Just the term jet lag is enough to make a traveller cringe. ‘Enjoy the journey’ they say, but really we all just want to get to our destination without feeling like we’ve been up all night. So, before you board that 14-hour flight from Vancouver to Sydney, or even that coast to coast trip from New York to LA, read our 11 tips to avoid jet lag.
Jet Lag: Can You Fight It?
What exactly is jet lag?
Jet lag is a travel-related condition caused by flying across time zones in a relatively short time frame. This fast-track travel disrupts your body clock, which then causes havoc to your moods, eating habits, bowel movements (sorry, but it’s true), and most importantly, your sleep patterns. And when you’re not getting enough quality rest and your body clock is messed up, all hell breaks loose.
Who’s more likely to be affected by jet lag?
Travellers with pre-existing conditions such as health issues, insomnia, and stress may suffer more than someone in excellent physical condition. Caffeine and alcohol consumption will increase jet lag. Young children and seniors may also struggle to recover more slowly from travel exhaustion.
How long does jet lag last?
Ahhh, the question we all want to definitive answer to, but sadly, there isn’t one. The thing is that travel fatigue impacts everyone differently. Some travellers may not notice it at all and some may struggle for days after arriving at their vacation destination. In any case, it’s always a good idea to allow for a day of recovery per time zone crossed. Research suggests that flying west is easier on your body than flying east because going east causes you to lose time. So, if you live in Toronto or Vancouver and you’re deciding between a family trip to Hawaii or a vacation to Europe, your body may thank you for choosing to fly west to Hawaii.
There are things you can do to prevent, or at least reduce, the effects of dreaded jet lag symptoms, so before you book your next long-haul flight, have a read of our top tips.
11 Easy Ways to Avoid Jet Lag on Your Next Long-Haul Flight
1. Fly west
Like we mentioned, if you can choose a flight path that flies west you’ll be better prepared to handle the time changes. When you gain hours instead of losing them, your body may be quicker to recover from jet lag.
2. Be well rested for your flight
When getting ready for a big trip overseas, it pays to catch up on your sleep so you are well rested for the flight. It’s so common for travellers to miss sleep on the lead up to a big trip as they try to finish up loose ends at work, or because the thrill of the vacation is just too much. Regardless of the reason, try your hardest to set aside some extra sleep hours.
3. Reduce stress
Following on from above, you’ll really need to keep tabs on your stress levels before travelling. Jet lag targets stressed-out people so do whatever you need to do before you get on a plane. Meditation, yoga, and massage all work well.
4. Eat healthy
In the days leading up to your dream vacay, chow down on wholesome, fresh foods. Say no to fast, fried foods and yes to greens, lean meats, and vitamin C. Not only will healthy food boost your immune system, but it will also make you feel like a million bucks.
5. Ban the booze
Beer and wine lovers won’t like this one but it’s best to ban alcohol the day before, the day of travel, as well as during your flight. Booze is notorious for dehydrating your body and that’s the last thing you want when you’re flying long distances. Not only that, but it can increase your jet lag. Don’t worry, there’ll be plenty of time for cocktails when you get to your island vacation.
6. Go full decaf
Caffeine is another banned substance when travelling through time zones because, like alcohol, it’s dehydrating. It can also add to insomnia and increase nervousness. Try caffeine-free herbal teas such as peppermint and chamomile, which will aid digestion, keep up your water intake, and help you sleep too.
Travel tip: Why not travel with a stainless steel water bottle for your next trip? You can fill up your water for free at the various water stations at the airport and for your flight, you can ask for refills of hot water. Just throw in a few mint leaves or your favourite herbal tea in the bottle and you’ll have mint tea to keep you relaxed for your flight. Plus, the fresh herbal smell will help calm your nerves during the flight and help stop jet lag!
7. Layover like a boss
When you have a really long flight ahead of you, say Toronto to Perth, Australia, the best advice in the world is to break up the trip. If you try to do this mega flight path with minimal connections and no layovers, you’ll regret it. Guaranteed. Stopover at least once, even if it’s just to get a decent sleep in a hotel bed. Or take advantage of the situation and spend a couple days exploring your chosen layover city (after some sleep, of course). Use Skyscanner’s multi-city trip planner to help you find the perfect path. Great layover cities include Sydney, Hong Kong, and London.
8. Keep moving
Studies show that sitting for long periods may lead to blood clots. It’s easy to just stay seated for the entire flight, especially if you’re in the window seat and you don’t want to disturb the passenger in the aisle, but do not stay in your seat the entire time! To reduce the risk of developing a life-threatening clot, get up every hour or so and get your body moving. This will also prevent stiffness and sore muscles for when you arrive at your destination. Some people ( MMA fighters and personal trainers included) swear that exercising after you land is the best antidote for jet lag.
9. Sleep and don’t sleep
Naturally, sleeping onboard will help you feel rested, but don’t take sleeping pills or sedatives that will knock you out. Sleep in short spurts on the plane, and catch up on lost sleep when you arrive at your destination. If you arrive in the early morning, rest at the hotel, but try to stay awake during the daytime so your body sets to the local time.
10. Request an early check-in
If your flight is scheduled to arrive early in the morning, request an early check-in. Of course, this will not always not available, but if you don’t ask, you won’t know. Hotel staff are trained to be as accommodating as possible and if they know you’re suffering from jet lag and your room has not been occupied the night before, most will let you check-in. If not, they may let early arrivers use the pool area to shower or relax in the guest lounge.
11. Stay hydrated
Drink plenty of water. This will combat the dry air you’re breathing, keep you hydrated, flush out toxins, aid digestion, and help reduce the risk of constipation. Herbal tea (as mentioned above) works too but limit sugary drinks like juice and soft drinks.
Ready to Book an Epic Vacation?
Now that you know how to beat jet lag on long-haul flights, start planning your next holiday. Skyscanner search engines will help you book the best flights, hotels, and car rentals with a few quick entries and clicks.