When traveling, do you adjust to local time?

I’m often asked how I get over jetlag and adjust to local time when traveling internationally. The short answer is… I don’t! And it’s kind of intentional.

For years I’d put a bunch of effort into always being on local time, but over the years I’ve decided I actually like being on “my” time.

The thing is that I don’t really have a “normal” schedule no matter where I am. For example, when I’m at home I’m usually going to bed at 1AM-2AM and getting up at 9AM-10AM. That’s not an especially good schedule to be on, especially with the east coast being three hours ahead. So when I travel I like to have almost a polar opposite schedule.

I’ve now been in Bali for almost a week, and am still going to bed by 8PM and getting up before 4AM every morning. When I’m home I never see the sunrise given how late I get up, so there’s something I love about getting up way before dawn, getting mostly caught up on work (given that my “work” is mostly on US time), watching the sunrise, and then enjoying the day. I don’t mind the fact that I’m in bed even earlier than the seniors in Florida.

Now that I think about my travel, I’m almost always up by 3-4AM when abroad. If it’s at a destination where I don’t want to go to bed by 8PM (usually big cities), I’ll typically take a nap in the afternoon. But my desire to be up early goes beyond wanting to catch up on work. I don’t know what it is, but for me one of my absolute favorite parts of travel is waking up at 3AM in a hotel room and asking myself where the hell I am.

And hey, it’s vacation, so why not just sleep when you’re tired?

I’m curious, am I alone on this? What schedule do you keep when traveling abroad (or if you’re in a really “wide” country, like The Russia, domestic coast-to-coast travel counts as well!)?

Filed Under: Travel
  1. “And hey, it’s vacation, so why not just sleep when you’re tired?”

    You mean ‘work’ , right?!!??

  2. “but for me one of my absolute favorite parts of travel is waking up at 3AM in a hotel room and asking myself where the hell I am”

    +1. And I thought I was unique in this respect. I like to get a jump start on the day regardless where I am, including at home in SoCal.

  3. Erm, those of us who have to WORK when we travel (as in, meeting people and talking to them in person – the whole point of business travel!) need to be on the local time. We can’t hold our meetings at 3:00 am, and we need to be awake during dinner at 8:00 pm.

    And those of us who travel in order to experience the culture and sights need to be awake when the locals are awake and when the sights are open (and when transportation to and from the sights is running).

    So, whether I’m on business or on vacation, I always try to adjust to the new time zone.

  4. I adjust to local time the best I can when I travel since most if not all my travels tend to be visiting friends/family working or studying abroad (so it only makes sense as a good guest to adjust to their time.)
    Thus, if I’m going to Asia and my flight is in the morning, I’ll do an all=nighter the night before here in NYC and simply fall asleep during the entire trans-pacific flight to help adjust my body clock.

  5. Since my goal for traveling is typically not vacation/relaxation but local experiences,
    I do my best to adjust to local time. Of course, anything goes in the first 24 hours…

  6. I’ve never had trouble adjusting to local time when I travel – even when I don’t sleep on the plane, I am wide awake until it’s bedtime, local time. Coming back is a different story… it takes about a week to adjust

  7. I always try to adjust, but am also an early morning guy whether at home or on vacation. I can’t sleep on planes, no matter the length or class or adult beverage, but try to arrive in the late afternoon, take a walk in the remaining sun, then go to sleep around 9-11pm. A couple AdvilPM the first couple nights, up at 5am. Works great going, either direction, but for some reason it doesn’t work coming home (California) from either direction. Easier for me to adjust to Asia than Europe for some reason.

  8. I’m with New Girl — I want to maximize my time in my location. Being up at 4 am would not be ideal in this regard

  9. One of the things I like about Asia is a bunch of things are still open at 4 am. Get up, take my time getting ready, and go out around 6 am.

    Europe its a bit more of an issue. There I’ll go to bed and get up later.

  10. Spain (most southern European countries in general) is great for short trips and not adjusting your body clock at all. Nothing happens in Spain before noon anyway and everyone eats at midnight so it’s perfect!

  11. Stay on home schedule for short trips. This is a particularly helpful strategy for kids, too.

  12. Too many people play the mental game of “but it’s really XXX time back home.” When doing this you set yourself up to resist adapting to local times and introduce a way to rationalize fatigue, etc.

    I simply say the time is XXX and go on with my day. It is incredibly rare for me to have trouble with schedules. Accept the local reality and go forth with my day…

  13. The challenge for me comes when I NEED to be on local time, either for business or for socializing. As much as I may want to stay on NY time, that won’t do me any good if I have a meeting in London or in Rome. I did just get back from iceland, and I can say with certainty that 23hrs+ daylight definitely helps to energize the body…until you get home to normal time.

  14. I try to, somewhat, keep to my normal schedule. If on holiday and sightseeing, I am usually in bed earlier and up earlier.

  15. “it’s vacation, so why not just sleep when you’re tired?” Exactly. When recently in Hawaii, my husband and I (EST people) were up with the surfers every morning and in bed pretty soon after sunset most nights. When we needed nightlife, we napped beforehand!

  16. I don’t have a regular biorhythm, so don’t have this problem actually.
    Even at home, some days I go to sleep at 10PM, the other day at 4PM.
    This makes travel easy, I just go to sleep whenever I want to. Sometimes when I HAVE to be on time for something it’s easy to adjust. Just a few days of going to sleep at the right time and I’m OK.

    The key is: just get tired as hell the first day, don’t go to sleep, don’t take naps.
    Even if you arrive at 9AM local time, without getting any sleep the last 24 hours. Add another 12 hours to it. Drink coffee (and a lot of water), just do anything to stay awake.

    Afterwards go to sleep 2 hours before you would actually like to go to sleep at local time. (f.e. if you want 11PM, go at 9PM). You’ll be tired, so falling asleep shouldn’t be a problem.
    You’ll wake up the next day at the time you would like to get up. And you’re kind of adjusted….

    This worked every time for me. But again, without a real regular biorhythm, this isn’t really for everyone.

  17. I used to attempt to adjust no matter where I was going, short or long.

    But now we have kids. Kids don’t adjust. So now we don’t either! I have to say, most of the time it is much happier and easier this way!!

  18. Hard to answer a or b in for an essay answer question.

    Sometimes. Depends on how long i’m going to be in a place, who i’m seeing if anyone and what i’m there to do.

    A weekend run to SYD can easily stay on home time and just be a few hours off of flipped.

    If i’m going away on holiday to relax and be there for a while, i eventually adjust no matter if i want to or not.

    HNL is a good example of the hours you’re keeping in Bali for us here.

  19. Dima, that’s exactly what I do. The tough part, of course, is staying awake all day and into the evening. It helps to do something active – usually for me that means walking around the arrival city to see the sights.

    The first day is actually the easy one, because like you said you’re exhausted near bedtime. Then you wake up at a reasonable hour the next morning – but for the next few days there’s always periods of intense sleepiness during the day, as well as occasionally waking up at 3:00 am. It takes about a week for me to feel completely adjusted no matter what – but staying awake that first day definitely makes the early days easier!

  20. @snic
    Do you go to sleep the next day at the desired time?

    I think it’s also important if you’re a morning person or not. I’m totally not. I NEVER get out of bed good. This means that I ALWAYS want to sleep some more when I wake up. So if I wake up at 3AM, I just think: “nah, just a few hours of more sleep… awesome”

  21. Since I started to have to work nights (and now get woken up at all hours when on call) I have no issue coping with fewer hours of sleep. I therefore travel in business on long haul and switch to local time in my destination when I get on board – if it’s going to be night when I arrive I don’t sleep, if it’s going to be morning I do. Generally works well for me – I managed Europe to Asia then to NZ a week later before coming back and no jet lag at all using this method! We’re all different though – when I did nights I did the same then too (switching my whole routine around by 12h) yet lots of colleagues tried to stay closer to normal day time routine!

  22. I just adjust to the free breakfast time and the executive lounge cocktail hour timing.

  23. I almost always have to go to work upon arrival after a red-eye, so have no choice but to adjust. Not usually an issue within Asia since the change is within 3 hours but doesn’t adjust very quick when going to the US.

  24. I should clarify to the previous point that I take red-eyes out of choice in order to be able to spend additional time with the family.

  25. I try my best to adjust to local time – it doesn’t help that I rarely sleep on flights. For business in London I generally leave Philly after work for the late flight and go right into the office so I need to adjust quickly and push through.
    My UK boss never adjusts, he stays on UK time which is a bit of a challenge for those traveling with him.

  26. I’ll be in Bali in September/October. Haven’t booked yet. Any advance advice based on your stay? I’ve heard the Grand Hyatt is a bit worn. Pity, because I have some suite certificates to use. The Conrad looks nice. Any thoughts on these or others? Thanks.

  27. For someone working as you do, it makes sense to stay on ‘your time’, but I think for a person like me (who stays weeks in one place) it’s better to adjust.

  28. Just going to miss you. I’ll be in Bali next week at the Conrad. Any tips? It will be our first time to Bali.

  29. @ Greg — The Grand Hyatt is indeed a bit run down. I think the Conrad is a great value so would probably choose that in your shoes.

  30. @ Steve — Enjoy your time! Bali is pretty easy to enjoy, not much you’ll miss. One thing I’d recommend is a day trip to Ubud. Go to the rice fields, the monkey forest, and most importantly go white water rafting. Have been to Bali probably 10 times, but did the white water rafting in Ubud for the first time this trip, and it was quite possibly the most fun thing I’ve ever done.

    Have an awesome time!

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