Apr 5 2008

How Do I Fly?

In response to my Planes, Trains, and Automobiles post, I’ve already gotten several questions along the lines of "how do you deal with our insane air travel system" such as:

How do you keep your sanity traveling to the east coast? I’ve just spent the past 6 weeks traveling to New York from Denver and it’s either: get up at 4am only to waste an entire day traveling or take the red-eye.

For starters, west coast travel is much easier than east coast travel.  Denver to SF is about the same amount of effort as Boston to NY (+1 hour each way which means you get up a little earlier.)  I regularly get to 8:30am meetings in SF or Palo Alto when leaving from Denver on the 6am flight.

East coast travel is trickier.  I’ve found the best solution is to take the later afternoon / early evening flight (4pm – 6pm) out of DIA to LGA.  I get to my hotel between midnight and 1am and sleep until 30 minutes before my first meeting.

Now for the magic.  I don’t try to work on airplanes. Instead, I sleep.  I get settled in as quickly as I can and go lights out until I wake up.  Most of the time I’ll make it the entire flight.  If the flight is more than three hours, when I wake up I read a book rather than whip out my laptop (unless I’m going cross-country or to Europe, at which point I’ll do some work.)

The extra two hours of sleep makes all the difference (at least to me) on the travel.  On west coast travel, I have a 30 minute "transition wakeup" (where am I, who am I, what am I, what is that taste in my mouth?) but once I wake up, brush my teeth, and have a large coffee, I’m good to go.  On east coast travel, I get to the hotel, take a shower, and crawl right into bed.  Wham – deep sleep.

I didn’t used to be able to sleep like this on planes (and know a lot of people who claim they can’t.)  I don’t buy this – I trained myself to do this.  When I started this approach I used to sit – wide awake – for two hours doing nothing except relaxing.  I quickly got bored of myself and feel asleep.  As Amy likes to remind me – most of us are so sleep deprived that it’s actually easy to fall asleep if you let yourself (unless you are truly an insomniac – in which case you might actually fool yourself.)

So – if you see me asleep on a plane, please don’t wake me up to say hi!  Just go to sleep.