Travel

The travelling mum’s diary

Maria Goretti in Phuket

Maria Goretti in Phuket   | Photo Credit: Instagram

From scouting for cheap flights to hunting down kid-friendly hotels, learn a trick or two from these mothers who travel with their children in tow

When Aarti Boaz realised her two teenage boys had a 10-day break from school last summer, she immediately started browsing travel portals. Soon the Chennai-based educationist had booked a flight to Madagascar, courtesy a “very good deal” on a full-fare airline. “We had a window of 12 hours to plan, pack and catch the flight,” recalls Boaz, who booked hotels on the go while reading up on the East African island nation. “We went in blind, knowing little to nothing about the country,” she says, adding, “Madagascar turned out to be lovely.”

Family vacations usually involve months-long planning, juggling work and school schedules, and activities for everyone. But Boaz is among a new crop of mothers who don’t put their travelling plans on hold until their children are older and craft child-friendly travel itineraries instead.

Travel hacks
  • Passport and paperwork: Keep your passport updated with entry and exit points at regular intervals. “If you’re a single parent, always carry extra copies of the paperwork — from guardianship documents to permissions,” says Boaz.
  • In your bag: No matter the weather forecast, keep at least one sweater and raincoat at hand. “Umbrellas are a must. If nothing, they can double up as good weapons,” she laughs.
  • Downtime: Carry a book and some music for your child because “conversations are fine, but everybody needs a break”, says Rajan.
  • First-time travellers: “Today, as family systems become nuclear, such travel takes the mother and child out of their routine environment,” says city-based Samanta Dandapani, facilitator-in-training at Parenting Matters, a Chennai-based resource centre for parents. “Children get to see aspects of their mum’s personalities that they may not see otherwise.” Though mothers are instinctive by nature, travelling for the first time with young children can be nerve-racking. “You can never plan for everything,” Dandapani adds. “If your child is having a meltdown, don’t shush him or her. Be empathetic, talk to them and reassure them.”

Pune-based Deenaz Raisinghani has been to more than eight countries with her four-year-old, starting when the child was 16 months old. “Having a baby or a husband/partner with a busy work schedule [hers is in the Army] should not stop you from travelling,” says the blogger. A sentiment Boaz agrees with. “Being a single parent, I didn’t want to put off my interests. Instead, I included my children in them. I look at these trips as education for my sons and empowerment for me.”

Learnings on the go

For many of these mums, travel is not just about sightseeing, but a chance to expose their children to both cultural and culinary diversity. “During our visit to Barcelona last year, I tried to get my daughter to sample freshly-caught octopus at a local food market. She refused at first, because of its texture, but after a little persuasion, she took a bite and loved the taste,” says Raisinghani.

Mekha Rajan (left) and her son during their trip to Bhutan.

Mekha Rajan (left) and her son during their trip to Bhutan.   | Photo Credit: Special arrangement

 

For others, holidays are also a means to explore a common passion. Actor Mekha Rajan’s trips are aligned with her 11-year-old son’s interests. Arya’s passion for cycling has had them heading to Bhutan for an expedition on wheels in 2018, and last June, his love for Lego found them in Legoland Billund, the original Legoland park in Denmark. “Though we travel together, the trips are also about creating our own spaces. I let him interact with fellow travellers, especially children, and give him his own space,” says Chennai-based Rajan, who has travelled to 15 countries with him. She credits these experiences for giving Arya the confidence to fly solo within India. “He knows how to read the gate, when to board, and how to plan ahead. He is not intimidated by anyone and talks to people from other countries about the things he likes, such as cars and bikes,” she says.

Cheat sheet

Of course, solo parent trips take a great deal of planning. Boaz is constantly on the lookout for cheap flight deals on full-fare airlines because “budget airlines can con you”. Finding child-friendly accommodation is equally important. “If there is a long layover, I split the journey into two and stay at the transit destination for a couple of days, to get my daughter comfortable,” says Raisinghani. “If you’re travelling with a toddler, a bed-and-breakfast with a communal kitchen works well.”

Aarti Boaz at the island of Murano in Venice

Aarti Boaz at the island of Murano in Venice   | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

For hotels, the mums recommend staying in the heart of the city since it is safer to wander at night, and also cuts down on travel costs. Opt for shuttle services wherever available, and look up access to transport options at odd hours, especially to the airport, suggests Boaz, who found Flixbus in Europe — which runs point-to-point services between 2,000 destinations across 28 countries.

Facing the unexpected

Sometimes, even the most planned trips can have unexpected glitches. Boaz and her boys have run the last mile to catch a ferry in Athens and overslept at a departure terminal. “Instead of panicking, look for a safe option,” says Boaz, recalling a trip to Florence in 2016. “We missed the train from Zurich to Florence. When we reached the hotel, it was pouring and our booking had been cancelled. All the hotels in the vicinity were booked out. Luckily, the front desk manager at one of them was kind enough to call another hotel just 100 metres away and get us a room,” she says.

Such experiences have also prepared her for the unexpected. “When we step out of the hotel, we take a small carry-on with a change of clothes and snacks. I tell my boys that if we get separated, to stay in the same place so we can find each other, or approach a policeman. I ensure they have an emergency fund in case such a situation arises,” she concludes.

Deenaz Raisinghani in Barcelona

Deenaz Raisinghani in Barcelona   | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

Kids on board

Aakanksha Bhargava, CEO of Gurugram-based PM Relocations, who has travelled to six countries with her 18-month-old daughter, advises planning flights around a child’s sleep schedule. “I try to make sure she sleeps while travelling so she is less cranky.” She also suggests sticking to a daily routine of bath and feeding. For former VJ and cookbook author Maria Goretti, it is all about getting her teenaged children to connect with nature. “Maldives is our happy place, and my wishlist includes Machu Picchu, the Everest base camp and Ladakh. I usually want to see everything on a trip and do a lot of research. But when I am travelling with my kids, I prefer it to be a free-flowing holiday. I just let them be and hope they observe and learn,” she says, adding, “I like remote places with little to no communication. We’ve been deep-sea diving in the Andamans where we had huge sharks swim beneath us, and in Kerala, we heard the sawing call of a leopard. [Vacations like that] rejuvenate your body, mind and soul.”

Why you should pay for quality journalism - Click to know more

Related Topics
Recommended for you
This article is closed for comments.
Please Email the Editor

Printable version | Apr 2, 2020 3:31:03 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/life-and-style/travel/on-mothers-who-travel-with-their-children-in-tow/article30999444.ece

Next Story