How to Beat Jetlag: 7 Full-time Travelers Weigh In

As a travel writer and former flight attendant, I've spent plenty of time battling jetlag. But, surely, flight professionals have nailed the ultimate coping mechanism for long-haul flights? Fiona Tapp asked the best in the business for their tips and tricks.


Photo © iStock/fizkes

The one part of travel that nobody enjoys. Jetlag – also called desynchronosis – can affect anyone, and usually occurs when you cross more than one time zone. It can leave you feeling like a zombie, with heavy limbs, and a dragging sense of exhaustion and disorientation.

1. Take it Easy Before Departure

All the preamble of packing and preparing for a trip is exciting, and sometimes stressful. Greg Geronemus, the co-CEO of smarTours, advises his clients to stay relaxed before departure.

“Avoid a hectic last night or a bon-voyage party. Plan as if you're leaving two days before you really are.”

2. Sleep On the Plane

If you’re traveling overnight, it’s a great idea to skip the movie and try to sleep on the plane, arriving alert at your destination. Although you won't feel as rested as you would if you’d slept a full night in bed, you’ll have more energy than if you stay awake for the whole flight.

3. Avoid Alcohol

When the cart comes down the aisle, nix the wine and order water. Consuming alcohol may make you feel drowsy, but it’ll also increase dehydration – which can exacerbate jetlag.

Heather Sanchez, a crew member of 10-years who’s traveled the world with Hawaiian Airlines, knows the importance of staying hydrated while flying: “The longer the flight, the more water you should be drinking.”.

4. Get Some Exercise

Once you arrive at your destination, if it’s too early to head straight to bed, consider getting your sweat on. Exercise wastes time, and can wear you out physically – which might be just what you need to put your head down and catch some restorative z’s.

5. Soak Up the Sunshine

As soon you get to your destination and you’ve caught up on some sleep, it’s important to get as much sunshine as possible. UCLA sleep expert Dr. Alon Avidan says that an absence of light causes a surge in melatonin, which makes us feel sleepy.

He advises travelers to get out in the sun at this rate:

  • When traveling westward: Maximize exposure to bright light in the evening.
  • When traveling eastward: Maximize exposure to bright light in the morning.

6. Switch to the New Time Zone as Soon as Possible

Dan Boland, founder of Holidayers, has been an international airline pilot for over 10 years, and has encountered his fair share of groggy days as his internal body clock tried hard to adapt to a new time zone.

He advises travelers to adjust to the time in their new destination. If you arrive at bedtime, try to sleep. If you arrive in the morning, try to stay up.

7. Change Your Watch

My watch automatically adjusts to whatever time zone I’m in, this helps enormously in forgetting what time it is back at home, and tricks my brain into adapting to my new locale.

Jet lag is a travel hassle, but it’s a small price to pay for the chance to get out and explore.

Do you have any tips to beat jet lag? Share them in the comments below!

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1 Comment

  • nancy said

    A corollary to # 6 is to EAT on the new time zone's schedule. If you can, start the new eating-schedule before you leave.
    We've noted it's easier to adapt going west than east.
    It's also definitely easier to adapt when you go half-way around the world - your schedule is SO screwed up that it's actually easier to change to the new time zone.

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