Edinburgh, Scotland

Edinburgh Epiphany: Beating Jet Lag in Scotland

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We left for Scotland nine days ago, and the whole trip snuck up on me like a honey badger stalking its prey. With all the excitement—not to mention work—involved in buying a new (old) house, SVV and I have been tirelessly doing manual labor on nights and weekends getting the place in fair enough condition for a mid-October move-in. Add that onto the handful of clients who have kept us busy (in a good way) and working until 2am nightly leading up to my departure, and I found us a week day shy of flying out of Nashville without a single hotel booked for our 16-day trip. Cue the panic attack!

Europe bound

Especially given that this was meant to be my sister’s trip—my mom promised us each a big international vacation when we turned 22; it took me until I was 27 to cash in on this on our romp through South Africa and Kari until a few weeks short of 24 to squeeze it in between grad school and starting her big corporate job in Charlotte—and I was invited along with the stipulation that I planned the whole trip and Mom would fund it. (A pretty decent deal if you ask me!)

Europe bound

It all worked out, of course—it always does—and last Monday, Mom, Kari and I were on a plane for Atlanta, then another to Paris, at which point we landed at Charles de Gaulle to find the biggest clusterf*ck of an airport situation I’ve ever been privy to.

Europe bound

Not only were the airport staff incredibly rude and the airport not at all marked, leading us to lose valuable time aimlessly roaming like the three blind, sleep-deprived mice, but despite not needing to get our bags and take them through customs, we still were made to exit the terminal, re-enter the terminal and go through security again. A security line that snaked its way around the check-in desks for a good third of a mile in each direction (I’m not even exaggerating), and suddenly our two-hour layover turned into, “holy Hell, we have 10 minutes until our flight is set to depart and still haven’t even reached the first part (of three) checkpoints we have to go through!”

Paris from the plane

The airport employees continued to be rude and unhelpful, shrugging their shoulders every time we relayed our plight and yelling at us to get back into line. Apparently, de Gaulle is always this bad, several “regulars” told us as much, and apparently, I have just been really fortunate to never have used it as a stopover point before. Finally, I grabbed one airport employee who actually looked kind, and she ushered the three of us to the front of the line and through security without them so much as checking our passports.

Once we arrived at the Air France gate after boarding was allegedly closed—they were still waiting on more than 10 people who had checked into the flight but not arrived at the gate; that’s how bad the airport situation was—the terribly rude Air France employee yelled at us: “You have been on the ground for two hours and 15 minutes!!! Where have you been?!?!” which made me want to slap her in the face as I had had to pee urgently since the moment the seat belt sign came on during our Paris descent and we hadn’t so much as a spare second for a bathroom break. Wow, Air France (and de Gaulle in general), way to live up to the France stereotype. (I should add that I do love France as a country and have never believed what they say about Parisians; I just never ever will fly through this airport again even if it means taking a route that’s more expensive and takes longer.)

Europe bound

We finally touched down in Edinburgh a mere 20 hours after leaving home, and took a cab to our hotel in New Town. This is when our bedraggled selves committed the cardinal sins of all travelers: We decided to take a nap. Hey, can you blame us? We hadn’t slept in the past two nights given that neither Kari and I can ever fall asleep the night before a flight, and the France scenario had left us all a bit stressed. I’ve never been a napper, or much of a sleeper in general (I blame my highly-anxious, perfectionist personality), so I figured this would be OK: I’d rest for 20 minutes, wake them up, then we’d be on our way.

You can see where this is going. Three hours later, and the hotel gal knocked on our door and I woke up to find it was 3pm. Not only that, but it was an absolutely gorgeously sunny day, a rarity in Edinburgh, and I hated that we’d wasted nearly all of it. So I roused Mom from her slumber, while Kari continued to snooze peacefully on the couch, and though we both felt like we’d been hit by a bus, we figured some Vitamin D would do us some good.

Beating Jetlag

And we were so glad we did this, too. It’s long been said the cure to jet lag is getting out into the sun so your body can quickly adjust to the new schedule. After a stop for a coffee and a scone (with jam and clotted cream, natch), we were rejuvenated and the adrenaline of being back in Edinburgh took hold.

We didn’t want to do any of the big tourist attractions without Kari, so we wandered aimlessly as I pointed out “that’s where I used to go with Evan and Francie when we were feeling fancy!” (Opal Lounge) and “that’s where I used to buy clothes when I wanted something cool to take back and wear in the States!” (TopShop or Monsoon). We watched bagpipers pipe and cute Scottish dogs be, well, cute Scottish dogs, and were overall giddy and merry at just being present in Scotland.

We returned to the hotel around 6pm in time to shower before dinner in Stockbridge with my former flatmate Jo and her adorable fiance Henry (whom my Mom kept calling “Harry” as he’s ginger like the Prince) at Purslane.

Dinner at Purslane

Purslane was absolutely delightful, by the way, and I would 100 percent recommend you go there for the £25-for-three-courses dinner deal they offer nightly. Everything we had was divine!

Purslane in Edinburgh

Mom and Kari went back to the hotel and crashed after dinner, while I stayed out with Jo and “Harry,” visiting a bar down the street, Hector’s, that was full with locals and their dogs. It was the perfect first evening back in my fair city, and I got back to the hotel around midnight before reading a bit (more Tropper—I’m obsessed) and finally crashing.

Purslane in Edinburgh

While I’ve gotten sleepy every afternoon like clockwork, I haven’t yet let jet lag mess up my daily schedule. Mind over matter, after all. I continue to go to bed around 2am, get up around 8am, and spend the day seeing every last monument and attraction I can. I will let you in on a little secret since we’re all friends here: I take a sleep aid the first couple nights I’m in any new country in order to get in sync with my new time zone as quickly as possible. This can be something prescription like Ambien or Lunesta, something over-the-counter like Tylenol PM, or something natural like melatonin or valerian root. (Obviously, check with your doctor first to see what’s best for you.)

Europe trip

Other than that, I abide by the philosophy that I can sleep plenty when I’m dead and that I can go a week or two without for the greater good (in this case, travel). I also have found that sensory deprivation helps loads, whether it’s a sleep mask or ear plugs (both of which I travel with always) paired with heavy drapes, as does a dose of exercise. (I wish I could say I’m one of those people who always uses the hotel gym, but I’m more of a city walker instead.)

Here’s where you weigh in: What tips do you have to conquering the dreaded lag?

COMMENTS
  • September 26, 2012

    As I’m about to deal with a short jet lag going to Chicago I’ll try the Vit D thing and stay awake the day I get there. So much to do in so little time means I don’t want to sleep away the days.

  • September 26, 2012

    On my last two short trips to Europe I had long layovers after my overnight leg (8 hours in Amsterdam, 6 hours in Paris). I traveled into the cities and walked around for a few hours, before my second, shorter flight. It helped that I arrived at my final destination at a time where it was reasonable to just eat and get in bed, but I think the opportunity to get some fresh air and exercise (and non-airport food) helped with relieving the jet-lag. I honestly felt like I had adjusted by the next day, which was awesome given those trips were just a week long and it was a 9-hour time difference from the west coast. But I had the worst case of jetlag ever (it lasted a whole week) when I went to Norway last fall. I don’t know what I did differently – I guess spent time awake but indoors? – but it was awful! I’m slightly worried about the jetlag on my next jaunt to Norway given there will only be 4 hours of daylight when I arrive and I’ll be starting a job (!!!eeeek!!!) less than a week later.

    I’m reading a Tropper book right now (perhaps I got the suggestion from you?) and I am loving it!

    • September 26, 2012

      I’ve read Everything Changes, Book of Joe and This Is Where I Leave You (just finished last night). I’m savoring reading the next two I have in my queue as I love his books so much and only think he has six out and don’t want to blow through them all so quickly. He is such a brilliant writer!

      And the worst jet lag I’ve had to date was when I arrived in Oslo (via Copenhagen via Chicago via San Francisco) and didn’t sleep at all on the way over, and being that it was July and 20-hours-of-sun-a-day, I had trouble sleeping at all during the nights, too. (This is before I discovered Ambien, it goes without saying.)

      P.S. CONGRATS on the job!

      • September 26, 2012
        Kelly

        I had lots of trouble sleeping there this June! Do you take the ambien on the flight? I feel like some of those flights are short (my flight from Seattle to Reykjavik was only 6 hours!) that I would still be drowsy when we arrived.

        I have a business class ticket (it was fewer miles than an economy ticket, how awesome!) from Newark to Oslo in January. That is going to rock my world!

        • September 26, 2012

          Ambien on flights doesn’t work for me. I couldn’t figure out why either as I sleep soundly while at home taking it (or in a hotel), but my cousin, an ER doctor, told me it’s because it only helps you sleep in an environment where you’re comfortable/relaxed.

          Business class–lucky you! I always try to get biz class when I’m using miles because if you’re flexible with your times, it’s usually not too many more miles.

  • September 26, 2012
    Sara

    Looks like a great time! I totally take a sleep aid as well the first few nights, I agree it makes a huge difference!

    • September 26, 2012

      What do you use? I’ve tried melatonin and valerian in an effort to go more “natural” but both seemed to have kept me up even longer!

  • September 26, 2012

    I had a rotten experience at CDG once, too! Ended up having to get a hotel when I was just planning to sleep in the airport because the stupid staff told me to exit & come back in, but then security was closed. It was ridiculous. Glad you gals are having so much fun on your adventure though!

    • September 26, 2012

      I feel like given that you and I used JFK as a base for so many years, we’re good experts on the matter!

  • September 26, 2012
    Ris

    Wow your CDG experience sounds terrible! I flew Air France from Chicago to CDG a few years ago and had the complete opposite experience–it was wonderful! Who knows? My jetlag tip is try to get on the local time as soon as possible, and use caffeine rather than sleep to get acclimated!

    • September 26, 2012

      Maybe because you weren’t in transit? I think that CDG wouldn’t have been so terrible had we not been connecting there (though given I only allow myself an hour and a half before a flight, if I had arrived to check in and seen that monstrosity of a line, I would have panicked, as well!).

  • September 26, 2012

    I feel like I need to personally apologize for CDG. I unfortunately can’t avoid flying there ;-0 but I am *used* to it and cough-cough accept it for what it is. But it is a terrible experience and people remember Paris for these experiences!

    • September 26, 2012

      I almost didn’t mention how much I disliked CDG as I didn’t want to offend you or Lindsey! But I do love Paris/France, and seriously, I have never experienced anything quite like that in airport disorganization!

  • September 26, 2012
    Helen

    I am delighted to have professional vindication of my long-time assertation that CDG is the Worst Airport in the World. It makes coming home the most depressing travel experience ever, especially when followed up by an RER trip into Paris – dirt, surly staff, pickpockets, the works… Having said that, we did find one helpful staff member at CDG once too, there’s always one!

    • September 26, 2012

      Such a shame, as Paris is a great city otherwise! From now on, I’m just going to fly into London if I need to go to France and take the train down!

  • September 26, 2012

    I can empathize…I never realized how good Air Canada was, and how good most North American airports are, until I started flying with the Luftwaffe through European airports. I normally go through Frankfurt on my way to and from work in Africa…not too bad once you know what you’re doing. But cheery places they are not.

    As for jet lag, I think I’ve got it cased, actually. I make sure I don’t drink any alcohol on the flight across the pond, I eat light, hydrate really well prior, but not during the flight, and…I take the blue pill (not that blue pill, but a prescribed sleeping aid). I take one immediately after the inflight meal is served. I combine this with earplugs AND active noise reduction headphones, and I sleep like a baby. I normally manage to get about 4 hours of sleep, which is sufficient to make it through the next day. And for safe measure, I take another blue pill when I go to bed the first night at destination, just to be sure I don’t wake up at 2 a.m.

  • September 26, 2012

    Oh, I am just PAINFULLY jealous of your trip! I need to visit Edinburgh again soon.

    NyQuil used to be my jet lag ally, as I find it far, far harder to get to sleep when I’m supposed to (the pressure!) than I do to stay awake when I don’t want to. I can stay awake like nobody’s business. I’d take a NyQuil on the plane then one (so, half a dose) for each of the first few nights, just to get myself over the hump.

    However, as of my last international trip, being a breastfeeding mom with a toddler in tow, I had to forgo NyQuil and it sucked. Really, really sucked. Rhys had trouble falling asleep at night for the first half of the trip (he was up at 1am the first night, not having slept a wink, singing songs and asking for apples). We just had to muscle through; by day 5 or so I think we’d all adjusted nicely.

  • September 26, 2012
    Adrienne

    Funny, I had an incredibly similar experience in DeGaulle once. I was enroute from Poland to Iceland and I had to change airlines. I had a pretty long layover but there were no signs anywhere and I was hopelessly confused as to how to get to the Icelandair gates. I asked so many people for help and everyone was just unbelievably rude and/or ignoring me, despite the fact that I was 1) an 18 year old kid, 2) on the verge of tears and 3) trying to speak French, which I took 4 years of in high school and was quasi-fluent in at the time. DeGaulle is the worst. I will never fly there again, except when Paris (which I adore as well, despite the rudeness of the people in the airport) is my destination.

  • September 26, 2012
    Briel K.

    Yikes! The France part sounds horrible but yay for finally making it to your destination. I can’t believe that you didn’t book your hotels until that late. I am stressed just thinking about leaving it until the last minute like that. Since you are a pro though I’m sure it was easier for you to find deals/places.

    Which Tropper are you reading? I’m re-reading This is Where I Leave You. I think I’ve read all of his books now except for How to Talk to a Widower. Love him.

    I can’t remember but have you read Gone Girl? I read that and then had to read her other two books. Really dark but so good!

    • September 28, 2012

      Oh hi, we are the same people (just on different coasts). I finished This Is Where I Leave You just two days ago and am reading How to Talk to a Widower next (with a brief Gillian Flynn interlude–Sharp Objects–because I’m so afraid of reading everything Tropper has written and not having anything left of his to love on). Yes, I read Gone Girl back on my vacation this summer in about a day. Sharp Objects is also excellent, and I no doubt will be reading Dark Places after my next Tropper. (I also have his newest book on my Kindle but have yet to read it.) I could be happy in a world where all I ever read was Jonathan, Gillian and YA dystopian lit!

      And I downloaded Babel today by Mumford as our road trip soundtrack up the west coast of Ireland tomorrow. Win and Win!

  • September 26, 2012
    Cheryl

    I learned from a good friend in Australia that the best way to beat jet lag is that the instant you get on the airplane, start living as if you are already at your destination. For example, If it is 10pm where you are traveling, take a sleep aid and sleep until it is 6am in that country. Set your watch to that time immediately. I tried this when I flew to Paris and it worked completely! I had always had a horrible time with jet lag, but on that trip I had absolutely none!

    • September 28, 2012

      That’s assuming you can sleep, period! I am a terrible sleeper, on land or in a plane–my mom said I’ve been that way since a baby. Confession: I have to take Ambien every night even when not flying, and I just can’t sleep on an overnight flight at all (no matter what sleep aids or how much wine I drink!). It’s the pits, really.

  • September 26, 2012
    Other Kristin

    You broke the cardinal rule on Jet Lag – but you owned it. DON’T TAKE THAT NAP! Then, again, you nailed it, light sleep aid the first night. Also, more water, less wine the first day. Re-hydrate your body.

  • September 26, 2012

    I push through the exhaustion and stay awake (no naps!) to go to bed at the right hour. I guess I’m lucky because I’m usually adjusted after that first tiring day and getting a full night’s sleep. I don’t think I actually have Circadian rhythms…. I just need to get 8 hours of sleep every time I do sleep.

  • September 27, 2012

    Ah. I was supposed to have a really short layover at CDG a couple of years ago on my way to London, and read many horror stories about that place. Luckily (or depending on how you look at it, not so luckily) we had to divert to Shannon, Ireland due to engine failure. I most definitely would’ve missed my flight.

    And a big yes to sleeping aids. Tylenol PM, coffee, and never napping are my sure fire ways to beat jet lag.

  • September 27, 2012
    Allison

    Kristin —

    I have to share my recent experience with CDG in March. My boyfriend and I traveled to Florence, Italy via Air France with a layover in CDG. Thankfully, a good friend of ours who is from France warned us of the cluster that CDG is. However, we never realized that even with a 2 hour layover would be such a hassle. Once we trekked through customs we found it difficult to find the terminal our connection was based out of. To our surprise we had to wait for a bus outside of the first terminal — which is supposed to arrive every 6 minutes. Sadly, the bus arrived over 20 minutes late and completely packed with travelers. Determined to not miss our flight we squeezed in and crossed our fingers to make it on time. Again, to our surprise we were expected to travel through security again. Thankfully we made it to our gate just as Air France was about to close the door. All in all — I will never travel through CDG unless my final destination is Paris.

    • October 2, 2012

      That was the biggest problem of all: We could NOT find our way around! There were no signs, no airport employees, virtually no way to find if you were going the wrong way. I found it all so maddening! Ditto to your last statement: The only way you will find me using CDG is if I’m going to Paris for some reason or another. Even then, though, I can’t imagine going through those security + customs lines again…

  • September 27, 2012

    I hate travel stress! But that bed looks so comfy, it makes me want to take a nap right now.

    I usually force myself to stay awake and go to sleep at close to the right hour in the country I am in. I also plan on my first day being a wash so I’m not totally disappointed when the lag catches up.

  • September 28, 2012

    Great pic of Edinburgh, one of my favourite cities in the whole world! And yes, you’re right…nothing better for curing jetlag than some sunshine and fresh air (and loads of coffee) ha!

    • September 29, 2012

      I am one of those freaks of nature who is unaffected by caffeine. (It blows. For real.) And yet, I always use the “need coffee!” excuse just because I like the taste and the warmth and the ritual!

  • September 28, 2012

    I’ve never actually experienced jet lag in travels, since I’ve never traveled far enough to. What I do have to fight periodical, however, is a messed up sleep schedule from work. Show finishes at 11pm, strike comes down at around 1am, and we have to be back the next day at 6am. We all need to get as much sleep as humanly possible, because the next day is going to be a long one, but we’re all still suffering from “gig brain” where our minds are still buzzing and we still feel like we’re going a million miles an hour. So we try to come to a complete and instant stop so we can get a few precious hours of sleep, except that we can’t sleep, which freaks us out, so now our brains are sitting there thinking, “SHUT UP, WE HAVE TO SLEEP!” And now, instead of only getting a few hours of sleep we get no hours of sleep and now have to work another 16 hour day. Sleep aids definitely help, and caffeine fills in the blanks!

    • September 29, 2012

      What you just said is exactly why I could never be a doctor…or a flight attendant for that matter. I can’t nap, can barely sleep six hours through the night, definitely can’t sleep in flights, and trying to sleep during weird off-peak hours would just not cut it.

  • September 28, 2012

    A) CDG airport and Air France employees SUCK. SUCK! And I do not use that term lightly. The only good thing about Air France is their free wine.

    2) I have no good tips on jet lag. I suffered mightily while in Ireland, wide awake at 3 am, and not rolling out of bed until 9 or 10, and then getting ridiculously sleepy again around 3 pm. GAH. Sleep and I can never seem to work out a good relationship. Ever.

    3) TROPPER! YAY! I love his stuff. LOVE IT! Sadly, I’ve already read the books that are available via the library for Kindle. Hard covers here I come for the rest of them….

    • September 29, 2012

      OMG, I totally took advantage of that free wine! Three glasses of champers before bedtime =)

      I’ve now read Everything Changes, Book of Joe and This Is Where I Leave You. I couldn’t possibly pick a favorite. I also have his new one and How to Talk to a Widower on my Kindle but am saving them as I don’t want to run out of Tropper before he gets around to writing another!

      • September 30, 2012

        I hear you! Kind of like what I ended up doing with Rhys Bowen’s Her Royal Spyness books. 😉 (Though now I’ve started on the Molly Murphy series, and I think there’s a Constable Evans series that I also want to check out!)

  • September 28, 2012

    My family has gotten used to traveling since my dad was in the military. I could say my body can adjust pretty easily with time zone differences.

    • September 29, 2012

      That’s an amazing skill to have–don’t ever take it for granted! Traveling or not, I have always had trouble sleeping ever since childhood. It’s the pits!

  • September 28, 2012

    2012 has been the worst year of my life in terms of airports and flying. Every single flight I’ve been on has been canceled or delayed and my luggage has been lost twice. My last international experience was so bad I almost vowed to never get on the plane again!!! Soooo I totally felt your pain when reading this. My cure for jetlag is sunshine and coffee. I also find that if I’m really excited about photographing something/someplace I quickly forget I’m exhausted.

    • September 29, 2012

      What is it about air travel in 2012 that’s made it so damn difficult for EVERYONE? It’s so ridiculous. I just dread flying, unless I’m going somewhere domestic and it’s a direct flight (and even then…). Remember back in the good ol’ days (uh, before we were born!) when flying was so glamorous? The Pan-Am days? I wish we still lived then, to some extent.

  • September 29, 2012

    Yay! Now that I see the similarities in our all-girl family trips I’ve been excited to read about yours 🙂 The Luna girls are adorable — and it doesn’t hurt that you are in one of my favorite countries. Scotland, le sigh!

    • September 29, 2012

      I really think the six of us need to vacation together sometime. That would be a riot. Scotland in 2014? Glasgow-Edinburgh combination trip? =)

      • October 3, 2012

        Yes yes yes! Sign me up. And for once I’ll let someone else plan the trip 🙂

  • October 2, 2012
    Bonnie Jean

    I flew thru CDG on Sept 21 and I totally agree with you! Our flight from Budapest was late so we only had 40 minutes to get thru passport control and security and on to our gate for our connection to Atlanta. The line for passport control was ridiculously long with no priority lane for quick connections. Then some couple made the agents mad and they began yelling that they wouldn’t take anyone else at the window until everyone (all 200+) standing between the glass and the yellow line got behind the yellow line! Impossible. The passport guys in Paris are the worst too! They always want to flirt and make small talk – meanwhile my flight is showing last call for boarding on the monitor above their heads – they DO NOT care. Air France ended up holding the plane even though they gave my seat away and I had to sit in the last row. And, it’s ALWAYS hot in that airport. From now on, I think I’m going to connect in Amsterdam. But, I do love the food on Air France flights. For jet lag, I take Advil PM the first night and caffeine helps when I wake up in the morning.

  • October 2, 2012

    “without a single hotel booked for our 16-day trip” – This makes me break out in a cold sweat, and yet I’m notoriously bad about waiting until the very last minute to make any sort of travel plans.

    • October 2, 2012

      You and me both, sister. I’m a total Type A planner and have never been as stressed about a “vacation” as this one. Sadly, actual work and buying/renovation a house took priority over trip-planning…well, that and it is impossibly hard to find accommodation for three people in Scotland? They’re all rooms for two–who knew???

  • October 5, 2012

    Couldn’t have said it better myself.

  • October 11, 2012

    Usually, whenever we travel to far away lands, which isn’t too terribly often, we try to hit the ground running, jumping into whatever time zone we’re in and trying to push ourselves to make it to a reasonable bedtime. When we went to London, after flying over on a red eye and landing at 10:30am, we wandered the city until about 9:30pm and then CRASHED, but then we woke up the next day at a reasonable time and all was good. I really wish I could figure out how to sleep on airplanes because I think that would make the transition far easier.

  • October 25, 2012

    You don’t find that non-natural sleep aids make you drowsy/sluggish the next day? I usually use melatonin (I’ve read it’s just a placebo… but, whatever works!) I guess I’m getting old, but I need more than 6 hours of sleep… especially if I’m going to be sight-seeing all day. I don’t know how you do it; you’re amazing.

    P.S. I can’t remember if I thanked you for the email re: Barbados. Sorry. I suck. We decided to put that trip on hold, but I’m sure your advice will come in handy someday. Thanks again!

  • October 12, 2015

    I don’t know if it’s just me or if perhaps everybody else experiencing problems with your site. It looks like some of the written text in your posts are running off the screen. Can someone else please provide feedback and let me know if this is happening to them too? This might be a issue with my web browser because I’ve had this happen before. Appreciate it

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