The Best Flights to Ease Jet Lag When Travelling to or From New York

May 22, 2019

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New York is one of the most popular destinations for Brits. But what’s good about being the ‘city that never sleeps’ if you spend your first few nights falling asleep at the dinner table thanks to being jet-lagged?

Having travelled back and forth between London and New York several times in the past year, I’ve realised that flying at certain times of the day has significantly reduced my jet lag. While 93% of travellers will be affected by jet lag at some point, it affects some people far worse than others. Personally, I get floored by it. So when I discovered that being clever about my flight times had a significant impact on my jet lag-induced delirium, I couldn’t wait to start spreading the news.

Jet Lag in a Nutshell

Putting it simply, jet lag is just the consequence of our internal, circadian clock being out of rhythm with the time at our arrival destination. While there is no actual cure for it, there are certainly many methods out there for trying to reduce the effects once you have landed at your destination. Whether it’s staying awake as long as possible, eating at the right time on the flight, doing exercise when you wake up or any other method. None of that has really ever worked for me, so discovering this little hack could not have come soon enough.

The Flights

Let’s get down to it. There are dozens of flights each day between the two cities. The majority of the London to New York flights depart in the morning and take anywhere from around seven to eight hours. Throw the five-hour time difference into play and you’ll end up arriving in New York in the early afternoon or worse, it could still the morning. This is generally not good for jet lag because it means you then have to stay awake the entire day when you’re probably already exhausted.

What I do now is get a flight later in the day — usually any time from after 5pm, meaning that I arrive in New York anywhere from around 8pm. Clearing security, collecting bags and getting into the city can be around two hours or more. By the time you get to your accommodation, you’re absolutely knackered and can go straight to bed and hopefully avoid being wide awake in the early morning hours.

Most airlines that operate the London to New York route offer a later departure, including American Airlines, British Airways, Delta Air Lines, Norwegian, United Airlines and Virgin Atlantic, so there should be able to find an option that suits you — whether that’s using points and miles or cash.

Flying back to the UK usually means a night flight. Due to the jet stream, this flight can take as little as five hours and 13 minutes, which means there really isn’t much time for sleep — especially if you want to eat on the plane. You then arrive in London at an early morning hour and have to stay awake for the whole day — or worse, go to work — on very little sleep.

I recommend getting on one of the five nonstop daytime flights back to the UK. The downside is that you technically ‘lose’ a day of your holiday in New York as you spend what seems to be an entire day travelling. But the major plus is that you arrive back to London in the evening. Tiredness from the journey and the fact that it will more than likely be dark when you arrive should mean that you’re able to get a good night’s sleep before work the next day. So much better than arriving at 6am and falling asleep in your meetings, right?

Bottom Line

While there is no surefire cure for jet lag, I’ve had great luck by making these adjustments to flight times. If you happen to be travelling with your family, check out these jetlag tips for kids. For your next trip across the pond, try taking one of these flight times in order to — hopefully — feel significantly less exhausted while you’re in New York, allowing you to have a better time than if you’d have been jet-lagged.

Featured photo courtesy Getty Images.

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