Beating jet lag with kids- travel well wake happy!

Well fair to say my little ones are now becoming seasoned overseas travelers, and to be honest they cope better than we do with jetlag.

A well meaning friend suggested to me that jet lag is a “mindset” issue, and hubby and I have tried “not speaking jetlag into reality” state, but getting up in the morning and finding my 9 year old had made herself breakfast at 3am kind of confirmed it for me, as did the twin Beany Boo party at 2am.

So being a sleep consultant and knowing how circadian rhythms work I’m erring on the side of science with this one!

So what is jetlag?

Jetlag is a delayed adjustment to time zone change, and causes physiological changes as our external environment time, is mis matched with our internal circadian clock.

What does it look like?

Headaches, nausea, sluggishness, loss of appetite, lack of concentration, loss of memory, struggle to wake up and struggle to fall asleep  and a biggy IRRITABILITY (or most likely to cause nitpicking between all family members or out right arguments during line ups in immigration)… sounds awesome right?  jet-lag-3







Is it different depending on which way you travel– totally yes.

Travel on a eastward flight you are more likely to to suffer delayed sleep onset.

Travel on a westward flight can lead to early morning wake ups.

So what can we as parents do to make it easier on our little frequent flyers (and ultimately us)?

1.Time of flights.

So before you even leave the ground I recommend booking a overnight flight.  Now its not easy to be arriving at the airport for a midnight departure but it is doable.  I put the kids into bed dressed for the plane, and put them straight in the car, and they tend to snooze on the way there, and can then tolerate the waiting around and check in procedures a little better.

Sleeping overnight for a few hours and arriving in daylight at breakfast time, is far better than travelling through the day and arriving at night time and then not being able to sleep.

Just be aware that on take off, it can be 1-2 hrs before the cabin lights do get dimmed, due to all the take off procedures, over the airwaves announcements, and they always, always seem to serve a meal first.

Depending on the age of your bub, pack what ever they can suck on for take off and landing (we have  done a breastfeed, dummies, bottles, minties, chuppa chups, peppermint oil and garlic ear drops to combat all ear discomfort over the years).

Most importantly pack at least 2 changes of clothes for you and the kids, as one vomiting episode on a 15 hr flight is not something you EVER want to repeat (nor for the passengers sitting around you).

If you have a really young bub, get your travel agent to pre- request the cot seats- as there is never any guarantee you will get one, and in fact on our last trip back from South America the option didn’t even exist and all bubbas were being held.

2. Consider a stop over along the way.

Now it depends on how far you travel, but consider breaking up the travel into 8 hr travel stints if possible and cost effective. Last year when we went to Ireland we did 3 flights of 8, 8 and 8. We did arrive much more refreshed, and adjusted much quicker than previous 15 hr then, 8 hour flights.  It is totally dependent on what  flight path is available.

Another point to consider is on arrival is does take 2-3 days of adjustment to get sleep back on track, so often if you have a event planned/ road trip, factor that in to your travel plans before hand. This means you all arrive refreshed, and adjusted at the most anticipated “Wedding of the Year”. It avoids a child melt down in the middle of a ceremony, or hubby falling asleep before the turkey is served during Christmas dinner.

Just an addit- if possible have separate rooms- its annoying when 5 share a room and anyone keeps everyone else awake during adjustment phase 😉

3.  Watch what is eaten and drunken (that includes the adults).

Fair to say the kids meals come complete with added sugar, juices and chocolate milk on most flights I have been on.

I normally pack snacks to combat this and always travel with Vegemite.  Just make sure the tube is under 100g, as the officials in Singapore are now enjoying my childrens’. It doesn’t matter if the tube is half used either (husbands logic) it is all about the container size.

Kids meals are definitely hit and miss and can be as exotic as the country you are flying to.  Chicken butter curry was a recent breakfast failure, even to spicy for me…

You can count on carbs and definitely cheese comes with every meal. Dairy and gluten free options are up for interpretation, so if you have allergy concerns take your own food and research custom requirements of the country you are entering. By far Australia seems to have the strictest quarantine rules.

Be mindful of the sugar drinks as well.  Miss 7 took to ordering her own refreshments as “mum and dad were asleep”.  The fructose reaction was not pretty. Encourage water to prevent dehydration during the flight, and dress in easy go-to-the-toilet clothes. I always use leggings, not jeans or skirts/dresses as I have had wet frills from being dropped on the airport/airplane toilet floor #yuck. jet-lag-2


On arrival at your holiday destination remember that jetlag can interrupt digestion, so constipation can be a issue.

4. TV/Game exposure during the flight.

Be mindful of how much your kids watch.  They might look angelic all occupied with headphones and silent, but 8 hours later on a 15 hr flight due to to much blue light exposure turn into little gremlins hanging from the overheads.  We have had to implement 1 movie policy to every 6 hours of rest.

Addit: There is a parental control  option for you to use if you don’t wish to find Mr 7 watching Deadpool when you thought he was asleep.

Over the years we have packed travel games, UNO, books, colouring in sets and numerous toys. Don’t pack anything with little bits, as guaranteed they will get dropped right in the middle of in flight service or just as you have drifted off to sleep. Some airline flights give children great entertainment gift sets (Emirates) and others don’t (LTAM).

5. Set your clock.

I go by 2 times for the first 48 hrs.  One for the new destination time, and for the younger bubs one on the original destination.  It helps me keep a track on original meal times, and sleep times and helps with overall adjustment and scheduling.

Expect when you arrive at your new destination that for 24 hrs adopt a whatever naps are needed, and start the second day setting the body clock from breakfast to get on circadian rhythm schedule asap. I have found often my kids need a short  nap in the afternoon, then go to bed a little later than normal and bedtime does shift by 90 mins or so from when we are at home.

6. Daylight exposure.

Best natural jetlag remedy is sunlight.  Get out in it asap at your new destination.  Sunlight in the morning, and in the late afternoon helps with quicker adjustment to help little and big body clocks.

Also be prepared if your travel destination is in the summer months, that it can be daylight even up to 10pm at night!  Pack some portable block out blinds, Fly Babee , your fav white noise app, and sleep comforter (Lulla, Spiderman or Scooby Doo) and know the approximate day and night time temperatures so you know what to dress the kids in.


(addit- all examples used are a past experience of a actual event)





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