As if the thought of flying across the country or world with your child isn't scary enough, your destination could leave you with worries about how your little one will adjust to the time difference once you arrive at your destination. We have traveled to countries with some extreme differences in time such as Australia and Thailand and here are my tips on ways to prevent jet-lag or handle it, if preventing it is impossible. If your baby is under 3 months their sleep schedule is likely still all over the place and the time change won't make a big difference for them.
When Booking Your Flight
If your flight length is between 7-10 hrs and your heading east book an overnight flight if possible. This is because the flight length coupled with the time difference has you arriving at your destination in the morning or early afternoon. When we traveled to Italy when Jordyn was 15 months our flight departed JFK at 8:45PM and we arrived in Venice at 11:13AM. This allowed Jordyn to go to sleep around the same time she normally would and then wake up with a full day ahead of her. She adjusted really well on this trip and only woke up during the night on the 1st day. Even if you can't book an overnight flight try to book a flight that lands during the day, it is easier to force your child to stay up than it is to force them to sleep when they aren't tired.
Adjust Your Watch To Your Destinations Time As Soon As You Get on The Plane
When we traveled to Thailand as soon as we got on the plane I pretended as if we were already there. Our flight was at 7:40PM which meant it was 7:40AM in Thailand. Jordyn takes her nap during the day at 1:00PM so even though it meant her staying up past her normal bed time I kept her occupied on the plane for the first 5hrs. Then I let her sleep as it was now the time in Thailand that she normally naps. Usually she naps for 3hrs but since I knew she would be tired from being up so long I let her nap for 5hrs. I was prepared for her to be cranky so I had a lollipop ready for her when I woke her up, worked like a charm.
We had now killed 9 of the 13 hour flight and she watched movies until we landed. When we landed in Doha for our layover it was 4:30PM local time but 8:30PM in Thailand and we had 4hrs until our next flight. We ate and she played at the playground by our gate for a while and then she knocked out about 2hrs before our flight was set to depart. This leg was 7hrs and she slept the entire flight. When we landed it was morning and we went about our day.
It may not be the easiest to commit to this schedule but I promise you it will get them on your destinations time as quickly as possible which will only make your trip better. This schedule also works great for adults!
Keep Your Child on The Same Schedule
If getting on your destinations time from the flight doesn't work for you once you arrive at your destination immediately put your child on the same schedule you would at home according to your new time zone. If you arrive at night but your home town is currently in day time it will probably be difficult to get them to sleep right away so let them stay up a little while to burn off some energy but not too late. It may take them a little longer to fall asleep but follow whatever bedtime routine you have at home so your child knows what to expect. Turn off the lights and electronics. Lay with them if you need to. Eventually they will fall asleep. If they wake up in the middle of the night remind them it's still night time and they need to go back to sleep. If they are hungry give them a light healthy snack and get them back to bed as quick as possible. You may even need to take a walk with them but whatever you do try to have them up for no more than an hour before going back to bed. If they are still sound asleep past the time they normally get up wake them up so they get back on their home schedule.
Avoid Long Naps
If you arrive during the day try skipping your child's nap this 1st day to ensure they sleep through the night. However, depending on your child's age, skipping a nap could be unbearable for both child and parent. If it's impossible for your child to skip their nap don't let them nap for more than 1.5-2hrs as this will make it harder for them to sleep through the night.
Have A Plan to Keep Your Child Awake
If you are arriving during the day but it would usually be the time your child is sleeping at home be prepared to keep them up. Sitting in a hotel room or watching T.V. will not be a viable option. Head to the park where your child will want to play and be outdoors in the sunlight.
Sleep When Your Child Goes to Sleep
You probably got the advice of napping when your newborn naps to help sleep deprivation. You should do the same when adjusting to a new time zone. This way if your child wakes up super early you will be as rested as possible to tend to their needs.
Plan A Light First Day
As it may take a few days for your child to adjust, the 1st day will potentially be the hardest. I suggest planning for a relaxed day one. This is probably not the day to do a tour of the Colosseum, Christ the Reedemer, or another once in a lifetime destination in case of a toddler meltdown.
Push Back Their Bedtime
If your child normally goes to bed at 8PM, try to get them to stay up until 10PM or so. This should make it easier for them to sleep through this first night and allow them to get back to their normal schedule or as close to it on day 2.
Adjusting to The Time Change Is Usually Harder on the Return
The excitement of being in a new place can help your child to stay up during the day even if they are tired. However when you get back home and are trying to settle back into your regular routine this is when it might take longer for your child to get back to their normal schedule.
What tips do you have on dealing with jetlag? Leave them in the comments below!
For tips on flying with kids click here.