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Want to avoid jet lag on your next trip or when you arrive back home? These tips will help you to reduce or entirely skip the dreaded jet lag symptoms that can come with time zone changes.
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 and why I now go to great lengths avoiding jet lag with a few simple planning steps.
What Is Jet Lag?
Jet lag is a disorienting condition that can affect travellers who cross multiple time zones. It is caused by a disruption in the body’s natural sleep patterns. The rapid disruption can impact your circadian rhythm and can result in fatigue, insomnia, and other symptoms.
10 Best Tips For Reducing Jet Lag
My first long haul was from Australia to Paris, with a stopover 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 the jet lag lingered pretty much for our entire week in Paris. Lucky we had a chance to go back a couple of years later!
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.
1. Arrive Later
Arriving later is going to help with reducing jet lag! This is the top tip for a reason.
Aim to time your long-haul flights to arrive at your final destination later in the day. My recommendation is at least after lunch, with mid-afternoon arrivals being optimal.
This gives you time to process through customs and baggage claim and get to your accommodation while there is still some daylight left, which helps you adjust to the new time zone you have arrived in.
By arriving later in the day, your room is usually guaranteed to be ready, which means no hanging about while dead on your feet tired, so you can freshen up, 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, at least for the initial departure. For some reason, coming home always seems to result in a higher chance of having jet lag.
You can compare flights, including arrival and departure times for your preferred dates online.
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.
If you are passing through multiple time zones, it can be really hard to adapt your internal clock. And even more difficult for anyone who suffers from sleep disorders.
Tips for Sleeping on Long Haul Flights
This can be tricky when it is not your usual bedtime, so here are some tips for sleeping on long haul flights:
Wear loose, comfortable clothing
Pack a jacket or jumper so you are warm enough
Take earplugs and a sleep mask to assist with noise and light
Use a travel pillow as onboard pillows are not always very comfortable
Get kids into their pyjamas and follow as much as their usual routine as you can to help them prepare to sleep
3. Stay Hydrated
This tip is helpful for travel in general, as it is easy to forget to keep your fluids up when you’re off having adventures! To minimise jet lag, 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.
Try to avoid too much coffee, soft drink or alcohol during your flights, instead choosing healthier alternatives or sticking just to water.
Wear loose, comfortable clothing while travelling. Fluid retention is fairly common when flying, so avoid cutting off circulation with tight clothes and shoes.
If you are prone to swelling, or if you are concerned this may be an issue, you can purchase specialty-designed compression socks to wear for your flight which will assist with maintaining blood flow by applying pressure in your lower legs.
They help reduce discomfort and swelling, but also reduce the risk of certain conditions such as deep vein thrombosis.
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.
Exercise and stretch your legs, make circles with your feet, stand up, and walk around when the seatbelt sign is not on.
Most large planes will have an area where you can make your own drinks and 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 caused by sitting in an uncomfortable chair for too long.
If you aretravelling with children, make sure to remind them to move as well, although most kids don’t need much prompting! Usually, it’s harder to keep them sitting still!
6. Eat Well
Make sure you satisfy your stomach with some nutritious meals during your flight. Aeroplane food is sometimes lumped in the same category as hospital food, but in actual fact, most of it is pretty good these days and there are relatively healthy options available.
Don’t forget to request special dietary requirements if needed. You can do this before you travel either at the time of booking or via the online booking management on the airline’s website in most cases.
If you are doing a long-haul flight that stops over somewhere at the halfway point or thereabouts, consider making this an overnight stopover 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 zone changes of different countries.
It can also be very helpful if travelling with children who struggle with those long flights. You can all have a proper night’s sleep in a real bed and recharge your batteries a little before the next leg of your trip.
Some airlines and travel routes will provide the option to catch a flight 24 hours later at no extra charge so chat with your travel agent if you are using one to see if you have the ability to do so. If you do, book a hotel at your airport or nearby to make it easy for your next-day transit.
If your work and lifestyle allow it, 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, especially if the time zones are not too drastically different.
This can be difficult if you work shift work and cannot alter your sleep patterns significantly though.
I use the world clock function on my phone to work out time zone differences compared to our local time before I travel and to see if it is worth adjusting my sleep patterns in the week leading up to a trip.
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 natural body clock quicker.
Many international airports have an outdoor area, so make use of these areas and the light exposure during your stopovers as well. Fresh air and vitamin D does wonders!
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 nighttime does arrive, leaving you wide awake when you really need to be sleeping.
Do your best to stay awake until as close to nighttime as possible, once you are at your final destination. This can be tough so that’s what makes tip 1 such an important one to avoid jet lag!
The use of melatonin can also help reduce the symptoms of jet lag. To determine if this is a suitable option for you, visit your local doctor clinic prior to travelling.
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!