Popular Places To Travel With Your Kid In India
Contrary to popular belief, travelling with children in India is a piece of cake. All it takes is a little planning and a lot of spirit. Kids love travel, new sights, new experiences and with a little coaxing they will try every type of food and develop adventurous palates. The trick is to start them early and keep going.
Smriti Lamech traveled with her 5-month-old son and later with her 2-month-old daughter and they have grown into inveterate travelers, ready to pack their back-packs as soon as they hear the word ‘vacation’!
Kids Under 1 Year In Age
The best time to travel with babies is before they become mobile, when a sling or a stroller is adequate to fall asleep in, and their food requirements can easily be met. This is a great time to do trips that require a lot of walking since you are the baby’s transport. It is no co-incidence that we chose to holiday in Munnar when my son was 5 months old, and Kasauli when my daughter was 2 months old. This was well-timed because they were too young to be car sick and didn’t need to walk, hence, didn’t get cranky. The air at both these hill stations was brisk and healthy and we took many long walks in the forests. We also visited Sonapani, a Himalayan village, when my daughter was 18 months old and my son about 3 years.
What To Do & Where
#1 Munnar (Kerala) is breathtaking in its beauty and largely unspoilt by tourists. Take a boat ride at the Mattupetty Lake. Go up to Rajamalai National Park and see the endangered Nilgiri Tahr. Gravel Banks is great for trout fishing and Nyayamakad Falls is the perfect destination for fishing as well as picnicking.
#2 Sonapani (Uttarakhand) is a secluded retreat, off the beaten path, taking you back to the basics. All you can do here is switch off your phone, pull out a book and read, while your baby explores the feel of grass under his toes and listens for the call of a bird. The perfect stay for children who are at a stage when all it takes to entertain them is a leaf or a feather.
#3 Kasauli (Himachal Pradesh) is one of the few untouched hill stations. Primarily a British cantonment, it offers a few old heritage buildings and a lot of paths for walking. It’s a great option for just relaxing after the initial craziness that comes with a new-born baby.
When To Go
The best time to take children to the hills is in the summer, so you don’t have to experience extremes of temperature. Avoid the monsoons. A combination of the hills and the cold makes for a lethal cocktail.
Toddlers: 1 Year – 2.5 Years In Age
By the time your baby is a toddler your entire vacation will change pace. He or she will not be old enough to walk too much, neither will they enjoy being constrained. At this point it’s best to choose destinations that don’t require too much travel and are a short flight or drive away.
We chose driving holidays because it’s easy to take a pit stop, let the little ones stretch their legs and continue, rejuvenated. Jaipur and Sariska are close to our home in Delhi and good driving holidays. Sariska has very few options for a comfortable stay, with Sariska Palace, Alwar Bagh, and the Dadhikar Fort, among others. Stay where the children have the freedom and space to run around, as opposed to them breaking expensive artifacts in heritage hotels. In Jaipur we stayed at the General’s Retreat, a heritage hotel with a lovely lawn and plenty of space for children to play.
What To Do & Where
#1 Jaipur (Rajasthan) is not particularly interesting for children but it’s always good to initiate them into road trips with something short and this distance suited us well. They enjoyed at the hotel and also Chokhi Dhani Resort with its camel rides, swings, and fairs.
#2 Sariska National Park (Rajasthan) has a lot more than just tigers and many of the animals actually come crowding in and surround your vehicle, so that you have peacocks perched fearlessly on the bonnet of your car and deer nudging at the window hoping you’ll feed them. The dry arid shrubbery makes it easy to spot even the bash-full boar and jungle fowl.
When To Go
Winters are a great time to visit here. It is cold at night but the days are pleasant and that makes it comfortable out in the jungle.
Pre-schoolers: 2.5 Years +
Kids above the age of 24 months or so have figured out that sand is for playing and not for eating, so it’s finally safe to head out to the beach. Goa and Chennai were two great vacation spots for our children aged 2.5 and 4 at the time.
They were old enough to endure long drives between various restaurants and sight-seeing spots. They were old enough to gorge on the sea food and experiment with new flavours. Learning about culture starts young and children who visit the odd fort or place of worship at an early age learn to appreciate it as they grow older. Stick to two historical sites and balance it out with fun through the rest of the day. They will not grow bored or cranky. Everybody’s happy!
What To Do & Where
#1 Goa is all about the beach, so it’s best to stick to the agenda. Many resorts offer kid-friendly activities and even baby-sitting facilities, should you want a romantic evening alone.
#2 Chennai (Tamil Nadu) offers endless amusement for young children, be it the Guindy Snake Park, the Madras Crocodile Bank or the Vandalur Zoo. If just being on the beach isn’t enough, a drive down the East Coast Road (ECR) offers you a variety of amusement parks with plenty of rides for children of that age.
When To Go
Both cities are best visited during winter. Goa is also beautiful during the rains, although it restricts your time on the beach.
Children: 6 years +
This is a great age for long train journeys, people watching, eating steamy fresh food off railway stations and learning to enjoy the journey as much as the destination. Read up on the vacation, get them books or stories set in that area and they’ll be raring to go, be it a museum or an art gallery. Another way to get them in the mood is to let them pack their own back-packs for the trip. By this time children are able to spend more hours out sight-seeing and don’t need frequent naps or breaks. They also don’t know that they can say refuse your holiday option, so make the most of it! We visited McLeodganj, Corbett, Mussoorie, and Mashobra over a period of two years. All this with a judicious mix of forest walks, visits to heritage spots, and good food.
What To Do & Where
#1 McLeodganj (Himachal Pradesh) is a great place to explore, both for the young and the old. Winding lanes, two tables at an open doorway, an old Tibetan lady dishing out steaming momos from her kitchen, cheap Chinese goods piled up on tables, and numerous bakeries. The Dalai Lama in exile lives here and if you time it well you can get an audience with him. The Bhagsunath Temple is also a must visit with its fresh-water spring source and a big swimming pool, framed by hills. The Norbulingka Institute of Tibetan Culture is one of the most beautiful and serene spots you’re likely to encounter. Go there for the delicious food and the beautiful landscaping, if you’re not a culture vulture.
#2 Mashobra (Himachal Pradesh) is a part of the Shimla Reserve Forest Sanctuary Area and a stroll through the jungle is enough to spot a variety of fowl, monkeys, and barking deer. Close enough to Shimla to drive down for a meal, yet far enough to be peaceful, it’s a fantastic mid-way option for those who want the best of both worlds. Some fabulous options are Forest Villas, Woodville Palace, and the Carignano Guest House.
#3 Corbett (Uttarakhand) is for die-hard nature enthusiasts. The area feeds a huge number of resorts, all full of tourists eager to spot a tiger, which is counter-productive at the best of times. The convenient thing to do is to take the early morning safari (the least busy time, even if it is a little tough with young children) and hope for the best. The later safaris are often full of noisy families that scare off all wild life within hearing range.
#4 Mussoorie (Uttarakhand), the Queen of hill stations is for those who don’t like to miss out on any action even while on holiday. Bustling with activity, it’s great for a cup of coffee while you people watch on Mall Road, or take the cable car to Gun Hill – kids love that. A trip to Kempty Falls is great if you go off season when it’s not bursting with tourists. Don’t forget to take them to Jawahar Aquarium- it’s fairly well maintained.
When To Go
Summer is the best time, but also the most crowded. The monsoons and winter are absolutely out if you want to enjoy the scenic beauty. Try and go in spring or autumn, so that you just about miss the tourist rush.
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