Surviving jet lag between Australia and Europe
It’s one of the biggest fears of every parent considering flying long haul with their kids in tow. And it’s inevitably the first question we’re asked about when someone finds our that we’re flying half way around the world with our kids.
On our most recent long haul flight, four year old Z and I flew from Zürich to Brisbane via a quick change of plane in Singapore. After 20 hours in the air and a 8 hour time difference from Switzerland we arrived in Brisbane exhausted. But before we hit the pillow, we did these five things which always help us to acclimatize more quickly.
1. We stay up as long as we can
I am strict about getting onto the local schedule as soon as we land. Arriving in the late afternoon into Brisbane made it easier as it wasn’t too long until bedtime, and we could power through until just after 9pm. On the way back to Switzerland, we arrived into Zurich at 8am which made staying up a little more difficult (naps only allowed before lunchtime) and we barely made it to our 8pm bedtime. But we made it.
2. I keep snacks and water close by
By the time 1am Australian time hits, our tummies are convinced it’s time for dinner. This has been a big reason my kids wake during the first night or two after a long haul flight. To minimize the disruption, I prepare crackers and a water bottle next to our beds to address the midnight munchies and can therefore avoid having to turn on any lights which would interrupt our sleep further.
3. I have my iPhone loaded with music and audio books (and don’t forget the headphones)
Turning on Netflix is a last resort for us during the night when no amount of trying will get us to fall back asleep. Those bright screens fool our brains into thinking it’s time to wake up. But I do keep my iPhone loaded with audio books and music to soothe us back to sleep.
This trip little Z enjoyed a couple of episodes of “Around the World Stories” while munching on her crackers. The stories were entertainment enough to keep her occupied without encouraging her to open her eyes and fully wake up. After a few episodes she was ready to fall back to sleep.
4. I use a Kindle and a headlamp
Again, avoiding the bright screen light is important, so if you read with a Kindle, use a headlamp. Once Z fell back to sleep I couldn’t, so out came my trusty headlamp and Kindle. I always find that reading helps me falls asleep and eventually after a couple of chapters I was also able to get few more hours of shut eye.
5. We travel with blackout blinds
To avoid being woken by the early rising sun just as we have all finally fallen back to sleep, we travel with a portable blackout blind from Gro Baby. The blind has suction cups which easily attach to any window and helps keeps the room dark.
But a word of warning - don’t sleep all morning. We like to get up around 9am at the latest to stick to the local time zone.
Some swear flying west is best. Some say overnight flights are best. I say, it’s different for everyone. I personally find it easier to get over jet lag flying east from Europe to Australia than flying back. Perhaps it is the flight times? Perhaps it’s the excitement of holidays. But all in all we just do our best and within a day or two we are usually back on track.