Then & Now – The Joys Of Holiday Planning

Most people who know us will agree when I say “We love travel!” Unfortunately, as is the case with every couple in a serious relationship and not oodles of cash at their disposal, most of our travels and visits to famous “world tourist spots” were far and few, and we ended up doing a lot of off-beat holidays. And that’s where we discovered the real beauty of Ma Nature.

Then and Now

Right then, before everyone starts to wonder why my writing suddenly resembles a travel blog, or if I’ve gone a bit cuckoo in the head, let me make my intentions clear. I was merely reminiscing about how “exciting” things like holidays and vacations were, prior to having a 3rd little member (or 4th, or 5th) join your “holiday-planning”. So to put it simply, I was merely thinking about how planning a vacation or a holiday are miles apart depending on whether its just the two of you as a couple, or on if you have your lovely offspring(s) join you. So let me tell you a story…

Back Then – circa 2005
Going back to the time when we first started dating (was it still called dating then?), we were shuttling between different cities in India and the United Kingdom. So as you can imagine, we’ve had a fair bit of travel, both alone and together, since we were both based at different locations. Most of our holidays (or maybe I should say, “spur of the moment” breaks) were quirky, fun, free-style, come-what-may discoveries executed with a “let’s see how it goes” attitude. Let me make one point clear – neither of us are true adventurers in the complete sense of the word; we’re merely people who like to see new places, eat new food, be with each other a lot (yes, I know, sounds lame to some) and explore “some” unknowns.
And the planning involved back then was actually a piece of cake. We’d just fix a place or a location and Google some Wikipedia/Trip Advisor entries; not even bother reading most reviews, wouldn’t care about booking hotels, and absolutely wouldn’t fix an itinerary. And food – my wife’s a vegetarian (yep, they still exist! Just kidding, I love vegetarians…they leave more meat for us…ok, I digress. Let’s get back now); However instead of seeing that as a potential …let’s say…difficult life choice…(I’d get shot in the foot if I said disadvantage, but you know what I mean), we’d both try and embrace the local specialty…almost always. And luckily, most places we’ve been to, they’ve been happy to oblige and make a vegetarian equivalent where possible. So food was always an adventure in itself for us. This beautiful “let’s do something new and exciting for the holiday this time” phase for us as a couple lasted exactly until August 2011. That’s when we discovered Little Ri had “swum” his way into our lives.

The NOW
Since Little Ri was born in London, we did make a few trips down to India and one to Dubai to see family, friends et all. However I wouldn’t term them as vacations or holidays. They were more like, ok some of you are going to hate and judge me for this, say visiting a religious place (Atheists and other non-believers of the spiritual power from above – I love you guys (and girls), but I needed a strong social example). You kind of know what to expect and who you’ll see and meet, but it is often a social compulsion that is usually succinctly dressed up in the lines “You’ve GOT to do it!” Once again, I digress (I’ve got to stop doing that – bad Sid!). So as previously mentioned, since Little Ri entered our lives, we haven’t taken much in terms of a vacation. That is until now. I’m happy to inform all of you, that right now, in the middle of our holiday, at 1am in the morning, I’m sat up fine-tuning this post for you amazing readers (Reckon that explains a lot more about my lack of orderliness and time management than the vacation). Nevertheless, the point that I’m trying to drive home is “We finally managed to take a holiday, with our toddler – a real family holiday”.
If this trip proves to be a success (it’s going to take a few days to get the final verdict, but initial poll results look promising), then all that handwork would have paid off. “What… hardwork? But it’s a vacation!” I hear you think. On the contrary, taking a holiday, vacation or even a short trip with a toddler, involves a lot of planning and yes, RESEARCH. If you’ve been lucky enough to have already taken a holiday with your young one(s), you’d know exactly what I’m talking about. For the rest of you, your turn will be here soon.

Designing, planning and executing a “family holiday” is filled with hours of man/woman-work. Gone are those days of “free-birding”, where you could literally take off to a new destination, and enjoy yourself come what-may. In my case, they’ve been replaced by the below mentioned thoughts/ questions/ dilemmas. Kindly note, there is no exhaustive list of questions or checklists. The below ones are just samples and snippets about the four major activities a usual holiday would entail – travel, clothing, accommodation and food

Travel:
Thoughts back then
Let’s train/bus/car it if we can. It’s going to be an adventure; book the cheapest flight available – who needs those frills, bells and whistles anyway; why waste money on an organized sight seeing tour – we can do the whole thing cheaper if we walk!
Thoughts now
What flight do I book – are they infant/kid friendly? Do they have baby/kids meals? Do they have in-flight entertainment? Let’s do an organized tour – do they take kids? Will the kids/baby like the mode of travel? Can the kids adjust to the long travel time?
Clothing
Thoughts back then
That’s it, 2 pairs of jeans, couple of t-shirts, a few undergarments – I’m good! Who cares about the weather – rain, snow or sunshine, I’ll just wear the same things
Thoughts now
How many diapers do I take? How many tops for the little one? How many nightdresses for the baby? What will the weather be? Should I pack an extra pair of shoes?
Accommodation:
Thoughts back then
Let’s crash at that bed & breakfast – it’s only a few bucks; Booking a room – oh come on, we’ll just stay with friends; Let’s camp; We’ll just sleep in the car; So what if we’ve got to drive/walk to those tourist spots – it’s only $10 a night for the place, and they have bunk beds.
Thoughts now:
Is the hotel kids-friendly? Do they have a nice swimming pool/play area for kids? Are they non-smoking? Do we have to travel a lot from the hotel/accommodation to the “kid-friendly” tourist spots? Do they provide a baby cot? Do they have lifts? Do they have an on-call doctor? (I could go on and on with this one)
Food:
Thoughts back then
I’m going to try this one, that description sounds great; I should definitely try some street food; who needs reservations – let’s walk in;
Thoughts now
Do they have baby/kids meals? Is the restaurant baby-friendly? Do the eateries have a baby chair? (Ok that’s not food, but it sure fits in); That street food looks nice, but maybe I should stick to something I know – after all, if one of us falls ill, the other will have to look after both the baby and the ill-fated one;
Once again, these are just a few points that I’ve noted down from my latest experience. To even try and put down a comprehensive list is a sin that I shall not attempt. And as you’ve probably noticed, the key phrase that you’re likely to frequently encounter when you have planned/will plan a family holiday with your little one(s) is “kid/baby-friendly”. That phrase, to simply put, is capable of turning you from a laid-back, casual, let’s-not-stress-over-too-much-planning kind of person into a meticulous, detail-oriented, have-planned-for-any-eventuality kind of person, who to be honest, is sometimes too tired from all this planning and thinking, to actually enjoy it fully.

So in a nutshell, yes, just like every other aspect of your life, even your holidays and the amount of planning that goes into that to make it successful, will change with the presence of your little one. And I admit, often planning a “family holiday”, can be considerably tiring enough to make you wonder if it is worth it. And sometimes, you might just want to do it, so that you can take a break, and a “family vacation” might be the only way to convince your better half. Whatever your reasons might be to put in the effort of planning for kid-friendly (see, there’s that phrase again) holiday, the twinkling in your little one’s eye and the smile on your partner’s face, will be enough reward and motivation to make you keep doing it again…. and again…and again.

Sidharth Balachandran is a 30 something proud newbie dad who recently relocated back to India, after 7 years in London. He is a self-confessed techie, will-read-most-things-er, photograph-anything-er, love-to-travel-er and wannabe masterchef-er. He is the “carefree, relaxed and spontaneous” ying, to his wife’s “meticulous, practical and perfectionist” yangcharacter. Though academically an engineer and a product manager by profession, he strongly believes that eventually at some point his “creative” side will lead him to his true calling. He loves connecting with new people and you can catch him at www.facebook.com/sid.balachandran
  • Life sure changes after you start traveling with kids…. no spur of the moment holidays..and everything need to be meticulously planned and taken care of…And all the energy they have that they need to spend in the confines of the vehicle…

    • Sid Balachandran

      Sure thing Prasad. Meticulous planning is of utmost importance when travelling with kids, especially when they’re little. With ref. to the energy, that’s a whole new level of ball game isn’t it….they are just so energetic when you’d rather take a break or a nap for a bit. Thanks for your comments 🙂

  • V ki Amma

    Sid, besides my occasional trips home (read: Jamshedpur, we live in Delhi), our first real holiday with baby V was Singapore. He was less than a year old and was just out of the hospital after a terrible case of stomach infection. I totally relate to your post here and it brought back memories of our holiday. We are planning another family holiday by the year end and this post serves as a refresher of all the points that are hovering over my head. 🙂 Here is what I wrote about our Singapore vacation back then: http://onboardthemommyship.wordpress.com/2012/09/12/v-for-vacation/

    • Sid Balachandran

      Sure thing “V ki Amma” 🙂 This was our first real holiday as a family too, and ironically, it was to Singapore too. Little Ri is now whole of 18 months, and he thoroughly enjoyed it (At least I’d like to think so!). He was all over the place, screeching with the birds, roaring at the animals, awestruck at the dolphins….little did he realise all the precautions, research and planning that went into making sure nothing went wrong. Anyway I’m glad it worked out, for all of us. Thanks for stopping by 🙂

  • My son’s first holiday was Bangkok. 8 months old bundle introduced to a place where he will want to go with his friends ONLY, one day. (Unless you want to count FInland where he went when 7 months in mumma’s tummy!) The parents too share the feeling. Waiting for him to grow up enough and then we do a couple thing to Bangkok. 😀

    Useful post. I like the juxtaposition of ‘back then’ and ‘now’. Caught my self nodding and going ‘yep’ many times.

    Yes, about your second para – I like how writing about travel and going cuckoo in the head is said in one breath. Freudian slip, @iwrotethose:disqus ? 😉

    • Sid Balachandran

      Spot-on observation Sakshi. Just another decade and half before you can take your couple holiday to Bangkok.

  • Reema Sahay

    Ha ha well said. I was nodding my head all the way. The get-up-and-go sort of trips are not happening for several years, and camping sort of holidays are also a little far away.

    • Sid Balachandran

      Glad you agree too Reema. It’s just a phase isn’t it. i remember I used to keep asking my parents why don’t we take surprise holidays, and my dad used to say, when you’re a parent, you’ll understand the importance of planning. At the time, I just dismissed it as my dad not having the time, but I’m starting to realise why:) Thanks for reading

  • Aditi Mathur

    Oh my god this post is SO apt! Gauri’s first travel was at 2 and a half months from Rajasthan to a remote army cantt in the North East. In order to reac our one room accommodation, we had to take the train, a flight, a bumpy road trip in an uncomfortable Army jeep and on a ferry across the Bhramputra. Do I need to say anything more here? :-
    Wonderful post!