No matter what trick I try, traveling is exhausting. This is particularly true when flying internationally. Sleeping on a plane is difficult under the best of circumstances and most of the international flights leave in the evening and arrive in the morning (of my destination.) The jet lag avoidance suggestions–minimize your alcohol intake, drink lots of water/don’t become dehydrated, try to frameshift your body’s clock by changing when you go to bed and when you wake up–only work so well. That said, my body is still trying to convince me that its the middle of the night.
So, I have discovered some ways to maximize what I get out of that first day. Depending on the airline, your status with the airline or what type of ticket you have, many of the international hubs have lounges with showers to help you freshen up. For this reason, I always have a change of clothes and necessary toiletries in my bag even if I have checked the rest of my luggage.
I always ask for an early checkin when I book the hotel. Sometimes the hotels will accommodate me (and tell me in advance). It never hurts to ask. Brand loyalty will helps a lot regardless of which hotel chain you like. But the more you use them, the more likely they are to let you check in early.Starwood/Marriott is notably good at doing this. If the hotel will not offer an early check in then you can choose to either use points (if it is a hotel that you have loyalty points with) or pay for the night before. Personally, I have yet to pay (cash) for the night before.
Another option if you can’t check in early is to get a massage at the hotel spa on the day you arrive. First, it will get all the kinks out from flying. Second, you can sleep/relax. And, the spas usually have great showers and other facilities.
I try to schedule a free walking tour of the city we are visiting for the afternoon we arrive. Because it’s free (you tip at the end based on what you think its worth), you don’t pay anything upfront. That way, if the flight is delayed or we are so tired we just can’t make it, I can easily cancel it. The walking tours are a great way to get an intro to the place and just to help orient you to the layout. In many cities, we have done Sandemans Free Walking Tour. If you are in a city that they don’t offer or want to use someone else just google “free walking tour of …” you will get a whole list. As with any tour, it’s all about the tour guide. Most of the “free tour” guides we have had have been knowledgeable and entertaining–and motivated to please you. I have also done audio tours on our own on that first day but they are less engaging. And signing up for something makes me more likely to show up regardless of how tired we are.
Staying active will help you sleep better that first night. I do try to avoid seeing the key sites on my “must see list” that first day so that it’s not a blur when I get home.