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The Mom’s Guide To Conquering Jet Lag When Traveling With Kids

Travelling is a part of life for expats. So is jet lag.

If, like me, you and your kids are ringing in the new year with a healthy dose of jet lag and wondering when in the world the madness will end, don’t bother googling it. I’ve read what the “experts” have to say and am here to set the record straight.


What the experts say: Travelling east to west is easier. The logic is that it is easier to try to keep yourself awake when you’re tired then force yourself to sleep when you’re not. Going west to east will mean you are not tired at your expected bedtime.

Real mom says: Ha! In theory, this makes sense: it IS harder to force yourself to sleep. However, if you travel exactly halfway around the world where there is a 12 hour time difference, day is night, night is day, east is west and so on. Or, if you have kids, you understand that they can fall asleep in a bowl of pasta just as easily as they can lie awake whining “but I’m not tired.”


What the experts say: Keep the lights low when they wake up in the middle of the night.

Real mom says: Ha! Ha! This does work great for me. The low lights keep me calm, relaxed, and ready to doze off again in no time. But the under 5s? A dim room is no match for these fireballs of energy.  Also, we are a Lego-friendly house. They are small and easy to transport. So small, in fact, they are the perfect size to go unnoticed on a low lit floor until they meet a bare foot. Dim the lights at your own risk.  


What the experts say: Start on your new schedule as soon as you land and resist the urge to keep thinking, “what time is it really?” If you land at noon, then it’s noon.  

Real mom says: Ha! Ha! Ha! Keeping to your old schedule is a great idea but try waiting until 7 to serve your toddler, who has been up since 4, breakfast. You can try biding time with snacks but then when it’s time for breakfast, they’re already full. Either that or you’re likely to get the faceplant in the pasta.


What the experts say: Try adjusting to your new time zone a couple of days before you leave. Adjust bedtimes, meal times, nap times accordingly and you’ll get a head start on beating jet lag.

Real mom says: Hahahahahahahaha!!!! Kids can’t beat jet lag. The force is too strong. Also, unless you plan to completely halt your real life a couple of days before you leave, this will prove to be nearly impossible (even for jedi moms).


What the experts say: Sunlight is essential. The best remedy to reset the body’s natural circadian rhythm is fresh air and sunlight.

Real mom says: Yes. This one is very true. Get outside. During the day. Like normal people. 


So what’s a real mom supposed to do? Remember that all kids are different and you know your child(ren) best. If you know you can push bedtime back, do it. If you know they need to eat, don’t wait. There are no set rules in the nightmare game of jet lag.

Try all of the above, something will work for you. If not, grab a bottle of wine/scotch/tequila (and don’t forget the coffee!) and know that eventually (like the day before you are headed off again), everyone will be back on track.

By Kathleen Siddell, January 2016
Photo: 123rf.com

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