|Dr Alan Greene, clinical professor of Paediatrics, Stanford University, talks about vacationing as a time to look forward to and back on as a break from work. Before you head to your dream destination, allow us to run you through the basics.
Attitude is all
According to Dr Greene, a holiday with kids is a time to build family memories. It is a time to de-stress and you can do it only if you change your expectations of your holiday. Many times, a lot of things may not go on schedule. The earlier you come to terms with it, the better. Do not worry too much about managing the kids. On a holiday, it is only fair to let children be themselves without fretting about rules or curfew hours.
One of the most important things to remember is to get your child interested in the holiday destination. Strangely, few parents invest time and effort in getting their children excited about the holiday, and many times kids just tag along, clueless about where they are going or what they will be doing. Here’s what you should do:
*Talk about the the destination and discuss places of interest before embarking on the journey.
*Pique their interest. Shriya (7) still fondly remembers the peacock that was hatched by a hen! Shriya’s mom, Neeta Shetty, remembered this little detail when she took Shriya, who was only four years old at that time, to a small village called Permude in Mangalore to visit her grandmother. That story not only made Shriya look forward to the trip, she also talked about it for years!
*Introduce the child to the destination. Show her pictures or videos of the places you are planning to visit.
There are so many things that are a must and others that you can do without. Here are a few pointers:
*Pack something that is related to your destination. It could be an interesting book or a toy, like a Channapatna doll, that can fascinate your little one and keep her busy during the journey.
*If you have board games designed for travel, like a magnetic chess board, take them along. A friend of mine would always carry some unopened gifts and give them to her kids when they complained of boredom.
*Let your little one pack a bag on her own and carry it. Kids are always excited to mimic adults!
*If you are travelling with an infant, make sure that you carry enough diapers and baby food to last a day.
*When packing your child’s clothes, avoid light colours and go the denim way. You can make a sturdy pair of denims last several days with different t-shirts.
Wheels within wheels
Sometimes, you have to make do with the transport available. Otherwise, make your choice so that kids enjoy it. It is a little trick to build on holiday excitement.
*Ensure comfort and safety. For me, a train journey always does the trick. Sid, my son, is now seven years old. From the time he was a year old, Sid has shown a great love for trains. So, I include one train trip in our holiday plan. Sometimes, the train ride makes the trip a lot more fun than the holiday itself.
*Make your trip memorable by using local transport, be it a tram, a horse cart or a rickshaw. It makes the holiday a lot more special because a tram ride or a cable car ride is something that the child rarely experiences back home.
Home away from home
The hotel you book will be an extension of your home for the next few days or weeks. So, it needs to be comfortable and clean.
*Choose a child-friendly hotel. This means a hotel that does not have too many white table restaurants or very loud music.
*Check if the hotel comes with a swimming pool and a baby pool. Many hotels just forget that kids could be a part of their guest list.
*There are some hotels that have special activities for kids. Do surf the Internet before you make your bookings.
*Some hotels have special restaurants that have a themed menu for children. We once stayed in a hotel that served spaghetti in tomato sauce, which they cleverly called ‘Witches’ Wormy Meal’. I will never forget the grin on my son’s face and the pace with which the food disappeared from his plate!
Take a chill pill!
It is extremely important to remind yourself that you are meant to relax on a holiday and not run a marathon. Most of us fret that we might miss out on something special and pack too much activity into a vacation.
*Remind yourself that it is all right if you happen to miss out on some must-see sights of the city.
*Every city has something to offer kids. Such places/ activities may not be a tourist attraction, but as long as your kids love it, it could be worth a dekko.
*Don’t plan back-to-back sightseeing. Pace it out instead.
*Plan the vacation with what you like and what your kids would like. The idea is to strike a balance, so that everyone has a good time.
A vacation is all about family time. So, when your spouse is pretending to sleep and your kids are indulging in mayhem, you are actually gathering precious memories. Therefore, it is not the time to fret about rules, healthy eating or sleep-time patterns. Remember:
*Holiday time is a learning experience for the entire family.
*Grab the opportunity to teach your kids about new cultures, new cuisines and interesting people.
*Teach your kids the local language and encourage them to speak it. It is bound to make them feel welcome in a strange place.
*Help them make a scrap book so that they can treasure their holiday.
The most important thing to remember is that a vacation with children is a whole new experience. It is a great opportunity to introduce them to the sights, sounds and experiences they will not get at home. It is also a wonderful opportunity to bond and have fun. Happy holidays!
Steer clear of the tourist trap
So, you have an itinerary and are ready to travel? Here are some things you should do:
*Buy a local map. With a good road map, you can read street names and look for landmarks that define the city. Finding your way around the city using a map is a fantastic way of chancing upon the place’s best-kept secrets!
*Use public transport. Most tourists take taxis. Taxis are expensive and you will never know your way around. Travel like the locals do and enjoy the experience. Every city’s local transport, like a tram or a tuk-tuk, adds its own charm to the place.
*Try the local cuisine. What better way to understand a culture than to taste their food? Finding your comfort food in a new city can be a time-consuming activity. It can also cost you a lot of money. Instead, get adventurous and enjoy the local fare. You might just surprise yourself!
*Don’t judge the place in haste and spend the rest of your holiday arguing that you were better off at home! Take what comes with the territory. Talk to the locals and value their recommendations. Focus on what the place has to offer and enjoy the moment.
*Visit the local museum. Contrary to Paulo Coelho’s belief, a museum is a good place to start your tour in any place. Coelho observes that museums take away time and deprive people of understanding the present. But, museums do offer a valuable peek into the past and facilitate a better understanding of the present.
*Avoid wasteful expenditure. Plan ahead, instead and book hotel, transport, visits to sanctuaries or museums, in advance. Planning also helps you avoid last-minute glitches.
*Don’t shop for souvenirs at tourist spots. Such places are always over-priced. Shop instead in the city or at the local markets.
*Book all your tickets in advance. Most attractions and places of tourist interest have on-line booking facilities. Many times, they offer ‘early-bird’ discounts. They even list events for the month. By buying your tickets online, you save on money as well as precious holiday time.
*Pack a snack. When you are sightseeing, you tend to miss lunch or dinner. Spend a little time in a super market and stock up easy-to-eat snacks like sandwiches and fruit. Not only will you save time, you will also save money because eateries at tourist spots are usually expensive.
*Avoid falling into the tourist trap. There are some things that the locals will never ever do (like being at Times Square in New York on New Year’s eve). So, make sure you do your research well. It always helps.