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Friday, March 29, 2019

Why You Should Take Your Kids to India





Have you ever wanted to visit India? To be honest, it wasn't high on my list to travel to as a parent. But then I heard the stories....the stories of gorgeous Goan beaches stretching along the Arabian sea, of the emerald backwaters of Kerala, the serene boat houses on Dal Lake nestled in the Kashmir valley with the mountains peaking behind, of the ancient hidden Buddhist caves elaborately carved out in a hillside. India suddenly seemed like more of a real travel destination rather than just a family trip back home. So we did it! We went to to India with the kids and LOVED IT. And we'll go back and here's why I think you should think about it too!



Why you should travel to India

  • Affordable(ish) Luxury: Maybe when you think of travelling in India you think of a backpackers adventure? But this mama is NOT backpacking - like ever. And if I am surviving a 14 hour direct flight with 3 kids and overcoming the jet lag, then I want to be resting my head in glorious comfort. India delivers! Five star hotels here are more like 6 star and many of them don't have the price tag of what a five star hotel has elsewhere(just don't confirm this with my husband k?)
  • Family Friendly - Indian culture is based on family, and children are a central part of that. No one blinks an eye when kids are being kids, they are allowed to just be kids, at least in most places. This makes travelling with kids so much more relaxing(ish).
  • Diversity - India has so much diversity: language, religion, traditions, geography. It has something for everyone. With 23 official languages (with hundreds of different dialects), history dating from the stone ages, six major religions (Hinduism, Islam, Sikhi, Christianity, Buddhism, Jainism), mountains, beaches, bustling cities, farms, and the dessert (and even more), there really is something for every traveller. 
  • Tourism Infrastructure - India is a huge country both by size and population and is the 6th largest economy in the world with tourism being a huge source for that growing economy.  Opulent hotels( some are converted palaces! Like the Taj Lake Palace), convenient transportation options, local tour companies and guides and 37 World Heritage sites, discovering India has never been easier.
  • Educational: Travelling with kids is one of the best educational experiences to give them, and a trip to India is most definitely one that educates the whole family.  It's a land of fairy tales and history coming true, whether you visit the Taj Mahal or go see real forts and palaces in Rajasthan. But it is also a country that will humble you. You may see a home that can be mistaken for a palace and right beside it a mud hut with children running around, happily playing. It takes a lot to get used to seeing the dichotomy of the haves and have-nots here, but this is what makes India what it is, and what impacts your soul most.


You can stay in a Palace in the middle of a lake -for real.

Are you convinced yet? If so, here's some things that you should know when planning your trip: (and if you aren't convinced yet, just go here  and here for some more inspiration)


What you need to know:

  •  You need an Indian Visa. For Canadians, its not that big a deal, but the process is a bit of a pain. So start the paperwork once you've booked your flight and follow the instructions exactly.  This link is a good place to start.
  • Flights: India is far from Toronto. It's not necessarily an easy journey. We opted for a direct flight of 14 hours on Air Canada. We wanted to just get there. No epiphanies here about the journey. In our case it was all about the destination. 
  • Cash is king: while credit cards are widely accepted, we used them only in 5 star hotels and restaurants, boutique shops and government emporiums. You can exchange your dollars for Rupees at the airport.
  • Plan and book your itinerary: sounds pretty basic right? India isn't really the kind of place you show up and say - hey lets see where it takes us. I mean you could, but with kids it's not something I'd be confident enough to do. It's a VERY large country, and one that you won't be able to see in one trip. From the mountains, to the farm fields, to the busy bustling metropolis, to the desert, rice fields, beaches, to small villages and religious sites - there is A LOT to see. I came up with our itinerary starting with 3 main regions we wanted to see, and then worked out the logistics about transportation and hotel stays using my travel concierge at American Express. I also contacted a local travel agent in New Delhi to give some suggested itineraries and to book a private tour guide for the Taj Mahal.
  • Transportation: Indian streets can be chaotic. People, buses, cars, rickshaws, cattle just going on their way. But when using a taxi or auto-rickshaw (which is cheaper), use their meters instead of a fixed rate (we learned the hard way). Or pre-negotiate a set fare for a cab that you want to use for the whole day. We found the hotel concierge and bellmen to be helpful with this.
  • Food & Water: bottled water is your safest bet, and easily accessible. Five star hotels all have filtration systems and can provide safe drinking water to take with you on excursions. Food wise: you need to try as much as you can to enjoy the true flavour of India! But stick with cooked food and fruits and veggies that you have to peel, unless they are prepared in 5 star facilities that use a filtration system to wash their produce. 
  • Health: visit your doctor before you go and make sure everyone is caught up with their vaccinations.  We didn't have to worry about malaria pills (thank god!) when we went in March, but we were fully stocked with bug spray and all of the over the counter medications that we know and use here. While you can get everything in India, the names are all different, so it was easiest for us to bring what we knew. Also consult The Centre for Disease Control and Prevention for up to date information.



Have you ever travelled to India with your kids? What tips would you share to make it a memorable trip?
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