Feb 212012
 

I flew in to Florence, Italy a few days ago. Coming from Dublin I needed to change planes in Frankfurt airport. I had 2 really nice and talkative seat neighbors. The lady who accompanied me from Dublin to Frankfurt was on her way to Beijing, the young man sitting next to me in the plane from Frankfurt to Florence just came from Beijing. This was certainly an unusual coincidence.

Both weren’t used to long haul flights and did some mistakes, such as planning on taking sleeping pills and not resetting the body clock appropriately. I have done a couple of long distance flights during the past 3 years – for work and private purposes. I usually aim for getting jetlagged on the plane, to be able to enjoy my holiday or do my work without being horribly tired.

What I do in general

  • if I have to interchange, I make sure that consider the flight times and the landing time at my destination time zone. E.g. if I land in the morning, my second flight should provide me a full night worth of sleep. When I go to Asia, I usually fly via Frankfurt, the next 9-10 hours flight allows me to sleep and adjust to time. I generally aim for having one long flight. In Europe go for Frankfurt, Heathrow, or if I have to Amsterdam they usually fly to any destination. I avoid CDG as I heard only bad things about it. 
  • As soon as I enter the plane I set my watch and perception to target timezone of my next destination. This reduces confusion at airport and also allows body clock and to adjust. 
  • I ignore day/night mode in the airplane. I stuck to my target timezone, adjust meals accordingly, sleep accordingly. I don’t do dinner just because the airline scheduled one after take off. If it is 3PM at my destination, I have a coffee, that’s it.
  • I make sure I have enough (healthy) snacks with me to do my meals yourself. Bananas, nuts and bread are usually good. Most plane food isn’t very healthy nor tasty anyway. I always take lots of water with me. Most airport have drinking fountains, I usually refill my bottle there.
  • I make sure that I have enough time for interchanges, less than 1h means
    usually stress, due to delays, long distances between gates, security
    controls etc and other passengers time might be significantly
    reduced.I usually feel comfortable if I have about 90 minutes time between landing and departure.
  • I don’t look for price only. I look for convenience of the trip, too: I avoid
    long overlays, also I do as little flight segments as possible. Every interchange
    will add ca 2h to the schedule, it will increase the risk of missing a flight and – depending on visa requirements – it might add additional hassle.
  • If I arrive in the morning, I go to my hotel, check in, have a strict 20 minutes power nap, setup a wake up call and alarms, have a shower
    and than I am all day on the road. I only do simple tasks such as working around, eat according to the new time zone, look at random spots, shops, parks – basically
    strolling around. I usually aim to be back later than 7pm. Also, always, I take lots of water with me.

Don’t's

  • Never ever think of ‘at home it would be now 3AM’. Where ever you are that’s the ‘correct’ time. Behave accordingly.
  • Don’t get drunk on planes, it makes you sleepy. But being hangover and jetlagged doesn’t really work once you crossed your 30th birthday.
  • Don’t take sleeping pills or other anti-jetlag packs. It’s most likely scam. It doesn’t help your body clock at all.
  • Don’t plan on interchanging in US. Immigration departments can be lots of hassle, you need to collect your luggage, go through customs and security before you can go to your onwards flight. It cost times and if you are ‘lucky’ you might meet second immigration officers or spend some additional time at customs. US airlines are usually overbooked, if you are delayed you might not be able to get on your flight or on the next one. Being 2 days delayed when you want to get home or need to go to a meeting don’t suit anybody.

If you are flying economy class:

  • If you plan on sleeping book window seats. You don’t want to get bothered by somebody kicking you or asking you to move. If you need to be awake, go for an aisle seat.
  • Exercise and walk around. Stretch. Nothing is worse than arriving at destination with pain caused by not moving at all.
  • If you fly as couple go for a row and book aisle and window seat, if it is off season the plane is most likely not full, and middle seats are the least desired ones. If somebody sits there he’ll be happy to change to either windows or aisle. 

The only jetlags I seem to get are those when I get back home, because then I am usually treated by husband, have less duties and can sleep for days.

Urban myths

  • jetlags are urban myths. Call it however you want, if you don’t sleep according to your body clock and requirements, you feel broke for a while. The younger and the more disciplined you are the easier it is.
  • the direction influences the intensity of the jetlag. Having worked 8h ahead and behind GMT did not make a difference to me. Also, coming back wasn’t easier or harder depending on the flight time.
  • the longer the distance the harder the jetlag. I feel it far more difficult to adjust 2h to east (2h earlier) than going 5 or more hours ahead.

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