Jetlag: It’s the one thing standing between you and enjoying a glorious French dinner in Paris, or twirling on the dance floor until 2am at your best friend’s wedding. Jetlag can cause nausea, headaches, dizziness, vertigo, and crazy circadian rhythm mess-ups causing you to wake up and crave a steak at 3am. Here are some tips on how to adjust to the new transatlantic time zone (tried and tested):
Before the flight
- Schedule a flight time that allows you to get a full night’s rest before. I’ve heard the opposite: that one should stay up the whole night before a flight to ensure sleep on the plane. All I know is that if I do that, and then I can’t sleep on the plane for one reason or another, I’ve set myself up for worse jetlag.
- Eat a good meal before the flight and stock up on snacks. I make sure to have a big breakfast before I leave the house and then when I get to the airport, I usually eat a small breakfast, such as tea and a bagel. The night before, I go to the grocery store and buy granola bars. I put two in my carry-on and two in my suitcase. I also take a banana and nuts. I try to avoid bringing sandwiches or takeaway foods that will get soggy or smelly.
- Start a good book before the flight so you’re fully engrossed before takeoff. With nerves and distractions in the airport and boarding the flight, if you already care about the book you’re reading, the time between boarding and takeoff will fly by faster if you’re looking forward to getting into the book. Note: I’ve read books start to finish from the time I arrived at the airport to the time the plane took off, so make sure to have a back up!
During the flight
- Never look at how much time you have left in the flight. No matter what! Looking at that screen that shows the airplane moving across the earth is always disappointing. “What?! It has only been two hours?!”
- Pretend you’re already in the future time zone the moment you get on the plane and do activities and meals accordingly. This is a tip I picked up from a magazine, but it really works. If it’s two o’clock in the afternoon where you’re going, don’t start binge-watching movies. If you wouldn’t normally have a cup of coffee at 3am, don’t start now.
- It’s OK to fall asleep. The one exception to rule # 2 is napping. When you feel tired and your eyes closing, try to take advantage of this by sleeping a bit. It’s not going to offset the amount of jetleg you experience from traveling across eight time zones. For example, if you’re flying from London to San Francisco and you sleep for two hours of the flight, the likelihood that you’ll be able to fall asleep at night SF time probably won’t change.
After the flight
Flying East to West is much easier. When you do this, most often you land in the late afternoon and therefore are only faced with staying up for a few more hours. Until then, have a good meal at the regular meal time and if you can, spend some time in the moonlight before bed. Chances are you’ll get a second wind, so try to stay away from eating sugar and drinking caffeine or alcohol at this point. My mom booked us a facial and a pedicure upon arrival: that sure didn’t hurt!!!
Flying West to East is the worst. What are you supposed to do?! The only thing I have found that works is to book a very late flight that leaves at 9pm or later and hope you get a row to yourself so you can sleep the whole way back. If you’re coming from the West coast USA though, you’re screwed. It will simply just take days to recover.
Despite the above, I am here in California, still suffering from jetlag five days after landing. I woke up at 1am wide awake, 3am to eat, and now it’s 6 in the morning and I’m writing a blog post. So really, the moral is that we’re not made for flying. Train, anyone?
Does anyone out there have any other good tips? Happy travels!