Traveling is the best, but jet lag is the worst. Nothing screams “I need another vacation” quite like getting home from a refreshing trip and immediately feeling like you got hit by a bus. Post-vacation blues are real, but this article isn’t about how to cope with hard-hitting reality kicking in after a week of ignoring work emails and drinking 47 piña coladas per day on the beach in Cabo. That sh*t goes without saying. We’re covering how to deal with (and prevent!) sh*tty traveling side effects like dehydration, a lack of energy, existential dread, and the inability to sleep. Otherwise known as jet lag.
Going away soon and want to make the most out of your trip? Just got back from somewhere and wondering WTF you can do to stop feeling like a zombie? I spoke with a bunch of frequent travelers and travel experts who shared these nine tips, tricks, and products to help you adjust your circadian rhythm and start feeling normal again ASAP.
1. Drink Superfoods Like Ginger, Lemon, And Turmeric
“Every time I land after flying to the west coast or someplace with a higher altitude than New York, the first thing I do is take a ginger shot. It literally brings me to life, like I can feel it rejuvenating my body and giving me energy,” says Dakota Nowicki, frequent flyer and founder of @wanderbeyondher, a worldwide community and Instagram account for women who love to travel and attend retreats. “Ginger helps to clear out your sinuses and boost your immunity, especially with all those germs on the plane,” she explains. She also suggests adding turmeric and lemon to your ginger shot if you’re feeling extra.
On the other hand, Lily Kunin, nutritional health coach and founder of Clean Food Dirty City and Clean Market, who offers plant-based recipes for healthy eating, travels, and beauty, says her go-to immunity-boosting recipe is a combo of apple cider vinegar and turmeric. “In a small saucepan, heat 2 cups of water to a boil with the turmeric, then reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes. Turn off heat and add black pepper, ACV, and raw honey. Strain the turmeric out, pour into a mug, and enjoy!” Sounds weird AF, but I like earthy hipster drinks, so this is right up my alley.
2. Stay Hydrated
Hydration is KEY when it comes to recuperating from or preventing jet lag. According to Dr. Charles Brenner, the Chief Scientific Advisor for Tru Niagen, who discovered and patented a unique vitamin that regulates energy metabolism and promotes healthy aging, “There’s low humidity in airplane cabins, which tends to dry us out, so drink plenty of water and try to minimize diuretic beverages.” This can be super challenging, because we’re typically offered lots of caffeine and alcohol when flying. Brenner suggests being mindful of consuming foods that strip away moisture from the body, like dried fruit, salted nuts, and the oh-so delicious crackers, chips, and processed foods with high sodium content that airlines graciously offer in-flight.
As the CEO of Mother Trucker Yoga, a mindfulness and movement expert, and a nationally recognized speaker who regularly travels for work, Hope Zvara’s best travel hack to help fight jet lag and fatigue is drinking water. On the way to the airport, she drinks 8-10 ounces of water, no matter what time of day it is. Once she’s through security, she fills her 20-ounce water bottle for the flight. After she lands? She drinks HALF her body weight in ounces of water EVERY SINGLE DAY. “Staying hydrated has played a huge role in how I feel post-flight. I also like to add things like lemon or lime to my water for a little extra boost of hydration and flavor.”
Sigh. I *hope* to someday drink as much water in a week as Zvara does in one day of traveling.
3. Dose Up On Melatonin
Lia Garcia is a full-time travel blogger at Practical Wanderlust who flies around the world with her husband for a living (jealous). “If I’m arriving early in the morning, I’ll sleep the entire time. I knock myself out with melatonin, cozy up in a blanket, and snooze so that I wake up refreshed(ish) and ready to explore,” Garcia shares. “If I can nail that first night by falling asleep at just the right time and waking up at a reasonable hour, I can usually avoid jet lag altogether.”
Dosing melatonin is the biggest jet lag help for Daniel Gillaspia, the founder and full-time traveler behind travel blog UponArriving, as well. Gillaspia is a nationally recognized expert in the travel field and has been featured in National Geographic, HuffPost, and other outlets for his work. “I recently finished up an around-the-world trip where my body didn’t know what time zone it was in when I arrived home. As soon as I started taking 5mg of melatonin in the evening, my body started to respond and I could finally get to sleep on a regular schedule. I think melatonin is key to shaving a day or two off your jet lag recovery.”
4. Sync Your Schedule With Local Time Zones
Whereas melatonin is life for some, others say it all has to do with timing. Bill Fish is a certified sleep science coach and the co-founder of Tuck, a company devoted to sharing evidence-based news and info that helps people sleep better, and he claims that changing your watch and computer to the local time of your destination can drastically combat jet lag. “When you arrive at your destination, go through your standard routine for that time of day. Don’t arrive in a new city at 7pm and immediately get ready for bed. Have a meal and acclimate yourself with the new time, then go to bed at the normal hour you would in your home time zone.”
So is Fish saying that we shouldn’t catch up on sleep and we should stay out and party all night once we land in Cancun to sync our schedule with the new timezone? Down. “While it may be difficult during the first day, the sooner you assimilate your body and brain to the new area of the world you’re in, the better you’ll feel for the rest of your trip.” I’ll take that as a yes.
If you need help tracking your daily activity on vacation or at home, fancy wearables with sleep tracking capabilities can offer insights into just how much REM sleep you’re getting and how healthy you’ve really been. Especially when traveling to different time zones, wearing a device like a Fitbit can be your guide to getting your sleep and exercise routines back on track.
5. Manage Your Diet
Traveling can totally disrupt your digestive system and cause you to eat like sh*t or not want to eat at all. That’s why making sure you’re watching what you eat and drink is super important before, during, and after you travel.
“Eating a healthy diet while traveling can keep your digestive system working properly, which helps your body process the new time changes and effects of travel much easier,” says Adam Kemp, a professional basketball player who regularly travels to 20+ European countries to play ball in the big leagues. He’s not a vegan, but he says he’s noticed that eating a plant-based diet significantly reduces his jet lag. “Whether it’s through salads or smoothies or anything else, eating or drinking a lot of kale and spinach is always a go-to for me.”
I can vouch for this based on my own experience. Sometimes drinking coffee spikes my anxiety and makes me sick on flights, so I’d rather find natural energy in other ways. Eating healthy snacks like Ritual Energy bars (that are equivalent to a cup of coffee) or taking probiotics (shout-out Culturelle) give me the boost I need to save my stomach on vacation and feel good enough to get through that dreaded first day back to work once I get home.
Sarah Marie Perkins, aka Ms. Colorado 2020, agrees. “I’ve found that bringing healthy snacks in my purse helps me fight airport junk food cravings. Easy snacks that don’t need to be refrigerated like carrots, RX Bars, Barney Butter single packs, and nuts are some of my faves. Making sure I’m continuing to eat healthy helps me not feel so awful both on my trip and when I return home.” On the other hand, Renee Belz, M.S. is a certified nutritional consultant and co-host of Biohacker Babes Podcast who fasts while she travels. “Food can be a great way to signal to your body what time of day it is, which is another reason why you shouldn’t eat in the middle of the night. Fasting during the travel day can help reset your circadian rhythm.”
Okay, I know what you’re thinking. “You want me to f*cking exercise when I’m jet lagged and barely even get to the gym when I don’t go on vacation?” Uhhh…ya, bitch! Let’s explain why.
People try to avoid working out when they’re feeling jet-lagged because they think it’ll make them even more tired, but that’s actually not the case. Sam Williamson, who works as a marketing executive at WeSwap Travel Money, a pre-loaded travel card and currency exchange rate company, tells me, “Do some light exercise in the mornings. Going for a morning run outside is the best way to exercise as you’ll also get some exposure to daylight, further helping you to regulate your body to your usual time zone.”
Kimberly Keller, best-selling author of two books, including one on healthy traveling called Ultimate Health On The Go, also suggests that exercising or walking right after you arrive somewhere helps the body’s metabolism adjust easier to any time difference.
7. Get A Massage
Okay, so I didn’t convince you to exercise…what about a massage? TBH, that’s more my style too. If you’re too lazy to hop on a treadmill after your vacation, just lie down and let someone else move your body for you. Tons of spas offer unique jet lag massages for this exact reason.
Haven Spa in NYC offers a 90-minute Tourist Massage that’s designed for travelers who sat on a plane locked in one sitting position for hours, walked way too many miles, stood in long airport lines, and carried around heavy backpacks or suitcases, etc. Professional massages like these focus on healing the parts of your body that ache the most post-vacay like your feet, legs, lower back, shoulders, neck, and head to help you feel refreshed in no time.
8. This “No Jet Lag” Supplement
Marisa DeSalvio is a travel agent, the CEO of DeSalvio Travel, and had traveled to 31 countries… and she’s never had jet lag. Her secret? These homeopathic No Jet Lag Pills. And she’s not the only one who recommended these pills to me. Courtnie Nichols, who is the CEO and Founder of TravelBash, a boutique travel company that offers awesome customized trip planning services, also suggested these pills to me that she claims “have no side effects and actually works.” Full-time millennial luxury travel blogger Mona Molayem of @monacorona (whose job sounds like a damn dream) is another traveler who swears by this supplement. “It’s a homeopathic blend of herbs that you take while flying to help you adjust to the new time zone.”
I mean, I’d literally never think to buy a pill called “No Jet Lag” off Amazon, but I guess it really works if these pros use it on the reg.
9. Use Natural Face Masks, CBD Products, And Life Hacks
International model Angelina Galt finds that taking the natural route can help ward off nasty side effects whenever she travels overseas for photoshoots. “What I find helpful to fight off jet lag is taking homeopathic supplements a few days prior to the flight and throughout the days after the flight. After flights, especially long ones, I try to nourish my body with healthy foods and lots of rest. To look more refreshed, I’ll double face mask, first with an exfoliating clay mask and then something soothing and moisturizing.”
Travel and hospitality publicist Dani De la Osa is an avid airport dweller who believes one of the best ways to beat jet lag is to go all-natural as well. “If you need help falling asleep, valerian root, chamomile tea, and even Kava can be powerful relaxers.”
As y’all already know if you’ve read my other posts on CBD lube and CBD for skin care, I love me some natural feel-good products. CBD is awesome for spicing things up in the bedroom and managing pain, but it’s also super helpful for recovering from jet lag. CBDfx and CBDistillery both make vegan hemp oil gummies that help me fall asleep at night and reduce anxiety, which are two common symptoms of jet lag. Good Day also makes a delicious CBD cold brew coffee to perk you up yet keep you chill once you get back to work after your trip ends.
And nothing screams “natural” louder than diving inward and practicing mindfulness, am I right?! Emmy Crouter, MSW, LSW is a Denver-based millennial psychotherapist who shared some really amazing therapy tips to help us recover from jet lag. She suggests setting yourself up for success before you even pack for your trip. “Coming back from vacation to a messy apartment, loose ends, and unfinished projects at work is the absolute worst. In the weeks leading up to a vacation, make a to-do list of the tasks you’d like to accomplish before you depart. When you return, anxiety will be mitigated.” Well, that makes complete sense. And so does this: “Before you even touch your suitcase, clean your house, put away your laundry, and water your plants—whatever you need to do to set yourself up for a smooth return back to reality.”
Crouter continues, “Finding gratitude in the fact that you were able to take time away, that you experienced new people and places, and (hopefully) had a fabulous time can help ward off the post-vacay blues. Spending ten minutes journaling about the following questions can help put things into perspective while trying to keep your eyes open at work [upon your return]: What was amazing about my trip? What was the highlight? What was the hardest part? What did I miss about home? What am I looking forward to doing now that I am home?”
Cheers to that. Happy and refreshing travels, my friends! Now excuse me while I go travel to Colorado to indulge in some legal CBD and therapy so I can
run away from my responsibilities test out all of these jet lag recovery tips for myself.
IMAGES: Pexels, Giphy (7), Amazon