How to Avoid and Beat Jetlag

Hi Frugalistas!

As an Australian who travels overseas regularly, I know a thing or two about jetlag.  By thinking about time differences and the direction I am traveling here’s how I avoid and manage myself when I have jetlag:

Destinations with a small time difference

If I’m traveling somewhere where the time difference is only 2-3 hours (such as going to Bali, Perth or New Zealand from the East Coast of Australia) I tend to stay in my “home” timezone wherever I can.  Traveling west that means up with the sparrows and early to bed, and up late and staying up late when traveling east?  It’s what works best for me – I can arrive home and just pick up where I left off with no ill effects.  While small time differences don’t result in jet lag per se, they can still cause disruption to your sleep pattern and therefore your ability to function.

Perth – I don’t bother to acclimatise to the time difference – it’s only 2hours

Destinations with a large time difference

Small time differences are easy – this gets a bit harder!  The time difference between the East Coast of Australia and Western Europe is anywhere between 8 and 11 hours depending on your destination and the time of year.  Managing yourself and your sleep pattern becomes a bit more of a challenge and a strategy is required.  I have separate strategies for when I fly East and for when I fly West, as the issues and challenges do differ.  Remember, traveling to your destination and traveling home again may be different to mine depending on your origin and destination.

Traveling West for me is traveling to Europe (and therefore traveling backwards in time).  This is the easy part of the trip.  I like to book a flight that arrives first thing in the morning at my destination.  I like to spend the first day outside and tend to do a lot of walking – getting out in the sunshine is a good way to get acclimatised.  I never schedule a busy day on that first day in case I do get tired – taking it easy does help I find.  I never plan a big dinner on that first day – just something light, eaten reasonably early.  Then off to bed early.  I find that’s all I need to do to settle into my new time zone.

I try to only sleep when it’s the right time for my destination

Traveling East (or going forwards in time towards Australia for me) is the hard part, when the jet lag can go on for days, and hit at the most awkward of moments.  What works best is if you can get a flight  that will get you to your destination in the late afternoon or early evening – you get home, and it’s just about time for bed which works well.  That’s not always possible unfortunately as often flights back to Australia from Europe tend to arrive first thing in the morning.  If that’s how it works out, I try really hard not to sleep too much on the plane unless it’s at the equivalent of night time at my destination.  If I do arrive home first thing in the morning I go straight to bed and sleep for a few hours.  That avoids hitting the wall mid-afternoon.  Then I stay awake till the evening and until I’m tired.

My in-flight strategy to minimise jet lag

Personally I don’t take any medications to manage or avoid jet lag – including anything to help me sleep. By all means though, talk to your doctor if you think you may need it.  In flight it’s important to try to sleep when it is time to sleep at your destination rather than at home – I watch movies, read and generally do whatever I can to stay awake for as long as I can.  I avoid caffeinated drinks though – they are too dehydrating in flight and just cause other problems.  I also avoid alcohol unless I’m planning on sleeping as I find it makes me drowsy when I’m traveling.

What are your favorite ways to beat jet lag – I’d love to hear from you!

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4 Comments on “How to Avoid and Beat Jetlag”

  1. FoundTravel 12/09/2012 at 5:56 am #

    I’m also a firm believer in getting up on the flight, moving around! And I’d rather book two 88hour flights than one 10 or 11-hour flight with a short connector.

    • frugalfirstclasstravel 12/09/2012 at 6:20 am #

      Agreed. I don’t know that there is any evidence to support that it works, but I think anything that makes you feel more ‘normal’ is a good thing!

      Thanks for dropping by!

  2. Anita Mac 11/11/2012 at 2:06 am #

    I have found, as I get older, jet lag is becoming a little more difficult. I used to fly Canada to Australia, arriving 6 am and going to work at 9! I don’t find that as agreeable any more, preferring to have a day to get myself oriented! Definitely plan on time for exercise, preferably outside. The fresh air and sunlight help reset the clock! If I know I will be struggling to stay up – I will allow myself a 20 minute cat nap. I find if I go to bed much before 9 or 10 that first night, I wake up at midnight and have trouble going back to sleep! The later I can stay up that first night, the faster I acclimatize to my new time zone!
    Loads of water on the plane also helps – I feel more refreshed and far less dehydrated when I arrive at my new destination.
    I guess, at the end of the day – the key is knowing yourself and your limits. Take advantage of the changed sleeping patterns to watch a stunning sunset if you are up too early – if you stay busy, the natural rhythm of life will help to adjust too!
    Happy travels.

    • frugalfirstclasstravel 11/11/2012 at 7:19 am #

      Gee, arrive at 6 and work at 9 – that’s good going!

      I agree wholeheartedly about the knowing yourself part – I feel as though I’m doing it better as I get older for precisely that reason.

      Really helpful suggestions – thanks for dropping by and commenting. I love getting the collective wisdom of others as well as sharing my own thoughts and experiences.

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