I really don’t cope well with jet lag, I feel tired but struggle to get quality sleep, i’m irritable and swing between nausea and hunger like a pendulum. It’s a lot like a hangover actually, without the regret and vomit… Anyway, when you’re jet lagged the last thing you want to deal with is a toddler but I guess I better buckle up because in a few short weeks that’s exactly what I’ll be facing!
We’ve been through the dreaded West to East jet lag before, with and without a toddler – no prizes for guessing which was easier! I can say hands down that travelling from the West (home from America) is considerably harder than going East in the first place. When you fly off to America you’ve got those endorphins on side as you’re excited for your trip. Even if you don’t settle into the new time zone fully, worst case scenario you’re up early most days. I actually think it gives you a nice advantage, you’ll beat the lines at attractions as you’re ready for action by 8am with little to no effort. Don’t get me wrong it is still disorientating and draining but it’s manageable.
Before our first trip to America with Luisa I spent a lot of time googling things like ‘How to prepare a child for jet lag’ and researching jet lag calculators online. My first piece of advice for anyone anxious about coping with a baby or toddler who’s about to change time zones is step away from that calculator! It will only bring you pain, as you lie in a dark hotel room willing your small child to sleep you’ll go over those numbers in your head, frantically trying to figure out how many days before you’re on a vaguely normal schedule again. Don’t do it.
I’ve tried out a few jet lag remedies like taking melatonin supplements or tricking my mind by setting my watch to the destination time as soon as I got on the plane in the UK. The melatonin idea was no use, maybe I timed it wrong i’m not sure but it did me no favours.
Honestly, the only way out is through. Try to get on local time asap, eat meals at ‘proper’ times even if that means dragging a toddler who wants to be in bed out for pizza. The sooner you all get on schedule the better. I also recommend packing quiet toys and books that your little one can have fun with if they do get up at 3 or 4 am local time for the first few days. By far the best thing we did to ‘manage’ jet lag was to embrace it, see the positive in those early starts and get out to see the sights before rush hour begins.
As for coming back home to the UK from America, good luck. Be prepared for a lot of late nights but know that it will pass. One of my friends famously had her three boys playing in the park by torch light at 3am after they’d come home from Florida. Do your best to get back on UK time and get outdoors as much as possible – the sun will help to regulate your body clock again.