It can be tricky landing in a foreign country after a long flight and hitting the ground running. Feeling the need to squeeze everything in such a short span of time while all you want to do is sleep can be a miserable way to start a vacation.
I feel ya, I've been there many times. But I've always found that I'd rather have one really long, tiring day to get over jet lag than have the first week of my trip be disrupted by an unusual sleep schedule and the subsequent exhaustion. Especially when you're in the most wonderful country for a small chunk of time!
This past summer going to Italy was my biggest jet lag battle I've ever had when I landed in Rome a week before our next round of retreats. I think I walked over 10 miles that day to stay awake but I wouldn't have done it any other way...
Now I'm not saying the secret to fighting jet lag is to walk 10 miles! Definitely not, but it certainly doesn't hurt. After a long flight (in my case direct from LAX to Rome for about 11 hours, hooray Norwegian!) walking is all I wanted to do after I dropped my bags off at my AirBnb. I had maybe gotten 5 hours of sleep during the flight but with a whole day ahead the last thing I should be doing was going to bed. I had arrived in Rome around 8:45 am which was perfect. I always prefer to get my flights to Italy when I get there while there's still daylight. I don't always sleep well on the flights so it's helpful to have most of the day ahead to fight the jet lag.
I try to travel with a carry-on only so I can get in and out of the airport quickly. After landing I was able to change into warm weather clothes, grab a quick breakfast and coffee and get on the Leonardo Express to the center of Rome by 9:30! I was able to get to my AirBnb pretty quickly to leave my suitcase and freshen up before the mad trek around Rome to stay awake! I was meeting a friend that afternoon for dinner so I had the challenge of filling a whole day of activities while jet lagged...hard? Not really when you're in Rome! (Read more about my Rome guide here).
After leaving my AirBnb by Roma Termini, I headed to the Borghese Garden! My friend was staying in this area so I wanted to be close by in case she was ready to hang out earlier. I sketched people in around the Spanish Steps and hung out in the shade of the gardens up above them. I wandered around that area and stumbled onto a really great lunch spot that had a €10 lunch buffet! Gusto is now one of my favorite spots in Rome.
After a nice, leisurely lunch to escape the heat and rest a bit, the jet lag was kicking in. I wandered back over to the Spanish Steps where I was able to get some more sketching and a quick cat nap in before Michelle was ready around 4:30! We wandered off to find a couple spritzes immediately and then to dinner at Il Gabriello, a recommendation from her travel agent friend. OH MY. SO delicious! We had a really lovely dinner that went on for a couple hours before we wandered back to our homes for the night. I will admit I was exhausted at this point so by the time I got home to my AirBnb around 11 pm, I was thrashed!
But! Because I was thrashed from a full day on a normal schedule (breakfast, lunch, dinner at regular times and with few naps), I was able to sleep a SOLID 8 hours and wake up the next day refreshed and ready to head to my next destination, Spello! Convincing your body and brain that this is the time zone to be in is crucial within that first 24 hours. I've had friends go straight to bed when they arrive at 2 in the afternoon only to wake up at 1 am and messed up for the next few days. I wouldn't recommend going as hardcore as I did last summer, but it's extremely important to start acclimating to the new time zone as quickly as possible with walking, meals, water and resisting sleep until a normal hour.
If you want something less severe, my mom had these No Jet Lag pills that she picked up for their journey to Italy. I was always skeptical of them but I admit they really did help on the return trip home. If you want more of my travel item suggestions, check out this list here!
Written by Chelsea Ward, the host and founder of Wanderful Retreats