Air travel is tiring, Jet lag, Italy, Italy (Photo by Neil Rickards)
Air travel is tiring

Truth is, there is no cure for jet lag—but there are 7 ways to make jet lag easier to bear and quicker to dissipate

Everyone and their guidebook has a homespun remedy for overcoming the inevitable jet lag that occurs when you land in Rome and your watch says 8am but your body says 2am (the fact that you managed to do no more than doze fitfully on the plane ride over doesn't help).  

Seven ways to alleviate jet leg

  1. Stay hydrated and avoid alcohol. Actually, that's the same thing said two different ways. The problem with drinking on the flight is not that you might make an ill-conceived pass at the flight attendant, but that the booze dehydrates you something fierce (that's what hangovers are all about). The recirculated air on the plane dries you out anyway, so you really need to suck down as much water as you can. Hey, look at it this way: more trips to that little bathroom means you're also getting up and moving around periodically, which is also important on a long flight even if you aren't scared by all that Deep Vein Thrombosis talk.
  2. Try pills. There are three main ingestibles that might help you sleep (not alcohol), two homeopathic, one prescription.
    • Melatonin—No, not the stuff in your skin than makes you look tanned, but a hormone that's naturally released by your pineal gland at bedtime and that helps regulate sleep cycles. It is now sold in pill form (and gummies!) as a sort of natural sleeping pill and body clock-resetting device. I used to pooh-pooh this idea, but have since tried it at home and it actually seems to help. Maybe it's just psychosomatic, but who cares if it's working, right?
    • No-Jet-Lag—This little homeopathic pill is sold over the counter and claims to counteract the effects of crossing too many time zones. I've tried it and didn't notice much of a difference, but it if works for you...

    • Sleeping pills—You will need a prescription for these, but if you already know they work for you, godspeed and have a decent night's rest. (Please don't test pills out for the first time on a flight; they can have funky side effects. Try one at home first to see if they work.)

  3. Use noise-canceling headphones. This is the one seemingly silly travel gadget I actually use. These things really do make flying less stressful—and they do it on a biological level. The low frequency, often subsonic roar of the jet engines can raise your autonomic stress levels, putting your body into a slow-burn version of the classic fight-or-flight reaction (no pun intended), which basically means you're dripping a constant trickle of adrenaline into your system. Not only does this make it terribly hard to sleep, but then, once when the plane lands and the roar subsides, the adrenaline shuts off and you crash. This is what we call "jet lag." And that's how these headphones work. If you put them on at home, you hear nothing more than a faint hiss, but in the sky they actively cancel out the ambient noise (and that subsonic roar), disrupting the whole stress-induced cycle. Also, they make it way easier to hear the movie. There are tons of models available.
  4. Expose your face to bright sunlight. When you arrive and for the first few mornings, make sure you let your body drink in the natural sunlight. Your body knows how to reset its own internal clock if you let it.
  5. Try to sleep on the plane. I know, that's really hard. I can never do it properly. But after you settle in and avoid eating the in-flight meal, put away your book and your headphones (unless they're the noise-canceling versions), ignore the 24 channels of movies and television they now pipe directly to the seatback screen in front of you, and try to get some shut-eye. A neck pillow, eye mask, and ear plugs all might help. Even if all you manage is a catnap, it'll help you fight off jet lag without adding a full night's lost sleep to the equation. » more
  6. Do not nap when you arrive! I know the temptation is strong, especially by mid-afternoon on that first day when you look like a tourist zombie stumbling around the Louvre with a thousand-yard stare. Do not give in! The only way to reset the body clock is to force it into the new time zone. It will take several days for your body to catch up, so until then: eyes open, back straight, and plow through each day to the end.
  7. The best advice really is simply to get acclimated to local time as quickly as possible. You can even start resetting your internal clock before you leave by just getting up and going to bed earlier than usual. Once you've crossed the Atlantic, go to bed at a decent time according to the clocks of the country you're in, not what your body tells you (try for 10pm; don’t stay up past midnight). Wake up at a normal time the next day—even when your alarm beeps that it's 8am, but your tired body is telling you it's 2am.

Then again, some people never feel jet leg.

These people deserve a beating.

More practical, though, would be to make them carry your stuff for the first few days around town while they're chipper and you're still zonkered.

Airfares links
Useful Italian phrases

Useful Italian for air travel

English (inglese) Italian  (italiano)   Pro-nun-cee-YAY-shun
Where is... Dov'é doh-VAY
the airport l'aeroporto LAHW-ro-port-oh
the airplane l'aereo LAIR-reh-oh
terminal terminal TEAR-me-nahl
flight volo VOH-lo
gate uscita d'imbarco oo-SHEE-tah deem-BARK-oh
to the right à destra ah DEH-strah
to the left à sinistra ah see-NEEST-trah
straight ahead avanti [or] diritto ah-VAHN-tee [or] dee-REE-toh
keep going straight sempre diritto SEM-pray dee-REE-toh
departures partenze par-TEN-zay
arrivals arrivi ah-REE-vee
delayed in ritardo een ree-TAR-doh
on time in orario een oh-RAH-ree-yo
early in avanti een ah-VAHN-tee
boarding imbarco eem-BARK-o
connecting flight la coincidenza la ko-een-chee-DEN-za
check-in accettazione ah-chet-ta-zee-YO-nee
immigration controllo passaporti cone-TRO-lo pah-sa-POR-tee
security check controllo di sicurezza kohn-TRO-lo dee see-kur-AY-tzah
customs dogana do-GA-na
shuttle la navetta lah na-VET-tah
boarding pass carta d'imbarco kart-ta deem-BARK-o
baggage claim ritiro bagagli ree-TEER-oh bah-GA-lyee
carry-on luggage bagaglio à mano bah-GA-lyo ah MA_no
checked luggage bagalio bah-GA-lyo

Basic phrases in Italian

English (inglese) Italian (italiano) pro-nun-see-YAY-shun
thank you grazie GRAT-tzee-yay
please per favore pair fa-VOHR-ray
yes si see
no no no
Do you speak English? Parla Inglese? PAR-la een-GLAY-zay
I don't understand Non capisco non ka-PEESK-koh
I'm sorry Mi dispiace mee dees-pee-YAT-chay
How much is it? Quanto costa? KWAN-toh COST-ah
That's too much É troppo ay TROH-po
Good day Buon giorno bwohn JOUR-noh
Good evening Buona sera BWOH-nah SAIR-rah
Good night Buona notte BWOH-nah NOTE-tay
Goodbye Arrivederci ah-ree-vah-DAIR-chee
Excuse me (to get attention) Scusi SKOO-zee
Excuse me (to get past someone) Permesso pair-MEH-so
Where is? Dov'é doh-VAY
...the bathroom il bagno eel BHAN-yoh
...train station la ferroviaria lah fair-o-vee-YAR-ree-yah
to the right à destra ah DEH-strah
to the left à sinistra ah see-NEEST-trah
straight ahead avanti [or] diritto ah-VAHN-tee [or] dee-REE-toh
information informazione in-for-ma-tzee-OH-nay

Days, months, and other calendar items in Italian

English (inglese) Italian (italiano) Pro-nun-cee-YAY-shun
When is it open? Quando é aperto? KWAN-doh ay ah-PAIR-toh
When does it close? Quando si chiude? KWAN-doh see key-YOU-day
At what time... a che ora a kay O-rah
Yesterday ieri ee-YAIR-ee
Today oggi OH-jee
Tomorrow domani doh-MAHN-nee
Day after tomorrow dopo domani DOH-poh doh-MAHN-nee
a day un giorno oon je-YOR-no
Monday Lunedí loo-nay-DEE
Tuesday Martedí mar-tay-DEE
Wednesday Mercoledí mair-coh-lay-DEE
Thursday Giovedí jo-vay-DEE
Friday Venerdí ven-nair-DEE
Saturday Sabato SAH-baa-toh
Sunday Domenica doh-MEN-nee-ka
Mon-Sat Feriali fair-ee-YAHL-ee
Sun & holidays Festivi feh-STEE-vee
Daily Giornaliere joor-nahl-ee-YAIR-eh
a month una mese oon-ah MAY-zay
January gennaio jen-NAI-yo
February febbraio feh-BRI-yo
March marzo MAR-tzoh
April aprile ah-PREEL-ay
May maggio MAH-jee-oh
June giugno JEW-nyoh
July luglio LOO-lyoh
August agosto ah-GO-sto
September settembre set-TEM-bray
October ottobre oh-TOE-bray
November novembre no-VEM-bray
December dicembre de-CHEM-bray

Numbers in Italian

English (inglese) Italian (italiano) Pro-nun-cee-YAY-shun
1 uno OO-no
2 due DOO-way
3 tre tray
4 quattro KWAH-troh
5 cinque CHEEN-kway
6 sei say
7 sette SET-tay
8 otto OH-toh
9 nove NO-vay
10 dieci dee-YAY-chee
11 undici OON-dee-chee
12 dodici DOH-dee-chee
13 tredici TRAY-dee-chee
14 quattordici kwa-TOR-dee-chee
15 quindici KWEEN-dee-chee
16 sedici SAY-dee-chee
17 diciasette dee-chee-ya-SET-tay
18 diciotto dee-CHO-toh
19 diciannove dee-chee-ya-NO-vay
20 venti VENT-tee
21* vent'uno* vent-OO-no
22* venti due* VENT-tee DOO-way
23* venti tre* VENT-tee TRAY
30 trenta TRAYN-tah
40 quaranta kwa-RAHN-tah
50 cinquanta cheen-KWAN-tah
60 sessanta say-SAHN-tah
70 settanta seh-TAHN-tah
80 ottanta oh-TAHN-tah
90 novanta no-VAHN-tah
100 cento CHEN-toh
1,000 mille MEEL-lay
5,000 cinque milla CHEEN-kway MEEL-lah
10,000 dieci milla dee-YAY-chee MEEL-lah

* You can use this formula for all Italian ten-place numbers—so 31 is trent'uno, 32 is trenta due, 33 is trenta tre, etc. Note that—like uno (one), otto (eight) also starts with a vowel—all "-8" numbers are also abbreviated (vent'otto, trent'otto, etc.).