12 tips for travelling India with kids

Essential tips for travelling to India with kids

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.

Taj Mahal 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.

Agonda with kids

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. 

Menu choices

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.

train

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.

photos.jpg

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.

 

Tips for India travel with kids

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To read more about travelling India with young kids, head to our India page.


Where would we be without our trusted Lonely Planet.

 

You may also like to read:
India with kids: top 10 things to do
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Bangalore with kids

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34 Comments

  1. Pamela Goward

    Great advice for all, not just those travelling with kids.

  2. afamilydayout

    Lovely to discover your blog. I first visited India 25 years ago when I stayed a month with my pen friend (those were the days!) in Bangalore. We’re still in touch (via FB) but I’d imagine that Bangalore has changed beyond recognition. No skyscrapers when I visited! Not sure I could afford to take the family to India but one day I’ll go again….#farawayfiles

    • I love that you visited your pen friend! And you’re still in touch –
      wonderful ?. Bangalore will most certainly have changed since you were last here. India can be very cheap to travel, it’s just the flight to get here – so maybe you’ll be able to return sooner than you think ?.

  3. Sometimes a “tips” post like this can give a clearer impression of what a destination is really like than even the longest descriptive essay. I have never been to India (let alone with kids…) but this has allowed me to paint a vivid picture in my mind of the wonderful, frustrating, memorable, challenging feast for the senses that travelling in India must be. Really enjoyed this – cheers! #FarawayFiles

    • Thank you for reading. That’s so true! I’ve never really thought of that. I hope I don’t put anyone off, although it’s good to be realistic and know what to expect in India. India certainly awakens the senses 🙂 #FarawayFiles

  4. Clare Thomson

    These are absolutely fantastic tips.Having spent six months in India I can absolutely relate to the daily frustrations, sensory overload, heat, hygiene concerns and people staring at you all the time. It is a truly wonderful place to travel but you do need to think about all this. I’m a huge advocate of slowing down and enjoying the experience rather than rushing around when we travel and this is doubly true in India. I’m really hoping to take my two to India soon and these tips will be incredibly useful when planning our trip. Thanks for sharing on #FarawayFiles

    • Thanks Clare. India isn’t for everyone, but for those that are prepared for it’s challenges is a rewarding place. Let me know if you do make it over to India with your two!

  5. I have never been to India so most likely my first time will include my kids! Great tips – they all make perfect sense! #farawayfiles

  6. India is almost the antithesis of our sanitised western lives so I think it would be an incredible place to take kids. But you’re right. A bit of planning and consideration will be paid back in spades. I am sure you are going through litres of sanitiser! Not sure I could share a bed with my little wrigglers though! thanks for joining #FarawayFiles

    • Indeed! I was going through so much sanitiser at the beginning, although eased off a bit now. My boys just seem to be forever dirty and I just have to accept that 😉

  7. I completely agree with your points. I’ve not taken the girls there yet, but I found you really need to slow things down when there. At first, I thought the traffic was utter chaos but after a few days, it kind of made sense. It’s such a vast, colourful country with so much to offer that I can’t wait to return! Thanks for linking up to #familytraveltips

    • When you do bring the girls here, I think it will really help that you’ve experienced India before. If anything, you’ll know what to expect. It’s funny how you do gradually get used to the noise and chaos. The boys sleep through all the honking easily!

  8. I think the color, chaos and culture of India would be mesmerizing especially for my western teenagers. Great tips and tricks, although probably NOT sharing a bed with my teen boys who are taller than I! Thanks for sharing with #FarawayFiles, Erin

  9. Wow, what a brilliant post. Some amazing tips and such a down to earth approach to eating which makes the whole thing a bit more accessible for people who are nervous about heading to India with children. I have also just read your ‘story’ page and it’s so inspirational, makes me want to get out and explore the world with mine! Thanks for linking up to #familytraveltips
    Nat.x

  10. These are great tips! It looks like you had a great trip so thanks so much for sharing. #BebeVoyage

  11. Jenny, I am literally going to print this list, hang it up on our fridge to make my hubby consider a trip to India. It just seems like a country that one needs to visit and through your blog and reviews I am now realizing I do not need to wait until the little one is a teenager before we can embark on this journey. Thanks for participating in the Bebevoyage Linkup.

  12. Wow, great stuff Really amazing I am going to travel India with kids first time. I think it will really helpful article for me,

  13. Thank your for the tips! Both times we’ve gone to India we leave the kids behind. I guess we’ll take them when they are a little older – the pictures makes us more than uncomfortable.

    • TraveLynn Family

      Yes – the selfies can be quite intense and India is certainly not for the fainthearted. I hope you do take your kids someday though 🙂

  14. Heather

    Hi Jenny and Jason – Thanks for your blog, it is very enjoyable and helpful!

    We have an amazing opportunity to travel to Chennai for a wedding in December 2019. At that time, our children will be 9, 8 and 5. After the 3 day wedding, we are hoping to stay for about 2 additional weeks. None of us have been to India before. Would you recommend staying in southern India and enjoying the coasts and possibly a quieter vacation? Or, do you think for a first trip it would be better head up north to the “Golden Triangle” and see some of the classic sites?

    Also, in general do you recommend first time travelers use a travel agency to set up transportation and accommodations or do you find it is fairly easy to arrange this through the internet or with a book such as Lonely Planet. (We have traveled internationally a little with our kids, but not requiring as much transportation and with a language we are not familiar with.) If you do recommend using a travel agency, do you have one that you can recommend?

    Thank you for your help! I am looking forward to continuing to read about your many adventures!!

    Heather

    • TraveLynn Family

      Hi Heather! You must be so excited about your trip. I wholeheartedly recommend you book things independently. We never used a travel agency in India.

      Pondicherry is fairly close, but if this is a one off trip, it may be best to hear to the Taj Mahal / Jaipur (I have a 10 day northern india itinerary on the blog) and then head to Goa for some chilled beach time (Agonda beach is our fave). Enjoy!

      • Heather

        Great! Thanks for the quick reply. I really appreciate your advice!

        Heather

  15. damien

    Hi Jenny. Your blog has been very helpful and inspirational for us (family of 4), as we plan our year away.. Indo, India, Europe & SE Asia. If staying in India for several months, what is the best scenario for long term accommodation? Many thanks. Damien

    • Hi Damien! I’m so excited for your year of adventure! Booking.com is very good for India we found. But if you’re looking to be in one place for a longer amount of time, either email the accommodations directly (generally best for independent, family run places), or Airbnb. Good luck!

  16. WErner

    HI. Thanks for sharing. I am traveling to India on June July with my daughter (she is 13). I am a little concern about being separated into different lines (I am his father). Is there a specific line for those traveling with kids? Any additional challenge or tip? Thanks in advanced

    • Hello. For things like entering a shopping mall, or queuing for the Taj Mahal, there are separate queues for men and women. Children tend to go with the woman. But it is so infrequent that this happens, I can’t see it being a problem. You’re biggest hurdle is the time of year – July is stifflingly humid. Ensure accommodation has a/c and don’t cram too much into your day.

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