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.
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.
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.
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.
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.