7 Tips To Help Kids Beat Jet Lag (From Mums Who Travel!)


Farah Fazanna •  Sep 01, 2023

Travelling with young children can be an adventure in itself, but add jet lag to the mix, and it can quickly become a challenging experience. The battle against jet lag can seem daunting but, with the right strategies and a little planning, it's entirely possible to help your little ones adjust to the time difference smoothly! In this article, we'll explore effective tips and tricks to make your family's transition across time zones a more comfortable and enjoyable experience for both you and your kids. These tricks are from real mums (hello, HHWT co-founder Suzana and HHWT content lead Farah!). Say goodbye to those sleepless nights and cranky toddlers – let's ensure your next adventure is a jet lag-free one!

7 tips to help kids beat jet lag

1. Tire out your child

Tire out your child in the day/cap their naps on travel day if you're taking a red-eye flight! It wasn't planned but my toddler refused to nap per her usual schedule on the day of our flight (it was at 11.55pm) and she only napped for 50 minutes. While that was super unhelpful for my last-minute packing, it gave her a solid 7 hours of sleep on the plane (even with a crying baby next to us).

2. Sunlight is key

We took a 17-hour direct flight from Singapore to NYC and we were in the opposite time zone (arrived at 6am, 6pm back home). I kept asking my toddler if she wanted to nap but she was so excited by everything, being in a new environment. She slept when she finally couldn't stay awake (close to 4am Singapore time) and I just made sure that she didn't nap for too long so that she could head to bed earlier that night.

3. Don't stress over wake times or sleep schedules

It'll take your child a few days to adapt (depending on how different is the time zone) and perhaps the one who needs more adapting (in terms of mindset) is the adult rather than the child. Expect night wakes or unexpected naps! My toddler was on 1 nap back home but she needed 2 when we were in the US. She also fell asleep at unpredictable times, like just before the Frozen ride which she was highly anticipating! While her wake window might have been 6-7 hours back home before bedtime, she was able to take a nap 3 hours before bedtime and still fall asleep. So if you have no or low expectations, adapting will be easier than you think!

4. Use blackout curtains

My kid is very sensitive to the light, so we made sure the room is pitch black when it's time to sleep. This helps to signal to him that it's bedtime. It'll take a few days for him to adjust to the new timezone, so just be patient!

5. It's ok not to follow the same schedule as at home

We try to stick to the same schedule he has at home but since he usually sleeps at 8pm and we still want to enjoy the evening outside, we let him have two naps (he usually only has one nap since he's already three years old). One nap before lunch and one nap around 5pm. So we'll wake him up after one or two hours, get ready and we'll head out for dinner. This way, he'll stay up later and will wake up the next morning around 8am - which is more humane to us than 4am.

6. Sync with local time

During our recent trip, we arrived in Paris at 10am local time. Since my kid already slept during the flight, we headed out immediately after checking in to the hotel. We try to sync with the local time ASAP and getting the sunlight exposure is important to beat jetlag. The first day is always the hardest, and my kid fell asleep around 6pm (even slept through while we had dinner at the restaurant!) and slept for 12 hours straight. Bliss!!

7. Stay patient

The older they get, the easier they beat jetlag. So this one's on you parents. Just go with the flow! We used to be strict with our itinerary but since travelling with a child, we try to be as chill as possible. More often than not, you can just strap them in a stroller and let them sleep if they want! Now you'll have uninterrupted time for a meal or shopping.

In the world of parenting, conquering jet lag with your child may seem like a daunting task, but with patience, preparation, and the right strategies, it's entirely manageable! By prioritising their well-being and adapting to their needs, you can ensure that your family's travel adventures are memorable for all the right reasons. Safe travels!