Jet lag. They are two of the nastiest words in the English language. They mean brain fog and exhaustion and, possibly, indigestion. They ensure I'll either be playing Angry Birds on my iPhone or watching infomercials on TV at 2:00 AM (or both). It is unavoidable to feel the pull back to your mother time zone, especially when travelling long distances.
When travelling with kids, jet lag can feel much worse. You're sharing small spaces with active little ones and they seem to recover much quicker than adults. Over the course of my travels - with and without kids - I've learned a few things that have helped keep jet lag to a minimum.
#1 - Eat light.
Your digestion necessarily slows down on long flights. Any heavy, fatty foods you put in your body will sit in your tummy for a lot longer than normal. Your body will be diverting energy toward digesting your food, which will make it harder for you to feel rested at your destination. Choose foods that are easier to digest, like soup and tea. I've had plenty of "food hangovers" at the end of international flights, partly out of sheer boredom I ate a lot more than I needed to. Use the time to rest, read, journal, listen to podcasts or watch movies.
#2 - Keep kids full.
Kids seem to have the opposite problem, burning calories faster than a speeding 747. Children should be well-fed on flights to keep moods stabilized and help them sleep. Choose foods with healthy fats and lots of fiber - like fruits, veggies and lean meats - and avoid refined sugar in biscuits and lollies. If your kid is sane in the air, most likely you will be, too.
#3 - Help them have sweet dreams.
We are guilty of packing loads of toys and games to keep kids occupied on planes, but remember to stick to bedtime routines to help them fall asleep when they need to. Children will already be susceptible to all of the extra stimuli of travelling and will need guidance from you to unplug and get some rest. Even if they can't sleep, encourage a period of time with closed eyes with no electronics.
#4 - Choose hydrogen and oxygen over alcohol.
This is the more basic advice, yet everyone seems to forget it. (Including me.) Flying is incredibly dehydrating, which also makes you feel tired and lethargic. When you drink alcohol, it just makes it worse. A small glass of wine with dinner isn't going to put you over the edge, but drinking on an empty stomach or drinking more than one could make you feel worse.
#5 - Do what the sun does.
If the sun is up when you get to your destination, then so should you be. This one can be torture if you're exhausted and it's 7 AM when you land. But it is critical to get on the clock at the other side as soon as possible. Take a walk, workout, drink coffee - do whatever you need to do to stay awake until night fall. Even a tiny nap could mess up your sleep patterns. One day of powering through sleepiness will save you several sleepless nights.
#6 - Let your holiday start before you leave.
The temptation is strong to work yourself into a frenzy right up until you leave. Packing, last minute work emails, shopping, cleaning out the fridge (or not and regretting it) all seem to happen the day before a trip. If you start out a trip already depleted either by lack of sleep or stress or both then you will most likely carry it with you during your holiday. Try to give yourself one or two days of "chill time" before you leave. Just treat it as part of your holiday.
#7 - Comfort is king.
We all want to look like a million bucks walking off the plane to wherever it is we're going, but it's far better to be comfortable on your long flight. I am not ashamed to say that I am pretty much already in my pajamas at the airport before I even board! Your clothes should be cotton and loose-fitting. Take shoes that are easy to slip on an off and an extra pair of socks to keep your feet warm. Being cozy on the flight - as much as that's possible - will aid in helping you recover more quickly on the other side.
If you have any questions about jet lag or need any advice about flying with small children, please feel free to email me. I am no expert, but I am well-travelled. firstname.lastname@example.org
If you have any questions about any of our children's travel products, including our award-winning Aussie Kidz Travel Mate, or need some advice about travelling with your child's car seat, please email us at this address: email@example.com
You can also check out our list of airline guidelines for bringing your child or baby's car seat on-board your flight.
Happy and Safe Travels!