The Secrets on How to Finally Prevent Jet Lag

Jet lag used to be my nemesis, but that was before I defeated it!

It wasn’t easy. It took almost four years. But now, on year five, when I’ve flown almost 40 hours way too many flights to count, I no longer get these three-day hangovers. I now get only 3 hour jet lag hangovers, which is more like a real hangover without the headache. A little disoriented for a few hours is not bad after a 40 hour flight.

It’s unavoidable to 100% prevent jet lag because of SCIENCE and all that, but I’ve learned how to manage and minimize it’s effects on my body and dried-out skin to just one day of being a little uncomfortable. Spoiler: It’s mostly all in your mind!

jet lag tipsphoto credit

The Secrets to Starting Your Day like You Weren’t Just on a Plane for 9 Hours

1. If I have multiple layovers, I try not to sleep on ALL the flights. I tire myself out on the shorter legs, so that on the longest leg I will sleep easier. On the shorter flights, I watch movies on my tablet, listen to my Journey Fave’s Playlist, read, or lately write for Werkenntwen. Right now I’m reading ­­­­­­­­­Shantaram, the typical India backpacking book I should have read two years ago.

2. Ask for your preferred seat when you check-in or do it yourself online. It will make all the difference if you’re in a seat you fancy, which is for me, the window seat. It doesn’t cost extra and you can usually get what you want if you check-in early enough.

jet lag tipsok we can’t always get seats like these! photo 1, photo 2 credit

jet lag tips

3. Actually try to sleep on your flight! Sounds easy but this is the hardest part of all. If you can catch a few hours of sleep instead of watching the rom-coms on the tiny screen in front of you, you’ll look and feel massively fresher when you land, and you’ll be able to stay up and push through the jet lag. FYI: It’s going to feel worse when you are traveling East. Bring: the best compressible travel pillow, earplugs, socks (they crank that A/C!), and satin eye mask.

4. Ben likes to drink a few (or more) beers before a flight to help him sleep, while I stick to water… don’t forget I am still a nurse! I will take an antihistamine before bed because just one pill sort of knocks me right out. Putting my alter ego Werkenntwen aside, Rachel the Nurse taking over: stay hydrated!

If not only for your body, for your tortured airplane cabin pressure skin! Alcohol is not going to hydrate you. If you choose to drink it, drink equal amounts room-temperature water too. The reason you should drink room temperature water varies within cultures, but I am starting to believe the Indian’s rule about it slowing the metabolism, and making your body deal with heat worse.

5. The last one led me right to this: push through the jet lag the day you land, and do not sleep! I repeat: DO NOT SLEEP. Try to get decent amounts of sleep the next two nights until you’re back on schedule.

6. Even if you aren’t first class, you can ask for a warm towel. I don’t know if the stewardesses would be annoyed or not, but I see people do it often. I finally flew business class and those warm towels make ALL the difference before landing.

jet lag tipsI look a mess. 

7. If you don’t want to ask for a warm towel, use wet face wipes like these Burt’s Bees ones. I carry them with me because in India even some airports don’t have working sinks or toilet paper. I always clean away the layer of dirt that a long haul flight is bound to put on your face. The key to looking fresh is in your skin, which has just had ALL the moisture stolen from it. Sometimes I use Nivea or Garnier as well.

8. Brush the tangles out of your hair. If you’re anything like me, it’s become matted from changing positions so much. I wish I could throw it into a messy bun, but after combing my curls I usually have too frizzy of hair to make a bun look cute, so I opt for a side braid. While bedhead can be a fun and sexy look, I absolutely hate not being to run my fingers through my hair. When I go out at night I let it be messy- the messier the better, but the next day I comb through it all after a deep conditioning. For me, after a flight when I’m trying to feel fresh, it only makes sense to have smooth manageable hair. You can amp it up by getting a silk pillowcase to keep your tresses untangled.

jet lag tips

9. Take them up on the morning coffee and tea offer. Instead of sleeping until the very last minute, I drink my coffee and “get ready” so to speak while the rest of the plane is still a little dazed. I tend to get a second cup of coffee as well!

jet lag tips

10. Recharge your body with a little snack. I usually pass on the airline breakfast offers, especially in India. It’s too greasy to start my day with. You want to keep your mood up with snacks that help: dark chocolate, nuts, and berries.. which you can find in granola bars!

 11. Once I’m situated and everyone else is waking up, I put in my headphones and play my “Massage Playlist” I use for clients, and close my eyes for a 20-minute meditation-sesh until the flight attendant tell me to turn my iPod off.

Researchers say that 20 minutes of mediation is equal to seven hours of sleep. If you haven’t ever meditated, that’s not a problem! To start they teach us to just focus on the air going in and out of your nostrils. It’s more calming than it sounds.

12. Stand up and stretch. While you’re up, try to shake some of the wrinkles out of your clothing. It’s best to wear dark clothes that will hide wrinkles. Put on all that favorite jewelry that you took off to get through security and sleep comfortably. I love wearing my Om necklace and moonstone rings!

jetlag tipsphoto credit yoga

13. You have to look and feel fresh! I don’t like to wear much make up with I’m traveling but there are some products that I LOVE after a flight to go along with my moisturizing routine before landing. For me, that is THE upmost important step in all of your jet lag woes.

14. Brush your teeth! I bring gum/mints/whatever I can find to freshen up until I can get into a restroom to really brush.


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About the Author:

Rachel Jones left a career in nursing and lived on the beaches of Goa, India for the five years. Now she lives in Mexico where she gives advice on the 40+ countries she’s visited in the last 10 years. She’s the author of two India travel e-books: Guide to India and Insider’s Guide to Goa. Her blog, Werkenntwen, like its name, is a contradiction combining off-beat adventurous places with glamorous and bespoke travel. Werkenntwen has been featured in ELLE, Marie Claire, Grazia, and Cosmopolitan magazines. She’s a writer for Bravo TV.


  1. Pam | a Blonde around the World April 7, 2014 at 6:41 am - Reply

    Great advices!!! I usea coupleof these myself!
    Especially the hydrating one! It’s so important to stay hydrated and it DOES make the difference, as you said!
    I’m lucky/unlucky to be able to sleep on every-single-transpirtation-mean this is good for recharging but i never get to do stuff I bring with me, like reading, keeping up with the blog ecc…. :)

    • Rachel Jones April 8, 2014 at 3:57 am - Reply

      I’m a lot like you! I can sleep really easily so I try not to on short connecting flights so I can work :)

  2. Christie April 7, 2014 at 3:49 am - Reply

    Yes to all of the above! Especially #8, there is something about the fabric of plane seats that makes hair an absolute matted, static mess! Last time I travelled I took homeopathic jetlag tablets and I don’t know if it was the placebo effect but they did wonders – I didn’t experience jet lag at all. Sometimes, you just have to push through it!

    • Rachel Jones April 7, 2014 at 5:26 am - Reply

      oooh, I have never heard of those! Even if a placebo … if it worked might as well keep trying it!

  3. Colleen Brynn April 7, 2014 at 6:15 am - Reply

    So I’m reading this in your living room between you and Huck, and I just love how you this post is, down to the moonstone rings! I’m all about that travel pillow and the sleeping mask. These are some great tips, and you are right, it so often if a mental battle, but tips like getting yourself ready, sipping coffee and wiping your face to feel less greasy are great practical tips to feel less jet lag!

  4. J in Beijing April 7, 2014 at 8:28 am - Reply

    Agree with all this. Especially Nurse Rachel’s advice to stick with water and not alcohol on a plane :-) . I’m definitely a freshen up with wipes, toothbrush etc person too- makes me feel better and fresher when I get off the plane. I’m all about powering through then getting a proper nights sleep too. It definitely makes a difference.

  5. Heather April 7, 2014 at 5:19 pm - Reply

    Jetlag doesn’t really bother me anymore, just one day of fatigue and then it’s done. And we’re talking even Asia to/from the US east coast. I usually drink two of the little wines with my dinner, watch a movie and then sleep the rest of the way until breakfast. For sleeping, I use earplugs, an eye mask and a neck pillow and usually don’t have any problems, even if I’m stuck in the middle seat. I agree that it’s mostly all in your head. I used to have awful trouble with jetlag. I could never fall asleep on a plane and was miserable for a week after the flight. But then one day I stopped stressing out about not being able to fall asleep and guess what? I ended up sleeping most of the flight and felt great the next day!

    • Rachel Jones April 8, 2014 at 4:00 am - Reply

      ohhh man, if I’m in the middle seat it’s like th end of the world. I beg to switch haha. Lucky you that you can!

  6. Katie April 7, 2014 at 9:21 pm - Reply

    I’ve got 3o hours of flying coming up in a couple weeks, so I will definitely be employing some these! I once sat close to a guy who only drank wine on a 12 hour flight and did not pee once. I can’t imagine what he felt like getting off of that plane! I take some homeopathic remedies that work, so I am going to look into the ones another commenter mentioned. I also like your idea of having chocolate as a snack. I will always use an excuse for that!

  7. Emily from Let's Roam Wild April 7, 2014 at 10:26 pm - Reply

    Absolutely love this, Rachel. Gotta take advice from the nurse! Do you have thoughts on what time of day to depart for long flights?

    • Rachel Jones April 8, 2014 at 4:07 am - Reply

      whichever time offers the cheapest flight :) haha. I usually plan my trips so that I fly the longest leg through the night though so I can fall asleep fairly naturally.

  8. Karyn @ Not Done Journeyling April 9, 2014 at 7:06 am - Reply

    I haven’t managed to beat jet lag yet, so I’m glad to hear somebody else say that eventually you can reduce it almost to nothing!

    I agree on the getting up and getting yourself sorted thing though. I find the process of passing immigration quite stressful (perhaps this is because I suffer from anxiety or maybe this is just normal? lol). So even though I don’t actually sleep on planes (I just can’t) I get up, go to the loo, brush my teeth and hair, walk around the cabin a little to help myself really feel awake, and have a “wake-up” cuppa. Then when the hostesses hand out the entry cards (depending on the country you’re entering) I’m all relaxed when I fill mine out. I then get my travel documents organised, make sure I’m basically ready to pick up my bag and go, and then get settled and watch TV until it’s time to land. Being organised makes such a difference.

  9. Taylor April 9, 2014 at 10:37 pm - Reply

    great tips! There’s another tip I’ve heard that could help jet lag, though I’m not entirely sure if it works but after landing, don’t eat again until the next day at breakfast. It’s supposed to tell your body that your new day starts when you have breakfast. Not sure but good tips and ones I will definitely be using.

    • Rachel Jones April 10, 2014 at 7:30 am - Reply

      That makes sense, I’d say I’d give it a try- but if I’m hungry after a flight it’s so hard to wait to eat!

  10. Tereza August 9, 2015 at 7:38 pm - Reply

    Great tips! Thank you for sharing – I knew about few of them, it’s nice to have them as a list :) I am a big fan of baby wipes, I also chose to fall asleep on the longest of flights (or after 1st big meal if the flight is non-stop – As European, I can’t imagine meal without wine, but I agree – drink a lot of water!).
    I had to smile while reading that you wake-up early and freshen-up – I could see myself rocking those baby wipes & mascara while everybody still asleep, asking for strong black tea with sugar :)))
    To fall asleep I need eye mask, ear plugs AND a hoodie! It helps me to keep my hair in one place. One tip for those who also hate A/C: bring herbal sweets (e.g. strepsils). You freshen up your breath and fight against the sore throat.
    Also one tip for those who feel little faintly – natural cure for dizziness and such is ginger! Candied ginger is my all time item on packing list.
    Happy travelling to all! :)

    • Rachel Jones August 10, 2015 at 1:38 pm - Reply

      That’s a great idea. I have never tried ginger for that but do get car sick so maybe I’ll try on my next big trip.

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