I am a travel enthusiast and I make sure I travel to new destinations every year, both within India and out. This love to see new places did not change for me even after I had my children.
I planned my first trip with my son when he was just 6 months old. I clearly remember being told by all the elders in the family, “Are you out of your mind? You want to travel to the US with a 6 month old baby!? He is too small. He will not eat anything. He will keep falling sick.” My friend’s reaction to my plan was “You are Crazy! 28 day trip to London – San Francisco – LA – Vegas – Washington!! What kind of holiday will it be? All you will do is feed, clean and put him to sleep. Where will be your holiday? Trust us leave him behind and go somewhere closer to India for a week.”
In spite of the highly pessimistic environment around me, I decided to go ahead with the trip. That trip in May 2001 turned out to be my most memorable trip to date. Ever since then every trip I have made has been with my kids, and I made sure to turn every task: every trip, every routine into an experience for my children. And all of that never stopped me from doing all the things I wanted to do.
What’s the secret? My 5 hacks for travelling with kids. I have derived these 5 hacks from my own experiences, that helped me have a hassle free vacation with my kids, and I am thrilled to share it with all you mothers and fathers so that you can enjoy amazing trips –
Pick the Right Place to Stay:
No matter what destination you pick, make sure you are picking the right place to stay. After a whole day of being out with the kids, both you and the kids need their own space. And trust me, being cramped in a tiny hotel room makes the stay very frustrating. At the end of the day, when all of you return dead tired to the room, the first thing you want is for your baby to be fast asleep. Once the baby is asleep, do you want to be in a dark room taking hushed steps, or would you want to put your feet up and relax with a cup of coffee, watching some random show on TV.
Now, you don’t have to book the best suite or the most expensive room in the hotel, but make sure you get a room with a mini sitting area attached to it. If the hotel room works out to be very expensive, try booking through an apartment service. There are so many apartment hotels out there at affordable room rates. Another service that you can try is Air bnb where you can rent a full apartment at the same price of a hotel room. Also, when it comes to hotels try to stick to the same hotel chain every time. Among many perks, it gets you free upgrades a lot of times. I stick to Marriott and trust me, now when I check into any Marriott around the world, it’s absolute heaven with the Gold status of my card.
Pre-Order Meals for Long Flights
Food helps us kill a lot of time on a long flight. So, take special pains to order just the right kind of meal for your child. I always called the airline to check what exactly will be served under a toddler menu vs a child menu. So if the food wasn’t as per my liking I would make sure to pack small, attractive packs of food that I would lay out on the tray nicely during the flight. (Children, like grown-ups also enjoy eating a meal if presented beautifully) A good plate of food will keep your kiddo busy for at least an hour on the flight . If you did not get a chance to pack an assortment of food for your baby, and the food on your child’s tray does not look very appetizing, don’t worry, simply create artwork on the tray (Making the food look like an airplane should do the trick).
Don’t Fuss About Food
When you travel to a new place, the weather is different, the travel is tiring, and the food may be different. Very often we find ourselves not really wanting to eat food. The same thing applies to your child. If your child refuses to eat give him time. Keep offering him a variety of food from whatever you are eating, but don’t try to force feed him. The moment we force feed our kids, what we get is an absolute cranky child who in the worst cases will also be throwing up all around you. So relax on your holiday and let your child do the same. The jet lag throws the appetite timing so wait for your kid to get hungry. One of the hacks that really worked for my kids was a visit to the nearest grocery store and letting them pick 3 food items that they will eat that day. This trick worked wonders. I no longer had to run after them for food.
Don’t Try to see every Thing in the Time you have
When we travel out of country, our tendency is to see every bit of the place that we are visiting before we leave. It’s okay to not see a few things in that place(Just make a list of must see places). Don’t have a rushed itinerary. The idea is to have fun- not get stressed. Make sure you have planned each day so that there is one thing for you to do or see, and one for the kids. That way everybody is happy. Also, what works great is if you Plan an Unplanned Day . Have one day when you are just lazing around in the hotel room with the kids doing nothing but laughing. If you want your me time, reading a book on a day like this, make sure to hand a book without pictures to your child and tell him to find all the B’s or all the ‘and’s’ in the book. Now both of you can have me time that can last for almost an hour.
Going Some Place Your Kids Won’t Really Like?
Make it exciting for them. Make it a game. While I love going to museums, most kids don’t. Gamifying every day tasks comes very naturally to me, so when I went to the museum with my kids I set them on a treasure hunt to find something very specific, like a tiger, or a painting with a child, or a statue of a lady. And what usually happens, is that the kid is more excited to enter that museum than you are ( It helps if you can quickly sketch them clues on a piece of paper).
Travelling with kids can be a lot of fun if you are innovating and gamifying every step of the way! Gamification has now become a part and parcel of my daily life, not just with my own kids, but with parents and children across the country, through my own venture, Candy Cane Club. (you can download the Candy Cane Club app that will hold your finger and help you gamify everything that you do with your child). My mission is to help every parent play and bond with their child, be it when they are on a vacation, at work, or at home. When I played with my children, I didn’t just discover a new city; I discovered my child. My children always surprised me with a new word that they had found, or their sudden love to eat totally different foods.
Do let me know what you think about gamifying travel with your child. Happy travelling!