How to survive jet lag with a toddler in 15 easy steps by Cristel Mol-Dellepoort

Let me preface this ‘easy guide’ by saying that I am no sleep expert. Except when it comes to my own sleep maybe. I am very good at that, most of the time. I just haven’t had much chance to practice these last, say two-and-a-half years…
Our son Charlie is nearly 2.5 years old now, and a seasoned traveller. We did a lot of travelling before he came along, and decided that while our travel schedule has changed a bit, we did not in fact slow down very much. Result is that Charlie had visited 24 countries (and some more than once) by the time he was 24 months old, and we’re currently planning for more trips in the next months.
Our lifestyle is a little different than most; we live half the year in North America, and the other half we spend here in Bangkok, Thailand. To get from one place to the other, we fly. Yes, it’s a long, long, looooong flight; about 24 hours, if you’re lucky, door to door, with 1 transfer. Other times it may be 40 hours and 2 transfers. In any case, at the end of it, everyone is fed up of being on a plane, eating junk food and just generally tired. This is why we usually only do this very long haul twice a year. Because as much work as the flights are (keeping a toddler entertained/in the seat/asleep), jet lag is the gift that keeps on giving, usually for a good 10 days!
I congratulated my sister on her nuptials over the Christmas/New Year’s holiday this year, and under that same breath cursed her too; now we’d be flying back to Canada from Thailand and then back again, all in the span of about 3 weeks!
So having just survived nearly a month of jet lag, I see myself as somewhat of an expert on the subject. Now having a toddler with jet lag, that brings it to the next level. These are the easy steps (okay, maybe not 102 of them) to help you get through it too!
1. Don’t fight it too much. If you’re all tired, sleep.
2. Stay on your toddler’s sleep schedule while you get over jet lag. For the next few days, he’s at least the Sleep Boss.
3. If he naps, you nap, even if you usually never nap. Believe me, you’ll need it when at 2am he says: “Come on mama, let’s play!”
4. Coffee is your friend, early in the day.
5. Eat when you’re hungry, no matter it’s 4am. Eggs are acceptable 24 hours a day, and fried rice or pasta for breakfast is fine! Also, now is NOT a time to diet, or start a new exercise regime.
6. Don’t forget to drink lots. I often find when I am jet lagged, I am such a zombie, all I want to do is eat (brains, since mine isn’t working), and I forget to drink.
7. Whether your kid is verbal yet or not, there’s no point trying to convince them to sleep when their body thinks it’s 2pm and time to play and run. Don’t frustrate yourself.
8. Do explain to your kid that the middle of the night is not a normal time to be awake; it’s just until your body adjusts to the time of day in
(fill in the country you’re in). You don’t want to create a new routine!
9. You are not required to wear anything other than very comfy pj’s when indoors. Even if that means all day and night!
10. Count on about a day for each hour of time difference to adjust back to the new time zone.
11. Spend as much time as you can outside, in daylight. It makes you feel human again and helps your circadian rhythm adjust.
12. Try to be active when you’re awake and think you’ll be awake for a while. Walk, run, bike, play, build pillow and blanket fortresses.
13. Keep an eye on your kid’s nap schedule. You’ll find the length of time between sleeps are going to be the same as usual, just in reverse.
14. Refer back to step 1, as much as you need to!
15. Celebrate when you’re all back to normal. You did it without killing anyone, yay!
Cristel Mol-Dellepoort is a pastel artist and entrepreneur (, Instagram @cristelmd, Facebook @CristelPastelArtist, married for nearly 24 years to her Canadian photographer husband Brad and they have a 2.5 year old son Charlie. They spend their time between Canada, the USA and Thailand, when they’re not travelling.