Beating Jet Lag

Dealing With Jet Lag

In the last dozen or two years we have made a number of international trips. There have been times when we hardly experienced jet lag at all, but a few trips took days to recover. Our experience has taught us a few things including what causes the worst jet lag. It seems that traveling east causes more problems with jet lag than traveling west. We also believe that what time the flight starts can have a big impact on how serious jet lag will be. Generally late evening flights are the better than morning flights especially on long trips. Our biggest issue is usually insomnia with the worst being a Singapore to Florida trip that literally took a few days to readjust from.

The most serious issue is flying across time zones where your body times evening becomes the destinations morning (or other way round). In addition to insomnia there is often gastrointestinal issues, and difficulty concentrating.

Instead of just letting it happen you can reduce jet lag by preparing for your flight and making sure during your flight you get as much sleep as possible. After the flight spend as much time as you can out in the sunshine and quickly adjust to the local time.

Here’s what the experts suggest:

Before Your Flight

Adjust Your Schedule

A few days before the trip adjust sleeping and eating schedule. Depending on the trip start a couple of days to up to a week before the flight. Traveling east, go to bed between one and two hours earlier each night. Traveling west, go to bed one or two hours later in the days before the flight. This gives your body a chance to adjust to new time zones ahead of time.

The same applies to your eating a few days before your flight. Change meal times closer to when people eat at the destination so your body gets used to the new meal times. If dinner time is several hours behind in your destination, have your dinner an hour or two earlier than usual.

Stay Hydrated

To reduce stress on your system avoid coffee and alcohol a day before your flight. Studies have shown that drinking coffee and alcohol before you fly can make your jet lag worse. Try to stay away from coffee and alcohol before you are set to fly. Stay hydrated by drinking lots of water leading up to your flight.

Carry a water bottle and fill it in the daparture area. You can also have the bottle filled on the plane so you can stay hydrated while in the air.

Book Flights At The Right Times

Whenever possible book an overnight flight. This allows you to have dinner at a normal time in the evening making it easier to sleep on the flight during the night. Depending on your destination, you then arrive in the morning after an overnight flight having gotten some sleep. This makes adjusting to the new time zone once you land becomes much easier. Try to avoid flights where you land in the evening as these can aggravate jet lag.

Change your watch to the timezone of your destination when you board your flight. If you wear a watch, change the time so it matches the timezone of your destination. You can also adjust the clock on your cellphone. Doing this will help you get accustomed to the new timezone and ready for a new sleeping and eating schedule.

Get Rest During Your Flight

Airlines seem to want to distract passengers during a flight and often provide food, snacks and drinks and often show movies in flight. Even if it’s a movie you wanted to see, is it worth suffering serious jet lag for a day or two afterwords? Travel with a pillow and eye mask. It’s really important that you get some sleep on the plane. You could also pack headphones or earplugs to block out noise or distractions on the flight.

Taking Sleeping Pills

Only take sleeping pills during the flight if you are used to using them. If you are not used to them or taking too many can make you feel groggy when you land, and could end up making your jet lag even worse. Discuss this with your doctor before taking sleeping pill during your flight.

Try and Get Some Exercise

Get out of your seat some and walk in the aisle of the plane, especially during a long flight. Doing light exercise and moving your body can help improve your blood circulation on the flight. It can also help you get to sleep more easily.

Avoiding Jet Lag Once You Land

Get Outside Once You Reach Your Destination*

It’s important to get some exposure to natural sunlight. Light exposure regulates your body’s circadian rhythm and helps you adjust to your new location. If you traveled westward, go outside in the evening so your system realizes it’s late. If you traveled eastward, in the morning get exposed to sunlight early in the day.

*Avoid going outside if you’ve traveled more than eight time zones. If you’ve traveled more than eight time zones to the east, wear sunglasses and stay away from bright light in the morning. Then, try to get as much sunlight as possible in the afternoon.

If you traveled more than eight time zones to the west, avoid outdoor light a few hours before dark for the first few days so you system can adjust to the local time.

Eat At The Local Time

Once at your destination, try to have meals at the local time so your system can adjust. If you land at night, for example, have dinner at the local time. If you land in the morning, have breakfast at the local time.

If you find yourself getting hungry between meals times, have snacks to keep you satisfied. Only have large meals at the local time so you can adjust better to the new time. Keep hydrated. Make sure you have a lot of water with your meals. Dehydration can make your jet lag much worse.

Adjust Your Sleep Schedule.

You should sleep based on the local time and stick to a “normal” sleep schedule. This will make your jet lag less intense and help your body better adjust to the new time zone. If you land in the early evening, stay awake until the late evening so you can go to sleep at the new appropriate time. If you get in early in the day, stay awake until the evening so again your sleep time matches the local time.

Take Melatonin To Help You Sleep

If you struggle with going to sleep in the new time zone, consider taking melatonin. Melatonin is a nonprescription drug that has been shown to help set your internal clock and make going to sleep much easier. Having 3 milligrams of melatonin before bed for several days after arrival can help regulate your sleep schedule. Again talk to your doctor about taking melatonin before you go on your trip.

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River Cruising in Europe Part Two

A Cautionary Tale Part Two

Note: See Part One Here

Low & High Water

We just got home from a European river cruise and it didn’t go as we had hoped. Sometimes the rivers experience high water conditions that prevent the long boats from passing under bridges. In our case, Europe has been suffering a long drought in the Danube and Rhine Regions, and the rivers were so low they kept the long boats from sailing in certain areas.

Our Experience

It is not my intent to single out Viking River Cruises but they are the company we cruised with this year. We were also novices to river cruising and were totally unprepared regarding a couple of areas where we experienced serious problems. We offer what has happened to us as a cautionary tale which will hopefully help others in their planning.

To start, we were very surprised at the number of longboats and cruise boats plying these European rivers. There were places where there were as many as six boats tied up three abreast at the docking area. Along one stretch of the Danube River, in the course of a mile, we passed five of these cruise boats headed in the opposite direction. Not that it affected us, but the traffic was almost unbelievable.

There are a few major companies offering river cruises and more than a dozen smaller ones. Avalon Waterways and Viking River Cruises are probably the two largest with the most experience. In addition to these, the list includes AmaWaterways, Uniworld Boutique River Cruises, Tauck World Discovery, Crystal River Cruises, Scenic Cruises and a number of newer operators. Generally they have similar policies regarding cancellation, itinerary changes and what is covered in a cruise package.

Getting the cruise you want usually requires making a selection over a year in advance so there is no way of knowing the water conditions ahead of time. Most lines reserve the right to modify the itinerary as conditions warrant. To fulfill the contract, this can include putting you on buses and in hotels instead of on boats. Once you show up to take the cruise, except in the case of a medical emergency, you are in their hands through to the end.

Air Fares

Many lines include airfare and transfers in the package price. In our case with Viking we asked if we could remove the air portion as we were considering taking a trans-Atlantic cruise back to the States. Viking’s policy without exception required us to pay for the air portion even if we weren’t going to use it.

Since this was our first river cruise we didn’t know that there were options in approaching airline ticketing. We were advised of a $100.00 per person deviation fee for Viking to schedule us into Budapest a week early. Apparently there is also a program called Air Plus which costs $50.00 and provides you a bit more flexibility with the airline reservations but can also increase the cost of the airfare.

In our case the reservations booked by Viking were terrible and nothing we would ever have arranged for ourselves. Going to Europe we were routed Florida to Frankfort with a connection to Budapest. We had an impossibly short time between flights so we missed our connection. For the return flight we were booked at 7:00 AM out of Amsterdam to Munich, connecting to a flight to Frankfort to catch our flight back to Florida adding up to a twenty-two hour travel day where a normal trip would be less than 13 hours. When we asked for changes to the schedule, we were advised that any alterations would require a change/upgrade fee of $600.00.

Added Tours

Also included in many itineraries are local tours in the cities visited. While this is normally a good feature, in our case Viking’s insistence on providing these tours ended up adding additional hours on buses getting to many of the tour sites. You could stay on the boat and choose not to participate but that meant you missed one of the places on the original itinerary. Some smaller cruise companies either don’t provide tours or charge extra and that should be a consideration when making plans.

Cabin Types

Most cabins on river boats are small and the options are usually a matter of the window size, having a French balcony or a full balcony. We had booked a French balcony cabin with Viking on this trip and if we return to Europe we will probably down grade our selection. First the cabin was so small that it was uncomfortable to use for just sitting (no chairs either) so we spent most of our onboard time in the lounge (there are also suites with sitting rooms). Additionally because when we were docked we were usually tied up to another boat. To avoid looking into another stateroom we usually kept our curtains closed. The French balcony wasn’t a valuable option.

Trip Insurance

Because of the high price of river cruising, in the future we will select trip insurance that allows us to cancel for any reason and pay much closer attention to river conditions weeks before the trip. It seems that an adjusted itinerary is not justification to cancel for many insurance plans including the one we used for this trip.

Information On River Conditions

For more information on river conditions see Ralph Grizzle’s information at River Cruise Advisor, a site that tracks water levels as does River Cruise Information. We will also pay for the air upgrade option (in the case of Viking that’s another $50.00 per person) and become more involved in selecting flights.

On the positive side Viking has recognized that they didn’t deliver what we were expecting and have provided some compensation for all of the problems we experienced, which makes for a slightly better ending to this story.

Traveling With A Starbucks Card

Starbucks is becoming as ubiquitous as McDonalds around the world. We have become accustomed to looking for these outlets as we travel. While we are not huge fans you can expect a consistent coffee offering along with free WiFi from Starbucks as you travel.

We just got home from Europe and we just jumped to conclusions about using our Starbucks Gold Card in Europe from our experience on previous trips. Several years ago we cautiously started using a Starbucks card to purchase coffee in various cities. Over time we came to expect it to work everywhere.

While traveling in Australia and Ireland we were very surprised at how the process worked. After paying with the balance on our card we would get a receipt that showed the amount used in local currency along with the card balance expressed in Dollars and local currency.

After this trip a correction is in order. We were in Hungary, Austria and Germany and our card wouldn’t work at all. Checking the Starbucks web site we found the following statement:

Starbucks Cards activated in any of the participating countries can be used to make purchases and be reloaded in any other participating country. Starbucks Cards must first be activated by loading money onto the card in the country of purchase before being used internationally. The participating countries are; UK, USA, Canada, Australia, Hong Kong, Mexico, and the Republic of Ireland.

I guessed we jumped to conclusions based on too small a sampling. The good news is the coffee was what we expected and the WiFi is still free.

A Hotdog in Vienna

Street Food Is Sometimes A Good Option

We became”pen pals” with an Austrian couple after cruising with them a while back. In one of many e-mail exchanges, we told them we would be visiting Vienna which prompted them to send us a list of things to do while there. High on the list was a hot dog stand behind the State Opera House. Being too intriguing to pass up, as soon as we got into the center of Vienna, with cell phone in hand to navigate, we headed off in search of Bitzingers, the famous hotdog stand.

Arriving shortly after noon there was a line already formed. The customer directly in front of us was a member of the Polizei, the Austrian police. He provided inspiration for our selection choice as the proprietor was filling a carry away bag with a large number of different varieties of hot dogs/sausages/toppings.

Being unable to read the German menu, when it was our turn we very simply asked for two hot dogs, one plain and one with mustard. The preparation process involves having an end sliced, at an angle from what can best be described as a small baguette. The baguette is than pushed down on a stainless spike to make a hole for the hotdog. A squirt of mustard goes into the hole followed by a really good hotdog and than wrapped by a square of foil.

Simple, fast and remarkably tasty. Sometimes following the advice of locals is the best bet. Later while walking around Vienna we passed a couple of other Bitzingers stands, so this isn’t a one-off operation. However, most new visitors to this city are drown to the city center with its palaces, museums, cathedrals and blocks of shops and cafes so knowing the downtown location of Bitzingers could come in handy. It is right behind the State Opera House which is an easy landmark to navigate towards. Also within a few blocks of the Opera House quick a search on your phone with Google Maps should provide a precise directions.

Port of Call Manila

Welcome to Manila

The Port of Manila Philippines

The Port of Manila

Manila is the capital of the Philippines, an island country in Southeast Asia and a major city with a population of 1.7 million. It has been the country’s largest city for about 400 years. It sits on Manila Bay, on the island of Luzon. The Pasig River runs through the middle of the city.

Where You Dock

Cruise ships usually dock at the industrial piers and this can be at a number of locations. Most of the docks are along a half-mile stretch of waterfront only four to eight blocks away from Rizal Park, which is in the center of old Manila. Usually you will be allowed to walk out but be sure and carry an official photo ID.

Jeepneys in traffic
Jeepneys
Transportation

Taxis are readily available and fares are reasonable but you need to be very clear about where you are going and that the driver knows where it is and negotiate a fare before starting out. We had a full address for a restaurant in Pasay, which was less than two miles from where we started and the driver could not locate it.

Arriving in Manila

The Manila Metro Rail Transit System also known as the MRT is a rapid transit system of Metro Manila. Running on just 2 lines and serving 31 stations in total, the 33.4 km long network uses a single destination system (averaging 12 pesos per trip) or a loaded card. The main line runs in a circular north to south route following the alignment of the Epifanio de los Santos Avenue (EDSA). During rush hours the system is usually very full.

Manila is also famous for there unique vehicles. Jeepneys, sometimes called simply jeeps are the most popular means of public transportation in the Philippines. The vehicles were originally created from abandoned WW II Army Jeeps but are now manufactured new in the Philipines. They are known for their crowded seating and fantastic decorations, which have become a symbol of Philippine culture and art. We have never figured out any route system regarding the Jeepneys however, so our recommendation is to use taxis.

Currency

The Philippine peso is the local money with ten pesos equal to about 1 US Dollar. Non-Philippine currency is not usually accepted. We would highly recommend carrying some pesos when you go ashore. There are a large number of exchange operations in Manila and the rate and fees vary widely. Most restaurants and stores will accept most major credit cards.

One time we were short on pesos and our taxi would not accept a credit card so he had to take us to an exchange to convert dollars for his fare.

A Cautionary Note

While we have no firsthand information about crime or how safe this city is, there were a number of indicators that made us question if we should have been walking were we did. Like a large number of security people with shotguns protecting businesses both large and small was one significant sign.

Attractions
Inside Rizal Park
Rizal Park

Rizal Park (Filipino: Liwasang Rizal, Spanish: Parque Rizal), also known as Luneta Park or simply Luneta, is a historical urban park in the Philippines. Located along Roxas Boulevard, Manila, adjacent to the old walled city of Intramuros, it is one of the largest urban parks in Asia. It has been a favorite leisure spot, and a botanical garden and orchid garden.

Popular Fast Food Outlet

Fort Santiago (Spanish: Fuerte de Santiago; Filipino: Moóg ng Santiago) is a citadel first built by Spanish conquistador, Miguel López de Legazpi for the new established city of Manila in the Philippines. The defense fortress is part of the structures of the walled city of Manila referred to as Intramuros. The fort is one of the most important historical sites in Manila.

Manila Ocean Park is the country’s first world-class marine theme park and a premiere educational facility. An integrated urban resort with marine life attractions and aqua-themed hotel, the park is geared towards an all-year, all-weather destination for locals and tourists.

inside the Mall of Asia
Mall of Asia

SM Mall of Asia, also abbreviated as SM MoA or MoA, is a shopping mall in Bay City, Pasay, Philippines, near the SM Central Business Park, the Manila Bay, and the southern end of Epifanio de los Santos Avenue. The mall has a gross floor area of over 3.5 million square feet and if you are into shopping you need to allocate several hours here. A taxi ride back to the cruise pier will cost about twenty dollars but watch the time as Manila traffic can take almost forty five minutes at busy periods.

Finding food in Manila isn’t hard. There are a number of upscale hotels with good restaurants. McDonalds takes a back seat behind a Philippine fast food chain called Jollibee which features burgers, chicken, shakes and the usual fare and a good choice for a quick meal (it is now opening shops in the U.S.). Our favorite restaurant is Singing Cooks and Waiters with a review HERE.

Links to Additional Information

Things To Do

Mall of Asia

Port of Kings Wharf Bermuda

Port of Call Bermuda

Bermuda is a British Overseas Territory or one of the United Kingdom Overseas Territories of which there are 14 that fall under the jurisdiction and sovereignty of the United Kingdom. They are the parts of the British Empire that have not been granted independence or have voted to remain British territories. Bermuda is located in the western Atlantic due east of Hilton Head South Carolina. Even though it is at a northern latitude it is a tropical island being washed by the warm currents of the Gulf Stream. The islands boast a lush landscape that includes a large number of cedars and palm trees. Famous for its beautiful beaches (one pink) it has long been a favorite destination for the wealthy from around the world that probably helps support a reasonably high standard of living for Bermuda.

Where You Dock

The northwest tip of the islands is home to British fortifications that date back to the 17th century and included the dockyards including Kings Wharf which is now home to the cruise piers. The British fortifications were greatly expanded during the American Civil War over fears of attack by the Americans and now house the Bermuda Historical Museum, a dolphin encounter, a glass blowing operation, a nice beach with snorkeling areas and a number of shops and restaurants. The dockyards are also the center of the areas water sport concessions and excursion boats.

 

Transportation

Taxis are readily available but the best way to get around is by public transportation. You can buy a one or two day pass that provides unlimited use of the ferries and buses starting at B$18. Bermuda is actually a set of islands very close together and arranged in the shape of a fish hook. The cruise port is located in the west near the tip of the hook. The town of St. George is near the hook’s eye to the northeast and the capital of Hamilton is near the inside bend of the hook. Most large beaches are on the coast across the island from Hamilton. The islands have about fifty miles of roads serviced by a very good bus system along with regular ferry service between those three major locations. There are also scooters and cars that can be rented but this is not recommended because of the narrow roads and the English left hand driving system.

Money

The local currency is the Bermuda Dollar and is kept on par with the US Dollar. American currency is readily accepted as well as most major credit cards.

 

Attractions

There is a lot to see and do right in the Kings Wharf area but don’t miss visiting Hamilton. There is a large fortification high above Hamilton with sweeping views of the city and beyond. Hamilton is also home to a number of historic buildings and some beautiful architecture. Good restaurants and great shopping are also a feature of Hamilton and a trip out to St. George is highly recommended. Almost everywhere you go in Bermuda boasts great scenery including pocket beaches, attractive seaside villages and historic landmarks.

Horseshoe Bay is perhaps the most famous beach in Bermuda. It has been rated the #8 beach in the world. A popular tourist spot, it lies on the main island’s south coast, in the parish of Southampton.

The Bermuda Aquarium, Museum and Zoo is a facility located in Flatts Village, Bermuda. It was established in 1926 by the Bermuda government.

Crystal Cave is a cavern located in Hamilton Parish, close to Castle Harbour. The caverns are approximately 1,500 feet long, and 186 feet deep. The lower 60 feet of the cave are below water level.

Gibbs Hill Lighthouse. Built in 1844 by the Royal Engineers, is the taller of two lighthouses on Bermuda, and one of the first lighthouses in the world to be made of cast-iron.

Bermuda Institute of Marine Science http://www.bios.edu/#!/who-we-are is a non-profit institute located in Hamilton and features a number of exhibits and programs.

Fort Hamilton Bermuda. Located in Hamilton City, Fort Hamilton is a picturesque site with lush gardens overlooking the harbor. It was built in the mid 1800s to protect the Hamilton Harbor and form a defense from American forces during their civil war.

Somerset Bridge. Advertised as the worlds smallest draw bridge (see our story about the bridge HERE). If you pay attention while taking the bus from Kings Wharf to Hamilton you will drive right across the bridge.

St. George. This is a picturesque town located at the far end of the islands from Kings Wharf serviced by bus or ferry.

Good Sites For Additional Information

Bermuda Tourist Board

 

 

A First Try at Seeing The Emerald Isle

Visiting Ireland On a Rainy Spring Trip

Our first visit to Ireland was this past spring. Most people rave about this lush, green island and we now understand why. I’m not sure if it’s the sense of place, the history or the Irish people but we will surely be back again. This trip we spent eight days traveling around Ireland with an agenda that included Cobh, Waterford, East Dunmore, Cork (including Blarney), Dublin and Belfast.

The Emerald Isle is divided into two parts; the Republic of Ireland in the south (actually about eighty percent of the island) with Northern Ireland in the northeast, which is a part of the United Kingdom. The Republic of Ireland is an independent nation and a member of the EU and uses the Euro. Northern Ireland because of Brexit uses the English Pound. It seems that Brexit created a new riff between the two Irelands and could create new tension going forward. Most of the towns and cities are located along the east coast with high cliffs facing out into the Atlantic on the west coast.

Cobh, The Seaport of Cork

 

Before visiting Cobh we inquired about the weather. The response was “it’s a beautiful day here with just a light rain and a high of 46°”. Welcome to the Emerald Isle.

Because of the rainy weather we spent the first day in Cobh, which is the seaport that serves Cork. It’s a picturesque town with many streets that seem to be running up hills at about forty-five degrees. The principle business seems to be celebrating the fact that the Titanic made its last port of call here. There’s the Titanic Pub, the Titanic Museum and gift shop and memorials to many of the one hundred and thirty passengers that boarded the Titanic here just before it steamed into the Atlantic and history. One pub claimed that several Titanic passengers had their last pint ashore in their pub before sailing (that would be one hundred six years ago) and who can refute that?

 

A monument to a local celebrity is on the pier in front of the visitors center. It is of Annie Moore who is confirmed as the first Irish immigrant to the United States that arrived at Ellis Island. The statue shows her and two younger brothers on the pier as if they are ready to set off on their new life in America.

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The city also has the gorgeous St. Colman’s Cathedral which was started in 1867 but not finished for almost fifty years. The cathedral tower contains the largest carillon in Europe with forty-nine bells. The bells strike on the hour and at fifteen minute intervals and plays a longer program for Sunday Mass and on special events.

Cobh is the end of a train line with easy access to Cork for only a couple of Euros with trains leaving about every twenty minutes. The trip takes less than a half hour with continuing service on to Blarney just a few minutes farther away.

All in all it was a great first Irish day and I realized that to make English a really beautiful language it needs to be spoken with an Irish accent.

East Dunmore, A Seaside Village

This Irish fishing village isn’t far from Waterford and is a quant seaside resort town with a number of bed and breakfasts and upscale hotels. We visited on a Saturday and there seemed to be a surprising number of people in town and at the beach considering there was still a chill in the air. We spent the day walking the coastal trail and visiting the galleries and craft shops.

A Day Trip Out of Belfast

The Giants Causeway

Up on the North coast of Northern Ireland is a geological World Heritage Site named The Giants Causeway. It was created when volcanic magma cooled on the surface millions of years ago and looks much like someone constructed it. It is composed of thousands of basalt hexagonal columns standing in clusters at various heights along the edge of the sea.

When we got to the site the weather was a balmy 42° and clouds were gathering quickly. From the visitors center down to the shore is a good steep walk and while there is a shuttle bus, on a busy day the wait in line for the ride is probably longer than the walk – so off we hiked. Once we got to the bottom it started a light rain with wind blowing at 40 or 50 mph. The temperature also seemed to plummet and when climbing back up I swear there was sleet stinging my face. At one point the wind got inside my hood and it seemed it lifted me off my feet.

 

Once we reached the top we sought refuge in the bar of the Causeway Inn. It was a cozy place and much less congested than the other options. We all had coffee and scones and spent a long time thawing out. Sitting next to us was an Irish family and we got to talking. Asking if they had hiked down yet they replied “No, we live here. We’re staying here keeping cozy while our guests freeze their noses off.” I couldn’t agree more. While it is an amazing place and we would recommend a visit, if we had the option of waiting for a warm and sunny day?!

One of the biggest issues to a planned itinerary with a limited amount of time is you don’t get to change much and you are stuck with the weather that fate deals you. 

DSCN4986Ruins of Dunluce Castle near The Giants Causeway

It would also seem that this area is also used in a number of Game of Thrones episodes. We are beginning to think that we are either just lucky to keep running into GOT sights or perhaps they film just about everywhere?