You’ve waited months for this day to finally arrive. Counted down the slow-passing minutes until this moment became the present. You step off the plane, ready for your long-anticipated adventure, and then it hits you – the time difference, the hours of travel, the heaviness of your baggage. You are officially and unquestionably jet lagged.
When on vacation, especially far away from home, your time is precious. Don’t let jet lag get in the way of living every moment abroad to the fullest. Here are some tricks and tips to avoid jet lag when traveling through multiple time zones:
1. Change your routine before you even get there.
Now obviously you can’t become full blown nocturnal before your trip, but adjusting your bedtime a few hours forward or back, depending on which way the time will change, can go a long way in avoiding major jet lag upon arrival. Based on how drastic the time difference is, you may want to start this new routine up to a week before your trip. This will make it much easier for your body to adjust to the new time once you get there.
2. Choose overnight flights if available.
When traveling somewhere with at least a five or six hour time difference, elect to take an overnight flight if possible. Flying overnight means you have the opportunity to adjust by sleeping through and waking up when it’s morning in the destination. If doing this, make sure you’re prepared to actually sleep during the flight so you can be on the correct time when you land. That means packing noise-cancelling headphones, a sleeping mask, neck pillow or whatever else you will need to actually fall asleep on the flight. I don’t recommend sleeping pills unless the flight is over 10 hours (and even then I’d be careful), as they may make you groggy. If you feel like you need to take something, try a natural remedy such as melatonin.
3. Proactively change the time.
Though your phone syncs automatically once you arrive in a destination, if you wear a watch, I highly recommend changing the time as soon as you’re settled on the plane. It not only helps you keep better track of how much longer you’ll have on the plane (as the scheduled arrival is always in the local time of your destination), but also gives you a head start in acclimating to the destination’s time.
4. Be mindful of what you eat and drink.
Just because you’re on a plane, doesn’t mean you should be eating the bags of chips, popcorn and candy that are so tempting at the airport kiosks. Like in every day life, eating poorly can result in low energy – something you want to avoid when trying to take advantage of every moment you have right out of the (airplane) gate. Avoid drinking coffee or alcohol and make sure you drink plenty of water; long plane rides can be very dehydrating.
5. When you land, get going and get outside.
If it’s daytime in the destination when you arrive, drop your bags and get out into the city. Staying in your hotel room only amplifies the feelings of jetlag. Who doesn’t want to crawl in a nice comfy bed when they’re tired? A breath of fresh air will help wake you up, plus being outside with the buzz of the city is a stimulant in itself. If you feel like you can’t function, take only a short nap of around an hour max, otherwise not only will you miss out on the day, but you’ll throw off all the preparation you did in advance to get on local time. Also, try to stay awake as long as you can that first night, preferably until at least 9 p.m. or so, to get into a good sleep routine as fast as possible.
Time is of the essence when traveling, and you don’t want to waste any of it sleeping while the whole city is awake. Following these tips can help you adjust quickly and make the most of your vacation. I just used them during our recent trip to Europe and they definitely work! I avoided jet lag both on the outbound and when returning home to the States. Do you have any other tips that help avoid jet lag when traveling? Share in the comments section below!