Dealing with 9-hour time change & Baby Jet Lag

Dealing with a 9-hour time change and Baby Jet Lag

We’d be lying if we said we weren’t nervous about how Baby B would handle the 9-hour time difference between Vancouver and Europe, especially after 10+ hours of air travel. We’ve been on countless flights and still get cranky after a long haul, so we knew that Baby B would struggle. The question was – how much would he struggle?

To alleviate the pressure, we did something we’ve never done before. Something that ended up being a very smart move. We booked our first night at the airport hotel in Frankfurt.

When it comes to dealing with significant time changes, the best baby travel tip we can give you is to book your first night directly at the airport hotel

Before baby, we would typically arrive at a new destination and travel directly to the area we want to be (ie. not the airport). After all, if you only have a limited amount of time on vacation, you want to make the most of it. But moving at such a rapid pace can will burnout your baby. Times have changed, so you have to adapt.

Rather than push it, we decided to slow down and sleep at the airport hotel. This ended up being a wise decision.

I can’t tell you how nice it was to only walk a few hundred meters after picking up our luggage from baggage claim. No long taxi or transit, no fumbling over maps to find the hotel location, no stress. We simply followed the signs and within minutes we had Baby B in the bathtub – his personal oasis.

His internal clock was completely turned upside down with the 9 hour time change – morning was night, night was morning. We put him down for a nap quickly after his bath but that didn’t last. He was wide awake at 2:00 AM local time (Frankfurt, Germany) – not fun for two jet lagged parents who were also battling a touch of jet lag.

We’ve talked a lot about Baby B’s sleeping issues, but jet lag wasn’t much of a problem on those trips. He found it fairly easy to adjust to 3-4 hour time changes.

Our recent trip to Europe was a totally different experience. It took Baby B four nights to finally get adjusted to local time. Translation – our little trio was a mess for a couple days. Keep in mind, we share the hotel room with baby. When he woke up, we all woke up.

For our first four days, nap times were all over the place and had no routine. Fortunately we were lucky with his “on-the-go” napping. His lack of night time sleep had him quite tired during the day, so he fell asleep while on the trains and sightseeing.

Here’s what our first four nights were like with Baby B:

Night 1

  • 3:00 PM – Arrive in Frankfurt from Vancouver – Total travel time 15 hours
  • 4:00 PM – Straight to the bathtub to get calm
  • 5:00 PM – First Nap
  • 7:00 PM – Dinner
  • 8:00 PM – Bath and Bed
  • 1:00 AM – 4:30 AM Baby B was awake and wanted to play. He was also hungry so we fed him again because it was dinner time in Vancouver
  • 8:30 AM – We woke Baby B (he could have kept going – see photo below!)

Night 2

  • 8:00 PM – Bath, Book, Bed
  • Baby B woke every 1 ½ hours for a feeding (he is breastfed). Although he woke a lot through the night (5 times), he didn’t wake for a long period of time
  • 8:30 AM – We had to wake him up again

After night two, we thought he was getting back on schedule – We were wrong!

Night 3

  • 7:00 PM – Bath, Book, Bed
  • 10:00 PM to 1:00 AM – Wide Awake and ready to play! We tried to keep things boring – Lights off and no toys. It didn’t make a difference. He was completely awake and having a great time. Finally after 2 hours, we gave in and turned on the lights
  • 4:30 AM – Breastfeed
  • 6:30 AM  – Breastfeed
  • 8:30 AM – We woke Baby B (note – he did not wake up naturally in the mornings, we had to wake him up)

Night 4

  • 7:00 PM – Bath, Book, Bed
  • 10:30 AM – Breastfeed
  • 2:30 AM – Breastfeed
  • 4:30 AM – Breastfeed
  • 6:30 AM – Baby B woke up naturally – finally!

 

Night four was a fairly normal night, but with a couple extra feedings. At home, Baby B goes to bed around 7:00 PM and wakes at around 6:30 AM. In total, it took Baby B about five days to get accustomed to the 9-hour time change. Keep this in mind when making your travel itinerary.

Traveling from North America to Europe is a long flight, even for an adult, so we suggest that if you are traveling with an infant, always give yourself some extra time. Spending the first night at the airport hotel was a great idea after the long flight because it allowed everyone to adjust in comfort – a big comfy bed, hot shower/bath and good breakfast is the best way to beat a case of jet lag, regardless of how old you are.

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Have you experienced time zone changes with your baby? Got any tips to share?
Share your feedback in the comments section below!

 

10 Responses to “Dealing with 9-hour time change & Baby Jet Lag”

  • Rhetta

    Great article. We live in Australia and are currently 3 weeks away from a trip to Spain and Canada. Needless to say I a rather nervous about how Gussy (now 7.5 months) will go with two radical time zone changes in one month. He doesn’t sleep that well at night now similar to how you explained Baby B he wakes every 2-3 hours and I typically just feed him as he then falls back to sleep with 5 to 10 min. Trying to be good about sleep training but know it will likely all go out the window when we go on our month long holiday.

    • Ris

      Hi, Iknow this is an old post but we’re traveling Europe to NZ in a month, bubs will be 8 months old. Interested to know how your trip went (I am so anxious about it already!). And if you have any tips for supporting bubs through the long travel and/or the jetlag on arrival.

  • I’m so glad I found your blog! We are currently in day one of a two week vacation in France and Spain from Seattle. Our little one has been a little grumpy (she didn’t sleep on the plane At All) and I was just asking DH “do you think she’s jet lagged?” She has been in remarkable spirits in spite of it all. She’s 30 weeks old (and in a sunny spot of her wonder weeks thank god). Anyways I just wanted to drop a note to say how refreshing it is to find a similar perspective online. Do you typically co sleep (we do)? I wish I would have read this before booking our travels — we never would have gone from our 10+ hour trip to Paris to driving 6+ hours to Bourdeaux… That was definitely stressful on her as well as us!!

  • Hey – thanks for your post. I leave tomorrow with my 6 month old son from Toronto to Dubai (14 hour flight and 8 hour time difference). I’m so nervous that I can’t even sleep!!

  • We live in California and recently got back from a month in Europe. That time difference is indeed pretty brutal. (As a side note, New Zealand ROCKS since +21 hours is really an easy 3 hr time difference!) We spent our first three days in Munich after flying in there. We took the subway directly to our hotel – no car seats to navigate. And we paid more to be a direct subway to our hotel from the airport and then walking distance to downtown and the sights the next couple of days. SO worth it! The first night our son (then 20 months) woke up at 3AM. Um, yeah. Thankfully, being the great parents that we are, ahem, we are totally down with screen time. We popped him in a stroller, put a movie on the tablet, gave him a ziploc bag of cheerios, and went back to sleep. He literally watched 2 movies plus however much of number 3 it took before he fell asleep. Thankfully our 3-yr-old daughter slept through! (She’s had more practice traveling. And didn’t sleep on the flight…)

    It took the three days there before we felt human again. It would be so much easier if you could just pump them full of espresso in the mornings like we do for ourselves! I would say that insisting they eat before going to sleep is super helpful. No littler person can sleep when hungry. Neither of ours wanted to eat when we got home to California (it was dinner time here and something like 2 or 3AM there). Ice cream settled that. They will always eat a bowl of ice cream. 🙂 We know…parents of the year…but…desperate times call for desperate measures!

  • Good tips. I like how you put the schedule of when he woke up to give a better idea of how to copy through jet lag. Do you find hotel airports much more expensive? I’m wondering what the cost/benefit ratio would be for staying in an airport hotel, or taking a taxi directly to city accomodation
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