Please sign in to post.

Jet Lag and Arrival Times

Not sure this is the right forum for this, but I couldn't find the right spot under tips forum.....

Italy is 9 hours ahead of my normal time. Is it better to arrive in the morning or early afternoon, take a short nap, eat dinner at normal (Italy) time and go to bed at normal time, or arrive later in evening and go to bed upon arrival? This is my first trip overseas and this will help me select my flights. Thank you in advance.

Posted by
21666 posts

First off, it is difficult to find flights that arrive in the evening if coming from the US. Except for a few flights out of the east coast all US flights fly overnight and arrive in the early to mid-day. What flights are you looking at? Sunlight is critical to resetting your internal time clock which is what jet lag is all about. Arriving in the evening defeats that advantage. With nine hours I assume you are coming from the west coast.

We handle jet lag by local time shifting by three or four hours prior to departure, hit the ground and stay in the sunlight with lots of motion. A quick afternoon nap (2-4, 3-5) and to bed at the normal time - 10, 11. The works for us. Others will have different ideas.

Posted by
3595 posts

We always arrive in the morning (or mid day at the latest) and make it a point to stay outside in the fresh air and sunshine as much as possible the first day. Just stash the bags and get out and about. No naps at all. Then dinner in the early evening (7 to 8 p.m.) and crash for the night. Next morning we are fully acclimated.

Posted by
2298 posts

I've done really well leaving SF in the early afternoon and arriving at my destination in the mid- to late afternoon; enough time and daylight to get situated and explore a bit, have dinner and then a normal early bedtime, usually by 9. Next day I feel perfectly fine and ready to see all the things. It's up to you, but I don't recommend a nap, could interfere with getting a good night's sleep. Coming home I plan to arrive in early afternoon and have yet to have problems getting adjusted either way.

Posted by
13356 posts

I think most flights will arrive either in the morning or midday as well. There's no single best answer here as some travelers have a lot of difficulty with jet lag, and some experience none at all.

We like getting in during the morning, dropping the bags and then taking off on foot to explore. We're usually keyed up enough about just being THERE to stay awake, and a good cup or two of coffee doesn't hurt either! Walking works off all those hours of being cooped up in a coach seat, and the fresh air is energizing. If we crawled into bed, we'd either be down for the count or feel even blearier after just a short nap. Then again some folks are very good nappers and can feel 100% better after a short snooze.

Bedtime on the first night is usually pretty early but we've been known to get a second wind too! And neither of us can sleep at all on planes so we've usually been awake for a looooong time when we finally touch down.

What we don't do on the first day are activities which involve a lot of attention (like big museums) or transportation.

Posted by
13420 posts

You are going to get a lot of antidotal and subjective information, but that's good. Look for common threads and things that seem relevant to you. We travel 2 or 3 times a year an 98% of the time arrive between noon and 4pm Figure an hour to an hour and a half from plane to hotel and depending on the time of year there may not be much sun light left. Still, a good shower and a little push and we are out the door for at least 3 or 4 hours. Once committed to going out we do really well to a point then crash hard. The next day is always good with very little residual jet lag.

Posted by
4643 posts

Everyone reacts differently to jet lag & you will get varying opinions...

I'd advice you to stay well hydrated during the flight & avoid alcoholic beverages.

Make sure you are well rested before your trip by getting enough sleep & not staying up late packing at the last minute ;-)

If you can sleep in the plane, great!... but I have a very hard time sleeping in the plane.

I'm usually very tired upon arrival but so excited to finally reach our destination that it may take a few hours
before my body crashes. So then, I just need to take a nap (2 hours) in the late afternoon, to feel refreshed.
After my nap & shower, we head out to explore a bit, grab some dinner, more walking, then back to hotel for an early bedtime.
By the following morning, we are ready to go!

Enjoy your trip!

P.S. I've found that jet lag is worse when I get home... it takes me a few days to start feeling 'normal' again...

Posted by
206 posts

Sure right about jet lag being lots worse when getting home. Going over you are excited and don't really want to waste lots of time napping. I usually drop the bags wash my face and hit the streets. Eat about 7pm and to bed about 8:30 and the next morning I feel fine and never have another problem until returning home. Then for 3 days I am a zombie.
If you can avoid a nap on arrival day, I would just skip that and then turn in early that evening.

Posted by
962 posts

We did well last year with a direct flight from SFO to Munich - we left about 10pm? Arrive Munich 5:30pm (slept a bit on the plane). Checked into apartment, had dinner, then to bed maybe around 10ish. Slept right through and were pretty much reset - still a little tired but not bad.

This time (on Friday! eek!) we are going to LA first, and we leave out of there at 5:45pm direct to London arriving around 1pm there. So we will see how it goes.

All must be better than what we did years ago which was from east coast arriving at like 7am. The most brutal day of my life. I didn't know it was possible to be that tired.

I would aim to arrive late afternoon if there is a choice. :)


Posted by
4867 posts

I don't nap, and just make sure I keep busy until the "typical"bedtime in the time zone I am in.

Perhaps I am the odd one out, but it is really after the second night at my new location that I feel signicantly better. That is why the advice to arrive 2-3 days in advance of your tour (if you are going on a tour) is so good. You can't predict possible flight delays, the effect of aging(it is happening to us all) and even how your excitement level can impact each trip differently. Give yourself a 2 day plan before jumping into the more strenuous parts of your trip.

Posted by
752 posts

Get out there. Who goes to Italy to sleep? Have a first Fun day of activities planned, sites you'd really like to see and get out there. And plan where you want to enjoy incredible food. Don't waste time. You'll do more at the beginning.

I never have jet lag. Maybe you won't have it either. Have you ever thought that just maybe some tired person made it up? Don't plan for jet lag.

Posted by
9561 posts

Another couple of anecdotes from someone who flies from the Intermountain West...with looong layovers at intermediate US airports or at the international departure airport.

-Last year I flew in to London arriving at the hotel about 230 in the afternoon. It was pouring down rain and I did not want to go out. Against all the usual advice, I slept, woke about 7PM, ate a Clif bar, drank some water and went back to sleep. I woke the next morning feeling refreshed and was surprised that I did not experience any jet lag.

-On my first International trip (in many years) a couple of years ago I made a rookie mistake on the air travel and had a 5 hour layover in Seattle (usually unavoidable from N. Idaho) but somehow scheduled a 6 hour layover in Amsterdam (yuck). We got in to Rome about 430PM, got to the hotel about 6PM, walked to dinner then went to bed. That too worked out fine even after having left at 5AM Pacific time the morning before.

I, too, would go for mid-late afternoon arrival if you can.

Posted by
58 posts

I'm wondering the same thing about day 1. Leaving NY - Naples - arriving 6:00 AM. We are staying in Sorrento, but thought since we arrive in Naples we should spend the day doing Pompeii or Herculaneum. Don't mean to highjack this thread, but inquiring minds want to know.

By the way thanks to all the contributors to this Forum. It's been a great experience planning my trip via these posts.


Posted by
47 posts

We left San Francisco at 5pm Pacific time and arrived in Rome the next day around 19:30 Rome time (layover in Dublin for a couple hours). It worked really well for us. We got to our hotel and then went out for a quick dinner. We were in bed by midnight and slept all night. The next day we started with a cappuccino and all the sunshine we could find. We were so busy we didn't notice jet lag. We took a similar approach on the way back home and it worked great.

A few keys:
1. Stay up until bed time where you are
2. Get sunshine
3. Drink caffeine with breakfast!

Posted by
9561 posts

For the Pompeii question - My opinion on scheduling a full day of important sightseeing on an arrival day? Don't do it unless you are used to international travel and can judge how you might feel.

I would get to your hotel, check in if you can or if it's too early, leave your bags and head out locally for some food and walking locally. I want to be seeing sights near my hotel on my arrival day so that if I do have a slump I don't have to travel an hour or 2 to get to where I can have a nap.

Posted by
11280 posts

I'll just amplify, based on my personal experience, a few points made above.

  1. I find jet lag is different on every trip. Sometimes it's mild, sometimes severe; and, I don't find any logical explanation for the differences.

  2. Arrival time is only one factor. The routing, which will determine things like total flight time, number of layovers, and duration of each layover, is also important.

  3. Depending on where you're coming from and where you're going, and how much you're willing to fly an inconvenient route just to change the time of your arrival, you may or may not have a lot of options on when you arrive. I personally would never have more stops just to arrive later. But, coming from New York, I can get nonstop service to many places, and one-stop service almost anywhere. Some destinations (mainly London and Paris) do have a broad choice of arrival times on nonstop flights from New York.

If you're coming from a small place that requires stopovers to Europe (like Pam is), you have different calculations. And if you're coming from a west coast city with nonstops to Europe (but not nonstop to your destination), everyone seems to prefer to change in Europe rather than the US (for instance, flying San Francisco to Rome via Frankfurt rather than via New York). Not only is it shorter by several hours, but you have many more options from Frankfurt to Rome if there's a problem.

For your return flight routing, remember that at your first airport in the US (whichever one that is) you must go through immigration and customs, before going to any connecting flights. Make sure you allow several hours for this connection, and/or make sure that there are lots of other flights remaining that day to your final destination (which I assume from your screen name is Las Vegas). If you miss the connection due to late arrival, the airline will put you on the next available flight at no charge; the key word is available, and with ever-fuller flights, fewer seats are available for this.

Posted by
823 posts

My two cents worth based on several years of both business and pleasure travel to Europe. Arrival will probably be anywhere from early morning to early afternoon depending on destination and connections. My upcoming flight to Venice is through Heathrow and I arrive Marco Polo at 12:15pm local. That works out to 4:15am local back home!

Over the years, I have found that upon arrival, I need to avoid taking a mid day nap at ALL COSTS. If I nap, I will not be able to fall into a sleep cycle appropriate to the local time for up to 4 or 5 days. However, if I gut it out and stay awake until at least 9:00pm local, I sleep a full night and my body clock is reset the next morning.

Keeping active and eating a high protein dinner the first night is key for me.

Good luck and have fun.

Posted by
12806 posts

I disagree with the previous posters that your flight will arrive to Italy in the morning or midday.
That opinion reflects an EasternUScentric view of the world of some frequent posters here.

Those of us on the west coast know better. If you take a flight from the West Coast directly to Europe, rather than via the Eastern U.S. Hubs, you will arrive in Italy in the afternoon or evening. For example last month I flew Lufthansa SFO-MUC-FLR and I arrived at Florence on time at 8:50pm. When I fly SFO-ZRH-FLR with Swiss I get to Florence even later. That's because direct flights from the West Coast to Europe depart from the West Coast in the afternoon or evening and arrive to Northern European hubs in the afternoon. By the time you catch your second leg flight to Italy, it's late afternoon or evening already (there are no non stop flights from the West Coast to Italy, except for a seasonal Alitalia flight from LAX to FCO).

I prefer to arrive at my destination in Italy in the evening, because I'm tired (I can't sleep on planes) and therefore I'm ready to go to sleep. If I arrive when it's bed time, it works perfectly for me.

If you connect through a Eastern U.S. Hub, such as JFK or ATL, you will probably arrive to Italy in the morning or midday. That doesn't work well with me because although I feel like going to bed, I still have several hours of the day before it is time to go to bed. Of course I could take an afternoon nap, but that generally messes my jet lag even more. So good luck! Everybody is different.

Posted by
1446 posts

Jet lag is always worse when traveling east to west which is why it's always worse coming home. I do exactly what Christa does & it works well but I will add that when I get on the plane (outbound flight), I try to get at least 6 hours sleep in order to minimize being tired when I arrive at my destination. I accomplish this by using melatonin (read up on how melatonin minimizes jet lag) & some other supplements. Be sure to take ear plugs for the flight too!

Posted by
7124 posts

There used to be a saying "west is best" when it comes to jet lag. I guess it depends how many time zones etc.
I know for me its MUCH worse coming east home from Europe to Australia than westwards to Europe,

Flying east or west makes a difference to jet lag
Your circadian rhythm (body clock) is less confused if you travel westward. This is because travelling west ‘prolongs’ the body clock’s experience of its normal day-night cycle (the normal tendency of the body clock in most of us is slightly longer than 24 hours). Travelling eastwards, however, runs in direct opposition to the body clock. If you suffer badly from jet lag, it may be worthwhile considering a westerly travel route if possible.

From Victorian Govt Better Health website ...

Posted by
1976 posts

I think there's a psychological aspect to jet lag as well as a physiological one. I have jet lag for the first couple of days when I fly west to east to Europe and then it goes away. I'm excited to begin my trip and be in new places, so I think that excitement mitigates the effects. When I go home (east to west) jet lag lasts for about 2 weeks. I fall asleep between 9:00pm and 10:00pm and wake up between 5:00am and 6:00am. I'm back home in my boring old routine and there's nothing new to be excited about, so jet lag takes much longer to wear off.

Posted by
1976 posts

I think there's a psychological aspect to jet lag as well as a physiological one. I have jet lag for the first couple of days when I fly west to east to Europe and then it goes away. I'm excited to begin my trip and be in new places, so I think that excitement mitigates the effects. When I go home (east to west) jet lag lasts for about 2 weeks. I fall asleep between 9:00pm and 10:00pm and wake up between 5:00am and 6:00am. I'm back home in my boring old routine and there's nothing new to be excited about, so jet lag takes much longer to wear off.

Posted by
7124 posts

"I fall asleep between 9:00pm and 10:00pm and wake up between 5:00am and 6:00am."

That sounds VERY NORMAL to me !! lol

Posted by
2 posts

I take "No Jet Lag" a homeopathic remedy from New Zealand. It works for me. 1 tab hourly while you fly and no painful zombie feeling on day 2 and 3. It's available at REI and AAA.