices) like Steel cut oats with fresh berries, dried fruit and almond milk from Lee Kitchen by Susur Lee, Hearth by Lynn Crawford’s Falafel and farro salad, grab and go halal and tasty Middle Eastern fare at Paramount Fine Foods (definitely order the Halloumi and spinach salad or the chicken and zucchini pizza) and kosher deli favourites from Caplansky’s Deli, like a Smoked Turkey sandwich.

The Fairmont YVR Hotel at Vancouver International Airport has been a favorite for many years. And I’m not alone in my adoration for this property, the only Fairmont airport hotel, as it was recently named best airport hotel in North America by Skytrax World Airport Awards.

I’ve regularly indulged in their Jetsetter tea while relaxing between flights, taken advantage of the 24-hour breakfast options from Globe YVR and booked a day room on the hotel’s Quiet Floor. But the best use of my time was the Jetlag Recovery Massage at the hotel’s Absolute Spa, which left me relaxed and with visibly-reduced swollen ankles.

And my next goal: to indulge in the Fairmont Fit on the Fly program before my next departure, with passes offering access to their health club, which can include borrowing Reebok workout gear and a Re-Charge To Go Meal, a post-workout healthy option created by the Fairmont chefs.

Another healthy option for travelers needing a spa fix is at an airport Aveda Experience Center – more than just a shop with Aveda products, staff offer complimentary herbal tea, mini-massages, and refreshes for hair and makeup (a welcome perk for me when I know I’m going into a meeting upon arrival).

When a layover is over two hours, indulge in the XpresSpa, found in over 20 airports in the US, Europe, and the Middle East. I gave myself a gift before an overnight flight from Dubai: a Rehydrating Facial that gives the skin a welcome dose of antioxidants while reclining in an Xpress relaxation lounger.

International jetsetters should seek out Be Relax Spas, located in more than 50 airports around the world. Offering stylish travel accessories, including one of my travel must-haves, My Perfect Sleep Kit with inflatable neck pillow, sleep mask and earplugs, Be Relax offers two indulgences I highly recommend – the Vitality juice with lemon and mint to combat stress and Oxygen aromatherapy. Not sure what to choose? Be Relax Spas offer treatments that fit into time categories from 10-15 minutes, 15-20 minutes and 30+ minutes.

Freelance journalist Waheeda Harris started traveling at a young age, curious to learn more about our planet’s culture, cuisine, and traditions. And despite her many travels, she still has one nemesis: jetlag. Connect with Waheeda at

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