Dealing With Jet Lag While Traveling With Toddlers
Having just flown across 10 time zones in the last week and dealt with a healthy dose of jet lag I feel like I am uniquely qualified to write on this subject at the moment (while it's all still fresh in my mind). In fact, I was just having a celebratory cup of coffee because for the first time in 5 days my girls are asleep by (almost) their normal bedtime - here's to hoping they sleep past 3 am tonight.
Before You Fly
Dealing with Jet Lag starts about a week or two before you leave on your trip if possible. At this point start taking some probiotics, drinking lots and lots of water and making sure everyone is getting plenty of rest. Because getting sick before or during a trip is zero fun, we also take extra vitamin C and use an immune boosting essential oil on the kids feet before bed just in case.
If you're taking longer flights we've found for our family its best to schedule overnight flights so everyone can get a bit more sleep on the way. No matter how long the flight is, we try to let the kids wiggle, move around and in general tire themselves out before the flight.
During The Flight
During the flight drink water instead of sugary sodas to keep yourself well hydrated. For the kids we usually bring an empty waterbottle and just fill it up in the airport before we head out.
We bring a small blanket (or use ones from the plane), kid size neck pillows and headphones for each kid so they are as comfortable as possible and have the highest likelyhood of sleeping in flight. Sometimes we are more successful than others but in general it works pretty well for us.
When you reach your destination try to get outside in the sunshine as much as possible. The sunlight will naturally help your circadian rythms adjust. Similarly sleeping in a very dark room at night will help your system to adjust.
However, be careful using blackout curtains or rollers when you're jet lagged. The reason why is because they are too effective, so it is just as easy to sleep til noon as it is to sleep til 8 am. If you have very effective blinds try to leave a slight gap at the bottom of rolling blinds or between blackout curtains for the morning sun to come in and help wake you up or else you can actually end up prolonging your jet lag.
Continue drinking lots of water.
For the first few days its very likely that you (and your kids) will wake up at some crazy hour in the middle of the night. Plan on it. When it happens keep the lights low, grab a snack and play quietly for a couple hours then go back to bed.
The next day you'll probably want a nap but avoid it if you can. If you do decide to take a nap be sure to set an alarm so you don't end up sleeping all day. Your kids will most definitely want to nap as well. It seems to work out best when we just put the kids in the stroller and head out to see some of the sights and let them sleep in the stroller. Usually this means we are outside in sun (yay!) for at least a little bit and they tend not to sleep as long so you have a better bet of them sleeping longer at night time.
Other Jet Lag Notes:
1. Go Quiet Places - The first few days when little ones are sleeping a lot in strollers are great times to go places that you generally need to be quiet like churches or museums. So if you have any places like that on your itinerary, schedule them for the first couple days when theres a good chance the kids will be knocked out asleep (and consequently super quiet)
2. Bring Extra Clothes - If you happen to have a toddler in any stage of potty training (we have a 3 year old that just wears pull ups at night), make sure you bring extras of whatever you need. It will take a few days for their bodies to adjust so they might have accidents even if they never do at home. Just as a precaution we have our 3 year old wear a pull up for nap time and nighttime for the first few days.
3. Less Sun Could Mean More Jet Lag - When traveling to a country that is very far North in the wintertime there will be much less sunshine than most other places in the world. Unfortunately because it's harder to get out in the sun, your jet lag might last a bit longer. Also if you'll be in such a place for a long period of time, be sure to get some vitamin D3 for you and your kids and take it every day.
4. One Day Per Time Zone - Jet lag is different for everyone but i've heard that it can take about 1 day per time zone difference for your body to fully adjust to the new time. That means for us it will take about a week and a half for things to feel fully normal. Expect to just be flexible and give each other lots of extra grace during this time.