The biggest downside of traveling to places far and wide is jetlag. If you’ve never flown father than 1 or 2 timezones you’ve never experienced the true joy that is jetlag. For most people traveling east, sucks while traveling west isn’t to bad. I’m one of these people.
What most people do, especially the first time they fly east (from the US to Europe for example) is they figure that they’ll just be fine when they land. I’d be willing to bet that anyone that’s tried that was wrong. Changing 8 or 9 timezones in one shot is VERY brutal.
A couple of times now when traveling from California to Europe I’ve decided to deal with the jetlag while at home. Basically this means that every morning I get up a couple of hours earlier and go to bed a couple of hours earlier until I end up on European time (9 hours ahead). This takes me around 4 days to do it. It isn’t fun, but it’s a lot better than spending the first 3 days of my trip in Europe dealing with the jet lag (it normally takes me between 2 and 4 days to kick the jetlag depending on what I’m doing during the day).
It isn’t a very complex process. The first day I simply set my alarm to get me up 2 hours early. When I get up I set the next days alarm for 2 hours earlier (I can handle 2 hours of jetlag in a day no problem). I also set an alarm for when I need to go to bed, so that I actually do.
After a few days I’m getting up at midnight (which is 9am in Europe) and going to bed at 4-5pm (which is 1am in Europe). This usually works well with flights getting to Europe. For example this last trip I flew from home (San Diego) to Toronto (sadly no I didn’t see the crack head mayor at the airport). That flight left at 8:15am so I needed to be at the airport by 6:15am. Normally this would suck, but as I’m getting up at midnight that’s no problem. My flight landed in Toronto (all the timezone switching makes things really hard to figure out) at 4pm EST (9pm in Europe). My flight from Toronto to Europe left at 5:45pm EST (11pm in Europe), which served dinner then breakfast. So basically I had a late dinner, then fell asleep and woke up for breakfast just before landing (breakfast is usually served about an hour before landing) at 11:30pm PST (2:30am EST, 8:30am in Europe). My final flight of the day left at 10:30am and arrived at 11:30am, just in time for lunch. I had a day of sightseeing and the next day I was off and ready to go at the SQL Tune In conference, thankfully without feeling like I was going to die.
Now will this technique work for everyone? No probably not. As I work from home I’ve got the ability to work basically whatever hours I want, so slowly shifting my hours day by day isn’t that big of a deal. If you’ve got this sort of flexibility before going on a trip, either for business or pleasure I’d highly recommend it. The first mistake that 1st time travels make is not accounting for jetlag recovery in their schedule.