Your 3 Day Guide to Surviving Baby Jet Lag

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How to survive baby toddler jet lag

Sigh, jet lag. Before you had children, jet lag meant grogginess, a sleepless night or two and extra coffee. Jet lag after kids….can be downright torture. There’s nothing worse than feeling the weight of jet lag exhaustion while your baby bounces off the walls at 3 am.

So if you’re nervous about an upcoming international trip with your baby, or you’ve just returned home from one, I sympathize. I’ve done three transatlantic trips with my daughter, all before the age of 3. Two of them were without my husband. And I lived to tell the tale! If you’re desperate to know how to survive jet lag with your baby or toddler, look no further.

This article first appeared on Bebe Voyage. 

This post may contain affiliate links.




The Best Way To Handle Baby / Toddler Jet Lag

The goal with overcoming jet lag is to reset your baby’s body clock to sleep, wake and eat at new times- with minimal fuss. The best way to do this is to use light and exercise, and also pay attention to sleep and meal times.

Many people advise allowing one day for your baby to adjust for each hour time difference you travelled. If your trip is less than four hours time difference, that’s a great way to help your baby adjust.

But, if your trip includes a big time change, say 8 hours, and your trip is only 12 days, that’s not very practical. Instead, my advice has always been:


Allow 2-3 days for your baby to adjust, then get baby on the new schedule.


If your baby is younger than 6 months, consider yourself lucky! Young babies naturally sleep so often during the day that they adjust more easily. For the sake of ease, I’ll say “baby” but this applies to toddlers and preschoolers as well. (Adjust food, naps, and toy recommendations as appropriate.)


Here’s your 3-Day Guide to Surviving Baby / Toddler Jet Lag


Day 1: Your goal is simply to survive


If you land in the morning:

  • On the flight over, allow your baby to sleep as much as he can. Whether it’s in the airline bassinet, in his car seat, on top of you- whatever works! Bring along a lightweight dark blanket (or use the airplane blanket) and make a canopy above your sleeping baby to block out any light.
  • Once you arrive at your destination, let your baby nap when he’s tired. But try your hardest to not let him nap much longer than he would normally at home. So if he typically naps 3 hours/day at home, limit his naps to 3.5-4 hours today. The reasoning is simple: If he sleeps all day, he’ll be up all night, making it even harder to reset his body clock. It’s better to give him an early bedtime, like 6 pm.
  • Make sure baby eats enough today. Offer snacks every hour or two, including water and milk. He’s going to feel groggy and he may have an upset stomach, so bring along his favorite snacks to entice him to eat. This keeps his energy levels up and encourages him to sleep longer tonight (rather than waking from hunger.)
  • Don’t spend all day in the hotel room because you’re too tired to go out. Get out and explore, even if it’s just the local neighborhood. Natural light will help reset everyone’s body clocks and give you energy.


If you land in the evening:

  • On the flight over, try to keep baby awake for the last few hours of the flight.
  • Offer snacks and liquids often on the plane to keep baby hydrated.
  • Once you arrive at your destination, do the same routine you would at home to prepare baby for bed. Typically this includes dinner, bath, and bedtime routine. Bring along anything that baby associates with sleeping like a stuffed animal, sleep sack, bedtime books, etc…


Don’t forget to black out your sleep space so they sleep for as long as possible, and don’t wake too early! Early wakings are the worst when you’re jet lagged. I personally love the Sleepout Curtain when traveling, and I made you a code for 10% off – it’s BSMS10

Related: Learn how to create a Peaceful Nightly Ritual (a bedtime routine) in my Exhausted Mom’s Starter Kit.


The First Night

Your baby is going to wake up during the night. Maybe a lot. Perhaps he’ll want to play and be awake for hours. Prepare yourself mentally. Your goal tonight is to keep the lights off and encourage quiet, non-stimulating play.

If baby seems hungry, offer a snack like yogurt, cheese, nut butters (as appropriate depending on age.) Anything with protein and fat to keep him full. No candy or simple sugars which could give him a surge of energy.

Try your hardest to get him back to sleep. But if it’s clear that he can’t sleep, keep the lights dimmed and read books together or let him play with “quiet toys” appropriate for his age.  Soft blocks or rattles (for young babies) and coloring books and Play Doh (for toddlers) work well. 

I know how hard it is when you’re exhausted, but try to avoid giving your toddler the iPad. The light it emits sends stimulating impulses to the brain, making it difficult to sleep. If you’re desperate for an electronic babysitter, it’s better to turn on the TV at a low volume. Try to limit TV to 30 minutes, though, then encourage the quiet toys again. If you have an older toddler or preschooler you may end up offering bribes like “I promise you can have an ice cream after breakfast tomorrow, but you have to close your eyes and go to sleep now.” Not that I’ve ever done this… 


Day 2: Start a gentle routine


  • If last night wasn’t terrible, wake your baby up for the day at a decent hour (like 8-9 am) If you were up most of the night, it’s ok to sleep in, but I recommend you start your day by 11 am latest. Otherwise, you’ll just be extending the problem…
  • Get outside! The best way to help everyone adjust to the new time zone is bright, natural light and exercise. Find a playground or children’s museum to help baby burn off energy and have lots of play time.
  • Work toward having your meals based on the new time zone. If baby won’t eat a full meal at the right time, that’s ok. Offer snacks and hydrating drinks every 1-2 hours. Feeding baby often helps his body adjust to the new “daytime.”
  • Allow your baby to nap today when he’s tired. But, just like yesterday, don’t let him nap longer than he would normally at home. It’s better to limit napping and give him an early bedtime.
  • Bring along the stroller or baby carrier for naps. If the whole family is napping at the hotel, set your alarm! The last thing you want is an accidental 4 hour nap, throwing off everyone’s nighttime sleep.
  • Give your baby a decent bedtime tonight. If he was up early, put him to bed early while you enjoy take-out in the hotel room. Your bedtime tonight will help set the pattern for the rest of your trip, so make sure it’s an appropriate time (7-9 pm is reasonable.)


Night 2

Your baby will probably wake tonight. Offer a small snack if he’s hungry and do your best to encourage him to fall back asleep. You may need to pull out the “quiet toys” again.


Day 3: Tighten up your schedule


No matter how last night went, you want to wake your baby at a reasonable hour.  8-9 am is perfect. When teaching babies to sleep well (in general) I always recommend a consistent morning wake-up time. This helps naps, meals and bedtime fall into a predictable pattern. This isn’t because I’m allergic to fun. Quite the opposite! This helps your baby adjust to sleeping at night and being awake during the day- which gives everyone more energy for sightseeing fun!


Recommended Vacation Schedule:

  • Wake baby by 9 am latest.
  • Meals at normal times (with hydrating snacks in between.)
  • Lots of time outside exploring and playing.
  • Naps at normal times or when baby seems tired. Limit napping to no more than baby is allowed at home.
  • Decent bedtime, 7-9 pm is ideal.


Night 3:

Baby should sleep pretty well tonight. Keep his room dark and if he wakes, do everything in your power to get him back to sleep. Tonight’s goal is no TV or iPad.


Day 4 and on: Stick to the loose routine


By day 4, everyone should be feeling pretty good and well-adjusted. As long as you stick to the loose routine of Day 3, you should be good to go!



a guide for parents to help their baby sleep better

Let’s stay connected!


  1. Kelly

    We’ve just returned to the UK from America – 6 hour time difference. It’s been 7 days today and every night so far, my daughter has woken up somewhere between 10-12 and stayed up for 4 hours before she goes back to sleep until the morning. It’s like she’s treating bedtime as a nap? Her usual nap length is 2.5 and I already tried letting her sleep as much as she wanted because I thought she needed to catch up on sleep but there’s been no difference. Should I try and limit her sleep to 2 hours instead? Maybe 2.5 hours is too much for her at the moment and she can’t readjust? She’s only 10 months old but she’s been on 1 nap for 2.5 hours for about a month and a half and sleeping through the night… until we’ve been back! Please help!

    • Artemis

      Hi Kelly,

      I’m so sorry to hear how Jet Lag has disrupted your daughter’s sleep. We would LOVE to help you get back to where you were – with a little one who sleeps amazingly for naps and nights.

      We can help you get there! Our program + support package will help you achieve this:

      I highly recommend you get the support option so we can help you work through your unique schedule due to the time change. I think this will be a great option for you – getting to chat live with a sleep consultant who can help you and your unique circumstances.

      I can’t wait to possibly work with you, Kelly!

      Artemis, BSMS Support Team

  2. Xenia

    Hello team this is fantastic ! We just returned home to Australia from Europe with our 5mo and the nights have been brutal – she would do a first stretch of 4-5h and then want to play from 2-3am till the next feed and eventually sleep in the morning. We are exhausted to get her out in daylight as need to also catch up on our sleep – any tips you would have ? I was thinking of leaving the blinds up in the morning so that she could at least see the daylight. Thank you !

  3. Madeline

    This is very helpful, thanks! Any advice for if you’re traveling in the opposite direction (baby wants to go to sleep/wake up super early instead of sleep in)?

    • Artemis

      Give them 1-2 days to see if they’ll adjust on their own. If not and they’re still waking really early on day 3, I would let them nap a little more to stretch them to an appropriate bedtime. Even older kids that no longer nap might be tired enough for a one-hour siesta (especially with lots of physical play & outdoor time in the morning.) If you can push bedtime to 7 pm or later, that should help them wake up later in the morning too.

      I hope this helps! Checkout our travel guide here:

      Artemis, BSMS Support Team

  4. Jennifer W

    Thank you! This article was very useful! My husband and I are soon going to be flying from London to San Diego (staying there 1 week) before flying to New York and staying there 3 weeks. I will apply as much of these tips as I can but I am very nervous about how all those time zone changes are going to affect our baby who is almost 7 months old. Any extra tips on surviving this?

  5. Teresa

    Great article, thank you!
    We just returned from Europe and my 23 month old adjusted great on the way there, but coming back to CA with a 9 hour difference has been terrible. We are on night 3 of him waking up for 3+ hours each night. We have been letting him have a 3 hour nap, then waking him up. We have a snack in the dark, then I rock him and pat his back, he just can’t fall back asleep for hours. Do you suggest we just continue on this path?

    • Artemis

      Happy you’re finding the article helpful!

      I would start tightening up the schedule as the blogpost says and wake your child at 9 am latest. Then limit the nap to 2 hrs and start to dial down the energy of the house 2 hrs before bedtime. Start your bedtime routine 30 minutes before it’s time to sleep and get your little one nice & drowsy.

      Keep trying, you’ll get there!

      If you want to sleep train & hop on a call with one of our sleep consultants ASAP, get our sleep program (with support). It’s on sale! You get 15% off when you enter the coupon code ‘2022’ at checkout. Here is the link:

      Hoping to see you there!
      Artemis, BSMS Support Team

  6. Lauren

    Hey Jilly, should we be concerned about overtiredness? For instance, if 16 month old is having awful nights (not sleeping more than 6-7hrs when he usually does 11-12), during the day should I still keep his nap to 1.5hrs? That’s his norm. I’m concerned that limiting the nap will mean he’s overtired and not able to sleep at night. (He’s having an awful time adjusting back to our home time zone after a 9-hr shift. First two might have been really rough so far with 2-3hrs awake straight and other wake ups too. He just screams if we put him in his bed but also resists being helped to sleep with nursing or carrying) Thanks for the article and appreciate any additional tips!

  7. Merrian Brooks

    This is really helpful. In my own sleepiness the last thing I need is generic advice. This is sooo helpful and answers the questionss of what to expect and what to do in practical terms when they wake up. I’ve read a lot of articles and this one by far is the most helpful. We are an expat family with a one year old and though I love the work I do I have not been looking forward to jet lag. This helped calm my nerves before the trip and i just read it again on night one!

    • Micaela

      So glad to read <3 Thank you for this comment! Micaela BSMS Support Team

  8. Sherry

    Love this – more helpful tips than what I received from my sleep consultant (who kept repeating 1 day for each hour…not practical when there’s a 16 hour time difference!) who didn’t have any practical tips to offer despite paying for the consult. Our little guy did great at destination – adjusting pretty much day one. Coming home though….he keeps wanting someone to be in the room with him (he’s 2 and has his own room, but the crib in the hotel was beside our bed) and waking repeatedly in the night. Unfortunately we’re all back to work and a 6am wake up is required for all!

    • Jilly Blankenship

      I’m so happy you enjoyed the guide!

      Yes, your LO probably got used to sleeping near you. You can sit in a chair next to his crib while he falls asleep at bedtime and for all night wakings. Each day move your chair a little farther from the crib, toward the bedroom door. After a few days pop in and out of the room for him to get used to falling asleep on his own again (which will help him sleep better at night.)

      Communicate with him a lot during the day. Let him know that now that you’re back at home he can sleep in his “big boy room” with his stuffed animals and you’ll be checking on him all night. Let him know your expectations.

      This plan works really well in about 3-7 days.

      Good luck!


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