Surviving Long Flights

For those of us who don’t travel full-time, our vacations are sandwiched between two long flights and we don’t have the time to recover from jet lag. Here are some lessons I’ve learned along the way to help ease the pain of those long, international flights:

Drink Water

Yea, everyone’s read this one. It’s no secret: when your body is well-hydrated, you can adjust to temperature and time changes more easily. I know you’re afraid to drink anything because you don’t want to have to climb over the aisle sleeper, so don’t chug water on the plane – this one starts before. Try to remember drinking water in the day before your flight, and as you’re putting the the last essentials in your bag.

Wear comfy clothes

Wear soft, breathable fabrics (no jeans) and socks (my feet get cold). Slip off your shoes to help yourself relax. Bring a sweater or scarf to use as a pillow if the flight doesn’t give you one. An eye mask also helps encourage your eyes to stay closed,so you don’t look at every sound.

Neck Pillows: Yes or no? I have one and rarely bring it because I don’t want to lug it around for the rest of the trip. You can get blow-up ones, but they never seem better than what you could have with a balled up scarf. I vote no.

Set your clock to destination time early

I can’t stand the people (my parents) who keep their wristwatch on “home” time because they’re always making allowances for it. “Well, back home, it’s already after midnight!” Forget about the time back home. It’s 7pm here and not time to sleep, yet. Get on the correct time, and do it early, so you’re already adjusting your mindset.

Get ready for bed

Just like the last one, this one is psychological. Tell yourself that you’re going to go to sleep and go through the habits of “getting ready for bed” (yes, like a 5 year old). For those 10+ hour flights, I have a routine: watch 1 movie during dinner and have 1 glass of wine, then go to the bathroom, brush teeth (water bottle, not the non-potable bathroom water!), and then tuck yourself in and lights out. Or, start that boring book of yours.

Use pills if needed

For me, a glass of wine does the trick, but you might need to supplement your routine with a mild, over-the-counter sleeping aid. Warning: Don’t do this if you can only sleep 5 hours or less, because you’ll wake up more groggy than ever.


What can I say, everyone is as tired as you feel in the customs line. So, bring a hat, change your shirt, brush your teeth and stumble through it.

Set Goals

The first day or two might be challenging. Set goals for yourself to stay awake – I’m not going to go to sleep until at least 10pm, or I’ll go out and see at least 3 things instead of succumbing to the hotel bed, or I’m not going to sleep past this time. Then actually DO it – tricky part! I’ve been guilty of sleeping all day instead of sight-seeing. It’s easier with someone else to help motivate you.

When you get back home – Melatonin

Melatonin is a natural supplement that helps you sleep and stay asleep. If I think there’s going to be an issue, I don’t even think about it. I take a Melatonin and, just like the flight out, I put myself to bed at a reasonable time. It helps reset my clock.

Take an extra day off work to adjust

I hate feeling immediately behind because I rushed back to work and now, it’s been a week and I still haven’t unpacked. If you can, I recommend taking an extra day off work to help adjust. Even if you don’t have trouble sleeping that first night, it’s wonderful to give yourself time to unpack, do laundry, upload photos, go to the grocery store, and ease back into real life. Work can wait. If it can’t wait, then you’ve probably already been doing work while on vacation (tsk tsk).

Please share what tricks have worked for you.