How to Survive an International Red-Eye and Hit the Ground Running
When it comes right down to it, there's no beating jet lag. Our bodies like routine, and telling yourself it’s 10 am when your body believes it’s 4 am is not going to change anything. But international flights are a part of life for us world travelers, and there are a few ways to best prepare yourself for that hop across the not-so-small pond.
Set yourself up for success by preparing ahead of time.
If you can, choose a flight that lands early in the morning or late in the evening local time. If you arrive in the morning, get as much sleep as you can on the plane so you have a full day of exploring your new city. My most recent flight to France landed at Charles de Gaulle at 7am, which had me out and about in Paris by 9, hunting down espresso and pastry. If you arrive in the evening, check into your hotel/hostel/Airbnb and hit the hay so you can start the next morning bright-eyed and bushy tailed.
Don't stay out late the night before your flight. Flying hungover is one of my least favorite feelings, second only to nearly missing my flight because I was too tired to realize the Uber driver dropped me at the wrong terminal. I felt like I was in one of those dramatic rom-com climaxes, running to my gate just as the last group was boarding. Except Matthew McConaughey never showed up to profess his undying love, and I definitely didn't look the part of a leading lady.
On that note, make sure you're packed and checked in to your flight ahead of time, and in the name of Neptune h-y-d-r-a-t-e! Plane food tends to be super salty to combat the loss of taste at altitude, so I like to pack some soccer-mom-approved healthy snacks - carrots, celery and peanut butter, maybe a cheese stick - to avoid bloating and fatigue.
Take an empty water bottle with you through security and fill it up at a water fountain.
Don't pay for airport bottled water - it will quickly eat away at your sweet, sweet souvenir cash. Pro tip: If you're a tea drinker like me, bring a selection of your favorite sachets in your under-seat bag and ask the stewardess for hot water when she comes by. I also empty a vitamin C packet into mine, because you never know until it's too late if the man behind you has the flu or just ate his pretzels too quickly. Getting sick in a foreign country is not fun - take it from the girl who once spent 13 hours in an emergency room just to get a prescription for antibiotics.
Don't underestimate the power of a good neck pillow.
On my first trip to Europe, I made the mistake of thinking the plane pillows would be satisfactory, and I spent most of the night doing yoga in my seat trying to get comfortable. A firm, rounded neck pillow is the secret to actually sleeping on planes. They aren't much of an investment; you can usually pick one up in the airport, and the inevitable embarrassing pictures are worth it.
Even the fellas out there don't want to be dry and flaky on arrival. I remember on a trip to Wyoming I was not prepared for the lack of humidity, and the moment I stepped out of the airport I got a nosebleed and my lips cracked. Do your Instagram a favor and use some lotion on your hands, face, and neck after you take off. Lip balm is a necessity for me. I also like to use an under-eye mask right as the plane starts its descent, 'cause dark circles aren't cute on anyone.
Despite your best efforts, your body needs a hot second to adjust to its new time zone. Mine prefers some self-care in the form of a café or thé chaud, preferably en terrasse to properly take in my new temporary home. Jet lag might be inescapable, but this is how I stay *cute and fresh* to make the most of my first day of travel. After all that diem isn’t going to carpe itself!
And with that appalling Dad Joke, I bid you bon voyage!