Jet-lag jungle survival tips

Written by admin on March 26, 2009 – 6:20 pm -

There’s an alleged rule of thumb that when crossing time zones, it takes one day for every two hours of time change to acclimate to a new destination. That means, if you’re jetting from the East Coast of the U.S. to Europe (a six hour time difference), your internal body clock might take three days to get into sync.

Most people just don’t have that kind of time to get on schedule. For that matter, they could be home before they do. Luckily, people are generally adaptable or air travel might not be a viable option for them. Even three hours from the east coast of the U.S. to the west coast can set a person’s sense of time amiss.

Ask flight crew members how they cope. Some will tell you they always stay on the same time zone in order to function or be able to work during their out-bound, ongoing or homecoming flights. Some people are definitely more adept than others and quite a few cabin attendants confess to suffering from frequent sleep deprivation. Such is life and they have learned to smile — most of the time.

Frequent vacation travelers and most road warriors often have suggestions as to how to combat jet-lag. There are no universal answers but here are a few hit-or-miss ideas.

Get in shape and prepare for your trip before leaving home. Gradually adjust your sleeping pattern. Some people go to bed an hour earlier or later each day (depending on whether they’re traveling east or west) and attempt to get into that destination time zone before the departure date. Focus on where you’re going. As soon as you board the plane, set your watch so many hours ahead – or behind. Ideally, you’ll be less tired if you’ve already partially shifted your schedule.

Some people vow the worst thing to do on a plane is drink alcohol. Other passengers swear they have one or two cocktails or glasses of wine in order to relax and facilitate drifting off to sleep.

Some passengers opt to pop a pill with their drink and skip dinner if it’s an evening flight. They eat something before the plane departs and immediately will themselves into a Zen-like state. They resort to eye-shades, earplugs, headphones and a neck pillow and try to sleep all the way to their destination. Ask not be awakened for duty-free shopping or a second meal – if there is one. Wear your seat belt so it’s visible in the event of turbulence. Who needs to be disturbed by a crew member who’s checking to see whether or not you’re complying with the rules?

Request a large bottle of water so when you awaken during the flight, you can take a swig and remain hydrated without having to summon a flight attendant for a refill.

To nap or not when you arrive:
There are a many theories when it come to whether you should or shouldn’t. Some people say you should force yourself to stay awake the first day. You may be dragging but if you’re able to keep busy, eat an early (and light) dinner and hit the sack at a quasi-normal time, you’ll be good to go the following day.

Others say they couldn’t live without a nap, but it shouldn’t last more than a couple of hours. A lot depends on whether or not your accommodations are ready upon arrival plus your personal needs. And don’t be surprised if they change as you get older.

Many business people (and they’re usually the ones sitting in the front of the plane) swear that a workout in a gym gets their bodies and adrenalin going. Frequently, they’re expected at meetings the day they arrive and need to be in optimal form. They may even be scheduled for a business dinner their first night that can be more trying than pleasure.

On business trips, there’s a written rule that can’t always be followed: Never sign a binding document or contract before having a good night’s sleep. Doing so may cause you to regret having put pen to paper.

Jet-lag is often caused by the body’s internal clock being out of alignment when it comes to the Circadian Cycle or more commonly known as the sleep cycle. This controls when the body releases melatonin, which signals your brain when it’s time to sleep. Some travelers swear that taking melatonin tablets in preparation for a trip does the trick. Others give it little or no credence.

Some people use a light therapy unit (Apollo Health sells a travel kit) that might help adjust your body clock. Some people swear by artificial light as an antidote to winter/seasonal depression or “SAD”- Seasonal Affective Disorder as well as jet-lag.

Another theory suggests getting extra sleep before and after your trip when crossing multiple time zones. It’s as if you’re stocking up or making up for lost hours in bed.

If people agree on anything, it’s that you shouldn’t spend a long haul flight catching up on all of the movies (good and bad) you haven’t had the chance to see at home. Teens may be able to pull all-nighters; but even they suffer upon landing.

One thing I’ve noticed during my many flights is people in business and first class appear to sleep from lift-off time even if it’s a morning or mid-day flight. Let’s face it; it’s rare when it’s worth staying awake to sample the gourmet food.

If you have any secrets, ideas or suggestions as to how to beat jet-lag and falling on your face on the first and second days of your trip, please post them.

Karen Fawcett is president of BonjourParis.

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Posted in Consumer Traveler |

Back in the States, it’s plane chaos

Written by admin on December 24, 2008 – 12:31 pm -

I hate to bitch and moan – but here goes. Yes, the weather has been terrible and there’s been a pyramid effect impacting planes taking off and arriving. The airports have been bedlam and filled with people trying to get to their chosen destinations for the holidays. The weather gods have not been kind.

But that doesn’t diminish my irritation with the lack of communication airline personnel give passengers or are supplied by their organizations. To compound the normal travel chaos and my ultimate sense of disappointment, I was receiving messages on my Blackberry advising me that “all was well” after I landed.

According to all of the electronic messages, I was informed electronically I was going to sleep in my bed, after a nearly-20-hour flight from Hong Kong. Here in the good old USA, my problems started.

My plane from Seoul, Korea arrived at Kennedy Airport only seven minutes late. I had nearly two hours to get through customs, collect my baggage and take the SkyTrain to the United terminal.

My heart was beating. I can’t tell you how delighted I was that I was in time for my connecting 9:30 flight to Washington/Dulles Airport. The United representative who issued my boarding pass assured me I was living under a lucky star.

All went well at JFK until I I arrived at the gate only to be told that my flight was going to be nearly two hours late and the plane that was about to depart was oversold. And forget it, there wasn’t a chance in hell there would be a single seat.

Feeling exhaustion consuming my body, I asked if I could postpone my departure until the following day. Sure, they told me, but I’d lose my ticket and would have to be rebooked. And who’s to say there would be an available ticket? That option seemed out of the question.

OK — all was not lost. I’m a member of the Red Carpet Club. I paid for this privilege in the event I encounter such situations. Off I went only to find it closed at 8:30 p.m. Perhaps I’m rigid but why do I think the club should remain open until the last flight has departed?

Luckily, I ran into a friend who was London bound. He took pity on me and invited me to be his guest in the British Air lounge. Until the airline’s last flight departed, I could have a drink, something to eat and fire off emails on one of their computers.

The BA lounge reminds me of those in Europe and Asia and it doesn’t leave clients with the feeling they’re lucky if they can grab a cup of coffee or glass or something non-alcoholic. If you want a drink, expect to pay $6 for a tiny pour.

The United Express flight was further delayed to the point that the pilot apologized more than once, explaining that the flight was late leaving Roanoke, Va., before proceeding to D.C. and continuing to Kennedy to make a fast turn-around to DC.

As we departed at 1 a.m., my adrenalin was in high gear. Thank goodness the flight was fast or I might have suffered cardiac arrest.

Once on the ground, the next step was collecting the luggage (thank goodness it was there) and racing to the taxi line. Naturally, taxis aren’t forming long lines at 2:30 a.m.

When one appeared I wanted to kiss the driver and, naturally, I was delighted when he arrived at my holiday abode.

After thinking about it before falling into bed, I realized it has taken seven hours to travel between Kennedy and my final destination. The trip between Hong Kong and Seoul was substantially shorter and included a gourmet meal.

If I’m not making 100% sense, it’s because I’m suffering extreme jet lag. But tomorrow is Christmas Eve, so I have to get my act together. It’s when our family celebrates all together.

I wouldn’t miss seeing the smiles on my grandchildren’s faces for love nor money. They’ll have to forgive me if their presents aren’t perfectly wrapped.

Karen Fawcett is president of BonjourParis. She wishes everyone a happy holiday season.

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Posted in Consumer Traveler |