How to Nix Jet Lag Before it Begins

Jet lag can be such a pain. Traveling should be exciting and packed with activity, not spent nursing aching muscles and desperately trying to de-puff baggy eyes. Since I started working, I’ve averaged four time zone changes per month. Most of these are done between Atlantic and Pacific time, which is a four-hour difference, just enough to really make a significant dent in productivity if you let the jet lag set in. Over time, I’ve learned how to nix jet lag (or at least minimize it) before it begins – here are my tips and tricks that will help you make the most of your first few days of travel.

The night before:

Pack everything up and set it by the door so you’re ready to go in the morning. Drink plenty of water and avoid caffeine for at least five hours before you go to sleep. Having a calm body and mind will let you get a good night’s rest before your trip – the key to beating jet lag is having enough rest in your system to tide you over till your next sleepportunity.

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During the flight:

Once you’re on the plane, consider yourself to already be in your destination’s time zone – if you’re flying west, it’s earlier in the day; if you’re flying east, it’s later. For example, if you’re flying Toronto-Seattle at 5am Toronto time, you’re really flying at 2am Seattle time. If people at your destination are sleeping, you should try to get some sleep on the plane.

I know it can be tempting, but don’t – I repeat, do not – drink the alcohol. Really, don’t do it. It will mess with your brain and kick you into a feeling of perpetual hangover and misery. This is especially important if you have anything you actually have to do on the other side of your flight; you don’t want to be sitting in a meeting jet lagged and only half sober.


When you arrive:

Drink coconut water. If your first thought was “but it’s GROSS,” try Zico brand coconut water, it’s sweeter than the others. Coconut water is full of electrolytes and will hydrate and reenergize you. You may be tempted to have a coffee, but that comes with a caffeine crash, which will feel worse than usual on a jet-lagged brain. Grab some fresh fruit instead to keep you going.

No matter how tired you are, try to stay up until a reasonable bedtime in the time zone you’ve arrived in. DO NOT go to sleep early! Go sit at the hotel bar (drinks are allowed now that you’re winding down) and people watch, write a story in your notebook. Explore the local Netflix options if you’re in a different country. Go for a swim in the pool or a soak in the hot tub. Do anything and everything to get yourself to at least 9:30pm before you allow yourself to tuck into bed and conk out for the next fourteen hours.

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The next day:

Leave the curtains open as you sleep to let the natural light in your room in the morning. Seeing the sunlight in the morning will make it easier to wake up and stay awake. When you’ve gained enough consciousness to get yourself in a vertical position without falling back onto the pillows, drink a glass of cold water. Staying hydrated is key to keeping your brain power up and your eye bags down. Fact: your skin looks better when you drink water regularly. Also a fact: you don’t want to look exhausted in your meetings or vacation photos.

Keep a granola bar with you and eat it as soon as you start to feel yourself fading. Chase it with another glass of cool water. Pop a peppermint when you feel your eyes getting droopy – my favourites are the little mini Altoids that come in mint and cinnamon flavors. By late afternoon you’ll likely be feeling groggy, but keep yourself awake until a reasonable bedtime again and you should be right as rain by the next morning.


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7 thoughts on “How to Nix Jet Lag Before it Begins

  1. Awesome post! I have a trip coming up next month and will for sure be putting these into practice. Going from the East Coast to the West Coast for work with no time to catch up on my sleep before I hit the ground.

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