With the hustle and bustle of the upcoming holiday season, many of us will be travelling to see loved ones again this year.  Whether by plane, train, or automobile, travel can throw off our daily rhythms and can be quite taxing on the body. Some of you are planning to escape the cold and head someplace warm!

I’m sharing my suitcase essentials, and tips to keep you feeling your best on travel days and when you reach your destination.

Packing Tips

Jet Lag–Help Your Body Adjust to Different Time Zone

Jet lag is the inability of local sunlight and darkness to match our internal rhythm. As we get older, this drastic change affects us more, and can really put a damper on vacation! No one wants to be feeling tired, sluggish, and out of sorts on a well-deserved holiday. The great news is that by adjusting our sleep patterns and light exposure the week or so prior to travel, we can lessen the effects of jet lag. Here’s how it works:

Step 1: Find Your Body Temperature Minimum

Our circadian rhythm runs on an approximately 24-hour cycle. We have genes in every cell that ensure we stay on this schedule. There is a group of neurons over the roof of the mouth called the suprachiasmatic nucleus–essentially this is where our internal clock is housed. Over this 24-hour cycle, our body temperature changes from low to high and back down again, correlating with our sleep/wake cycle. As body temperature lowers, we become drowsy and prepare for rest. Body temperature drops up to two degrees throughout the night. Closer to the morning hours, the temperature then rises, like an internal natural alarm clock– this signals us to wake up. In the few hours before waking, your body temperature is at its lowest–referred to as body temperature minimum.

To find your body temperature minimum, first determine how many hours of sleep you get each night. If you sleep 7 hours or less per night, the body temperature minimum is approximately 2 hours before the usual wake time. If you sleep longer than 7 hours per night, assume the body temperature minimum is 3 hours before wake time. If you normally sleep from 10 pm – 5 am, that would put your minimum body temperature at 3 am. 

Step 2: Determine Phase Shift

I’m sure you’ve heard of some anecdotal ‘hacks’ to beat jet lag, like forcing yourself to stay awake for crazy amounts of time. In theory, there is some truth to it, but it is a bit more nuanced than that. Gradually shifting your circadian rhythm is called phase advancing or phase delaying. Seeking or avoiding light immediately after the body temperature minimum helps to phase shift. 

Phase advancing is used when travelling East to a different time zone. When advancing, you will be shifting your internal clock to go to bed earlier and wake earlier on subsequent days. This is done by getting sun or light exposure immediately after and in the 4 hours after the temperature minimum. Eating breakfast and engaging in exercise right after waking also help to signal the body to start the day. Phase delaying is the opposite–when travelling West you will avoid light in the 4 hours after your temperature minimum. Phase delaying is less taxing on the body than phase advancing. It is far easier to stay awake longer than it is to force yourself to go to bed earlier. If you are phase advancing, aim to shift your estimated body temperature minimum by 1 hour earlier per day, and 90 minutes if phase delaying. 

Step 3: Phase Delay or Advance in the Days Prior to Travel

Let’s run through an example. Say you are travelling from Los Angeles to New York City. There is a three-hour difference from PST to EST. Since you are travelling East, you will need to phase advance. You sleep from 10 pm-7 am, so your minimum body temperature is 4 am. In the days prior to travel, you will begin your phase shift.  On day 1, you will wake at 4 am and immediately seek exposure to light. Sunlight would be ideal, but hard to come by that early, especially in the winter months. Using a light spectrum box is a great alternative. You will also want to eat your breakfast at this time, go for a brisk walk or get a workout in. This will help signal the body to be alert and ready to start the day. That evening, you would shift bedtime 1 hour earlier, to 9 pm. On day 2, you will wake at 3 am. Seek the light, eat, get moving and then go to bed at 8 pm. This continues until your day of travel. Now when you arrive in NYC, your body will be adjusted to local time. 

Phase shifting can be a bit difficult to fit into a routine, but arriving at your destination with your body in sync with local daylight can really help to mitigate any exhaustion from time zone change. 

travel stress

Travel can be stressful as it throws our routines out of whack. It can be tricky to navigate different cuisines, water sources, unfamiliar surroundings and not sleeping in your own bed. 

Whether you are going to a resort in the tropics, or to your in-law’s house out of province, there are a few essential items I always make sure to take with me. 

  1. Running Shoes – Daily walks are non-negotiable in my routine, wherever I go. Most hotels have small gyms available to guests, and it’s great to have the option to use the facilities available when you are away from home. Not to mention they are more comfortable to wear on long travel days, or even if you plan to do a lot of sightseeing or walking tours-your feet will thank you!
  2. Protein Powder and Shaker Cup – I like to portion out my favourite protein powder into little pouches and tuck them into my suitcase. I do bring along my shaker bottle, I often put my toiletries or socks inside to minimize space in my suitcase. Knowing that I have available fuel on hand during travel helps me feel secure knowing I won’t be at the mercy of junky airport food if my flight is delayed, and it helps me feel my best during time away from home.
  3. Supplements – I certainly don’t pack every single supplement or health product with me when I travel, but there are a couple that I like to have with me. Activated Charcoal is great to have on hand for upset stomachs, or indulging in a few too many treats or foods you know don’t sit well with you. Travelling to foreign countries and different sources of water can expose us to bacteria and pathogens we aren’t accustomed to, which can result in stomach upset or diarrhea. Activated charcoal binds to pathogens and helps eliminate them. Magnesium is great to help relaxation and sleep and promotes proper elimination. As digestion can be thrown off when travelling, having magnesium on hand can ensure things are moving smoothly.

    A high-quality multivitamin is sort of like an insurance policy–many times vacations and holidays mean we aren’t consuming our everyday diet, often indulging in food or drink we otherwise wouldn’t. I like knowing that my trace vitamin and mineral needs are being met.
  4. Electrolytes – Airplane travel specifically can be extremely dehydrating. I like to pack a few LMNT pouches in my bag to ensure I’m staying properly hydrated. Do you know how exhausted you sometimes feel after a flight? That can usually mean a sign of dehydration. These transportable electrolyte pouches are also helpful when travelling to sunny, hot climates–easy to tuck into a purse or beach bag.
  5. Sleep Mask – I am quite particular about my sleep hygiene when at home. It’s likely you won’t have the same comforts of home when staying at a hotel or family member’s house. Light from electronics in the room, or not dark enough shades or curtains can throw off our sleep. I certainly don’t want to spend my holidays feeling groggy or sleep-deprived! If you are looking for a recommendation I really like this MASK.
  6. Noise Cancelling Headphones – On the topic of sleep, nothing disrupts your slumber quite like a partner’s noisy breathing, snoring, or distracting sounds in unfamiliar surroundings. Being able to block out noise is vital for sleep. Hotels can be loud (don’t get a room near the ice machine!) For sensitive people, having noise-cancelling headphones or earbuds can also help regulate the nervous system during travel. Airports and airplanes can be overstimulating. Being able to find respite from the noise helps prevent sensory overload, and reduce stress. 


Shop the Local Grocery Store

If you have access to a vehicle at your destination, I suggest taking a quick trip to a local grocery store to stock some fresh fruits, veggies, and items to make your own fresh meals and snacks. Many hotel rooms will provide a small fridge, or if staying in an Air B & B you could have access to a full kitchen. Purchasing some staple items to have on hand is not only healthier but will save you money. 

Move Your Body

Sitting in the car or on an airplane can cause stiffness, lethargy and pain. Take movement breaks whenever possible. Walk the terminal while waiting for a flight, get out of the car and stretch, move around, jump up and down–keep the blood flowing as best as you can.


Breathing Exercises

Flight delays, traffic, road conditions, and long lines–travelling can be downright stressful, especially around the holidays! While there may be hiccups along the way, many of these hurdles are out of our control, so why stress about them? Consider downloading a meditation or guided breathing app on your phone or portable device. Focusing on breathing will help you work through these external stressors, calm your nerves, and reduce blood pressure. The most important goal is to arrive at your destination safely. 

Wherever your travels may take you, slow down, be patient, and enjoy the journey!

travelDreading Holiday Travel? Travelling In The New Year To Escape The Cold? Prepare Your Body Ahead Of Time So You Can Feel Your Best With Energy To Spare!