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Changing time zones with kids

Updated: Apr 21, 2022

Have you ever had that day where you are completely exhausted and your kids are running around like they are howler monkeys on red bull? That’s what can happen when your kids get overtired, or jet lagged, or eat too much sugar. Trust me, I know. But since this article is more about dealing with time changes while travelling with kids, let’s just focus on that one.

One of the main concerns of parents when they think about travelling with kids is the thought of dealing with time changes. Jet lag happens because the body hasn’t yet adapted to the new time changes after a long trip. And jetlagged kids can become overtired kids. And overtired kids can go one of a few ways;

1. They can be really really tired and sleep a lot during what would normally be their night time (not the worst option...)

2. They can become really whingy and cranky

3. They can become super hyper and behave like drunk teenagers at a birthday party (guess which one my kids are?).

(I bet you are just itching to book a trip now huh?) So now that I have gently introduced you to the world of travelling with kids across time zones, I thought I would share some tips about how to minimise this, and help your kids to gently and quickly adjust.

* Provide your kids with healthy foods and drinks for the couple of days leading to your departure. This helps their little bodies function better and will allow for better sleep…. For you and the kids!

* Take the few days before the trip easy so the kids are well rested and try to get a good night sleep before you leave

* If you can, try changing the kids body clocks an hour or so closer to the new time zone in the couple of days leading to the trip. I found this helped us with transitioning the kids from night to day in our first destination.

* Once you board the plane, switch your clocks to the local time of your destination. If you have really little kids, this won’t make a difference to them but it can help you. One way to move to the new timezone is to begin eating at the times you would there. This encourages your body to switch over.

* Once you arrive at your destination try to stick to the new time zone. If the kids are really tired, have a small nap during the early part of the day to give them enough energy to make it to the new bedtime. On our last trip with three young kids we took a rather decent three hour nap during lunchtime and then kept the kids busy and playing until bedtime which worked great for us. It would have worked even better if we hadn't had to evacuate our hotel room at 3am because of a fire alarm (that's another story).

* Plan fun, lively things to do during the day at your new destination. I saw a blog post that said to do nice quiet relaxing activities until their bodies adjust but my kids just fall asleep. I find fun, busy activities keeps them entertained and going until bedtime, especially outside. Now, I’m not saying do something exhausting like going on a hike, but a play in the sand at the beach or checking out a local park keeps them entertained and awake.

* Allow yourselves a few days to get into the new routine and expect a few extra tears, tantrums and night time waking until then.

But overall, don’t stress. It’s not as big a deal as you might think and kids are extremely resilient. They often deal with the whole thing better than we do :)

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