Everyone knows long travel days and tons of time zone changes leave you feeling not just tired, but exhausted from the inside out. My everything swells on the plane- face, feet, and fingers turn into little hot dogs!
My skin gets dehydrated, my body always gets confused about what time it actually is and the older I get, the longer it takes for me to recover from jet lag. But, because I do travel a lot I of course have not only an inflight routine on lockdown to help me sleep and wake up refreshed, but I have an arsenal of products & apps up my sleeve to help combat jet lag.
We’ll be switching time zones again coming back from our summer in Copenhagen and I’m not sure why, but flying West is always harder for me. There’s been studies done on why jet lag is worse going east (something about losing additional hours in the air) but since I live in San Francisco, almost everything is East of me. And I get so excited when I fly east to new adventures that it’s easier beating jet lag at the start of a trip than on the way back.
But flying home – back to my comfy bed and Karl the Fog makes it hard. So, I know I’ll be leaning on these secret weapons to help to recover from jet lag go fast and easy.
How To Beat Jet Lag Fast: 12 Things I Use After A Long Travel Day To Make Me Feel Human Again
Before we dive in, I want to stress how important it is to not give into your home body clock. No amount of sleep aids or coffee will help you adjust to your new time zone if you refuse to switch. This means if MUST force yourself into the new hours.
For example, when we landed in Copenhagen, it was around 3am in San Francisco time. After traveling across time zones, being in airports for like 20 hours, all we wanted to do was crash on our mattresses. But instead, we stayed awake, went grocery shopping and help off until 9pm that night local Denmark time to go to sleep.
That made all the difference in helping our circadian rhythm sleep schedule get back on track in our destination! That being said, these are all the tools I use to help make that process smoother beyond forcing my body to stay awake longer.
1. Time Zone App
This Time Zone App is a game changer and I use it all my international trips to help reset my circadian rhythms quickly (thus avoiding jet lag symptoms usually, before the plane even lands!) It’s basically a jet lag recovery calculator/plan. Input your flight details and this app will tell you exactly when to drink coffee or not consume caffeine when to get a ton of bright light exposure, when to avoid light, and when to sleep or even when to take sleep aides like melatonin.
I find it’s the most helpful when you’re on the plane and time doesn’t exist. I’ll lean on the app to tell me when to open a window and look at light, or when I should swap the drink cart coffee for orange juice. This app singly handily helps me turn my internal clock to the local time better than anything else.
It’s also taught me a lot about my own body. Light therapy for example – I’ve been more in tune to how light impacts my energy levels and this helps with traveling. Even if we’re just taking a ferry up to Oslo or something, knowing when to pull those blackout shades tight helps ensure I’m not tired in the morning when we arrive in Norway.
2. CBD Oil or Gels
Robin and I are huge fans of CBD and lean on it a lot to help treat anxiety and body pains. When it comes to travel and beating jet lag, taking NuLeaf CBD oil those first few days after landing makes a huge difference in the speed of my jet lag recovery. It treats the sore muscles after sitting on a plane for 11+ hours, helps reduce jitters, promotes a sense of calm (which is great when you need to sleep!) and even helps when my head hurts.
NuLeaf is a great brand to try as they have gel capsules and oils, and not just CBD but also a variety of Multicannabinoids like CBG, CBN, etc. We prefer oils, as we think a few drops under the tongue works faster than gel capsules, but gels are easier to travel with. Last year when I went to Porto, Portugal, I packed some gel pills and that helped me bounce into the new time zone super quick.
On that note, if you want to fly with CBD, please look into local regulations and laws. CBD isn’t supposed to have THC, but it could contain small amounts of it because CBD is still made from the hemp plant. I’ve traveled all over the world with CBD gel pills in my checked bag and haven’t had any issues, but there are some countries this would be dangerous to bring into.
3. Ice Face Mask
I hate how puffy my face gets after plane travel. A puffy face makes my head and eyes hurt, and just overalls creates a meh feeling that makes it hard to shake jet lag. I don’t travel with an ice face mask, but I do keep one in my freezer for when I come home.
10-20 minutes on the couch in this thing help reduce swelling and constricts the blood vessels is your face, resulting in no post-travel puffiness and also clearer, brighter skin over all. Best part? My ice face mask is under $20!
4. Gua Sha Tools
Since most hotels I stay at don’t have a fridge or freezer, I usually don’t travel with my ice mask but I do travel with a set of stainless steel gua sha tools for every trip. Even on short road trips in California because as you guys know, I’m fully hooked on my daily gua sha routine.
Gua Sha is a Chinese beauty practice that’s all about loosening your facial muscles and clearing out your upper lymph nodes. It’s proven to relieve tension in the face, reduce travel puffiness and inflammation, and reduce sinus pressure. After a long day of flying, nothing feels better than doing gua sha on my face and feeling all that tension go away. Learn more about how to use Gua Sha tools in my guide.
Let’s face it: travel is stressful, even for pros like myself. I take ashwagandha daily but it’s especially helpful while traveling. Ashwagandha root extract has been used for over 6000 years by Indian healers to help combat stress on the body, specifically by stabilizing cortisol levels and the adrenal gland (the things that make cortisol.)
When you’re anxious, your body makes too much cortisol, which produces all those negative effects that stress gives you (fatigue, mental fog, mood swings, weight loss or gains – basically all the things hectic travel can trigger!) In short, ashwagandha is a destresser and mood booster. And taking it can help beat jet lag faster by keeping your cool, calm and collected!
6. Adaptogen Drinks
Recently I’ve been playing around with adaptogen drinks at home. These are powders you mix in with drinks, usually coffee, that are made from medicinal plants, herbs, and/or mushrooms. They vary from brand to brand but in general, they’re made to help your body beat fatigue and combat stress (which are the main sympomts of being jet lagged).
7. Drunk Elephant Baby Facial
Ok, this one is most ally a placebo effect but hey, sometimes placebos get the job done! Doing a face mask like this doesn’t help your circadian rhythm adjust to a new time zone. But it does make me feel put together after being jumbled by long travel days.
I swear by Drunk Elephant’s Baby Facial mask after travel. I always seem to break out after being on a plane, and this reset my skin in under 20 minutes. When my skin is looking and feeling great, my mind feels better and at the end of the day, is a small step towards recovering from jet lag and getting back on track.
8. The Ordinary Rosehip Oil
Rosehip oil helps make skin soft, smooth, and moisturized which is exactly what my face needs after being trapped on a dry plane for hours on end. Again, this does not directly impact your internal body clock but I hate the uncomfy feeling of dry, stressed skin. The Ordinary Rosehip Oil is under $10 and makes my face so glowy and dewy, so it’s always in my travel and post-travel skincare routine.
I’m now one of those people who know travels with a mini Walgreens in their suitcase (hey, I’m in my 30’s after all!) Taking probiotics ensures a happy, healthy gut biome. Your gut impacts more than just how your stomach feels. It works directly with your immune system. When it comes to traveling, using probiotics to support a healthy gut means less time recovering from stress and jet lag, on top of helping you not catch any illnesses abroad.
This even applies to food based illnesses. You still shouldn’t be drinking a full glass of tap water in Mexico but if you’re taking probiotics regularly, you probably won’t be puking your guts out if some slip through via toothbrushing or morning coffee.
I’ve tried a LOT of probiotic brands and have finally found one that I love and is affordable. I use Culturelle daily at home, and on trips I take two a day as per recommended. Our editor Taylor loves Seed probiotics which you can try as well! Finding the right brand is very much a personal journey.
I think dehydration is probably the number one hurdle you have to cross while traveling. Dehydration causes headaches, body aches, mind fog, and just makes you feel really gross which is the last thing you want when your body also feels out of wack from shifting time zones.
On top of drinking enough water, pop an electrolyte packet into 1-2 cups per day to help support your body even more. Two brands we use are Nuuns and DripDrop. I love using these on the plane to ensure I don’t get dehydrated, which in turn helps me sleep better and reset my body clock faster.
11. evanhealy Facial Spray
Sometimes I swear I’m really just a plant. I love reaching for evanhealy hydrosol facial spray for a little spritz to perk me right up. Whether I’m at home and I need a little boost to keep working, or I’m on a plane and want a spritz to stay awake, it works like a charm. Especially if my body really wants to take a nap but I know I need to stay awake long, this is gold.
Melatonin for jet lag is a classic solution that when in doubt will always work. As you probably know, melatonin is something your body produces to promote sleep, thus this is a natural sleep medicine to take. Tons of medical studies done by Mayo Clinic and other health organizations show how taking melatonin pills reduces insomnia and promotes better sleep cycles, so it’s super handy to use for jet lag.
Personally, I pop a melatonin pill on the plane not just to fall asleep and stay asleep as long as I can on the plane. If my body is having a hard time going to sleep when I should be in the new time zone, I’ll take another one right before bed.
I honestly needed this for Copenhagen since we arrived in June and the sun doesn’t set until around 10pm in the summer, but doesn’t get fully dark until 11pm so my body had a really hard time shutting off even though it was tired.
What Are The Best Jet Lag Pills?
I get asked this all the time and I don’t take pills branded as jet lag pills. These pills are just sleeping pills packaged in a different box. (Sometimes they are just melatonin but very overpriced). I do use melatonin on the plane or hotel rooms, but that’s because I use that at home all the time and know exactly how it impacts my body.
I would be really wary of taking jet lag pills in the air or on a trip if you’ve never used them before since you won’t know how your body reacts or if it’ll cause sleep disorders. If you do choose to beat the jet lag via pills, make sure they are Medically reviewed and chat with your doctor to provide medical advice on if they’re ok to take.
What Is The Best Time To Fly To Avoid Jet Lag?
The key in my experience is booking a flight that arrives between 4pm-8pm local time. This gives you enough time to get to your hotel, grab a bite to eat and maybe explore a bit (aka getting light exposure and movement!) Then, you can crash at 10pm and sleep for 12 hours. I usually always wake up feeling great after trips like this.
This is usually how to avoid jet lag to Europe in the best way. Strategically booking your flights is a major key! Arriving in the morning hours of local time is much harder because you’ll need to keep your body up for an additional 12+ hours after flying for so long. And that’s really rough, even with all my jet lag cures.
So, these are all my favorite things to use! And honestly, I find it easier to beat jet lag when I travel internationally since they’re so far ahead, it’s also like flipping my day and night. Flying to New York City or even to Wisconsin in the Midwest gets me worse. The little hour shifts are the hardest for me – anyone else that way too?
Anyways, I hope this helps you cure jet lag symptoms and get back to feeling awesome faster so you can explore! If you have a secret jet lag hack up your sleeve that’s not mentioned, please drop a note below in the comments so everyone can see. Thank you!