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Conquering the Red Eye

Posted @ 8:02 am by Tim Ross | Category: Technology, Web Development Process | 1 Comment

You know the scene.  It is 3am body time.  Dinner was a carb-lover’s medley of pretzels, peanuts, and those horrible faux cheese crackers.  The cinematic offering is “Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants.” The kid behind you is doing his best David Beckham.  And the guy sitting next to you snores like a bullmoose and should seriously consider switching to salads.

For most travelers, red-eye flights are about as appealing as watching an all-night Alf retrospective. You won’t die from it, but you certainly won’t enjoy even a minute of it. But sometimes, those dreaded red-eye flights are the only option to maximize time spent at home with your family.  I’m going to depart from our usual blog fodder on web development to share some best practices I’ve developed throughout my own checkered history of red-eye travel.

The Planning…

There are a couple of worthwhile sites to hit.  SeatGuru prevents you from being the schmuck stuck sitting in the non-reclining seat and TripKick prevents you from getting the funky smelling room located right outside all the elevator traffic.  TripIt builds slick consolidated itineraries by parsing forwards of your email confirmations. This site tells you the electrical setups in different countries and this one finds places to charge up in the airport. WiFiHotSpotList is self-explanatory and useful.

The Flight…

You’ll notice a lot of people peacocking their eye masks and neck pillows.  If that works for you, great.  But I’ve never found them particularly comfortable or necessary.  The one accessory that is a “must not forget” are earplugs (noise canceling headphones are great too, but are bulkier and costlier).  Unless you love the melodic sounds of engine noise, wailing babes, and PA announcements (“look everyone, the Salt flats!”), bring a pair of earplugs.  They take up no space and should have a permanent home in your carry on laptop bag, purse, whatever.

For the pharmacologically inclined, I like Ambien. It works fast, you’ll get a solid 4-5 solid hours of sleep, and it does not produce as much post-sleep fog as some other pills.  Always take it right AFTER takeoff and not before.  You do not want to be passing out on Ambien when they announce your flight is (surprise) delayed.  That’s a good way to wake up missing something of value (e.g. your wallet if you’re in New York, or your kidney if you’re in Bangkok).  If you want to avoid catching the guy in 22E’s cold, spray your nose with saline spray and pop an Airborne before the flight.

Lastly, make sure to tell the stewardess that you want to sleep undisturbed and that you pinky-swear to fasten your seat belt.  If you forget (and are using a blanket), they will almost definitely wake you up when there is turbulence because they cannot see/confirm that you are buckled.  As someone prone to growling at people and the occasional inappropriate outburst, this has kept me from being deplaned in plastic handcuffs.

Also once you land, I love those single shot eye drop dispenser (Allergen makes nice ones).  Saves your eyes and take no bag space.

The Arrival…

The most common travel plan goes something like this: arrive at 6am feeling like crap, check in to a hotel and crash for maybe an hour or two, quick shower, and then go mumble through your presentation while your audience yawns and catches up on email.  I did this routine for a couple of years and found the short sleep didn’t help and usually made it a lot worse.

Instead, I like to (in advance) find a gym near my morning meeting that has the following amenities: showers, lockers, towel service, and a steamroom.  It does not really matter what exercise you do as long as you break a sweat.  Exercise will give you a lot more energy than a 1-2 hour fitful nap and helps conquer jet lag.

A lot of nice gyms will also have a spa attached and if there is time I will book a morning massage and a schvitz (the link is for those of you not named Kaplinsky, Anan, or Kilimnik).  This will really work out the kinks from a night spent sleeping vertically and the 30-50 minutes of quiet gives a great opportunity to rehearse your presentation.

Top this off with a light breakfast and a tall coffee and you’ll be totally ready for a day of meetings.

Some Caveats…

This routine will have you in great shape from 10am to 3pm.  By 4pm though, you’ll start to crash hard.  If your presence is required for drinks that evening, make sure to grab a nap first.  Sleep deprivation combined with alcohol will produce a Beavis meets Weekend at Bernies disorder.

The expense report police are likely to freak over the gym and/or massage.  Just help them run the numbers.  A short stay in a hotel room is going to cost anywhere from $100 to $300.  The maximum cost of a day at the gym is $20 and a massage is $100 (gym fee gets comped with the massage).

Happy Flying.

One thought on “Conquering the Red Eye

  1. Shawna Seth says:

    Wow, Tim! I didn’t realize you were a comedian! Great tips (especially in the planning section). I’ll be bookmarking this post for my next red eye flight.

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