Traveling with babies is rewarding… and challenging. Even just a short drive within your home city can be a whole ordeal with a baby, but that doesn’t stop my family from traveling all over the world with our kids. There are a lot of ways you can make traveling as a family easier. However, one of the hardest parts of long-distance travel with young kids is the time change!
After lots of international travel with infants, I’ve gotten pretty good at adjusting babies to the local time zone in a way that’s fairly painless and straightforward. So, I thought I’d share that with you today in this post.
FWIW my babies have adjusted themselves pretty easily simply based on the light outside when the time change was less than 3 hours. For greater time changes like going cross-country, to Hawaii or Europe, it took 3 days to fully adjust. Coming home from these further distance trips was definitely tougher, taking anywhere from 5 to 10 days to adjust back to our normal schedules.
Whether you’re traveling west to east or east to west, here’s how you can adjust your baby to the new time zone when visiting new places:
How To Adjust Baby To Time Change While Traveling
Decide if your baby needs to adjust, or if you do.
First of all, it’s wise to consider if adjusting your baby is even necessary. For instance, if the time is only changing by 1 or 2 hours, it may be less of a hassle for you to adjust yourself, rather than adjust an infant. This is especially true if your child tends to be sensitive to changes in routine.
If you think the vacation can work just fine with baby’s nap times, mealtimes, and bedtimes being 1 or 2 hours earlier or later, just stick with your schedule as though you were on home time. It’s a little more challenging for you and your spouse, but you’re probably more flexible than your infant!
Adjust baby’s schedule before you leave.
If you have the patience and time, try to adjust your baby’s body to the new time zone before you leave for your trip. Start living according to the new time zone a week early. That way, your vacation can feel like a true vacation without the stress or hassle of adjusting your infant to a new schedule.
Wake them if you have to.
As your baby’s body is adjusting to your destination, you may notice those nap times getting a bit longer than normal. Though we’re told never to wake a sleeping baby, it’s a good idea to cap the naps at around 2 hours. You’ll be able to control bedtimes, naps, and meals if you maintain a set schedule for nap duration. Hopefully, this will limit bedtime drama and the amount of times your baby wakes up at night.
Plan for lots of physical activity.
A great way to get baby’s sleep on track is to help get them tired when you want them tired! To do this, plan plenty of physical activity throughout the day, especially before their new naptimes. With an infant, this can be a little more challenging than with a toddler, but do what you can to schedule times for your baby to be out of the stroller or carrier and exploring your destination.
When possible, stick to your routines.
Your infant’s body clock isn’t only set by the timezone, it’s also set by your routine! So, if you have set morning, nap time, bedtime, and mealtime routines, try to maintain those as best as possible. That means if bedtime is at 9, and you usually have 30 minutes of bathing, reading, and winding down, you need to schedule that into your daily travel itinerary. It’ll help baby realize it’s time to sleep, even if it’s later or earlier than they’re used to.
Spend plenty of time in the sun.
One of the best internal clock calibrators is the sun. Spending plenty of time outside in those first few days will help adjust those circadian rhythms and get your baby adjusted to local time. Wear plenty of sunscreen and protective clothing, but get the whole family outside and basking in the sun.
Make the room dark.
Just like the light wakes us up, the dark can help us fall asleep. If you’re in a hotel or small rental where you have to share a space with your baby while they sleep, sometimes turning off the lights and cutting all sound is hard. (Especially if you don’t want to go to bed at 7:30.)
I recommend the Lotus Travel Crib (or this budget-friendly version) and the SlumberPod sleeping nook or these handy suction cup blackout blinds. The SlumberPod is like a tent that fits over the crib and gives your baby privacy and total darkness. Add in the Hatch Rest Go and your baby will be totally primed and ready for bedtime.
Get more rest when you can.
Understand that you’re probably going to lose some sleep while your baby is adjusting to the new time zone. That on top of being jet lagged can cause some serious fatigue, so get extra rest when you can too. If your baby is taking a nap, join in and snooze at the same time, so if bedtime is challenging, you’re better rested to handle it with more grace.
Lower your expectations.
A baby is a baby. Infants run the show to an extent, no matter how much you plan. Try to lower your expectations for how well they’ll adjust and how on-routine you’ll be. Be flexible, roll with the punches, and be willing to change your plan.
Remember the goal for your trip and don’t let an infant’s stubborn schedule ruin your vacation. If that means sticking to home time and changing your itinerary, do that. If a few extra sleepless nights than you expected means everyone needs to sleep in, cancel those morning reservations. Don’t sweat any of it and enjoy your time!
Don’t forget about the trip home.
Finally, don’t forget that when returning home you’ll have the same challenge. You’ll have to help your infant adjust back to the usual time zone. Luckily, a lot of these tips work the other way too. Get some sun, increase physical activity, get some extra sleep, and be patient. They’ll get back to normal soon (and you will, too!)
You can adjust baby to a new time zone using these tips!
If you’re choosing to travel with an infant, I want to celebrate with you! It’s a big undertaking, but it’s so worth it. You’ll figure out your routine, these additional strategies can help, and all those memories will be more valuable than the little sleep you lost. Trust me – you got this, mama!
For more travel tips, head over to the travel section of my blog. I discuss traveling with infants and toddlers frequently there! You’ll find advice, packing lists, and some of my favorite travel essentials to help make family travel easier. Have a great trip!