When Delhi resident Seema Bansal packed her bags for an outdoor trip with her husband and their two children last month, she knew this was not going to be a holiday where a call to the room service was enough to fix things up.
The long and winding road trip based out of a campsite in a village near Kulu demanded a lot of cycling and marathon treks. Normally, such a holiday might appear to be a nightmare for a young married couple with two children under seven years of age, but the Bansals thought otherwise.
“My son Dhruv, 3, is carsick. So, my husband and daughter, Anushka, 6, drove from Delhi, while I took my son up to Chandigarh by flight before joining them,” said Bansal, a management consultant. This halved Dhruv’s travel fatigue and enabled his father to driver faster without taking frequent stops.
The Bansals belong to a small, but growing tribe of young parents experimenting with family holidays beyond the all-inclusive travel brochures.
From road trips to the mountains to backpacking across a country, this travel segment does not rule out such holidays because of children on board. Fed on the growing demand for such vacations, a new crop of travel companies are offering tailor-made assistance to Indians travellers looking for tips on uninhibited breaks with children. “We have set limits to our children’s travel thresholds based on our own inhibitions,” said Preeti Chima, a fitness trainer-cum-travel planner, who conducted the trip at Tirthan Valley.
Five couples with children aged below 10 were also part of this adventure trip with the Bansals.
Chima said the trips could include a laundry list of essentials, depending on the dietary habits of the children. “Many parents pack anti-nausea pills for children with motion sickness, but a few know that it should not be popped after a meal.”
The planning for such trips becomes crucial, particularly on foreign trips owing to the paucity of local knowledge about the place.
“I could not find answers to questions such as what do diapers look like in Japan, where can I buy them, or how do you find kid-friendly bed and breakfasts in New Zealand?” said Kaamna Bhojwani Dhawan, founder of Momaboard, a travel blog-turned portal offering advice solely to vacationers travelling with children.
The six-year-old blog started by Dhawan after her son was born, transformed into a family trip planning service on September 22. The company has engaged local mothers at 32 destinations across the globe providing local information for tourists — largely parents from San Francisco to Singapore. Among Indian cities it has a ‘mombassador’ as the representatives are described in Delhi.
There are similar travel companies such as travelmama.com, started by Colleen Lanin, the author of the Travel Mama’s Guide and totstotravel.co.uk founded by Wendy Shand.
Shand started the company, which provides family-friendly villas, in 2006, two years after her infant fell in an unenclosed pool.
While most of these websites are based abroad, similar ones started in India offered rudimentary advice, travel operators said.
“A Google search for ‘kid-friendly restaurants in New York’ yields 84 billion results. The same search on a popular travel advisory portal yields 317 results. The problem is clear: parents are overloaded with too much information from too many unverified sources,” said Bhojwani, also the chief mombassador of the service.
Travellers have to fill in a form with specific requirements on the Momaboard website. This includes dietary requirements, budgets, interests, special needs and pet peeves, among others.
The need for such rich advice has been steadily growing, said travel experts.
“Our reviews saw at least 30% year-on-year growth on travelers looking for tips on holidays with children,” said Hari Nair, founder and chief executive officer with HolidayIQ, an online travel community that offers reviews on destinations and properties among other travel essentials.
He said the company’s in-house research also found young parents are the most ‘voracious researchers’ when it comes to planning a holiday. “We come across some cases wherein young married couples were found contemplating taking an elderly member of the family on such trips so that the mother gets a break.”
Recent surveys have also established the significant influence children have in the planning of a family vacation in an Indian household.
For instance, 68% travellers recently polled by another travel advisory site, TripAdvisor said they took their children’s suggestion while planning a holiday, although they take the final decision.
“The survey findings also indicated a majority of the parents keep an eye out for destinations that help in enhancing the children’s knowledge, learning and overall intellectual development,” said Nikhil Ganju, country manager, TripAdvisor India.