We had travelled several times before with our oldest daughter Ishana, 4, and she was a fuss-free traveller, well, mostly. But last June was the first time we travelled as a family of four, with our little raucous daughter Eashta, 1, in tow.
The wife and I had different views on where we should go. Adventurous me wanted to fly 18 hours to Disneyland in Los Angeles, California, whilst my cautious wife (also known as the sensible one) wanted to go somewhere closer.
We eventually settled on Australia ― it isn’t too far away, is extremely child-friendly and we’d had a wonderful holiday there a couple of years before. We booked our tickets and excitedly started planning a 12-day holiday covering Adelaide, Kangaroo Island, Sydney and the Blues Mountains. A trip that extensive also meant travelling not only by planes, but also trains, cars and a ship.
What happened? Without giving too much away, let’s just say one of the best things that came out of our experience ― besides the beautiful memories — are the life lessons arned. Here are my three rules to how to execute an over-ambitious (and some might say crazy) trip with toddlers, and survive to tell the tale.
“When you’re realistic, you realise that a holiday isn’t just about you and your spouse, but also about your kids. They are human, too.”
Rule #1 Don’t be too ambitious
We’ve all read about adventurous couples who take their kids ― sometimes even a newborn baby ― on jungle treks, desert safaris or an around-the-world trip. But if you are ordinary parents, like us, it’s wise to be practical.
A 12-day holiday across Australia sounds spectacular on paper, but in reality, this also means that the parents (meaning the husband) having to carry all that luggage across Australia, too. Needless to say, it’s an extremely tiring experience.
I still remember the day we landed in Sydney. As we were unable to get a cab, we had to rush to catch a train. The train station was about a 10-minute walk away, so I strapped Eashta to my chest on a carrier and lugged all the baggage UPHILL, with the wife and Ishana following closely behind. In the end, we got the train and I decided I was fit enough to sign up for Justice League.
When you’re realistic, you realise that a holiday isn’t just about you and your spouse, but also about your kids. They are human, too. A toddler is not going to have any fun being strapped in a car seat for two hours while you drive from place to place. It bores them, makes them cranky and ruins the experience for them and, in turn, for you.
Rule #2 Be flexible
If you think rule #1 is for weaklings, fair enough. But be ambitious and flexible as well. Don’t just rely on plan A, make sure you always have a plan B, C, D and Z, if you have to. This way, if unexpected things happen, you will have some leeway to make alternative plans and change things up a bit.
After driving in South Australia for some time, we had planned to fly from Adelaide to Sydney and then drive to the Blue Mountains.
Sounds like a solid plan, right? But you know what they say. The worst enemy for the best-laid plans is often a toddler. While we were driving from Kangaroo Island to Adelaide, Eashta decided she was going to scream the entire four-hour trip.
I had to navigate winding rural South Australian roads, metropolitan Adelaide peak-hour traffic and sing Wheels on the Bus 300 times, while dealing with her tantrums in the back seat. Who said men can’t multitask?
“Sounds like a solid plan, right? But you know what they say. The worst enemy for the best-laid plans is often a toddler.”
When we reached the hotel, we collapsed on the bed and switched on the television to find that Sydney was experiencing its worst rain storm in years and it was expected to go on throughout the weekend. We were supposed flying to Sydney the next day, then drive to the Blue Mountains.
Realising it might be exhausting and even dangerous to drive under such weather conditions, we decided to cancel our car and take the train instead. It was a decision that paid off because Eashta fell asleep on the train, so we had a peaceful, scenic journey to the Blue Mountains. The bonus was that it barely rained while we were in Sydney, so we got to take in the sights of the really majestic Blue Mountains.
Rule #3 Be patient
This rule might seem intuitive, especially for a parent, but is probably the most difficult to follow. When kids act up in public, which they usually do, it’s easy to get angry or embarrassed because of the eyes that follow you and the disapproving whispers you hear.
The important thing to do during those moments is to stay calm and ignore the rest of the world in spite of how bad the tantrum or crying fit is. The truth is, people can be judge your parenting skills unfairly, since they don’t realise the constraints you’re working under.
I cannot begin to explain how much embarrassment we felt when Eashta and Ishana threw tantrums when we flew from Adelaide to Sydney in a cramped aircraft. No part of it was unnoticed by everyone on the plane.
Although Ishana was easy to placate using books and crayons, Eashta refused to settle down. I ended up having to carry her to the back of the aircraft where the air crew shot me caustic looks because I had encroached into their personal space. It was obvious all they wanted to do was gossip about the grumpy passenger in seat 4B.
Yes, the trips had its ups and downs, but I have to say it wasn’t all that bad. There were moments when the wife and I couldn’t wait for it to be over, but at the same time, we still fulfilled our aim of visiting different places and enjoying various experiences. We will always treasure those memories.
So, the best life lesson we learnt during our holiday was that it’s not the place or the length of the trip that matters, but the fact that we were able to spend quality, yet chaotic time, with our kids.”
Photos: Thiagesh Menon
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