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.