The saying goes, "It's not about the destination, but the journey." That's a nice philosophical quote for the journey you go through in life, but when it comes to travel, I'm gonna call BS. For travelers, especially fellow Three Star Travelers, the "journey" is usually the nightmare of airport security, cramped seats in coach economy, and long-haul flights to somewhere awesome. Yes, the "journey" is worth it, but let's face it, if we could all apparate somewhere new like Harry Potter, we'd do it in a minute. Oh, and by the way, can we get Hermione Grainger's magic expandable bag for packing? Being a muggle sucks.
Given that we are muggles destined to travel the world via plane, train, and automobile with our trusty Samsonites, we have to combat jet lag. I don't know about you, but as I get older more experienced, jet lag hits me harder with each trip. For flights over four to five hours, or red-eye flights, it's important ot set your body so you're awake during the day at your destination. So, what can you do about jet lag? There are a few tips and tricks that work for me and I hope they work for you.
Leading up to any flight, regardless of duration, try to stay away from salty foods and foods high in sodium. You might think they are the same, but many preserved foods, especially baked goods, are crazy high in sodium. Sodium makes most people retain water during flight, leaving you extra puffy for your final destination. If you're headed somewhere requiring a bathing suit, this is not ideal. Now you know to stay away from salty and preserved foods, opt for fresh fruits, salads, and protein snacks. Good sources of protein like jerky, hard-boiled eggs, and string cheese will help you stay full so you aren't tempted by those pastries and desserts.
Now, here's where you won't like me. Stay away from alcohol before and during your flight. I'm not here to argue the psychological issues of "needing a drink to loosen up" or "help you relax so flying doesn't overwhelm you." Those are deeper issues you need to sort out and alcohol isn't the answer. Not to mention, alcohol tends to make you feel bloated and sluggish. If that doesn't turn you off, remember alcohol is a depressant, so the more you drink, the less happy you'll be when you reach you destination.
Lastly, it's important to stay away from caffeinated beverages before a flight. The only reason I recommend staying away from caffeine is because it keeps you awake and we are mostly discussing combating jet lag. Caffeine is going to keep you alert on your red-eye flight when you need to be snoozing. Opt for a flavored sparkling water leading into your evening flight instead of a Diet Coke.
During Your Flight
After scanning your boarding pass and gracefully wiggling into your seat, the best possible thing to do is start relaxing. Maybe you put on some whale noises, or the sounds of birds chirping, or Metallica - whatever relaxes you. I have a Spotify playlist called "Mood Music" and it's several tracks of ocean waves crashing onto a beach. Again, whatever works for you. If you're like me and can't sleep on planes, you might need some help finding the Land of Nod. Depending on your comfort level, you may want a blanket to snuggle under. Most US domestic flights don’t offer blankets and pillows anymore, so be sure you plan ahead by packing a long sleeve shirt or, if you're feeling bold, a blanket scarf. Lastly, I'm a big fan of Unisom to help me sleep on planes. Normally I take melatonin, plus a Unisom for flights over 6 hours. The trick is to take the sleep aids after you take off and you're fairly level - right about the time they serve drinks.
Pro Tip: Don't eat the food served on the airline. It's gotten better over the years, but it's high in sodium because it's so heavily preserved.
After the Flight
The most important thing you can do following your flight is staying awake during daylight hours in your destination. As an example, if you fly from Los Angeles to Sydney, depart at 11:00 PM and arrive in Australia at 7:00 AM (the next day), it's imperative to stay away the entire day after landing so your circadian rhythm can catch up. If you fly from Chicago to Tokyo, depart at 10:00 AM and arrive in Japan at 8:00 PM, it's important to go to sleep almost as soon as you check in to your hotel - and NOT sleep on the plane. Again, all of this is to help your body combat the effects of jet lag so you can fully enjoy your time wherever you are going.
The key element to any of this is planning. You know yourself and your body better than anyone, so definitely do what's best given your current situation. Go see the world!