You’ve always dreamed of introducing your kids to new cultures, but forgot about one minor detail. Jet lag. Those two words are enough to make sleep-deprived parents shudder. Jet lag is hard for everybody, but is nearly unbearable when you have cranky kids to care for. Although there is no magic formula to cure jet lag, there are ways to handle it like a pro.
Strategize Your Flight Time
Booking the right flight can make all of the difference when it comes to lessening the impact of jet lag. An all-day flight with a massive time change could mean getting off the plane only to face the day all over again. Spending all day trying to keep your own eyes open, as well as your kids, could ruin your vacation before it really gets started. Meanwhile, an all-night flight could produce fitful sleep, but give your family just enough rest to readjust relatively quickly.
Keep Your Kids on the Same Schedule
It’s not always possible to stick to your home schedule abroad, but you can get close. Let’s consider an East Coast to West Coast flight may yield a four-hour time difference and sleepy kids. Consider waking up at the crack of dawn, local time, and going to bed early to mimic the hours your family was on back east. Even if you’re an hour or two off, the readjustment will be easier the closer you can get to your familiar schedule.
Call in Reinforcements
Don’t underestimate how tired you’ll be as the responsible parent trying to keep the peace among squabbling, sleep-deprived kids. Arrange for reinforcements in advance, whether it’s a relative, trusted friend or hotel babysitter to help out. You need someone to pitch in so you can get your own nap and just deal with the growing frustrations of your cranky kids. A refreshed babysitter with energy to spare will suddenly feel more important than those attraction tickets or visits to a much-anticipated landmark.
Lower Your Expectations
There’s really no way to sugarcoat it. Jet lag is just difficult, so don’t bother stepping into your long-haul travel experience expecting to conquer it on the first day. Your family may never adjust, but that doesn’t mean you can’t have fun anyway. Plan to take it easy, schedule in plenty of downtime and give each other a wide breadth of space. After all, no one is going to win the “Least Jet Lagged Family” award. Just focus on having a restful and enjoyable vacation where the real prize is spending time together and doing something new.