So the bags are packed, and there are mere days until your trip. Unless you’re coming in from another part of Europe or certain sections of Africa, you’re going to have to contend with that ugly monster known as jet lag. Now I’ve traveled for years back and forth between North America and France – my early years of residence in Paris always included carting a baby and small child along with me – and yet I’ve rarely experienced any jet lag. My secret? Eat for your destination. A few days before your flight, start backing up your meals. Eat earlier each day, to set yourself on that French clock, which is six hours ahead of the U.S. east coast. On departure day, grab a bite at the airport if you must, but skip the meal on the plane – it’ll only confuse your body clock. And think twice about taking an in-flight “remedy” (I’m not going to point fingers at other parents, but I will say that on more than one occasion another mom has offered to share her cough syrup so my children could sleep better – thanks, but I think I’ll take a pass.) When you arrive, cram three meals into the day if you can. Who says you can’t have your café and croissant two hours before lunch, or that dinner can’t come a mere three hours after your mid-day meal? Plus, a bit of French food will help you walk – a stroll along the monument lined boulevards, through the fragrant flower gardens, or past delectable shop windows will be your Parisian prize for that long flight. And getting yourself moving will ward off thrombosis, reset your internal compass, and get you ready to indulge in one of those delicious gourmet repasts so eloquently described in your in-flight magazine.
But you can’t walk until you get into the city. Three words here: avoid the RER B. Oh sure, you can save a few euro if you take the train instead of the Air France bus or a taxi. But will it be worth it if you’re parted from your luggage? This stretch of the commuter train line is now notorious for pickpocketing – the “bump and grab” is a favorite move. (Someone bumps you, thus distracting your attention, while someone else makes off with your goods.) You don’t want to lose your bank card – bringing a card with a computer chip imbedded in it is a must and will save you beaucoup d’argent (lots of money). Most, but not all, bank cards will work throughout France – but don’t take your bank’s word for it. Try to use your card at home in a competing bank’s machine. As long as your card chip can be read (and it better be readable, if you plan to use your bank card as a credit card in France) you should be able to use your card in all major ATM bank machines. The directions will appear in a range of languages, and you will receive your money in euros, at a very fair price. No need to waste time in those bureau de change on the Avenue des Champs-Elysees. In addition to major banks, the blue and yellow “La Poste” post offices have cash machines on the sidewalks, which are also safe to use. Just be sure you KNOW your pin – French machines will only give you a few tries. If you get the number wrong after a few incorrect attempts, the ATM machine will swallow the card.
Now go eat – you need to get on French time.
What is your remedy for jet lag?