How to rock a red-eye flight

July 6, 2015 in Travel

One of my greatest travel skills is being able to sleep on planes—and not just on planes, but on RED-EYES. The fact that I’m able to squeeze in at least a few hours of shut-eye when on long-haul flights from the USA to Europe/Middle East/Asia or even on the jaunt from the West Coast to the East Coast is key in making the most of quick trips. Because I don’t have to spend time catching up on sleep once I arrive in a new place, I can better adjust to the time change.

I often opt for red-eye flights because that means I don’t have to miss a day of work OR play in order to fly—so I’ve started to get pretty good at them, even when I have to be at work just hours after landing in the morning. Here are my best tips for traveling to different time zones!

Bring the right supplies

If nothing else: something to block light and something to block noise. Although most red-eye flights will supply an eye mask and ear plugs, I usually tuck my own eye mask and set of noise-cancelling headphones in my carry-on, just in case. It’s also nice to travel with a tiny bottle of lavender essential oil—or even just a lavender-scented hand cream—since the scent promotes relaxation. Last but not least: I keep a “sleep” playlist of classical music on my iPhone (that I’ve listened to since I was a baby, so it’s a serious Pavlov effect) to help me drift off to sleep.

Dress appropriately

Although I’m always envious when I see super stylish people on planes, I am rarely one of them. I like to travel for comfort, especially on red-eyes and long-haul flights: that means super comfy leggings, a loose-fitting shirt, warm socks and shoes that can easily be slipped off (in security AND on the plane). I rarely wear any makeup or jewelry. I might not be the prettiest flier, but I do believe that it helps get me in the mode so sleep.

Stock up on ZzzQuil

I don’t use sleep aids at home—I’m lucky in that I tend to fall and stay asleep really easily—but I swear by “helping” myself fall asleep on the plane. On flights over 8 hours, I recently started using ZzzQuil and now I swear by it. It’s great as an “occasional sleep aid”—aka a once-in-a-while red-eye—and it helps you fall asleep quickly without drowsiness the next day.

Get into the local schedule as soon as you arrive

This is 100% the hardest thing to do, but it helps the most when there’s a big time difference: adapt to the local schedule as soon as you arrive. If it’s 1pm and you’re exhausted: go for a walk instead of taking a nap. If it’s 11pm and you’re still wide awake: make a cup of chamomile tea and read a book in bed. Making a big effort in the beginning will inevitably make the rest of your trip easier, whether it’s short or long.

Have the right attitude

You know who never falls asleep on planes? People who say they can never fall asleep on planes. If you go into a red-eye flight and you’re already dreading being exhausted at work the next day, you’re probably going to be exhausted at work the next day because you created so much anxiety around it. You’re probably not going to have the best sleep of your life—accept that as fact—but try to be open to the fact that a) it’s possible to get some rest and b) you’ll sleep so well the night AFTER the red-eye! Positive thinking, people—it can work wonders.

What are your tips and tricks traveling to different time zones?

Note: this post was kindly sponsored by Vick’s, but I’m thrilled that they gave me a reason to talk about my #TravelTipZzz! All opinions are my own. 

  • Great tips! I have no red eye flights on my radar but I hope to in the near future!

    Her Heartland Soul
    http://herheartlandsoul.com

  • My strategy is also to hit Vino Volo for a glass or two before the flight. Helps me getting to sleep. I always take the overnight to paris. Resisting the movies is the hardest since i always want to catch up on all the french films that never came out in the US 😉

  • I always choose a red-eye when I can, and I do a lot of the same things when I’m traveling! I also try really hard to make myself naturally tired during the day- a hard workout, no naps the day of a flight even if I had the time, etc. so that when I actually get on the flight, I feel like I’m ready to relax and sleep.

  • Some great tips! I recently did a shorter red-eye across the country and it completely killed me. Don’t think I came prepared enough but hope to do it better next time. Thanks for sharing.

  • Brandy

    Some great tips! I have a super difficult time sleeping on red eyes (though it could be my attitude, like you mentioned – I think I’m someone who can’t sleep on red eyes, therefore I can’t). I always say that I feel better flying on a 12+ hour daytime flight to Asia than I do on a 7 hour red eye to Europe! Next time I have a red eye, I’ll give some of these tips a chance.

  • My biggest obstacle to sleeping on flights is when they provide endless movies that have been on my list to see for a while….sleep 8 hours, or watch 4 movies? Decisions, decisions. I recently flew home to California from Paris and lucked out with my own row, so I could lay down for 11 hours. But I agree with you, sleeping aids work wonders!

  • I can’t travel without Zzzquil now. But before I discovered that, I have always used Benadryl. Works like a charm!

  • Cecelia

    It actually happens to be the same thing. Zzzquil is a more diluted form of liquid benadryl and quite often more expensive per dose. Advertising at its finest.

  • camorose

    Yes! My favorite way to maximize travel time in a city!

  • camorose

    Yesss on overnights to France, I always get a glass of wine as soon as I sit down. Definitely helps! And I hear you on the movies–I usually take the day trip back from Paris, so that’s when I get my movie fill!

  • camorose

    Yes! Although when I take a Sunday night red-eye and I have to go to work on Monday–I’ll sometimes try to squeeze in a 1-2 hour nap later at night so I at least feel somewhat rested, especially if its a flight that doesn’t leave until midnight!

  • camorose

    hope it can help for your next trip!

  • camorose

    Yes! Let me know if they help at all!

  • camorose

    yes! I have a tough time with the movies too on international flights where they’re free, I always get sucked in by one that I want to watch and then suddenly my time to sleep is cut in half!

  • camorose

    Yes! Used to use Tylenol PM, but I really liked Zzzquil!

  • camorose

    Definitely works better for me!

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