6 Tips to Help Your Kids Beat Jet Lag on Your Family Vacation

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With summer in full swing, plenty of families are hitting the tarmac on their quest for vacation fun! That can mean a quick jaunt, or it can mean a lengthy plane ride to a far-off destination. Which can be so amazing! But when you fly from one time zone to another, it can also mean wicked jet leg. Adults are capable of managing it, but it can seriously throw kids for a loop. But don’t let that damper your travel plans! With a little forethought and some tricks up your sleeve, you can fight your kid’s jet lag and not miss a minute of your family vacation.

1. The first thing you can do to fight jet lag is plan your flights strategically, if possible.

kids at the airport

Image: iStock / FamVeld

If you can, book overnight flights, or flights that leave when it’s dark and land when the sun is out. Kids can sleep on the plane, so their sleep schedule isn’t disrupted too bad. And landing when the sun is out makes it easier to adjust to the time change.

2. Start adjusting your kids’ schedules in the days leading up to your flight.

Move their bedtimes and wake-up times by a half hour closer to your destination time every couple of days, so they’re used to the time they’ll be getting to bed and waking up where you’re headed. If they’re used to going to sleep at 8 p.m. every night in Eastern Standard Time, it can be a huge shock when their bodies want to hit the sack at 5 p.m. on the west coast.

3. Don’t try to keep your regular schedule on new time. Adjust feeding and nap schedules as soon as you land.

child on airplane

Image: iStock / FamVeld

If you need a reminder, set one on your phone so you know when your toddler would normally be napping at home, and try to stick to that schedule. It could be helpful to plan that schedule before you leave, so you can make sure to plan activities and excursions around it. But babies, toddlers, and kids thrive on consistency and routine. When they’re jet lagged is not the time to try to change it.

4. Schedule some naps for everyone during the first few days of your trip!

Jet lag is rough on everyone. So don’t feel like you need to power through, and certainly don’t expect your kids to do that! Tired parents and tired kids makes for a bad combination, so try not to pack tons of stuff to do into the first few days. Rather, schedule some R&R in the form of naps, or even just quiet time in your rental or hotel room.

5. Don’t forget the melatonin.

Listen, sometimes your kids need a little help! When 11 p.m. rolls around and they’re still partying like is 8 p.m., you might want to consider helping them into slumber. It can make the transition to new bedtimes and schedules a lot easier to manage, and help them get more sleep.

6. Above all, remember: kids are going to have jet lag, and no matter how much you prepare, it’s probably going to suck.

baby on the plane

Image: iStock / tatyana_tomsickova

Just know that it’s going to happen! Keep your expectations low for the first few days of your trip, and give them time to adjust. There’s no sense in letting it ruin your vacation, you can certainly work around it, but just accepting that it’s going to happen can go a long way toward making it easier to manage.

(Image: iStock / GOLFX)