In 2011, we were blessed with a beautiful baby. Until then, I had explored many parts of the world with my husband including my home country. Some near and some far. Some truly exotic for us – Namibia, Peru, Argentina and Brazil.
With both of us being passionate world travellers, there was no way that travel would stop with a child. True, it was more of beach holidays and comfort trips, to begin with. But with my daughter Kaavya growing out of toddlerhood, we are back to exploration in the style we like – immersing in a new culture, taking in some art, architecture and history, trying local food and new experiences, trying a few adventure activities and indulging in some relaxation to round up our trip.
Travel with kids at an early age
Whenever I meet parents with babies, in person or on the internet, my advice to them is to travel with your kids and start early. When I relate my first international trip with Kaavya to the Maldives when was 3-month old, invariably their reaction is: ‘You were brave!’
Your babies will not remember the early trips, but you will. Seriously, there is no bravery involved in taking your baby to a luxury resort in Maldives. Kaavya was entirely on breastfeeding — there was no hassle of thinking about baby food, hygiene for her and no long packing list of milk bottles, steriliser as well. It was the easiest trip ever, I kid you not. I did travel with a sarong which makes for one of the best gifts for moms who travel.
“Deciding not to travel with your children because they won’t remember the trips you take is like saying don’t read them books because they won’t remember the stories you read.” – Unknown
There are many such motivational family travel quotes that would inspire you to travel with your kids.
Manage your expectations
In the ensuing years, yes, there have been several meltdowns – mostly me having a breakdown! I remember the first day in Istanbul when 2-year old Kaavya just wouldn’t settle down in a restaurant. I lost my cool, “Is this how the entire holiday going to be?” My husband gaped at me and asked, “What were you expecting? That she would sit in a chair and eat quietly with a knife and fork?”
Umm…no, I wasn’t expecting that. But can she please eat quickly so that we can go see the wonder that Hagia Sofia is.
Well, plan an easy itinerary with a toddler which allows for extended meal times, breaks during the day while sightseeing and work around the main nap time of your child.
For more tips on traveling with toddlers – air travel, food and accommodation, a complete packing list, do read: Traveling the World with a Toddler
It doesn’t have to be like home
Kids adjust. It is the parents who have a tougher time adjusting.
When I hear of travel stories from parents who take extensive foodstuff and toys for their kid(s) so that the home experience can be replicated, I go into denial. No, travel is not about doing everything like home.
Travel is about indulging in new experiences, about trying local food, about exposing your family to different ways of doing things, in being open-minded to the world around you. Curiosity and exploration comes naturally to kids. So nurture that.
Sure, you got to think about hygiene and safety. But that’s it. Take a few snacks and a favourite toy for your child. But make your children try something new – it could be meeting new people, trying a local delicacy or a new activity – and watch them bloom slowly into open-minded global citizens over several trips.
It doesn’t have to be ONLY kiddie activities
All family holidays don’t have to be planned around Disneyland and Legoland. True, kids love these theme parks. In most cities, there are some great museums and parks for children that you should research and take them to. Kaavya had to be dragged out of NEMO museum in Amsterdam after 4 hours. And she couldn’t get enough of Berlin Zoo and Aquarium either.
But she tags along with us on adult activities as well – food tours, historic sites and adventure activities – that sometimes put her out of her comfort zone. Most times, she enjoys them. She loved the food walk in Ljubljana and tried every food item that was offered to her. And was happy doing the 1.6 km hike in the scenic Vintgar Gorge in Slovenia last summer. I took her to the DDR Museum in Berlin – this interactive museum offers an immersive experience of everyday life in former East Germany – and she genuinely got interested in the displays.
I remember in Rome, we took her to the Colosseum and my husband explained her the history behind it in an interesting way. We couldn’t interest her in the Capitol Museum in Rome but she was captivated by the 50,000-capacity arena. And when we strolled through Forum – an ancient marketplace just outside Colosseum – Kaavya kept herself entertained through pretend play.
She was curious when we all went to a nuclear bunker in Vis island (a very new experience for the adults as well) and had lots of questions about it.
In Halong Bay, Vietnam, the 5-year-old Kaavya was hesitant to go in a kayak with the guide. She kept us in sight at all times as my husband and I kayaked to a pristine cove. But the same child last year had a splendid time plonked in the middle of a kayak between us, on a 2-hour kayaking tour around Dubrovnik in the Adriatic Sea.
Life can be a solo adventure even on family trips
While family travel is about having fun together, not all activities have to be for the whole family.
Very early on, my husband and I decided not to miss out on epic adventure experiences, where the child is not allowed. In Cappadocia where the unusual landscape is best enjoyed on a hot air balloon ride, he and I split up and did the ride separately on consecutive mornings.
In Hvar and Vis in Croatia, he went on an off-road cycling adventure separately while I dived in the Adriatic Sea on a different afternoon.
During the stopover in Zagreb, my husband and daughter made merry eating ice creams and watching street performances while I went to the Museum of Broken Relationships.
Memories that last forever
Whatever be your style of travel, taking your kids everywhere and showing them the world will make you all bond better. It is the moments you spend together, the shared experiences, the indulgences and the secret jokes.
Whenever Kaavya sees a bell tower in an old part of the city, she pipes up, “Mumma will now want to climb it.” Yes, I admit I love aerial views 🙂
It is not just the child who gets an education in being a world traveller. Kaavya gets hassled at times when I take too many pictures. She then asks me, “Can’t you see this place just with your eyes?” Let me share a secret with you – our best family travel moments are the ones I did not photograph and so not on my Instagram feed 🙂 They are memories locked forever.
Travel with your kids and make them love the world.
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