How To Acclimate to a Different Time Zone when Traveling

Although it’s optimistically marketed as time to “spring” forward, for many of us, daylight savings is actually a bit of a downer. After all, it means missing out on an hour of sleep.

The one good thing about it? Longer days during the fast-approaching summer, perfect for camping and exploring. (Give your Passport America membership a check to make sure it’s paid up in time for your epic summer adventure — you don’t want to miss out on saving 50% on your campsite accommodations, especially during the longest trip of the year.)

But whether you think it’s outdated and annoying or you’re hankering for those slightly-later sunrises and sunsets, the big day is coming up quick. In America, daylight savings time will start on March 11 at 2 a.m. So don’t forget to set your clocks forward… if you have any non-digital clocks that won’t automatically do it themselves, that is. More than likely, you’ll simply wake up and your smartphone will have automatically taken care of everything. Since it’s a Sunday, you might not even notice the slumber skip!

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Daylight Savings

For RVers, daylight savings isn’t the only time you have to deal with a shuffled sleep schedule. When you’re on the road for long periods of time, you may find yourself needing to acclimate to time zone changes and other schedule weirdnesses that leave you feeling like you’re not quite on the right beat.

Fortunately, though, there are ways to overcome that bleary-eyed feeling so you can get back to enjoying your travels.

Daylight Savings Explained

Daylight saving time in 2018 will run from Sunday, March 11 through Sunday, November 4. On both dates, the time shift will happen in the early morning at 2 a.m., when most people won’t notice the change.

Why do we have daylight savings time in the first place, you ask?

The American daylight savings system was actually first suggested by Benjamin Franklin, so it’s fair to say it’s been around for quite a while. Many other countries also engage in a similar schedule shift throughout the year, and it’s all for a simple reason that makes even more sense when you remember that back then, people made their living doing some sort of hard labor. During daylight savings time, there’s an extra hour of daylight in the evening, which allowed people more time to do their work and get things done throughout the warm and temperate summer months.

Of course, today, most of us do our work behind a computer screen and it doesn’t matter at all what kind of light is outside our windows. But still, the legacy continues on.

Time Zone Change Effects on Body

Whether you’re dealing with daylight savings or adjusting to a time zone change, shifting daylight hours and erratic sleep schedules can wreak havoc on the body. That’s especially true in the case of babies and children, who really benefit from carefully maintained routines. Not getting enough sleep does way more than make you feel icky the next day; it’s been correlated with higher stress levels, weight gain, and even some diseases.

But don’t worry! As a camper, you’ve got lots of flexibility to adapt to these time changes while staying happy and healthy.

Best Way to Adapt to Time Zone Change

Whether you’re traveling from central to eastern or eastern all the way out to Pacific, here’s how to adjust to time zone change without feeling like your brain is dripping out of your ears.

Set a schedule — and stick to it.

Mealtimes, bedtimes, playtimes, work times — keeping a set routine while you’re on the road will help make everything go more smoothly once the hours themselves start to shift. You’ll know what you’re supposed to be doing when the clocks says 3 p.m., even if your body thinks it’s 11 a.m. — or p.m., for that matter.

As we mentioned above, this is especially important if you have a baby along for the ride. Children are sensitive to schedule changes, and without a regular routine, you may soon find yourself not sleeping at all as your child struggles to adjust to the rest of the family’s schedule.

Keep up with other healthy habits.

Exercise and eating right are key to feeling good and helping you get to dreamland quickly and efficiently, so don’t let those habits slip just because you’re on the road.

Wondering how to stay fit without a gym membership while you’re traveling? A few small pieces of gear, like an exercise ball, resistance bands, or dumbbells, can help you stay tight and toned even when the nearest exercise facility is miles away. And don’t forget about the most relaxing (and rewarding) exercise regime of all: getting out into the great outdoors, whether on foot, by bike, or on a kayak!

If you nap, keep it short.

Can daylight savings cause insomnia, you wonder?

Well, sure, if you let your sleep schedule get as whacked out as possible by sleeping at any hour of the day. Although naps can be a good way to deal with sudden drowsiness resulting from the shift in schedule, taking too many — or napping for too long — can make it difficult to fall asleep later.

The same goes for coffee, by the way. It can be tempting to load up on espresso, but if you have too much during the day you’ll find yourself wired when the clock says bedtime.

Moral of the story: If you do nap, try to keep it to half an hour or under. And be careful with the caffeine, too. You’ll thank yourself when you slip to sleep almost effortlessly a few hours later.

Get outside!

The whole purpose of daylight savings time is to give us more daylight to enjoy. So what are you waiting for? Whether you’re at a state park or nature reserve or even in a big city, get outside of your RV’s four walls and see what there is to see. That’s why you went camping in the first place, isn’t it?

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