Traveling kids can be stressful. Traveling to exotic places can be stressful. Add them together and you’ve got a recipe for disaster! Or do you? Traveling around the world with kids is an adventure – but don’t be afraid.
Last spring, we took our three kids to India for the second time. It was a stunning adventure! It was also an incredible learning experience for the kids – they saw the world in a different light and it has opened their eyes to life beyond our little town in coastal New England.
- Be prepared.Anything can happen in beautiful India. Once, we were sitting at a traffic light and an elephant crossed the intersection right in front of our car. True story.
- Plan ahead for delays. We arrived in India after 24 hours of travel and spent over an hour in customs… at 2am. Our express train was stopped four hours because of fog. Pack more diapers than you think you need. Bring extra snacks. Bring a backup charger. Expect delays and let being on time be a happy surprise instead of something you expect.
- Pack your own meds. Pepto Bismol and Imodium are not readily available in India. Neither are children’s versions of meds like Tylenol or Advil. Bring more Purell than you ever think you’ll possibly need and don’t forget Melatonin to help with jetlag.
- Have an adventure!It’s what you’re there for, right? Do something you can’t do at home!
- Go off the beaten path. Take a rickshaw. Eat at a local restaurant instead of the hotel. Go beyond the tourist agenda – India has more hidden gems than you can imagine. Consult your guidebook, travel sites and the locals to find amazing temples, historic sites or parks. Our driver took us off the highway to an incredible temple on the way to Agra to see the Taj… and we would have never found this beautiful place on our own! (But be smart – make sure you’re following trustworthy advice!)
- Make friends. The people of India are some of the most warm, hospitable people you’ll ever meet. Going to the public parks, our kids always met playmates to run around with while we chatted with their parents. Many people spoke English – especially in the cities – and everyone we met was so friendly and just thrilled to share their country with us.
- Be open. Life in India is very different – and may be a little scary through your kids eyes.
- Talk to the kids beforehand. They will very likely see extreme poverty, stray animals and other things that may be hard for them to digest. Talk openly, answer questions… use this as a learning experience to gently open their eyes to important global issues.
- Expand their world. Visit a temple and a mosque. Explore local artisan markets. Try new foods. You won’t regret immersing yourself in India’s incredibly rich culture!
- Make the foreign familiar. Travel like this is stressful for kids. Help them adjust.
- Bring some touches of home. We brought their special loveys and stuffed animals, favorite books and a few toys. When they’re in such a foreign environment, even small things from home are a comfort. Activities you do at home are a great break for them, too. After being out in the noise and bustle of the city sightseeing, cuddling up and reading a book or taking a swim in the pool is familiar and can be therapeutic for an overwhelmed child.
- Give them a break. Ask your hotel for a local market and pick up bread and peanut butter. After days of rice and spicy food, my kids were dying for just a simple PB sandwich! We ended up at McDonalds when my son was having an epic jet-lag-induced meltdown on a particularly difficult day. It turned out to be fascinating! After all, what does McDonalds serve in a country where most people are vegetarians and beef is not available?
sightseeing is hard
It’s crazy. It can be stressful. BUT ITS WORTH IT.