Are you traveling anywhere for the holidays? We’re staying home for Thanksgiving but heading to California for Christmas. The three-hour time change used to freak me out, but after four California trips, we finally figured out how to beat jet lag. Here are our five steps…

1. Wreck them the first night. If you’re flying west, kids will want to go to bed early (since 7pm New York time is 4pm California time). But make them stay up! Book an evening flight. Go out for pizza. Let them watch TV. Go swimming at the hotel pool. Give them an afternoon nap, if they need it, but don’t let them oversleep. Encourage them to stay up as late as possible, so they’re completely exhausted by the time they finally crash. If they can make it to their regular bedtime, they’ll be able to sleep in the next morning. (The photo above shows Toby on our first night in California last year:)

If you’re flying east, kids will want to go to bed later (since 7pm New York time is only 4pm California time). Have them skip their naps that day, or at least take much shorter naps, so they’re sleepier than usual by the time bedtime rolls around. They’ll probably go to bed a bit later the first night, but 8pm or 9pm is much better than 10pm, right? And each night you can shift it an hour earlier.

2. Eat meals according to clock time. Your body will adjust much more quickly to your new sleep schedule if your meals are on that schedule, too.

3. Go outside for as much sunlight as possible. Get those little bodies on new circadian rhythms!

4. Serve a bedtime snack. Our boys wake up in the middle of the night if they’re hungry (especially if their bodies think it’s time for dinner or breakfast), so we give them a snack before bed to help them sleep.

5. Make the bedroom pitch black. We often rent houses on vacation, but the catch is that they usually don’t have thick curtains. Luckily, Alex discovered these awesome black-out curtains, which attach to windows with suction cups. We’ve used ours a hundred times, and the extra hours of sleep are so worth it. We also have this white noise app and put it on the Extreme Rain track. (There’s also a train ride setting, and the click-clack noises are surprisingly relaxing.)

Any other tips you swear by? I would love to hear. With time changes of 3 to 5 hours, our boys now usually adjust within one day (knock on wood!). Have you ever done a bigger time change? My friend’s family goes home to Malaysia every Christmas and I don’t know how she does it! Good luck! Happy travels!

P.S. 10 tips for traveling with a baby, and 10 ways to entertain a toddler on a plane.