One of the best ways to get the most out of the limited time off we get in the U.S. is to be willing to travel overnight and early in the morning, so you still get a full day at your destination. I’m often asked how I manage to not lose the whole following day (or several days) due to jetlag, so here are my tips for getting adjusted as quickly as possible to your new timezone.
Get in the Right Mindset
The minute you get on the plane, trick yourself into thinking you’re in your new time zone. Change the clock on your watch, phone, and anything else with a clock to the new time and start mentally preparing yourself for what you’d be doing at that time. Is it 2AM in the timezone you’re visiting? Just like at home, it’s time for bed! Switch off your overhead light, close the shade, and do any other rituals that help you get to bed at home, including washing your face and brushing your teeth (yes, you can do this in the plane bathrooms!). Do not be tempted to stay up and watch movies, eat, read, etc. if it’s a time you should be sleeping in your new timezone. Even if you aren’t tired, rest your eyes. You’ll be glad you at least tried when the morning comes.
Prep Your “Bed”
Welcome to the reluctant to recline tiny airline chair that is now your bed. Let’s figure out how you can get comfortable, so you can get some shut eye. No one wants to lug around a huge pillow and blanket, but I’m the type who needs warmth and comfort to sleep. One of my favorite things to bring to create a cozy space is this inflatable neck pillow. It doesn’t take up any room in your bag because you can travel with it deflated, and it inflates to the firmness that works for you. It’s quite easy to blow up as well. For warmth, I travel with this blanket scarf. It’s think, fleecy, and long to easy use as a blanket on the plane and doubles as wardrobe when I arrive to my destination. If you prefer something lighter, try a long beach sarong, which can be used as a beach coverup, shawl, or light scarf for warm weather trips. I have two similar to the one linked here that I got on beach vacations, and they’re perfect for cozying up on the plane and covering up on cool tropical nights.
Plane travel is really harsh on your body because of the recycled air. Nothing will make you more miserable the next day then arriving dehydrated (think: headache, stomach ache, generally just ache). Staying hydrated will keep the internal effect of plane travel to a minimum and help you adjust faster to your new timezone. I like to buy a giant bottle in the airport (usually 1 liter), and take the flight attendants’ offer of a beverage (water only!), each time s/he comes by. Make sure to continue to hydrate well into the beginning of your trip, as it takes two-three days for your body to adjust to a new timezone.
Do Not Disturb
It’s pretty hard to get a good night’s sleep when you’re constantly getting woken up by other travelers. That’s why I always choose a window seat when I know I need to sleep on the plane. Two other passengers constantly waking you up to get to the bathroom will sabotage your sleep, so curl up in that little window area and make the most of being uninterrupted. I also utilize a fleece sleep mask and ear plugs to keep the light/noise out. I highly recommend getting a higher quality mask and more comfortable ear plugs instead of using the rough ones provided by the airline. Try them at home for a few days before your flight, so you’ll be used to them.
Plan a Flexible Itinerary
As much as I always like to hit the ground running when I get to a new destination, I know that I’m going to need a nap for the first two to three days to keep actively adjusting to the local time. Because of this, I plan to see sights during the day, then go back to my hotel for a nap around the 4:30-6:30PM time frame. It’s the perfect time to plan a nap since most city’s major sites close at 4PM, you’ve been able to take advantage of the full day, and it still leaves you time to make a nice dinner.
You’ll be delighted to greet the day in no time!