Long-haul flights and jet-lag

DSC00547I am by no means a medical expert, but I have done a ton of traveling with my kids, have survived more long-haul flights than I can count and have dealt with jet-lag more times than I would like.  On the whole it is never easy, especially the flights. But I do find that it’s more daunting in theory than in practice (I usually start to dread the flight, especially if I’m flying on my own with the kids, about 3 months before the day… plotting out all the possible worse-case scenarios in my head). In general, the nightmare scenarios never happen and the flights go more smoothly than I imagined. I think my biggest tip is to be super organized — have everything you might need during the flight in an easily accessible carry-on. Bring healthy snacks (like raisins, pretzels, fruit) to keep your kids happy and distracted at the crucial times like take-off and landing when you have to be seated.  Have your kids’ favourite books on-hand. And make sure your kids use the toilet BEFORE you board the plain. The more organized you are, the easier the whole experience will be. Oh, and I really think it makes a world of difference to buy your kids their own headphones — ones that actually fit them and stay on.

And jet-lag… I also find the hype to be worse than the reality.  Kids especially have a pretty easy time adjusting to the new time, and in all my experience I have found that babies are hardly affected. The rule of thumb with jet-lag is “west is best and east is least”, meaning that flying west is much easier than flying east because you gain time rather than lose it. And the sooner you adjust yourself to the new time, the easier it will be to get over the jet-lag.  I wrote a post a while ago with my tips for dealing with jet-lag — you can read them here.

I hope this helps. It sounds like many of you have planned some big trips for the coming summer. Fun!




7 COMMENTS - Add your own

1. Kathrin Laureri | March 29, 2010 | Reply

Thanks Courtney for posting this, as we are traveling to Asia tomorrow and I just discovered that my husband is sitting somewhere far from us as there was a mix up in booking. Dreading it but repeating….it will be ok


2. Sarah | March 30, 2010 | Reply

I’ve become an expert at long haul flights from London to the US…and my best advice is take the red eyes and especially with toddlers. More then not, they’ll fall a sleep and even if they only sleep half the flight, that’s 5 hrs more then they’d sleep if it were during the day….much easier!!!

3. tc | March 30, 2010 | Reply

When I fly long-haul with my twin toddlers, I tend to take flights that are about 1-2 before their due sleep-time. In that way, they can get settled, have their dinner etc. before it is time for a full nights sleep.
Although I would try to avoid giving them snacks on the flight, I do always bring some healthy (non-sugary) ones for emergency purposes…along with favourite books/toys etc. of course.

4. Justyn | March 30, 2010 | Reply

NOT looking forward to the 40 hour journey and four airplanes that we take with four kids between Kenya and home. If anyone has any other tips – SHARE. We leave in 5 weeks and the very thought of it makes my heart race ;)

5. Susanna | March 30, 2010 | Reply

Which is better with a newborn? My not so new newborn is VERY active and though he is only 7 months is as long and as heavy as a baby almost twice his age. We live in Milan and travel to and from California several times a year. We have tried travelling in many ways – economy with bassinette, economy plus with bassinette, economy hoping that there would be an empty seat, and business. Now he is way too big for the bassinette so my choice gets more difficult (and more expensive) – the question is: which is better 1 seat in business (where I can lay the seat flat) or two seats in economy? Any thoughts?

6. Mariana Della Barba | March 30, 2010 | Reply

As far as I know flight companies charges 10% of the regular price for kids up to 2 years old. I am flying from Sao Paulo to New York next month with American Airlines and that’s what I paid for an extra seat for my boy (he’s 1y3months). Maybe that’s a good option for you too, Susanna. More space for your 7 months baby and not so expensive…. Good luck ;)

7. Cate | April 6, 2010 | Reply

Ah Kathrin I think you’ve got that wrong. Surely the mix up is that you have to sit somewhere quiet whilst your husband entertains your child/children ;)
Even better if you don’t sit with them you might get upgraded and can send him a glass of champagne to help pass the time!!
Enjoy your holiday.