By Juhi Bansal
I have been meaning to write this article for a long time now. Especially after our #mommybabytrip (Iy and I travelled on our own-sans daddy all the way to Switzerland for a 2.5 weeks long escapade!) I’ve been getting several requests to do one. This article is more relevant if you have a kid of 3-5 years of age. For younger kids you can check out my previous articles.
Also, here are a few packing tips straight from the horse’s mouth 🙂 especially if there is a long flight or layover ahead of you.
All the tips below are from my personal experience and go with my parenting style. If I had one tip for every parent thinking of going on a trip with their kid it is this- take it easy. Kids are as tough as you make them. They quickly get used to things. You don’t have to overly worry about making things too comfortable. If it’s good for you, it’s good for them.
So, here are some top tips for making travel with kids fun or at the very least painless ;).
Oh my God I cannot emphasise this enough! Patience is the single most important key to making the trip a peaceful one. They will take their time to eat, to play to even appreciate the new surroundings. Don’t hurry them up. Instead, join them and take the time to smell the roses. J.
Remember, it’s their vacation too
Yep! They keep to their routine back home but do remember it’s as much their vacation as it’s yours. If you’re not really counting the glasses of wine or the quantity of sinful desserts, let them enjoy their icecreams and junk food as well. We mostly alternate between what we call good food and bad food and iy has learnt to follow it well.
Respect their body clocks
I am the biggest culprit when it comes to this. I am on a high when on vacation. I have to be out and about every single day whatever the weather. Both K and Iy would rather relax but they give in to my hyperactivity and I am forever grateful. However, while travelling alone with kids, it’s better to give them time to get acclimatized to the new weather and time zone. I would let her wake up at her usual time (8 AM) so we were out by 9 AM and rounded the day off by 7.00 PM maximum. She would eat and be back in bed by 8.00 PM which gave her almost 12 hours of rest time. Ofcourse, there were days when we had to catch an early train or have dinner outside which would mean her sleeping it out in the train but we managed it.
Keep them engaged
Travel often means long waiting time whether it’s on trains, buses or flights or sometimes queues. Carry colouring book and crayons, small 2 people games, playing cards, sticker activities, books to read- anything to keep them engaged. I am totally against handing her the phone or ipad. They also have short attention spans so make sure you have atleast 2-3 different things to keep them busy.
We walk a lot on our travels. Infact, in Europe it’s almost impossible to not walk. Little kids are bound to get tired. We borrowed a stroller during our #tenniversary trip largely because it was cold and it was easier to wrap her in it when she wanted to sleep but this time around she walked. As much as I did which was atleast 8-10 kms every single day. She would get tired often and that’s why we took several small breaks- sometimes for icecream, sometimes to pet a dog and sometimes just to appreciate the scenery.
Let them experience the local culture and life
I think this is the most important point to keep in mind when you’re travelling. I see parents carry lots of food because they want the kids to feel at home. Take cabs instead of local transport because they don’t want to make them uncomfortable and generally avoid interacting with locals because they think it’s not safe. It’s alright to do all this but also very limiting for the kid. If you are spending the money and taking the kid along, the least you can do is make them experience local life. How else would you broaden their horizon? Let them use local transport, play in the playground, try local food and interact with the people, pets and kids around, cross roads alone- they will never get to experience a large part of it back home.
Small gifts to keep them motivated
When the kid is away from home for a long time it is natural for them to get demotivated at times. They could be missing friends, toys or just the comfort of routine back home. I always carry small surprise gifts to lift her spirits in such cases. These are silly things like a new book, kinder-joy, small toys. You can pick them up for less than Rs. 100 a piece on amazon or at the dollar stores on your travels.
They need space as well
I am a total hands-off parent so this comes naturally to me. I let her take her own decisions when it comes to food, what to wear and play time. A new place may mean a lot of anxiety but it may be best to trust them and let them navigate things themselves. For parents who like to be a part of the decision making for their kids- this may be a little difficult but unless you let go you will not be able to enjoy the trip. Infact, if you are the kind who has to make sure the kid’s routine is followed or that they follow a certain set of rules all the time, a trip may not be the best idea.
Again, new place means trying new things. Let them try the local food. You will always find something that would interest them. But, do remember to carry small quantities of dry munchies or their chocolate powder, some biscuits they like etc for them especially if you have long flights and train journeys.
We have stopped carrying any kind of food with us on our travels but when we are on a 2 weeks or longer trip we do carry some spices and “bhuna masala” for those days when the craving for Indian food just gets too much. However, we are increasingly realizing that we don’t end up using most of the spices and prefer cooking local food or trying it outside. Also just to bust a myth, it is not difficult to find vegetarian food abroad. Food is as much a part of local culture as anything else. How else would the kids experience different kinds of breads, soups, desserts, preparations, vegetables and fruits that they may never get to witness back home?
Find a balance
For the longest time we did not really take Iy’s choices into consideration while planning a trip. It was always our trip and she always found ways to be entertained. However, as she is growing up we realize she needs to do stuff apart from playgrounds and colouring. We now research a location for both adult and kid activities so that all of us have enough to do. On the mommybabytrip, we decided to alternate between things of her interest and mine but we soon realized we both like to explore new places. In the process I also learnt a few things from her like appreciating the view at leisure, being adventurous and spontaneous is fun, taking a moment rather than hurrying to see more places and petting animals whatever species they may be!
Etiquette to follow
There are certain things we take for granted when we are travelling within the country (we shouldn’t ofcourse but we end up doing so). However, here are a few things you may want to teach them before/ during the trip.
Smile at everyone.
We are wary of smiling at strangers but it’s kind and nice and generally makes your day happier.
Ask for permission.
Whether they want to touch someone’s pet or pick up a toy in a shop or play with another’s kid’s playthings in the park. Always ask first. Also, learn to take no for an answer.
Whether it’s at the train station or the loo or the bagel place or the popular ride at the playground. Always wait for your turn.
We are as much at fault as the kids. We like to laugh heartily and talk noisily. But, Iy and I used to play a game on the trip- the whispering game! It was fun.
Throw everything in the trash and learn to segregate by colour. In India we largely throw everything in the same bin. Again make a game out of it!
Hope these tips are helpful for you. However, please know that parental instinct is the best tip and when nothing else makes sense, follow it blindly. I am also attaching pics from a Q&A I had done on Instagram on our #mommybabytrip. You may find them useful. Please write to me should you have any questions or additional tips. I could use some as well!
If I had to sum up our #mommybabytrip in a few words I would say it was an bonding experience. We realized we connect with each other on many levels (and also get on each other’s nerves). She taught me more than I taught her the most important being “living in the moment”.