Photo: Mikhail Starodubov/Shutterstock

5 Survival Tips if You Have to Travel Hungover

Restaurants + Bars
by Turner Wright Aug 14, 2008
From the “Spiritual” approach to an IV drip with 500 mL saline, 500 mL glucose with cyclozine, and 1 gram paracetamol, here are 5 tips to help power you through the next leg of your travels even if you’re brutally hungover.

Before I started living abroad, I was never much of a partyer. I was the guy you’d more than likely trust to see someone home safely rather than the one doing kegstands with the night sky beginning to wane.

But Japanese culture just has a way of sucking you in. All-you-can-drink (nomihoudai) deals across the country, salarymen setting the example of a work-hard, play-hard schedule, and the women… well, where else can you dance with them so freely?

During my time in Hiroshima, there was a club I had discovered on a recent excursion to the island of Kyushu, in the Tenjin district of Fukuoka. It was and is my favorite place for nightlife in Japan (yes, even considering the clubs in Tokyo, which are great, but usually just way too crowded).

But how to get there? Fukuoka is 210 kilometers from Hiroshima city, not exactly the easiest commute without a car… or is it?

With Japan’s extensive transportation system, I had absolutely no problems taking one of the last shinkansen Kodama trains at 10 PM Saturday, arriving at my desired nightlife spot just before midnight. Perfect time to hit the clubs, and relax with some late night ramen slurping at one of the many yatai.

Around five in the morning–festivities dying down, telephone numbers secured in my pocket, skull moments away from feeling like it would split open and remind me of those numerous Mexicolas (tequila and Coke)–I had a problem: no hotel, no plans.

Kyushu, despite not being at the top of many tourists’ lists of places to go in Japan, is just an amazing place. Excellent hot springs, history (the bombing of Nagasaki, the last samurai in Kagoshima, a great reconstructed castle in Kumamoto ), and small towns l wanted to explore…

But the pain, the pain…the throbbing pain.

By using some of the techniques explained below, I was able to enjoy a full night of fun in Fukuoka, then catch the early train to various places for sightseeing the next morning, sans sleep and headache bearing down…

Which brings us to the point: How can you best take control of your hangover and enjoy what the road has to offer?

1. The Spiritual Approach

Pray your way through the pain? Hardly, or I would have said religious approach, and we’d probably see a plethora of barflies at confession Sunday morning, begging for relief.

I’d recommend a type of meditation technique, one that will calm your pounding heart, compensate for sleep, and relax the part of your brain still functioning properly.

No, in fact I’d recommend a type of meditation technique, one that will calm your pounding heart, compensate for sleep, and relax the part of your brain still functioning properly.

Use hot springs. Although a cold shower might be the standard remedy in many countries, I find that an hour or two in near-scalding water usually does the trick, by eliminating any physical discomfort, leaving your mind to meditate (perhaps enlightening yourself with a different use of your Saturday nights).

2. Playing on your Desire

Let’s assume for a moment that you enjoy spending time with a fair member of the opposite sex. Let’s also assume you are willing to make concessions for them, change your behavior, alter your habits, and especially stop complaining as much.

Whether you’ve been traveling and drinking with a companion for months, met him or her during your night of debauchery, or separated to explore the nightlife on your own terms but must reunite in the morning, he or she is the only excuse you need.

If you know, even in the back of that endorphin-filled brain, that there will be someone waiting for you refreshed or not, you’re that much more likely to crawl out of bed, lean your head against the shower wall as the water cascades across your face, then give that special someone a decent travel experience.

3. Universal Quickfix

We’ve all heard of those special home remedies for curing the effects of late nights. Aspirin, lots of water, coffee, eating certain foods before or after, certain fruit juices, sleep, exercise, B12 shots…

The consumer market has no shortage of “guaranteed” solutions either, but most of these remedies are not universal and don’t really eliminate all the side effects.

In Poland, I hear drinking pickle juice works rather well. It’s also not too bad if you like to win football games on a hot day.

In Ireland, I believe they used to bury people up to their necks in sand.

I propose an international method: Red Bull from Thailand, Coca Cola from America, and Ibuprofen. Works every time for a quickfix, but I’d only recommend it if you need to be up and about for a few hours; after that, you’ll come down rather hard.

4. The Medical Front

On the rare occasions med students can crawl away from their residencies and bounce around the globe, I wonder if they’re allowed to bring an IV (intravenous) kit through customs…

Most people are aware of the physiological changes that occur after a night of hard drinking: dehydration, lack of energy, headache, etc. And although some are left to the tried-and-sometimes-true methods stated in #4, those with medical training can hope for a better solution: an intravenous solution of dextrose, coupled with saline.

This rehydrates the body much faster than gulping glass after glass of water, and gives you the energy boost in your blood sugar.

Yet even this method is open to interpretation, the exact IV cocktail a matter of opinion and still subject to what the “patient” thinks is best. Here are some variations:

  • 500 mL saline, 500 mL glucose with cyclozine, 1 gram paracetamol
  • Dextrose and saline, 5% solution
  • Pure saline

No matter what the formula, I think we can all agree: those with IV bags getting stopped at the border would be an interesting and embarrassing explanation.

5. No Money Back

Make a reservation with a non-refundable deposit for the next day. Naturally, I would usually avoid these kinds of bookings at all costs, whether you’re doing an organized tour, checking into a hotel, getting a massage, or catching the early flight, but throw cash into the equation, and the rules change.

Although making any plans for the day following a night of drinking is still a good idea to get you up and about, it doesn’t quite have the same effect as that when money is involved.

Even if you’re meeting other people, there’s always that part of your mind saying “well, I can always do it later, meet up with them later, reschedule, must sleep now…” as opposed to “damn, I already paid $100, better get moving!”

The pain is still there, but you clever people have found a way to work through it. As a famous American once said:

“…it ain’t about how hard ya hit. It’s about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward. How much you can take and keep moving forward. That’s how [traveling] is done!”

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