20 Things To Do When You’re Jetlagged


I could unpack and organize all this at 4 a.m., or I could just contemplate doing so.

Greetings from California!!!!!!

I’m feeling extra peppy because a) I love the magical Bay Area, how did I ever leave it for so long, there are baby birds chirping outside my window!!! and b) It’s been six days since I’ve been back and I’m still waking up at 4 every morning and only surviving these long days with espresso shots every hour on the hour!!!!!

Because, I made a mistake. I slept on the flight home. The whole flight, all 11 hours from Paris to SFO. That’s just what happens when you score big with an entire row to yourself. Plus I may or may not have slipped two sleeping pills into my complimentary ginger ale. (Wine.) They had no personalized TV screens on a TRANSATLANTIC FLIGHT, so in that case, sleeping pills to ward off impending panic attacks just make sense.

Thing is, you’re supposed to sleep on flights going from the U.S. to Europe. That way you arrive in the early morning fresh and doe-eyed and ready to see the 3,000 cathedrals in any given European city. But on the way from Europe to the States, you force yourself to stay up so that when you get home, you crash at a reasonable bed-time hour and don’t spend the next 6—28 days waking up at f*!#ing 4 a.m.

I’ve learned a lot in my travels, spanning languages and customs and tapas-sharing etiquette, but how to avoid jetlag still alludes me. I even took a special vitamin-mineral-magic potion that claims to banish jetlag, and nada. Luckily I’m resourceful, or maybe just hyperactive, so instead of crying out from boredom and loneliness at 4 a.m., I’ve figured out some ways to stay busy. I hope you find the following list helpful; consider it your Plan B once it’s too late to study up on how to actually avoid jetlag in the first place.

What To Do When You Have Jetlag

So you’ve spanned 9 time zones and now you wake up at 4 a.m. every day. I say why fight it? Here are 20 things you can do in the 4 hours you’re alone and awake in this world.

1. Cook and eat an elaborate breakfast, digest, take a two hour hike, and still be home before everyone else’s morning commute.

2. Scroll Craigslist for jobs. Because at 4 a.m. you’re sure to catch the first ones posted! This is tech-centric San Francisco, and techies post jobs at 4 a.m. because they’re not allowed to sleep. It’s company policy.

3. Give your guy in Spain a morning wake up call. It’s 1 p.m. his time; he could use the gentle nudge out of bed.

4. Do crunches. You let any exercise regimen fall by the wayside in Spain, but maybe if you do crunches from now until everyone else wakes up, for the duration of your jetlag, you can get a 2-pack!!!

5. Talk to yourself in Spanish to keep up the language skills, and because no one is awake at this time to judge you for talking to yourself.

6. Mentally map out the location of the peanut butter cups and pita chips at Trader Joe’s. Your first visit to the grocery store since you’ve been back is cause for celebration, but you’ll want to go in prepared. It’s not like Spanish supermarkets, that only stock ham and digestive cookies. This could be sensory overload.

7. Unpack. . . . Nah, that’s best done in daylight hours.

8. Draft cover letters in your mind. Grow indignant that you should even have to send a cover letter!! You’d be perfect for this job, can’t they just know that???

9. No really, unpack. Maybe then you wouldn’t trip over your suitcase handle on the way to pee every night.

10. Compute exactly how much you’d be willing and able to spend on rent in San Francisco, before you’d have to resort to dumpster diving for your daily meals. Then add $400 to that figure to keep things realistic.

11. Feel solidarity with the recycling truck guys. You used to hate them when the sound of breaking glass would wake you up every Thursday at 5, but now it’s like kinship. There’s someone else out there with you, wide awake in the darkness.

12. Plan out the most delectable dinner you could cook your parents that night, since you’re so happy to see them and grateful they took you in again. But first make sure the ingredients are on their dime.

13. Calculate how much more money you would have had you exchanged your euros to dollars five months ago.

14. Look up flights to anywhere, because your fingers navigate Skyscanner’s webpage using pure muscle memory now, so you don’t need to exhaust what little mental energy you have at this hour.

15. Binge-watch Netflix, because you’re now back in the States so they can’t block you from their streaming site. Also, the majority of their free movies available for stream will put you right back to sleep anyway.

16. Unpack for chrissake, you ran out of clean underwear 4 days ago.

17-20.        . . . .

Sorry, just dozed off. Jetlag’s brutal.

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  • AHAHA. Your posts crack me up EVERY. SINGLE. TIME. Number 6 pretty much hits the nail on the head. Two days ago I spent about an hour and a half just wandering around Whole Foods looking at everything. It was too glorious to put into words :)

    • Hahhaha I went to this amazing grocery store in Berkeley the other day (Berkeley Bowl) and my mom was waiting for me at checkout. I had FIVE missed calls from her asking where I was, there were just TOO MANY SOY YOGURTS I WAS SO ENTHRALLED.

  • Oh my gosh I do number 10 all the time, regardless of whether or not I’m jetlagged. There’s got to be a magical formula to make it affordable, right? ;) I am flying to California (luckily only from the other side of the states), but only have an hour layover in SFO. And I’m legitimately upset because I will be so close to my favorite city without actually being there.

    Hope you get over your jet lag soon!!

    • Haha you’d be surprised, it took over a week but now I’m up to sleeping in until 7, hooray! Still pitiful but hey. And oh my gosh, only 1 hour in SF, that’s heartbreaking!!

      • I know, right? I must be in the minority when I say I wish I had a ridiculously long layover. But I just got here and at least SFO has a pretty landing too. :)

  • Oli De T

    What about 17: write the article about the trip in North-East Europe ?

    • Lol….totally called me out on my procrastination on those posts. Problem is I’m no longer jetlagged so I don’t have 20 awake hours a day :( But I’m on it! Coming soon!

  • You are so funny and witty. I love your posts. But I find that, even if I don’t sleep (oh, and btw I NEVER sleep), I suffer from the dreaded 4am wakeup call. It took me a solid week to adjust from my Shanghai to Tampa trip!


    • Thanks so much!! You’re right, it’s actually sort of a damned if you do, damned if you don’t situation. Even when I don’t sleep I’m equally jetlagged. Sigh, time to unpack.

  • Beth

    Uhm, what airline doesn’t have personal TV screens for inter-continental flights? Because I seriously never want to fly with them.

    Also, jet lag. I just can’t seem to get it. What I do get, is random bursts of insomnia nowhere near times when I’ve been traveling (like right now since it’s almost 3am).

    • Lol it was a budget French airline since I had to buy the ticket the night before, so I went for the cheapest barebones option! But I’ve even been on United flights transatlantic without TV screens, such a travesty.

      • Beth

        Ew. Though in all fairness, most of my four hour flights to SF don’t have personal entertainment, and Spain is about the same distance. :) Still, all airlines should be upping their game and installing personal TVs!

  • Maya Martinez

    This post is 100% accurate. I’m feeling your pain/productivity haha