By Rachael Funk
Two words can strike dread into the heart of travelers: jet lag. In a classic case of “the mind is willing, but the body is weak,” flying into a new time zone (or returning to one you’re no longer used to) can put a hiccup into your plans. Though we won’t claim any of these let you avoid jet lag altogether, here are a few ways to make it more bearable.
Be well-rested before you leave
“I’ll sleep on the plane” is a lie we tell ourselves to justify waiting until the night before the trip to start filling suitcases. Packing early not only affords you more time to find those elusive last items you thought you already had, but it also lets you get to sleep on time before you head for the airport. We still highly recommend a snooze on the plane (more to come on that), but once you land, you’ll be glad you got started on a full eight hours.
Avoid caffeine, alcohol, and boredom snacking
Pretty much anything that’s fun to consume runs the risk of backfiring later. Caffeine and alcohol can cause dehydration and affect your sleep cycles on the plane and once you land. Junk food can also make you drag, so if you get the pre-flight munchies, look for high protein, unprocessed foods with low sodium. Plain food and lots of water until you’ve reached your destination will help keep you feeling energized and alert.
Nap on the plane
Long flights can be boring. A power nap here and there can help pass the time and keep you fresh for landing. Try not to get a full night’s sleep in the air, though, or else you may have more trouble adjusting to the new time change once you arrive.
Arrive in daylight
To keep your melatonin cycles as regular as possible, you’re going to want to catch some sun before you call it a day. Instead of napping at the hotel, try to soak in some rays instead. In fact, you should avoid naps altogether once you land and try to stay up and active until your usual bedtime. It might make for a rough first day, but it’ll make the next day’s wakeup call much easier.
Don’t underestimate the magic of a quick shower
If you have a few minutes, hop into the shower and wash off that recycled air. Fresh clothes and a clean body might not retrain your circadian rhythm, but it’ll sure be invigorating! Plus, your travel buds would probably appreciate it, too.
Maintain your usual medication schedule
If you take time dependent medications, make sure to keep track of “home time” so you don’t upset your standard routine. Even if you have to wake up at odd hours or throw a pill box into your bag, it’ll be less disruptive than making an abrupt change to your dosage schedule. Chat with your doctor before you leave to make sure your timeline is safe and make sure you have enough to last the entire trip. If you’re already jet lagged, trying to adjust your body to a new medication timetable is a recipe for exhaustion.
Be generous with your travel partners
Everyone’s tired – and cranky! Try to keep in mind that the people you are traveling with also just sat through a long flight and are adjusting to the new time zone, too. Choose your battles and be conscious about how you interact with others during that stressful window between getting off the plane and checking into your hotel. Don’t kick off your vacation in a sour mood. Remember you’re all in this together and this trip is going to be amazing!