Traveling across time zones is always tricky. I have found loads of advice in baby and travel books, blogs and from other parents. Some say you should always keep your child on your time zone and not switch to local time. Others even suggest you not travel more than 3 hours outside of your time zone.
Are they crazy! Once again, common sense will come to your rescue. I always switch myself to the local time zone and I do the same with Dek. The first few days we all sleep in a little, or not, depending on which direction we travel. Even without my help, Dek naturally switches himself after 2-3 days, so why fight it. Below are some ways I have helped my son acclimate to the time zone we happen to be in, along with a nice tip to how Mike and I stay sane and actually get a little rest.
No matter where we are, plane, car, on the other side of the world, I stick to Dek’s sleep routine – food, bath (if available), books, bed. He also gets a pacifier (for now) and his little bunny blanket. That bunny has been to more places than I was before I was 16. When we first started traveling I tried to keep Dek in the same bed as much as possible, but honestly, he has done the switch enough that as long as he has bunny, he is usually good to go.
In China, we did bring the Baby Bjorn travel crib just because I was not guaranteed that one would be available at the hotels we were checking into. When we are back East though, we are staying at multiple relatives houses who already have travel cribs, so we just plop him into those. Just find something that can keep bedtime consistent, and you will hopefully be OK.
I will say that I consciously have had Dek sleep at other people’s houses at least a few times a month since he was 1 month old. Sometimes I just didn’t want to rush home for a nap, or we wanted to stay at a friend’s house a little later after dinner. This has worked out well for us so far. Dek refuses to nap in the car now, but he sure can sleep in anyone’s pack n’ play.
Sometimes It’s Good to Bend the Rules
Dek never sleeps in bed with us. When I was pregnant I had nightmares about rolling on top of him while I slept. After Dek was born, I had dreams that I was holding him in my arms and would wake up scared that I was smothering him even though he was sleeping soundly in his bassinet next to me. Needless to say, we are not a co-sleeping family. That is, unless we are traveling.
We really only started letting Dek sleep in our bed around his 1st birthday. With the time change, he woke up a little too early for our taste when we went to Philadelphia. He certainly was not ready to get up, but wouldn’t go back to sleep. So we pulled him into bed with us and he passed back out pretty quick.
In Hong Kong, this really came in handy. After almost 24 hours of traveling, we arrived at our hotel around 8pm. We found some food and then collapsed for the night. Dek woke up at 4am very confused and still very sleepy. We brought him into bed with us and after about an hour of kicking us in the face, flopping all over the place, a cup of milk and a diaper change, he finally fell back asleep for a few hours. We all woke up much more refreshed.
One trick Mike and I have learned as parents, and happily pass on to our new parent friends, is that we take turns on the weekend as to who gets to sleep in which morning. Generally I get Saturdays and Mike gets Sundays. This has continued in our travels.
Our first morning in Maui, 5-month-old Dek was up and ready to go at 6am. I was also a little off as well, so I scooped him up, popped him in the stroller and we started walking around Lahaina. What a magical place the town was before the shops were opened and the tourists had crowded up the main drag. We watched an early morning surf lesson, found a baby-friendly beach (very calm waters) and a coffee shop. I was able to explore a bit in the quiet of the morning and catch my breath after the previous day of travel. I actually looked forward to my days to get up with Dek. Don’t get me wrong though, I loved my days to sleep in still.