7 Ways to Manage Jet-Lag with small children

Like most of you, we’re no stranger to crossing different time zones on any given occasion, and having family living in Australia has us dealing with the hulk of all jet lags every time we visit. But this year was my first experience going through jet lag with both our children under the age of 5.

I started writing this post during night 2 after arriving in Australia from France. The jet lag had just kicked in, but it wasn’t so bad with the Fifa World Cup on, hence no alarms had to be set to watch the games. Both kids were going to bed splendidly, but were waking up for two hour blocks anywhere between 2-4 am. ‘Not so bad’ you might think, but when I say they woke up, it felt like they were the most awake they had ever been! It’s manageable, sure, but I’m sure the neighbours were happy when we moved onto our next destination.

It’s now day 20, and before you panic, no it did not take over two weeks to recover (it just took close to three weeks for me to get my sh*t together and write this article… But hey I’m on holidays). The real jet-lag stuck with us for about a week and the following points are what helped us get through it. (sounds a tad dramatic…wait, let me re-phrase… we slept a little funny for about a week and here’s what helped us get back on track).

  1. Plan ahead

Traveling from Europe to Australia is about as far as you can go, so regardless of flights, you’re pretty much screwed and will get hit with jet lag. Nevertheless, do try and plan your flights/transport to suit you as best as possible. Some people prefer a night flight to ensure their little ones will sleep on the plane before arriving. Others prefer a day flight because they themselves don’t sleep on planes and prefer to be well rested to handle the first, bumpy days ahead. Do what suits you (and your wallet) best. Incorporating a good lay-over period during long journeys can help the little energy balls stretch their legs and run around for a while. Many airports have play areas and some even have private rooms for rent where you can freshen up. Do your research before booking your travels.

  1. Start off slow

The one thing I did not do is start these holidays off slow. After recovering from emergency lower-back surgery a week and a half before departure, I was even more determined to get to our destination and be with my family. I had a baby nephew to finally meet and parents who were dying to see their grandchildren. I hit the ground running (well… on bed rest for a bit of it) so our jet lag was predominantly shared with my poor mom as she helped me carry our toddler in and out of the bed (thanks mom, you’re a rock star!) So lesson learnt; although I’d do it again in a heartbeat. Try and take it easy the first few days of your holidays as you all adjust to the new time zone and surroundings.

  1. Acceptance

The first thing we need to remember when travelling long distances is that jet-lag is just a part of the package. Some people are less affected by it than others, and usually children tend to adapt better than adults (maybe it’s because we’re already tired to begin with). Either way, going with the flow of it and finding ways to minimize it, is better than trying to stop it or avoiding it all together.

  1. Patience (I lost mine on night 2)

This comes hand in hand with acceptance. If we refuse to roll over and let jet-lag sniff our butts, we won’t have the patience either to ride it out. Pair that with some added on fatigue and you’ll soon look at one grumpy sob in the mirror. I tend to not handle jet-lag that well even pre-kids, so this grumpy old lady lost her marbles rather early on in the game. ‘Just be patient’ is a lot easier said than done, but even faking a calm and comforting smile is a good start to keeping your cool. This too shall pass (otherwise none of us would travel…ever)

  1. Full bellies

The first few nights our little ones woke up and were always happy to have another meal even though we had had a good dinner earlier. We quickly caught on and gave them a little extra just before bed. It went against my usual rule of thumb where I try to keep at least an hour or two between meals and bedtime, but when you’re tired, you’ll try just about anything.

  1. Allow middle of night wake up and return to routine after an hour or two max

Don’t force the children the lie silently in their beds because they won’t (unless you have the dream team of offspring who will do whatever you want and adapt however you need; in which case I hate you just a little bit and you wouldn’t be reading this post in the first place). Instead, allow the children to do a quiet activity and let them get their ‘awakeness’ out of their system. Read a book, play a calm game, watch something relaxing on TV (yes, a screen! calm down) They’ll soon get tired again and fall back asleep. We don’t need to run a tight ship when away from home, but sticking to some of the routine is still very important with little ones even when you’re on holidays.

  1. Enjoy your Holiday !

Keep your eye on the prize, and once you’ve pushed through those first few days, you can start enjoying your holidays! Whether you’re discovering a new city/region, visiting family or heading somewhere familiar; rest up and enjoy these little monkeys’ company, because before you know it September will come and hit us smack in the face again.

Bonnes Vacances !!

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