HELLO! OLA'! BONJOUR! CIAO! NAMASTE! NI HAO! SALAAM! HOLA! KONNICHIWA! HALLO! MERHABA! G'DAY MATE!
I love to travel. It rejuvenates me. It is like my meditation. Me and my shadow at a new destination, is my ultimate happiness. I don't like tours. I do not want anyone to plan my activities, my meals or my sleep for the day. I do not want anyone to keep track of my time or to provide a pick and drop service. I love taking public transport in countries where I don't even speak the language. I love going to an unimaginably small street to find an unimaginably small cafe where one can barely enter but their coffee takes you to zen. I love walking or hiring a bike and just keep going until I can't go any further. It all sounds dreamy. Now imagine doing all that with two little kids. Oops!!!!
It only makes sense to be prepared when you are traveling with kids. The struggle begins when catching the flight becomes a chase. Someone wants an ice cream while you are racing to security or boarding has commenced and you are waiting for your child to finish up in the toilet. And as we all know, flying is a struggle in itself. To add to the torture, nobody ever likes a crying child in their vicinity.
"What is wrong with the parents? Why did they bring a child to a flight where there are actual people traveling with ears? Why do they even allow babies on planes? The parents of babies should either be super rich to afford a private jet or should just never fly." Facepalm!!!
What if I told you that in the last 4 years, I have traveled to 10 countries and took at least 30 flights? All with my 2 kids. Sounds impressive. Right?
1. MAKE THE MOST OF YOUR FLIGHT
Flying with kids could feel like doing your time in prison. Nevertheless, I use flights to spend quality time with my kids. I carry crayons, legos, play-doh, a storybook, a tablet with videos and an activity book and we do stuff together. Although, in prisons, you get in trouble for pressing the panic button to rat a fellow prisoner out (Wentworth), it is allowed on planes. You could press the attendant call button without the fear of getting grilled, in times of need.
2. STOP BEING EMBARRASSED
My husband likes things clean. He gets overworked if kids are making a mess at restaurants. I have to tell him, “You’ve got to calm down. They are just getting started.”
Similarly, kids and tantrums are like teenage love stories. They always seem to be breaking up, but they belong together. For instance, my son takes a bite of my calm for days daughter's pasta and her reaction is self-perpetuating. And in wise words of Peppa Pig, “It will take as long as it takes”.
3. DO NOT TICK BOXES
Most travelers aim to cover all the top 20 things to do from “TripAdvisor”. Moreover, no holiday is complete without instagramming selfies from every tourist spot.
I think that unless you are a professional traveler, it doesn't really matter how much you can see. Parents need to make peace with “quality not quantity”. The time when we got out of the hop on- hop off bus on our last day in Rome outside the Vatican city was epic. As we started heading towards the entrance, my daughter had nature calling. So the 5 months old poor girl had to go and, let's just say in nice words, it was messy. So no Vatican city for us. Repercussions, still no regrets!
Our family trip to Europe was probably our longest trip ever. My 5 months old daughter and 2 and a half years old son were both at very challenging ages to deal with. We had to pick what we wanted to see. I was breastfeeding at every possible stop. We were in Italy for a week and my son was just so happy to try a new color of gelato every day.
Every country we visited, had something peculiar to offer. Some places were more kid-friendly than the others. The long staircases we had to climb with the baby stroller to get into and out of the London tube was the most unexpected of all. But How much we loved the boat ride at Cambridge and the London hop on hop off bus ride is beyond words. "We carried the baby stroller over canal bridges in Venice, it was so terrible." What they aren't telling you is that in spite of all the chaos, the gondola ride and the overall vibe of Venice is something that you cannot feel outside of the water city.
I am all ga ga about the places I visited. The bicycle ride at Bruges, Melbourne trams, Amsterdam breeze with the world's most delicious hot dogs, buying Big Ben pencil cases with my son outside the Big Ben, the serene surroundings at the golden temple at Amritsar, my daughter starting her solids outside the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore, Florence, Italy, my son's long swimming lessons at our Bali resort everyday, my son's first beach experience at Bangkok, world's best biryani outside the Charminar at Hyderabad, the day we went straight from Sydney airport to Brighten Le sands beach and my kids had a blast and the list is endless. I have so many beautiful memories. If I were to do it all over again, I'd do it because this is my life. And this is what I do.