The Brancatelli File By Joe Brancatelli
Endless Quest: Better Packing and Jet-Lag 'Cures"
April 22, 1994 -- Airlines come and go. Destinations get hot and fall out of favor. Planes, trains, automobile and cruise ships are constantly being redesigned and upgraded.

Almost by definition, travel is about change. But you know what never seems to change? Travelers' endless quest to pack better and beat jet lag. No matter what else is going on in the travel world, we talk about packing and jet lag.

Here is what's new on both topics. Just remember, the state of the packing and jet-lag arts will probably change again tomorrow.

Regardless of whether you prefer hard-sided or soft-side luggage, Pullman cases or garment bags, you need a packing strategy.

For starters, never pack valuables--financial, medical, or psychic--in anything but your carry-on bag. Then consider the following tips to manage the rest of your luggage. And never over-pack: Luggage that's too heavy to carry to your car won't be any lighter at your destination when there isn't a porter to be found.

First, make a list of the items you'll need to take on your trip. Concentrate on mix-and-match clothes, shoes and accessories. Emphasize neutral shades, complimentary colors and clothing that can be hand-washed and drip dried. Don't forget specialty items such as resort wear, foul-weather gear, and, if appropriate, formal attire.

Then lay out all the clothes you plan to pack on a sofa or table. Weed out what isn't essential. Consider eliminating items that you can buy at good prices at your destination: sweaters in Ireland, beach wear at sun resorts, shoes in Italy or Brazil, etcetera.

Smart travelers pack bags for short trips from bottom to top: heaviest items at the bottom, lightest items on top. For an extended trip, however, pack according to itinerary: clothing for the last stop at the bottom, garments for earlier stops layered on top. Underwear and socks can be stuffed inside shoes and around the edges of luggage.

Accept that some wrinkles are inevitable no matter how carefully you pack. But wrinkling can be minimized by wrapping garments in tissue paper or the plastic bags used by dry cleaners; by placing tissue paper underneath your bag's inner ties; and by unpacking as soon as you reach your destination.

Finally, leave room in your bag for travel essentials: zip-top plastic bags for soiled garments; extra film and books; a small umbrella and a travel clock; and a foldable tote for packing the purchases you'll make during your trip.

For as long as there have been passenger jets, travelers have been getting jet lag, the combination of sleep disruption and physical discomfort that plagues flyers whenever they cross too many time zones too quickly. And for as long as there has been jet lag, there have been alleged jet-lag cures: medicines, exercises, and even customized hotel rooms, computer software and time-warping wrist watches.

The effectiveness of most of the cures is debatable. In fact, overcoming jet lag might just be a matter of mind over matter.

"We tested thousands of travelers and the placebo effect is undeniable," says Farrol Kahn, a British cosmetics executive. "About 30 percent of the people who claimed [a new treatment] worked actually had been given a placebo."

With that caveat in um, mind, here what's hot in the world of jet-lag pills, potions, and preventions.

Pop Psychology A former flight attendant named Diane Fairechild has garnered nationwide attention for the self-styled "holistic, natural" remedies proposed in her book, Jet Smart. The tome expounds on topics such as "jet tag," "jet snag," and "mega-lag"--and even "spiritual" and "emotional" jet lag. By her count, there are 200 tips in the book--side-by-side with the supposition that chronic jet lag can cause heart attacks. Jet Smart sells for $14.95 postage paid from Flyana Rhyme (808-572-5252).

The Magic Pill Melatonin is a human hormone that regulates the body's internal clock. Several recent studies indicate that doses of synthetic melatonin help your body clock fight the disorienting effect of time zone changes. On that evidence, many experts now tout melatonin capsules as the definitive "anti-jet-lag pill." The Food and Drug Administration neither regulates nor endorses synthetic melatonin, but the capsules are widely available at health food shops and via mail order.

Aroma Therapy Three airlines that operate a large number of long flights have endorsed the aromatic jet-lag treatments produced by Daniele Ryman Ltd. Ryman's products are not yet commercially available in the United States. They aren't cheap, either. An in-flight "comfort kit," for example, costs about $45. However, they are available via mail order from Ryman's London shop (011-071-753-6708).

The Right Diet Dozens of doctors write in authoritative tones about jet lag, but their advice is maddeningly contradictory. Yet all seem to agree on one point: Abstinence from alcohol and a carefully regulated diet before, during and after a long flight lessens the effects of jet lag. One representative diet regimen is contained in a free pamphlet called Defeating Jet Lag. It can be obtained by sending a stamped, self-addressed #10 envelope to the Forsyth Travel Library (9154 W. 57 St., PO Box 2975, Shawnee Mission, Kansas 66201).

This column originally appeared in Travel Holiday magazine.

This column is Copyright 1994-2017 by Joe Brancatelli. is Copyright 2017 by Joe Brancatelli. All rights reserved. All of the opinions and material in this column are the sole property and responsibility of Joe Brancatelli. This material may not be reproduced in any form without his express written permission.