Now Boarding – Traveling with Kids

Before kids, travel was pack your bag and leave.

You could get tickets on the way or choose a destination based on availability of tickets. 
It was a simpler life. 

With kids, it involves so much more planning and consideration, it seems more work than fun. Tempting as it is to stay in the comforts of your home, traveling with kids is important because it opens kids to a new world. It really helps you get closer as a family as you explore places, and cuisines. It allows them to see things different from their life and culture. Life is more than the air-conditioned homes, 30 floor apartments and screens for entertainment.

My sixteen month old has already been around a bit. He took his first boat ride in Malaysia, has had a blast with his cousins in the sweltering heat of Delhi, has enjoyed the wonderful Bangalore rains and slept in his father’s arms for the first time in Kerala. We learned in Meghalaya how to tie the baby on my back and comfortably manage without a fancy carrier. And in Nepal I realised how much he loved running in the open spaces and shopping with him alone was fairly impossible. 

My older son and I drove on our own from Pune to Aurangabad. He was only six but he was navigator, DJ and entertainer through the drive. We realised on that trip he was great at climbing. We also realised how nervous he gets at the idea of lonely dark roads, and heights. 
So now our itineraries usually involves a trek as well as a walk at night. The treks are great, he loves showing off and running up and down as we huff and puff  and struggle up the trail. But the walks are whiny and tragic. “Can we please go back now!” We patiently listen, all the while ignoring him till we find a tiny shop around some corner that serves maggi or momos. The mood finally changes. Hopefully someday dark lonely roads will be associated with a joyful memory. 

But traveling with kids can be overwhelming for most. And with good reason. 
I have a friend who missed her flight as she lost track of time playing with the toddler at the airport. We have missed our bags a couple of times since we were so engaged with the kids, we didn’t pay attention. And managing last minute situations, like tickets not getting confirmed, can be tricky. 

So here are some lessons learnt the hard-way:

  • Plan your travel in advance, ideally at least a month or two ago. It just helps you get better travel and accommodation choices at the better prices, which means you can spend on the nicer everything else.
  • Choose a destination that will have better accessibility and facilities. Kids below two years don’t do too well at higher altitudes. Long drives are painful. You and your kids will be throwing up half the time — not fun!
  • Avoid crowded touristy destinations as far as possible. They are energy draining, more expensive and just so noisy. Don’t forget, you really don’t want to be nursing some nasty infections.  
  • Choose an accommodation that is kid friendly. No point trying to get the kids to fit to the place. It’s a pointless expectation that will only drive you crazy. Check instead if the hotel has a park, a play area, a kid friendly dining space and save yourself the drama.
  • Check if there is a Doc on call or a hospital nearby. Have that info with you as far as possible. Take advice from locals. My experience tell me that they are usually most helpful and accommodating when it comes to kids.
  • Check if the hotel can provide a cooking space where you can do your thing or a kitchen staff that will accommodate your specific requests. Kids have their peculiar needs and you really don’t want to spend all your holiday fighting the HANGRY child. 
  • Calculate travel times accurately: This is tricky — Leave too early to the station/airport and you will have a bored kid to entertain and engage. Leave late and everything you do in a hurry, you will have to do holding a child who most often will be pulling you in the opposite direction. 
  • Journey between points need to be short to be enjoyable. Three hour drives from one point to the other will drive the child crazy and you in return.   
  • Be prepared to get some nasty looks. You are traveling with an excited toddler all set to explore and discover the new space. Some will be kind and smile at the child crawling under their seat, some will ignore them but there will be a few who will give you the nastiest glare possible. Its fine. Apologise. If you can do something about that brat, great, please do it. If you can’t, it’s alright. Let it go. If the child is older, be kind, get him/her a book or something fun to do.  Or be prepared to make up games, as you go. Atlas is great fun!
  • Avoid unnecessary gadgets: Laptops, large DSLRs, their chargers, the Kindle, gaming devices, leave them behind if you can. Commit to the holiday and the people you are traveling with.
  • Really think through your hand baggage. Tempting as it is to keep everything accessible and handy, think it through. Imagine carrying the bag and the child through the never ending hallway of an airport or up the nasty railway stairs. But don’t forget the essentials. Imagine losing a flight or the child throwing up all over you. Extra pair of clothes, diapers, wet wipes, sanitiser and tiny bottles of everything ESSENTIAL.   
  • Carry photocopies of your documents. Split money into different bags. On one of our trips, we lost our wallet with important documents, credit card and some cash. To top it, our tatkal tickets didn’t come through. Our back up stash helped us to get through what could have been a very sticky situation. 

Be realistic with your expectations of the trip. 
No matter how much you plan, with kids things are going to go wrong.

There are two ways to handle it, blame someone, usually your partner, and make yourself and everyone miserable through the trip. 


Work together to get through the situation and realise again how great it is to work as a team. 
In turn your kids learn a valuable lesson in love, understanding, forgiveness and respect!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *