EXACTLY how to avoid jet lag and sleep on planes (8 steps!)

May 31, 2023

Jet lag sucks and we do not have time for it!
I’ve spent over a year creating and testing the perfect, universal formula for avoiding the absolute misery of jet lag without paying for first class, getting prescription drugs, or spending a ton of money on fancy [but probably useless] travel gadgets. *No shade— I LOVE travel gadgets, but only if they actually work.

Avoiding jet lag starts with a little painless pre-trip prep— one part self care, one part bringing a couple of key things with you.

So say goodbye to that hazy, dehydrated feeling and arrive at your destination rested and ready to start your vacation on the right foot! Use these 8 simple jet lag tips and strategies to avoid jet lag and sleep comfortably on planes.

Before your trip:

1. Book a red-eye flight

Red-eyes depart in the evening and arrive at your destination in the “morning.” This is a PERFECT anti jet lag strategy especially traveling from North America to Europe. My goal is always to fall asleep on the plane around 11PM in DC, and wake up to “We’re starting our initial descent into _____.” I want to be conscious for as little of the flight as humanely possible.

The #1 most important thing for telling your body it’s time to sleep, even at a weird time, is controlling when you see light. Regulating light exposure helps adjust your circadian rhythms and avoiding jet lag— you’re literally tricking your body by deciding when to see light vs. dark and shifting your internal clock.

2. Choose the right seat (even if you can’t pay for comfort or 1st class)

Choose the right seat, friend. I can’t afford to splurge on first class, so I always look for a seat that offers more legroom (exit row or bulkhead seat). If you’re flying overnight, consider choosing a window seat so that you can lean against the wall and avoid being constantly woken up by other passengers who need to get up and use the restroom.

3. Hydrate

Dehydration exacerbates the effects of jet lag. Drink plenty of water and avoid caffeine (sorry!). Bring a reusable water bottle (I use this one, which is AWESOME because it’s collapsible, light, and can be folded up when it’s empty, taking up NO space in my backpack!) with you on the flight. I also bring a couple packets of Liquid IVs to add to my water bottle and amp up the hydration.

4. Get to the airport tired

Obvious? Sure. True? 100%.

If you’re well rested before the flight, you won’t be able to sleep on the flight. As much as it pains me, I avoid coffee on days that I’m on long haul flights until I land.

For the flight:

5. Bring the cozy stuff

Bring a good neck pillow, silk eye mask, and whatever else will help keep you comfortable. I tried so many pillows and eye masks, and the TINIEST things about them annoyed me and kept me awake— how tight the strap was, the material, how firm or soft the pillow was, etc. Here’s where I landed on my absolute essentials (all on Amazon!):

6. Dress comfortably

Another obvious one, but this is my perfect airport outfit, complete with pockets galore, buttery softness, and layers.

7. Use these simple strategies to “trick” your brain into rest mode

  • Get an herbal tea, like chamomile, on the flight.

  • Do deep breathing exercises in your seat. I do this simple one for 5 minutes if I’m having trouble falling asleep. Works like a charm!

  • Listen to an “easy listening” podcast

  • Avoid listening to things that will make you alert, like riveting podcasts (true crime, guilty) or loud, lively music. Less Sum41, more Jack Johnson (90s kid here).

When you land:

8. Go about the day as usual in that time zone

  • Wait as long as possible before you go to bed! If you’ve just slept at least a few hours on the flight, you should be able to make it until a reasonable bed time in your new time zone!

  • Grab a healthy meal to fuel your body and give you more energy to stay awake as long as possible. I recommend avoiding carb-dense meals on the first day, because I find it just makes me sleepier.

While this isn’t necessary “fully comprehensive,” it’s exactly what works for me! Jet lag can be a nuisance, but with a little preparation and some simple tricks, you can avoid it and sleep comfortably on airplanes. Follow these travel tips and you’ll be well on your way to arriving at your destination refreshed and ready to explore!

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Are you new here? Let’s be friends! I’m Sarah— a solo female traveler (& world’s okayest travel blogger) helping you travel the world, discover surprising destinations, & have a laugh getting off the beaten path. Scroll to the bottom of this page to sign up to stay in touch (I promise not to spam you- just to share the best travel hacks, guides, itineraries, embarrassing stories, and unmissable experiences)!



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