Monday, November 3, 2014

Toddlers and Time Zones - Asia

Last week, we talked about how to deal with jet lag on flights to Europe. Today we'll talk about traveling the other way to Asia.

Unlike fights to Europe, these trans-Pacific flights are more varied with options that will get you there at various times throughout the day.

However, we always seem to be on flights that arrive late in the evening (9PM or later Asia time). That late of an arrival almost forces you to get an airport hotel nearby for a night before you can either (a) connect to your flight the next morning or (b) explore the city if that is indeed your final destination.

However, as you can see below looking at flights to Hong Kong and Tokyo, you have multiple more flight time options, including flights that arrive in the morning or mid-day.

The best time for you again depends on if you need to connect to another flight. But assuming you've reached your final destination, here are the factors my family would look at:

A. 9AM Departure - 1PM Arrival. If you arrive mid-day, then you can still drop your stuff off at your hotel and have an afternoon to explore the city, get a proper dinner and ease into your Asian vacation.

However, that really depends on your ability to shift your mental clock and get a "night's worth" of sleep on the 14-16 hour flight during what would normally be your daytime. I don't know about you, but I can only nap for a max of 2 hours when the sun is out. Sitting in my seat for such a long time in a confined area means I really need a lot of Disney Junior on the iPad and a lot of coloring books.

But when traveling with young kids, most parents quickly realize this is almost too much to ask of their children. This is why my family almost always opts for overnight flights when flying long distances.

B. 4PM Departure - 9PM Arrival. This evening flight would have a scheduled sleeping time more approximate to your New York time. Assuming you take off, eat dinner and watch a movie, you could try to asleep at 8PM NY time (9AM Hong Kong time) and get a full 8 hours and wake up at 5PM Asia time, enough time to watch another movie and have your second meal before you land in Hong Kong. Unlike the European redeye flights, this 16 hour flight is definitely long enough to get a full night of sleep.

However, when you land, you'd be ready to start your day when a toddler should be going to bed (9PM Hong Kong time). Now if you were a single guy/girl looking for Hong Kong nightlife, this situation could be ideal.

But if you're a 3 year old toddler, probably less so. Depending on your choice of hotel, it might make sense not to break the bank on the first night since you're just going to sleep. When possible, my parents will sometimes secure a nearby hotel (focusing on price and distance) for the first night. After all, any destination hotel they actually want to spend time in will probably be much more expensive, and it'd be a shame to pay those prices for a just a few hours of sleep without any time to enjoy the property.

We didn't do this for our 2014 Hong Kong trip, but we did in 2013 when we needed a night in Bangkok after our flight landed at 10:30PM. Instead of traveling into the Bangkok city center, we opted for the Best Western located just 5 minutes from Suvarnabhumi Airport - which was actually extremely impressive!

Again, the first night is just the beginning of your Asia trip. The real trick is to manage the jet lag as quickly as possible so that you can re-adjust to the local time zone. Again, my parents are probably more strict than others, but we do whatever it takes to acclimate.

So assuming we took the late afternoon flight, my parents would actually wake me up early (~5AM New York time or 6PM Hong Kong time) so that I'd have more awake time on the plane. Then by the time we landed and arrived to our hotel, I'd have a chance at being tired.

Then instead of going to bed as soon as we checked into our hotel room (~11PM Hong Kong time), I'd get a bath to wake me up a bit and stay up a few hours more. We'd go to bed closer to 2-3AM (which is only 1-2PM New York time).

Most of the time, with it being dark out, that would be enough to do the trick for me to sleep through the night, but I am noticing it getting tougher and tougher as I went from 10 months old to almost 3 years old. There were definitely times when I woke up at like 6AM, but that's not so bad since we could start our days (and breakfasts) earlier.

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