The problem with the two Washingtons is not just the distance between the two. It is the three hour time change that really gets you, especially when traveling with children. We’ve tried just about every strategy and technique over the past 4 years to survive the time change with kids and we certainly haven’t found the magic bullet, but maybe our trials will help you find what may be best for you.
– Travel times. Traditionally we’ve traveled in the afternoon, leaving Seattle at about 2pm. The goal was for the kids to take their naps on the airplane. We would arrive in the Other Washington around bedtime and they would be ready to go to sleep. I mean all of that was theoretical, it never worked, the kids wouldn’t nap, be terribly cranky by the time we landed and just blah. This time we took a morning flight. Getting the kids out of the house at 5am wasn’t great, but they were in a good mood on the plane, had breakfast on the airplane and then napped in the car once we got to the Other Washington. Our return flight is usually the 5pm flight out of the Other Washington and they do usually sleep on the flight. We arrive slightly after their west coast bed time and put them straight to bed. There can definitely be some melt downs with all the transitions with sleepy kids (plane to stroller, stroller to parking shuttle, shuttle to car, car to house, pjs and bed) but ultimately the evening return flight has worked for us and having the kids quickly get back on a west coast schedule.
– Bedtimes. When we first flew to the Other Washington with 4 month old Lila, we kept her on a west coast schedule. This wasn’t a big deal because she napped every 3 hours, slept through the night and was pretty cute and easy while she was awake. We had this time zone thing figured out. Now our kids are 2 and 4 and bedtimes are much more complicated. Kids don’t nap or they don’t nap until 5pm local time – so bedtime at 7pm local doesn’t work. Keeping west coast bedtimes can be done, but keep in mind that means the kids won’t be in bed until 11pm local time. Which may be cool, unless you are on the east coast for a business trip and have a 7am local time event. Because that sucks.
– Meals. This one may be easy or hard, depending on how you look at it. My kids are in the toddler/preschooler eating phase, in which they both just eat continuously and whenever they want. Lucy especially NEEDS breakfast the moment she wakes up, or else all hell breaks loose. And please do not tell her you don’t have rice crispies. Don’t even try. Anyway, we try to keep them on some kind of meal schedule, but they like to snack all day and by the time dinner rolls around, they’ve probably had 2 apples, cheese, bread and yogurt in the past 3 hours. We also found that if they were going to bed on west coast time, feeding them east coast dinner at 6pm doesn’t really work. They will need another snack. (Parenting is really all about snacks and never leaving the house without them.)
– Forget the schedule. My kids really thrive on schedules, really need them to keep calm and happy. But it is hard to do on vacations. We’re out and about, visiting people, working with others’ schedules, etc, and this destroys their schedule (even before adding in the 3 hour time difference). It stresses me out, I hate staying up until 11:30pm waiting for them to tire for bed, I hate that they don’t get regular naps and the stress and lack of sleep all combine to make traveling really difficult. But we do it, and we suck it up and give them snacks at midnight even when we have to be at work in 7 hours.
So realizing I have no real tips for travel schedules for kids? Check out this great webinar on sleep and time zone travel here (from the former Isis Parenting, whose sleep webinars I miss all the time). Have tips to share? I’d love to hear it before I swear off traveling between time zones forever.