A pink taxi

A pink taxi

December 18, 2010

Combatting Jet Lag with Kids

I have flown with my baby, and later my two and three children, alone. Unaccompanied. I have chosen this fate because I refuse to limit my vacations to the shorter amounts of time my husband can only afford to take. I enjoy multiple layovers and  usually extend my trip beyond my better half's by many days at the beginning and the tail end of our holidays.

The two main  reasons I choose the fate of unaccompanied parent are the following: I refuse to do long hauls with kids, especially toddlers, and the other is that I like layovers to help ease into difficult jet lags with my children.

I always fly economy with the kids, so that I may save in order to be able to indulge in shopping and dining at my destination. I always choose Swiss because I am certain that it has the best economy seats and services. It is also a very predictable airline, with rare delays and nice rituals such as chocolate and constant water bottle indulgences. Most importantly, Swiss' hub, Zurich International Airport, is my favorite airport ever:  it has the best coffee, a clean and fun kids play area, and the actual architecture of the terminals is state of the art.

My kids are not of the rare species that behave on flights. They are prone to kicking the chair in front of them, arguing about what to eat, constantly requesting my attention and they get restless. I deal with it. We have made it a family custom to  perpetuate the 70s tradition of clapping for the pilot upon landing. The rest of the passengers seem to ignore us, not making eye contact with us as we clap away, and sigh in relief to have arrived safely at our destination.

Despite how exhausted we get on red eye flights, I prefer them to the eternal day flights. I keep them awake till departure at 2am and then they crash  right as the hum of the plane lulls them to sleep. This is also another way to begin living on the destination's time and combatting jet lag. 2am in Dubai  is 11pm  in Geneva, 5pm in NYC and 2pm  in San Francisco. It's a beginning if anything!

Now that we pay for 4 seats, we take a whole row and we literally sleep on top of each other. Just this time, I took my 6 year old and laid her on top of me, like a very heavy blanket, so we could both share 3 seats to sleep on rather than 1seat and a half each. Sleeping on your own chair is impossible. Contortions of all kind just don't work. I often open the folding table and lay my head on it, before my stiff neck wakes me up.

Upon arrival, I am completely drained, whether a day or night flight. I usually take a nap. On my layovers I extend my bedtime and my kids to the maximum, when they drop asleep completely extenuated. The next day, I push their bedtime an hour further. My kids end up sleeping past midnight in Geneva so they can practice for the  next step: the USA!

I have completed 1/3 of the trip now and will take each challenge at a time: luggage, packing for various seasons, unpacking. Making sure the pajamas are on top  so that we can sleep as soon as we can, when we arrive at our destination.

My relatives, my own family and my in-laws, are demanding once we arrive: they want us galavanting with them, they visit us the day we arrive....and all I wonder about is my game plan to combat jet lag. My husband, who has taken a door-to-door flight, has no problem crashing in the middle of a dinner made in his honor. I have not had the courage yet to do the same.


  1. Preparing for a long haul trip with many offspring(four in our case)was a ritual by itself.We used to travel almost every 6-8 weeks since French schools would give a potatoe holiday in Oct,a skiing holiday in February,over and above the Christmas,Easter and the long summer vacations.Most of the time we used to take one or two of our male domestic help depending on the length of the holiday.So it meant refining the logistics of check-in,transport and the mountain of luggage.The early days were easier,when you could check in your luggage ahead of time,and then come in shortly before departure,with minmum of security check.Those golden years are over,now the procedure takes at least 3 hours ahead of time,especially at American and European airports.
    On short holidays,we never stopped for a short stay in Europe,but braved the long trip to the East Coast of the US or to Utah or California with a short transit at one of the holiday-congested European airports at peak season.Travelling economy to afford the group of 8,didnot make matters easy,especially that there was no access to Business lounges,nor was there available playrooms for the children.
    Upon arrival,we were walking zombies,completely disoriented,crashing in our clothes in hotels,family homes,or grandparents warm and loving homes.The sweetest sleep as my mother in law always professed,is the jet lag sleep,which puts you in an interrupted deep well.Children adjust must easier to jet lag,and used to look forward to waking at 4am to watch the American cartoons that were not available in Dubai,and to await enjoying the delicious American waffles and pancakes.

  2. I got heart palpitations reading this blog. I traveled with my three girls this summer when they were one to Italy for two weeks. I still have post traumatic stress disorder. It was the longest plane ride of my life and at one point the flight attendant asked if I was OK. I think my expression alerted her that I was about to open the airplan door and jump out without a parachute.
    It was in a word, agonizing.
    They were all over the plan and apparently thought that their extended family included all other 250 people aboard the plane. If they weren't trying to take a passenger's shoes off then they were banging on the bathroom toilet doors when they were occuppied or blocking the aisles during service. They slept for the last 20 minutes of the 7 hour journey. My husband got a back ache that he is still recovering from.
    After that trip I alerted all my overseas family that if they want to see us, they will have to make the journey to Dubai...I will not be travelling again with the children for the forseeable future. Yasmine, more power to you!