We do a lot of traveling and not just one to two-hour flights. We don’t even just from the east coast to the west coast. Our family takes long-haul flights and does a lot of international travel with our (right now) toddlers. Most recently, our longest trip was 14 hours from Taiwan to California. And then we flew another 6 hours from California back to the east coast. To top it off, we flew to our new home in China. This summer, we get to take that trip again from China to the east coast. Our family is no stranger to jet lag with toddlers. Here’s how we manage.
Survive Jet Lag With Toddlers And Little Kids AND Have Fun!
1. Try to arrive close to bedtime.
Bedtime is a magical hour for little ones. It’s a time for routine, kisses, hugs, and rejuvenation of little minds. After a full day of travel, new stimuli, and lots of moving, it’s important to get rest. For little people and adults, it’s wonderful to take a bath and settle into a soft warm bed. When you can arrive in the mid to late afternoon, eat, and allow yourself to fall asleep as close to the normal bedtime as possible, jet lag with toddlers should subside substantially within the first day. But it may take up to 3-5 days to heal the jet lag more completely. The more consistent you are with bedtime, the faster the jet lag will heal. Also, try to make sure kids have dedicated sleeping arrangements.
2. Don’t allow “extra” naps for the first three days.
When dealing with jet lag, this holds true for both adults and children. Don’t take ‘extra’ naps during the day. If your kids are used to taking two naps a day that lasts for one to two hours a day, allow them to take those naps. Don’t allow the naps to extend longer than what is normal. Only you know what normal is for your child. Jet lag wants you to think that you need to sleep either earlier or later than the physical environment of your new location would dictate. To heal jet lag with toddlers and your big kids, adapt to your new physical environment as quickly as possible. That means, when the sun is out(unless you’re a little kid who naps), you need to be awake those first few days.
3. Keep bedtime as close to normal as you can.
When you have toddlers, you and I both know that sleepy jet lagged toddlers is a recipe for lots of frustration for them and for you. When little ones don’t know when they’re going to eat, what they’re going to eat, and when they get to rest, the unknown and lack of routine can be difficult for them. So, plan to have dinner at a consistent time each day and make sure the majority of the food is familiar. Feed the little ones, bathe them, brush teeth, get them in clean jammies, read stories, say prayers (if you do that), and tuck them into warm clean beds in quiet rooms. Make sure to mirror their normal bedtime routines.
4. Limit long activities for the first few days.
This may crimp your plans a bit but sleepier children will not help heal the jet lag; it will only exacerbate the issue. Keeping daily activities on the short side and prioritizing naps and rest will help heal your toddler’s jet lag faster, allowing you to plan longer fuller activities toward the tail end of your trip.
5. Plan mealtimes as consistently as you can.
Helping heal jet lag for toddlers requires consistent daily action. Having meals at a consistent time helps their littles adjust to the new time zone just as having consistent bedtimes helps their sleep patterns adjust.
6. Limit screen time and get moving.
Even though you’re limiting (day) long activities for the first few days, you still need to get those kids outside and in the sunlight. Going to a park and even walking around to explore a new location are all good activities for little ones. It gives them just enough activity and new stimuli for their senses to give them that good kind of sleepy that comes from a day of fun activities and new sights and sounds. Screen time and app play do not do the same thing. Remember, you’re shooting for happily exhausted kids not little screen zombies; one kid sleeps and wakes up refreshed while the other one still has too much energy to get a good restful sleep.
7. Routine Routine Routine
The single most important tips for healing jet lag with toddlers and big kids is to develop a routine. I know you (the parent) are on vacation too, but you’re still a parent and kids need routines (even on vacation). When it comes to jet lag, having consistent sleep and meal times really does help the body heal and adjust to the new time zone. I refer to “healing” jet lag because jet lag can cause some people, especially kids, to get a bit sick. Treating jet lag like the serious adjustment to the body that it is, by setting up routines, will truly help you and your kids adjust faster and enjoy more of your trip.
My Jet Lag Tips for Toddlers and Big Kids
Travel is amazing and it’s such a wonderful opportunity for your kids. Don’t let fear of jet lag keep you spreading your wings (or boarding an airplane with your toddlers). Jet lag is not a permanent problem. Jet lag is a temporary inconvenience for the benefit of travel, but travel is gift of memories, experiences, and it can have life-altering positive benefits on your kids’ development. Take my jet lag tips for toddlers and big kids, and go see the world.
What tips and tricks do you use to help heal jet lag for toddlers and big kids?