Thrifty Traveler’s 6 Tips for Beating Jet Lag
Jet lag: it’s difficult to evade, and an inevitable challenge to traveling abroad. Jet lag is typically the result of crossing more than two time zones. Its impact will vary from person to person, but generally the more time zones you cross, the more your body will be out of whack. Here are Thrifty Traveler’s best tips for beating jet lag and jumping right into travel activities at your international destination.
Airplanes have dry air and over time it depletes your body of liquids. We often don’t realize how much time is passing on long flights. Time we would have spent drinking water if we were back down on land. Instead of choosing soda or coffee, avoid caffeine and sugar and choose water instead. Be shameless and request water refills when the flight attendants come around to stay hydrated. Better yet, carry on your own water bottle, either fill it at the airport before boarding or ask a flight attendant to fill it up for you.
Although getting up to use the lavatory isn’t the most enjoyable, you’ll feel much better when you arrive. If you’ve got a tiny tank, I recommend snagging that aisle seat. Getting up a few times to use the lavatory also helps keep your blood circulation going during a long flight; stretching your legs and walking through the aisles is much easier when you’re in the aisle seat.
While it can be fun to enjoy a few drinks during your flight, it does come at a cost. Alcohol quickly dehydrates your body, and if consumed before bedtime, can lead to lower sleep quality. The Thrifty Traveler team can admit to imbibing a few too many glasses of champagne on a flight and paying dearly for it after landing. As with all things, use moderation.
Melatonin is a wonder drug that is a must to pack for a flight and for your trip in general. It’s a hormone that tells your brain when it’s time to wind down and go to sleep. Melatonin is cheap and isn’t habit forming. Take melatonin right as you’re taking off and you’ll be in for a restful slumber, ready to take on your travel destination.
Melatonin can also come in handy if your body has trouble adjusting to the new sleep schedule in your destination’s time zone. Take it for the first few days in the city you’re visiting to make sure you get a full night’s sleep and can maximize your waking hours for exploration.
Set Yourself Up for Time Zone Adjustment
Prepare yourself to adjust quickly to your destination’s time zone right off the bat by selecting your arrival time wisely. Arriving in the afternoon or the evening is an easy way to ensure you can stay up until the local bedtime and quickly get on the right sleep schedule.
A few days before your flight, start thinking about the time zone you’ll be heading to. If you’re going somewhere with a large time difference, you can begin changing your sleep schedule to lessen the adjusting time. This may mean going to bed earlier or later, taking a nap in the afternoon, or shifting your meal times by a few hours before your trip.
A jet lag smartphone app can help prepare your body to adjust to the new time zone. In an app like Jet Lag Rooster or Chronoshift you can put in your destination, how many days until your departure, and the app will help you prepare a schedule that slowly adjusts your body to that new time zone up to two weeks in advance.
Further, if you wear a wristwatch, setting the watch’s time to the timezone of your upcoming destination on the day of your flight is always a good idea.
If you don’t have the time to do this before, don’t stress! You can also do this on the plane by checking the local time at your destination and sleeping/eating according to that time. This works better if you are tired and can fall asleep easily. I recommend getting a little less sleep the night before a big flight (which may be no problem for fellow last-minute packers).
Avoid Onboard Meals
Unless you’re flying in business class, you’re likely going to be offered a questionable food product. One positive for some of the low-cost carriers (such as Icelandair, WOW air, and Norwegian) is that you can choose exactly what meals you want to eat. Of course, these come at a cost of $5-15, but the quality is usually a lot better than a free meal.
I recommend bringing your own healthy snacks to help you get through the flight without having to eat one of the free “sodium bombs”. Pack dried fruit, health bars, or other favorite healthy snacks that are low in sodium and will keep you full for the duration of the flight.
Pick the Best Seat
Thanks to modern new aircraft like the Airbus A350 or the Boeing 787 Dreamliner, long-haul flights can be up to 17 hours in length. That’s a lot of time in one seat; make sure you’ve picked the best one.
We always recommend referencing SeatGuru before each flight. Input your flight information on SeatGuru to find out whether video, power, and WiFi will be available. It will also tell you the seat width and seat pitch (better known as leg room) on your flight.
SeatGuru identifies which seats you want to avoid in red and yellow, and also identifies the best seats in green. You’ll want to avoid sitting right next to the lavatories for obvious reasons. Be sure to also avoid high traffic areas such as the galleys, which can be noisy during food prep.
While dealing with jet lag can seem daunting, these are some tried-and-true tips to help you overcome jet lag quickly and get on to enjoying your waking hours in your travel destination. Make sure you prepare and plan for jet lag before, during, and after your flight to help your body adjust to a new time zone.