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- Travel tips don’t get any better than this!
If parents are from Mars, children are definitely from Venus. And sometimes the clash of planets causes massive tremors in the universe of family holidays, regardless of how old the Venusians are!
In theory, parents know what works and what doesn’t when travelling with kids. But every now and then, it helps to talk to other parents and get a handy tip from their experiences. Check out this compilation of travel essentials suggested by mums from their own experiences and you may just find something that turns your family vacation into everything you could hope for.
In the first edition of these real life experiences, we will focus on travel planning.
Arati Singh, mother of two boys, 7 and 11 sets the tone for any holiday plans with children when she says, “Rules that apply at home are not valid when on holiday.” So parents, make that your mantra and take a chill pill about food/junk food, digital gadgets and everything else and Gold help you if you try and enforce bedtime rules.
Ruchika Gupta Chand, mother of a 2 year old boy, warns against planning a fixed itinerary, especially if your children are very young. She feels it is easier to keep flipping your programme as it goes. “On a recent trip to Goa, we had grand plans of spending our time in the swimming pool since we thought our almost two year old would be freaked out by the beach, sand and the sound of the waves. But it turned out just the other way around - he didn’t want to spend a second in the pool but could not be pulled away from the beach.
“Visiting any city involves so much more effort. You have to virtually plan your holiday to the T as no one wants to be stuck in a hotel room. Beach destinations are comparatively the easiest,” adds Arati.
Most parents we spoke to agreed that as children are growing up, travelling with at least one other family with children of a similar age group is the best solution. There’s no effort in keeping the kids occupied or entertained as kids work it out themselves. This is particularly true for places where there are no attractions specifically for children, as I realised on a family trip to our beautiful, happy neighbour, Bhutan. The four cousins kept themselves busy playing in the mud, by the riverside, rolling down grassy mounds or just playing clapping games.
Of course, this may not work as effectively if the kids are too small, since at the age of 2-3 years they are still not into interpersonal play. But for children of about 4-5 years and older, the best vacations have been when the children have had their friends or cousins for company.
“I was flying from Europe to India with my 3 month old twin girls but it was really not a problem as I had everything well organised right down to the portioned-out formula for each baby. In fact the flight attendant noticed how ‘in-control’ I was and even came up to compliment me,” says Masha Bindra, whose daughters are now 10. She suggests packing well in advance and making your checklist by tracing your daily routine right from the time your children wake up till bedtime. That way you are sure to cover all the essentials you use every day and are unlikely to miss anything.
Ruchika emphasises on making use of all the privileges airlines give passengers with small children such as boarding first. “Waiting is the most frustrating time for children. You can’t spread out toys or settle down in any way, so if you are getting any kind of priority don’t hesitate to take it.”
Another thing to plan carefully is the airport layover between flights. Otherwise like me, you may end up in a nightmarish 4 hour layover with two little children at 3 am. They were fast asleep, we had to walk a long distance to get to our terminal, couldn’t carry them because of our own carry-on luggage . . . I’m sure you get the sorry picture. My advice to parents is to plan your flight changes carefully and if a layover at an ungodly hour cannot be avoided, make sure the only hand baggage with you is a stroller per child and small bags that can be hung on or fitted into the stroller.
My 18 month old daughter was not used to a stroller for anything more than 15 minutes at a stretch, so I was very apprehensive about a trip to Switzerland where there was to be enormous amount of walking with lots of other adults. Sure enough, it took her two days to actually settle down and put herself to sleep in the pram, but I know I could not have survived without it and will remain eternally grateful to the inventor of the pram.
Since we don’t use strollers as much in our routines here, we sometimes forget how indispensible they are on a holiday. “Till my daughters were about 5, even 6 years of age, I never moved out of the city without the kids’ strollers,” agrees Masha.
Many airports provide strollers but since one can never be sure about their availability, it makes sense to carry your own.
This is the first part of our series on first hand travel experiences of mothers. How about reading the first hand experiences of moms on packing for a trip and managing food issues while travelling with kids. Do add to the wealth of advice by writing in your own experiences in the comments below.