“But we don’t really ‘travel”, insisted Smriti Lamech, when I pitched the Family Traveler Series to her, where I interview families that love to travel and create lasting memories.
“We are always all over the place, but it’s messy, badly planned and our kids are just dragged along wily-nily”, she added.
I am sure that a whole bunch of you would find Smriti’s family travel style engaging. And if her fire-quick responses to my interview questions are any indication – without any planning whatsoever – the lady sure knows how to get the family on the move! Read on…
What kind of travel do you like to do with your family?
We live a fairly hectic life, so holidays by definition, need to be relaxed. We don’t pack too much into a day and other than a casual glance at what each place has to offer, we don’t schedule or plan. This means we often end up missing out on a museum or a fort because we save it for a day when it is shut, when a little bit of advance planning could have fixed that. But we are who we are and it’s unlikely to change.
We’re very laissez faire in our approach to life and it shows in our parenting and holidays too.
We try and keep mornings relaxed and lazy, building our day up from the noon onwards. Unless we’re doing something that requires an early morning, like a safari or a cruise that requires us to be somewhere early.
Why do you think family travel is important?
As a family, we treat travel as a way to spend time together. That it might broaden our minds or palates, is incidental.
For us, the priority is getting out of our individual schedules and being together. That could range from cuddling into a hotel bed to watch a film together without neighbouring kids ringing doorbells, or white water rafting together and the sheer thrill of experiencing something life-changing together. I personally don’t see travel to new places as having as big an impact on our family as our daily interactions and lifestyle, have on us.
What resources do you use to plan your trips?
We’re not planners. We’re fly by the seat of our pants-ers.
So a quick Google search and an idea of what we might enjoy is all we look at. We’ve tried going by schedules and looking up itineraries but it tends to exhaust and stress us out. We’d rather miss two of the biggest must-dos, than come home cranky and tired.
Share your favourite Indian and international travel destinations.
In India, beach holidays are the best for kids. We’ve taken ours to plenty of forts and temples, but the crowds, the pushing, the guides, the chaos have left us regretting our decision. Since we enjoy relaxing holidays, we usually check into an easy going resort/hotel/ B&B near a beach in Goa, Pondicherri, Mahabalipuram, and let the kids spend hours in either the pool or on the beach.
But given that my husband and son are prone to motion sickness, hill holidays are usually stressful until we get to our destination. Once there, we all enjoy walks in the forest, collecting leaves, pine cones, reading. We’ve loved Binsar, Auli, Mashobra and whitewater rafting in Manali.
Internationally, the kids have enjoyed Thailand and Sri Lanka for the lovely beaches, as well as Australia and the Gold Coast, but I personally felt it was unnecessary since they’d have built the same castles on an Indian beach at a fraction of the cost! And we’d not have spent a day or two dealing with jet lag. Dubai is another destination we travel to very often for personal reasons and the kids after a visit to the water parks and amusement centers, have outgrown these forms of entertainment. They’d much rather be out in the open engaging with nature and trying out adventure sports like ziplining, snorkeling, swimming in the sea with dolphins, white water rafting.
We’ve not traveled to Europe etc with the kids, or even done a lot of culture travel with them, because we think those should be something they choose to do as adults. At this stage our focus is mostly on the outdoors.
Share some travel tips you have used to keep your kids engaged during travels.
We’ve mostly stuck with driving holidays and traveled at our own schedule for the better part of the kids’ childhood.
Often we’d bundle them into the car in their pajamas, tuck a blanket around them, put in sunshades and let them sleep through a good part of the journey.
We took frequent breaks at waterbodies and let them splash and get back in filthy and tired, which yippee – resulted in them falling back to sleep! This helped us deal with a lot of the motion sickness.
We’re strictly no-screen parents and we’ve spent hours and days chatting with the kids as we drive. This isn’t an issue because the entire point of travel for us, is to engage with the kids. They’re in their teens now and we have some of our most interesting conversations with them on these drives, from everything ranging from bisexuality to abortion, to North Korea’s nuclear presence, to Fidel Castro, to drugs and rap.
What are your top tips for parents traveling with toddlers?
Both our kids had their first bit of travel at under 40 days and were good as gold. Toddlers do perfectly well with parents as long as you keep them close. One child of ours loved her comfort object and traveled with it. The other didn’t have one, and was not in the least bit bothered with whether we stuck close or not. We stuck close anyway.
In fact, we found our toddlers to be less fussy than many of our adult friends. They have slept on two suitcases put together on a railway platform, and on the inside parcel rack of an auto.
They’ve done 4 cities in 3 days for a family wedding that had to be attended, and the plan was simple – keep them comfortable. So we just let them sleep and wake when they wanted to, arrived at the functions when they were good and ready, and let them run around and eat everything on offer. And oh –never said no to strangers who wanted to hold the baby!
What’s the absolute travel essential(s) you would pack for on family trips?
My daughter is asthmatic and we ensure that we always have her inhaler with us. As she grew up, she took charge of her own inhaler and now I don’t even need to check on whether she’s carrying it.
Perhaps the reason the kids are great travelers, as are we, is because there’s nothing we believe to be essential. If its not available, no matter what it is, we do without, or we make do.
From medication to food, locals will always help you out with an alternative. And if you’re prepared to accept that, you will never be stressed while packing, for fear of leaving something behind. The second essential is a sense of humour. Things invariably don’t go as planned on our holidays and we’ve all learned to laugh and enjoy the ride anyway.
What are your top ‘not to do’ on your trips?
We never overschedule. The moment we do, we feel the pressure to check off boxes, and disappointment if we can’t complete the list.
We keep a rough guide of what we’d like to do, wake up every morning and see what sort of energy levels we have, and go according to that. We also split up if we find we’re interested in different things. At times it is me going by myself to see an architecture exhibition while my husband takes the kids to a beach. At others, it’s me taking the kids to the biggest bookstore while my husband checks out an auto exhhibition.
And your top ‘to do’ on your travel?
You must relax.
Recovering from a holiday is an awful way to approach it. The only thing you must bring back from a holiday, is a tan and a few extra kgs.
Smriti Lamech is a reader, a writer, a social media addict. She loves her dogs, filter coffee, and her husband, more or less in that order. And is being raised by her teenaged kids, who are doing the best they can.
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Planned to the tee or unplanned and take it as it comes. What is your style of Family Travel? Share with us in the comments section below.
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