On Natural Beauty
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On Natural Beauty
Continuing the ‘Travelling with a Toddler’ series, here is the concluding part on Sightseeing and everything else you need to know.
Most developed countries have decent footpaths and walkways, so it is a great idea to carry a pram (stroller) while you sightsee. It is very likely that you will be out for long hours, and your baby may be able to sleep in it. A good quality stroller that has a good suspension system for bad roads and one that reclines fully and half way for her to sleep comfortably is an absolute must.
You are going on a vacation with your kid. Don’t just visit museums and churches that she understands little of and will be impatient to leave! Also take her to the nearby park, the beach or wherever else she would enjoy too! Ask the tourism office for kid-friendly places and they will tell you a host of places. We took SSS to little parks in the neighborhood wherever we were, lounged around in open squares where she enjoyed playing and gave her space and time to enjoy her vacation too!
- The most important of them all – Go slow! If there are ten things you need to see in 2 days, rest assured you will be able to do only 4 or 5! Either extend your trip or prioritize the places you want to see. Between your baby’s nap times, food times, play time and tired time, you certainly won’t be able to see it all! You can also consider splitting a few places with your travel partner such as climbing 400 steps of a cathedral where it may not be a great idea to take her. Let him see what interests him while you look after the baby and you see what you like while he takes care of her. And..we took her up those 300 odd steps in St Peter’s Basilica and I don’t know how I made it!
- First aid/Medicines – Talk to your pediatrician and find out what medicines you should carry if required in a foreign country. Also carry the receipts for these if they are required in customs.
- Pack light – It is highly probably that your kid’s bag is heavier than your own with extra clothes, toys and diapers! You need to compensate by packing light for your own baggage!
- Buy at your destination – Don’t pack what you can buy at your destination. Such as extra diapers apart from those you will require while travelling and for a day more, certain food stuff etc.
- Time zone changes – For a substantial difference in time zones you will have to give her two-three days to adjust to a new timezone. Manage your schedule accordingly.
I hope this series was helpful if you are planning to travel with a kid. Although, as someone said, it may scare others into not travelling with a baby! Happy Travelling!
Do check out my other two articles on Travelling with a Toddler –
Continued from my previous blog on Travelling with a Toddler – Part 1 where I talk about how to travel/commute with a toddler.
Coming on to the next important thing is food. You may be giving your baby only homecooked meals and don’t want to subject her delicate tummy to restaurant food everyday. Can you do that on a trip out? Yes!,To a certain extent you can. It is simple. Don’t book hotel stays. Book home stays with kitchen facilities! That is what we did and I could give atleast 1-2 home cooked meals before our tour and after our tour ended for the evening to SSS.
If you are travelling internationally, you may want to carry a few basic ingredients from home that may not be available where you are travelling and even small cooking vessels if they are not readily available. I carried a small pressure cooker which we used for her food for all our stay, some wheat flour for rotis and Indian spices. You can visit a local super market and buy a few basic vegetables, and plenty of fruits too. This is when it is not a bad idea to use all those yummy baby food jars that are available in the market. Also carry baby cereal that can be instantly made with hot water. I carried a couple of Cerelac flavors.
Milk: Carry formula milk or breast-feed if you are staying at a hotel. If you have a kitchen or a microwave, you could even buy milk from a super market if that is what she drinks. While you are out and it is time for her milk, the easiest way is to pop into a coffee shop and ask for a glass of warm milk for the baby. It is that simple!
Lastly, don’t overdo the home cooked food! You are on a vacation and so is she! Let her enjoy some cheesy pasta and pizza too! And a little Gelato or those candies won’t hurt either!
Food and accommodation go hand- in-hand, since I have recommended you stay at home-stays with kitchen facilities. However, the kind of place you stay at is important too. If you would like to stay in a full fledged hotel instead of a home-stay, then you need to make sure it is kid-friendly. We booked most of our stay through airbnb.com for fabulous home-stays where we had the whole apartment to ourselves in lovely neighborhoods.
- Make sure that the hotel staff can cook baby meals for your baby and will sterilize any milk-bottles you may need.
- Ensure that the hotel is clean.
- You don’t want to tire out your child with excessive travelling, and may want to explore options that are nearest to your sight-seeing places so you can hop down quickly for her to have a peaceful nap.
- Kid facilities such as a swimming pool, small garden and a place with activities for kids will be nice too!
Do read my other two articles on Travelling with a Toddler –
Many of my friends have lauded me for being ‘brave’ enough to travel with a toddler. Now, obviously I had my personal selfish reasons to be ‘brave’ enough to undertake the trip, the chief one being fulfilling that wanderlust that had been kept at bay for a good 1-2 years during pregnancy and till she grew old enough to travel! And the fact that she didn’t require a ticket (atleast not till she turned 2) didn’t play any role in me not waiting for that trip to happen!
To all such moms with toddlers who may fear undertaking that long trip outside home, it is really not all that difficult! But yes, a lot of planning needs to be done to ensure that all goes well and the little one is at ease.
For starters, think about a few major things and how you need to tackle each one of them.
Inflight travel with a baby:
Before the flight
- Inform the airline that you will be travelling with a baby beforehand. They may provide you with the first row seats with more leg space and a bassinet for her to sleep in. Trust me, your flight will be much easier with that extra space during a long flight.
- Travel bag – Make sure you carry several diapers, wipes and a couple of changes in clothes. Dress her in some layers for flights can be cold.
- Entertainment Entertainment Entertainment! If you think if you require that during the flight, think about that restless toddler who needs it at all times in her waking hours! Those old toys are not going to be entertaining enough to keep her at her seat. And you can’t pack large toys either in your baggage. So, shop and pack several small treats that will keep her busy. Package them all so she spends time opening each one and getting surprised! Give her a new toy only when she gets bored of the old one! Some suggestions for toys to take on the flight are small cars, key chains in various shapes, small board books with pictures, small nesting toys, flash cards, colorful necklaces etc. If your kid is old enough, you could take a coloring book, puzzle book etc s well. You will ofcourse also be able to use some resources at hand such as the inflight magazines, the food tray table, the opening and shutting window shades, and hopefully co-passengers who will entertain your child!
- Food – Think about what you will be giving your kid to eat in flight. Carry a home cooked meal for atleast one meal. You can also carry cereal for which the flight attendant will be able to provide you hot water with incase she does not like the food served during the flight. Cheerios, cheese-links, pulpy fruits, and biscuits can be used to satiate hunger pangs during snack times as well. The key is to carry only food she likes!
During the flight
- It is a great idea to travel during her nap time so she sleeps through some of the flight atleast.
- Take-off and landing times can be challenging for kids and babies with changes in air pressure. Give them something to suck on or eat so they keep swallowing thereby causing less discomfort in their ears
- Entertain her through the flight. When she really gets bored of sitting, be prepared to walk up and down the aisles with her when they are not busy
Other modes of transport with a baby
I would recommend train travel to bus or travelling by car for long distances since a train accords more space to move around and is faster as compared to traveling by road. If you have to travel by bus be prepared to sit in cramped seats and face her tantrums or hope she falls asleep during the bus journey!
What are your experiences if you have traveled with a baby or toddler? Share them in your comments…
Continued in the next part here..
There are two types of travelers- First are the ones who plan and execute it all on their own and the second are the ones who outsource the planning and execution and go with a travel operator on a well planned trip. Both have their pros and cons – While it is time consuming to plan your own travel arrangements, itinerary and accommodation, it offers far more flexibility and you can spend your time the way you like it. However a planned tour by an agency will take care of all your needs but you need to stick by their rules, schedules and itineraries. We belong to the first category of travelers. We decide what we want to see, do all our planning, book our tickets, figure out where we want to stay, use a map to figure out where to find anything, and enjoy exploring on our own! I am going to give you a few pointers on everything that needs to be planned through in this space.
Italy being a part of the European Union requires a Schengen Visa for Indian citizens which needs to be given atleast 15 days of processing time before one can fly. The Visa list simplifies what needs to be get done – Airtickets, Insurance, accommodation and internal travel arrangements and having your finances in order is what is required. You can find the complete list of documents required here. The process of submitting a visa application is fairly simple and one need not go through any travel agent. Just take all the required documents with two copies of everything, fill up the forms also available on the online, visit the VFS office that manages Schengen applications and submit the documents. It should not take more than two hours to do that. Once the visa is stamped, you can collect it from the same place. In Mumbai, there is no need for any appointment for a Schengen Visa and one can just go directly walk into the VFS office in BKC to submit the documents.
Booking flights – I expect we could have found sweeter deals in our flight booking had we booked earlier, but well, we didn’t plan well. But if you are reading this, and would like to plan a trip to Italy, watch out for International discount days at major carriers from three months in advance and you may just land a deal as sweet as Rs 25-30K return fares as did some co-travelers.
Accommodations – Here is the thing about Europe where lodging is concerned..As compared to India where decent hotels can get astonishingly expensive at not less than Rs 8K a night, in Europe there is a vast range of places one can book for all sorts of budgets. From hostel accommodations for the solo intrepid travelers, to lavish suites at 5-stars and the mid-range hotels ranging from Rs 3K-8K, it is easier to find a place in the heart of the city. One just needs to look out for the right place. And it is not just hotels and hostels. A vast segment of tourists prefer to rent a home for a few days through sites such as airbnb or booking.com. This further increases the options around the sort of neighborhood you would like to live in and the kind of amenities you can have and one can experience life the locals lead. With a one year old in tow, we had little choice but go for homes that had kitchens we could use for our little picky eater (though we are pickier about what she eats!).
Travelling within the country: This is again that requires a good deal of research. Having zeroed on the destinations you would like to visit, the next step is to check on the cheapest and the fastest ways to get there. Be it a rail pass, cheap airlines, or high-speed trains. All or none may require pre-bookings. Italy has its railway Trenitalia which we used for booking our tickets in advance before we left. Train fares in Italy are not fixed and can fluctuate based on demand and supply. It is best to reserve train tickets in advance or be prepared to pay much higher amounts later. We preferred the high-speed trains to all our destinations that took almost half the time that regular trains did. If you are thinking about purchasing a train pass, make sure you compare the prices with single leg ticket journetys. In Italy reservations are required on the high speed trains and EuroCity/International trains, and therefore the hop on-hop off convenience is not really there. For more on train reservations read here
Sightseeing and reservations: Italy is a destination that sees millions of tourists every year. All the major tourist places are inundated with these hordes of tourists and you will encounter long lines to get inside anywhere. But some pre-planning can help avoid these long lines. What needs to be done is make reservations early on or buy the City Tourist Passes. Since there are a lot of options and a lot of places where you may need reservations, I am going to keep this for another post, you will be soon able to read.
Finally, only our packing remained and this is the most important piece of all. Whatever you do, travel light! Pack few clothes and do your laundry and well, shop in Italy! If you however need those four pairs of shoes to match your outfit, be prepared to lug your suitcases on the roads and through stairways in places such as Venice which has no cars.
Next – About Passes and reservations
Italy in three words is Art, Food and Touristy! As I look back on my recently concluded trip at the beautiful country of Italy, so many images flash by – Pizza at the Piazzas, religion in Renaissance, art with architecture, hordes of tourists, leisurely outdoor lunches, chilling out with Gelatos, the symphony of the bands playing at the square, the grandeur of the Colosseum, my one year old daughter SSS chasing fluttering pigeons..
Through this blog I am going to take you through our trip right from how we planned it out and how we should have planned it out!
Why did we choose to go to Italy?
Italy was a dream travel destination for many a year for me. Three reasons finally saw us zeroing on Italy – Good weather, Amazing art and Culture and great Food! And thus.. Italy fit all our expectations and we locked down our air tickets about a month in advance.
Deciding what to see
Once our return flights were booked, the next step was deciding the places we wanted to see in Italy and book our accommodation accordingly. Italy is a country with points of interest for varied tastes. One may want to see every major Art gallery there is in places such as Rome and Florence, or visit quaint towns in the country such as Lucca or Pisa, or do a wine tour at Tuscany or click a photo of the Coliseum and move on to the next tourist destination or hike in the scenic coastal town of Cinque Terre. There is much for everyone and it is quite necessary to prioritize based on what one likes!
What did we finally see?
With a baby in tow, we decided to stick to the tourist trail and not the off-beat trail. We also decided to take it easy and enjoy the vacation instead of simply hopping from one site to another. Italian cities have a lot of history and culture in them and we finally decided to visit Rome, Florence and Venice as our key destinations. If at all we had time, we could make day-trips around these places to places such as Pisa, Lucca or a trip to the famed Tuscany countryside.
Next blog – Planning the trip to Italy
There are travelers who plan months ahead of time, draw up long lists of packing, scheduling, itineraries, do their research, make the bookings, and carry the right phone numbers. Then there are the impulsive travelers who do pick up a backpack and just get out there figuring out things on their way. Well, while it is usually smooth sailing for the planned travelers, the latter rough it out, end up sleeping in a barn, or spend exorbitant amounts. But the impulsive travelers usually have a story to tell for eternity.
Not packing right and improper planning led us into a soup several times. I went dressed and packed for summer to Switzerland one April and spent a pretty penny buying woolens. I spent exorbitant amounts on flimsy raincoats from a souvenir shop in Disneyland when it poured heavily all the time. We got stuck out on the streets of Cusco, Peru at midnight because our travel agent did not confirm our hotel booking; and more recently almost being caught for driving without a license in Mauritius (I had very conveniently forgotten to carry my driving license)!
But when things have to go wrong, they will. Like when I visited Oman. Despite all the planning, we nearly missed our flight because of a miscommunication and the cab driver went to the airport to pick us up instead of picking us from home and dropping to the airport! The dash to the airport, making sad faces to the boarding pass authorities to let us in, and the final dash towards boarding certainly made for an exciting start to the holiday!
While bungling up is quite awful during the journey itself, in hindsight, there are several positives to it after you come out of unscathed. One, you learn to plan for that eventuality. Two, you may end up seeing something more splendid when you lost your way than you had set out to see. Three, you have an interesting experience and memory <and in hind sight, things always look rosier>. Four, you feel stronger, having survived what you did. Five, Distress brings people closer, so if you are in that arduous trek in a group, you might just make those friends of a lifetime. Six, and the best part, you have a story to tell everyone around you and have people hanging on to your every word!
I hope things never go wrong at all on your trips! But if they do, when you come out of them, you are a wiser and a stronger person. A teeny bit of planning always goes a long way in smooth sailing on the most impulsive journey! A few tips for the impulsive travelers –
- I know you hate to book early, but during the peak tourist season, it is advisable to book your hotel and travel ahead of time.
- Check the weather and pack right. You don’t want to spend unnecessarily on what you have and be saddled with it forever.
- Carry dry high energy food and water if you are venturing on long drives/treks to places where you may not get any.
- Always check with the local tourist office for information (There usually is always one at every airport or point where you check into the place).
- If you are planning to drive down to the place, make sure you have enough gas, check the tire pressure, ensure the spare tire is in good condition, carry a toolbox and note down the emergency contact numbers of your car maker’s towing services
- Make sure you carry proper documentation and identification proofs with you
- And yes.. don’t forget to drop an out of office message on your office mail.. so that the boss/other office colleagues do not bother you
Plan ahead or just go at the spur of the moment, be happy with the tales you bring back. Safe and Happy Roaming!