12 Days of Travel Tips: The two best ways I’ve found to manage a time change

So now that you are ready to travel after yesterday’s pep talk, today we are going to talk about avoiding jet lag.

These are my two best ways to manage a time change (and avoid jet lag):

1. Set your watch to the new time zone as soon as possible.

The quicker you can get your brain thinking on the new time zone, the sooner your body will follow. Whether you are traveling to a time change of one hour or eight, set your watch to the new time right after you buckle your seatbelt on the plane. This will help you to change the way you think about mealtimes and sleep times and will help you to make the most of your vacation time. This will also help you think about how you should manage your flight time to get you assimilated once you land. Of course flying can be boring and sleep is always good, but too much sleep can lead to trouble adapting once you land. Which leads us to tip number two:

2. Assimilate to the new time zone as soon as possible.

Traveling far away to a very different time zone? Get your body on track to the new time as quickly as possible.

If you will be arriving in the morning, try to get some rest (and try to coax your kids to rest, too) during the flight. Most likely, your kids (toddlers on up) will not turn off the airplane’s complimentary entertainment system (if it is a long-haul flight) unless you make them. So be the mean mom and, after a few hours of fun after dinner, tell them it is time to turn the entertainment system off. Boredom will lull them right to sleep. If that doesn’t work, give them 10 minutes of reading time or looking at books and then explain that it will be lights out after that. And enforce it.

If you are traveling with a baby or toddler, just telling them to go to sleep doesn’t work as well. But do as many sleep inducing cues as you possibly can: Nurse or give your baby a bottle at sleep time. Change him or her into her pajamas. Give your child a blanket to snuggle with, read a story and do your best to cuddle and bring on sleep. If that doesn’t work, just do your best not to get frustrated and keep trying to be soothing. You might have to endure a few minutes of tears (or even have to walk the aisle with a restless baby), but the sleep that will come will be well worth it.

If you are arriving in the morning, plan an early evening activity which will force you to stay awake and then plan to sleep late the next day.

On our last trip to London, we arrived at about 7:30 in the morning, well before our hotel was ready for us. They allowed us to stow our bags, though, so we went off for some sightseeing right away. Once we were able to check in, we all took a two-hour nap in the afternoon, which was VERY hard to wake from, and then took in a play which started at 7 p.m. When we first woke after the nap, I thought our planning was a terrible mistake, but once everyone was up and out, the kids did well, we loved the play, went to bed late, slept late and never had any trouble with jet lag the entire trip. I am positive that was because we stayed up late the first night to make us sleep through the whole night and then got a great night’s sleep and dove right in to the rest of the week.

If you are arriving at night, it get’s a little trickier. Try to nap on the plane, but don’t sleep the whole time. And this goes for your children, too. Keep them occupied on the plane so they will stay awake be tired at nighttime, when you arrive. (Don’t worry… I’ve got 11 tried and true tips for beating boredom coming!) On that first night, do stay up later so that they will be sure to be exhausted when it is time to sleep. And then let them sleep later than usual the next morning, but not past 11 a.m.

If you or the kids are jet-lagged on the trip, allow for short naps, but do your best to get into the right sleep pattern for long sleeps right away.

Only traveling a few time zones away?

Still try your best to acclimate right away. Everyone will be happier if you still eat and sleep at the right times.

If it is a long trip and you feed strictly by the clock, adjust a bit each day. If it is just a weekend trip, consider going against what I’ve just said and stick to the old time zone’s schedule.

In both cases, remember that not only is your body clock confused, but your child’s is, too. Give him or her a little extra leeway and try to be a calming force until all the kinks are worked out. Some bodies bounce right into the new time zone and some don’t. Your best bet to get there, though, is to force assimilation as quickly as you can, and do the same on the way home.

Miss any days or want to know what’s ahead? Here are all 12 Days of Christmas Travel Tips on MomsTravelTales:

Day 1: One pep talk about family travel

Day 2: The two best ways to manage a time zone change

Day 3: Three reasons to consider a hotel staycation in December

Day 4: Four ways to minimize stress on travel days

Day 5: Five ways to be a gracious overnight houseguest

Day 6: Six ideas for pampering overnight guests

Day 7: Seven people to tip when traveling (and how much)

Day 8: Eight tips for international travel

Day 9: Nine secrets for a great hotel stay with kids

Day 10: Ten things to keep in mind when flying with children

Day 11: Eleven tried and true ways to beat boredom while waiting

Day 12: Twelve things I’ve learned about travel with kids

Want to know more than just travel?

Swing by any of the other 7 sites during the 12 Days of Christmas and here’s what you’ll learn: (And these girls know their stuff!)
Christmas Homeschool Fun: 1+1+1=1

Christmas Decorations: Songbird

Tips for a Healthy Holiday: The Thrifty Mama

Saving Money: Surviving the Stores

Christmas Recipes: Lynn’s Kitchen Adventures

Christmas Family Fun: Life as Mom

Homemade Christmas Gifts: The Happy Housewife

Thanks for stopping by today!

So…. How do you beat jet lag or deal with a smaller time change? And what questions can I answer for you about family travel? Please let me know…

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  1. Tracy G says

    Okay, so I’m totally breaking protocol, but…can you skip ahead to day 8 for me?! We leave Friday (the 2nd) for a family mission trip to Venezuela. Any tips on how to assure a 12,8,4, and 14 month old fly well? I’m not too concerned about the 12 & 8 yo, but am about the little boys. Now all but 12yo have colds. Do you give any meds or have any on hand for yours to help them handle flight well? What would be your short couple of tips for a 7 hr flight with little ones? I’m getting pretty nervous!!!!!! If you’d be willing to answer these, that would be amazing! If you don’t want to post the answer here, please feel free to answer via email. Thanks!!!

    • Mom'sTravelTales says

      YIkes! I’ll try to get an email out to you soon with my notes for Day 8’s post. In the meantime, this will help give you some tips:
      Also, if anyone is congested, be sure to give them a decongestant before you fly so that the pressure at takeoff doesn’t cause a headache.
      If you choose to use a medication to induce sleep, talk to your pediatrician about it first. And give it a test run at home to be sure it doesn’t hype your kids up instead of calm them down. And, after that, if you do use it, wait until you are on the plane to give it to them. You never know when a flight will be delayed, even after boarding.
      One more thing– double check your passport expiration dates. They typically need to be valid for 6 months after your planned return. If they are not, it is possible you will not be allowed to board the plane.
      Hang in there.. it’s gonna be a great trip and SO worth it! I’m proud of you for taking the plunge and going. You can do it!!!!
      I’ll try to email you later tonight. :)


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