Let’s talk jet lag and little ones. We flew over to Europe, Paris specifically, then took a train to Germany. All in the same day. This is just how our child reacted, you never know what could happen though! My hope is that this would give you some insight into traveling internationally with a toddler or baby and give you hope that you can do it if you really want to.
We flew from D.C. to Paris. This was an overnight flight and our son slept for about 5 hours of the flight. Please go read my other post on this. I have linked it here. We were thrilled that he slept as long as he did, but he normally sleeps 10-12 hours a night so this is MUCH shorter than normal. Not to mention the day before he didn’t nap because of going through the airport. We landed in Paris at 6:30 a.m. and he was a happy little boy. We were pretty shocked. It didn’t hurt that his Uncle and Aunt came to the airport to meet us so he got to see them. He was happy to see them and then kind of had a break down. Not major, but not happy either. We had until 1:00 p.m. for our train ride to Germany. This meant we had time to kill. J had found a park near the train station so we let him play on the playground for a while there. He did really well with that. It started to rain so we all found a cafe and had breakfast. He didn’t do so great in there. He was OK but by no means would he sit still. I’m pretty sure he only had milk too. His body wasn’t sure what was going on.
Once we got on our train we enlisted the help of….the iPad! Yes, we are those parents. You’re welcome for not having our child upset in a small space. At this point he had been awake since 6:30 a.m. which was 11:30 p.m. his normal time. He goes to bed between 7:30 and 8:00 every night. Put that into perspective. He was being a total rockstar. To our wonderful surprise he fell asleep holding the iPad. He got about an hour and a half nap on the train. We even switched trains and I held him and he stayed asleep. It was loud and the wind was cold so we really were surprised. That’s just how tired he was.
We made it to Germany and he was doing pretty well. We walked around town, went to a cute pumpkin patch, and wore him out again. We stayed in and had pizza from the cutest pizza shop right down below where my brother and sis (sil) are living. We put little man to sleep at 8 and he was OUT. Believe me, we were trying to not be cocky, but we felt pretty dang good about ourselves. Then, at 11:00 p.m. we had a major reality check. We had flown internationally and our son had done incredibly well, but his clock was off. He was up from 11:00 p.m. to 2:30 a.m. Poor guy. We let him whimper in his bed for a bit, but then he screamed a scream we haven’t heard in a long time. It was blood curdling. We got him up, gave him some cheerios and milk, and watched Gilmore Girls. Yep, he watched GG. Raise ’em up right. Ha! Anyway, we finally took him to our bed. I can’t stress enough that our son doesn’t sleep with us. He sleeps in his bed. This is good for us all, but we had to find a way to get to sleep. Again, we hummed prayers over him. (If you aren’t sure what this is, read my other blog post about traveling to Europe). He finally was asleep. The next day my brother had to wake us up at 11:15 a.m. and then we woke bubs up at 1:00 p.m. This day was a bust to say the least.
That night he fell asleep 6:00 p.m. in the car on the way to dinner. I felt so badly for him. He did ok at dinner and then on the way home was pretty awake. We got him to sleep but only for a few hours. Here we go again. Night #2 and he’s up until 1:00 a.m. Thankfully not as late but still not good. We decided to wake him up at his normal 8:30 a.m. and get the day started. He napped in the car at his normal time- 1:00 p.m. However, it was only 45 minutes, not his normal 2-3 hour nap. This was the case for the remainder of the trip, except one day in Paris. We were in Europe for this incredible trip and didn’t want to schedule around naps so we let him nap where he wanted whether it was in the car, stroller, or on us on a hike. So, while in Europe we had two very off nights but nothing terrible. Totally doable.
We get back to the states at 3:00 p.m. Little man did not sleep at all on the flight back to the U.S. He did great though! The iPad was our saving grace and so were lots of prayers. He didn’t fuss or cry except for during the landing. He was tired at this point and his ears hurt I’m sure. We got so many compliments for his behavior and were proud parents. (If you can ever compliment parents on their child or how well they doing, do it, it makes everyone’s day better). We were so thrilled with how he did on an 8 hour flight without sleeping. He fell asleep in his stroller walking through the airport and got about an hour nap. Not too bad! We stayed a night in D.C. and had a rough night though. He went to bed just fine, but woke up at 3:30 a.m. but thankfully put himself back to sleep. Then he woke up at 4:30 a.m. and I had to go get him. Got him back to sleep and back in his bed at about 6:30 a.m. Hummed prayers over him again. We learned on this trip that humming prayers got him back to sleep. Literally nothing else would. Unfortunately, he was sound asleep and the door across the hall slammed and scared him. It was all over at that point. He was up at 7:30 a.m.
We got into OKC at 7:00 p.m. and poor bud was so tired. He fell asleep in the car and slept through a diaper change, pajamas being put on, and bright lights in the house. He slept until 5:00 a.m. and then J was able to get him back to sleep until 9:00 a.m. The next morning he was up at 5:00 a.m. and wouldn’t go back to sleep. So we headed home to Tulsa early and he napped at home. Every night from then on he went to sleep great and then woke up a little later each day. By Friday we were back to normal.
So in total, two rough nights/days in Europe and three rough nights/early mornings back at home.
It wasn’t that bad. We just felt bad for him. Kids are resilient though and I wouldn’t trade the time we had in Europe and with family for anything. He really did do great all things considered. It just wasn’t all easy, but all of it was so worth it. I hope this gives you some insight as to what you could expect to have happen with your child while traveling in different time zones.
I wish I could tell you there was some tip or trick that would help your child with jet lag or make it go away. We learned that there aren’t any though. All you can do is love on your child and do what you think is best for them. We woke up our son on the second day and I do think it helped get him on track, but who knows? No child is the same and no parent is the same. My best advice, travel if you want to. Do your research. Enjoy the imperfect moments. See the world through your child’s eyes. Worry less about the things you can’t control (i.e. jet lag). Just enjoy being together and experiencing something new. We don’t travel full time but we have never regretted going. Our son has always exceeded our expectations and blown us away with his flexibility and excitement for everything we do. Traveling is different and not as relaxing with a child but we’ve found it to always be worth it.