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7 Reasons You Smell Bad When Traveling

Ever been stuck next to that person on the plane who has a powerful body odor? What if that smelly flyer is you? Here are some reasons that you might smell bad while traveling, plus tips on what to do about it.

Ever been stuck next to that person on the plane who has a powerful body odor? What if that smelly flyer is you?

Reasons You Smell Bad When Traveling

Here are some of the reasons you may smell bad while traveling, plus tips on what to do about it.


Traveling—and flying especially—can make you dehydrated. You may be walking more, or simply forgetting to drink the same amount of water you sip when you’re sitting at your desk. Dehydration is not only unhealthy, it is a major cause of bad breath, too. So be sure to drink plenty of water when you’re on the road. (Coffee doesn’t count—caffeinated drinks also contribute to bad breath and dehydration.) Try one of these collapsible water bottles (that way you can easily bring them through security and fill them up once you get through).

Your Shoes

Enough legroom between the seats in the passenger plane, the view of the men's legs.

Wearing the same shoes every day (which is common while traveling, due to limited space), can increase foot odor. Try wearing one pair and packing another, so you can switch off and give one pair time to air out. Wearing moisture-wicking socks can also help, as can applying foot powder.

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Stress Sweat

Traveling can be stressful. Unfortunately, your body can react to rough situations with sweat. Making matters even worse, stress-induced sweating is smellier than regular perspiration. When you’re anxious, your body produces sweat from the apocrine glands, which attracts more odor-causing bacteria than sweat caused by heat or workouts. Try packing a stronger deodorant for your trip, especially if you anticipate stressful situations.

You’re Sick

Blonde caucasian woman sneezing while flying by commercial airplane.

It’s easy to get sick while traveling: You can get run down, plus planes are germ factories. If you’ve picked up a cold (or are suffering from allergies), you may find yourself with a stuffy nose and bad breath. That foul breath is caused by post-nasal drip in the back of your mouth. Staying healthy is always the first line of defense, but if you are sick, be sure to up your teeth-brushing/mouth-washing/gum-chewing game.

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Different Diet

Eating a new type of cuisine can mess with your body odor, turning it from sweet to sour. Watch out for bad B.O. culprits like cruciferous vegetables, red meat, fish, and processed junk foods, all of which can cause a bad olfactory turn.

Overindulging in Local Drinks

man pouring beer from can into a glass on airplane.

There’s nothing wrong with wanting to try one or two of the special local cocktails or brews while you’re traveling. But if you drink too much alcohol, you might still smell like the bar the next morning. According to Men’s Health, stouts and other dark alcohols cause more of a stench than clearer spirits, like vodka.

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Skipping Meals

Maybe you’re too busy to eat or just trying to save money by skipping lunch while traveling in an expensive destination. You might wind up with hunger pains and bad breath, as not eating can cause a breakdown in body chemicals known as Ketoacidosis, which results in stinky smells. Beat this by packing some healthy snacks to bring with you on your trip.


Traveling? Consider Some Favorite Carry-On Options

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Editor’s note: This story was originally published in 2015. It has been updated to reflect the most current information.

By Caroline Morse Teel

Unfortunately for her bank account, Principal Editor Caroline Morse Teel is powerless to resist a good flight deal. Follow her on Instagram @TravelWithCaroline.

Caroline joined Boston-based SmarterTravel in 2011 after living in Ireland, London, and Manhattan. She's traveled to all seven continents, jumped out of planes, and bungeed off bridges in the pursuit of a good story. She loves exploring off-the-beaten path destinations, anything outdoorsy, and all things adventure.

Her stories have also appeared online at USA Today, Business Insider, Huffington Post, Yahoo,, TripAdvisor, Buzzfeed, Jetsetter, Oyster, Airfarewatchdog, and others.

The Handy Item I Always Pack: "Earplugs. A good pair has saved my sleep and sanity many times!"

Ultimate Bucket List Experience: Hiking Mount Kilimanjaro.

Travel Motto: "Don't be boring."

Aisle, Window, or Middle Seat: "Aisle (when the first class private suite isn't available)."

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