Time Zone Strategies – East to West

The BabyTravel team hit the road last week! It’s not a very big team – 5 to be exact – largely comprised of people under the age of 8 or people who act like they are under the age of 8. Ahem. Our latest excursion was a voyage to Santa Barbara to visit my husband’s grandmother, Mops, for Easter. Mops is 92 years old and had never met Christopher, our youngest, so everyone was VERY excited for the trip!

After a somewhat unnerving flight due to funky seating arrangements (no more than two of us sitting together), we arrived in LA. We were pleasantly surprised to find that Hertz had upgraded us to a 2011 Toyota Sienna minivan. But favorable luck turned sour with the significantly unpleasant surprise of Gracie vomiting in the back seat of the brand new vehicle. (stay tuned for another post about getting nasty smells out of rental cars, to be written by my husband, who rose to god-like status in my eyes after cleaning the van!)

Needless to say, we arrived at the Residence Inn in Oxnard, CA in less-than chipper moods. Gracie went to bed at 6:00pm (poor thing!), but Callie and Christopher made it to 9:00pm. (midnight on EST)

If there is one thing I’ve learned about crossing time zones, it’s that kids burn the candles at both ends. You’d think that staying up until 9:00pm on the new time zone means they’ll sleep until 7:00am the next morning. Not so. All three kids were zippy and garrulous at 4:30am. And that has been our experience every time we travel. Little ones stay up late, get up early and sneak little naps throughout the day, usually at the most inconvenient times.

So here are a few tips to make traveling from eastern times zones to western time zones more smooth.

1) Come up with your game plan the night before. This usually includes one parent getting up with the early riser while the other stays in bed. Whenever possible, leave the room with the child. You can escape to a hotel lobby, take a walk around the hotel property, or even go for a little drive. (playgrounds can be really fun in the dark!)

2) Find a 24 hour restaurant or diner that opens early. This is a good option when the hotel lobby isn’t suitable for early morning forays and the weather is too cold or rainy to go for a walk. Again, you’ll want to explore your options the night before.

3) Pack a bag with clothes, bottle, diapers, food, etc. for the little one and a sweater and food for you. Lay your clothes and shoes out so you can change quickly and easily without waking others. Remember that early mornings are usually the chilliest time of the day, so you’ll want to pack something warm.

4) Bring a cell phone. This is especially important if you have more than one child. Your spouse can text you when the other one (s) wake up.

5) Keep your schedule light and flexible. Make sure it includes a nap time for both children and adults.

6) Whenever possible, eat your meals at times appropriate for the new time zone. Meal times help to signal the body’s biorhythms, letting them know there has been a change in schedule.

In the end, you just need to accept the fact that kids adapt to time zone changes more slowly than adults. Allowing for down-time rather than filling the daily schedule will provide the most enjoyable travel experience for both you and your children.