Jet lag. It’s a funny thing really. You know in your mind that you’re in a different country and a different time zone, but your body is like nope. I’ve been doing a lot of research on how to combat jet lag on my upcoming trip, and the ultimate conclusion is that it’s unavoidable, but it can be made easier.
If you’re in the same boat and the anticipation jet lag and working out how to ease it is completely confusing to you, then fear not, I’ve got you. I mean, the picture below is me last time I returned from Australia, at 4pm in the afternoon… Safe to say I want to avoid this again.
So, in anticipation of my upcoming trip to Australia and a 23 hour flight journey, split between two flights, 6.5 hours to Doha, Qatar, and then 14 hours onto Melbourne… I have scoured the internet for the do’s and don’ts of jet lag, and have compiled them all here.
According to the NHS website, before you travel you shouldn’t “eat large meals, exercise, use electronic gadgets, or drink alcohol or caffeinated drinks before bedtime”, which is… essentially everything I do on a regular basis…
If you’re like me and the above sounds like a regular weekend, then it’s unlikely you can go cold turkey and turn health-goddess in a day. However, before a long haul flight it’s advisable to take things easy – definitely no hangovers or a all-you-can eat buffet before you’re set to be on a flight for 10 hours.
Get Your Body Ready for the new Time Zone
This is a weird one, but it’s a common tip I came across in my research. I think if you’re travelling to the other side of the world this is a bit extreme – I can’t start sleeping in the day and staying awake at night, my employer might have something to say about it at least…
But a common tip that appeared in my search was to try and relax your schedule in the lead up to your flight, so try not to stick to a rigid routine of eating meals and sleeping so that when you’re abroad your body won’t be expecting to keep to strict time rules.
Another way to get ahead of this is to set your watch to your destination’s time as soon as you’re on the plane. I’ve tried this before and massively confused myself, but just relax, try not to think about “ahh back home it’s 3am in the morning!”, back home’s time doesn’t matter any more, you’re on holiday time now…
Stay Hydrated (yay!) but Keep Away From the Booze (booo)
It’s a hard pill to swallow for me here, as I always love a holiday drink before the plane takes off. I mean, when else (apart from Christmas day) can you justify a glass of prosecco for breakfast at the airport bar??
The key to beating jet-lag is to keep hydrated, which means alcohol and caffeine – i.e all the good stuff – are off the menu so to speak. I’ve read here that an optimum hydration goal for a flight is 1/2 litre for every hour in the air which would mean 12 LITRES for me during my entire flight, better book in an aisle seat…
I’m joking of course, I think that is a bit extreme, but I will be bringing on my own water bottle and drinking as much as I can throughout the flight. If you do opt for a free alcoholic drink (which I will be…) then try to make up for it by drinking more water to compensate, just apologise to whoever has the aisle seat if you need to keep nipping to the toilet…
My last flight to Australia was my first solo air trip, which was an intense way to try that on my own. I kind of lost my mind a bit and lost any concept of time schedules and when and what to eat, and I ended up really regretting it. I think over the course of 24 hours I accidentally ate about 6 meals… I essentially said yes to everything food-wise that was offered to me, not thinking about how or what it was in relation to my normal food schedule.
If you can, think about how, what and when you want to eat any large meals or snacks whilst you’re in the air. Whereas your flights are to a certain destination, especially if your trip involves two flights, the airline won’t know what type of schedule your body is on so they’ll be serving up whichever meal they like. You could end up having 2 breakfasts really close together, which is what I ended up doing, and frankly my body lost complete concept of time and what it wanted.
Be savvy with your food choices. Personally I’m not a huge fan of airplane food, so I know now if I play it cleverly on the way there I can schedule my meals so I eat them in airports (i.e cooking on the ground, not microwaved in the air…) and strategically take snacks with me to have along the way.
Pack your Cabin bag appropriately
This is my personal opinion really, but I think be strategic with what you bring on board with you to ensure you’re as comfortable and at ease on the flight as possible. An airplane for an extended amount of time is an odd place to be stuck, and your body will feel the discomfort. Invest in a really good travel pillow, earplugs and eye mask so you can block out the sounds of the plane and your fellow passengers, to fully prepare your body for a comfy sleep as possible.
When I travel for any longer than 6 hours I always make sure my toothbrush is packed with me in my cabin bag, so I can brush my teeth when I want – which does a great job at making me feel fresh again when I need it. As well as drinking a lot of water to keep my body hydrated, I also want to keep an eye on my skin hydration and will be bringing a travel size cleanser, moisturiser, lip balm and hand cream with me to keep myself topped up through the journey.
If you’re on a connecting flight see if there are showers or even lounges that you can access when you’re in the airport waiting for your next flight. There’s no better way than getting rid of that airplane ‘ick’ feeling than washing it all off.
Think About The Other Side
A lot of jet lag tips revolve around the pre-flight and in-flight routine, but it’s also important to think about the end game – your destination.
If you’re able to, I think it’s best to try and book yourself in for a nice hotel or Airbnb to arrive to, so you can feel comfortable and as homely as possible. I think anything too out of the ordinary just confirms to your body that you’re not at home any more, and can make things just a slight bit worse.
On my last trip to Sydney I arrived after 24 hours, feeling bloated, tired and sweaty (cute), and the last thing I wanted or needed was to arrive at a hostel where I couldn’t check into it just yet, and had to shower in the communal showers with my suitcase close by. In retrospect perhaps I could’ve saved the shower until later, but it’s what I wanted and needed. Next time I’ve booked us in to our own Airbnb so we can arrive and (hopefully) be greeted by a nice, clean little apartment where we can get settled when we arrive.
And that, ladies and gentlemen, is it. This is everything I have gleaned from exploring the internet for tips on how to ease jet lag. It’s pretty unavoidable, but if you’re going to endure it, go in prepared. Make sure, regardless of how good you are on the flight, you have packed enough various medicinal bits you need – your medication, vitamins, paracetamol – make sure you’re ready for the other side.
I hope if you’re going on a long-haul trip soon that the above helps in anyway, if I’ve missed something really helpful please let me know in the comments. I’m going to attempt all of the above on my next Australia trip, and I’ll do a write up of how well that went when I’m back…
Until then, Thanks for Reading x