I really feel like this post needs to be about how I’ve learned to beat, embrace, and overcome jet lag. I like to think that I’ve come up with a few tried-and-true jet lag solutions, though I have to admit, sometimes it can be really challenging. Most of my vacations start at the end of a very exhausting work cycle, so I just want to succumb to stress.
It’s no secret that we travel a lot, and when we do, we travel across multiple time zones. Sometimes we do long weekend trips, like our Valentine’s Day weekend in Paris or our long weekend in London to celebrate Tom’s birthday. Other times, we go for a couple of weeks.
Regardless of how long we’re staying, we always want to maximize our vacation time, so the best thing we can do is find ways to beat the jet lag!
Beating Jet Lag
On the Flight
When I can, I try to upgrade our seats to business using miles. If that doesn’t happen, I book Main Cabin Extra seats. (I’m 5’11 and Tom is 6’3″ – leg room is important to us.) Occasionally, we get upgrades to Premium Economy, which is a little bit more comfortable. Tom really likes it. I prefer business just because it’s easier on my hip if I can lay flat.
No matter what cabin I’m sitting in, I try to rest on the flight over. Obviously, it’s easier for me to sleep when I can lay flat in business. If I’m flying economy (more often than not), I try to close my eyes and relax. We were sitting in front of the monitor on our most recent flight, and I will never travel without a sleep mask again. The constantly changing light made it impossible for me to rest. Even if you only meditate for 20 minutes on the flight over, try to force yourself to rest a little.
Make sure to hydrate. Even though beer and wine are free, I generally don’t drink on flights. I drink as much water as possible. I skip meal service. (Have a good meal before you leave – I promise you’ll be fine for 8 hours.) Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate.
During a Layover
Generally speaking, I try to book concise layovers. You should always research what the minimum connection time is when booking your flight. In the last few years, we have had to find ways to make long layovers fun because of limited flights to places like Croatia and Istanbul.
Regardless of how much time you have, make sure you keep moving! Whether you’re hustling between terminals, exploring shops, or even checking out different parts of the terminal, the physical activity will help with your energy level. The first time I traveled abroad, I had a whole day at London Gatwick. At some point, I put my head down to rest, and the next thing I knew, the gate agent was waking me up so I didn’t miss my flight. (Thank goodness for her!) Don’t do that!
Most flights to Europe and China arrive in the morning. The most important thing you can do is stay up. Once we arrive at our destination, we clear customs, drop off our luggage, maybe grab a shower, and get outside as quickly as possible. If we’re driving to our destination (which often happens), we might make a stopover along the way just to get some fresh air. For example, on a recent trip, we arrived in Rome at 7:30am. We were in our car and on the road by 8:30 and stopped in Orvieto around 10:00 for a brisk walk and a visit to the cathedral. You want to start getting on your new time zone as quickly as possible. If we have a late afternoon arrival, I insist that we walk to and from dinner – skipping cabs or public transportation and favoring outdoor restaurants.
Either way, we have a good meal on our first day and go to bed in the evening. Sometimes that means we’ll stay up until a “normal” bedtime. If I don’t sleep on the flight over, it means that we go to bed early (aim for 7:00pm or later) and sleep until we wake up the next morning.
Either way, you want to fight to acclimate to the new time zone and follow the new routine, not the routine in your home timezone.
Embracing Jet Lag
Get up, get up, get up.
No matter how hard it is, get up at a normal (to you) time after your first night. I think I’ve mentioned this before, but when we travel, we do double duty. We go out in the morning, come back during the mid day, and go out again in the evening. Get up early, get out and about, take a short nap during the middle of the day, and go back out for evening.
By getting up, you are forcing your body clock to acclimate to your new time zone. Napping during the middle of the day allows you to satisfy your body’s exhaustion and you’re missing the hottest and most crowded part of the day.
By evening, you’ll be ready for a good meal and to go to bed on your new schedule. It only gets easier!
Overcoming Jet Lag
Unfortunately I haven’t found any jet lag solutions to completely overcome the jet lag issue. I’m not someone who can stay up on a red-eye flight and not feel it the next day. These tips, however, have helped me to minimize the effects of jet lag so that I can start to enjoy our vacations quicker, which makes them feel longer.
When I went to China for work a couple years ago, I didn’t do any of these things. I spent almost the entire trip either at work, in the hotel spas (lovely but not worth an 18-hour flight!), or sleeping. Not exactly the way you want to spend your time in a new country. That experience, however, made me much more militant about making sure that I can hit the ground running when I arrive at a new destination.
What say you?? What are your jet lag solutions? How do you handle time zone changes? Any tips I should try?