We’ve all felt it after a long flight across time zones, jet lag hurts and can take days to shake. What does jet lag mean? Jet lag is more than just being tired after a flight. It affects your whole body. Aside from sleepiness, some of the symptoms of jet lag can be include an upset tummy, fuzzy-headedness, inability to concentration, weakness and changes to urination and bowel movements.
Jet lag definitely effects babies, toddlers & children and can be difficult to manage, especially in young children who can’t tell you precisely what’s wrong. Baby jet lag, toddler jet lag and jet lag in children is real and it can be painful for both parents & kids.
Here are ten tips for tackling jet lag in babies, toddlers & children:
1. To avoid baby jet lag, toddler jet lag and jet lag in children, find flights that travel overnight for minimal sleep disruption. It makes the concept of a time change easier to manage if you’re getting on a plane, going to sleep and then waking up somewhere different at a different time. The physical act of being on a plane can be exhausting, not just the jet lag so a night flight is your best bet on waking up refreshed when you reach your destination. A night flight is especially good for preventing baby jet lag.
2. Set your watch to local time as soon as your arrive… or even better, while you’re on board the plane.
3. Set your daily routine to local time. Try and eat meals at set times each days in congruence with when locals eat meals. If your eating schedule is off it can be difficult to find restaurants or cafes that are open.
4. Fresh air and sunshine are the best combatants to jet lag… not sleep! The sun helps regulate the body clock so when you reach your destination, spend some time outdoors in a garden or park.
5. Allow a nap but keep it short. Don’t let your little ones oversleep during the day. It’ll only take them longer to adjust especially if they’re sleeping late in the afternoon or into the evening.
6.Try not to go to bed too early when you arrive at your destination. If you’re travelling East to West, the temptation could be to hit the sack at 5pm but this will only throw you off for the next day. This can be hard with jet lagged babies but try!
7. Trying to keep sleepy, grumpy children awake a few extra hours until bedtime can be difficult. This can make dinner time a nightmare. Pick a hotel with a pool and restaurant so you don’t have to do anything for the first few days other than focus on getting over the jet lag.
8. If you do find yourself awake in the middle of the night, don’t fight it too hard. Get up for an hour or so. Let older children watch TV, read some stories and then explain that you need to get back to bed and try and sleep until morning. For jet lagged babies, play for a little bit and then soothe them back to sleep with cuddles, breast or bottle feeding and songs.
9. Be prepared for late nights and/or early starts. Have some games & toys ready, movies downloaded and snacks available. Tucking a box of cereal or granola bars into your suitcase is a great idea! There’s nothing worse than being stuck in a hotel room from 4am with no breakfast and nothing to do!
10. Don’t confuse jet lag with culture shock. The symptoms can be similar but if your child still hasn’t settled after a week, culture shock could be affecting them not jet lag.
For more expert advice on managing jet lag in children and babies have a look at Walking On Travels post on the subject. Keryn often flies solo with a toddler and a baby so really knows her stuff!
Let me know if these baby jet lag tips worked for you!
How do you cope with jet lag? What strategies do you have to help your little ones get over jet lag? Jet lagged babies and children are no fun but remember, it will only baby jet lag will only last for a few days so don’t let that put you off travelling with your kids.
Good tips Bethaney! Our kids are a tad older (9 & 10 with our last international trip), and most of these held true for us. Our sleep patterns were off and we did have some early mornings, although it didn’t hit us until about 3 days in. I was not expecting the nausea that accompanied the jet lag in my boys. Both vomited a few days into the trip, and it did not appear to be food or virus related. I truly believe it was just exhaustion from the jet lag and travel.
Yup we always do our watches as soon as we bored the plane. But we were totally unprepared for Thailand to LA and were terrible for a week. Number 4 is so correct. I thought lets stay inside and just recuperate, nope we kept falling asleep and it just got worse and worse. It didn’t turn around till we did two back to back days of out and about and then the nights were blessed sleep again 😀
great tips. sometimes i wish someone was taking care of ME while i have jet lag!
Good advice for grownups, too 🙂
haha Larissa. i was going to say the same thing. jet lag really got the best of me on my most recent trip despite doing so many of the right things.
I normally take naps anyway, so Jet lag never bothers me. I sleep when I’m tired, and do stuff when I’m awake. I think i’m lucky in this aspect, because my normal internal clock is wanky already. I don’t think I’ve ever experienced jet lag, or I just chocked it up to ‘it’s my naptime’. If i’m say, up all night, then see the sunrise, I’m suddenly wide awake again. I just think i’m made to travel. 🙂
Jet lag is always horrible, but these are great. I remember using some of them with my daughter when she was little.
Excellent tips, I got have used some of these when my daughter was little.
For myself, I have the luck that I can sleep anytime & anywhere
When we went to Bali and Japan with my older son, who was not yet two at the time, he woke up at 3 or 4 for just the first couple of days and then settled in well, but even those first couple of days are hard. Definitely taking the overnight flight is key but when there’s a big time change involved, it is really difficult because taking an overnight flight might mean you end up arriving at night when it’s time to go to bed!
Great tips but I really love the AB/CD shirt! So cute!
Just revisiting this for pinterest purposes and thought I’d add the other tip I thought was good, from Bubs On The Move, which is to pick a late-night destination and just use the jet lag to your advantage. They went to the US and visited Disneyland from Australia and it worked out ok, they just saw it at night time.
A lot of siesta-taking places or countries like Singapore where it’s normal for young kids to take long naps in the day then be out and about until midnight could work the same – you’d have a quick nap time reset and then find friends in the playground after dark.
I must say I haven’t bothered going too far out of our time zone with kids yet so can’t really comment from personal experience! But great tips based on our adult experience!
Yes! That’s a great point Bronwyn!! We tend to nap in the afternoons and stay out late when travelling anyway but if you’re jetlagged you may as well use that to your advantage. 🙂
Great tips…jet lag can be a parent’s worst enemy, so I like #7. This has worked for us when flying across multiple time zones.
Thanks Cliff. 🙂
Great tips! We find getting on local schedule as soon as possible works best for us. On our last trip we used #6 and tried our best to stay up as long as possible… 6:30pm was the best we could manage. We were up frequently with our daughter until midnight, but thankfully we all slept peacefully after that!