We have an almost 5-year-old son who was born in India and has travelled extensively through India, Sri Lanka and South East Asia.
Having dragged him from one corner of India to another we know that travelling with kids has its highs and lows, and can be daunting.
So we thought we’d share some of the things we’ve learnt along the way to help make your journey as smooth as possible and as enjoyable for your kids and yourselves!
These tips for travelling with kids in India are based on our own experience.
#1 Immunisations and medicines
Do your own research well in advance and consult your family doctor. It’s different for all families and all kids.
When we are away we carry kids chewable vitamin C tablets, some children’s panadol or equivalent and a general antibiotic from the doctor for the off chance he gets travellers tummy. (Just as I do for myself.) We also carry ginger chews for carsickness – but that’s also mostly for us too!
Snacks in India are terrible – they are low grade and full of sugar and salt. And nothing can contribute to a meltdown when you have tired kids travelling more than hunger – so we always carry some good quality snacks from home – dried fruits and nuts, healthy muesli bars, those organics baby food squeeze packs if you have small ones, rice crackers and good plain biscuits.
When it comes to what foods to eat at meals – common sense is the best approach. Food hygiene, standards and variety have greatly improved in India in recent years. Plus in the big cities like Mumbai and Delhi there are now a good variety of western restaurants.
Our son lives on dal, rice and yogurt – which make things easy for us as we can get this at a roadside stall or a five star hotel. As it’s so common it’s a good safe bet too in terms of being made fresh. Other items you’ll find easily that kids love are plain yogurt, rice, omelets, Indian breads like naan and roti, fried rice, bananas and other fruits, which can be peeled. Luckily for us our boy is a real trooper with meals, but even so, after 4 or 5 days of non-stop Indian he just wants pasta – which is when we usually head to a fancy hotel or if we are in a big city to one of the many contemporary restaurants for pasta or pizza. It’s enough to break the Indian food cycle for him and then he’s back on Indian without complaint. If you are staying at homestays you can also carry some plain pasta with you and have them cook it for you.
# 3 Don’t try to jam too much in
For us, what works best is to have a morning out and about (usually the best time too as it’s not too hot and a bit quieter) and then enjoy the afternoon taking it easy – by the pool, drawing or playing games. Or doing lego! It depends on how old your kids are – we found it much easier when our son was a baby, as we would put him in the sling and haul him around all day. Now he feels the heat and the hustle and bustle more, so we tend to just do one thing a day with him – a morning sightseeing or activity – and then hang out for the rest of the day.
# 4 Surviving the heat
Depending on when you travel – India can be very hot and humid. So remember to drink lots of fluids and carry some good rehydration salts. In India a fresh lime soda with a bit of salt and sugar is great to cool you off and on most menus. Don’t underestimate how hot it is and make sure you and your kiddies drink a lot.
# 5 Photos
One thing we all do when we are away is take photos of kids and people we see – sometimes without thinking. Indians often like to have their photo taken with a westerner and often they’ll ask for a photo. If you say yes, you might find there will be 10 locals trying to have their photo taken with you and your kids. It’s novel at first but our son now gets really sick of it. So just say no. It’s fine to do so. No thank you.
# 6 Keep a diary
For years we’ve kept a diary of our trips and India is a really fun place to do it. We often scout markets for stickers, bindis, decorations and other items to add to our diary. (Which keeps small people interested while you get to explore local markets!) We keep our ticket stubs from sights, receipts and other things. Printing photos is cheap, easy and readily available so we print our pictures as we go too and stick them in the diary. A journal is also a great place to write your trip memories and paint, draw and make collage as you go, especially on those afternoons when you need a quiet activity. If you add some photos during the trip you’ll have a great family journal and you won’t get home and say – we should print some photos…. and never do it. Plus a travel diary is a great thing for the kids to take to show and tell at school when they get back.
# 7 Get active
Let’s be honest, sightseeing non-stop can be a drag for adults, but with kids it can be a nightmare. But a great way to see a city or region is through things like bike riding – especially if you have teenagers. Ask us about customised activities for your family – whether it is day walks, bike tours, other sports, wildlife tours, family friendly cooking classes and craft workshops. These types of activities can be so much more rewarding (and easier!) than trying to tick all the sights of a list.
# 8 Choose the right accommodation
As much as we love luxury – sometimes it’s just too hard at an uber fancy hotel with our son. So be realistic – can you handle telling your child to be quiet all the time at the pool so he doesn’t annoy other guests? Kids are kids. If they are young maybe its better not to be at the 6 star hotel? Homestays are great as they are family friendly and often they have lots of great activities for families – bikes, small boat tours, books, games etc. India as a lot of different options in terms of accommodation, so make sure you get what’s best for your family.
# 9 Be prepared
These days when we travel there’s also a string bag or handbag on hand that contains Uno, a few small cars, a notebook and crayons, some Lego and always snacks! Time pass – good on trains, planes and restaurants when you are waiting for your meal! Keep it close by at all times!
# 10 Clean hands
Don’t forget the hand wipes and hand sanitiser – especially the hand sanitiser. We are crazy about hands in mouth, hands of face etc and we all use the hand sanitiser multiple times a day.
# 11 Private Transport
One thing that always makes our travel in India with kids much easier is using private vehicles. Not only are they air conditioned and quiet, but the driver will find all the places you want to go, drop you door to door and pick you up again. It just takes out all the hassle of waiting around and trying to get to places with kids in tow. Plus the drivers in India we use are not only polite and knowledgeable – which is helpful with tips such as good places to eat – but they look after you and take special care with kids.
These are our views and tips. Our son did his first trip in India at 6 weeks and has done many, many trips since. He’s a passionate traveller already, but he’s not immune to having a bad day on the road! With a little planning, travel in India with kids is one of the best experiences to share.