Planning on holidaying abroad with babies or young children this summer? Alison Scott-Wright offers some practical advice on how to cope with travelling to a different time zone and how to make it an enjoyable experience for you, and your fellow passengers
- Have a feeding and sleeping routine. The simplest way to ensure an easy journey and quick acceptance of a time-zone change with your baby or small child is to have a well-established daytime feeding and night-time sleeping schedule in place before you go. If your baby’s body clock is already programmed to eat during the day and sleep during the night, it will make adapting to a different time zone much easier.
- Have a bedtime routine. To ensure your baby’s body clock is already used to the natural combination of set feed-times and naps throughout a 12 hour day, have a regular bedtime routine and for him to be sleeping 12 hours throughout the night, (age dependant) please refer to my book and follow the schedules advised, appropriate to the age of your baby, in order to achieve this.
- Make sure your child understands the natural difference between day and night. So, depending on the time difference of where you are travelling to, you may need to lengthen the day of travel and shorten that night or vice versa. This can be achieved more easily if your baby’s body clock is already set to understand the natural difference between day and night. For example if you are travelling to a country that is eight hours behind GMT you will need to extend the day by giving an extra feed and or/solids and although I’m sure baby will be very tired and need to sleep, once you arrive at your destination aim to adapt your routine to local time as quickly as possible. Always try and do your bath and bedtime routine (including the last feed of the day even if your child has had an extra feed during the journey), but according to the local time even if baby is asleep and you need to wake him to do this. Then once you have put baby to bed, where possible, try not to give any further feeds until you start your day the next morning. Your baby’s body clock is used to a long period of night-time sleep with no food and a daytime of eating with scheduled naps.
- It might take a couple of days for baby to adjust fully to the new time zone but, in general, I have found that the outward journey is easier to adapt to and takes less time than the homeward one. As a rough guide, you could expect the outward journey to take a 24 hours’ adjustment for every two hours’ time difference, but just one hour per 24 hours on the way back. So if, for example, there is a six-hour time difference at your destination, it could take your child three days to adjust on the way out and six days to adjust once you’re back home. If you are going on holiday to Spain, for example, where there is only a tow-hour time change, you could decide to leave baby on the UK time of 7am to 7pm, which means you would do 9am to 9pm local time. I know of many people who have found this to work really well.
- Go with the flow. Some parents choose not to have any set routine on holiday, and allow babies and children to sleep as and when, and then re-establish their routine once they get back home. This is fine if it works for you, but I recommend trying to keep as close to baby’s usual routine as possible as it will minimise any upset.
Wherever you go on holiday this summer, and whatever age your baby is, I wish you happy, sleep-filled and safe travels.