Bobby is a Principal with a background in History and Social Studies. He first traveled with EF Tours in 2010 to Rome and Paris, and now leads a student tour every summer. He believes that young people should experience life outside of their communities, and that understanding other cultures is imperative to solving global challenges.
Traveling is an adventure, and an exciting one, but there’s no denying that it also can be tiring. Before your plane lands and your group hits the ground running, it’s essential that you rest up and sleep on the plane. Depending on your destination and your departure gate, you’ll lose somewhere around 6+ hours while in transit. To help my travelers better understand what I mean, I often use this example – we depart Minneapolis International Airport at 6:00 pm CST with an estimated arrival of 8:00 am local time in London. London is six hours ahead of us, and the flight is roughly 8 hours. Here’s where they have to do a little math. An 8 hour flight would have us landing at 2:00 am CST, however with the time change we’ll be stepping off the plane in London at 8:00 am! If you haven’t slept, your body and mind are going to be begging for rest, while in reality your day will just be starting – this is what people call jet lag. Here are my 4 go-to tips for sleeping on a plane and minimizing jet lag.
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Readers beware: Sleeping on a plane may result in friends taking embarrassing photos of you and sharing them on social media (This is a reenactment).
The Queen will not be rolling out the red carpet
I understand that you may want to make a grand entrance into Europe—stepping off the plane in your finest attire with your hair styled just right. What you have to remember though is that the clothes you get on the plane wearing are going to be the same clothes you are going to be wearing well into the morning and, sometimes, afternoon of the next day. You’re going to be sitting on a plane for six hours – and with a little help from this article, sleeping in those same clothes as well. This is definitely a case where you are going to want to sacrifice style for comfort. My typical international flight outfit includes jeans, a polo shirt, light jacket or hoodie, socks and sneakers. A point of clarification: comfortable is not a synonym for sloppy. While you probably won’t be visiting the Queen on your first day in London, you are still representing yourself, your school, and your country. The key is to strike the right balance between style and comfort. Also, keep in mind that it can be cold on a plane. It’ll be easier to remove layers than to dig around trying to remove your jacket from the bottom of your carry-on halfway over the Atlantic Ocean.
Don’t caffeinate, hydrate!
In my opinion loading up on caffeine is a bad decision. A caffeine rush is the last thing you’ll need when trying to catch some Zzz’s and eventually you’re going to come down from that jolt of energy and be left feeling groggy and sluggish. Instead, hydrate yourself! Dehydration is a common problem on many long haul flights. While most airlines do a good job offering non-stop beverage service, I still suggest bringing at least one large bottle of water with you on the plane. You can purchase this at the airport once you clear security, or bring an empty reusable water bottle to fill up right before getting on the plane. Being hydrated will not only help you sleep better, but will help eliminate the feeling of jet lag upon arrival as well.
It’s all about the right carry-on items
There are several different items that fall into this category – a good neck pillow, a sleeping mask, noise cancelling head phones, and even a great book. All of these items will help you relax and sleep while flying. But comfort and convenience should be considered when purchasing these items. Your big fluffy pillow from home may be comfortable, but how easy will it be to lug around the airport? Giant head phones may sound great, but how likely is it you’re going to be comfortable on the plane when wearing them? That said, I do recommend bringing a good pair of ear buds. Ear buds offered by the airline aren’t always the most comfortable.
Finding the right lullaby at 30,000 feet
Most international flights are equipped with dozens of movies and shows that you can access on your personal screen. But your movie marathon can also be your greatest detriment when it comes to getting some sleep. I limit myself to one movie, and once it’s over I commit to sleeping on the plane. I pop in my headphones and bring up a playlist that I’ve created specifically for traveling.
The bottom line is that you can’t stress about sleeping on your international flight. If you try to pressure your body into falling asleep then you never will. In reality if you are able to get 2-3 hours of sleep then you are doing well. It’s exciting to board your flight with the realization that you’ll be waking up in a different country and on a new continent. You certainly will want to start your trip off on the right foot by being as well rested as possible. Hopefully these tips will help you get some rest and set you up for a successful, life-changing trip.
Need some inspiration on building the right kind of playlist? Here are some of our favorite songs to doze off to while flying across the Atlantic.