One of the most common complaints people have about travelling to far off destinations is that they have to deal with jet lag. My first trip to Europe as a kid was pretty much the worst arrival ever- I spent days in a fog of being tired when everyone was awake and awake when everyone was sleeping. It’s an awful way to spend your trip and I’m happy to report also completely unnecessary.
I’ve travelled from North America to numerous spots and have yet to find myself experiencing jet lag to or from a destination. To put it into perspective, I travelled to Hong Kong from Vancouver, BC, which is a 15 hour time difference on top of a 13+ hour flight. I landed in Hong Kong on Sunday evening, HKT, and had to be at a work meeting on Monday morning – which I did and didn’t even feel remotely tired. My Hong Kong co-workers were sure I had flown in days earlier to be ready. Luckily for me, I just know the tricks of avoiding jet lag – drug free – and I’m going to share them with you now.
The first thing you need to do is drink water. Even if you drink the recommended 8 glasses of water a day, it’s still a critical part of travelling to drink more water than you are used to before going on a longer flight. Airplane rides are notoriously known for being dehydrating and I’ve found that when I don’t have enough water, I get cranky, irritable and tired: all things that you can not be when trying to ward off jet lag.
Then you’ll need to know your travel schedule– which means you need to know two things: The length of the flight and local arrival time. Let’s take my trip to Hong Kong as an example. I left Vancouver on Saturday morning; meaning I got up, had breakfast and got myself to the airport. As soon as I got to the airport, I confirmed the flight time (13+ hours) and then also confirmed my local arrival time, which was somewhere around 8pm locally in Hong Kong on Sunday evening when you take into account the time difference. What this meant is that other than a brief nap as I might otherwise have taken on a weekend, I did not sleep on the plane. If I had slept on the plane, I would have arrived in Hong Kong ready to go as they were winding down. I’d have not been able to sleep and would have been up all night and therefore exhausted the next morning. As soon as I got through security and was close enough to my gate that I could hear the boarding calls, I changed my watch to Hong Kong time and just told myself that was what time it was.
Because I needed to be awake for the majority of the plane ride, preparation for the flight was key. I had researched what movies were on the plane that I might be interested in watching and then had back-ups to kill time on my iPad. I took books I wanted to read, bought some new magazines at the gate and also had my computer to do some work on the way. I kept myself awake even though the majority of the other passengers around me dozed off. I also had the luck of flying first class, so I enjoyed gourmet meals and snacks the whole way which also killed a couple of hours. Alternatively, if you’re flying and have to sleep, bring a pillow and blanket with you (airline blankets and pillows are GROSS, buy your own) and also invest in an eye mask and earplugs to ward off your fellow passengers. Someone told me earplugs were dangerous for flying because you might miss an emergency announcement, so you could be like a friend of mine who has those expensive noise cancelling Bose headphones which she plugs in to the plane system when she needs to fall asleep so that she can block out the noise of her fellow passengers but still hear safety announcements.
Here are some of my “must-have” travel accessories:
And you’re there! Let’s say you had the misfortune of dozing off on the plane – or more probably that you weren’t able to doze off- in order to align yourself to your new time zone. Then you have to grin, bear it and suck it up the first day. This happened to me when flying to Europe the last time I went- I needed to sleep but had screaming children behind me the whole flight. So when I landed in Barcelona around noon, I needed to stay awake for at least 8 hours after having already been up for an entire day. The first part was easy- the excitement of being in a new city takes over – but then you begin to get foggy, your eyes close if you stop for a moment, you think everything would be better if you just slept for a few minutes. Don’t make these rookie mistakes. Sleeping for a few minutes when you’re bone tired just doesn’t work. Force yourself to stay awake until after you’ve had dinner, and then lay down to a long night’s sleep and you’ll wake up the next morning feeling refreshed and ready to go.
So there you have it – my top secret, and yet extremely common sensical, tips to avoiding jet lag. To miss part of your trip because you’re adjusting to a time change is just wasted time, which doesn’t sit well with me. Oh, and if you need more proof that these tips work? I made the trip to Hong Kong at 5 months pregnant on the way there and 6 months pregnant on the way home.