Plane in the sky
Travel tips

How to overcome jet lag

Nothing makes the first day of travel worse than landing and ready to explore and then an hour later being fine falling asleep on a train, in the street, or anywhere really as you don’t care about anything anymore besides sleep due to jet lag.

Rick and I were total zombies on our first day in London last year even though I went into our overnight travel as prepared as I thought I could be. We were both passing out on the tube by 3 p.m. and didn’t care if we didn’t make it back to our hotel.

Fortunately, I’ve learned a lot since then on how to combat jet lag and I’d love to share my tips and tricks with you!

If you’ve got a long flight or trans-atlantic travel coming up, here are some of my best suggestions for tips for overcoming jet lag.

10 tips to help you conquer jet lag

Man in airport

1. Plan ahead

If you’re crossing a few time zones, be sure to schedule recovery time into your travel plans. Sure, sometimes you can fight jet lag and power through your day but you’ll be crashing by 5 p.m. and be dead exhausted the next day.

Plan rest time and leave gaps to rest and relax as you adjust to your new time zone. It takes about a half day to a full day to let your body and mind adjust to the time difference. Try to get on schedule as much as possible by eating the right meals in your new time zone and try to stay awake as long as you can.

2. Be a time traveler

Really want to get going when you land in your destination? Start changing your schedule before you leave. Go to bed earlier, wake up earlier, and have your meals at appropriate times for where you’re going, not where you are.

3. Prepare for your trip

Travel can already be stressful so why exacerbate it by being frazzled when you arrive at the airport? Pack a day or two ahead, have all your travel documents, passports, and itineraries printed and ready to go. Know what time you need to be out the door and plan your get ready routine back from that.

Be as prepared as possible so you can get ready for your getaway stress-free and ready for fun instead of ready to flip over the table because you can’t find your ID even though you just left it there.

4. Book jet lag-friendly travel times

I know you won’t have a lot of choice in this matter, but if you can find flights that land in the afternoon instead of first thing in the morning, it’ll be easier to adapt as you only have a few hours of daylight before your body will think it’s naturally time to go to sleep.

Landing at noon is much easier to adapt to than landing at 6 a.m. when you’ve had a terrible night’s sleep and have a whole looming day ahead of you. Flights with better arrival times tend to include stops, but it might be worth it to save a few bucks and feel better when you land.

5. Sleep on the plane

If possible, sleep on the plane. I know it can be hard as you have no control over your sleeping environment on a plane, but you can dress in comfy, loose clothes for your eight-hour flight, pack some night shades, a pillow, and maybe even ear plugs to help keep things dark, quiet, and cozy even if that’s not really the case.

Also, be conscious of what seats you pick on the plane! Many airlines restrict reclining seats in the exit row and the last row of the plane, and if noise is a problem for you while you sleep, avoid the back near the lavatories. Seats near the front also experience less bumps and dips than the back of the plane.

Turn off your phones, or let’s be honest, just put it in airplane mode, as well as put away your iPads and turn off the screen in front of you an hour before you want to sleep. Blue light is known to mess with your internal body clock and tell it it’s time to be awake. Read or just rest your eyes until it’s time to go to sleep and do not watch a movie, no matter how much you think it’ll help you fall asleep. It’ll help wake you right back up, too.

Flight attendant on plane

6. Say no to booze and coffee

Have you ever noticed how dry your skin feels or how parched you are after you land? Planes are generally pretty dry and you’re probably not drinking as much water as you should be.

I know I definitely cut back as I don’t want to inconvenience people when I have to get out of my window seat to use the restroom, but now I’ve learned it’s better to have to get people to stretch a bit so I can use the bathroom than feel like I’m dying from thirst when we land, or worse, have a dehydration headache while my body’s internal clock is all messed up.

Keep drinking water until you’re ready to go to sleep, keep moisturized, and say no to the free booze or coffee. You might be thinking, “Now, Stephanie, that glass of merlot is going to help me sleep,” and I’ll counter with it might help you fall asleep but won’t help you stay asleep and you’ll be waking up with dry mouth in 40 minutes.

Caffeine will have the same affect and is shown to increase jet lag recovery time. Pound back the water to help your body adapt to its new time zone instead of hitting up a cafe.

7. Say yes to drugs, I mean supplements

I’ve tried sleeping pills on flights and they just don’t do it for me. If I have an hour and a half flight from Denver to Vegas, I’m asleep two minutes after I sit in my seat. If I’ve stayed up all night to sleep on a trans-atlantic flight, I’m awake the whole time. I now use melatonin so my body recognizes the hormone and allows it to do its job.

I’m not trying to be a drug pusher, but if sleeping pills will help you arrive fresh and happy, do it! Or, look into natural supplements to help your body relax and rest.

8. Add a stopover

Have the time and budget? If you’re traveling long distances, like Australia or Asia, you might want to book a night or two in a location halfway. Not only can it help your body adjust, it allows you to check off another destination from your travel bucket list!

9. Avoid the temptation of a nap

Do not look at the fluffy pillows, cozy comforter, or inviting space of your bed when you get to your accommodation! Get outside, go for a walk, soak up the sun, and breath in all the fresh air you can to combat your jet lag.

Napping will only prolong how long it’ll take you to adapt to your new time zone and mess up your body clock even further. If you must take a power nap, do not sleep for more than two hours and try to stay awake again until an acceptable bedtime.

10. Don’t think about your two time zones

Unless you’re working while abroad or connecting with a loved one, try not to think about what time it is back home. Be present and remind yourself of the time you’re in now or you’ll just feel weird having breakfast when it’s bedtime back home.

What tips do you have for powering through jet lag? Share them in the comments below or tell us on Twitter @bttpassport

Flight at sunrise with jet lag text overlay

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Hey, I'm Stephanie! I'm a copywriter living in beautiful Denver with my husband Rick, and our dog Rocco. I love traveling, writing, reading, and being outside as much as possible - unless I'm on the couch binge watching Stranger Things with a glass of wine! Thanks for reading and being a part of the adventure with Back to the Passport! ❤️

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