Travelling with children – tips, tricks and trials

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Since I was so inspired by the blogs I read before hitting the road with the girls, I thought we’d wrap up India by sharing what we have learned so far from a month of travel. Partly to remind myself, but on the offchance you have stopped by on the eve of a big trip, this is what we’ve learned.

  1. Never travel without one of these http://www.watertogo.eu – it’s much less scary being stuck on a train for hours if you know you have your own source of clean water…. Apparently you could drink your urine/the Ganges (not sure which would be worse) with one of these. We haven’t tried. Yet.
  1. You will become obsessed by laundry. Four people/hot climate means it builds up fast. Carry a travelwashing line and one of these (thescrubba.com). When in doubt – wash. Clean clothes are much less depressing to pack – and you won’t always be able to find a laundry.
  1. Ditto cash machines. You will be obsessed with finding one that works. Many won’t. Keep trying. Carrying dollars too goes without saying. If you can use a card, do, but mostly you won’t be able to.
  1. You / your children will crave food that tastes normal. But even if it sounds ‘normal’ on the menu it probably won’t be. Don’t assume conrflakes is a better bet than chickpeas for breakfast as your children will spend ages telling you they ‘don’t taste like home’. When nothing else works bananas and plain rice always taste normal. Also Margarita Pizza is always the answer.
  1. Take as few clothes as poss. It may come as a revelation but you can buy them. Much nicer and much cheaper. However, never wash any clothes you buy in India with your other clothes – they will dye them instantly (bitter experience- did I mention my current laundry obsession?)
  1. When despondent; buy sweets. Children find them instantly cheering. So may you. Sometimes despair really is just low blood sugar.
  1. When you can, book a hotel with a pool. Instant joy. When you can’t, pay to use someone else’s. Children’s stamina is limited for tours etc – swimming is the best reward. Take a UV sunsuit though, or risk burnt shoulders. I am regretting lack of swimming goggles for the children – chlorinated eyes are no fun.
  1. Packing up is hard work. Three nights in a place is more bearable than two. Be prepared to be flexible if you can – sometimes you might want to stay put a bit longer – the kids will thank you for it.
  1. Tuktuks and trains are more fun than coaches for children. If there’s a rail network, use it.
  1. Take an unlocked smartphone – you can get a data sim in most countries for a dollar or so a day – saves you worrying about the wifi signal or using extortionate international roaming. Familiarise yourself and your family and friends with what’sapp, Facetime and Skype.
  1. That said, don’t expect to have sensible calls with friends and family while the kids are around – they will just randomly wave their toys at the screen and shout. Video calls are just so exciting…
  1. School work is best done in the morning (though the children will, in a pinch, do times tables on a tuktuk ride). It will be stressful at times, since children aren’t keen on being taught by their parents., but the internet has some great resources including apps that make maths a bit more fun. The girls like Squeebles…
  1. Mix it up, accommodation-wise. Even if you could afford five star hotels every day (fat chance in our case) no-one will enjoy it if you do it all the time. Homestays are fun too (instant extra grandparents in many cases). Small hotels often mean you can sit out by the pool while the children are in bed within sight of your bedroom door. The odd apartment means you can cook for yourself – a bit of normality.
  1. This app (touchnote.com) is a great way for the kids to send real postcards to their friends. You can’t stick an email on the fridge, after all, and these send a photo postcard in a couple of days, and you don’t even have to worry about a stamp.
  1. People will be kinder than you expect, and most will be more interested in your children than you’d dream. At the risk of sounding like Blanche Dubois I’ve depended a lot of the kindness of strangers in recent weeks. But by then they’ve stopped being strangers of course.
  1. Travelling with children, you do it by doing it. One step at a time…

Bye bye India, hello Bangkok.image1-12

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