Today I am going to tackle one of the banes of travel - wether with kids or not - jet lag! Jet lag is no one’s friend, and can be especially tricky to navigate with little ones along for the ride. Dealing with your own jet lag plus the middle of the night kid wake up can be draining, and put a damper on those precious vacation days!
I have some good news and some not so good news - since becoming a mom, I find that jet lag barely touches me! Now - the bad news is that I think that means as parents we might just be living in a state of jet lag:) At least it means you might handle fatigue better than your pre-kid self!
After tons of long haul flights with kids over the years, I do have a couple tips for getting over the jet lag as quickly as possible. These tips work well for us, and help us get the most out of our time abroad, or change gears and get back to normal life asap!
First and foremost - try to have a flexible attitude (this is actually the key to travel in general of course:)). Hard nights will most likely happen, and having a go with the flow attitude will help everyone fall asleep more quickly!
My secret weapon lately has been kids’ melatonin - unfortunately this won’t help you if your kids are not old enough to take it! I don’t usually use melatonin in everyday life, BUT started administering it for travel when the kids turned about 4 years old. It is a game changer! Here is how I use it to adapt to the time change as quickly as possible. For instance - on an afternoon flight from the US to France - we board, I let the kids watch one show, we eat a meal, and then I give the kids a dose, and then they get to watch another show. By the end, the kids are usually passed out, and they manage to get some decent sleep during the flight. Then once in France, they get a dose if they wake up in the middle of the night ready to start their day… I let them read a book in bed with a flashlight, and they are usually back asleep within an hour.
I like the Zarbee’s brand, which is available in most US grocery stores.
For your first day after a substantial time change, I would recommend keeping the day light and fun. Don’t plan too much (this will also help in case you have travel delays), and make sure what you do plan is flexible, fun and ideally free (going back to those potential delays). Resist the urge to stay inside - there will be too much temptation to take a long nap. I like to make sure there is park time for kids - being outdoors in the sunshine is the fastest way to get back on track! If you arrive early in the morning, I would go ahead and factor in a nap time around noon, for about 2 hours. Then you should be able to make it to a normal bedtime. Try to respect your normal timings and schedule as much as possible - normal meal and bath times for instance will help kids adapt quickly!
If there are wake ups during the night, keep the lights off or very dim, and let you child do a very quiet activity in bed - listen to a story (there are lots of great podcasts for this) or read (actually - this is what I also do if I wake up in the night:)).
For us, there are often about 3 nights before the kids are fully adapted and back to normal. When we return back home, we have the day of the flight to recuperate, and then the next morning the kids head back to school. This may seem like a fast turn around, BUT keeping them busy at school is another key to getting back on track quickly.
This is what I have been doing since the kids were around 3 (with the exception of melatonin), when jet lag became way easier to tackle. There was a sweet spot from newborn - 5 months or so, when kids sleep so much that changing time zones wasn’t that big of a deal. But personally from 6 months - 2.5 or so was often just HARD. It is doable of course, but make sure to leave plenty of time for naps if you are traveling with a child between those ages.
Now, with kids that are 5 and 7 - I feel like jet lag is extremely manageable!
There you have it - how we tackle the dreaded vacation jet lag. Do you have any tried and true tricks? I’d love to hear in the comments!