How to handle time changes

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3,128 Posts
Joined Jul 2003
We're cruising Alaska with our children and 16-month-old grandson in a few weeks. Curious to know from those who've travelled extensively with little ones - what's the best way to handle the cross-country flight and the 3-4 hour time difference between the east and west coast.
Newport Coast, CA
196 Posts
Joined May 2000
Our family travels frequently. Our youngest (22 months old) has already completed numerous (too many to count) trans-continental flights, multiple trips to Hawaii, and most recently, a trip to Spain, Portugal and London. She is an incredible traveler. For longer flights (like the one from JFK to Lisbon with a change in planes in Madrid), we try to arrange the flight around her time schedule so that she would sleep most of the way. For shorter flights, we don’t worry about the time of day and just pick the flight that works best for us.

We ALWAYS bring a portable DVD player, a few of her favorite books, crayons, coloring books, and a few toys. We also always purchase a seat on the plane for her. This allows my husband and I a little more freedom and it gives her some space as well. Typically we fly with her car seat but on our last trip home from Hawaii we only used it for take-off and landing and had it stowed the remainder of the flight. We think she actually did better without the car seat. Due to restrictions on foreign air carriers, we also had her car seat checked as baggage when traveling to Europe. She did very well. Bottom line, do whatever your comfortable with but don’t be afraid to ask if the flight attendants can stow the car seat after take-off if you think your little one will do better without it.

You may want to pack her favorite snacks and some juice as well.

As for the time change, our youngest doesn’t have any problem with the change (different story for our 15 yr old! ). We live in California so going to Europe was an 8-hour time change for her. She always adjusts very well when we go to New York, Florida or Hawaii, but I thought Europe might be a little more challenging. She actually adjusted in one day. What we have always done is allow her to stay on her normal schedule until we reach our destination. Once there we try to get her to go down for the evening at her normal time in the new time zone. We make sure the room is dark so she understands that it is time to sleep. When we want her up in the morning we make sure that the room is very bright and have some type of activity planned to get her up and going. I’m sure there are different schools of thought on how best to handle this. We just found that this works best for us.

I know it sounds like we just have a very adaptable and calm child, but I’ve got to admit she is extremely active and head strong…a typical Type A (it runs in the family ). I think one reason she adjusts so well is that my husband and I don’t really worry or stress over it. Oh, and we also let her get in a lot of activity during any layovers that we might encounter.

Have fun on your trip and enjoy!
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90 Posts
Joined May 2004
i think you will have an advantage in traveling from the east to the west. my kids have found adapting to the time changes much easier when we traveled from california to florida in the winter months. i think going to climate that is comparable or cooler makes it much easier on the body.

i'de agree with the prior post-just adding that my experience has taught me that often the best aide to adjusting the kids sleeping habits has been the lack of sleep they've experienced in the "when are we leaving" days just prior to vacation. in fact i tend to let them deter from their normal sleep pattern right before vacation to allow for this.