India... With Child

Great tips to make international travel a success.

India is amazing, complex, and incredible. All the brochures and guides you read before a trip just somehow don’t seem to nail the explanation. Someone told me long ago that it’s just something you’ve got to see and experience for yourself. I learned this firsthand to be true when I visited with my husband daughter. Traveling so far with a child in tow is not easy, but it’s absolutely doable and worth it!

My travels have been beyond extensive, in all sorts of places, and I will tell you that the level of hospitality in India is on an entirely different level. It is intuitive, gracious, discreet, and genuine, and it really must be experienced to be believed. It’s natural. There’s something beautifully courteous in Indian culture that I believe is innate and cannot be taught.

My family and I only saw a small cross section of India, which goes on for thousands of miles through a myriad of subcultures, customs , languages, and landscapes. India should be experienced multiple times; in fact, one may need years to fully complete the journey! For busy families short on vacation time, however, taking an initial trip is great. When you’re ready to go, there are some tips to keep in mind.

I debated for quite a while whether or not to bring my daughter who was age 3½ at the time. My husband and I have been taking her around the world with us since she was weeks old, but because the itinerary we had planned was somewhat aggressive, I (for the first time ever) had some reservations. I trusted my instincts, though, and we brought her, which was completely the right decision. Here are my tips to do India right with a child in tow!

Tip 1: Choose the right partner to handle your booking.

VIP services, such as having a priority greeter at the airport upon arrival at 3am and swiftly passing through customs, is priceless. Being able to bypass enormous lines, getting your luggage transported ahead of time to your next hotel destination, and having a top-quality vehicle to ride in for the very long drives make all the difference.

Tip 2: When it comes to hotels, go luxe or go home.

Hotels in India can vary drastically between 4 and 5 stars with regard to services and atmosphere, but the upside is that 5-star hotels can be surprisingly affordable. They often have all of the amenities you need to travel comfortably with children. My picks in Delhi are the Aman and the Leela Palace. Check out Aman for it’s understated “wow factor.” It’s best feature? A private patio pool for endless fun for jet-lagged children day and night. The Leela staff couldn’t be more welcoming, even taking great care to drop off a welcome basket filled with refreshing snacks and magazines for families.

The same rule goes for trains, as rail travel is a large part of an Indian adventure. Travel only in the first class sections, which are entirely inexpensive and replete with friendly vendors passing through the cars constantly selling snacks, tea, and just about everything else you can think of. Standard trains here are not lavish, but seats are slightly bigger than the average airline economy seat with plenty of legroom, power outlets all over the walls, and decent storage space for a small bag.

Tip 3: Get out and explore out of your comfort zone.

While Delhi has no shortage of interesting historical sights and a Taj Mahal visit is an absolute must, I find the most intriguing areas for children are found off the beaten path. My family was treated to an authentic puppet show at a fair one day, and the next one, we wondrously observed people at peaceful prayer, offering blessings to the skies. Another day, we met the top “color blocking” artisan in the modest factory he’s used for decades. We also reveled in the simple but new-to-us sensation of dizzying rickshaw rides.

A tiger safari is also quite phenomenal at Ranthambhore National Park. The Aman-i-Khas resort is the perfect option for families wanting to explore this nearby wildlife sanctuary. The hotel staff welcomes visitors with refreshing drinks and cold towels. You’ll stay in a luxury tent complete with 5-star hotel amenities and enjoy food prepared by chefs who can please parental palettes while satisfying children’s preferences for treats like hot chocolate and pizza. The safari drives can be lengthy, but they’re so worth it. If you do happen to capture a glimpse of the elusive tigers, you’ve got bragging rights for life.

India is amazing. Don’t try to figure it out all at once. Just go with the flow with eyes and mind wide open, and you’ll be treated to one unforgettable adventure.