Travel tips on how to adjust to a new time zone and avoid the dreaded effects of jet lag

Updated January 2024

Exploring new places is exciting, but frequent flying has its dangers and jet lag can certainly put a damper on the beginning of any vacation. Vacation days are valuable and I want you to enjoy every moment not waste time sleeping in your hotel room.

I’m impatient, just show me the tips!

I’ve spent considerable time figuring out how to beat the dreaded effects of long-haul travel. Let me help you prevent jet lag from ruining the beginning of your trips.

Five tips to help prevent jet lag from ruining your trip

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I have extensive experience avoiding jet lag, making me an expert on this topic. I once flew from Vancouver to Barcelona for a whirlwind 5 days to attend a wedding and let me tell you, nobody has time for jet lag when the stagette party starts mere hours after landing, lol!

My longest flight to date was from Vancouver to Sydney, Australia which entailed a 15.5-hour flight accompanied by a 15-hour time difference. Ugh. Jet lag be dammed 😩

Here are the tips and tricks I use when I travel that help me prevent jet lag and make the most of every day of my vacations.

5 Pro Tips to Help Prevent Jet Lag

1. Adjust time zones immediately

Put yourself in the time zone of your destination as soon as you board your flight. Or better yet, upon arrival at the airport. The moment your vacation starts, switch your time to that of your destination. Do not think to yourself, “For me, it’s X O’clock at home.”

This isn’t to say you don’t need to keep track of what time it is where you live, but reframe this as simply the time in X place, as opposed to what time it would be for you. It is important for you to fully immerse yourself in your new time zone as soon as possible to help prevent jet lag.

Funny story. I once accidentally called my mom at 3 am because I forgot to check what time it was at home. Oops! 😬 Knowing the time back home is okay, but don’t confuse it with what time it is for you. Your destination’s time is your time.

Change the clocks to you rnew time zone to help avoid jetlag
Setting your watch and all the clocks to your new time zone and going to bed on time are key tactics for avoiding jet lag.

Pro tip: use the world clock on your smartphone to easily keep track of necessary time zones. This helps you differentiate between what time it would be for you versus what time it is in your location versus where you live.

2. Respect your new bedtime

Go to bed at the local bedtime, especially on the first night. If you arrive early in the day and are exhausted, it’s understandable that you’ll want to go straight to bed. Don’t! If you need to, take a short (I repeat, short) nap. Anything over an hour and you’ll be more groggy and struggle to stay awake until nighttime. I know it’s hard to drag your ass out of bed after that nap, but you gotta do it!

I cannot stress enough that you need to push through and stay up until nighttime. Tip #4 can help you with this so keep reading. Ignore this advice and you’ll have days of lying awake in the middle of the night and subsequently sleeping through and missing half the day. Respecting your new bedtime is key to helping you prevent jet lag.

I am sensitive to light so I always travel with an eye mask. If you haven’t tried one, they’re great. They help to ensure you get a better night’s sleep no matter what. This mini travel kit from Revolve has an eye mask plus other great goodies including ear plugs.

This anti-wrinkle sleep mask will be my next purchase as it’s clinically proven to increase relaxation and reduce fine lines. No jet lag and fewer wrinkles? Yes, please!

Insider tip: if you forget one, you can always ask a Flight Attendant as many airlines have these available. Amenity Kits are one of the 8 airline freebies you didn’t know existed.

Wearing a sleep maks is one of my top tips for avoiding jet lag by sleeping better
Travelling with a sleep mask is a great way to ensure a good night’s sleep in a new place

3. Take melatonin to prevent jet lag

This pro tip to avoid jet lag will assist you in being able to respect your new bedtime. I cannot stress this enough. This stuff works! I’ve taken it at bedtime for the first few days of my last three European vacations and it has worked like a charm.

This is the exact brand of Melatonin that I personally use so I can speak to its efficacy. You only need to take it for the first few days of your trip, but you can safely take it for your entire trip if necessary. Repeat when you get home for the first few nights to ensure you adjust back to your normal time zone with ease.

I forgot this step when I flew home from London last time and I was reminded of my mistake at 4 am for the next two nights. Taking melatonin both when you arrive at your destination and when you arrive back home is crucial to its efficacy. Melatonin is key in helping to prevent jet lag. I swear by this stuff!

Woman in a bikini standing poolside at a seaside resort in Santorini, Greece

I credit Melatonin, and a sleep mask, for my ability to avoid jet lag so I was able to enjoy every day in Santorini at this gorgeous resort, the San Antonio.

4. Caffeinate

I know, I know, every other article on how to prevent jet lag says to avoid caffeine and alcohol because they dehydrate you. However, as long as you still drink water, coffee is a-okay! Forcing oneself to stay awake and tour a new city is no easy feat.

Even without jet lag dragging you down, sightseeing can make for some very long days. Why make your life harder when you can sip a frothy cappuccino instead? This blog isn’t called Coffee & Mascara for no reason, I swear by the amazing benefits of a cup of java. I love coffee 😉

Good, strong coffee is a wonderful ally when one needs to stay awake. And I’m not talking about those sugary beverages full of flavouring and topped with whipped cream. (Sorry Starbucks, but that ain’t coffee!) Those sugar-laden drinks will make you crash. Hard.

It’s best to drink real coffee such as drip, a latté, flat white or an americano. Anything with minimal sugar added. Be sure to also drink water and stay hydrated, but this is just solid life advice in general 😉

Woman holding cup of coffee
Coffee is my go-to when travelling to a different time zone. I’d rather drink a coffee than take a short nap whenever possible.

5. Shift your mindset

Your mind is a very powerful tool, use it. Tell yourself that you don’t get jet lag. I openly admit that I don’t get jet lag, and you know what, I don’t. Mind over matter. This might sound crazy, but I swear it works!

When I travel, and especially at airports, I often overhear people talking about how bad their jet lag is. They complain about how tired they are because it’s the middle of the night back home. Don’t be this person. Tell yourself, and anyone that’ll listen, that you don’t get jet lag and you feel great. As they say, fake it till you make it.

This tip also goes back to the first one about switching time zones immediately. Once you put yourself in the time zone of your destination, you are telling yourself that is the correct time. You can help to prevent the dreaded effects of jet lag by shifting your mindset.

Touring Zurich after beating jet-lag

After flying for almost 11 hours and landing in Zurich at 9 am local time I was ready for bed. After all, it was 1 am back home (not that I told myself that 😉). Exhausted, I took a power nap for 1 hour then got up and toured the city. It was very hard to get up after my nap, but I forced myself to get up.

That short power nap, a strong cup of Nespresso, and taking melatonin at bedtime allowed me to avoid jet lag and make the most of my time in Zurich.

Adjusting my internal clock before arrival, immediately assimilating to my destination’s time zone and taking melatonin at bedtime are my secret weapons to avoid jet lag. I also credit the occasional power nap and coffee, along with bringing my favourite travel must-haves with me to ensure every flight is as comfortable as possible.

Conclusion – how to prevent jet lag

The absolute worst thing you can do is let yourself sleep once you arrive at your new destination. Unless of course, you’re arriving at night. If you land during the day, force yourself to stay up until a reasonable bedtime.

If you must take a nap, throw on an eye mask, set your alarm and only nap for a maximum of 45 minutes to an hour. Anything more than that, and you’ll do more harm than good.

The best advice I can give you is to start thinking in your destination’s time zone as soon as you arrive at the airport. Nap on your flight if you will be arriving in the morning or afternoon.

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Avoid Jet lag with these tips
Avoid jet lag with 5 tips