Sleeping baby plane skybaby Sky baby. This is handy if you are flying with a baby and haven't got an airline bassinet or are flying short haul..

Tips To Minimise Jet Lag For Babies, Toddlers, Kids and Grown-Up’s

My old job had me flying through several times zones in a month. It was certainly easier managing just my jet lag, but after flying with a baby and toddler to several long haul destinations, including The Big One; UK to Australia, here are some general tips that have helped us.

  • If you are leaving on a night flight, let them sleep as per normal schedule and grab as much rest as you can too. This will help you get  through the rest of the day. Don’t expect your tots to sleep their normal length of time. It may not seem like it at the time, but this will work in your favour in your battle against jet lag. ( See my best seats guide to help maximise some sleep)
  • Keep hydrated before and during the flight.
  • On arrival ( or if on an ultra long haul flight),  begin to establish a new routine. Eat and sleep at the right times in the new time zone.
  • Go outside. Light exercise and the natural light will help re set your body clock.
  • Try and avoid long naps and wake little ones up if they nap too long. I wake my baby up after 2.5 hours at lunchtime and my toddler after an hour during the first few days of arrival. If you can and need to, nap when they do as you will need the energy!
  • Take turns with the night shift. When the little ones wake up during the night, try a 4 hour ‘duty’ time with your partner. This will help you get through the day. It helps if you can sleep in a separate room to the kids, so that connecting room or 2 roomed suite can be a god-send at your destination.
  • Avoid caffeine after 2pm.
And here are some extra tips specifically for babies and toddlers.
 
Minimising Jet Lag for Babies
 
  • Expect several nights of disruption. It won’t last for long. Babies often have to re-adjust  their sleep through growth spurts, teething, not feeling very well etc, and jet lag will be temporary like these times.
  • If you are breast-feeding, your supply may also need time to re-adjust to the new time-zone, so keep hydrated and consider napping when baby does.
  • Try and keep any night time play fairly calm and quiet, with only minimal lighting.
  • During day light hours, try and encourage baby to eat solid food if they are weaning and gain most of their nutrients and calories then, rather than at night.

Minimising jet Lag for Toddlers

 
  • At this age they are pretty much guaranteed to wake up at 2am for the first night or two. Again, try to encourage quiet games such as puzzles, colouring in, stickers etc. 
  • Keep the calm lighting if they are up in the middle of the night.
  • Give a little snack if needed during the night, such as warm porridge and some milk. High magnesium foods such as bananas can help you feel sleepy.
  • Settle in for a few stories.
  • If you have other children sleeping or your partner is still sleeping, a little stroll around the hotel lobby can help avoid disturbing everyone else.
Please do comment below if you have any other tips to add.
 
 

12 Comments

  1. Hi! We are doing The Even Bigger One (Edinburgh to Brisbane via Birmingham (5 hours) and Dubai (4 hours)) in December. We leave Edinburgh during the day and leave Birmingham around bed time so was planning on letting baby (almost 1 years old by then) sleep as normal for the first leg. We arrive in Brisbane around 6am so am going to try to get him to sleep for the Dubai-Australia leg too although am not hopeful, especially since I have just seen from your very helpful bassinet review that is now too long for the Emirates bassinet! What would you recommend for this journey? He's also terrible with water, so I guess milk will have to do? How do can we (baby, my husband and myself!) sleep when he can't fit in the bassinet? Any advice much appreciated!

  2. Hi Michelle,

    We have just flown Emirates ( 2 days ago and 3 weeks ago) with our 1 year old, who just fitted in. The crew always ask the weight of the baby, so if your little one is under the weight, there is still a chance he will fit in, especially if he still bends his legs. I would definitely recommend getting him to sleep on you first, then placing him in the bassinet. My little one loves turning over but this tactic helped. Be aware that if the seat belt sign comes on, the crew will ask you to remove him and have him on your lap. This happened to us, so at one point I didn't bother putting her back in bassinet and just had her sleep on me for 7 hours, which was actually ok. An extra pillow on arm rest helped. I used the bassinet for extra storage instead. It's always worth asking at check in if there are any spare seats likely, and if so, could one next to you guys be 'blocked' on the system. The crew will provide normal cows milk if you need and try have a few bottles of cow and gate ready made on board.

  3. Hi Carrie,

    This is a fantastic site!

    I’m making the trip from Melbourne back to the UK to see family. I’ll be travelling alone with my 5 month old and I’m petrified so your tips have been great.

    One thing I’m confused about is routine. i know its likely to all go out of the window and i’m prepared for that but I’d like to try and make it as smooth as I possibly can. When you say eat and sleep at the times of the new time zone- are you referring to when we get to the UK or as soon as we board the plane? I was thinking I’d stick to Aus timezone then just switch she we get to the Uk or would this not work as well? We leave Melb at 9.25pm, Dubai at 05.30 am their time for 2 hours and land in Manc at 12 noon.

    Also i’ll cheekily throw in another question you may or may not be able to help with- do you know whether emirate warm up milk? I can always call and ask them- I”m just being lazy 😉

    Many thanks in advance,

    Nicola

  4. Hi Nicola,
    Thank you!
    I found that keeping to the time zone on the flight, at least initially for sleep, gave us some much needed rest and our little ones- so for you, leaving MEL at 9.25 pm- settle them down to sleep as soon as you can after take -off. That’s obviously late than your little one usually goes to bed, but it will help later when they are adjusting to the time difference in the UK. for the next leg from Dubai she probably won’t sleep as much but you should get at least a couple of hours nap time in and it is comparatively a much shorter flight. When you get to the UK- try and keep the feeds etc to UK time and in the daylight to make the transition as easy as possible – but expect a couple of longer feeds in the next night or two.
    of course you can be ask and it’s not being cheeky at all. YES Emirates do warm up milk, they will also provide you with a little baby pack with a bib, spoon, a few wipes etc.
    Have lovely time and I hope we have some nice sunshine for you!

  5. Hi! I am so glad to have come across this site. My husband and I and our 8 month old will be travelling to Hawaii soon. Our flight leaves Sydney at 10.25pm arrive in Honolulu at 12pm. Sydney is 20 hours ahead of Honolulu.

    I hope our little one sleeps as much as possible on the overnight flight.
    I was thinking to try and keep my little one up and aim for 10pm bedtime Hawaii time after arriving which would make it 6pm Sydney time.
    Then work towards a 9am wake up which would be 5am Sydney time.

    His usual bedtime is 7pm and wake up between 6-7am.

    I was thinking of working around these time for the duration of our holiday. Later bedtime later wake up….

    Am I overthinking it or could this work??

    I am an overplanner obviously hehe. Thank you for your advice!! I’m so confused on what to do and just want the most enjoyable holiday possible!

    • Hi Karen, and thank you for your kind words.
      I think your plan sounds great. If it doesn’t work out- definitely don’t worry. Expect a bit of adjustment and any earlier settling in as a bonus. I found making a plan with my hubby really helped- and handled any wake ups if they fell into our ‘duty time’ It helped with dealing with our tiredness too.
      Enjoy Hawaii! We went there on our honeymoon- loved it! Amazing place and can’t wake to take the girls there. Please let me know how you got on.

      Thanks Carrie

  6. Please help!!

    I have a 3 month old and will be travelling to San fransisco next month when she is 3 and a half months. We are flying Manchester London, London, sfo (11hours).

    She is currently on a eat, play for a short time sleep until next feed routine until bedtime at 8pm when she sleeps until midnight when we wake her for a feed and then she demands a feed at 5am. I am so worried about what to do with her routine as the time change is 8hours I just worry she won’t transfer.

    Our first flight is at 6.45am then 9.25am so we should arrive into sfo 1.30pm (8.30pm uk)

    Please help!!! I’ll also have my 4 year old but he has flown to America a lot now and always transfers his body clock without much fuss but I waited until he was 1 to take him so he was on solids which helped on the time change.

    • Hi Naomi,
      She will transfer, it just may take a couple of days. The excitement of a different place will likely disrupt her a little, meaning she won’t necessarily nap her normal times on the flight, so she’ll adjust a little easier. As she is quite little, I would keep her on same eat, play, nap routine and be guided by that rather than specific times during the flight. We are also off there in January!

  7. Hi Carrie

    Firstly, I absolutely love your site, so helpful!

    We are travelling from Aberdeen to Brisbane in March and I’m wondering what to do about the time zone change. We leave Aberdeen to fly to Manchester at 6:40am so I imagine my 16 month old daughter will be awake and excited then, and we fly from Manchester to Singapore at 11am UK time, landing at 8am Singapore time (11pm UK time). From there, we fly to Brisbane and arrive at our destination at 7:45pm, which will be 9:45am in my daughter’s poor confused head!

    I am thinking that generally I will just have to go with the flow and let her sleep when she wants to sleep etc. My main concern is that we arrive in our apartment in Brisbane and she is ready to start the day, having slept a bit on the flight, and we are both ready to drop! Neither of us tends to sleep well on flights and my daughter is not a good sleeper when in unfamiliar surroundings. What would you do in my situation?

    Thanks so much for your help!
    Mo

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