We don't think the magic of going to sleep in New York and waking up in Paris will ever wear off, but that Insta-worthy shot of croissants and café au lait in bed isn't always as bright-eyed and beautiful as the perfect lighting would have you believe. Anyone who's ever had a sleepless night that leads straight into a groggy, site-seeing packed day knows what a toll jet lag can take on any trip. Not even a caffeine-charge from a café au lait can help us at that point—but that doesn't mean all hope is lost! Here are our favorite tactics for avoiding jet lag:
My biggest trick, and this is one I've only adopted within the last year or so, is to be ruthless with getting on your new schedule. I used to be far too lenient and would allow myself to go to sleep for the night at like, 6 p.m., which meant that I'd be bright eyed and bushy-tailed at 2 a.m. And while it's always nice to sleep in, I now set an alarm at a somewhat decent time so that I'm not sleeping for half the morning, even if it means getting slightly less sleep at night. If I'm fading by early afternoon, I'll take a 30-minute nap so that I'm then going to dinner at a normal time and extra tired in hopes of getting a solid night's sleep. For a trip to Paris earlier this year, which was only four days, doing this meant I experienced zero jet lag upon arrival and hardly any once I returned.
Drink lots of water, get as much sleep on the plane as possible (no matter the time of take-off), and then be diligent about sticking to your new time zone. Then, when that inevitable sleepless night comes (as a chronic insomniac, I can pretty much expect it at this point), I bring packets of Moon Juice's Dream Dust to mix into warm milk to help me fall asleep, as well as melatonin pills. I also prefer to keep my travel days packed so there isn't time to think about exhaustion. On a normal day of travel, I'm out and about from 7 a.m. to midnight. But don't underestimate a short time difference—I'm a firm believer that a four-hour change is worse than a fourteen-hour change. Most importantly, be honest with yourself. I know that I'm always wrecked the day after a cross-country red-eye, so I don't book them anymore, even if it means losing a few hours at my destination—better than losing an entire day!
Buying a good travel pillow truly changed the game for me. I've owned several different travel pillows in my lifetime, but they never really worked for me. I could never actually sleep because they weren't firm or supportive enough. A few months back, I was taking a red-eye from LAX, and snagged the only travel pillow available at the closest shop to my gate, and it has changed my life. The pillow I bought is super thick, gives great neck support and allows me to sleep like a baby, even in a middle seat. I have not left the house for a trip without it since I bought it, even for short flights because it makes such a difference. Best impulse airport purchase, ever.
As someone who doesn't need a lot of sleep to feel energetic, I don't typically struggle with jet lag too much. However, when it does hit me, I try to roll with it and not beat myself up for it. Just as a sleepless night spent tossing in bed at home can cause frustration, jet lag causes a multitude of emotions like guilt, irritation (especially if you're traveling with someone else!), and even anger. But I find that if I walk into a vacation not expecting things to transpire in an ultra-specific way—especially during the first few days when you're adjusting to a new place in more ways than one—then I can make the most of and enjoy whatever opportunities I do have to be awake and explore.
I'm going to keep my tip short: The day you depart, shift your internal clock and behavior so it matches with the time zone you're visiting. Get on their schedule before you arrive, keep that schedule.