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    Planning A Trip With Your Child? Here’s Everything You Need To Know

    Aarthi Arun Aarthi Arun 14 Mins Read

    Aarthi Arun Aarthi Arun

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    Written by Aarthi Arun and published on 26 November 2021.

    Travel can benefit your child in so many ways. But are you apprehensive about taking them along? Here are some pointers to help you avoid the stress and make it an enjoyable trip!

    Infant to Primary
    Planning A Trip With Your Child? Here’s Everything You Need To Know

    The travel bug bit me at an early age, even before I understood what travel really meant. And I tried to pass this bug (read love) on to my son as soon he was able to hold up his head. When he was just 2 months old, we took our first trip with him to a place that was only two hours away from home. With a colicky baby like my son, and without any preparation, that trip didn’t end well. At the end of it, my dear husband and I were both on the verge of tears.

    If you’re planning to show the world to your little bundle of joy, don’t make the same mistake that I did—of being unprepared. Over the years, I’ve tried and tested many ideas to make travelling with babies and children manageable, and even enjoyable. My son is now 6. He has turned out curious and adventurous, with a genuine love for the great outdoors and deep respect for all living things—big and small. He did his first trek at 4 years, and he’s an expert on the local insects and animals in a way that only a 6-year-old can be!

    Tots and Travel: 7 Perks

    When you see your tiny tot, you know she’s destined to see and do much bigger and better things than you. Beloved children’s author Dr Seuss summed this up in just five words, “Oh, the places you’ll go!” Yes, family travel can help your child achieve greater things in life.

    1. Instilling a sense of wonder

    “There are no seven wonders of the world in the eyes of a child. There are seven million.” – Walt Streightiff

    Young children are innately curious, and it’s uplifting to see their eyes light up on seeing new things. Traveling feeds your child’s mind and lets him learn by exploring and asking questions. Keeping the curiosity alive is important for your child to grow into a lifelong learner. According to the UNESCO Institute for Education’s report, ‘Embracing a culture of lifelong learning,’ published in 2020, being a lifelong learner can help individuals cope with change and other challenges. With the buzz around artificial intelligence (AI) and other technologies, the ability to learn continuously is a crucial skill to have. One of the ways to make your child a lifelong learner is to expose him to different cultures and languages via traveling.

    What a 7-year-old says about travel

    “I like traveling because I like fresh air and seeing beautiful things. I stayed in a treehouse, so I like trees. I saw a rainbow when I went to Wayanad. I learn about flowers and animals when I’m outside.”

    2. Supporting brain growth

    “Nothing develops intelligence like travel.” – Émile Zola

    In a study published in the journal Nature Reviews Neuroscience (2000), scientists found that the brain grows better in an enriched or stimulating environment. With all the new smells, sounds, and people, and with the sense of being in a new place, travel can be exciting and enriching for your little one. According to research published in the British Journal of Educational Psychology (2018), children who are exposed to the outdoors are found to have a better spatial working memory, which is linked to mathematical skills. Moreover, recent research shows that a baby’s brain is the most powerful learning machine in the world, and travel gives your baby a chance to soak up all the information and become brainier!

    3. Making learning fun and stress-free

    “Travel is like an endless university. You never stop learning.” – Harvey Lloyd

    Contrary to general belief, your child learns not only within the confines of a classroom but everywhere. From geography and history to everything in between, travel gives her an opportunity to learn the subjects hands-on, and have fun along the way. When your child has a hearty laugh while playing on the beach or walking on the grass or roughhousing with mom or dad, happy hormones called endorphins are released. And you’ll probably agree that joyful learning is much more effective than stressful learning.

    Have you heard of world schooling? Worldschooling is a subset of homeschooling—families travel throughout the year, without their children having any formal education. Such families insist that their children learn better by interacting with the world around them.

    4. Teaching resourcefulness

    “To travel is to evolve.” – Pierre Bernardo

    Travel helps your child break away from the everyday routine and take things as they come. From trying new foods to engaging in new activities, no two days are going to be the same for him when you travel. Traveling helps him deal with uncertainties, and your child learns to step outside his comfort zone, think out of the box and get his hands dirty.

    These new experiences will develop his critical thinking abilities, creativity, and problem-solving skills, making him more resilient. Also, you can inculcate values in your child through frequent travel. From an appreciation of beauty and excellence to perseverance and zest, travel can fine-tune almost all the 24 character strengths described by the Via Institute on Character.

    5. Helping to appreciate differences

    “Travel teaches tolerance.” – Benjamin Disraeli

    In our globalized world, tolerance is nonnegotiable. “Human” qualities like social skills and creativity will rule the roost in the future. Through travel, your child can interact with people from different cultures and economic backgrounds, which will help expand her horizons and make her more empathetic and compassionate. As a result, she’ll develop stellar social and communication skills.

    6. Learning to care for nature

    “No one will protect what they don’t care about, and no one will care about what they have never experienced.” – David Attenborough

    Television documentaries and glossy magazines are simply not enough for your child to truly appreciate nature. Watching a bird in its natural surroundings is definitely not the same as watching it in a video. Nor can you get a feel of the crisp, early morning air by looking at a photograph. Being outdoors will make your child explore the world with all his senses. This will make him feel he’s a part of something big. Traveling to cities and experiencing different cultures may be excellent for your child, but remember to connect with the natural wonders of the places you visit.

    PARENT SPEAK 

    “I’ve been traveling with my son Vivaan (7) since he was 6 months old. For Vivaan, travel is a tool to interact with strangers and become more social. It helps him understand that it’s alright to talk to others without inhibition or fear. I think by imagining about the travel, then planning for it and ultimately experiencing it, Vivaan is becoming imaginative and observant. Also, there’s no entertainment required while traveling. Whether it’s a big plane or a small autorickshaw, Vivaan’s excitement is the same.”

    – Vaishaki Chavan, Toronto

    Tips for Traveling with Babies

    Now that you know the benefits of traveling, do you want to pack your bags and hit the road? Before you do, here are some tips to make your journey safe and enjoyable.

    1. Packing a punch

    Packing smart is the first step toward traveling successfully. With babies, traveling light may not be an option, but you can cut down on the things you’re taking by finding out more about your destination. For instance, if your preferred brand of baby food or diaper is available there, you don’t have to pack them for your entire journey. You can replenish your supplies once you reach. Whatever may be your mode of transportation, pack hand baggage with a few necessary items like diapers, baby food, burp cloths, bibs, favorite toys, books, and gadgets. Keep this bag close to you. This way, you don’t have to stop the vehicle or disturb other passengers to get the supplies.

    A lightweight, foldable stroller or a baby carrier can be a great addition to your luggage. When you’re hopping between sights, your arms and back will thank you and your baby can have his peaceful nap. Also, carry a nursing cover or blanket to have some privacy when you feed your baby. Talk to your pediatrician, and pack a stash of emergency over-the-counter medicines for fever, indigestion, allergies, etc. Always carry a copy of your child’s vaccination record.

    2. The journey matters more

    When traveling, especially with your baby, it’s important to start early and give yourself enough time to go through airport security or find the right coach on your bus or train. If you’re going on a road trip, plan a few hours extra so that you can have rest stops along the way to refresh your baby. If your baby is over 6 months old and mobile, don’t let her fall asleep before you board your plane or train. Keep her distracted with the hustle and bustle at the airport or railway station. Your baby can have her nap after you board, and you can have some rest, too. Remember, although it’s tempting, this is not an ideal time for reading an edge-of-the-seat thriller or binge-watching full seasons of your favorite show. Rest when your baby rests, and you’ll have less drama at your destination.

    Tablets and mobile phones can be saviors during long travels but use them sparingly. Take this as an opportunity to connect with your child by playing silly games. For toddlers, activity books like sticker books can be engaging. To avoid leg cramps and keep your blood flowing, go for short walks along the aisle. The media’s portrayals of co-passengers are surprisingly untrue. In all my travels, people have been helpful, offering to hold my son or play with him while I ate. Some were kind enough to patiently wait by the washrooms to give me privacy to feed my son. Talk to your co-passengers and others like an air hostess or ticket collector, and your journey will be pleasant. After all, we all have families.

    3. Home away from home

    It’s a good idea to go low-key and book at a homestay or bed-and-breakfast with access to a kitchen as opposed to traditional hotels. You can boil milk or cook fresh food for your little munchkin when you stay in such places. Moreover, these places are run by the locals and not by corporates, and your baby can enjoy some extra care and genuine hospitality. If your tiny tot is fussy, take her playpen or favorite blanket with you. Also, when you choose a room, find one that is near the kitchen. And look for the safest option, not one that has direct access to the swimming pool. If you’re crossing time zones, keep jet lag in mind and factor in extra days for rest and recuperation.

    4. The best-laid plans

    Before visiting a place, look it up on the internet. Is there a way to book tickets online or rent a vehicle? Your baby may not be able to handle a long line or a large crowd. Know his personality and be prepared to avoid any meltdowns. When you’re out and about, keep to your child’s usual routine. Also, keep an eye on him for overstimulation and tiredness.

    Don’t forget to indulge in some baby-friendly activities. Pack sun hats, and let your child play in the sand or waddle after a butterfly. But with babies and young children, it’s essential to keep an eye out for potential dangers in the environment. Have a handy list of local emergency contacts.

    5. When things go south

    However meticulous your plans, there’s always a chance of their going awry. So, it will help if you don’t fret over the minutiae. You may want to visit the dark, underground museum, but your baby may not cooperate. Take a deep breath and let it go. At the same time, don’t let fear or anxiety keep you from trying any activities. Your baby may actually end up liking the colorful displays or sleep right through the excursion.

    Your baby’s immune system is super alert, and she’s much more resilient than you think. But an occasional infection is still possible. So, if your baby is not doing well, don’t hesitate to take a break or return home.

    Why your baby can be your best travel companion

    I believe that traveling with a baby is breezier than traveling with a toddler or older child. For one, babies are not yet mobile; you don’t have to worry about your infant climbing something or running out of sight. Babies also sleep for a longer stretch than older children. Just have your infant in a stroller or baby carrier, and you can go on with your own routine. On the other hand, traveling with a toddler can be tricky. From hearing out her opinions to handling her physical energy, you need to be creative to travel with your curious child. For example, your baby won’t be grumpy for the rest of the day just because you didn’t get her the third ice cream!

    During my first international journey, my son was just 8 months old, and I had the luxury of getting the bassinet seat. My son slept through most of the flight, and I rested, too. I handled the jet lag much better. On a long flight recently, my son wouldn’t stop asking questions. While I’m glad that my son is curious, his constant questions became annoying in the enclosed space. I felt sorry for the aisle-seat passenger who had to get up every half hour to let us pass because my son was fascinated by the toilet’s flushing, and wanted to use it often!

    I’m sure you’ll continue traveling when your baby is older. But by starting early, you’re setting up some practice runs to raise a globetrotter. In the future, your travels will be less stressful, and your little tyke will appreciate them more. Above all, you’ll get to know your baby better and get an insight into her personality.

    Pediatrician and author Dr Harley Rotbart calculated and found that there are only 940 Saturdays between your child’s birth and the day she turns 18 years. In the grand scheme of things, this number is minuscule. So, make the most of the time. It doesn’t have to be an exotic location on a remote island; start small, go on day trips to a nearby waterfall or a national park. Bon, voyage!

    In a nutshell

    • Traveling with your baby will help improve their brain growth, as they are exposed to an enriched environment with different activities, languages, and people.
    • You can instill values and help your child pick up skills by taking them on trips from a young age.
    • Travel will inspire your family to connect better and care for nature.
    • Plan your trip carefully by choosing the right place to stay, and pack smart for a pleasurable journey.
    • Going on a trip with your baby is easier than traveling with a curious toddler.

    What you can do right away

    • Plan a picnic this weekend to a nearby park.
    • Pick six potential locations that you can visit over the next three months. Discuss this with your spouse and see where it takes you!

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    We're back with the 2021 edition of the #GadgetFreeHour! So, take the pledge to switch off all gadgets and spend time with family on Nov 20, 2021 between 7:30 PM to 8:30 PM Pledge Now