Many people may have raised an eyebrow, but you did it. You’ve decided to go travelling to India with kids! Perhaps memories of your India travels pre-kids have lured you back. Or perhaps you’ve travelled much of South East Asia as a family and you’re now looking for a new challenge. Or perhaps it’s just a place you’ve always wanted to explore, seen other families doing it, and you’re willing to take the plunge. Check out our top things to do in India with kids.
For any first-timer to India, the culture shock smacks you in the face and awakens the senses. The colours, the chaos, the noise, the smells… this is not a destination for the faint hearted. India is not for the faint-hearted and kids can drive parents insane on a daily basis. So how do you not lose your sh!t travelling India with children? You may want to read our post – Travelling India with young kids – is it worth it?
Due to an opportunity through my husband’s work, we spent a year living in Bangalore and took every available opportunity to travel and explore India. There were times when the bureaucracy, noise and congestion would be too much, but my over-riding feeling was that of wonderment. This is a place where everyday life spills out on to the pavement and it’s simply fascinating.
Many people believe that India is not a place for family travel. However, if you are thinking about it, I hope these our top tips for travelling to India with kids will help you decide.
1. Where to go
India is a vast, contrasting country. Don’t try and cram too much in to your precious time. India can be a sensory overload for little minds and all family members need time process everything. Allow a couple of hours down time every day. Check out my 10 day Northern India itinerary and then perhaps head to the beaches of Goa (Agonda is our favourite for little ones). If you have more time, a trip to Kerala’s backwaters or Hampi will not disappoint.
2. Allow for delays
Especially in the big cities, traffic has to be seen to be believed. Getting from A to B always takes longer and the worst thing to do is try to hurry along your kids as they very rarely comply.
3. Go up a notch with your accommodation choice
India is chaotic. To balance this, you need to ensure the place you stay is an oasis away from the chaos. This will give you all a breather and much needed time out. Look for somewhere that includes aircon if travelling in the hotter months, and breakfast, so you haven’t got to head out early with hungry kids. A swimming pool is always a winner too!
4. Consider all the family sleeping in the one bed
This may sound like the worst idea for many parents. However, many hotels in India are happy for young kids to share a bed with parents. This often means that you can get a better hotel for your budget. When our boys were very tiny we would always prefer to stay in a nicer hotel with a pool and balcony if it means sharing a large double-bed, rather than a finding somewhere with a standard family room and no frills.
5. Hand sanitiser and washing feet
It’s easy to get hung up on the dirt in India. It’s everywhere and unless you only go to high-class hotels and shopping malls, there’s no escaping it. Kids love touching everything – the walls, their feet, high-fiving strangers – there’s no stopping them unless you turn into a neurotic parent, which is no fun for anyone. Kids will be kids. Just have the sanitiser handy before meals and get into the routine of washing feet whenever you get home. Thankfully my boys didn’t get ill once during our time in India!
6. Omlettes, rice and naan bread
Our kids didn’t like the spicy food. Most Western kids don’t. We tried to give them a little bit now and again, but we didn’t want to force it on them. However, as parents we LOVE our curries and we didn’t want to go without. At most Indian restaurants the chef can make a plain omelette or plain rice (although make it clear that ‘plain’ means no spice, no salt, nothing) and the kids always devoured naan bread. In most touristy places you can get pizzas and chips, sometimes pasta, and there’s always a fruit stall nearby (stick to fruits you peel) And here’s a little travelling parent secret… McDonalds is okay sometimes.
7. Eat where the food is moving
When eating out with kids, it can be tempting to go to a quiet restaurant where your little darlings won’t bother anyone. This can be a mistake as the food is unlikely to be fresh and they’ll probably take longer to prepare your food – which means more time keeping the kids happy whilst sat at a table. Eat at restaurants that are busy with locals. It’s a good indication that the food is fresh and moving.
8. Drink only purified water
Water sanitation is a big problem in India. Even if you get water from a nice restaurant, ask for bottled water. You just can’t trust what comes out of the tap, especially for little tummies.
9. Book train travel as early as humanely possible
Trains get booked up almost as soon as tickets become available (120 days before departure). If you were without kids, you would be fine bunking down in Sleeper class on an overnight train. However, this isn’t really advisable with young kids. We always tend to travel 2AC. How do you book train tickets online? Check out this great post from Our3kidsvstheworld.
10. Keep your cool
India can be frustrating to the outsider. There are processes in place with checking into hotels, visa checks, booking tickets, and however non-nonsensical they may seem at the time, rules cannot and will not be broken (unless it involves driving on roads, no one follows any rules there!). Add to this that seemingly everyone wants your tourist dollar, it’s easy to lose one’s cool. It’s easier said than done, but at the end of the day it may just be easier to pay that little bit more, go with the flow or just walk away. Do you really want your kids to see you lose your temper with someone?
11. Learn to say no to photos
Within days of living in India, our boys were over the selfie requests. They had had enough. That doesn’t stop people coming up to them, grabbing them, picking them up and posing. Be firm, polite and just say ‘No’. They may object, but as soon as you explain that it’s your child saying no, they more often than not leave you alone. Though be warned, that they will still be snapping away at you and your family as you walk away.
12. Respect the seasons
India is a country of extremes and the weather is no exception. In summer months, temperatures can soar to mid-40s and the monsoon season makes some destinations almost impossible. Plan your travel for the milder months and your family travelling life will be much more comfortable. The time to visit most of the country is November through to March. Escape the summer heat and retreat to the mountains between July and September.
13. Pack a thermos flask
Getting hold of boiling water to heat milk can be a challenge. It’s nearly impossible to get hold of on the trains and many hotels don’t provide a kettle. However, you can always find someone (either at your hotel or a restaurant) willing to prepare you some boiling water. If you have a good thermos flask, it will keep your water hot for a good 15 hours or more.
To read more about travelling India with young kids, head to our India page.
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