Family travel and the time-change

Time can be our friend. Except when we go "fall back."

Time can be our friend. Except when we go “fall back.”

Ask any parent and he or she will tell you that children + the whole “Spring Ahead, Fall Back” deal with changing clocks is a surefire way to necessitate a stiff drink.

Add travel into the mix and the ensuing reality can be downright hell on Earth.

For some reason, we always seem to travel on those weekends when we switch from Daylight Saving Time to Standard Time and back again. This means that at least twice a year Powerwoman and I find ourselves in the unenviable situation of entertaining our children at 4 a.m. on a random Sunday in a place that’s not our home.

It happened again today.

Thankfully, instead of being in a hotel (where we’ve spent most of these weekends), we were staying with good friends (and their kids) south of San Francisco. This means we didn’t have to worry about our kids waking up other guests at the crack of dawn. Because they weren’t the only kids awake.

Our primary strategy this morning—and on most time-change mornings—was simple: To keep them busy.

This meant a steady stream of Barbies, memory games, coloring books, sticker books, stories, and more. It also meant a few sing-alongs, especially to some tracks from the new Taylor Swift album. FWIW, we never enlisted the help of a television or iPad.

Our secondary strategy was to work together.

Powerwoman and I traded “shifts” of 30 minutes apiece as the parent chaperone. When our friends woke up (around 5:30 a.m.), we worked them into the mix as well. (I admit, I passed out around 9 a.m. in mid-sentence. Thankfully our hosts are REALLY good friends who won’t judge me and likely will invite us back.)

We had other goals of the morning, including to stay patient when the kids didn’t listen, to get the children to eat their breakfasts, and to stop our two kids from hurting each other (which was inevitable).

Yes, the morning seemingly was interminable. And, yes, we administered three time-outs. Ultimately, however, we survived. Later in the day, we remembered one of the few positives of the day we change clocks BACK in fall: The kids were ready for bed by 6:30 p.m.

Parenting is all about small victories, right? We’ll take those wins wherever and whenever we can.

What are some of your strategies for helping kids get through seasonal clock changes?

Feeling Our Way in the Dark

Sisters. At St. Luke's Garden Playground. In the light.

Sisters. At St. Luke’s Garden Playground. In the light.

The conversion to Standard Time from Daylight Savings Time always is a dicey one for parents with young kids. Little ones wake up earlier. They’re crankier before dinner. Midday naps can go horribly awry.

Thankfully, here in London, we’ve experienced none of these usual problems. Instead, we find ourselves faced with another challenge: Exploring in the dark.

It’s a matter of logistics. R naps from about 130 p.m. local time to 330 p.m. local time every day. Once she wakes up, the process of changing her diaper, feeding her snack, getting her dressed to go out and actually clambering down three flights of stairs generally takes about 45 minutes. This means we’re headed out for our afternoon/evening adventures around 415 p.m.

Which gives us less than one hour of post-nap sunlight to do stuff every day.

On Monday, for instance, we arrived at a local park just as the sun was setting, and proceeded to stick around until it was so dark we couldn’t see the ball we were trying to kick. One day last week (we set clocks back Oct. 27 here), a simple errand to the local pharmacy required the extra purchase of a flashlight to see the way home.

Perhaps the biggest adjustment has been with playground time; because most playgrounds here are run by the city, they close before the sun even begins its descent—at 3:45 p.m.

Of course we learned about the playgrounds the hard way. That fateful day, as I tried to hide my disappointment from the girls, a mom walking by smiled and cheerily offered, “Welcome to London in winter!” I was not pleased.

So far, our solution has been to create a new schedule. On days when the girls want/need playground time, we push back R’s nap to get in an hour while it’s still light. On days when R goes down at regular time, we have what I’ve started calling, “Walkabout,” which consists of nothing more than putting on hats and jackets, taking the flashlight and wandering on foot.

As the temperatures drop, I imagine we’ll transform these evening strolls into evening bus rides or something like that. Nothing like feeling your way in the dark.

How has the time change impacted your travel experiences?

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