Flying from Chicago to Sydney, Australia was the biggest jump in time zones I have made yet. Transit took 23 hours and the time difference is 15 hours. Jet lag is an intimidating beast when you’re traveling; the last thing any traveler wants is to be is distractedly tired during a trip abroad.
But so far, so good: I’m awake in waking hours and tired at the local bed hours. Here’s what I did to beat jet lag my first day in Sydney.
1. mentally be there
As soon as I sat down on my first flight, I changed my watch to Australian Eastern, and from that moment forward, I tried my best to think about everything according to that time zon.
And I didn’t even let myself think, “It’s 4am in Chicago.” As soon as you start giving yourself excuses, you’re in for a tough trudge up hill.
2. but first, coffee
By the time I made it through the airport without any major issue and successfully used public-transit to my hostel, I felt on top of the world and excited to own Sydney; I didn’t need coffee.
False: I always need coffee.
Whether you think you need the chemical pick-me-up or not; whether coffee, tea, soda or sugar is your fix of choice, splurge and splurge before you think you need it. Don’t wait until you’re passed out on a park bench to consider coffee.
I went to Room 10 in Potts Point by the recommendation of the woman at my hostel.
Other resources for finding the perfect, first stop for coffee in Sydney:
3. work it out
After sitting in the same position for mas o menos a day I needed to stretch it out. I travel with yoga mat—like any other self-respecting, avocado-loving basic millennial—and chaturanga’ed before heading out for lunch.
In Potts Point, I found Yoga Dept, which had an offer for two weeks, unlimited classes for $35 AUD. A friend also told me about F45, which has several locations around Sydney, and offers free, one-week trials.
4. fill your tummy
Hangry is the last thing I need to be on top of tired. So, after dropping my bags off at the hostel and getting coffee, I met my friend, Erin at Glenmore in the Rocks area of Sydney. The rooftop with pub food hit the spot, plus we had a fantastic view of Australia’s most famous icon: the Sydney Opera House.
These sources have other suggestions for great lunch spots in the city:
5. go on a tour
My flight to Sydney arrived at 8:30 in the morning, so I had a lot of day to fill. The easiest way to do that when you’re a bit out of sorts is to let someone else lead. Erin and I joined the 2:30pm I’m Free Tour of Sydney. For about three hours, we followed our entertaining guide, Jake, around the historic center of Sydney, ending in Central Quay, looking at the Sydney Opera House during sunset. #TravelGoals
I’m Free Tour was a free walking tour (if you couldn’t tell already). My hostel also told me about Old Sydney Walking Tours, another free walking tour.
The Sydney Opera House has a tour for $37 AUD, which I’m told is very interesting.
For those less inclined to being on their feet all day, bus tours are also an option… but for the sake of defeating jet lag, sitting on a gently rocking vehicle all day wouldn’t have worked for me.
6. 8pm is the magic hour
Why 8pm is magical time of day, I know not, but it’s the benchmark I always aim for: stay awake until 8pm and you’ve won the day and beat jet lag.
On the flip side of this, I’d say it’s also a bad idea to ride the wave of your second wind and stay out all night. Party on your second night, your first night you should be for catching up on rest and getting your body in sync with the local time zone.
7. plan the next day and set your alarm
I stayed awake until 8pm, woot! But what’s keeping me from sleeping and lounging my second day away in bed? I set my alarm and planned something for the next day: the Art Gallery of New South Whales for a free aboriginal art tour at 10:30.
8. a personal question: can you sleep on the plane
The days leading up to my trip, I languished in my exhaustion—no naps, just extra caffeine—so by the time it was travel day, I was looking forward to the long, uninterrupted hauls so I could rest. But I don’t have problems sleeping. I can sleep in a bed or on a plane, lying down or sitting up; it make no difference.
But if sleeping on a plane just isn’t easy for you, being well rested before your trip, possessing helpful pills or splurging on a first class ticket might be options you need to pursue.
Here are some resource on find medication for these long-haul flights:
- Medication for travel
- What’s the best way to sleep on a plane
- Should you take sleeping pills on a long flight?
9. be kind to yo’self
The most important thing to do when fighting jet lag is to listen to your body. Make sure you stay hydrated—especially after long flights with boxed oxygen—and give your body what it needs. Perhaps you don’t have the physical stamina to push through the first day in a new time zone like I did. Perhaps some of my suggestions just don’t work for you or for your travel style.
The beauty (and the hard part) of travel is that you have to figure out what works best for you. It’s why travel is so transformative and provides so much self-discovery. There is nothing about seeing the Sydney Opera House that is going to change your life; it’s all the tiny decisions you have to make to get there that change your life. How you handle time change is just one category containing a hundred decisions you have to make.
Here are what others have to recommended when fighting jet lag: