Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Jet Set Survival Plan:

My favorite tips for how to fly with purpose, focus, comfort and style—without the headache of jet lag or the dreaded
decalage horaire.

Here is my time-honored plan for a perfect landing—with no jet lag. It’s what travel pros like Tom Ford and Tyler Brule and gorgeous high-fliers do.

You get into the habit of sleeping blissfully on the plane.

Yes, the plan is detailed and disciplined. Some will lose interest when I note no alcohol, no dining on the plane. Beauty sleep only!

With this sleeping plan I dash off the aircraft after a long flight—ready to hit the ground and head to the nearest café, museum, boutique, library, garden, interview, meeting, friend’s house, palace, rural delights and city pleasures.

You’ll plunge into an intense world of beauty and inspiration—and be super-alert to sounds, color, and music, and engaged with people, places and the fragrant air around you. This is why I travel.

The beauty of unexpected travel encounters: Young women at a temple in Maheshwar, India, March 2011.

Photos of rural Indian life in this essay were all taken by Diane Dorrans Saeks in the distant countryside of Rajasthan and in Jaipur. I traveled on country roads with expert and jovial Indian drivers, and would leap from the car or wander off on foot to see what I would discover, whom I might encounter.

I always ask the beautifully dressed women in this photo essay (dream on Paris couturiers…) most respectfully for permission before taking their photos. Women, bangled and bejeweled and so gloriously garbed in silk and sequins and pink (“Shocking pink is the navy blue of India” said D. Vreeland) were all going about their daily life, herding goats, walking to temples, gathering water, or attending spiritual celebrations with friends or sisters.

I’ve been a passionate traveler all my life.

Living in remote New Zealand as a young traveler meant quickly figuring out a way to fly very long-distances and land with elegance and energy.

I consulted doctors, pilots, and frequent-flier friends. After a lifetime of flights around the world to Paris, Rio, Delhi, Katmandu, Stockholm, Sydney, Copenhagen, Zihuatenejo, Cochin, Bali, Istanbul, 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. You get on the plane, get calm and comfortable, and you sleep or snooze, day or overnight. Morning or evening, you sleep.

There are rules to follow and preparations to make. But you gain time, energy and focus—and become an expert, confident, in-control traveler.

You’ll depart from Houston or LA, Antwerp, New York, Sydney or Auckland—sleep on the flight—and arrive at 7am at CDG or at noon in VCE, or 6pm at JFK, take a quick shower, a massage, a delicious bite at the Gritti or the Cafe Flore, and then head straight out to immerse yourself—perhaps to the Louvre, the Palazzo Fortuny, the Hermitage, dinner, a lecture, a swim, or to Hermes and Lanvin.

Preparation: Refining your plan
When making your reservation—no matter which cabin—reserve a window seat as far forward as possible. Bulkhead is great. Use the seating chart to make a smart decision. Then you control the window shade—and avoid disturbance.

Put together a permanent always-packed in-flight kit of a small soft pillow (mine is by Frette), along with a wool or cashmere throw that will keep you warm from chin to toes (nice to have your own shawl even if the airline provides a duvet). Add warm socks and a soft well-fitting eye-mask. I 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 Bose noise-canceling headphones.

Consult your doctor about sleeping pills. On long flights the right one for you can keep you asleep for up to 8 hours—essential if you are flying San Francisco-Munich-Delhi, or San Francisco-Frankfurt-Stockholm, which I often do. But this plan works if you are flying from Melbourne or Brisbane to Los Angeles, for example, or from Jaipur back to California or Texas or Florida. You get on the plane—and prepare to sleep well.

Dine lightly at the airport before departure. Carry in your kit a few bites of fresh fruit, or unsalted almonds, a Visages chocolate bar, dried apricots, and energy bars, something delicious.

Drink lots of water. No alcohol.

You will not be eating the airline ‘cuisine’ on the flight. You are devoted to rest and sleep. Munch on your healthy snacks, drink lots of bottled water, and request light fruit or a protein dish just before arrival on an overnight flight.

Pills or not:
Chat to your doctor about a sleeping aid so that you can sleep for 4 to 8 hours.

My doctor, also an avid traveler, recommended a certain sleeping pill. I quickly demurred. “Next stop, Judy Garland,” I said to her. “I’m not a sleeping pill person. I’m not a pill person. No, no. Not my thing.”

She’s low-key. I tried the one she recommended. I followed the instructions to the letter (and studied the lists of potential side-effects). It was effective. I’m not a doctor. I used it mindfully.

You decide. Use strictly as prescribed. No alcohol. You must be in bed/lying down and be able to have a 8 full hours to sleep when you take it. Don’t be like a friend of a friend of a friend—on an overnight flight to Zurich—who dined for hours on the plane, drank copious glasses of wine, watched videos, and with just 2 hours left on the flight, took an 8-hour sleeping pill. She woke up, dazed and naked, in bed in a hotel room, unable to recall how she and her husband got there. 

You have to forgo the dinner and wine, and read the instructions carefully and sleep.

On Board: 
Follow each step carefully and with purpose. Make it a habit.

Your goal is to be wrapped up, comfortable, and ready to sleep by the time the plane reaches cruising altitude (about half an hour after take off…when ‘fasten seatbelts’ lights are turned off). 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 wine (causes dehydration, fog, and jet lag.) 

You will not watch any videos. A flight is for resting quietly, 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. Make seat/bed comfortable.

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 the appropriate sleeping aid for the duration of flight. Read for a few moments. Sleeping pills may take up to half an hour to have an effect. Individual thing.

Slip your pillow behind your head, and adjust your seat to the best sleeping position. Slip on your eye mask. Relax. Breathe. Sleep.

Sweet dreams.

If you should wake, request a glass of water, do some quiet foot flexes and shoulder rotations to relax, adjust your blanket, take a bite of chocolate, 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.

On arrival:
At your destination, take a shower. Enjoy a healthy bite, with bottled water.

You will feel alert, energized, and ready to walk to the Tate Modern, taxi to a conference, or head to Ipanema Beach.

Spend the day with your friends, getting a sense of place. Walk in the sun, breathe the fresh air.

You will have an early night. Light dinner, only.

Prepare for bed around 8.30pm. Take a sleeping aid when you are 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 alert and fully engaged in your destination.

Repeat the same sleeping plan on the way home.

Safe and happy travels!

The beauty that awaits at your destination: authentic village India, remote countryside, Jaipur palaces and city residences, a wedding celebration, and encounters with wonderful people. I travel to discover, to see, to meet, to have my heart pierced by beauty and to sense the shock of the unfamiliar.

All photos taken by Diane Dorrans Saeks in November 2010 and March 2011 in Jaipur, in remote Rajasthan villages, and in the countryside near Maheshwar, Madhya Pradesh, India.


mermaid gallery said...

brilliant!'s so nice to have it all written out like that. i know all of these things but I am usually too excited to follow I will carefully plan my flight as you recommended....thanks for such useful info!

Love Your Homes said...

Diane, you are such a pro at traveling.

I still find it hard to adjust to the time difference , even after decades of traveling....I'm trying to keep up with my husband, he's the house pro over here, but then he does it once a week.

I always found it easier to travel from east to west, when catching up with the jet lag.

Stockholm to Rio over Lisbon is much easier than doing San Fransisco to Stockholm via Chicago, then I can never sleep in my seat.

Love your album from India! Beautiful colours.....

My best,

P.s.Weather has been beautiful and warm over here.

Karena said...

Wonderful travel tips for avoiding jet lag! Thank you Diane!

Art by Karena

Paul Gervais de Bédée said...

These are all excellent tips and much appreciated advice! I just got back from a trip that seemed to take far longer in travel time than it should have but it's all about the being there, isn't it!

mary said...

This plan really works. While living for several years in Europe, I developed a similar strategy (not quite so rigorous) and it worked like a charm every time. I always hit the deck running while it took my husband 3 days to get his clock ironed out.

James XVI said...

Love this post, especially as I am writing this over wifi at 30k feet. Too late for the first leg though, just had breakfast. But With 30k miles to go before home I'll have plenty of other opportunities to take advantage of this fabulous advice. Thanks Diane!

Diane Dorrans Saeks said...

Hello, Dear Friends-

I love your responses--and especially adored hearing from James at 30,000 feet in air! Thank you all for great great comments.

I love the fact that you get the details! The sleeping works...if you start planning even before heading to the airport. I keep my carryon essentials packed at all times--replenish and refresh when I return home--so that I don't have to worry about forgetting anything.
I would not want to have to start over with the travel necessities every time I travel.
This plan is about traveling mindfully, going into a kind of zen state, taking care of your comfort and pleasure, and doing everything in your best interest.
It makes arrival and travel so pleasant.
I put in earplugs when heading to the airport--and go into a relaxed and quiet mode, not being distracted some of unpleasant reality of travel. Create your own beautiful reality!

happy days, DIANE

Diane Dorrans Saeks said...

Dear friends-

I received this fantastic note from my friend ELISA STANCIL, a fantastic artist...who is currently traveling in Asia:

Another great blog! I will post it to my facebook page...Your prescription is just what I like to do, it works so well. Many of my friends try not to take the Restoril or whatever on the second night, but really, since it is only used when I travel I see no reason not to make it simple and easy! Tonight is night 2 in Hong Kong. Steamy and beautiful here. Guess what, TODAY was the 150th anniversary of your beloved Star Ferry so all rides were complimentary! We went from Kowloon to Hong Kong and then up Victoria Peak, walked down and through the Botanical Garden. Yesterday to acclimate I went to Shanghai Tang and Vivienne Tam, then after dinner window shopped all around the Peninsula Hotel. I plan to have a few tailored shirts made and go to several museums. We will go to Lantau and see the giant buddha, of course! There are some monasteries and fishing villages to enjoy, and of course, pearls pearls pearls to consider!

Diane Dorrans Saeks said...


Received this lovely note from ELLEN SHOOK;

Great advice -- I am saving this.


I highly recommend that you print out the 'jet set survival' tips...and prepare early for your travels.
You will travel calmly, with a sense of tranquility and comfort. The key is to have everything you need...and to go into a quite, contemplative and rather 'self-contained' mode.
Oh...and never speak to those sitting near you. While travel encounters are lovely, this will take away from your sleep time. Earplugs in! No distractions.
Sweet dreams--

Love Your Homes said...

Hello again Diane,

I thought it would be nice and safe for all you traveling the world by air to know , that to avoid jetlag, pilots also prepare them themselves for their duty time in the air on long haul flights. Only this starts 1 to 2 days before takeoff, by getting ready to be awake and alert during their active flight, at a different hour than normally is.

So sleeping is very important the days before duty, by getting to bed in time to adjust to the time difference. Also to be able to sleep well at the destination stopover and be fresh and crisp flying back the next day.
Light meals and lots of water are always to recommend to avoid swollen legs onboard the flight!
Nice long walks at the point of turnaround after arriving to the crew hotel is alway without exception.

I think my husband was born into adjusting to time differences...I've been fascinated by this control for 30 years. I guess some people do it easier than others.

I never have sweet dreams onboard unless I'm in a horizontal position.

Now I need to get my husband to do blogging so he can WiFi be at 30k feet, love that info James!


Philip Bewley said...

This is the best advice, and we use these techniques when traveling. Also, loved your photos of India. Why suffer with jet lag when you can immerse yourself in the glories that you show right off the plane!

Diane Dorrans Saeks said...


Thank you so much for these notes. Inside scoop: Ingela's husband is a highly admired senior pilot and a senior instructor, for over three decades, with SAS. These are fantastic and truly insider, professional notes.
I love the suggestion of 'long walks at the point of destination' and 'light meals' and 'lots of water'.
Another consideration: A famous international heart surgeon recommended to me wearing compression socks on long flights.
On a flight from London recently, I was chatting to the pilot about long-distance travel--and he pulled up his trouser cuff to show me that he was wearing compression socks. He felt they were an essential part of health in the air. Worth checking. He recommended two websites for further information about leg health on planes:, and Support hose, it seems, can be sheer and elegant, not granny-ish. And recommended for those sleeping on a flight. Great information to have.
Ingela, thank you so much for these tips. They are rich in inside and many years of professional experience. Please thank S for these great comments--and to you also. best, DIANE

PB: you are the most experienced traveler and I love your notes. Please send best to RRG.

Happy travels to all--and safe, tranquil and calm flights with hours of beauty sleep (or just a quick nap on a flight from SFO to LAX. cheers, DIANE

James XVI said...

Diane, I forgot to mention yesterday that I have made yoga an essential part of my travel plans. On a recent trip to India, the Leela Palace hotel in Bangalore had a six am yoga class every morning in a pool-side pavilion. I always have my iPhone which has several yoga apps installed, my favorite being the Tara Stiles and Deepak Chopra collaboration. I carry an Apple A/V cable with me which allows me to plug my iPhone into the tv in many hotels so that Tara and Deepak can help me through my routine on a large screen. Tara also has travel specific how-to videos on her YouTube channel, for stetching on the plane or getting over jet lag. Namaste.

Diane Dorrans Saeks said...


Yoga on the road!
This is a fantastic concept.
Thank you so much for the superb details of this recommendation. Perhaps it is the best of all suggestion of 'what to do on arrival' and 'how to maintain travel health'--and is certainly an enhancement to the 'beauty sleep' jet lag survival program.
You provided so much great information. Warmest thanks and safe travels, DIANE said...

Well, If I were very wealthy I would own a jet and fly that way so that I could have a bedroom to sleep in...

Now, I try to fly business class or first and that is only every few years.. That helps so very much, just that alone will do wonders...

What I do is go directly to a Spa appointment where ever I land and have a facial and message and steam, after that I usually feel fine, no jet lag...
I have never tried taking sleeping pills???
I have to say it does feel like your dying when you first land if you have no plan..


Jane Kilpatrick Schott said...

Perfect timing on this post! I am leaving from NYC to Milan for a holiday in two weeks and I will be following your instructions to the letter.

Happy trails!

*Chic Provence* said...

Dear, love, love this post! thanks for the minute details...and I know it works for you, I've seen how fabulous you look!

You can be sure I'll be linking back to this post in the future for my trips to Provence!


Anonymous said...

Diane what a wonderful blog!

As I remember, when you were writing your book Santa Barbara Living, I was traveling to Europe and you told me this plan.

I wrote it down,followed it to the letter, and for the first time in my life, I had not one iota of jet lag.

I promise,everyone, this really works!!! But you have to do all of it!!

Happy Traveling!~ This is a public service!!!


Penelope Bianchi said...

Aha! I knew you had written this down, and I found it! This was my comment all those years ago!

I am on my way to Sicily, and have printed it out to do it again!

Many thanks, and I did not realize I somehow came to be Anonymous!

Love and many thanks to you for this invaluable information!!!

Penelope Bianchi