What Time Should I Depart for Asia to Avoid Jet Lag?
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TPG reader Brandon sent me a message on Facebook to ask about jet lag:
“My wife and I are flying from San Francisco to Hong Kong this fall. What’s easier on the body: arriving in the morning or evening?”
There are entire books on the subject of how to avoid jet lag, and you can find all kinds of strategies for keeping your body in rhythm after a long-haul flight. Personally, I feel much better if I can just sleep on the plane, stay hydrated and avoid alcohol (sometimes challenging when the good stuff is readily available), but one of the easiest ways to minimize the effects of jet lag is to plan an itinerary that preserves your routine as much as possible.
Flying from the West Coast to East Asia, I would prefer a late departure with a morning arrival. For example, both Cathay Pacific and Singapore Airlines offer daily nonstop flights from SFO to HKG that depart around 1:00 am and arrive around 6:30 am the following day. It’s a 14-hour trip, so I’d try to stay awake for the first few hours of the flight, and then hopefully get a full rest before landing. You might still be tired that day, but if you can lean on a few coffees and make it until sundown without napping, then you should feel pretty normal the next morning.
In my experience, an evening arrival with that much of a time difference is more challenging. Even if you don’t get a full night of sleep on the plane, your body will think it’s morning and you’ll have a harder time going to bed that night, making it more likely your jet lag will linger into the next day and beyond.
Of course, seat selection is important too. There are plenty of great business- and first-class options for flying to Asia, and while they tend to cost more than similar awards to Europe, some are priced very reasonably. If you don’t have enough miles to fly in a premium cabin, Asian carriers also offer some of the best economy and premium economy seats on international flights. A favorable itinerary won’t do you much good if your entire ride is uncomfortable, so I recommend you research your seating options as well.