The first time I flew internationally my mom took me to a sandwich shop upon arrival – where I promptly fell asleep on my chips. I spent subsequent sleepless nights driving my parents crazy until they finally put me in the living room with my toys around midnight and told me to have at it. After several all-nighters (followed by miserably sleepy days) my jet lag finally went away a day or so before we flew back home. Needless to say, it wasn’t pleasant for any of us.
And since my family was international for a long time, I had to either figure out a way around jet lag or get used to being uncomfortable each trip. Eventually, I discovered a routine that works for me. I might feel a little tired the day of arrival and the day I return, but there’s no more week-long struggle with my sleepy self. Ultimately, travel is a luxury and if it comes with jet lag I think most of us would gladly sacrifice a few nights of sleep. But here are a few tips and tricks I utilize to avoid jet lag and make the most of our travels.
One Week Prior
- Set your watch to match the time at your destination. Use your phone for the current time. Take note of your new time zone as you glance at your watch throughout the day and mentally begin to prepare yourself for your trip.
- Start drinking one Emergen-C packet each day. If you feel like you may be picking up a cold beforehand, up it to two packets per day.
- Try to organize your trip prep so your last two days before your flight are relaxed and easy. Make them sacred – they’re your downtime.
Day Before Flying
- Eat plenty of leafy greens. Make a green smoothie for breakfast and munch on salads for lunch and dinner.
- Mentally place yourself in the new time zone. For example, at 2 PM I look at my watch and see that it would be 10 PM in France. I think… I should be feeling sleepy and going to bed right now. I know it sounds crazy, but just try it… It really does help your mind to prepare for the time change.
- Speaking of feeling sleepy, get plenty of rest the night before. Don’t watch TV, don’t look at your phone… It’s early to bed and early to rise for you, dear traveler.
Day of Flight/Day After
- Flying at night is best so you can sleep during your destination’s nighttime and arrive in the morning when everyone is waking up.
- The day of your flight, drink lots and lots of water with lemon. Limit alcohol, but it’s okay to drink a coffee when it’s morning in your destination’s time zone.
- As soon as you get on the plane, eat meals in accordance with your new time zone. It will help you to get acclimated; glance at your watch when you need a reminder of the local time and try to stay in that mindset.
- After the meal service, snuggle up with a relaxing movie or music, dim the screen, put in ear plugs or wear your headphones, and try to get some sleep.
- When you wake up, head toward the bathroom and take advantage of the little hallway in front by stretching a bit. If you feel like a total idiot, just wait until you land and stretch in a bathroom at the airport.
- Hit the ground running. Yes, you will feel like a limp flower, but just do a bit of exploring and enjoy a nice lunch outdoors in your new destination. Resist the urge to sleep – don’t even take a nap. Just power through to at least 9 PM.
- If you can, check into your hotel, organize your things, and take a nice hot shower before heading out to dinner. Anytime after 9 PM, feel free to cozy up and crash. You made it!
- Don’t let yourself sleep in past 9 AM the next day. Wake up, catch a beautiful sunrise, enjoy some breakfast, and get going.
NOTE: Need help with what to wear on a long flight? Curious about my in-flight essentials? Take a peek at this blog post!
Your Flight Home
- Bring Emergen-C packets with you to take each day leading up to your flight home.
- Eat plenty of leafy greens the day before your flight and drink plenty of lemon water the day of your flight just like before, but this time… Add in some extra carbs when you’re flying home and after you land. Comfort foods are your friend at this point.
- Try not to sleep on the flight home; switch your watch back and get in the mindset of your new (old) time zone.
- Go to sleep at your normal bedtime, but make an effort to create a really quiet, relaxing environment before you go to bed. I like to close the shades, diffuse some peppermint oil, turn the thermostat down a bit, and put on fresh clean sheets. The challenge is staying asleep; your body will want to wake up extra early and you want to encourage a peaceful, restful sleep your first night back.