My plan for a perfect landing—with no jet lag
I’ve been a passionate traveler all my life. Living in remote New Zealand meant quickly figuring out a way to fly very long-distances and land with elegance and energy.
I consulted with doctors and frequent-flier friends, and after many flights around the world to India, Russia, Paris, Rio, Athens and Venice, Majorca, and every corner of the globe, I’ve figured out my jet-lag prevention plan.
The concept is to regard a plane (private or commercial) as a sleeping compartment for any flight over four hours. You get on the plane, get calm and comfortable, and you sleep, day or overnight. But there are rules to follow and preparations to make. Regard flight time as prep time for your destination—and you’ll arrive at 7am in Paris or at noon in Venice ready to have a quick shower, perhaps a massage, a delicious breakfast at the Gritti, and then to head straight to the Louvre, to the Palazzo Fortuny, or to Hermes and Lanvin.
When making your reservation—no matter which cabin—reserve a window seat as far forward as possible. Use the seating chart to make a smart decision.
Put together a permanent in-flight kit of a small pillow (mine is by Frette), along with a wool or cashmere throw that will keep you warm from chin to toes (nice, even if the airline provides a duvet). Add warm socks and a soft well-fitting eye-mask. I always save copies of The New Yorker for ideal in-flight reading.
Wear light layers of chic, comfortable clothes that you can sleep in.
Your sleep kit will also include the best earplugs (noise reduction of 33 decibels or more, at drug stores) or Sony or Bose noise-canceling headphones. Consult your doctor about sleeping pills. On long flights they can keep you asleep for up to 8 hours—essential if you are flying San Francisco-Munich-Delhi, or San Francisco-Seattle-Copenhagen-Stockholm, which I often do. But this plan works if you are flying from Sydney to Los Angeles, or from Jaipur back to California.
Dine lightly before departure. Carry with you a sliced apple, unsalted almonds, a Vosges chocolate bar, dried apricots or other treats. You will not be eating on the plane, except your healthy snacks, and a light fruit and protein breakfast just before arrival on an overnight flight.
Your goal is to be wrapped up, comfortable, and ready to sleep by the time the plane reaches cruising altitude. Quietly prepare for sleep. Put on your headphones or put in your earplugs.
Alert the flight attendant that you will not be dining and not to disturb you. You will be sleeping. You will not be drinking any alcohol (causes dehydration and jet lag.)
You will not watch any videos. A flight is for sleeping—and should not be wasted on B-grade movies.
Quietly, deliberately and calmly put on your amenity kit socks, gather your pillows, and prepare for sleeping. Wrap yourself up in your blanket as well as your cashmere throw, covering your ankles and neck in particular. If you’re cold, it’s hard to sleep. Be sure your fastened seatbelt is visible outside the blanket so that flight attendants know you are buckled up.
As you reach cruising altitude, sip a glass of water and take a sleeping pill for the appropriate duration of flight. Read for a few moments. Sleeping pills may take up to half an hour to have an effect.
Slip your pillow behind your head, and adjust your seat to the best sleeping position. Get into a comfortable position. Slip on your eye mask.
If you should wake, request a glass of water, do some quiet foot flexes and shoulder rotations to relax, adjust your blanket, and go back to sleep.
On an overnight flight, enjoy a light fruit and protein breakfast an hour before arrival.
Land fresh and ready to go.
At your hotel, take a shower, and order a healthy and light breakfast or lunch, with bottled water.
If you’ve followed my plan you will feel alert, energized, and ready to walk to the Tate Modern or head for Copacabana Beach.
Spend the day meeting your friends, getting a sense of place. Walk in the sun, breath the fresh air.
You will have an early night. Prepare for bed around 8.30pm. Take a sleeping pill and be in bed by 9pm. Put in your earplugs (unfamiliar sounds will keep you awake), read for a few moments, and plan to sleep until 7 or 8am.
No jet lag. Your body will adjust quickly to the time zone and you’ll feel energetic, and excited to be in your destination.
Repeat the same plan on the way home.
Safe and happy travels!
The beauty that awaits at your destination:
Painting of the Grand Canal, Venice, by J.M.W. Turner (1775-1851), from the collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.