Travel Tip Tuesday: Five Tips for Reducing Jet Lag

Imagine this.

You spend years saving for that once-of-a-lifetime intercontinental vacation. You spend months planning details, from tracking down the iciest mint mojitos, to the most exotic thatched-roof tiki huts, to the best, and most renowned, jungle tour of the water rapids. You spend weeks packing your suitcases and e-mailing your itinerary to everyone from your Grandpa John to your second cousin’s brother-in-law. You spend two days getting there. Then you can’t enjoy a dang thing because you can’t even entice your sleep-deprived self out of bed with the promise of a new pair of shoes or a round of golf.

What is wrong with you?

Is it pre post-vacation planning syndrome, commonly seen when obsessive-compulsive vacation planners finally arrive at said vacation spot and have no lists to make, travel forums to read or hotel reviews to compare, or is it simply a full-blown case of common ole’ jet lag?

Hmmm … I’d go with the jet lag.

Just so you know for sure here are five strategies I’ve developed over the years to help me reduce or, dare I say eliminate, jet lag.

1. The first thing I do when I get on the big bird for an international journey is get settled in. Seriously. I move in. I take out my book or magazine, my MP3 player, a bottle of water (that I bought post-security check), any over-the-counter pain medicine I might need, my neck pillow and eye mask and a bag of Haribo Hari gummy worms. Please don’t ask about the gummy worms, it is an addiction I can’t yet discuss.

2. The second thing I do is set my watch to my new timethen the mind games begin! I look at my watch more on a nine-hour international flight than I do an entire week when I am planted … the whole time telling myself, “Wow. It is really late. I should be hungry.” “Yikes. Look at that time. 2 AM. I should get some rest.” “It is 4:00 AM and they are serving chicken? Oh well … a middle of the night snack never hurt anyone!”

3. I know … I know … all the “theys” out there tell you to skip on the alcohol. Weenies! While I am not encouraging alcoholism here, a light weight like me can have her glass of wine and sleep well, too. After a glass with dinner, the dimmed lights of an overnight red-eye and two warm blankets (that I usually snag from an empty seat when no one is looking) I sleep like a baby. If that’s not your thing, pop a Tylenol PM sans red wine, and you’ll sleep, too. This tip is best utilized on overnight flights when you arrive at your destination in the morning.

Otherwise …

I *load* up on things to do to pass the time. I watch movies, listen to music, read a book or magazine, take travel notes or eat a bunch of gummy worms. Plan in advance and take things on board with you that will help pass the time. I once drafted half of a training guide on a flight from Amsterdam to Houston and on another flight I read a full book. Just recently I edited two articles for a magazine. By the time we touched down I wondered where the time had gone.

5. You may have heard this before, but whatever you do it is absolutely imperative you do not go to sleep when you arrive at your new destination. Promise me … I want to hear you say it with me, “Cherrye … I promise I won’t sleep!”

Ok, then. You have to follow that clock on your arm (that has been set to your new time zone, remember?). If you arrive in the middle of day you may have to push yourself, go for a walk, go out for lunch, go shopping, do anything to make yourself stay awake until “normal” bedtime. This works for two reasons:

– You are further pushing yourself into your new time zone by living, sleeping and eating at normal times. (Yes, I said eating. Even if you aren’t hungry have a small salad or sandwich at your new “normal” hours and your body will adjust to the time more quickly.)
– You are wearing yourself out so when you can finally sleep, you will sleep well and will awaken feeling refreshed and ready to enjoy your trip.

Admittedly, these aren’t rocket surgery or brain science ideas, but they work. I can’t remember the last time I had jet lag and I promise your jet lag will be reduced if you give these a whirl.

Whaddya say?

What are your favorite tips for avoiding jet lag? Care to share any secrets?

Until next time … Buon Viaggio!

9 Responses
  1. I’ve done basically the same things as you for years and have always felt fabulous once I arrived in Europe. It’s been fairly easy though, since I have no trouble sleeping through and entire flight. However, I noticed the last few years that I’ve had more problems with jet lag coming home. It’s made especially worse because usually we are laying over on the East Coast (we are in Colorado) so I would be exhausted by the time I got home and it would take me weeks to recover. I would just be exhausted every day at 3:00 p.m. So, this past May, after a two week trip to Italy in which I had completely adjusted to their time, I decided to apply my tactics on the return trip. It’s much harder to make yourself sleep when you’re leaving at 11:00 a.m. in the morning and arriving late afternoon so, I had lunch then took my sleep aid…slept like a baby all the way from Rome to Washington, DC…had set my clock on Colorado time. Slept again on that fairly long haul from DC to CO…perfect!!!! No signs of jet lag the following week at all! For me, sleep is the most important part.

  2. Awesome tips Cherrye!! My last flight to Italy was a bit frustrating….the whole plane was asleep except for me. For whatever reason I can’t sleep on planes. I’ve been told that taking a Benadryl (or any other sinus/allergy medication) will help get you to sleep. Haven’t tried it myself though.

  3. My husband swears by melatonin tablets. Melatonin is a hormone in your body that regulates sleep.

    Benadryl is another trick… it’s an antihistimine, but will also make you sleepy. Either use it to help you sleep on the plane.

    Or (my trick) be too hyped up with all the last-minute stuff that you don’t sleep the night before you leave NOR on the plane. By the appropriate bed time in your new location, your poor body will be so exhausted it will very happily slip into the new time zone, if it gets to SLEEP first!

  4. Alisa

    I was just about to mention melatonin, too! I always sleep on planes (I can barely stay awake sometimes), so I often can’t get to sleep when it’s bedtime in the new time zone. A couple of melatonins and I can almost always ease off without any grogginess in the morning. It’s sold with the vitamins, it’s all natural, and it’s great!

  5. Love the tips! I also have an affinity for gummy worms, but I like the sour ones.

    Hope your stay has been wonderful stateside. Mom enjoyed her visit and I think Madeleine did too.

  6. cathy fisher

    You’ve made some very good points here. If you’re traveling then you might want to get one of these. I’ve tried many a travel pillow during my years in the skies. I have finally found one that is as comfortable as my pillow on my bed. It has a satin pillowcase, so my hair doesn’t get stuck in one spot while I’m sleeping on the plane or when I have a flight delay and I nap in the airport. I don’t get off the flight with the “bed head” look. I can go to a meeting or lunch with clients and my hair looks great. The pillow itself is designed to feel like down and it’s hypoallergenic. Both the satin pillowcase and the pillow are completely washable. When I’m home I throw it on the sofa and use it as a nap pillow. Now I won’t travel without it. I wound up getting satin pillowcases to take with me to use in my hotel room. The company I purchased the travel pillow from is
    A Touch Of Satin. Their website is if you’re interested. They had a great selection to choose from and they had some really cute ones for kids. If you do any flying at all, or even take car trips, this travel pillow is a must to take with you.
    Thanks for the tip. I’m in the market for a new travel pillow, too!

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