We think of a family vacation and we immediately think of air plane bookings or train journeys. How about planning a road trip in India which will give you and your kids to experience unparalleled landscapes like lofty mountains, serene beaches and rustic countryside? Agree, travelling by car doesn’t give you the speed of the air plane or comfort of the train, but then you don’t have to worry about sticking to a schedule or missing the flight/train. You don’t have to think twice about carrying extra luggage (however keeping it to a minimum will ensure more mileage) or your pet along with you. We have taken several road trips in India by car with our daughter. Here are 6 tips to help you plan a road trip in India with your kids.
Decide your route: We have Google Maps but even they don’t work if your phone is experiencing a bad signal. It happened to us once. We lost our way during a night travel and there was no petrol pump or dhaba in sight.
You can download the maps offline. However, it’s advisable to do some prior homework. Find out about the quality of roads through consulting best sites for road trip planning in India, road trip groups in India or talk to people who have travelled on your route before.
Check traffic and weather conditions: Find out if there’s a local festival in that belt which would mean more traffic. While coming back from Dapoli (near Ratnagiri), we took the more scenic coastal route. The roads were butter-smooth and the landscapes one of the most awe inspiring, but we lost quite a bit of time due to traffic congestion. We didn’t check beforehand that the Olive Ridley Turtle festival at Velas was taking place during that weekend and hence more people on the road.
Also, last year we made a road trip with our daughter during the cyclone Ockhi in early December. There was hardly any traffic, but the visibility was very poor. It takes a very good driver to drive in such conditions.
Avoid traveling in the night if you are unfamiliar to the region or always stop at veritable dhabas or restaurants in the night.
Take breaks: Take a break every 2 to 3 hours. It not only gives you the opportunity to stretch your legs, but kids will also benefit from running around and burning off some energy. Our daughter was 8 months old when we took the first road trip with her. I was nursing her at that time and we didn’t really feel the need to stop. She was fine throughout the trip except at the end, when she got cranky. We later realised, we should have taken a break. You can plan your breaks at a highway dhaba/restaurant with a playground, coffee store or a place with a scenic view.
Be flexible: With kids, you can’t be a stickler for time or cram too much into your itinerary. Kids will want to go to pee or potty at the most inopportune times or like it happened once with my daughter she wouldn’t get off the swing at the highway restaurant we had stopped to grab a bit, might disrupt your schedule. Plan for a slower and more realistic pace.
Explore the local flavour: While you have carried food from home, it is a good thing to stop at highway dhabas to explore the local flavour. We have tasted some awesome makhnis and dal tadkas in such obscure dhabas. While traveling on the Mumbai-Surat NH-8 during the winter, we came across makeshift bamboo stalls selling steamed seasonal vegetables with spices. These vegetables are cooked in sealed earthen pots which are placed over wood fire in a pit. And while travelling to Nashik during the monsoon, we got fresh roasted bhuttas (corn on the cob) and giant cucumbers from the roadside vendors. However, be extra cautious not to eat salads or uncooked food at places where you are not sure about the hygiene.
Things to carry while travelling by car: Think of the road trip as a form of picnic. Here is the checklist for Indian road trip:
- Picnic baskets which are easy to carry and practically anything can be dumped in it.
- Water bottles (we avoid buying bottled water during the journey for environmental reasons) from home.
- Fruits and snacks that are easy to eat and don’t create a mess. Cheese-potato sandwiches are ideal and so are pancakes, chillas and idlis. For a toddler, think of finger foods, Cerelac, etc. Your kids can be hungry at the most unforeseeable times and you wouldn’t want to waste time looking for restaurants on highways.
- Paper napkins, paper plates, spoons, garbage bags and wet wipes.
- We had been gifted a car seat organizer holder that can hold books, crayons, bottles, etc. You can carry multiple things for your child which will keep him occupied during the travel. Carry playing cards, Uno, snakes and ladders, puzzles, etc. that kids can play in the car. Once they are bored with it, you can always play Antakshri, Name-place-animal-thing – remember how many hours we used to play this as a child?
- Store the latest hits or the songs that your kids love on your USB flash drive. On one road trip, my then 3-year old daughter insisted on playing the same song in a loop. By the time we came back from the holiday, we had an overdose of the song and till date, we refuse to listen to that song again.
Car essentials – Things to check in car before long drive in India:
- Driving license and car’s papers/PUC, etc.
- Extra car keys.
- Check your vehicle’s vital fluids and whether spare tyre is ready for use.
- Cash in lower denominations for tolls and loose coins to buy peanuts or tamarind at the toll booths.
- A stole can be versatile – you can cover a sleeping child or put it on the window to avoid the sun.
- First aid kits, flashlight.
- A change of clothes for kids, especially if there are babies or toddlers on board.
- Now, while car seat is not mandatory, using one would be exercising caution.
- Sleepers or clogs for the car. They are comfortable and easy to slip on.
Note: This post has been inspired by fellow blogger Rachna’s post on 15 tips to help you plan a summer road trip. This is not a sponsored post. All the link mentioned above are for the purpose of helping the reader.
Hope you liked the post on 6 Tips to help you plan a road trip in India with your kids. Do share your valuable comments or your road trip stories in India.
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