If I could have any super power I would choose teleportation. The ability to instantaneously transport myself to anywhere in the world is a wanderluster’s dream come true! Unfortunately, I do not have a genetic mutation and I do have to take planes, trains, and automobiles just like everyone else. BUT, I do have a super power: I never get jet lag! And, I’m going to let you in on my top tips and tricks to help you avoid the cursed time zone tailspin.
1. Book the Best Itinerary
I know that most people are simply looking for rock-bottom prices when booking air travel. But that often means a milk run set of flights with horrible stopovers and ungodly departure/arrival times. Who wants to start their long awaited vacation with a 4am wake up call? My solution… do your research and spend a few extra dollars. Look for non-stop flights or itineraries with only one layover. Try to avoid long layovers wherever possible (1.5 hours is perfect!). If you can cut down your total travel time that will be a huge benefit. But the absolute most important aspect of your flight is the arrival time. I always try to book flights that arrive in the late afternoon/early evening. This means that I won’t be arriving in the dark and will have time to get through customs and to my final destination at a decent hour. AND, it means that I can pretty much go to bed as soon as I get to my accommodation. There is nothing worse than arriving in a new city after being awake for 30 hours and it’s only 10:00am local time. TORTURE! If you arrive in the evening then you can spare yourself so much pain and suffering and significantly reduce your risk of jet lag.
2. Pre-Trip Preparation (Work on your Sleep Schedule)
Again, if you can manage to book a flight that doesn’t leave at the crack of dawn, then you can give yourself the gift of a really good night’s sleep in your own bed. I know that sometimes the excitement can get the best of you making it hard to sleep the night before a big trip. That’s what sleeping pills are for :) If you’re only crossing a couple of time zones then it’s also worth trying to adjust BEFORE you leave. For example, if you’re flying east (like from Los Angeles to New York City) then start going to bed an hour earlier. Similarly, if you’re heading west then going to bed a bit later on the days leading up to your trip can make the transition a breeze.
3. Take a Nap on the Plane (if you can)
Personally, I can’t nap on planes. I can sometimes get a few winks in if I have a window seat or get upgraded to business class (!!!) but otherwise I just tough it out. That being said, a brief nap on a long flight can give you the extra boost you need to make it to your final destination. Just be careful not to sleep too much and risk not being able to get some shut eye when bedtime rolls around.
4. Stay Hydrated (Skip the Booze/Caffeine)
It’s so important to take care of yourself while travelling. Your body is going to be confused and your immune system is going to be put through the ringer with all those international germs floating around. The best thing that you can do during a long travel day is stay hydrated with clear fluids and avoid alcohol and caffeine. That glass of wine at take-off might help you nod off quickly but it can seriously interfere with your crucial REM sleep. And I don’t think I have to tell you why coffee is a bad idea. I’m guilty of enjoying a pre-trip Americano on the regular but then I do have a super power. For those of you who struggle with jet lag, avoid the stimulants and stick to water.
5. Eat Healthy
Vacation and traveling is often about indulgence. Exercise routines are suspended and healthy eating is completely abandoned in favor of a week (or more!) of overeating. It’s important to remember that while your mind may be on vacation, your body still needs proper fuel. This is not the time to start carb-loading like you’re running a full marathon. I am all in favor of sampling the local cuisine and enjoying yourself (A gelato a day keeps the doctor away – right?). The key here is balance. To have a great vacation it truly helps to feel good and all that junk food is going to make you feel sluggish and irritable. Now I don’t need to tell you that airplane food is the worst. So, instead of relying on some corporation to give you what you need – plan ahead. Your first defense is to bring food from home: bananas, apples, nuts, carrots, and energy bars are all great airplane snacks. Once you get to your destination, try to incorporate local fruits and vegetables into the frenzy. Personally, I am looking forward to many fresh and delicious Greek salads on my upcoming trip to Greece. Just remember the old adage… you are what you eat!
6. Don’t Fall Asleep at Your Destination
If you heeded my advice in Tip #1 and booked a great itinerary, this shouldn’t be a problem for you. But, if your options are limited (like when the only return options from Hawaii are red eye flights with 7am arrivals) then your will power needs to kick into overdrive. I know it’s hard. Trust me. I’ve had to stay awake for nearly 40 hours before to avoid jet lag. I cannot stress this enough. It is so important not to sleep if it isn’t night time. The only way to save yourself from spending the next few days (or weeks!) waking up at 3am is to tough it out for one day. Avoid dark spaces and plan something fun to do that will keep you awake. Get some fresh air, go for a walk, and avoid operating heavy machinery or making any important life decisions. Then, go to bed at a normal time (9pm) and get a good night of sleep. You will wake up refreshed and jet lag free!
7. Plan an Active First Day
If you’re still feeling groggy when you wake up, I suggest jumping right in. Resist the urge to laze around all day napping. Plan a first day with heaps of activity and fresh air. Don’t let your body realize that it’s tired… you know… fake it till you make it! This might seem counter-intuitive but you’re going to have to get used to it sooner or later. Don’t waste any time. You’ll thank me later :)
Do you have any other tips or tricks for avoiding jet lag? Leave a comment below.