Experience Germany Like a Local

© 2015-2017 Polar Bear Studio LLC, All images unless otherwise noted, text, and website design, all rights reserved.
Disclosure: Please note that some links are affiliate links, and at no additional cost to you, we earn a commission if you make a purchase.
If you would like to support this website in some way, using these links will help do exactly that.

How I Sleep on a Plane and Conquer my Jet Lag

My 'Sleeping On a Plane' Essentials, Tips and Resources for Conquering Jet Lag on the International Flight

I love traveling, walking through airports, seeing people arrive and depart. I’m as excited as a little kid for Christmas every time, and I plan weeks in advance. In my first years of trans-atlantic flying I never had a plan for sleeping on the plane or conquering jet lag. I sure hoped I could sleep for a while, but after waking up and looking at my watch, only 30 minutes had passed and I was wide awake for the rest of the flight.

When you travel to Germany from the United States you arrive in the morning of the next day, and you are six hours ahead of your inner clock. With no sleep on the plane I feel sluggish and have a hard time remaining awake when I see my family and friends for the first time in months, if not a year. Here are a few tips and products that keep me sane and rested when I travel to Germany.

Although our content is available for free, this blog currently earns as an Amazon associate in order to operate. All of the links in this post are Amazon associate links, and at no additional cost to you, we earn a commission if you make a purchase. All opinions and recommendations are our own, and come from experience with the product or service.

My 'Sleeping On a Plane' Essentials, Tips and Resources for Conquering Jet Lag on the International Flight

My 'Sleeping On a Plane' Essentials

In order to get about 3 to 4 hours of sleep on the plane, I use Melatonin to help me fall asleep and Zzzquil to keep me asleep. Melatonin is a natural hormone produced by our body when it gets dark in the evenings. Taking a Melatonin pill signals your body that it is indeed bedtime. Zzzquil contains the antihistamine Diphenhydramine (also found in the allergy medication Benadryl) and helps you relax and sleep better. I take one dose of each with the airplane dinner service, which makes me sleepy 30 to 45 minutes later and I dose off. If you want to try either of these two pills, I highly recommend to try them at home before your flight. Do not take Melatonin or Diphenhydramine for the first time on a long haul flight, not knowing how your body will react to it and talk to your doctor about possible side effects.

On a side note: You can only buy Melatonin in the United States, not in Germany. Germany requires you to be over 55 years old to have a prescription filled for Melatonin (sold as Circadin in Germany).

Melatonin and Diphenhydramine will make you fall asleep and keep you asleep, as long as there are no loud sounds or movement around you. To avoid waking up during my much needed nap time, I use in-ear headphones and play one of my favorite podcasts, audiobooks or calm music on repeat. The in-ear headphones seal off the ears and the podcast or music drown out enough airplane noise for me to relax and sleep. For more money, you can also invest in noise-canceling headphones, which will cancel out monotonous sounds like airplane noise completely. For less money get some foam ear plugs.

Your Home Until Germany; How I sleep on a plane and conquer my jet lag

Two more items that help me sleep on a plane are a sleep mask and a travel pillow. Both are rather inexpensive and light, making it easy to add to your carry-on luggage. The sleep mask seals off any light from hitting my eyes and the travel pillow keeps my head from falling. Each transatlantic flight does provide you with a pillow (and a blanket), but the pillow is too small for me and does not give my head any stability while I doze off.

Making the Hours Fly By With a Great Book, click for Denise's favorites

Entertainment For Making the Hours Fly By

Make sure to also bring a magazine (or several…) or a book on board with you. Here's a bunch of books Denise and I have read and loved. If reading will not make you tired, it will at least kill some time on the long flight. For more entertainment, have your favorite electronic device handy. Download movies, podcasts or audiobooks before your flight and make sure your device is charged. Twice I’ve had a seat where the in-flight entertainment was broken. It does happen, and when you’re over the Atlantic Ocean there’s not much the flight attendants can do for you except apologize and if you’re lucky a small voucher. I was fortunate to have Denise beside me and we could share her screen, plus I brought my own things to do.

Become a Camel

In order to stay hydrated on the plane, we buy a bottle of water after the security check and stick to water only during dinner service on board. Dehydration is not recommended if you want to avoid a jet lag, and while a glass of wine might send you off to never-never land in no time, it does dehydrate and result in restless sleep. Keep your alcohol and also caffeine intake to a minimum before and during the flight. There is enough great beer and wine in Germany to enjoy during your vacation.

What Goes In...

Don’t be fooled into thinking you can make a 8-9 hour flight without using the airplane’s bathroom facilities. You might be tempted to avoid drinking water as much as possible in order to avoid going. Don’t do it. While on short, 2-3 hour flights across country perhaps only one or two elderly citizens will get up mid-flight to use the bathroom, on an international flight EVERYONE at one point will get up to use the bathroom several times. It’s not a big deal at all. Plus, there’s three times the amount of bathrooms than the typical one or two that’s on flights for a few hours. Drink up, and don’t worry. Everyone has to go sometime...

Keep Comfortable

And my final thought for sleeping on a plane: wear layers of clothes. By wearing layers, you can avoid being too cold or hot. I wear a t-shirt and a zippered sweatshirt over it, a comfortable jeans and my favorite shoes, that I can slip off easily during the flight and put back on quickly if I have to use the restroom. Denise always brings a scarf, which comes in handy as a blanket, pillow or to keep her neck warm. She also packs thick winter socks that she layers over her regular socks.

Your First Day in Germany

Now that you finally landed in Germany, a quick nap looks very enticing. I have taken one-hour naps after a transatlantic flight, but they do not do me any good. Try to live on local time right away, have a quick shower and get some fresh air walking around the town for a bit. Being out in the sunshine helps your body convert to the new time. Both give me a little bit more energy and make me forget how little sleep I got on the airplane last night. Set your watch to the local time, too and do not think about what time it is “back home”. Start living on German time and end your day with a light dinner. No one sleeps well with an aching stomach.

My final tip for adjusting to local time: I do go to bed an hour or two before my usual bedtime on the first day only. After a good night's sleep I awake very rested and go to bed at my usual bedtime the following nights without a problem. A dark room is key here and if your room does not have black-out shades, use your sleep mask from the plane.

Follow Along

If you enjoyed this article, or these topics sound interesting to you, you'll love our weekly newsletter. You'll receive a free Germany Packing list for signing up, and you'll receive each week's newest posts every Friday. Thank you for reading!




Comments

Before you go to Germany, let's talk toilets

German and U.S. Toilet Differences • Germany Travel

During a family dinner, just before my mother-in-law would travel to Germany for the first time, the issue of German toilets came up. Denise was telling her Mom the story of her first flight to Germany, which led to her first visit to a German restroom at the Frankfurt Airport.

I remember that it took Denise quite a while to come back and when I finally spotted her she had a perplexed look on her face. She said she had looked in the first bathroom stall and saw the toilet bowl had no water in it. Must be clogged, Denise thought, and tried the next stall. When she looked in the fourth stall, she decided to go for it, even though she was convinced that a toilet without standing water must be broken. She was pretty surprised when it did flush after all.

How to explain the toilet setup difference to your American mother-in-law? Well, there’s a YouTube video for everything, and this is the first one I found while trying to explain the difference. Not only do you get to see the toilet, but also a German sausage that gets flushed to illustrate the process.

This shelf toilet, known in Germany as Flachspüler (flat flusher) has a ledge where the American design, Tiefspüler (deep flusher) has standing water. The shelf toilet will prominently present your #1 or #2 before you flush them, which will take some getting used to when you first encounter this toilet style.

Over the years I had the pleasure of using both systems and can give you the advantages and disadvantages of the shelf toilet for your trip to Germany.

Advantages:

• Energy costs in Germany are much higher than in the United States, which includes the cost of water. Therefore, the shelf toilets were designed to use much less water than their American counterparts - hence the shelf.

• Your butt will not get wet, since there is little to no water sitting on the shelf

• If you are sick, you can look at your prized matter before flushing it or even take a stool sample for your doctor. Not that you will need this often, but it is an advantage, even though a strange one.

Disadvantages:

• Your business will definitely stink up the room, which is why a lot of German bathrooms have a bottle of air freshener near the toilet or at least a window nearby that you can open.

• With a #2 being flushed off the ledge, it might leave skid marks and you might have to flush a second time (so much for the aspect of saving water). If the skid marks are still around after the second flush, look for a toilet brush nearby and go to work.

If you are still reading, you might be pleased to hear, that German households are merging more and more to the American toilet design, which has become more efficient over the past decades and uses less water with every flush.

Nevertheless, there are still two more oddities you might encounter in a modern German restroom, which are two buttons on a wall and no visible toilet tank.

How to Flush German Toilets- deciiphering the flush wall panel • Germany Travel Tips

How To Flush a German Toilet

Modern bathrooms in Germany have concealed flush, or wall-hung toilets, where you have the tank and water pipes in a wall enclosure hidden from plain view. This works especially well for small bathrooms, saving space by having a smaller toilet that does not protrude into the room as much as a floor-mounted traditional toilet. Furthermore, cleaning under the toilet is much easier and the hidden tank gives the bathroom a clean, organized look.

Right above the concealed flush toilets you will find two buttons, usually a small one and a large one. The “dual-flush capability” goes back to the idea of saving water, where you push the small button for your #1 business with only half of the water in the tank being used and the larger button for your #2 business with all of the water in the tank being used.

Follow Along

If you enjoyed this article, or these topics sound interesting to you, you'll love our weekly newsletter. You'll receive a free Germany Packing list for signing up, and you'll receive each week's newest posts every Friday. Thank you for reading!




Comments

Do yourself a favor and get on a boat in Hamburg

Exploring Hamburg's Riverfront | You can't fully appreciate the scale of the ships until you're floating in the water beside them.

You don't read the ending of a book first.

You don't fast forward through a movie to the end.

If you did, the joy of discovery is replaced with discovered.

For that same reason, I avoid narrated city bus tours. They give away a city before you've had the joy to discover it. An hour or two later and you've zipped by all the top attractions, and get off with an empty feeling of what else is there?

To discover a new city, I like to walk, one step at a time, and slowly watch the city's character unfold.

However, narrated boat tours? That's a whole other beast! Unless you're an experienced sailor, taking a boat tour is the only way you're getting on a boat to see the city in a whole new watery light. Most major cities developed around bodies of water, especially rivers and seas. Hamburg is no different, and its connection to the North Sea through the Elbe River has been one of the most influential forces upon the history of Hamburg. Its the second busiest port in Europe, beaten only by the Port of Rotterdam.

Our Experience Cruising the Hamburg Riverfront

Here are my favorite scenes from our trip on the Louisiana Star. I especially liked that this boat had a comfy dining room with plenty of windows. It was November when we sailed. It was frigid outside, and I had no interest in being on deck! They offered a drink service, so we could enjoy a nice warm cup of coffee as the riverfront sailed by.

There's nothing better after a long day of exploring a city on foot, then climbing onto a boat to review the city by water. In Hamburg especially, you can't fully appreciate the scale of the ships until you're floating in the water beside them. The boat tour guide was exceedingly knowledgeable and filled us in on the gossip of the boats we were cruising past.

Exploring Hamburg's Riverfront | You can't fully appreciate the scale of the ships until you're floating in the water beside them.

Exploring Hamburg's Riverfront | You can't fully appreciate the scale of the ships until you're floating in the water beside them.

Exploring Hamburg's Riverfront | You can't fully appreciate the scale of the ships until you're floating in the water beside them.

Exploring Hamburg's Riverfront | You can't fully appreciate the scale of the ships until you're floating in the water beside them.

Exploring Hamburg's Riverfront | You can't fully appreciate the scale of the ships until you're floating in the water beside them.

Follow Along

If you enjoyed this article, or these topics sound interesting to you, you'll love our weekly newsletter. You'll receive a free Germany Packing list for signing up, and you'll receive each week's newest posts every Friday. Thank you for reading!




Comments

Show more posts about traveling in Germany

Thank you For Reading! Denise & Sebastian | Photo by Irene Fiedler