Every now and then, life seems to just drag on, and we have nothing really fun to look forward to. Usually, this comes bang in the middle of a difficult month. Which means one may be tight on finances, or on leaves from the office, or may simply not be in a position to spend much on a true ‘vacation’.
As a family of two working parents, a distinctly hyperactive toddler and his fast growing elder sister, we have discovered the ideal solution to this monotony – short trips.
When we were growing up, we had relatives nearby, which provided the often needed ‘break’; which probably explains why we, as a country, were not very travel – savvy. But now, close relatives are either too far away, or are busy with lives of their own. Additionally, kids have become much choosier when it comes to leisure.
So here are a few tips that I’ve learnt with time, on how to make the best of that long weekend, or just a quick pick-me-up for the family.
- Know in detail about popular destinations: This means a thorough read of the ‘visitable’ locations close to your city. From Delhi, we have exotic locations like Jaipur, Udaipur, Bharatpur, Corbet, Nainital etc. While some may argue that the very point of going to destinations is to escape the crowd, yet these places are crowded, let me assure you there are pockets of lean periods that you can tap.
- Keep a lookout for unexplored / new locations around the city you live: This means regular internet surfing of travel sites. Let me give you an example. Everyone’s heard of Nainital, which is a cramped hill station. However, relatively fewer people know about a quaint hill station called Ramgarh, which is higher in altitude from Nainital, and only a few kilometers away from all the action. Similarly, the difference between Shimla and Mashobra is just a few kilometers, but the serenity quotient is much higher.
- Have a combination of travel means. Too many parents prefer to fly their kids to a destination. But talk to them about the train journeys they took in their childhood, and their eyes mist up in the memory. Why don’t we use the train more often? While it may require a little bit more planning, it is worth the effort. We try to incorporate a fair amount of novelty in the ‘getting there’ bit as well; so the holiday starts from the moment we lock the front door!
- Children learn a lot in these little outings. From locating the most picturesque spot, to learning to write a travel journal, to innovating new uses of wet wipes and toilet paper, this is the time to nudge little life skills into their minds. We started out with little scrap books where the kids would stick leaves, flowers and photographs.
- Start talking about the trip much in advance. This ensures participation in decision-making, which kids love, and you will surprised at some of the bright ideas they may come up with! Encourage them to read up trivia about the location, and maybe even decide the course of events at the location.
- If going to a place where they can step into the swimming pool, ensure the swim wear and goggles, cap etc. are in place (it costs a bomb to buy it at the destination; and renting it out is not really hygienic).
- If luggage has the scope, do carry the favorite ball, or some other toy. Cramped spaces in the city really do not do justice to outdoor games – this might be the right time. Inflatable plastic / rubber balls are the best.
- Make a list: My husband will look accusingly at me if he read this. He is the list – maker, and I always scoff at it. But the truth is that the list is a true life saver. The list is usually under the fridge magnet, and every time he or I remember some detail, we add it to the list. So that when we are finally packing / leaving, nothing gets left out. Even simple things like forgetting camera batteries can cause humongous fights in the middle of the trip (trust me – G and I have fought over it!!)
- Ensure you eat light the night before – especially the kids. You don’t want them feeling queasy the whole way to the hills!
- Finally, a list of very forgettable life savers, that G puts right at the top of his list
- Camera and batteries 🙂
- The kids medication – an analgesic, a nasal drop, a syrup for cough and cold, a syrup for tummy ache or indigestion, a syrup for nausea (and the number of the family doctor).
- Other first aid : Band-Aid, Dettol, Digene, Crocin tablets, Volini Spray (a blessing for sprained ankles, or a backache)
- Wet wipes (a large one if you are traveling with kids!)
- A few neatly folded disposable bags
- Phone chargers
- Maps, brochures, numbers of the place going to
- Bibs (yes, even for toddlers and young kids. Eating while travelling can be quite messy. And bibs will allow you to travel much lighter, as fewer changes due to spillage)
- A hand towel / napkin for each child (same logic as above)
- Day-wise clothing (yes, we actually count – especially little pieces like socks!)
- Tickets, reservations, confirmation vouchers etc.
- Photo I cards (an essential these days for any hotel checkin)
- Activity books, comics, crayons etc. (We pack little backpacks, one for each child, which has their stuff in it. We add a dash of suspense by putting in little snacks they like, along with their bib and towel. They carry it, and are quite responsible with the things inside it. When travelling together, they need to be kept out of each other’s throats, and out of our hair 🙂 )
Travelling without kids was definitely less cumbersome. But the fun is much more when the kids enjoy not just the vacation, but every moment that is spent talking before, and after the trip is taken.
Meena Bhatnagar is a mother of two, with a passion for the written word. She dabbles with fiction, a couple of them finding their way into published work, is an avid blogger, and works as a corporate trainer to pay for all the damages. She blogs on parenting, social issues and humorous incidents of her life and on hotel & restaurant reviews and corporate training.