Ready Reckoner for parents who want to travel with children

Ready Reckoner for parents who want to travel with children

Ready Reckoner for parents who want to travel with children [Illustration by Anup Singh]

Children are wonderful travel companions. They are curious, enthusiastic and adventurous. They carry no intellectual baggage. Their eyes look at everything with that wonderful curiosity which makes a sky look blue, a leaf green and a kingfisher such a magnificent bird to watch.

I have a 10-year-old daughter, Megha. I have been travelling with her for about seven years and each journey has been a new window of experience for me. She has taught me to look afresh at the sky and the moon and the stars.

I am a hardened traveller, have been travelling for over two decades, form deserts to Himalayan heights. And like all adults, seasoned travellers, nothing seems to be new for me on any travel except one more tick mark – you know I have been there.

Megha taught me to look at mountains with a new perspective, the changing colours of the sky with a joy which emerged somewhere from my own past, the beauty of a solitary pine tree perched on a ridge, the ecstasy of being outdoors, with one self and without one’s self. I know I am intellectualising a feeling, which a child would have done so naturally, without my pretensions.

But there is a catch with children. You can’t prepare for a travel without taking care of their needs and special requirements. Children are, by nature rebellious. They are not cautious about their clothes and food on travel. They are at times, quite foolhardy, climbing trees for instance near a stream.

I present a checklist for all those parents who are keen to take their children on an adventure. Take my suggestion. And I can assure you it will be you who will learn a few new lessons of life.

Location: Adventure means a travel that is unconventional, a way off the tourist trail and a new experience. An adventure need not mean jumping off the cliff or rafting down a choppy river or climbing Mount Everest.

An adventure could be, say, going to Rishikesh but instead of visiting the Ghats and staying at one of the hotels in the town, you make it a point to stay at one of the cottages built inside the forest along the road. Or pitch a tent on the sandy banks off Ram Khoola or book a room in a glass house near Byasi (16 kilometres off Rishikesh). Organise a trek to Neelkanth, a steady hike of 12 kilometres, which can be done by a 10-year-old easily. The real adventure is in how you organise an ordinary outing.

Here are five important things to keep in mind before packing your bags and setting out.

Clothes: In winter, it is essential to pack woollen clothes – jackets, woollen caps, mufflers, gloves and thermal inners. It is better to wear a few extra layers of cloth than wearing a heavy pullover and a heavy jacket. Shoes should be comfortable and never new. New ones will cause agony in the form of blisters, which can ruin a perfect adventure. Carry lots of T-shirts and light pants even during winter. In summer, light clothes should be the norm. Carry lots of socks and undergarments. I believe that your outer clothes can be a day or two old but not your undergarments.

Accessories: Keep a raincoat always handy even if it is not the rainy season. Keep moisturising creams, lotions, lip guards handy. Besides these, a good quality soap, torch, candle and a matchbox, a length of plastic rope and sunglasses are other essential items for an adventure.

Food: Carry a few packets of glucose, adequate quantity of biscuits and snacks besides bottles of jam, ketchup and pickles. If you are not travelling too far from civilisation, carry mineral water bottles. In case you are travelling to a distant place in your vehicle, stock up on mineral water bottles – buy it in crates!

Activities: Plan your adventure carefully. Include hiking, campfire, find-a-treasure game, bird watching, flower hunting, etc. in the itinerary. Build these elements into your holiday in a natural manner to avoid it becoming a NCC drill.