Surprise! There’s No Sure Fire Way to Avoid Jet Lag with a Toddler

May 23, 2017

I’d like to tell you that we’ve figured out the secret to avoiding jet lag with a toddler, but the honest and real answer is that we haven’t. What I can do is reassure you that if you’re in the depths of arriving to a new time zone and are dealing with inconsistent sleep schedules you certainly aren’t alone. It took just over two weeks for Owen to fully adjust to the six hour time difference between New York City and Paris and while it was a trying two weeks in many ways we did our best to go with the flow, let Owen sleep when he was tired and make the most of our wonky schedule as we acclimated to our new life.

Sleep can rule your life if you let it and rather than forcing Owen to get back into his usual routine we decided to let him come to it on his own. Our idea was that if he ended up being a night owl and sleeping later in the mornings that that was okay with us. Of course this is the beauty of making your own schedule and having one child rather than a bunch of kiddos to coordinate sleeping with, but we realized there was so much changing around him, it wasn’t worth forcing something that doesn’t need to be provided he was getting the proper amount of sleep (which he was). For those of you who are in the midst of jet lag or are planning a trip where jet lag with your little ones is unavoidable, here are some notes on our experience so you can hopefully feel a little more mentally prepared for what’s ahead.

+ Our flight to Paris left NYC around 7:30pm on a Tuesday and we arrived in Paris at 8am Wednesday morning. By leaving at this time we thought Owen would have the highest chance of going to bed at his normal time and that we’d avoid jet lag as much as possible.

+ Owen slept for about half the flight. He woke up as we landed and stayed awake as we left the airport, took the train and arrived at our Airbnb. Once our host left the apartment we had every intention of staying up and grabbing pastries and coffee, but exhaustion hit hard after not sleeping most of the night and we all took an extra long nap. This might have been our first mistake, but I couldn’t bare keeping a sleepy, fussy toddler awake (plus we were extra tired too) so we went with it.

+ We all got up at around 1pm and headed out for the day to explore and pick up the essentials for our first meal at home. I can’t tell you how great it felt to get a decent chunk of sleep in. It made the first evening here so much more fun to feel rested and I’m still not regretting that nap.

+ Owen went down no problem around 9, 9:30pm that first night and we basically thought we were travel geniuses. Incorrect. He slept until about 10am the next morning and from there on we were stuck in a wake up around 9 or 10am, nap mid-afternoon and go down for the night around 11pm for almost two weeks.

+ It was tough to get used to not having as much of our nights to ourselves as we were used to, but we adjusted. Zack and I pushed the time we’d go to sleep even later and really enjoyed sleeping in. We made an effort to still make the time from about 9pm on quiet time with Owen where we went through his bedtime routine and either watched Sesame Street, read his books or just laid with him until he was asleep. This was the hardest part – he would clearly be tired at this time, but just had a really difficult time going to sleep until closer to 11pm. Patience and wine we’re key to surviving.

+ This went on for about two weeks until Owen decided to wake up at 5:30am one morning and wouldn’t go back to sleep. This was a blessing and a curse. Clearly, we were all exhausted this day, but just like that Owen readjusted and is now waking up around 7:30 – 8am, napping around 12pm and going down around for the night around 9pm. Of course there is no guarantee that if we would have woke him up extra early one morning that this would have happened, but it’s obviously something we’ve talked about.

My point in sharing this clearly isn’t to give you some sound advice, Zack and I are just figuring out this parenting business as we go. What I did realize immediately after arriving to Paris is that I often times let the pressure of what I should be doing as a mom creep in and in this instance my gut told me just to let that go. We knew he would adjust eventually and were really okay with him being a night owl if not. So here’s my unsolicited advice to you if you’re taking a week or two week long vacation in a different time zone: Takes a deep breath, embrace it all and enjoy your trip. Enjoy that your little ones might want to be up until midnight. Take advantage of it and go out to dinner at a normal adult hour, grab ice cream while it’s dark out. Don’t be so worried that it’s past their bedtime, and enjoy sleeping in too. Basically, ride the wave.

But, if you’ve found the secret to jet lag with a toddler – please, please, please share it here!

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  • Hello- I just started following your blog- and your podcast.- and the Instagram account- so yeah full on binging over here. I just wanted to say that I am really excited to follow along this traveling adventure!! I love Paris and we are actually returning there with my son in August who will be 23 months at the time. Will you do a post on parks and fun things to do? Speaking of… Since you are in the 18th Arr. have you visited Parc de la Villette yet? If so, what was it like? Our first day/ night in Paris we are going to the outdoor movies they host there in the summer to combat – or just to go with the jetlag that I know will be happening. (We are only traveling for a week so we are not going to fight it – and I love PAris at night. ) I am just curious what the park is like. I did not visit that park on past trips. There is also a children’s museum but in all honesty I just love walking the streets in Paris.
    I should mention, We also sold everything, quit our jobs and traveled for 3 months back in 2013. We brought our dog that time!!! You can check out our adventures on We even took Lilly to the vet in Spain to get her pet passport signed off -which was a hoot! WE Airbnb’d the entire trip and loved it!! Anyway, I am glad I found your blog!

    • Hey there Laurel,

      Thanks so much for following along! Sounds like our sons are both the same age! Owen will be 2 in September. 🙂

      I’m putting together a post on our top toddler activities for sure, but we have yet to go to Parc de la Villette yet. I’ll check it out and report back to you. We have yet to visit a museum, but might check some out this weekend because it’s supposed to be in the 90’s! Walking the streets has honestly been our favorite thing to do too.

      How amazing that you took a similar journey with your pup! Checking out your blog now. 🙂

      Thanks so much for commenting!

      • They are very close in age! Henry’s birthday is 9/9/2015. This is such a fun age. I am always trying to figure out what Henry is saying. I liked your toddler activity list. I can’t wait for your podcast wrapping up Paris. I just love that city so much. My Grandfather – who lived in Paris always said, ” If you have a choice between walking the streets or standing in line at a tourist destination- you should always walk the streets.” Have fun!

        • We totally skipped the podcast this week! Haha. But, we will have a new episode too and definitely wrap up Paris 🙂 Love your grandfather’s quote!

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