With all of the joys that come with traveling, I can think of only one intrinsic downside – jet lag! Quickly changing time zones can not only wreck havoc on your body, but can also put a damper on an exciting trip. The causes are well known (dehydration, normal rhythm out of sync, sitting in a cramped space for hours, etc…), but what can we do to combat them? Recently, Air New Zealand invited me to take part in an “In-air Focus Group” to find out what can be done to reduce the effects of the dreaded jet lag.
Our Air New Zealand focus group consisted of a small group of seasoned travel professionals, each of us coming with our own tips and experiences, traveling from LAX to London’s Heathrow Airport. We were not just talking about how we avoid jet lag; we had to practice what we preach during the nine and a half hour flight (and 8 hour time difference!).
We started in Air New Zealand’s Koru Lounge at LAX. Besides the usual lounge facilities, they also offer Lemon & Paeroa (World famous in New Zealand!) and a large sampling of Kiwi wines. Once we were settled in, workbooks were handed out and the focus group got under way.
Pre-flight rituals and packing for an international trip: Everyone has their own system. Some packed days ahead of time, while others packed the morning of (I’m in the latter group). Packing light was key, and we agreed that you should wear your biggest shoes on the flight (take them off during flight and wear socks to be more comfy). If you don’t already have a uniform packing regiment, it’s never too late to start. For example; power cords always go in this pocket, socks always go here, and always put your house keys in the same place so you aren’t frantically searching for them when you return home. The stress level stays low when you know where everything’s at.
For international flights, avoid jet lag by adjusting to the time change before you even leave home. The night before, a lot of us stayed up late working & prepping to ensure a relaxing sleep during the flight. Adjust your watch to the new time zone as soon as you sit down. Drink lots of water at home, on the way to the airport, and in the lounge prior to boarding. And when you get on the plane, drink more water!
Boarding Air New Zealand’s 777, it was easy to see we’d have no problem relaxing in their Business Premiere Seats. They come with a 12.1″ personal entertainment screen loaded with plenty of movies and music. The in-cabin mood-lighting worked to adjust the body clock and help with jet lag. And when it was time to catch some zzz’s, the seats fold in to a 6’7″ bed, complete with two big pillows and a separate thick mattress.
My only complaint about the flight is that even though we were on a plane with a large “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey” graphic on the side, we did not get to see the Lord of the Rings pre-flight safety video. Instead, Air New Zealand treated us with their newest video, The Bear Essentials of Safety starring Bear Grylls.
Once in the air, the focus group continued.
What to wear on a long flight: Loose fitting clothing, but don’t get too casual. No shorts! Layers are always a good idea, and a comfortable sweater can be used as a blanket/pillow if need be.
Should you/Do you talk to your seatmate: We seem more apt to talk to passengers who appear friendly or are attractive but for the most part stick to ourselves. But if the person sitting next to you looks interesting, by all means try to chat them up. You can hear some great stories over a long flight. Being a frequent traveler helps with conversation, and you may be able to trade tips about travel or your destination. Though when the lights go down, ceasing conversation is only polite when fellow travelers are trying to go to sleep.
Work during a flight: I usually spend an hour or two on my laptop as I can get a lot done inflight when no interruptions get in the way. Privacy is an issue, especially in coach, so it may be worth investing in a privacy screen for your laptop. If available, Wifi can be frustratingly slow though it is fun to be online with friends while you’re at 30,000+ feet. Watch for more international flights to be offering inflight Wifi within the next year.
Dietary restrictions during flight/at destination: During the flight, avoid alcohol and heavy meals. They’ll dehydrate you and make it hard to sleep when the cabin lights go down. You know I love red wine, though on international overnight flights, I abstain. Once you land, some people stick to their diets (see Six Weeks to Summer Series) while others indulge. A lot of us like to stay healthy at breakfast, but then over-indulge in local cuisine at dinner. After all, part of the fun of travel is to experience local foods!
Fighting Jet Lag when you land: Take a quick shower and go for a walk outside if the sun is still up. It will help you adjust to the new hours. Try to avoid taking a nap in the middle of the day, but if you really must, have your alarm wake you up an hour later. If you sleep too long upon arrival, it is much more difficult to adjust to the local time zone – I have learned this the hard way.
I have flown many international flights in both coach and business class and my secret to my success in dealing with jet lag is simply to (1) act as if I am already on the local time zone, and (2) eat & drink healthy. More tips on dealing with jet lag are in my book, Business Travel Success…How to Reduce Stress, Be More Productive and Travel With Confidence!.
Thanks to Air New Zealand for hosting this In-Air Focus Group.