When you travel with children, especially between time zones, you might have to make adjustments to your routine. After taking a couple of trips with my young kids, I’ve learned a few things that hopefully can help you.
Get Them on The Time Zone ASAP
When the kids were very young and we traveled to a destination with a 7 hour or more time zone difference, we found ourselves up at 2am, playing trains and legos. As they got older, we learned the importance of the time zone adjustment. One way to do this is to schedule an early flight. Although a 6am flight may seem ridiculous, waking our kids up at 4am was the beginning of the adjustment.
On a red-eye flight, try to make sure they sleep. We always bring pajamas as well as their “stufties” (stuffed animals). This along with a blanket and pillow helps a lot. When we arrive at our location, keeping them awake is key. This last time we all had to take an afternoon nap which only lasted 2 hours but was necessary. Then, instead of an 8pm bedtime, we tried 11pm. This seemed to work well. Within a few days, we were all functioning rather well.
Keep Expectations Within Reason
When you have young children (under 6), it’s not the best strategy to see 3 tourist attractions in one day. If your kids are cranky and uncooperative, especially if they are a bit jet lagged, you won’t be having any fun either. If you traveled before you had kids (when you were younger and had more energy), it’s going to be much different now.
It would be a good idea to not over schedule and even have some down time or days. It’s important to find a park or an open space where children can run around and get out their “crazies”.
For Food, Adopt “Travel Rules”
Although at home, we are very strict about making sure they eat vegetables, not eating too many sweets and not drinking soda, when we travel, we are much more relaxed. When you are eating out 3 meals a day, it’s not that easy to keep up the same standards. You know your children best. I have found as they get older, it’s easier to stick to some of the rules but some times, you have to be flexible.
Although normally I would insist my daughter eat vegetables every day, she survived on a lot of pasta and butter this past trip. As her parent, I know when I can push her and when I can’t. Instead of getting into a battle with her (which I know I would not win), we compromised by saying she had to eat her regular food when she got home, like carrots, broccoli, lettuce, apples and strawberries. After making the connection with how food can affect how you feel, especially when you are in the bathroom (hopefully that’s not TMI), she agreed as well. She’s already back to her routine.
When we see that glass-eyed, glazed-over look kids get when they are tired, we really change the rules . Last year, when we arrived at a restaurant and my son fell asleep at the table, I yelled to my husband like the way a doctor would to a nurse in the ER “Honey, order him a Coke!”
Although my husband drinks it, our children don’t get a lot of soda, unless it’s on a trip or a special occasion. I watched my son, drinking soda through a straw out of the corner of his mouth, come alive like a dehydrated flower that has been watered for the first time in days. Within minutes, he was awake.
Don’t Forget to Have Fun
As I had said, a successful trip has much to do with the expectations. If I expect my children to behave as they do at home or eat vegetables with every meal…well, I might not have such a good time.
I let all of that go. As long as they had some fruit each day and ate a meal before gelato, I just didn’t care. On our trip, they ate lots of bread and drank juice and soda. Instead of negotiating, I just said “Ok”. The combination of letting my standards go a little and keeping my expectations below the norm led to a very satisfying vacation which will be carved in my memory as a pleasant experience.