Traveling back and forth from Texas to France has made me super conscious of how to beat jet lag because let’s face it, it’s probably the worst part of overseas traveling and it can ruin the first couple of days of a vacation. This last trip I was back home in Dallas for a little more than a month working out my next visa. I must say that going back to the US is always so much easier than coming to France! I stay up on the plane, usually get in about 6pm or so, eat dinner, head to bed about 9pm and I’m good the next day! The last week or so of my trip though I got a little obsessed with Dexter (I haven’t seen it before!), which meant I was staying up until about 2am each night and waking up at 11am the next morning, and essentially cursing myself for the really bad position I was putting myself into for when I went back to Paris. The time difference is 7 hours which means I was going to sleep when I would be waking up in Paris, and waking up when I’d be having boeuf bourguignon for dinner. ouch.
The transition actually wasn’t so bad and I think it’s because I took the following steps.
- Stress less before leaving. There’s usually this big push right before heading out on a big international flight. Long lists of things to do, people to see, last minute checks, and more. I’ve found though that when it’s super stressful before leaving, I have the absolute worst jet lag, sometimes taking almost 9 days to fully recover. Stress fatigues the body so we aren’t in the best shape to bounce back. You can’t eliminate all stress but try to make a list of things you want to accomplish about a week before and knock them out so you’re just about done 1-2 days before the big flight.
- Here’s my usual list before the day:
- Pack, everything except travel clothes and toiletries.
- (if I’m in the US) A trip to Target for the essentials and things I can’t find in France.
- Clean apartment.
- Call credit/debit card companies to alert them of travel plans, or do online.
- Cash for the trip in the correct currency.
- Shut off water, turn off as many plugged in electrical devices as possible.
- To sleep or not on the plane! If you can, then do. If you can’t, drink lots of water, relax and keep the stress levels down. I can never sleep on the plane even after taking a sleep pill. I used to stress about it, telling myself I have to sleep, have to sleep, almost chanting it in my head! But this last time, I just went with the flow, dozed a bit, and just chilled and watched movies. Listen to your body and do what’s best for you.
- Stay busy the first day. The first day is always the hardest. I get delirious early to late afternoon as I hit the point where I’ve been awake far too long. Try to make it until 10pm without napping. Take it easy and don’t plan anything except exploring the city.
- Sunlight is your best friend. This goes a lot with the previous tip. Stay outside as much as you can the first day. Your body takes cues from the environment, so the more you can expose yourself to the natural way the day is going in your new timezone the better.
- Snacks and Espresso. You’ll feel a boost in how you are feeling after you eat. At 5 or 6pm on the first day, I’m just about ready to crash. Eating gives you that second wind to get through the next couple of hours until it’s a normal time to go to sleep. And an espresso at an outdoor café is always good idea if only for the people watching.
- Stick to a normal schedule. The next day, wake up at a regular time. The best is to have something planned to do like a walking tour that will get you up and about and doing things.
- Resist the urge to constantly see what time it is in your normal timezone. This is one of the absolute worse things to do! Let’s put it into a scenario, you’re walking about feeling a bit tired and look at the time. It’s 11am Paris time, you’ve been up for a couple of hours, and you automatically think ‘hm what time is that back home?’ After seeing that it’s equivalent to 4am, you’re suddenly that much more tired. oops!
Moral of the story: Keep the stress down, think sunlight not museums the first day, go with the normal flow of things in the new timezone and don’t look at what time it is back home.
Hope this helps and happy traveling!