Travel With Tots: Let kids explore, get out of their comfort zones

Unless you have a very fussy child, most kids get used to a different routine in no time. It's also good to take them out of their comfort zone once in a while.

In this second part of the series, we tell you about the other factors to keep in mind to ensure your travel is a great experience for everyone-your children and you both.

By Geetika Sasan Bhandari

It’s important to choose locations based on your children’s ages and what appropriate activities there are in store for them, but this does not mean that your entire holiday has to be spent babysitting. You can build an itinerary that includes fun stuff for you both and for you all as a family. It isn’t that tough. Here are some easy tips to keep in mind.

Don’t fret about sleep timings: Just as in the case of food, don’t be hung up on a routine for sleep. If you’re sleeping late, it’s OK to have your child do that too because you’ll all wake up late in the morning but you will get your full hours of sleep. If the child is sleepy, she’ll fall off to sleep in the afternoon or in the day anyway. Unless you have a very fussy child, most kids get used to a different routine in no time. It’s also good to take them out of their comfort zone once in a while, and let them adjust to a change in routine so that they also become good flyers.

Allow screen time: It’s OK to let them have more than regular screen time, and no it won’t do any permanent damage. At a holiday in Shogi near Shimla, we were in a log hut and there was really nothing to do after 7 pm, so the kids rented some DVDs from the hotel’s library and were watching it on a laptop while we were enjoying the gorgeous view in the balcony. So instead of worrying about the screen time, enjoy the place for what it is. It’s also good to help them wind down after a long day, and does no harm. If you want to book yourself a massage, tell then you’ll be gone for an hour or so and they can watch a movie in the meantime in the room. Win-win for all! Once home, they know that old rules apply.

Encourage reading: My kids have always travelled with a book each, and an art/puzzle book plus a small pouch with supplies. It keeps them busy in long flights, at airports, in restaurants, and is a great wind-down activity to do quietly. It also works well for the times you need a nap, especially after several glasses of beer on a hot afternoon by the beach!

Don’t be hung up on morning showers: It’s quite alright if your kids get up and go and only shower in the evenings once you are back, especially if you’re doing a safari, boat rides, or other adventurous stuff in the day. In fact, a night bath works better because it calms them, gets rid of the day’s grime, and helps them sleep better. And, it doesn’t end up delaying everyone in the morning.

Read| Travelling With Kids: How to handle a child’s mood swings on a trip

Choose your stay carefully: Pick a service apartment over a hotel, especially one that gives you two rooms and two bathrooms. This makes life so much easier, and less stressful, especially on long holidays. Not only do you have your own space in the rooms, you also have a living area and are not cramped in just the room. In Hanoi, our apartment was equipped with a washing machine/dryer, microwave, oven, stove, and also had all the required cookware and crockery/cutlery. So, after a really long day out, we could just pick up something from a convenience store and heat and eat or order in from any nearby restaurant. And the best part was not having to lug dirty clothes around. With young kids, clothes will get dirty but you can run the load in the morning before you step out and put it in dryer so when you come back, all you need to do is fold, which by the way is an activity I make my kids do, and they happily chip in.

Read| How to make your vacation a fun learning experience for kids

Be careful, not paranoid: Let kids explore, and also get out of their comfort zones. Let them try their hand at snorkelling, or zip lining, or getting inside a war-time tunnel like we recently did in Vietnam -that’s what holidays are for, to try the things you wouldn’t normally. Also, don’t be a helicopter parent. If they’re in the kids’ club, let the older child be responsible for the younger and then resist the urge to hover around. Use that time to get a good pedicure, or go shopping or enjoy a nice, leisurely lunch. While booking, especially if it’s a beach holiday, choose a hotel/resort with a reputed kids’ club-it’s worth every penny. In Phuket, the resort had a water park, and in Bali, the kids’ club was just fantastic with activities not just in the club but competitions in the pool, walks to the adjoining beach, counting fish in the resort’s water bodies and do on. They ate their lunches there and ended with a movie. It gave us ample time to do what we wanted. In Zanzibar, the kids literally went from the beach, to lunch, to the afternoons in the pool, and then back to the beach. I was worried about sunburn and exhaustion but none of it happened and they had the holiday of a lifetime. Sunscreen helped, but the tan stayed almost for a year. The memories? Till long after.

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