Jet lag is a condition characterized by various psychological and physiological effects such as fatigue and irritability, following a long flight through several time zones (source: Merriam Webster). Jet lag can make travel tough, and when you are traveling with kids, it’s even more challenging.
After over a decade of family travel, I’ve developed a few strategies for coping with jet lag. And with the help of fellow family travel experts, here are eight tips on how to deal with jet lag when you’re traveling with kids.
Eight Tips On How to Deal with Jet Lag
1. Consider the Direction of Travel & Don’t Sleep In
Kids need their sleep much more than adults do, and jet lagged kids can have an adverse affect on a family’s plans. Flying west means that kids crash earlier in the evening. Traveling east means that they often stay up later and sleep longer in the morning.
Although it’s tempting, don’t let the kids sleep in too long. We missed quite a few hours during a recent trip to Paris because the girls kept sleeping in each morning. At first, we wanted them to get their sleep, but as the days went on, they just keep sleeping in until 11, sometimes nearly noon. That meant we missed entire mornings of activities. – Chris ‘Chez’ Chesak, Executive Director, Family Travel Association
2. Break-Up the Trip
This year we began our summer vacation in Zurich, a nine-hour time change from our home in British Columbia. To ease the transition, we spent a few days in Quebec on the way to Switzerland. This way we had a three-hour time change, followed by a six-hour time change. We have done this before on our way to Europe, the South Pacific, and Asia – it seems to help.
3. Drink a Lot
Inflight Champagne is tempting for the adults, but after a glass or two, drink water to stay hydrated. I often add an electrolyte tablet like nuun or Emergen-C to my water. For the kids, I make sure they stay well hydrated by drinking water or fruit juice throughout the flight.
4. Get Comfortable Before You Board the Plane
Have your children use the bathroom and brush their teeth before they get on the plane – this is one we learned the hard way. We have been standing in the boarding line when someone is desperate to use the bathroom, or worse yet, sitting on the runway and there’s a line five people deep for the toilet. Do yourself a favor, have everyone use the restroom and brush their teeth before they get on the airplane. You’ll thank me for it.
Another tip on how to deal with jet lag is to have your kids wear comfortable clothes on the airplane. Our children have traveled in pajamas (yes, we had some strange looks on the Tube), but I think sweats or anything they can sleep in is a great option. – Kirsten Maxwell, Kids Are A Trip
5. Take a Walk To Stay Awake
We had our first real experience with jet lag last summer when we went with my boys, then 8 & 10, to Iceland. And we approached it just like we did before we had kids: Stay awake until it’s bedtime at the place you’ve landed. We made sure not to sit long after we got settled into the lodging, spending the day getting acquainted with Reykjavik and trying to walk so we weren’t too drowsy. We all went to bed that night, and the kids seemed fine the rest of the trip. – Heather Mundt, Momfari
6. Go For A Swim
Suffering from jet lag while traveling with children can be, well, exhausting. We’ve used all the traditional methods, such as using taking remedies like melatonin (for the adults), changing watches to local time while still flying, and keeping hydrated in order to deal with jet lag.
By far, the most effective way we’ve managed to stay awake until local bedtime is by finding a pool and taking a dip. This has worked time and again for adults and kids to revitalize spirits and bodies from that awful, fuzzy jet lag exhaustion. Whether it’s at your hotel, a family member’s backyard pool, or a public facility, a short hour’s dip will work wonders in making it through that difficult first, and even second, day. – Claudia Laroye, The Travelling Mom
7. Stock Snacks
Ensure there are snacks and drinks in your hotel room, apartment, or villa. During the first few days in a new time zone, our kids often wake-up in the middle of the night because they are hungry. Granola bars and bananas are excellent late night snacks, that may help you and your kids get back to sleep.
8. Embrace the Jet Lag
A final tip on how to deal with jet lag – make the most of it. If you wake up early, take advantage of early morning coffee and pastries offered in the lobby at many hotels. Or munch on the snacks you have handy, before heading outside. You can capture the early morning light with your camera, visit tourist attractions before the crowds (e.g. Trevi Fountain in Rome, Charles Bridge in Prague), and watch the destination come alive.
Have you experienced jet lag from flying through numerous time zones? I would appreciate hearing your tips on how to deal with jet lag.