How to Survive Jet Lag With Kids

Thursday, 27 April 2017

Two days ago, Miss P, Baby Sister and I flew from Detroit to Dublin with a connection through Amsterdam. Today, I'm powered by coffee and am feeling a bit like a zombie thanks to Baby Sister's midnight - 2am party (and getting sucked into netflix, but that's another story). When you travel with young children what is the best way to deal with Jet Lag? 


Once upon a time, B.C. as I sometimes call it (before children), when I flew transatlantic I would get on the plane, have something to eat, a glass of wine and a nyquil and try to sleep as well as possible for the rest of the flight. A lot of my transatlantic travel back then was for business and when I landed in Europe I was expected to lead a group on a tour shortly after arrival. Back then, things were a bit simpler and my advice was to sleep as much as possible on the plane and once you got there, stay awake until your normal bedtime on the new local time zone. Ahhh how things have changed! These days when I'm flying transatlantic I have a 3 year old next to me and my 14 month old on my lap. Try as I may to sleep, I haven't found a way to do it without dropping the baby off my lap! Every time I start to drift off, my arms relax, lose their grip and I wake up clutching Baby Sister as she's sliding off my knee, so I've basically given up on trying to sleep on the plane. Rather than drinking wine and nyquil, I stick to coffee and water and power through. Once I arrive, Daddy usually takes my girls and I get a quick nap in (at MOST 2 hours, otherwise, I risk really messing myself up) and then stay up as late as possible to go to bed at normal local time. Two days ago I made it until 9pm (go me!).

That's all good and well for the parents but how do you handle a time change with an infant or small child?

Here are a few tips to make the adjustment a little bit easier: 

Flying WEST to EAST

- When you're flying west to east (American to Europe) it's an overnight flight. Let the kids know that they'll be going to bed on the airplane. Put them in comfy clothes or even change them into pajamas when you're ready for them to go to bed. Sometimes the flights leave early enough that I would give them dinner on the plane. For example our last flight left at 4pm so they ate dinner on the flight. Other times, we are on later flights that don't depart until after bedtime so I feed them before boarding and try to get them asleep as soon as possible once we're onboard. In any case, once the cabin lights dim for "bedtime" help the kids get comfortable to sleep and let them sleep as long as possible. Usually, if I'm wearing a watch, I'll set it for the time at the new destination as soon as I'm on board. 

Morning Rain, Amsterdam Schiphol Airport

 - Once you land it's morning time in your new destination. On Tuesday morning, we arrived in Amsterdam at 6am, which was actually midnight Michigan time. IGNORE THAT. We had a short layover so I got the kids some breakfast and changed their clothes in the airport, and carried on just like it was any other morning. Once you get to your destination, do everything on the new schedule. Lunch, naps, anything you would normally do with your kids, do it on the new time zone. Try to avoid letting them have a huge nap if you can. If you or the kiddos sleep too much during the day you run the risk of joining the wide-awake-club at 2am (not fun). 

- It's a great idea to spend as much time outside as possible. Take them to a park, let them swim in the hotel pool if it has one, go for a walk. Spending time outside is a great way to reset your internal clock (and the kiddies'). 

Playing in a Park at the Eiffel Tower, Paris, France

Flying EAST to WEST 

- When we fly from Europe to America, we do so during the day. I personally find this an easier direction to adjust to the time change. My kids seem to acclimate to the time change better than they do when we go the opposite direction. Since you're flying all day, you have more time to try and keep them busy but still try to get their normal naps in on the plane if you can. I usually do not reset my watch when we fly west until we land. Once we land, I take up on that time zone with the kids. If that means it's afternoon and they take an afternoon nap, I let them do that. I feed them dinner at the normal time and bathe and put them to bed at their normal bed time on the new time zone. 

Pro Tip - get to bed early yourself! I find my kiddos wake up super early when we go this direction for the first couple of days and since I'll be getting up early with them, it's good to get as much rest as possible to counteract that the first few days. 

 So, what do you do if you've tried all these things and your kids still wake up at awkward times, like Baby Sister did last night? Well, I like to let her ride it out. I get up with her, throw on some tv for myself and let her burn off some steam. Run around the living room, play toys, etc. Eventually, she's going to tire back out and get back to bed. The most she's ever been up in the night has been a couple of hours, and as she gets older it'll get easier. 

 My best advice is to follow these tips and hang in there! After a couple of nights at the new destination, your kiddos will settle right in.

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