The Smart and Savvy Traveler: Travel Tips for All Experience Levels in Travel
No matter how experienced a traveler someone is, from a novice who wants to learn how to travel, to the most experienced amongst us, there is always more to learn. Just when we think we have it all together and can travel seamlessly, a major world event occurs that upends our well- honed travel patterns and brings us back to square one. The September 11 terrorist attacks and the global pandemic are two events that come to mind that certainly had me scrambling for travel tips on what to do. But getting a blood clot on an overseas flight, or not being able to successfully handle altitude, are two common travel dilemmas that can occur even when the world is running like clockwork.
There certainly is no recipe book, but I travel frequently with Overseas Adventure Travel, when a group tour makes more sense than independent travel. They provide a very comprehensive book of travel tips that was once more geared to the novice, but now includes tips also geared to the more experienced traveler. Don’t be put off by the title about 101 Tips for Solo Women Travelers. Men can benefit as well!
I wanted to go into additional detail on four specific areas that aren’t addressed as much as I have written about, since I have done extensive research on the following topics which are of interest to all.
How to Handle Jet Lag
How your body handles jet lag can make the difference between planning your next overseas adventure or deciding to either travel in the US or not travel at all. There are however some very tried and true tricks for beating jet lag, especially on long overseas flights. It took decades of travel to learn them, and it was trial and error, but I finally learned how to overcome a 17-hour time difference literally overnight. It may not work for everyone, but here are three major things to consider. Following this method, I’m typically a bit tired the first day I land, but I’m usually good to go after that.
If you are flying into darkness sleep, if you are flying into light stay awake
This is huge, since it helps you reset your body clock. You need to take in more light travelling in one direction, and less light traveling in the other to help reset your circadian rhythm. This is also known as your body clock. It is well known that travelling west is easier than traveling east when it comes to jet lag. That is because when traveling west, you are more able to take in the correct amount of light, it is not about getting more or less sleep to be in the correct time zone when you arrive. It is about getting the proper amount of light and dark. So, staying awake or getting more sleep before the trip won’t necessarily help you. The easiest thing to do is take note of what time your plane is departing and landing at your destination. If it leaves at midnight and it is mostly dark the entire trip, make sure to get plenty of sleep. You will actually arrive refreshed. If you are leaving during the day and know you will be arriving during the night 11 or 12 hours later, then make every effort to stay awake as you would at home. You can always sleep when you get there since it will be nearly bedtime when you arrive. Let your body have the appropriate amount of light and dark. If you are leaving at night and arriving during the day, then get some sleep (flying into dark), but make sure you don’t sleep the entire way. You need to balance that with the appropriate amounts of light (flying into light).
Eat protein to stay awake
Once you arrive at your destination, eating the right food is key to staying awake long enough to get a good night’s sleep. Stay away from sweets and caffeine. good night’s sleep. Stay away from sweets and caffeine. Those might keep you going for a while, but you will shortly notice you are getting tired again. The key to staying awake is protein. Massive amounts of protein. The kind you might find on a bacon/egg/cheeseburger. In fact, if you have one of these at about 3 in the afternoon (or a protein equivalent), you might just find it enables you to stay awake till later in the evening when you can go to bed at a normal hour and wake up refreshed.
Take a supplement to help you sleep
Several hours after a high protein meal, a sleep supplement will help you get through the first night unless you have a sleep disorder or other reason not to take them. Melatonin is key here, not sleeping pills. Melatonin was devised for business travelers to help conquer jet lag. Sleeping pills were designed to help you sleep. There is a big difference. Melatonin allows you to sleep because it works with your brain’s pituitary gland and makes you sleepy during daylight hours. This enables you to take in the dark and sleep as you fly into the daylight, thus helping restore your body’s circadian rhythm. It is helpful to take a melatonin when you are trying to sleep on an overnight flight, but you might notice it makes you tired as you are flying into the light you need. The best bet is to take one before going to bed the night you arrive. Just have an alarm clock set tor when you want to wake up, since the light will make you drowsy.
Ways to Avoid Blood Clots While Flying
A blood clot is a serious condition that can be caused from flights over 5 hours in duration, and when the plane reaches 30,000 feet or more. It is also referred to as DVT, or deep vein thrombosis. If you’re worried about getting a blood clot on a long light, or have ever had one, here are some tips to help you avoid getting one on your next flight. Please note only a few of these tips are written in the fine print in in-flight magazines, but some of the international carriers are now starting to include some as part of their in-flight safety instructions.
Keep your blood thin and drink lots of water
Take baby aspirin daily, as well as a pretty good dose of regular aspirin prior to travel. Drink lots of water on the plane which prevents the blood from pooling and forming clots. A glass every two hours is pretty standard to keep you hydrated.
Sit in a roomy seat
If you are flying economy, sit in an aisle seat for the extra legroom. If you are flying any of the other classes, you likely have enough room for your legs and won’t be cramped. However, you can check all this out before you fly on Seatguru.com Seatguguru.com. Information about leg room, seat pitch, width, and how far back the seat reclines is readily available online. It’s easy enough to learn which plane manufacturers and configurations of aircraft are going to provide you with the room you need prior to booking the flight. Some aircraft configurations and manufacturers provide more leg room than others as well. I personally have noticed that planes manufactured by Airbus are more comfortable for me, but this can be a moving target
Keep moving on the plane
Try to get up and walk around at least every two hours. If you cannot do that, stretch your legs from your seat and move your ankles in each direction. This also keeps the blood flowing and prevents pooling. Constantly drinking water forces you to get up and use the restroom every couple hours, so that can be your friend. Also advise people sitting next to you on an overnight flight not to hesitate to wake you up if they need to exit the row. It’s another way to remind you to move your legs. Never fly with your legs crossed either, as that can constrict blood flow.
Inform the flight crew
Especially if you have already had a blood clot once, let the flight crew know that you need leg room if you cannot get a satisfactory seat. If you let them know it is because of DVT you might actually get moved to Business Class, which has happened ot me several times. But do not do this unless you have really had a DVT. The airlines save seats for people with special medical needs.
Many people make the unfortunate mistake of not doing enough research when it comes to high altitude destinations. Further, I’ve noticed that tour companies provide very little guidance, and in cities designed for acclimation on a group itinerary really don’t give that much time to acclimate. For high altitude destinations in South America, where I never thought I’d never get to see Machu Picchu for instance, or the condors in Peru, I finally did my homework and conquered it. I wrote this article about what I did in Ecuador so I could not only see Ecuador and the Andes but prepare for the Overseas Adventure Travel Colombia trip. I knew even at 8600 feet, I’d have problems. I’ve now taken two high altitude trips successfully.
First, I knew for my own travels that I was fine at 7000 feet or so. But living at sea level, flying straight into 9000 feet and above was going ot be difficult. On two trips, I did research and learned of lower elevation cities that I could use as a staging area for an earlier arrival to acclimate and be able to go up and down in altitude as necessary. For Quito, Ecuador, approximately 11,000 feet (but the new airport is now at 8600 feet), I did research on Trip Advisor and learned about Cumbaya, right outside of Quito at 7200 feet. I stayed there for a number of days, went up and down the Andes on day tours with a local provider, then was able to successfully get to Quito another high-altitude destination really in a day or two. I did exactly the same in Arequipa, Peru on another tip which prepared me at 7600 feet to go see the condors at 14000 feet, Machu Picchu at 11000 feet, and ultimately what would have been Bolivia at 14000 feet if not for civil unrest.
The best thing to do is get to know yourself. I’m fine at 7000 feet. Some may need to acclimate at 5000 feet. Everyone is different.
When You Can’t Take Travel Medications – Malaria and Yellow Fever
I have gone around and around on this one, and after doing extensive research so I could go to Africa and India, finally the CDC agrees with my research on Malaria medications. Even International Travel News published it with online accessthat didn’t require a paywall. My best suggestion is to read either the blog version of the article or what ITN published. It will help you no matter where you go. Its detailed, and comprehensive.
For yellow fever, if you have already had one shot, its now regarded as the only dose you need for life. If you are over 60, a waiver letter from your doctor or travel clinic will get you through the border if its necessary ot show the yellow card. The risk to your health if over 60 is greater if you have the vaccine then the risk of yellow fever itself. This is all per the CDC.