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7 Foolproof Tips to Beat Jet Lag

By Robert Firpo-Cappiello
updated September 29, 2021
Sleeping woman near clock
Acharaporn Kamornboonyarush/Dreamstime
Everything you need to know about getting a great sleep while traveling.

Our story about how to sleep well on a plane, featuring advice from Roy Raymann, PhD, resident sleep expert at SleepScore Labs (SleepScore.com) and the former “Sleep Czar” of Apple, got a very enthusiastic response. We were inspired to get back in touch with Raymann to cover even more sleep-related travel topics. Here, how to beat jet lag, adjust to time zones both near and far, learn to relax and rest in a new environment, and the latest on the role smartphone and tablet screens can play in sleep.

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1. IT TAKES ONE DAY TO ADJUST TO ONE HOUR OF A TIME ZONE SHIFT

Raymann offers one basic rule of thumb that will serve you no matter how far you’re traveling and for how long. “It will take you one day to adjust to one hour of a time zone shift.” That adjustment can occur before you take off, or you can make it part of your visit to your destination.

2. HOW TO ADJUST TO A NEW TIME ZONE BEFORE YOU FLY

If you are flying a relatively short distance and your destination is, say, a three-hour time difference from where you live or work, Raymann suggests that you start adapting to the new time zone a few days before you fly. “For a destination with a difference of three hours, just start three days before, and adjust your daily activities (go to bed, wake up, workout, meals, etc.) to link up to the new time zone by one hour every single day,” Rayman says. “Note that for long time zone leaps you might partially adjust prior to the trip, so you actually shorten the jet lag at the place of destination.”

3. FOR SHORT TRIPS, CONSIDER STAYING ON YOUR HOME SCHEDULE

If your trip is just for two or three days and for rest and relaxation (as opposed to a business trip), and in a relatively nearby time zone, Raymann suggests, “You might actually not want to adjust at all, and stay on the ‘departure city’ clock for your daily activities.”

4. FLYING EAST IS HARDER THAN FLYING WEST

“Not all types of jet lag are equal,” notes Raymann. “Eastward (such as flying from California to Florida) is harder to adjust to than a flight in the opposite direction. The body finds its easier to adapt to longer day as compared to short days, and when flying eastwards you cut your day short.” Sure, there’s not much you can do about which direction you have to fly, but knowing that flying east will be more challenging than flying west can help you prepare and recover.

5. SMARTPHONE AND TABLETS CAN INTERFERE WITH SLEEP

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What parents like me refer to as “screen time” can have a serious effect on your ability to sleep. First of all, they may prevent you from the necessary winding down required before sleep. “Certain emails, games, and online video content might cause stress, worries, and tension,” says. Raymann. In addition, notifications in the middle of the night can wake you up just as you’re learning to adjust to a new time zone. “Use the ‘Do Not Disturb’ setting on your device to make sure you get undisturbed hours of sleep,” advises Raymann. Finally, the light emitted by smartphones and tablets can affect your biological clock. “Screens contain a lot of blue light,” notes Raymann, “which directly affects your biological clock. Minimize your screen’s brightness, and use a night mode such as iOS Night Shift [which Raymann helped to develop when he was Apple’s ‘Sleep Czar’] to filter out blue light wavelengths.”

6. SET UP YOUR HOTEL ROOM TO MAXIMIZE SLEEP

Adjusting to a new sleeping environment is a real thing: New city, maybe a new country, different pillow, room temperature, all of these factors can challenge your ability to get some shuteye in a hotel. “Try to mimic your own bedroom as much as possible,” suggests Raymann. “Some people even travel with their personal pillow. The rule of thumb is that a bedroom should be quiet, dark and cool, and your bed should be supportive and comfortable.” When you wake up in your new location, open the windows or step outside for a morning walk. “Getting some daylight A.S.A.P. tells your biological clock that the new day has started.”

7. HERE’S WHAT TO DO IF YOU HAVE TO SLEEP AT THE AIRPORT

It’s not high on any traveler’s bucket list, but sometimes catching some zzz’s at the airport during a long layover or unexpected delay is a necessity. Raymann has the solution. “Use earplugs or noise cancellation headphones, a sleep mask to ensure it is dark, and, if possible, a thin blanket or a wrap. And since you don’t want to worry about your belongings, store them in baggage lockers while you try to get some sleep.”

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National ParksTravel Tips

11 Safety Essentials for a National Park Trip

When it comes to America’s national parks, we wear our heart on our sleeve: For natural beauty, wildlife appreciation, and value, there may be no better vacation choice than, say, the Great Smoky Mountains, the Grand Canyon, Yosemite, Yellowstone, or the dozens of other national parks that stretch from the Caribbean to the South Pacific and from Maine to Alaska. But there’s something else we wear, not just on our sleeve: Climate-appropriate clothing, which usually means layering and sun-protection. The right apparel is just one of the must-packs for a safe and comfortable visit to a wild and sometimes unpredictable environment. As the summer travel season approaches, we want to share the number-one NPS safety tip all travelers must know, plus 10 essentials to pack to ensure health, safety, comfort, and fun. 1. Follow Park Rules & Ranger Instructions This should go without saying, but the number-one item to pack for a successful national park visit is your common sense. When you visit a national park, it’s vital that you follow all posted rules and directions, and follow any verbal instructions given by park rangers. Often, the rules boil down to staying on the park paths and keeping a safe distance from all wildlife. No problem, right? But, unfortunately, each year park visitors are injured or killed because they wander where they don’t belong or get too close to wild animals. 2. Prepare to Navigate Pack a paper map and compass in addition to your GPS device—not coincidentally, some of the most beautiful places in America are far from Wi-Fi hubs. Review driving and hiking directions in advance, from the comfort of a Wi-Fi-enabled hotel room or rental property, and be prepared to navigate the old-fashioned way when you hit the trails. 3. Protect Yourself From the Sun The sun’s heat and damaging UV rays pose both short- and long-term risks. UV-protective sunglasses, sunscreen, a wide-brimmed hat, and sun-protective shirts and pants will keep you cool and energized on your day hikes, and protect your skin from premature aging and skin cancer. 4. Insulate Even in summer, some national parks become chilly in the evenings and sometimes dangerously cold at elevation. Insulate yourself by packing a jacket, hat, gloves, rain shell, and thermal underwear. 5. Get Illuminated Packing a flashlight, lantern, and headlamp may feel like a throwback, but illumination that doesn’t require an electrical outlet can come in handy for campers, cabin renters, cavern explorers, and just about everybody else from time to time. 6. Bring a First-Aid Kit Sure, you are trying to limit what you have to stuff into your car’s hatch or your checked bag. But a small first-aid kit that can supply antibiotic and bandages while you’re out hiking, padding, or engaging in other summer activities can help keep cuts and scratches from turning into a much bigger deal. 7. Be Ready to Build a Fire This tip applies mostly to campers and those who plan on exploring park backcountry, where waterproof matches, a lighter, and kindling can help with cooking and, in a pinch, staying warm. (If you pack matches and lighters, keep them locked away where kids can't get to them.) 8. Bring a Repair Kit Duct tape, knife, screwdriver, scissors. No, you’re not preparing to appear in an episode of MacGyver. But outdoor activities from camping to kayaking to hiking can sometimes require last-minute repairs to equipment, and most travelers just don’t think of packing these handy tools. 9. Pack Nutritious Snacks The NPS suggests having at least one day’s food on hand in the event of an unforeseen change of plans, which can happen in the blink of an eye thanks to changing weather, wildfires, and flooding. Packing nonperishable foods can be easiest, but do strive for high fiber carbs such as woven wheat crackers, lean proteins such as jerky or cheese sticks, and easy healthy snacks such as trail mix, nuts, and granola bars. 10. Stay Hydrated Water can sometimes seem like an afterthought to travelers who are lucky enough to take access to abundant drinking water for granted at home. But staying hydrated in the wild requires some planning and is crucial to health and safety. In the hot summer sun, you should sip water regularly, not waiting until you feel thirsty. Park rangers suggest a gallon of water per person per day. That’s a lot of water. Campers and backcountry hikers will do well to pack water-treatment supplies and to research nearby bodies of water. (Never drink untreated water in a national park—as clean as the water looks and feels, it may carry bird-borne microbes that can upset your digestive system.) 11. Carry Your Own Emergency Shelter This may not be necessary if you’re planning to hit the park highlights via car or park shuttle, but those going farther afield should carry portable shelter such as a tent, space blanket, tarp, or bivy in the event that they get stuck out in the great outdoors longer than they expected.

Travel Tips

9 Rules for Not Embarrassing Yourself in a Foreign Country

We want you to venture overseas feeling as relaxed and confident as possible. Before you head off to Europe and beyond, please look over our handy cheat-sheet for getting up to speed on local customs, attitudes, and expectations. By all means, meet the locals and have great conversations, bearing in mind these simple suggestions. 1. THE WRONG HAND GESTURE CAN GET YOU IN TROUBLE Here in the U.S., you'd never seriously consider flipping the bird to a total stranger, right? (Just roll with this and say "Who me? No, never!") But when traveling abroad it's entirely possible to throw an unintentionally rude gesture at a well-meaning waiter, hotel concierge, or friendly passer-by—if you're not familiar with local customs. Say your waiter in Rio just asked if you enjoyed your steak dinner. Flash him the OK sign (a circle with your thumb and index finger) and—congrats!—you've just insulted him really badly. In the U.K., making a peace sign (or V for victory) with your palm facing inward is the equivalent of the American bird. In Spain, extending your pinkie and index finger from your fist is an insult. 2. KNOW WHEN - AND WHEN NOT - TO TOUCH To touch or not to touch can be baffling overseas. Here in the U.S., we're relatively reserved compared with some European countries when it comes to the violation of personal space during a friendly conversation. But compared with much of Asia and Africa, we can come off as overly huggy. In Italy and France, maintaining eye contact and reaching out and touching the other person during a friendly conversation is considered more polite than standing there with your hands in your pockets staring over someone's shoulder. But in China or Germany, that level of touching will make the other person uncomfortable, and in some cultures, such as Nigeria, maintaining eye contact can be even be perceived as overly bold or threatening. As for public displays of affection, be prepared to reign them in if you're visiting most destinations in Asia and Africa, and keep a low profile wherever you are (perhaps with the exception of Paris) until you have evidence that, say, smooching on the sidewalk is commonplace. 3. MIND YOUR TABLE MANNERS Elbows off the table? Clean your plate like your mother taught you? Not so fast. Food etiquette varies widely from culture to culture and can sometimes appear to have no rhyme or reason. In the Middle East, India, and parts of Africa, keeping your elbows off the table isn't enough—you're not supposed to touch anything at the table with your left hand (it's considered dirty). In France, it's considered more polite to put your slice of bread on the table than to rest it on your plate. Slurp soup in Japan and no one will bat an eye. Slurp soup in China and you'll be the Ugly American. In China, eating rice with chopsticks is expected, but in Thailand it's considered inappropriate (there, you should use a spoon). In Brazil and Chile, don't eat anything with your hands (no, not even fries). In Italy or Cuba, putting your cutlery on the right side of your plate means you're done with the meal. But in Spain, you'd place it on your plate to indicate that you're finished. Clean your plate in Ecuador and you'll be given seconds, but in Peru cleaning your plate is just considered polite. And remember whenever you sit down to eat in a group outside the U.S., there's a good chance you should wait for either the host or the eldest person at the table to start eating before you tuck into what's on your plate. 4. DRINKING CUSTOMS CAN BE COMPLICATED If you ever thought that American rituals and customs surrounding alcohol were a bit arcane (what exactly does "Here's mud in your eye?" mean, anyway?), you'll be relieved to learn that the rest of the convivial world can be just as confusing. When a Russian offers you vodka, the polite thing to do is accept—and drink it down fast. Similarly, you should never refuse sake in Japan (though that hot beverage can be sipped, of course, instead of tossed back). In some countries, including Switzerland, it's rude to start drinking before a toast is offered. And the rituals surrounding which hand (or both) with which to accept a drink, which direction to pass, whose glass you should fill, and other surprisingly important items of cultural dogma should be mastered by consulting a reliable resource such as one of the great books in Dean Allen Foster's Global Etiquette Guide series. Be mindful that in some cultures, alcohol is forbidden—you won't find it served in Saudi Arabia or the United Arab Emirates. 5. KNOW WHO YOU SHOULD - AND SHOULDN'T - TIP You'd never skip out of an American restaurant without leaving at least 15 percent on the table (well, unless the service was downright awful). But in many other parts of the world, tipping is either built into the bill, culturally frowned upon, or unnecessary because waitstaff are paid a much higher salary than here in the U.S. Don't tip in Japan, Australia, and Brazil. Leave 5 to 10 percent for exceptional service in Italy, France, and Germany. Leave 10 to 15 percent in Egypt, South Africa, Russia, and Hong Kong (but don't tip anywhere else in China). 6. NEVER UNDERESTIMATE THE POWER OF BODY LANGUAGE I haven't been to Switzerland yet, but there's one habit I'll have to break before I go: Turns out keeping your hands in your pockets during a conversation is considered rude there. Sound a bit uptight? Head to Turkey, where it's always been refreshingly acceptable for friends of the same sex to hold hands. In some countries, including Peru, it's a no-no to cross your legs at the ankle. In others, like Saudi Arabia, crossing legs at the knee is taboo. You already know that it's common to take off your shoes when entering homes in east Asia, but I'll bet you didn't know that in some cultures, including much of the Arab world, showing the bottoms of your feet or pointing with your feet is rude. 7. DRESS FOR SUCCESS Unless you're headed for Australia or Canada, it's a good idea to dress a bit conservatively whenever you leave the U.S. Cover your legs and arms, and avoid T-shirts with slogans or graphics that could offend strangers. (Traveling with a teen? You may have a difficult time getting him to leave his "Epic Fail" T-shirt at home, but it's worth a try!) 8. AVOID TALKING ABOUT POLITICS "Don't mention the war," may be the only wise words ever uttered by Basil Fawlty, the world's worst innkeeper, portrayed by John Cleese of Monty Python fame in the British sit-com Fawlty Towers: When tourists from the continent visit his inn, Fawlty implores his staff not to bring up WWII. Indeed, when representing the U.S. overseas, you can't go wrong by completely avoiding topics such as: wars, scandals, royals, politics, religion, and diplomatic relations with the U.S. Of course, once you've gotten to know a local or fellow traveler, there's nothing like a late-into-the-night, heart-to-heart cultural exchange—go for it! But among casual acquaintances and strangers, zip it! 9. LEARN BASIC FOREIGN PHRASES We've said it before and we'll say it again: Learning a foreign language's basic phrases such as "Hello," "Goodbye," "Please," "Thank you," "Excuse me," "Where is the bathroom?" and "Do you speak English?" will endear you to the residents of any locale you may visit. It takes only a few minutes to master the magic words that can turn strangers to friends anywhere on earth.

Travel Tips

#BTReads: The Worst-Case Scenario Survival Handbook

Fending off sharks, escaping from bears...getting through Y2K? The world looks a bit different today than it did at the turn of the 21st century, when The Worst-Case Scenario Survival Handbook was originally published, but according to authors Joshua Piven and David Borgenicht, the book’s premise is more apropos than ever. “It’s odd,” Josh says. “It seems like once again, the timing is perfect. In 1999, it was Y2K. Now it’s…everything!” In honor of the bestseller’s 20th anniversary, the two are releasing an updated and expanded version of their survival manual (on sale April 30; worstcasescenario.com) for the new millennium. With tips ranging from how to hot-wire a car to how to deliver a baby in a taxicab, the authors’ sense of humor was a hallmark of the first edition, and two decades later, it’s still front and center. (How do you know if a clown is murderous? Is he wielding a weapon? Sharp teeth? Blood on his costume? Probably dangerous.) Covering an array of topics travelers will find handy—in-flight emergencies like extreme turbulence, flagrant seat-recliners, and tantrum-throwing kids, plus man-made emergencies like car crashes, train derailments, hijackings, and hostage situations, natural disasters like wildfires and tsunamis, and tech problems like navigating without GPS and what to do if your phone catches fire— the updated sections provide a comprehensive guide to dealing with our most pressing dilemmas. We emailed the authors to discuss the new info, the travel tips they rely on personally, and the backstory on that whole creepy-clown thing. Choosing 'WorstCase Scenarios' How did you decide on the topics for the new chapters? Did personal experiences influence those choices? (...Please tell me the murderous-clown section was completely hypothetical.) Josh: All the clowns I know are happy-go-lucky types; Dave must know all the murderous ones! Dave: Thankfully, my personal disasters have been more domestic and less life-threatening over the past few years! I’ll have a lot more to share when we write The Worst-Case Scenario Survival Handbook: Mid-Life (that’s a joke—but only sort of!). Worst-Case has always been about providing people with both real information and entertainment—about making people feel like they can face their real fears and their irrational ones—so that’s where things like clowns fit in. Basically, we looked at what fears felt most topical and relevant in 2019 as opposed to in 1999. Josh: There were some obvious situations we felt were timely and we had to cover. From news reports of autonomous cars injuring (and in one instance, unfortunately, killing) people, that was an obvious choice. Drones were another, since they are becoming ubiquitous, and, again, there are news reports of them causing havoc at airports, so we kind of just extrapolated from that. Tech emergencies was definitely a section we had to address. Did anything feel different when you were writing the scenarios this time around? Dave: We are living in tense times—these are times of intense disconnectedness from each other, of global unrest, of extreme imbalance with nature, of political and economic imbalance—way more than when we were writing back in 1999. That’s what really made us want to relaunch the book and the brand. Josh: In general terms, the writing wasn’t that different since the process was the same: Do the research, find the expert, do the interview, and so on. Of course it took awhile of the two of us brainstorming to come up with the new sections that we liked, and that were “actionable.” On some of the specific entries, it was a little different because we had to be cognizant that now people rely on their phones to get ALL information, survival or not. So, clearly, in some circumstances you might be able to use a phone to get help (or instructions), but in some, you still really can’t, because you won’t have time. Or the alligator will have swallowed it. Ha! For plenty of people, losing their phone would be an all-time worst-case scenario, never mind the gator. Given that you’ve added sections on identifying fake news, surviving a protest, and dealing with out-of-control smart homes and autonomous cars, it seems like you gave equal consideration to the current political climate and the tech industry. Was that your intentional focus for the new chapters? Josh: Yeah, tech was 100 percent something that was on the radar—flaming phones, phones in toilets, getting doxxed. The book wouldn’t be a 21st-century survival manual without those kinds of entries. Dave: Most of our fears come from a feeling that we lack control over our lives, and sadly, most people feel like we have even less control than we did twenty years ago—I would suggest mostly because of the mini super-computers we carry in our pockets and the constant barrage of “news” and social media and distractions they bring us. Our phones can been a great tool, but they can also be one of the most dangerous items we have. Josh: I think there’s the (dangerous) political climate, and then also the climate-climate, as in disasters that are clearly climate-related, or getting worse due to climate change (How to Survive a Wildfire, and so on). We’ve always tried to tackle some of the fears that we think are common, or at least commonly held if not commonly occurring. Personally I think the issue of the lack of trust in journalism is very worrisome, so we wanted to address that in our usual way. (I’m a journalist, so do the math…) Survival Tips in Action Have you been in situations where you’ve had to put any of your travel-related tips to use? I'm particularly curious about the section on how to survive in-flight emergencies—the Snakes on the Plane segment was a nice bit of comic relief (though also very useful, and I will definitely be pulling my feet up on the seat if there are rattlers on board!), but the advice for landing a plane and surviving a hijacking felt especially charged. Josh: Not the most extreme ones, thankfully. I have purified water, and I have used some of the navigation techniques. (I had my phone, but only as backup, of course!) And I’ve had an extreme seat recliner in front of me on way too many flights. For budget travelers, this is probably a regular occurrence. Dave: I have used our own worst-case scenario advice when dealing with flight delays and crying babies on planes. I once had to get back into my rental car via the trunk because the key was inside, and I did once stowaway on a train back to Philly because I had lost my wallet and had no way to pay. I mean, who hasn't done that? So what’s your favorite scenario in the book? Dave: I loved writing the “How to Tell If You are Being Gaslighted” chapter—I think that’s happening a lot these days, and it’s important to recognize what you can and can’t do when someone believes they are infallible and can’t see the bigger picture. Sadly, there isn’t much you can do to change the attitude of an absolute gaslighter, so it’s really about recognizing it and moving on, but if the gaslighter seems a bit more moderate and is willing to actually listen to you, then trying to model the more open point of view the gaslighter needs can work. Josh: I continue to like the classics (shark, bear, alligator, quicksand), but in terms of the new ones—and ones I’d want to remember, if it came down to it—are How to Survive a Flash Flood, Tsunami, Wildfire, and Grid Collapse. Not coincidentally, I think we all need to get used to a world where some of these extreme survival situations may become more common. The advice in the books is both timely and timeless—it sounds totally corny, but I really do feel that way. This interview has been edited and condensed.

Travel Tips

12 Best Apps for Solo Travelers

From booking cheap flights and hotels to staying fit on the go and recovering from jet lag, today’s mobile apps can solve a wide range of problems for travelers. They can also make it easier to travel alone, which is good news for the roughly one-third of consumers who take a solo vacation every year, according to a recent Travel Leaders Group consumer travel trends survey. Here are the 12 best mobile apps for solo travelers. (P.S. We assume you’ve already downloaded our parent company Lonely Planet’s indispensable inspiration and planning apps, Trips and Guides.) 1. SoloTraveller This widely trusted app lets you make new friends on your trip by connecting you with other solo travelers in your city in real time. It also helps you save money by pairing you people to share taxis, tours, or other travel expenses. You can find a travel mate nearby by searching for people based on age, gender, and interests. Available on iPhone and Android. 2. Backpackr Think of Backpackr like Tindr but for solo travelers—the app shows you people with similar interests who are headed to your destination. If you find a match, you can message the person to meet up. The app earns bonus points, in our book, for offering its members deals on hostels, pub crawls, bars, restaurants, and local tours. Available on iPhone and Android. 3. Eatwith Just because you’re traveling alone doesn’t mean you have to dine alone. The Eatwith app can connect you with locals in more than 130 countries for truly immersive cuisine. From dinner parties to food tours to cooking classes, the app has a variety of culinary events that let you wine and dine with local hosts at your destination. Users can filter food experiences based on dietary restrictions such as vegetarian, vegan, and Kosher meals. Available on iPhone and Android. 4. BonAppetour An alternative to Eatwith, BonAppetour helps travelers find immersive food experiences through in-home meals such as dinner parties, cooking classes, barbecues, and picnics. Available on iPhone. 5. ChefsFeed Offering restaurant and bar recommendations from chefs, bartenders, and sommeliers in major North American cities, ChefsFeed shows you how to eat and drink like a pro. Targeting younger travelers, the app bills itself as the "Anti-Yelp" in part because only positive reviews are welcomed. Available on iPhone and Android. 6. Meetup Another excellent tool for rubbing shoulders with locals while you’re traveling, this popular app brings like-minded people together in thousands of cities around the world. Use it to discover residents at your destination with specific interests, such as running groups, dance troupes, animal lovers, and more. Available on iPhone and Android. 7. Travello A social network for travelers, Travello uses your travel interests to match you with other nomads flying solo. It’s designed for a broad range of travelers, including urban tourists, backpackers, and gap-year adventurers. Available on iPhone and Android. 8. Tourlina Exclusively for women, Tourlina helps females find travel companions. Simple plug in your destination and travel dates, and the app will show you potential traveler partners, who you can then message to plan a trip together. Available on iPhone and Android. 9. Mend Though it’s not squarely designed for travel, Mend—an app that helps newly single individuals recover from breakups through audio trainings by mental health and wellness experts—offers travel guides for the freshly heartbroken to cities such as Boston, Los Angeles, and London. Available on iPhone. 10. Couchsurfing What better way is there to get to know new locals than crashing at their pad? The Couchsurfing app lets travelers search for a place to stay by using filters such as age range, gender, and friends of friends, and users can view references of potential hosts. Available on iPhone and Android. 11. Chirpey Focused on building a community for female travelers, Chirpey lets its members link up with other female travelers heading to their destination. Have a small emergency while you’re traveling, such as losing your wallet? Drop a message in the app and women traveling in the area will be notified that you need help. Available on iPhone and Android. 12. Bumble BFF Form friendships with locals and other travelers on Bumble BFF, an extension of the dating mobile app. Using your social networks, the app will connect you with friends of your friends in your local area, so you can meet companions at your travel destinations for coffee, city tours, meals, and more. Available on iPhone and Android.