6 Tips to Manage Jet Lag and Time Zone Changes
By Evan Wishloff
With the Great Escape Travel Event in full swing at your local Campers Village, I thought today would be a great time to talk about managing jet lag in your travels.
If you’re like me, your travel bucket-list is lengthy, and many of those destinations are more than a short flight away. If you’re planning a trip to a dream destination, you want to maximize your time there, which means avoiding that dreaded jet lag that leaves you nodding off or searching for a fountain of coffee just to stay awake!
In today’s blog, I’m going to share 6 tips to help you minimize jet lag and maximize your time, wherever your travels take you.
But first, how do I know anything about jet lag and time-zone changes? Well, I’ve been lucky enough to travel to South Africa multiple times for an annual 8 day ultra-endurance mountain bike race called the Cape Epic. South Africa is 8 hours ahead of us here in Alberta, and on both counts, I’ve arrived in Cape Town only 2 or 3 days prior to the start of the race, which leaves little time to adjust time zones.
Through a mix of advice from fellow seasoned travelers, athletes, Google searches, trial-and-error, and of course Campers Village Store Guides, I’ve come up with a few tips and tricks that speed up how quickly you can adapt to a new time zone.
Whether you’re on an exhilarating adventure, urban trekking through Europe, or just planning to relax on a beach, adjusting quickly to a new time zone makes your vacation all that much better!
Tip 1: Start adjusting time zones prior to your departure date
You can start your preparation well before your trip begins by adjusting the times you go to sleep and wake-up in the morning. Life commitments may limit how much you can truly change your schedule around, but even an hour or two of a shift in your sleep patterns a month before your trip cuts down on the adjustment when you get to your vacation destination.
For about a month prior to leaving for South Africa, I slowly transition to going to bed and waking early. Sure, an 8 pm bedtime was a drag on my social life, but when the plane touched down in Cape Town, I knew I was 2 hours closer to being adjusted to local time.
Tip 2: Start your travel day fully rested
I’ve read some tips online that if you struggle to sleep on a plane - which let’s be honest, is probably almost all of us - you should start your travel day tired so you have no choice but to fall asleep on the plane. I think this is a bad idea. Chances are, you’ll still struggle sleeping on the plane, and now you’ll have restlessness stacked on top of restlessness.
Much better to start your travel day fully rested than risk being doubly sleep deprived once you arrive at your destination.
Tip 3: Change your clock/phone as soon as you depart
As soon as you board your plane, change your cell phone time to your destination, and then start wrapping your head around being in a new time zone. It might not seem like much, but those extra few hours (or in the case of a flight to South Africa, almost an entire day) where you start adjusting will pay off once you arrive.
Tip 4: Do everything you can to act as if you are already adjusted to the new time zone
You’ve already changed your clocks as if you’ve arrived, so act like it! Always drink coffee in the morning? Have a cup of joe on the plane if it’s close to morning at your destination. Ignore the prompts that the airline gives you – if they are serving dinner, but it’s actually the middle of the night at your destination, don’t take the food. Or save it for later if you’re so inclined.
Tip 5: Use natural light to your advantage
Once you’ve arrived, use the natural light to your advantage, and try to get as much as you can in the morning for the first few days. This will help adjust your circadian rhythm to the new time zone. The added benefit? It gives you an excuse to go for a walk outside, explore, and maybe even catch the sunrise - although you shouldn’t need an excuse for that!
Tip 6: Force yourself to stick to local time
Try your best to follow local time when it comes to your sleep habits. Get up at a reasonable hour in the morning, no matter how tired you are. Force yourself to stay up until a reasonable hour in the evening. This helps shock your body into the new time zone.
Watching the sunrise is one of my favorite things to do at least once when travelling. Muscling through a groggy, tired morning is always worth it for views like this! Photo Credit: Daniel Manners
There you have it – 6 tips to deal with jet lag and time zone changes on your next trip.
Still looking for advice? Stop by your local Campers Village – our Store Guides are well travelled and full of insightful tips and tricks they can share with you.
Finally, do you have any tips or tricks you use to manage jet lag when travelling? We’d love to hear from you! Let us know in the comments your favorite travel tips and tricks.