We’re so lucky to be able to travel. We all know that. Travel opens up our eyes, our minds and our hearts to the wonders of the world. It broadens our outlook, it introduces us to new cultures – and it gives us a killer tan. What’s not to love?!
But there is a downside to travel – the actual travelling part itself. Because sure, while 16-hour journeys crammed into a sweaty train carriage feel fun and adventurous at first, they sure wear thin fast. All the constant packing of bags, finding accommodation, answering the “where are you from?” question for the zillionth time…it can get a bit exhausting!
But it really all depends on your attitude. These things might drive you crazy or make you love travelling even more. And you know what affects your attitude massively?
Sleep. Or lack thereof.
When backpacking, it’s easy to fall into bad habits in terms of what and how often you eat, how dirty your clothes will get before you’re bothered to wash them…and especially, how you sleep. Because sometimes you’ll be partying too hard to even think about sleep until dawn. Or you’ve just gotten off a night bus and mess up your sleep patterns by going to bed straight away. Or you just can’t sleep in an unfamiliar bed (a really unlucky one for those travel fans out there!)
But a lot of these bad habits can be stopped at the outset – by making sure you arrive rested, and stay rested, when your plane touches down. Jet lag can make or break those first few days, and its effects can be felt long afterwards, too.
So I’m here to help you beat jet lag in the first place.
Here’s what you need to do before, during and after departure to ensure a better sleep, and a better trip, when you land.
1. Before you fly…
Do: Take special care of yourself the week leading up to your flight. Eat plenty of vitamin C, drink LOTS of water, get as much sleep as you can and reduce the risk of falling sick after travel. If there will be a big time difference between home and your new destination, try to adjust your body clock accordingly. Go to bed even 20–30 minutes earlier each night so that the new time zone will be less of a shocker when you arrive.
Don’t: Go out boozing the night before your flight! It sounds like such an obvious one but many of us don’t pay heed to it; the lure of farewell drinks is far too tempting. The result? We’re hungover, tired and dehydrated getting on the plane and we get off feeling like we’ve been dragged through a bush. Not the best start to a journey. Instead, say your goodbyes to friends a few days before your flight; then you’ll have a few days to recover and to put your best foot forward when the time comes.
2. On the plane…
Do: Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate. Be one of those annoying passengers who keeps asking the flight attendant for water even though you’ve got 2 litres of the stuff in front of you. Dehydration is jet lag’s best friend and you need to drink waaay more water than you think to fight it off. While we’re on the subject, make sure your skin gets some moisturising TLC, too. Bring a small toiletry bag with face and hand cream, plus lip balm, and you’ll at least look less wrecked after the flight. Fake it ‘til you make it, right?!
Also, if you’ve booked a night flight, sleep during the hours you normally would. By all means, watch a movie or two but make sure you set aside some time to get your snooze on.
Don’t: Take advantage of the free booze. Seriously you guys, if you’ve taken all the measures to stay healthy in the days before your flight, could you not last another few hours? I know those teeny little bottles are so cute but they have a definite dark side. They contribute massively to that dehydration we talked about earlier, especially since one glass of wine on a plane equates to around four on the ground in the headache stakes! Same goes for coffee – give it a miss if you can and opt for juice instead.
I know this might make it seem like the most boring flight ever but trust me…you’ll feel so much better when you land, and you can celebrate your willpower with a welcome drink the following day!
3. When you land…
Do: Treat yo’self. You’ve had a long journey so why would you punish yourself by booking the grottiest place you can?! Ok, ok, you’re on a budget now…I get it. But from past experience, booking a crappy dorm room for 4 nights after a long-haul flight did nothing but give me sleepless nights, a bad cold and a worse mood. So make sure to book somewhere nice (and private!) even for your first night to adjust to your new surroundings. Then you can happily slum it the next day!
Don’t: Move too quickly. So many people seem to get off their flight, then get on the next mode of transport and never stop moving. Chill out a bit! You’ll enjoy your trip far more if you take time to take it all in. Spend at least 3 nights in a place if you can…you’ll sleep better, you’ll be more rested and you’ll get a proper taste of the town instead of just letting it pass you by.
That’s all, folks! Hopefully these tips will help you beat the jet lags blues; keeping your eyes open and alert to the wonderful world out there.