OK, you’re probably thinking 3 days of jet lag is too much. You want to move right past the jet lag with kids in one day and enjoy your vacation. Unfortunately, it’s not likely to happen. If you are traveling with kids from the U.S. to Europe, you can expect them to need three days for the full time change adjustment. My advice, accept this and move on.
Now you can focus on the steps required to get through it. The following is a step-by-step guide to conquer jet lag with kids and hopefully limit the tears those first few days.
Table of Contents
Jet Lag with Kids: Day 1
If you arrive very early in the morning, I advocate for a quick nap at the hotel. Others might suggest keeping the kids awake as long as possible the first day, but you need to be the judge of how much they can take.
If you can get to the park for some outside fun, before a very early dinner and bedtime, do it. If not, don’t be afraid to take the cat nap to make it through the day.
The first night is usually the worst. It will be for you as an adult and it will be for your kids. Your younger children will definitely wake up confused and possibly hungry.
It is OK. Do not yell at your child. Yes, you will be grumpy when they poke you in the head at 2 a.m. This is only natural, but you need to do the same thing you would do when tackling jet lag with babies and toddlers.
- Get up and have a snack
- Allow your child to watch a show quietly or read a book for 30 minutes.
- Tuck your child back into bed
- Pray he or she goes back to sleep
Now comes the tricky part. Because your child was up in the middle of the night, anywhere from 30 minutes to two hours, your kid will probably sleep in. Don’t let him. Get him up and face the day. It’s time for breakfast, fresh air and a little bit of adventuring.
Traveling with a baby? Read our baby jet lag survival guide!
Jet lag with Kids: Day 2
The first morning you will hopefully wake up feeling rather refreshed. The kids will be ready for a good breakfast, so make sure they get one. Grab eggs, or some other sort of local protein, cereals, fruit, and a coffee or tea for mom and dad.
Get everyone outside exploring for as long as possible. By the afternoon, mom and dad may start to fade.
Quite honestly, once you are out of the toddler years, your kids may deal with jet lag better than adults. Let’s be honest folks, we are getting old and jet lag wears on our bodies. Take a break at a local café. Have the kids write in their travel journals. Go back to the hotel to swim in the pool, watch local cartoons or take a quick nap.
This IS supposed to be a vacation. Even if you are on a road trip around Ireland, it is OK to have a little downtime.
Make sure you get to bed early again tonight. Hopefully your children will sleep through the night, but don’t be surprised if younger children are up again.
Older children may want to stay up to read. Give them a little wiggle room as they get onto their “normal” routine abroad. Just be careful how late older kids are allowed to sleep in each morning.
Like all tweens and teens, they will want to sleep as long as possible no matter where you put them in the world.
Jet lag with Kids: Day 3
Welcome to the start of your trip on a normal schedule. By now YOU should start to feel a bit more like yourself again. It might not take five cups of coffee to get through the day. Perhaps you will only require the usual three.
When we went to Ireland, day three was magical. Everything seemed to get easier from there on out.
My boys were sleeping more regularly. No one was waking up at night unless they had to use the toilet. My youngest started getting up at his usual 7am once again and needing to be in bed by 8pm as usual.
Best of all, my body didn’t feel like a truck had hit it anymore. I felt like I could tackle all of our planned activities and even some unplanned adventures as well. Trust me, driving on the left side of the road was an adventure while managing jet lag with kids.
Feeling “normal” again while driving definitely made the entire process easier.
CONQUER JET LAG
My biggest takeaway when it comes to jet lag and kids; the adventure is always worth a few confused and groggy days.
To the best of your ability (I know it’s hard) try to be patient and understanding as they adjust to the time change and new surroundings. Stick to the schedule for the first few days and watch as everyone begins to adjust – enjoy!
Family airport, mother daughter vacation, kids airport photos via Shutterstock