I travel for work. Sometimes a lot. And I travel for vacation. Usually less than I like to.
Most of my work trips are close together, and I often cross many time zones in a week. Because of that, I’ve become quite adept at making the transition as easy as possible for my body. You can never completely avoid jet lag, but you can do a few things to make it easy on yourself.
First up I ask myself: how many of those zones do I really need to cross for my trip? For me, that depends a lot on my daily schedule and the length of my stay. If I go on a short trip for less than a week, it’s simply not worth it to get your body adjusted to a different time zone. If I can get away with an early rise, say at 4am, and an early bed time around 8pm that allows me to stay close to my body clock instead of making up a 6 hour time difference.
If that won’t work because I have a number of late dinners or I need to cross more than 6 time zones, I start a week ahead preparing my body for the time zone change. Depending on whether I fly east or west I go to bed 30 minutes earlier or later for 2 days and I repeat that for 8 days to cover 2 hours. That allows you to continue with most daily activities at home and it makes the transition easier.
No matter where I fly, I reset my watch and gadget clocks the moment I enter the plane and pretend I’m on the time of my destination. Consider it a sort of hard body clock reset. Which means if it’s the middle of the night I don’t eat on the plane (trust me, you won’t miss much). I always bring granola bars and some fruit and nuts (I like walnuts best but pecans or almonds do too) to tie me over but I’m usually not very hungry. I ask the flight crew to give me a bottle of water and to not wake me up for meals. I also bring a sleep mask and ear plugs – don’t bother using the ones they give you on the plane, and especially bring along ear plugs that fit.
If I can manage it, I fly home on Thursday so I land in the early hours of a Friday. I drive straight home, take a shower and eat something decent with lots of protein (eggs or Greek yoghurt are my favourites). Then I go back to work and take meetings to keep me awake. Finally, after dinner and maybe an hour of television or reading I go to bed and sleep until I wake up by myself but no later than 11am.
And finally, I keep running! Especially when I travel for work, my schedule is packed with appointments allowing me little time to see the sights. So I run whenever my schedule allows and I map out a route that gives me a taste of the local highlights. This year, I ran in Dubai, Boston, Barcelona and many more cities. I always try to schedule my runs at the same time, so early morning in US means afternoon in Europe and night in Asia. In some weird way, my running body seems to like this best.
It took me a while and a dozen trips to figure out this routine and it works well for me. I hope you can use some of these tips to make the most out of your time-zone travel.