There was once a time when travel meant trying our best to save as much money as possible, by whatever means were available. This meant finding the cheapest flights, within reason. However the problem with cheaper flights is they often fly at times that are less than ideal and I learnt the hard way following my first long haul flight just how horrendous jet lag can be.
My first long haul was from Australia to Paris, with a stop over of around 6 hours in Malaysia. We left Australia around midday and arrived in Paris early in the morning. This meant spending an entire day in Paris completely exhausted and trying to function when we would normally be sleeping.
My first 2 days in Paris are somewhat of a blur and sadly, I can admit to falling asleep on a Seine river cruise on our second night… and very nearly falling asleep during my dinner on the first night. My husband still raves about the amazing Creme Brulee that I have absolutely no recollection of unfortunately. It was an effort to function at all those first couple of days and beyond.
These days I will choose flights carefully and it is one area I am willing to spend a little more on when it comes to overseas travel. Not only for safety and peace of mind, choosing an airline that is quality, but also for reducing the effects of jet lag.
Tips For Reducing Jet Lag
1. Arrive Later
This is the first tip for a reason. It’s also the best. Time your long haul flights to arrive at your final destination later in the day. At least after lunch is ideal, with afternoon arrivals being perfect. This gives you time to process through customs and baggage claim and get to your accommodation while there is still some daylight left. Then you can check yourself in, get some dinner and wind down for the night, encouraging your body to adapt to the new time zone quickly. This change alone pretty much eliminates my jet lag these days.
2. Attempt Sleep
While you are on the plane, try to get some sleep. Often flights leaving from Australia to the other side of the world end up being red-eye flights anyway, but even if that isn’t the case from where you are flying from, make sure you get some rest on the plane. This can be tricky so consider taking things to help such as ear plugs and wearing comfortable clothing.
3. Keep Up Fluids
This tip is helpful for travel in general, but make sure you remain hydrated throughout your flights, before and after. Dehydration will only make your jet lag symptoms far worse so drink plenty of water. Avoid the booze, even if it is tempting to get a little happy with the free alcohol most international flights provide. Also cut down on coffee.
4. Comfortable Clothing
Wear loose, comfortable clothing while travelling. Fluid retention is fairly common when flying, so avoid cutting off circulation with tight clothes and shoes.
No need to run laps up and down the plane aisles. Chances are the staff won’t be happy with this, however do be mindful of being active during your flight. Stretch your legs and make circles with your feet, stand up, walk around when the no seatbelt sign is not on. Most large planes will have an area where you can make your own drinks and possibly get snacks. It’s a good option to take a few walks and spend some time upright and out of your chair during the flight to reduce the chance of fluid retention and swelling, and to help prevent those aches and pains from sitting in an uncomfortable chair too long.
6. Eat Well
Make sure you satisfy your stomach with some hearty meals during your flight. Aeroplane food has often been a bit of a joke, along with hospital food but in actual fact these days most of it is pretty good and there are relatively healthy options available. Don’t forget to request special dietary requirements if needed.
7. Stop Over
If you are doing a long haul flight that stops over somewhere at the halfway point or thereabouts, consider making this an overnight stop over instead of just a few hours. This gives your body a bit of a break from the discomfort of flying, and can help the body adjust more gradually to the time differences of different countries. It can also be very helpful if travelling with children who struggle with those long flights.
8. Adjust Your Body Clock
If your work/life permits, you can start adjusting your body clock for your destination before you leave, by altering your bedtime and wake up time to be earlier or later for a few days before you leave. This makes the time zone change less of a shock to the body than it would otherwise be.
Once you do arrive at your destination, be sure to spend plenty of time in those first few days out in the sunlight to help your body adjust to the different time zone. It will help reset your body’s natural clock quicker. Many international airports have an outdoor area, so make use of these areas during your stopovers as well. Fresh air and vitamin D does wonders!
10. Avoid Naps
Unless you typically nap every day at home, napping when you arrive at your destination can make things worse when adjusting to your destination. It can also make it harder to fall asleep when night time does arrive, leaving you wide awake when you really need to be sleeping. Do your best to stay awake until as close to night time as possible once you are at your final destination. This can be tough so that’s what makes tip 1 such an important one!
So when planning your next international holiday, take these tips into consideration when booking flights and arrival times to help with reducing jet lag for yourself and your travel companions. Sometimes we want to get out and start exploring the second we arrive or have only a limited time to see a certain destination so you want to give yourself the best chance of feeling good. You don’t want to forget the best creme brulee of your life!