7 Simple Ways to Beat Jet Lag on Your Next Flight

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Traveler's Toolbox  

Girl at the airport window looking to the ocean.
Girl at the airport window looking to the ocean via Shutterstock

Jet lag doesn’t discriminate. Men, women, big, tall or small, we’re all susceptible to what the Mayo Clinic defines as a “temporary sleep disorder that can affect anyone who quickly travels across multiple time zones.”  A serious case of jet lag can make you feel like you’re part of the walking dead, keeping you in a haze for the first days of your vacation. Seasoned travelers, however, have a few tricks they use to help prevent jet lag. We’ve  laid out some of our favorite tips that will give you an edge before you depart and, hopefully, keep, you jet lag-free throughout your journey.

Before your flight

Adjust your sleep schedule

Experts recommend gradually moving your bed time before your departure date. The consensus is that if your trip takes you east, then try going to bed one hour earlier for several days before you leave. Alternatively, if your travels take you to the west, then you’ll want to go to bed an hour later for a few days before you depart.

Stay healthy

I know it can be tough, especially as your vacation draws near, but it’s important not to check out on your health prior to leaving. Keep eating right, keep getting a good night’s sleep, and keep exercising. Feeling good can go a long way to preventing or, at least, keeping jet lag to a minimum. With that in mind, just say no to any late night farewell parties. Hangovers aren’t fun on the ground, so just imagine dealing with one at 30,000 feet. Plus, traveling with a hangover puts on you on the fast track to some serious jet lag.

The 24 hour rule

When possible try to have everything you need to do for your trip done at least 24 hours before you leave for the airport. Have all of your bags packed, and all the important extra’s (passport, maps, printed reservations and boarding passes, medications) ready to go too. Keep your mind stress-free, and your body will thank you.

On the plane

Body Moving

In-flight exercise, especially when combined with staying well-hydrated, is a great way to combat jet lag, while keeping your circulation going. During long flights, exercising is very important, as it can help lower your risk of blood clotting, known as Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT). When exercising in your seat, be considerate of your neighbors. Be careful not to impede on their space.

Extreme sports on an airplane wing.
This gives a whole new meaning to exercising on the airplane via Shutterstock

Headphones are your friend

Noise cancelling headphones or even one’s that fully cover your ears can go along in helping you find that easy, peaceful feeling on a flight, even when faced with a crying baby in the seat behind you. Alternatively, ear plugs as well as a sleeping mask can also work wonders, and their cost combined is only a fraction of what you’d pay for a pair of good noise cancelling headphones.

Leap forward or backwards

At the airport or on the plane before takeoff, set your watch or electronic devices to your final destination’s time zone. While by no means a guaranteed fix for jet lag on its own, when coupled with our other tips, it can help your brain get into the rhythm of your new destination before you even touch down.

Indulge in water, not alcohol

International flights often offer passengers (yep, even those in coach) complimentary beer, wine and spirits, making it easy to consume (and rationalize) more alcohol than you may normally consume on a flight. If you really want to prevent jet lag, then your best bet is to keep your alcohol, as well as caffeine for that matter, intake low, and indulge on water instead.

A shot of Flight attendant serving people on airplane
Flight attendant serving water on an airplane via Shutterstock

Got a surefire way to beat jet lag? Let us know about it in the comments!

About the Author: Randy Kalp

Randy Kalp is a semi-intrepid journalist traveling the world and missing his 7-pound hound. His stories have appeared in Men’s Health, GAdventures’ The Looptail, the San Diego Uptown News, Coast News and San Diego Reader. You can read about Randy’s latest adventures on his award-winning travel blog and follow him on his social networks (below) and Pinterest.

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