Travel, Time Changes and Sleep Schedules
Berkeley Parents Network >
Going Places >
Travel, Time Changes and Sleep Schedules
We have a 22 month old who has blessed us with her wonderful
sleeping habits, except when we are traveling. Almost every
time we travel she has great difficulty not only going to
sleep, but staying asleep. We have tried every type of bed
arrangement (i.e. pack n'play, crib in our room, crib in
another room, even sleeping in our bed), leaving a light on,
nothing seems to work. We have also tried letting her cry it
out, versus going in every 10 minutes, etc. We do not keep her
up later than usual, and we stick to the same routines that we
have at home. When we finally go to bed, she is then crying in
her sleep on and off for most of the night. However, she
usually has no problem napping on vacation. It ususally takes a
few days to a week while we are on vacation for her to get back
to her good sleep habits. We are usually sitting at dinner just
listening to her scream, and are exhausted and frustrated for
the first week of our vacation. She has none of these problems
at home. Any advice?
Here are just two ideas you could try, if you haven't already.
(1) Try to get your child attached to a special doll or blanket
for sleeping. Make this object part of the bed routine and a
familiar bedmate, i.e., tuck your child in each night with a
special teddy just for sleeping. If you can get sleep associated
with a special object, then you can bring it along when you
travel to make the child's bed seem more like home and hopefully
trigger ease and sleep that way.
(2) Maybe smell is a factor? Can you bring bedding from their own
bed (unwashed and smelling like home/self)? Maybe that will
provide comfort in a strange environment.
I'm planning a trip to the East Coast to visit family in late May. My son will be 7-
months-old then and will (hopefully) have a fairly regular sleep schedule at that point
in time. He's pretty regular as it is now. I'd like some advice on how the time
difference could possibly affect his schedule. Should I try to keep him on his West
Coast schedule, or adjust him to the time there? Is staying only a short time (4 - 5
days) better or worse, or does it not make a difference? I'll probably stay longer if
think that it doesn't matter how long the trip is. I'd love to hear about other's
experiences with cross-country travel and sleeping.
When we take our daughters to the east coast during the summer (they are
now 1 and
3) we just keep them on the west coast schedule. This works out well
because they can stay up late with the family and while it's still light
outside, and they sleep in in the morning. I would especially recommend
doing this for such a short trip. Good luck!
Mommy of two little ones
When going east for a week or less, I try to keep the kids on our west
coast schedule. It works well for us because we have a really early
schedule (both to sleep and wake), and it's nice to have a more ''grown
up'' schedule when visiting back east - especially in NYC where people
tend to be eating supper, not going to bed, by 8pm! More than a week...
I find it's hard to keep it up and we fall into the east coast schedule,
Visit your family for as long as you want. I've been going to the East
Coast with my now 4YO since she was an infant and she's always adjusted
to the new time in less than a day. I've thought about trying to keep
her on west coast time but what I've found is that it's not something I
can control--she naturally adjusts to east coast time, probably because
of daylight, mealtimes, etc. Then when we come back here, she adjusts
within a day as well. In fact, she's a lot more resilient than my
husband and me. Even if your child takes longer though, it's not worth
cutting your trip short to avoid messing up the sleeping schedule in my
opinion. Even if it gets disrupted for a few days, it will return to
normal if you maintain consistency.
east coast traveler
We went to DC(for 4 days) and Caribbean (for 6 days) with our infant
son, at 4 mos and 5 mos, respectively, and he kept his west coast sleep
schedule. This was great for us because he goes to bed for the night at
around 7pm and wakes up at 6am.
When we were in DC and Caribbean, this translated to him sleeping at 10
pm (est) - which is when we would go to bed, and him waking up at 9am -
a more reasonable time for us! My advice to you is to try to make him
nap on the plane and keep him on west coast schedule.
We travelled with our son to the East Coast many times while he has a
baby. I was very anxious about his schedule, but it worked out great to
stay on West Coast time as much as possible. We woke late, ate a
leisurely breakfast, did a few things, ate lunch at 3 (missed lunchtime
crowds) and then could have dinner at a civilized hour. It is so cool to
take your baby or toddler to dinner at 8 or 9 pm and have him happy and
content! I would say he usually got an hour or two less sleep than
usual, because he would go to bed on his West Coast schedule but not
sleep quite as late, but he seemed fine. I think he did well, even when
he got less sleep than usual, because he loved being with us around the
clock and everything was new and interesting. And on the way home he
almost always slept about 4 hours on the plane which was fabulous.
I went back East with my daughter twice 2 summers ago when she was 6
months and 8 months. I found she adjusted pretty easily, although she
woke up a bit earlier than I would have liked when we first arrived.
Traveling is tiring, so she usually slept well the first night there and
the first night back, which helped adjust her to the new time zone. I
found and have heard from others that it is really hard to keep kids on
California time. I don't think staying longer or shorter makes much
difference in terms of sleep, though it is easier for overall adjustment
to stay longer.
We have traveled a lot to places in the eastern and central time zones
and we have always tried to keep our kids on a west coast schedule. It
worked better with our older kid, who slept in just fine, but not as
well with the younger one, who tends to wake up with sun (or earlier),
regardless of the time zone.
We are going to Hawaii for a week with our 14 month old. I am trying to figure out
how to deal with the time change, which is 3 hours earlier, and his sleep. With his
current schedule he would be ready for bed at 4PM and wake up at 3AM! What tips do
people have for this issue? Thanks
The time difference is only 2 hours (until March 11). In Oahu,
the sun is rising at about 6:50 and it gets dark by 6:30 or so.
So if you come before March 11, and if your child is up at 5am
you can make it to the beach to watch the sunrise! ;-)
I did read the other posts but they were mostly about travel to
We are headed to Hawaii in a few weeks with our 1 year old son.
How have others handled the 3 hour time change with their little
ones? He typically goes to bed around 7-7:30 which would be
4:30 Hawaiian time. I think it will be difficult to try to
accomodate his schedule - we're going to be with lots of family
etc. Should we try to adjust his naps and bedtime or is it just
not worth it? Any ideas to help with the time change would be
greatly appreciated. Thanks!
We went to Hawaii last year when my son was 15 months. What
worked for me was to adjust him to Hawaii time as soon as I
could, and it only took a day. I did it with meals. We left in
the morning and I delayed breakfast by an hour, ate lunch on the
plane which was another hour later, delayed nap (never a problem
for him to delay a nap, plus all the excitement of travel kept
him up anyway) and ate dinner at dinner time (6:00 Hawaii time)
when we got to Hawaii. Bath and bedtime were only slightly
earlier that first night. Provided snacks in between meals to
keep him from being grumpy, but everything else worked fine.
Don't worry about the time change going to Hawaii! (Coming home
is much harder). It is usually very easy to get a child to stay
up a an hour or more past bedtime. This is what we do: if we
arrive in the afternoon we check in and go to the beach. The
exposure to afternoon sunlight helps to adjust the biological
clock. He'll wake up early, but that's ok, you'll want to be out
and about when it is light. We didn't try to accomodate naps
unless a child had gotten super cranky. We just let them nap in
the car on the way to beaches/sights or on the beach under a
pop-up cabana or umbrella.
Have a great time!
I've never traveled to a different time zone with my son but I
have talked to friends that say it does have some effect,
depending on the direction, time difference, and temperment of
your child. I have noticed that when we are somewhere new and
exciting my son often is his awake, playful self until much
later. I'm assuming that you will be out exploring and that it
will be light outside at 4:30 and I would think your little one
will adjust somewhat easily in that direction. It's the other
direction that I would think will take a bit of work, when he
doesn't think it's bedtime until 10:30.
We observed our daughter's sleep signs and Hawaii time. So she
went to sleep a bit earlier there than here, but we did not keep
her to CA time. The light in Hawaii is quite helpful with this
as it's darker earlier. but our daughter did awaken earleir
there. The good thing is all the pbs shows start earlier there
so she was entertained while we snoozed. naps we tried to follow
her schedule rather than keep her to one.
We took our daughter to Hawaii when she was 11.5 months old and
the time change wasn't a big deal like I thought it would be.
One thing that really helped us was thinking ''Hawaii local time''
as soon as we boarded the plane -- no more, ''well it's 1:00 at
home, so it should be nap time.'' The first day, we went with
the flow and let her eat and sleep when she wanted to,
regardless of the time. She was excited about being on the
airplane so her nap was short. When we landed, she fell asleep
again in our rental car on our way to the hotel. That pulled
her through until 8:00, which was her normal bedtime at home and
she was all set!
I've never done it but perhaps you might want to consider moving
his bedtime here progressively later so that by the time you
leave, he won't be going to bed at 4:30 in the afternoon in
We just got back from 9 days in Hawaii. My one-year-old usually
goes to bed at 8:30 (5:30 there). The first night we kept him up
til about 6:30, then from there on out we put him down around 7.
That seemed to work fine. I was concerned about him adjusting
back, but the night we returned, due to flight times, he had to
stay up til after 10, then the second night he went down about
9, then he was back on schedule. It was actually really easy.
Your babe goes down earlier here, which is super early there, so
I don't know if this will work for you. Good luck and have a
We are getting ready to travel to St. Louis for 4 days and I'm
wondering if it makes sense to try to keep our 6-month-old on
his current sleep schedule (by California time) while we're
there - particularly since it's a fairly short trip and only 2
hrs. time difference - or if it would be better to shift to the
time zone we'll be in. His schedule (thanks to Dr. Weissbluth)
is relativley new so I'm worried about messing it up too much,
but I also don't want to waste a lot of energy trying to force
something to happen that will just cause more frustration.
Does anyone have experience with this sort of thing? What did
you do to make sure your baby still got the amount of sleep (s)
he needed? Thanks for your help!
When we travel, I try to let go of the sleep schedule a bit, while still getting my son his naps. So, instead of watching the clock so much, I watch for when he's tired. When we're travelling, it's not just the time zone that messes up the sleep schedule, it's being in a new place and sometimes having mommy and daddy sleeping in the same room, etc. So I try to just go with the flow, even though at home we keep to a pretty regular schedule of naps. Just try to make sure your son gets a morning nap at some point, an afternooon nap (or two if he takes two), and goes to bed when he's tired. I wouldn't worry about the times until you get back home.
I don't know much about Dr. Weissbluth's technique, but a 4-day trip seems like a very short amount of time to try to change any schedule.
Then, of course, you'd have to change again when you got back. If you can, sleep when you all are tired, wake when you all are ready. That's what we generally try to do when we travel back east.
It's been my experience to be sort of relaxed and fluid about nap/sleep schedules while away from home. When you can get your baby down, go for it. Try not to pay attention to clocks at all - California time or otherwise. Trips are times for exceptions of all sorts - and you'll be way less stressed if you can just go with the flow and let baby sleep when he/she needs to. (I'm just back from a trip on Central Time with a 5 mo old and four year old and everyone got the best sleep they could for the week we were gone and are already back on track here.) -Usually love the schedule. Drop it when away.
Hi - from my experience, I think it's a great idea to keep your 6-mo old son on his west coast sleep schedule. Traveling east is actually pretty easy, as it allows you to sleep in a bit! We traveled to NYC with our 6 mo old for 4 days, and we were able to do it the whole time - thus not having to deal with jet lag.
It worked great!
We just travelled to the East Coast with our nine-month-old and also use Weissbluth's sleep plan. I definitely recommend keeping your son on Pacific time! We got in pretty late but didn't worry about our son going to bed at ''10'' because it was 7 PST. We all got to sleep in a bit, which helped with coordinating our schedules with everyone we were visiting, and when we went out (we were there for a wedding) we could take our son and enjoy being with him AND get him to bed at more or less his normal bedtime.
We were away for three four days and our son did start to adjust a little--be flexible in exactly when he gets to bed and be prepared for a weird nap schedule--but we had no difficulties with his scheduling once we were back in California.
Enjoy your trip!
I loved Dr. Weissbluth's book. When I took my son back East as an infant, I pretty much kept him on California time. It was great to be able to go out to dinner in NYC at 9 p.m.! I found, however, that he would wake up closer and closer to East Coast time (i.e. earlier and earlier) as the trip wore on. He was always very cheerful and happy, though, because he loved being in new surroundings. And then he took a HUGE nap on the flight back, which was fabulous. Have fun!
We've done a lot of traveling with both our kids and I know that our
kids have usually adjusted to the new time zone more quickly than we
have because they are more influenced by the activity level of others
(particularly any other kids to play
with) and by the darkness or sunlight (while we grown-ups get hung up on
what the clock says, or what time we ''know'' it is back home.) He'll
probably adjust to the new time slowly, maybe even going to bed on CA
time and waking up on Central time. Probably by the 4th day he will be
fully on Central time, just in time for you to come home! I wouldn't try
to ''engineer'' his sleep at all, just let him do it when he is tired.
Have a good trip!
--too familiar with traveling mama
We're taking our 2-year-old to Germany at the end of April. I've never
taken him on a plane flight this long or dealt with a 9-hour time
change for him before. We leave SF at about 5 pm and arrive in
Germany about 6pm the next day. Has anyone done this? How do
you adjust your kid's nap/nighttime sleep to get him or her to
do the time change? I'm trying to figure out whether to try to
keep him up during the plane flight so that he will sleep when we
get there. Of course entertaining him for 11 hours on a plane
flight doesn't sound much more fun than being up all night with him
the night we get there. Any ideas?
I don't have advice on the sleep. She's never adjusted her clock on any
trips (3 to 4 hour time differences). Initially we tried but it was too
frustrating trying to get her to sleep when it didn't seem natural for her
to. We just carried on with what we wanted to do and if she fell asleep in
the rental car or at the dinner table we just let it happen.
We took our daughter to Europe when she was two and a half, and left on a
flight at about the same time as your 5 p.m. departure. DO NOT keep your
child up all night in hope that it will somehow help him reset his clock!
At some point he will be exhausted and shrieking and the entire plane
will be glaring at you. Not worth it.
Try to get a seat on the right hand side of the plane. Why? We were on
the left, and found that we were flying into the eternal day...it never
really got dark, and just after our tired and wired little girl finally
fell asleep (during the movie, as I recall), the passengers ahead of us
opened their shades and let light come streaming in, wakening our
daughter and precipitating her exhausted shrieks "I want my bed, I want
to go home!" Awful, awful. Let him sleep through as much of the flight
as you can.
We found that our daughter's clock reset itself quicker than ours did!
She slept every time we got on a plane, train, or vaporetto (Venice) and
was happy to wake up in new places. Maybe we were lucky. Part of the
key is to eat lightly, but regularly, drink lots of fluids, get some
exercise and spend as much time as possible outside so that the system
can reset itself. Good luck!
P.S. It now comes back to me that our first few nights were weird.
Julia fell asleep pretty well but would suddenly sit up around 2 a.m. and
shout something like "cottage cheese!" and then go back to sleep.
We have made several trips to see family in Europe with our sons who are
now 1.5 and 4.5. We all try to get a good sleep the night before we leave
(we usually have an early flight which can make this hard) and then let the
kids sleep whenever they want on the planes. I think being as rested as
possible is more important than worrying about the time change while still
traveling. Once in Spain, we let the kids take a nap, but do wake them up
several hours before what we hope will be bed time. I don't know what
you'll find in Germany, but our routine in Spain is so different and
everything happens several hours later than here, so we don't actually have
to get used to a 9 hour change. For example, our kids go to bed at about
8:30 here, but not until about 11 there. That makes it a little easier.
We've found that the kids are so tired that we've never had to deal with
being up all night. One of them might wake up at about 3:00 and stay up
for several hours, but we try hard to keep them in bed, stay with them for
a while without playing, and keep saying that it's still night time. If
the sun's up, we get up. We try to be very flexible during the first few
days and have found that all of us start to sleep well soon. Enjoy your trip!
I've been known to give my daughter children's dramamine or benedryl
to help her sleep on the plane. I take these too so if we're lucky we
get to sleep through most of the flight.
In response to the travel to Germany. We have traveled twice to France with
our son -once at 3 months once at 15 months. We encouraged him to sleep as
much as he could on the flight - going it is pretty natural given the evening
departure from here. The hardest part
of the trip was recovery from jet lag. It took our son (at the older age)
several days (basically a week) to recover. He woke up at night crying and
had a rough time for awhile. I would say plan on a 3-4 transition days after
you arrive. We went on two to three week trip. The second and third weeks
were definitely easier than the first!
Re keeping your 2-year-old up on the flight to adjust his schedule: Are
you nuts? If he's sleeping, let him lie and thank your lucky stars. I
have flown often between the US and Asia with infants and preschoolers
and it's never easy, but the flight itself is always much harder than
the time adjustment. Kids often adjust easier than their parents to a
new time zone, I find. Susan
We are going to Europe next month with our 4 month
old. Any advice on time changes and sleep?
When my son was four months old, I traveled to five cities over three
weeks on a business trip for my work.
He adjusted to the time change quickly because I did these things:
- I would not let him nap for longer than two hours during the day
(even on the day we arrived and we were so exhausted. We put him in
the stroller and walked around Barcelona for hours and hours until it
was 7 p.m. and we all went to bed.)
- at night, I put him to bed when we went to bed, and roused him when
we woke up in the morning. (Baths and massages help make him sleepy
even when he didn't feel like going to sleep.)
- when he woke in the middle of the night (because his internal clock
said it was daytime), I nursed him silently in the dark, then put him
back down in his porta crib.
- I brought with me from home the pillowcase I had been using the
past two weeks and laid that under his head in his crib, and brought
his regular blanket from home. (I still do this when I travel with
him. He's 11 months old and has been on 26 airplanes rides.)
When we returned from Europe, our time adjustment was brutal because
I was so exhausted from the travel (and working and pumping milk and
Advice for return:
Stick to the same rules as above: get your child back into the local
time zone and routine as soon as possible by not letting him/her nap
very long during day, and putting him/her to bed at actual local
I traveled to Europe (alone) with 2 kids this summer (2 year old and 4
month old) and here what I've found: it was more difficult for the
younger one to get over jet laeg and it took 3 nights of crying and 2
more nights of just waking up and then going right back to sleep
... so it was not "too bad". I didn't switch on the light during the
night, I just rocked her back to sleep and gave her some milk to
drink, and that was from 1-2am to 5am. In the morning I would wake
her up at 9am and stick to the normal routine for nap and meal
schedule. For the way back I got (in France) some sleep medecine
(prescription) . It's called Nopron, it's pretty strong but I used it
only once on the first night and she slept 11h like an angel and
didn't suffer any jet lag ... unlike me !
Good luck !
We have been to London twice when our son was 6 months and 18 months old. Be
prepared to have a very tiring vacation...you and your husband could be up
at night and sightseeing during the day. Our child was very curious about
where we stayed(my Grandfather's house) and didn't feel comfortable in his
new surroundings. My husband and I traded off with our child in 2-3 hour
shifts at night. Then we lowered our expectations about what time we could
leave the house, and of what we could see and do in a day. It also helps to
be very organized. Make plans and prepare baby things the night before so
you can get on your way more quickly.
We were also lucky in that our child took all his naps in his Maclaren
stroller - so we could go anywhere(restaurants, museums, monuments etc.) and
he would sleep for hours. It would be a real drag if you had to go back to a
hotel or flat for your child's nap everyday. For a city like London, a
stroller is ideal. After hours in the baby bjorn our backs hurt like crazy.
We will be taking our 6-month old to Australia. The flight leaves at
11:30pm and arrives at 9:00am with time change (14 hour fllight
though). Her bedtime is usually 8:30pm. Should we try to keep her up
until the flight leaves (because of ear pressure and want her to sleep
most on the plane) with a catnap in the car? How do we deal with the
time change when we arrive - try to get her as quickly back to her nap
schedule as possible? I particularly don't want any day-night
confusion if possible. I would appreciate any advice!
We travelled to Australia with our 10 month old twins and it went
fine. I would recommend the following. First and foremost, reserve
the bulkhead seat with the bassinet. I took a sulu/sarong with
clothes pins to drap over it to make it dark. Our departure was a
little different because I had temporary brain loss and booked us
through Los Angeles. But I would recommend letting her sleep before
departure as much as you can. The airport was so interesting to our
10 month olds that they wouldn't sleep there. Nurse/bottle feed
during takeoff for the ear pressure (we've never had a problem and
have flown quite a bit). Our girls slept for a few hours then were up
for an hour or so then slept for a few hours the whole trip. Arrival
is in the morning so we went into day mode. They had their usual 2
naps during the day in a not very dark room. We tried to keep them up
to a semi reasonable time (bedtime is 7-7:30 usually). Then did the
usual bedtime routine and I went to bed myself. They woke up at 3ish,
I nursed them and they weren't sleepy at all so we played quiet games
in a low light room for an hour or so and then I nursed and put them
back in bed. After that it was a gradual lessening of the mid night
wake and play until about 3-4 days and they were completely adjusted
to the new time. Travel and sleeping in a new place always disrupts
their sleeping so an extra waking/feeding is the norm for us.
Have fun. You can email me if you have more questions.
I would recommend trying if possible to keep the baby up late if
possible on the way to the airport, and usually the airport seems to
provide the stimulation to keep a child awake. The reason I say this
is that if you (children and parents) can manage to get on the plane
completely exhausted and sleep on the plane to Australia AS LONG AS
POSSIBLE the transition going there is relatively painless. (This is
my ideal for trips to Australia and have managed to accomplish it
about every time I've gone by staying up late the day before and
getting up early the day of. The last time I went, with my daughter,
we both got up early the day we left, got on the plane exhausted, were
asleep before take off and slept for 12 hours straight.) The planes
leave SFO at night, you sleep for a really long night, then get to
Australia and it's morning. You usually find yourself going to bed
early and waking up early (once there), but this can work out well,
especially with children. My memories of going to visit Australia as a
child include an awful lot of falling asleep in a bed with lots of
coats at my parents friends' houses at 6 in the evening. I was
flexible about reinstigating a rigid nap policy with my child when
there because the change its easy to forget about but extremely
important to babies and small children is the change in meal
pattern. I felt it was really important to feed my child when she was
hungry, and she mostly just napped when we were driving or riding. On
the way back though its usually the opposite (i.e. very long day) and
a much more difficult plane flight. Having a jet lagged baby is no
fun, but probably unavoidable, but the return trip is going to be
harder for jet lag. Personally I've been on planes, well, a
reasonable amount with my daughter and she has never seemed
particularly uncomfortable about her ears and she is pretty sensitive
all around. I wouldn't assume that take off and landing will make a
When we came back from Australia, I thought it would be important to
give my daughter a few days off pre-school to let her adjust (which I
did), but the structure of nap and meal times at school actually
seemed to help her adjust faster than I did to being back, even though
I was working. So once you get back, try to just be persistant with
the previous meal and nap time cues without trying to force issues.
It's funny how children are both more and less flexible than adults.
this page was last updated: Oct 26, 2010
BPN is now a 501(c)(3) non-profit and we are building a new website!
Read more, and see how you can help:
The opinions and statements expressed on this website
are those of parents who subscribe to the
Berkeley Parents Network.
Disclaimer & Usage for
information about using content on this website.
Copyright © 1996-2014 Berkeley Parents Network