Traveling internationally, whether for business or pleasure, is always tricky because of jetlag and time changes. As someone who travels internationally many times per year, I have learned a few tips that usually make the trip smoother, the time in transit less uncomfortable, and the arrival and transition easier.
- Choose flights that leave when airports are less busy. No matter where you are headed, your departure time holds the key to whether the rest of your trip will be a success. The first flights of the day are usually the most on time, because the air traffic has not yet had the chance to become snarled, ground operations have not yet been mired in overload, and airlines have more of their fleet available if an equipment-related issue arises. If part of your journey will be spent on an overnight leg, choosing the later departures of the night flights will also result in less congestion on the tarmac and in the sky-and facilitate sleep in transit.
- Pick your cabin based on flight duration. Premium cabins are expensive, especially if you are just getting your business started. My rule of thumb is 7 hours or less and economy is fine. If a flight is longer than 7 hours, it's better to skimp on the hotel and put a little extra money into a better cabin class (premium economy is a great option if it's available!). The logic is this: how you fare while flying usually sets the tone for how well you adapt once you reach your destination. If you can sleep well on the journey then fatigue, jetlag, and chances for getting ill are significantly lessened. No one wants to be tired, out of sorts, or sick in a foreign country, and especially not when you have business meetings that require you to be of sound body and mind!
- Choose seats that are far from high-traffic areas. Choosing your cabin class isn't always an option due to budget, but something that every flyer should pay attention to, regardless of whether you will be sitting in economy or something better, is seat location. On overnight flights, I choose seats that are far from both the kitchen galley and restrooms because it eliminates having your sleep interrupted by loud conversations, silverware clinking, and constant foot traffic. The more isolated you are from all these noises, the better you work, sleep, and feel. For daytime segments, where you need to stay awake, doing the opposite works out well, because you can easily get up, stretch your legs, and keep yourself simulated.
- Sleep on the schedule of the country you are visiting. Nothing helps with time change more than immediately putting yourself on the clock of the country to which you are headed. If it's midnight at your destination when you board the plane, you need to try to sleep right away--and wake up at a normal morning time for the new locale as well. Keeping this is in mind will make your transition much easier--especially when you will be changing times by more than 6 hours.
- Eat and drink smart. Airlines have their routines, and take-off, meal service, sleep time, and wake ups aren't necessarily planned to coordinate with the time at the destination. I can't count the number of times I got on an evening flight, felt drowsy enough to check out for the night while waiting for take-off, only to be awakened by the dinner service and then unable to sleep for the better part of the flight thereafter. Packing your own meal lets you eat on your schedule, pack in the vitamins, insure you will have something you like-and helps your body to deal with the demands of a grueling travel itinerary. And if you're not already doing it, make the flight a water-only journey in terms of beverages. Staying hydrated helps reduce fatigue, and improves how you look and feel once you land.
- Limit naptime upon arrival. If you arrive and are out of sync, quell that instinct to seek refuge and sleep off your jet lag. A little catnap (no more than 2 hours!) can help you hang on until the real night arrives, but any more will put you on a downward spiral for the duration of the trip. Although those two hours can be hell to wake up from, drag your feet out of bed and onto the pavement at the designated hour to finish out the day in sync with the locals. You can turn in a little early, and by the next day, should pretty much be on the correct clock.