Don’t let the fear of jetlag hold you back

Something we have consistently heard from parents about traveling with kids is their fear of jetlag. Either they have had a horrible experience in the past or the anxiety around messing up sleep schedules is holding them back from booking that ticket. Well fret not, follow these tips to help lower that anxiety and set you and your kids up for some good rest!

  • The most important thing you can do is have a strategy for how you want to handle jetlag before you leave home, but be prepared to be flexible. Build your strategy based on the time difference from home, your flight departure and arrival times, your personal comfort level and any requirements at your destination (e.g., are you traveling to attend a wedding or have a specific tour lined up).
  • Just like us, appetites are definitely impacted by jetlag. Offer lots of snacks and water to your child throughout your travels and upon arrival to try and ward off middle of the night hunger pangs.
  • As much as possible, mimic your home sleep routine when you travel. Usually, home sleep routines include bathtime, stories, sound machines, sleep sacks or certain stuffed animals. Do your best to try and replicate this on the road when it is time for bed. This is even more important if your flight arrives to your destination in the middle of the night. It may mean getting to bed even later, but your children will benefit from those familiar cues as they try and rest.
  • Accept that there will be a day or two of transition at the start of your trip where everyone might be a bit tired or grumpy.
  • Wake up at an appropriate time and limit naps during the transition days. Of course, if your flight arrives at 2am then by all means take a little sleep in, but don’t sleep all day. This is the first step in adjusting to the new time zone. As for naps, it is absolutely tempting to let those exhausted kiddos sleep for 2 or 3 hours at a time during those first few days, but limit naps to an hour or less and don’t allow any naps too close to bedtime.
  • Spend as much time outside as you can. Getting outside in the daylight and fresh air can help jump start that circadian rhythm reset for the whole family. This one is usually easy to accomplish because going on holiday often entails lots of walking around to various attractions.

Still feeling overwhelmed? Here are some bonus jet lag cheats for you that will make it even easier on you!

  • Stay in your own time zone. Going on those big family adventures, even international and exotic ones doesn’t mean you have to switch time zones. For example, our home base is Ottawa, Canada and we can travel to Panama, Bogota, or Machu Picchu without switching a single time zone. Research what works from your hometown and avoid the anxiety altogether.
  • Don’t fully switch time zones. Now this is by far our favourite. For example, when we go to Europe we often don’t adjust to the full 5-8 hour time difference. We often split the difference and enjoy later nights and slower mornings with the kids. In fact, depending on what kind of vacation you are taking this may even improve your experience. For example, on our Christmas Market trip to Belgium, we pretended it was a 4 hour time difference. Having our daughter stay up later meant that we could better enjoy all the Christmas lights and markets as well as have even more dining options each evening. Not to mention, it made our mornings nice and relaxed.

Were these tips helpful? How do you handle jetlag?

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