Flights and different time zones can create havoc for an infant or toddler, creating more stress for the rest of the family. This doesn’t have to be the case. My first advice is fairly obvious, schedule your flights around your child’s sleeping habits. If he or she is an early-riser, book an early flight. If they’re past the napping phase, but require a full-nights rest, book a mid-day flight. Although, sometimes this isn’t always possible, as we are restricted to the airlines’ schedules and sometimes it’s cheaper to fly at an inconvenient time.
To make matters worse, when you arrive at your destination, you may be two hours ahead or two hours behind. This could either be your worst nightmare or a dream come true. Living in Winnipeg, a lot of Central America is in the same time zone, as well as many other great US destinations (LOVE Texas!) And to our East, everything is either an hour or two ahead. The beauty of this is that now my daughter goes to bed two hours later and sleeps in two hours later, allowing us to use our vacation time more wisely. Normally, she’s up at 7:00 AM and in bed by 7:00 PM, which equals an early night. Who wants to call it a night at 7:00 PM when you’re staying in a hotel?
We traveled to Punta Cana, Dominican Republic when Taylor was two. It worked out perfectly, as we got to “sleep in” each day and enjoy our evenings. The added bonus was the family nap we took mid-day, after a lot of time on the beach in the mornings.
Now, how do we deal with that nightmare of traveling West? I wish I had better advice and was more optimistic, but the best I can say is to prepare for it. A week or two before you travel, start putting your little one to sleep earlier so they can adjust to the new time zone. I would only recommend this if you’re traveling for a long period. Otherwise, I suggest scheduling your days around their sleep pattern, otherwise, you’ll be dealing with the same issue when you get home.
Aside from taking advantage of time zones, try to re-create a similar sleeping environment for your child. In Dominican Republic, we were fortunate that the hotel (Nickelodeon Punta Cana), provided a crib and had over sized washroom, that blocked off all of the light. Yes, oddly enough, Taylor slept in the washroom, but because she was used to sleeping in the dark in a crib, it was our best bet. We also brought her blanket and a few stuffies from home. Honestly, between being comfortable and exhausted from all the fun activities, she slept better than she ever had.