For seasoned globetrotters, jet lag is an all-too-familiar part of international travel — the fatigue, the disorientation, and especially that pesky inner alarm that wakes you up at 4 a.m. and sends you stumbling back to bed before dinnertime.
While there’s no real cure for jet lag, there are certain things you can do to minimize its effects — just ask our members! We turned to IndependentTraveler.com readers to see how they deal with jet lag and were surprised at the diversity of the responses. Some travelers pop pills, while others rely on medication of the alcoholic variety. Many of our readers strictly hold off on sleep until it’s bedtime in their new time zone, while others say the more naps, the merrier. Check out their tips and share your own!
Pill-Popping, Part I
“Having made two trips to Italy this year, I will recommend No-Jet-Lag pills. I found that if I followed the directions fairly closely they worked well.
“I cannot sleep on planes. I have always made it a practice when going to Europe to get off the plane, check into the hotel and then walk. I never did take a nap. With these pills, while I knew I had not had any sleep, I did not feel worn out and on both trips stayed up easily until 10 p.m. and had no trouble waking up at a decent time (6 a.m. or so) in the morning. I had none of the waking up at 2 a.m. and not being able to go back to sleep. Since I always wake up once or twice a night (an age thing), I was pleased that I had no trouble going back to sleep.”— Host Ciao
Tire Yourself Out
“Usually I am tired when I board a flight due to racing around making all of the arrangements to leave home for an extended length of time, as well as packing. So I often annoy the friends I travel with by falling asleep almost as soon as I fasten the seat belt. If there is ever any problem with being able to sleep, one of those little airline bottles of red wine will usually do the trick. I also keep something to read with me at all times so that if I can’t sleep immediately, I can read and that may make me sleepy again.
“When I arrive, I usually try to do something requiring me to remain active all day so that sleeping is impossible. Then I go to bed at the normal time for wherever I am. The next morning, I am on local time.
“I do have one tip that helps me to be able to be active my first day. I wear some travel socks available in most travel stores that improve circulation. I have poor circulation in my legs anyway, so swelling during long flights is a problem unless I wear these socks. If I can arrive with my lower legs and feet not feeling like clubs, it is easier to be up and active.” — Traveling Granny
Reset Your Internal Clock
“What I do is try to start shifting to the new time zone a day or two beforehand … go to bed earlier (or later, depending). And once I get to the new place, I try to force myself into the new schedule right away rather than napping or whatever.
“Oh, and obviously I do all the standard ‘take care of your body’ stuff like drinking lots of water, moving around on the plane and eating healthy.” — soliteyah
Pill-Popping, Part II
“I recently traveled to Chile (two-hour time difference during U.S. winter and their summer; no time difference during U.S. summer and Chilean winter). It was 2 1/2 hours to Miami and 8 1/2 hours to Santiago. Going I took an Ambien and slept almost not at all. Coming home I took nothing and slept at least briefly on both flights.
“I still haven’t figured out how to deal with jet lag and plane travel. I just wish they had a quiet section in coach where there would be just water and drinks, no dinner, no lights and no movies.” — LSKahn
Walk It Off
“When I got to Australia after nearly 24 hours in the air plus almost a day at LAX, it was 8 a.m. on a Monday morning, and I was all set to go to sleep. My innkeeper, a lovely woman, told me I wasn’t going to take a nap. I was going to have a shower and get changed, and she’d map out a fine walk for me that she knew would keep me out long enough — to try to get me on local time. Oh, how I wanted that nap, though it couldn’t match the feeling I had when the vista came up before my eyes — the Harbour Bridge and the Opera House, sites I’d only ever seen in pictures.
“I have no cure for jet lag; my body just cannot take it anymore. But I’ll keep traveling and go slower the first day or two, depending upon whether or not it’s a big time change. I think drinking lots of water helps a bit; other than that, I think if one isn’t seated up in the premium cabins, where it’s actually possible to sleep, there’s no chance except to count down the hours till ya land.” — Host Bonjour
“I can’t see how you can make up for a lack of sleep without sleeping. Staying up and that kind of thing seems to just exacerbate the problem. I travel with my daughter all over the world due to her fencing schedule. What we have finally found out through trial and error is to give ourselves a full day to acclimate before she has to fence. We leave the U.S. three days before competitions in Europe. Due to living on the West Coast it is a pretty drastic time change, usually 8 – 10 hours.
“We leave the first day (of course), then get there the next day. By the time we get to our destination it is usually mid-afternoon. We check into the hotel and take a nap. We then get up for dinner and pretend we are going to stay up late enough to sleep all night. We never do … we eat dinner and go crash again. Usually we wake up about 4 or 5 a.m. and are really hungry. I always pack snack foods for us. We chow down a bit and then go back to sleep.
“We get up for breakfast, and then go shopping for supplies and check out where we are. By 11 a.m. or so we are pooped out and take another nap. By the time we wake up all bright-eyed and bushy-tailed we go down to the lobby and watch all the other fencers show up for the competition. They look terrible. We kind of laugh.” — Momster
A Little Help From Our Friends…
“What I do depends which direction I am going in! If it will be earlier in my destination, I try to get some sleep on the plane so I arrive bright-eyed and bushy-tailed. Nytol and a gin and tonic seem to help with that part!” — travelmel