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Traveling Abroad with a Baby: Coping with Jet Lag and Time Differences

Updated: Oct 19, 2023

As with any travel situation, it's usually a case of trial and error no matter how much research you do beforehand. Every baby reacts differently to different challenges and has different quirks and needs.

And when it comes to time changes, it can be rough for anyone even babies. So here are my 5 tips on how to make the time change easier for your little one.

  1. Take advantage of the sunlight and get out of your hotel/rental/house You and baby are probably exhausted but staying inside won’t do either of you any good. Light plays a central role in regulating circadian rhythm, the body’s internal clock that signals when to be alert and when to rest. Light also affects the production of melatonin, an essential sleep-promoting hormone (more on all of that here). The same can be said for creating as dark of a sleep environment as possible for naps and their nighttime sleep, even if bedtime is before the sun goes down. This is just as important but can be a little bit more difficult to accomplish if not prepared. My three favorite products to use to make the sleep space dark all depend on where we are staying and what baby's sleep situation is.

  1. After your arrival day, plan out Baby’s schedule It’s good to keep things a bit flexible on your first day of arrival whether you are starting your vacation or ending it. However, making a general schedule (based on their usual schedule at home) of what you want to accomplish each day PLUS when you plan on baby taking their naps will help everyone adjust more quickly. This way you can plan out all of the fun things you want to do while also making sure Baby gets the rest they deserve.

  2. Have Food/Milk/Bottle prepared for the first few nights The first few nights after a major time change, sleep is not the only thing that needs to adjust. Both your and baby's stomach needs to regulate to the new time zone as well and so feeding times are likely to be all over the place for the first few days. I actually think the feeding schedule adjusts slower than sleep schedule. Until you can help baby get adjusted during the day, there is a very good chance that baby is going to wake up in the middle of the night quite hungry for the first night or two. Be sure to have a what you need to quickly make a bottle or feed when this happens. For toddlers, make sure to have a snack of some kind ready.

  3. Keep Lights & Sounds Low at Night As mentioned above, light is such a big factor in adjusting baby to the time. Whenever baby wakes in the middle of the night, leave the screens at a distance, keep the lights off (with the exception of maybe a night light or two) and conversations low. This includes any time that you're feeding them. If baby looks like they are wide awake and ready to play, find something quiet that they can do in your bed with you until they get sleepy. With the lights off, watch out for sleep cues and hopefully it shouldn't take long before they are ready to hop back into bed.

  4. Never Deny Sleep We may try to push them a little longer but if Baby is exhibiting all of their sleep queues… we just put Baby down for a nap. Even if it is not in your “set schedule.” They will be happier, more cooperative, and sleep is massively important to your little one’s development. Sleep promotes sleep.

  5. Limit Time Spent Asleep What we do try to do during big time changes, however, is limit the amount of time spent asleep. Naps should not last longer than 2 hours and the later in the day, the shorter the nap should be if they truly need it.

  6. Begin bedtime routine earlier if needed If you’re almost to a suitable bedtime but Baby is just not happy and giving you all of their sleep queues, begin your bedtime routine but just try to stretch the length of time in which you do all of the steps. And if you put them to bed a bit earlier than expected, so be it. It is very likely that they need the rest, especially on vacation when routines often change and Baby is usually more active during the day.


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