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Tips for travelling with children in India and Sri Lanka

January 16, 2018

Family travel in Sri Lanka and India

Where are you going on your next family holiday? Perhaps you’ve already been to Vietnam or Thailand with your family and India is next on your travel wish list? We are also seeing a lot of interest for family travel in Sri Lanka.  But are you wondering about how realistic it is travel in India or tour Sri Lanka with your children? For some – it’s a big step. For others, it’s just another fabulous destination for a family holiday.

We often get asked to create tours of Sri Lanka and India for families – with clients wanting not just travel arrangements but also some practical advice on travelling with children, especially younger children, in these places. But specifically they want real advice from people who actually have travelled with children in India and Sri Lanka.

For the past six years we’ve travelled the length and breadth of India and Sri Lanka with our son, who was also born in Mumbai. (Our first family trip in India was when he was six weeks old.) During this time we’ve hiked with him in India and Sri Lanka, stayed in multiple homestays as well as five star hotels, we’ve spent countless hours in cars, trains and planes, relaxed at beaches in both countries, eaten more dal & rice meals than we can count, and everything in between. The more family travel we do, the more we learn, and the more practical first-hand tips we have to share.

You might have read our earlier travel blog on travelling with children in India where we cover things like immunisations, food, beating the heat and staying hydrated, and keeping clean hands. As we plan our holidays and travel for 2018, we are thinking about new itineraries for family travel with children of all ages – what works for us, what will be interesting to do and what would be great for you.

Travel is an incredibly rewarding experience for all of us, but as parents seeing the reactions on our children’s faces as they see and experience new places – the genuine delight and amazement among other emotions – adds to our own sense of discovery and pleasure from travel. But it’s not without it’s challenges. Here are some more tips on travelling with children in Sri Lanka and India, to help you plan your next family holiday.

A family holiday in Sri Lanka with a beach stay at Arugam Bay

A family holiday in Sri Lanka with a beach stay at Arugam Bay

 

#1 Know your limits

If you are considering embarking on a family holiday in India or Sri Lanka be sure it’s the right destination for you. If you are concerned about travelling with your children in these places, it might pay to speak to your friends or family that have travelled to Sri Lanka or India and get their advice. You can also call our office and discuss family travel in India or travelling with small children in Sri Lanka and we can share our experiences with you. We are more than happy to have an initial conversation with you and talk through any questions you might have, before designing an itinerary for you.

#2 Be realistic about your ambitions

When you travel without children it’s feasible to move every day, to cover long distances by road, to have days jam packed with sightseeing, and to try and see and do as much as you can. That might also be ok if you have active teenagers, but if you have small children it’s not going to make for an enjoyable holiday – trust us, we know. Our experience has shown that having at least two nights in every destination is good with small children and three is even better. In India and Sri Lanka covering small distances can take a long time by vehicle, so if you are travelling with your family, covering every destination on your wish list of places to see in two weeks might not be realistic. Instead, we recommend choosing fewer places to visit and making your holiday more enjoyable. After all – who wants to spend every day in a car?

 

Away from the cities: a stay in rural areas can give your family the chance to see a different side of India and Sri Lanka

Away from the cities: a stay in rural areas can give your family the chance to see a different side of India and Sri Lanka

 

#3 Don’t cram too much in

Our personal experience has proved that doing one activity everyday with small children is enough. Generally during our family travel in Sri Lanka or India we have one activity in the morning followed by lunch out and about, and choose to relax or find a quiet activity in the afternoon (usually at our hotel or accommodation). Mornings can be easier on children as they are quieter and the heat of the day isn’t in full swing yet. India in particular is busy and can be overwhelming at times for anyone, that’s part of its charm – the sights, the sounds, the colours, the smells – it’s all part of the magic of India. But put yourself in the shoes of a 4-year-old. It can be a lot to take in, especially if you are out and about all day, everyday. So, we try to do little bits at a time – generally one activity a day – with time to relax and have some quiet time. It helps avoid the meltdowns. (We know about this too – we’ve had some memorable meltdowns when we’ve ignored our own advise about travelling with children!) Afternoons are good for games, journals, quiet activities at your accommodation like cooking classes, swimming in the pool and so on.

#4 Take your own snacks

While we are huge fans of Indian and Sri Lankan food, we generally don’t rate the local snacks. Packaged items or processed snacks tend to be low grade and overly sweet or salty. We try to avoid them. (If you aren’t fazed too much about what your kids eat, then this won’t apply to you.) While it’s not feasible to carry extensive amounts of snacks with you, we do always carry some snacks from home with us – things like good quality muesli bars, rice crackers or crackers, instant miso soups and healthy biscuits. Locally, you can find dried nuts such as almonds and cashews in markets, fruits like bananas which are easy to carry and safe to eat, and avocados (in Sri Lanka) which are among the healthier options we snack on when we are away. For more information about food and eating when travelling in Sri Lanka and India with children – be sure to read our previous blog on this topic.

#5 Time pass

Even the best laid travel plans can get thrown out – plane delays, rainy weather or days when everyone just needs to be still and the sightseeing is scrapped. Or there are those times when you just want to sit and enjoy a great café you have found but you need something for the kids to do. These are the moments when you need activities to pass the time. Our day packs always have some easy to carry games like Uno, cards, crayons, a zip lock bag of mixed Lego and other distractions for young ones. Make sure to have something with you at all times – it might just mean the differences of lingering over coffee or having to drink it in two gulps!

 

Looking for trinkets and treasures

Looking for trinkets and treasures

 

#6 Keep a diary

For every trip we have done, we have kept a diary during our tour. It’s not only a great way to keep a record of all your memories and adventures from your trip – it’s a fun thing to do while travelling with children and makes for a good, quiet activity in the afternoon. Local markets are great places to find stickers, bindis, postcards and other items that can decorate a journal and photos can be printed easily as you go and glued in. (This also makes a great activity – scouring local markets for journal decorations – and often gives parents the chance to look for items they are interested in at local markets.) Your kids can also make collages, paint, draw and write notes about their favourite parts of the trip in the diary. Our son loves to look back through these journals and it’s a great way to remember details that might be otherwise forgotten. A travel journal is also a great thing for show and tell at school once you return home!

#7 Splurge on a pool

We know not everyone has huge budgets for travel, especially when you are taking the whole family on holiday. But nothing feels more like a holiday than a hot afternoon in India spent relaxing by the pool with your family after a morning of sightseeing. While you may not have the budget for hotels with pools everywhere, we do recommend having at least 1 or 2 stays (particularly if you are travelling at one of the hotter times) with a pool or by the beach, so you can have some time relaxing and spending the afternoon by the pool with your kids. We can also recommend some better value accommodation options with pools.

#8 Choose your activities

Conventional sightseeing may not necessarily be the best option everyday for your family holiday. Ask us about activities and destinations better suited to your family. We have dragged our son around India and Sri Lanka so we know many great places that are suitable for children, as well as activities that are more engaging than just walking around monuments. A number of our insight activities – such as bike riding, guided city walks, cooking classes – might work better for you.

 

Workshops and hands on activities can be better and more engaging for children than touring monuments everyday.

Workshops and hands on activities can be better and more engaging for children than touring monuments everyday.

These are just some of the things we have learnt from more than 6 years of family travel in Asia. Wherever your next family holiday is, we hope these travel tips are in some way useful.

Some of the new itineraries we are about to release include Family Holiday Sri Lanka (ideal for families with young children) and Sri Lankan Family Adventure (ideal for families with active teenagers).

Contact us to receive details about these new tours designed specifically for family travel in Sri Lanka, or ask us to custom make an itinerary to India or Sri Lanka for your next family holiday.