A big trip overseas is an exciting vacation. No doubt you have a full trip planned with all kinds of exciting excursions, and you definitely want to enjoy them all to the fullest. The one downside of traveling abroad is the plane ride. It’s long. It’s uncomfortable. It’s boring. Air travel is a necessary evil when it comes to going abroad, but the worst thing that can happen is once you get to your destination, and you may have serious jet lag. When not handled properly, this can be a crippling ailment, ruining your vacation. You’re fatigued and dazed and unable to really be yourself. Sleep is all the jet lagged victim desires.
Adding insult to injury, most overseas flights from the U.S. are overnight, so you land in the middle of the day, which is really confusing if it’s the middle of the night back home. There’s nothing you can do about time change, but there are a few things you can do to get your circadian rhythms to match up with your destination. Follow these tips so you’re not falling asleep at lunch.
If you’re one of the lucky few who has a daytime departure, stay awake during the flight. There are tons of movies and games and even regular television shows you can watch while you’re airborne, so think of yourself as a couch potato in the sky. When you get to your destination, go to sleep at a decent local hour, even if you don’t feel tired.
Syncing your body onto the local schedule is the best way to tamper jet lag. This shouldn’t be too hard. Air travel is exhausting. You probably feel sleepy no matter what the hour. Just set an alarm and really get up when it goes off the next morning. Your body is still out of whack, so despite your bedtime you may have trouble waking. If you get up too early, stay in bed, read a book. Don’t watch TV or look at your phone. Screens are terrible for sleeping. The idea is to lay in bed and potentially fall back to sleep.
Preparation is key when it comes to jet lag. Since your flight is most likely at night, you need to have a full day at home before you travel. Many people have the philosophy that they need to be exhausted when they board the plane so that they sleep. It’s not a bad idea, but it doesn’t work. Almost no one sleeps well on the plane, and between meal service, cricked necks, and overhead announcements in the middle of the flight, you’re not likely to get a great night’s sleep.
Which means, if you don’t rest the night before you travel, you’re working on two nights of no sleep and jet lag. That’s a recipe for disaster. Best to get an excellent rest the night before. That way, you’re only dealing with one night of poor sleep, which is much more manageable.
Think about what happens once you land. After you disembark the plane you go through customs, get your luggage, and find a way to get to your hotel. It’s be several hours between landing and the time you can actually take a shower – if your room is even ready yet. Feeling like you haven’t bathed in a while doesn’t help with acclimation. If you take a shower before you leave for the airport, you don’t feel quite so sleepy and unfit for human contact when you arrive, which means you feel more alert.
Don’t Eat Plane Food
There’s nothing technically wrong with plane food, it’s just that you could be sleeping instead of eating. This tip is going to cost you, but it’s a good investment. Get to the airport early, and then eat dinner in the terminal before the flight. If you drink, have a glass of wine too – only one! Nothing’s worse than a hangover and jet lag. But one glass might make you a little drowsy.
When you board the plane, go right to sleep. Don’t wait up for dinner. Here’s why: meal service doesn’t begin until you’re off the ground and in the air for at least half an hour. By the time the plane has finished its taxi, gotten off the runway and in the air, the food has come, and everyone’s finished eating, it’s two hours after boarding.
Breakfast is usually served too, intended to wake you up. You can be sure that cart barreling down the aisle causes quite a ruckus, while all the blinds flip open to let in sunlight which definitely kills your slumber. Go ahead and partake. You’re probably hungry!
As is the case with the day trippers, the biggest challenge on your first day overseas is to stay awake until an acceptable bedtime. Drink coffee, walk around everywhere, but don’t do anything strenuous this day. Take it easy. Between lack of sleep and sensory overload, you probably feel exhausted from just walking around. Don’t plan on a big day, you’re sure to be too tired and miss out on a fun time, which ruins the rest of your trip as you try to recover.
The best thing to do is go to bed at a decent hour, even if you aren’t tired, and then get up for breakfast (not lunch). By then you should be synced up and feeling human again.
What’s your best jet lag tip? Have you ever had a terrible jet lag experience? Tell us your thoughts!