Taking a family trip is very different from traveling on your own, but the lasting memories and moments you will all cherish makes anything that comes your way well worth it. Depending on your destination, you and your children may experience jet lag, and that will be a completely foreign feeling for your kids. The time difference and the stress of traveling can disrupt their sleep patterns and cause them to feel tired and cranky, even for several days after arrival. To help you beat the jet lag blues and ensure a smooth and enjoyable trip, here's a guide for traveling with kids.
To minimize the effects of jet lag, make plans to resolve it well before you leave for your trip. If you are traveling to a destination with a significant time difference, try to book flights that allow for some sleep on the plane. Or if it’s only a few hours, let your kids stay up late and sleep in a little longer to shift their internal clocks, then their internal clocks will be perfectly offset by the time you arrive. Or pick an early morning or late night flight so they never notice the difference in time zones.
Make sure your kids drink plenty of water both before and during the flight, as dehydration can lengthen the feeling of jet lag. Consider an aisle seat for you or your kids so they can easily get to the plane’s bathroom and make sure to use it any time an opportunity presents itself; the last thing anyone needs is a bathroom emergency when the plane is on the tarmac and ready for takeoff. Avoid or limit drinks with a lot of sugar, as they can interfere with sleep and energy levels.
Encourage your kids to stay active and get some playtime to help them feel more awake and refreshed during the day and tired and ready for bed at night. Whether your vacation destination is a resort, family, or a far away city, the excitement of it all should be enough to keep your kids burning off their energy at all times, just be ready to have some time set aside to play in the evening if it seems like they are going to be wide awake at bedtime.
Stick to a Routine
Maintaining a consistent routine can help your children's bodies adjust to the new time zone more quickly. As nice as it would be to sleep in since you’re on vacation, doing so will mean your kids aren’t getting to bed until that much later in the evening. Wake everyone up at the same time as you would at home, eat breakfast at regular times, play throughout the day, and stick to a similar bedtime routine.
Get Plenty of Sleep
For everybody, sleep is key to overcoming jet lag. Make sure your kids get enough rest, both on the plane and after arrival, in order to be wide awake at a normal time in this new time zone. Consider bringing along a familiar blanket or stuffed animal to help them feel more comfortable and secure in a new environment. Plus, it’s a lot easier to fall asleep when you’ve got something soft to snuggle into.
Limit Screen Time
The bright light of a screen will affect anyone’s ability to fall asleep, tricking your brain into thinking it’s daylight and keeping you awake. Limit the amount of time your kids spend in front of electronics before bedtime so their bodies have enough time to wind down and realize “it’s nighttime, I should get tired now”. Encourage them to read, play games, or do other quiet activities instead; even putting on a movie on the hotel TV with the lights out is enough to make even the most energetic child pass right out.
Overcoming jet lag can take several days, so it's important to be patient and understanding with your kids during this time. Give them plenty of time to rest and adjust at their own pace, and don't expect them to be at their best right away. As adults, we can adapt quickly and make due with a chaotic sleep schedule even if we are tired or out of routine, but children aren’t quite ready for that yet and try as they might, anything less than 12 hours of sleep will throw their whole system out of order. Make extra time for them in the mornings and at night to account for their jet lag, that way they aren’t made to feel pressured in the morning because they didn’t want to get out of bed in time, making the group run late.
Traveling with your kids is a fun and rewarding experience, but it's important to take steps to beat the jet lag blues and keep the energy levels right where they need to be. By taking these steps and the advice of our experts, you too can help your children feel comfortable and refreshed in a new time zone. Happy travels!