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De-stress & Manage Jetlag When Traveling With Young Kids

As new parents back in 2005, we naively decided to take our 7 month old across ten time zones for his first Christmas. My husband and I were just itching to go on a trip since we had been homebound for more than a year (between the pregnancy and the now the early infant months) and we foolishly thought “the baby is sleeping all the time – what difference does it make where he sleeps!

Well, we were wrong, very wrong. It was during this trip that our cherub turned into an entirely different baby – and we learned the true meaning of surviving baby jetlag. Now that he’s six (and we still drag him across many time zones), we have picked up a few tricks along the way for de-stressing and managing jetlag.

      City Playground

Surviving jetlag with baby:

  • If you are traveling within the continental United States and you are away from home for less than one week, it may be easier to keep to your schedule as if you were at home (i.e. if the morning nap is at 10 am Eastern, keep to the schedule even if it’s 7 am in California)
  • Try to get your baby used what (s)he’ll be sleeping in during the trip before leaving home (i.e. portable crib)
  • If you are traveling for longer than one week with the baby, then after a few days, gradually shift the schedule by one hour each day until everyone adjusts naturally
  • Realize that the baby will need to also adjust to the time zone too when back home
  • Try to get up early every morning to have as much exposure to sunlight as possible as it will help the entire family adjust more quickly to the time change
  • Consider napping when your baby naps so everyone is alert when the baby is up

Surviving jetlag with toddler:

  • Before you leave, ensure that your toddler is as well rested as possible
  • Try to help your child sleep on the plane (and in the hotel) with their favorite toy, pillow and bedtime story
  • Get a reasonable and flexible daily routine in place after the first day including getting up before 9 am
  • See local sights that are within walking or short public transportation distance of the hotel in case there’s a melt-down
  • Adhere to all nap times and stick to the same bedtime routine as at home
  • Ask the hotel to place a small refrigerator in your room to store some milk in case your toddler wakes up during the night
  • Find a local playground and make time to stop there each day (picture, above right)
  • Choose appropriate and child-friendly activities (i.e. CityKids activity cards are very helpful if you are traveling to a major city)
  • Carry lots of snacks and ensure that your children stay hydrated
  • Try to have (healthy) meals during local mealtimes and eat these heartier meals during the day to avoid hunger at night

Surviving jetlag with kids:

  • This trick has not failed me even once. If you are traveling overseas and your plane lands in the morning, drop off your bags at the hotel and see the town until lunch time. After lunch, go back to the hotel, take a shower/bath and nap for no more than 3 hours. You will need to force yourself to get up, but once you do, make sure you go out and enjoy the town some more. Stay up a little later that first night (i.e. 10 pm) and then go back to bed. The whole family will be adjusted to the time by the next morning! (picture, above left)
  • If you are traveling overseas and your plane lands in the afternoon hours, take a one hour nap only and then follow the guidelines described above
  • Make use of the hotel’s pool and town’s bike path to get some exercise every day

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