From budget to schools' schedules, there are several considerations that go into a vacation plan

Making a little check-list of things and packing one's suitcase before a vacation are perhaps one of the most exciting exercises for children and their families. From budget to schools' schedules, there are several considerations that go into a vacation plan.

With several schools working all through April this summer, planning that much –awaited holiday is becoming quite a task for families.

“My sons' school is closed for a week in March and then reopened in April. His second part of the break will begin in May. But I might not be able to take off from work then,” says a parent of teenaged boys studying in a CBSE school in Adyar. “The school did not consult parents while making this change. They merely informed us and now we are left with little choice,” she says.

For R. Selva, the early reopening of his daughters' school has meant an unanticipated financial burden this time of the year. “I would have liked to go to our native place, but the little money I had saved up has gone towards the first term fees that the school charged,” says the self-employed parent.

All the same, there are families that have still managed to plan some short trips for they believe it will help them renew their energy. “We have decided to go to a hill station nearby. Even if it is for a few days, it will be worth it,” says S. Bhaskar, father of two.

The rush towards native villages and hill stations is a period of bonanza for travel operators. S. Christie Raajan, Chairman, Travel Agents Association of India (southern region), says that private long-distance bus service fares increase by 15 to 20 per cent during the vacation season, “but still there is a huge demand”.

S. Anantharaman, Divisional Railway Manager, Chennai Division, Southern Railway, says that advance bookings are already full. “Reservations go up by about 25 per cent during the summer vacations. On an average, seven additional trains are being operated every day.”

The additional demand is mainly for destinations in Kerala and southern Tamil Nadu. Mr. Raajan says that a majority of holiday-goers do not wish to go too far away from home. “Most prefer to go to hill stations such as Oooty and Kodaikkanal, and seaside locations such as Kumarakom in Kerala. Much of the 30-40 per cent increase in travel demand during summer vacation is from those headed to these locations,'' he says.

Safety

Stressing the need for taking adequate precautions before leaving on a vacation, Additional Commissioner of Police (Law and Order) Shakeel Akhter said that each police station has a ‘locked house register'.

“Go to the nearest police station and register in case your home is going to be locked for more than a week. We will make it part of our nightly beat policing system.”

Doctors focus on ensuring that while on a trip, it is important to the prescription and enough supply of medicines if children and adults who are on medication are travelling.

Store the phone number of the doctor/clinic in your phone book so that in case of emergency they can call their doctor and check in case the prescribed medicine is not available, they add.

Senior citizens and children must be particularly careful. It is necessary to carry a bottle of clean water while travelling anywhere.

On caring for children while on vacation, P. Ramachandran, Director, Institute of Child Health, says: “In hot climate it is not advisable to use talcum powder excessively as it will close sweat glands. When heat is intense, it is important to drink a lot of fluids to avoid dehydration.”

According to paediatricians, more children are being diagnosed with typhoid throughout the year.

When children are taken out to eat very often, hygiene is not given enough attention, according to S. Thangavelu, paediatrician attached to Mehta Hospital. Rickettsial infection is also being noticed among children who go on treks, say doctors at Kanchi Kamakoti CHILDS Trust Hospital.

It is also necessary to constantly supervise children in the age group of two to five years as they have the tendency to ingest any colourful liquids they may see. “A common problem we encounter is children who drink kerosene stored in bottles mistaking it for water,” Dr. Ramachandran says.

It is also necessary for parents to monitor children's activities to avoid injury, for the lack of safety could have serious implications in some cases.

For instance, fights over television remote controls, or children carelessly pulling wires within their reach or playing around furniture with sharp edges could be dangerous, say doctors.

What they say

P. Ramachandran, director, Institute of Child Health: It is important to pay attention to the quality of drinking water and other liquids and food consumed. Avoid roadside eateries as food prepared in hygienic conditions could cause diarrhoea and dysentery. It is also necessary to ensure that children consume adequate fluids so that they do not get dehydrated. Wearing loose cotton clothes and bathing frequently helps to cool the body and prevent skin diseases.

Lakshmi Mukilan, parent of a teenager: I think it is extremely important for children and the entire family to unwind during summer vacation. We usually take a few days off and go abroad or to a nice hill station. I think the fathers should not be allowed to take bring mobile phones along. The family needs to spend quality time together. The change in my daughter's school schedule has not made much of a difference to our plan.

A. Afzal, Managing Director, Parveen Holidays: This time of the year, we shift our focus to promoting outbound tourism, facilitating travel for Indians wanting to visit foreign countries. This is also when we help individual foreign tourists, who wish to travel outside groups, plan their travel, most times providing them with a tailor-made travel plan depending on their specific interests.

(With inputs from Ajai Sreevatsan, R. Sujatha and Meera Srinivasan).

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