When talking to my friends about traveling with children, we inevitably end up discussing jet lag, a topic that seems to separate people into two different groups: those who are not bothered by the change in time zones and those who think twice about traveling because they are so anxious about it. The latter are worried about the effects that jet lag will have on their kids. Will they be up in the middle of the night? Will they be exhausted all day? What will their meal schedule be like? How will they adapt?
For me, jet lag is very low on my list of concerns when we head off to another part of the world. I get more anxious about packing and not forgetting the sweatshirts or the baby’s formula. Why is that? Well, first of all, there is nothing you can do about the change in time zone. Secondly, my excitement about traveling surpasses my worry of being tired and getting woken up by my kids. Truth be told, they wake me up on both sides of the Equator…
Should you prepare the kids a couple of days in advance for the new time zone? I wouldn’t recommend it. I also think that it is a bad idea to stick to your home time zone once you get to your new destination. You want to try and have the kids adjust as quickly as possible. If you don’t, then you will miss out on museums, shows, shops, restaurants or whatever attractions you have planned.
Keep it simple and get into the routine of wherever you are going once you arrive. Obviously, if the children are exhausted and fall asleep, there is not much you can do about it. If they are tired and it is the middle of the afternoon, try and keep them entertained and awake until the early evening: it will make the night that much longer. And yes, it is likely that they will wake up at 4am or 5am depending which way around the globe you travel, but that will not last longer than 3 or 4 days.
The less you stress about jet lag, the easier you and your kids will adapt. And most importantly, you’ve come so far: don’t forget to enjoy yourself!