When you travel to countries located in a different time zone, the disruption of the internal body clock is called the "Jet Lag".
The symptoms vary according to the person: difficulty to concentrate, insomnia, sleepiness, digestive upsets, headaches, etc.
Many scientific researches have been conducted on the Jet Lag and even though the methods to avoid it are not universal, a mix of the following travel tips will at least help you arrive in good shape at destination.
Before the departure
- Choose comfortable and loose clothes for the trip.
- Don't forget other medicines you could need during the flight in your hand bag.
- Allow more time that needed to arrive in advance at the airport; this will avoid rush and stress.
- Use a trolley to carry your luggage. Your body will already ache from the lack of exercise during the flight, do not add to it with unnecessary efforts.
- Don't stay still in the waiting room (you will have plenty of time to do so in the plane); do some exercise and walk around as this will not be possible in the next hours.
During the flight
- Set your watch to the destination time zone as soon as you get in the plane and start living according to it: only sleep if it is night time there.
- Drink water regularly and in small quantities during the whole trip.
- Avoid heavy meals, coffee and alcohol as much as possible as it could disrupt your sleep once at destination.
- Take a walk around the plane's alley when it allowed as often as possible. Never stay still for more than 2 hours. When sitting, you may do some exercise, stretching up your arms and your back, lifting your feet and your legs, relaxing your neck and your shoulders, contracting your rear. This will activate the blood circulation in your body.
- Moisturize your skin as often as you wish but at least every 4 hours.
- If you are supposed to go to bed: avoid noise and bright lights and do not exercise as this could disrupt your sleep. A bath or at least a shower with soft and relaxing music could help you fall asleep.
- If you are supposed to stay awake, have a shower, exercise, expose yourself to bright natural or electric light. If you really need to take a nap, make sure it does not exceed 45 minutes. Most important: stay busy and active to avoid sleepiness.
- Melatonin is a substance which is supposed to help the body clock adapt to the new time zone; however, it is still forbidden in various countries.
- In any case, before taking any medication (sleep, alertness, etc.), we strongly recommend that you discuss its side effects with your doctor.
Flying with Kids
- Long-haul international travel is boring at the best of times. Long hours sitting in a sealed tin can, watching a movie where all the best bits have been cut out, is few people's idea of fun.
- Asking kids to sit still and be quiet for nine hours is also asking for trouble, unless you find ways to minimize their boredom and lessen the disruption they can cause to other passengers.
- The best way to keep kids quiet is getting them to sleep. By selecting a long-haul flight that leaves late in the evening, the kids will hopefully be so tired they will fall asleep soon after departure. This will also allow parents to sleep and arrive at the destination less tired and frustrated than if they had spent the last nine hours trying to occupy a bored child.
- If an overnight flight is not convenient or possible, try for an early morning flight arriving in the evening (destination time). By checking straight into a hotel and getting the kids to bed, when they are tired, will facilitate both them and their parents being able to sleep through the night and get over the worst of the jetlag. If everyone does wake early, the family can continue to the ultimate destination and not disturb too many other people.
- The kids are unlikely to sleep through the whole of a flight, even if it is overnight, so being prepared with activities to occupy them is important.
- Encourage older kids to pack their own backpack with favourite books, magazines and colouring sets, making sure they are small enough to fit on airline sized tables. Books and colouring sets also have the advantage to be quiet games.
- A Walkman can also be a good idea as it reduces the chance of a child being distracted from their books and colouring by what is going on around them.
- Meals are not always served at the times children want to eat, plus, the dry air of aircraft dehydrates passengers too. Packing sugar free snacks and drinks (sugary foods increase dehydration) in the child's bag allows them quick and easy access when they decide they need some refreshment. Try to pack foods that are not sticky or crumbly, to minimize the potential for mess.
- Some airlines are much more child friendly than others, though most now serve children's meals. British Airways, Swissair and Virgin Airways provide particularly good packs of books, colouring sets and other activities for children and British Airways now has its own lounge area at Heathrow with children's toys and videos available for its passengers.
- Children under the age of two do not require a seat, but it can be worth buying a child ticket (rather than an infant ticket) for them, as having a seat for them to sit and sleep on during the flight makes the flight much more comfortable for the parents. A child ticket also comes with a luggage allowance, which can be cheaper than paying for excess baggage.
- Some airlines will provide a booster seat (like a car safety seat) for young children, which is strapped to the standard seat. These seats are comfortable for the child, restrain them more securely and lift them up to the level of the parent, which makes feeding them and playing with them less problematic.
- With children to watch and hold on to and toys, discarded clothes and half-finished drinks to keep track of, traveling parents never seem to have enough hands to carry everything. To reduce the number of items that need to hand carried, use a small backpack for carry-on luggage and leave enough space in it to take toys, airline gift boxes and other items that will be collected during the flight.
- Flight delays are common enough to warrant parents carrying extra formula, food, diapers, wet wipes and other consumables for babies, as trying to find them during an unscheduled twenty-four-hour stopover is guaranteed to cause frustration and stress.
- Finally, take a collapsible pushchair for the trip, even for children who do not usually use one. Most airlines allow one baby-carrier per child that can be given to the cabin crew at the aircraft door. Airports often have long corridors, long queues and long waits, which are tiring for short legs. It is much easier for parents if the child is sitting in a pushchair and not asking to be carried. The easier the trip is made for the kids, the easier it becomes for the parents.