Hong Kong-resident Manav Futnani bonds with his five-year-old daughter in Thailand
When I told people that my 5-year-old daughter Ria and I were going away for a weekend alone, most people thought I was crazy. Concerns were typically around practical matters like if she would patiently endure a three-hour flight followed by a two hour drive, or if I could manage taking her to the bathroom, or who would watch over her while I was playing polo each afternoon. When I booked our tickets, I expected some challenges, but after over a dozen people tried to convince me that it would end badly, I could not help but wonder if I had set myself up for a colossally disastrous weekend.
We recently moved to Hong Kong where there is no polo field — the closest accessible polo clubs are in Thailand and it is possible to squeeze in a fair amount of polo into a weekend away. However, I am also constantly travelling on work so weekends are often my only opportunity to spend time with my kids. My options were to give up polo or sacrifice the little time I actually get with my children. Taking my daughter along for my weekends away seemed like an elegant solution to get the best of both worlds.
As it turns out, the weekend went brilliantly. Ria can be a fairly naughty child, but she adjusted her behaviour automatically. She was fascinated by the train ride to the airport, enjoyed browsing through the Disney store at Duty Free and finding our boarding gate by reading the signs. On the flight, she used her charms on one of the stewardesses and got a guided tour of the aircraft, lots of cookies and other goodies, had her hair re-styled and essentially had someone watching over her full-time on the flight. Ria had a blast and the cabin attendant was grateful for the distraction (the flight was almost empty). She had my undivided attention for the duration of the long taxi ride and we discussed every imaginable topic. When she was tired, she simply put her head on my lap and took a nap. When we got to the farm, Ria wanted to go off exploring as soon as we got out of the cab. I, on the other hand, wanted to sleep before my game that afternoon. We found middle-ground with me lying on a hammock in the garden and her promising to stay within sight at all times. The staff at the farm was thrilled to have a bubbly child around and took her on buggy rides, allowed her to help brush the horses, and let her play with the dogs and cats that lived on the farm. Playing polo was not a problem either — a fellow player’s wife was happy to watch over her while we were on horseback and by the time the game was finished, Ria’s nails were painted and her hair was styled differently for the third time that day.
It was such a fabulous experience that I immediately booked two more weekends away with her. Since we started travelling together, she calls me more often when I am away, seems more sad when I leave town, and seems even happier than before when I return. While the two of us have always been close, our relationship now has a new dimension — our trips are something that is just between the two of us and not shared with my wife or my son. She’s proud of our trips together and talks about them to anyone who will listen.
If you are tempted by my story and are considering taking your child on holiday, remember that planning is essential.
As working parents, it is highly unlikely that any of us have a thorough knowledge of day-to-day matters so it’s worth sitting down with your spouse/nanny to understand you child’s daily routine and pack accordingly. The smaller issues may seem trivial but they are important. For example, Ria and I stayed on a farm, not at a hotel - so it was important that I carried a few packets of milk, which she drinks before sleeping and just after she gets up. I also had to learn to comb, pin, and plait her hair.
Since Ria and I started travelling together, I’ve been trying to convince all my friends to try it. Many are now tempted to try.