Tag Archives: Travel with Kids

A Sixteen Year Old’s Perspective On What Travel Has Done For Her

By Sathya:

“The joy of life comes from our encounters with new experiences, and hence there is no greater joy than to have an endlessly changing horizon, for each day to have a new and different sun.” Christopher McCandless.

Travel is the ultimate source of happiness in my life, and has been since I was ten months old.  My first airplane ride was an international, 17 hour flight from Mumbai to Newark.  As I grew up, while most parents let their kids travel the world through Disney’s Epcot, I was exposed to it all firsthand.  From exploring the cultures of Cambodia and Thailand, at the mere age of five, I was impressionable and absorbed as much of the experience as possible.  Starting at such a young age till now, I have been exposed to other customs, and have been guided by my mother on safe travels.  Embarking on these journeys has put a level, enriched and aware head on my shoulders to help guide me through everyday life.  The joy in my personal life enhanced through world travel has changed my horizon to be a more culturally empowered young woman with an enriched appreciation and understanding of world culture and diversity.

Traveling always brings a sense of fear, but overcoming the moments of anxiety are what make lasting, positive impressions.  Self-protection, caution, and responsibility are necessary traits when exploring unfamiliar parts of the world.  At age 13, I was in charge of my 11-year-old cousin, as we raced ahead of our parents to climb Mt. Vesuvius.  That same year, while navigating through the Tokyo subway, I ran ahead of my mother and sister, Siddhi, eager to catch the stationed train.  Disregarding my mother’s shouts for me to slow down, I found the goal of catching the train far more appealing.  Finally, feeling accomplished I dove into the car just as the doors shut swiftly.  I let out a breath of relief, but shock quickly took over me. My mother and sister were staring frantically at the train, seeing me trapped on the other side.  Luckily I had jumped into the first car and the conductor soon saw my mom waving her hand trying to get his attention, and he immediately opened the doors.  I instantly ran into my mother’s arms and clung to her as a wave of immense relief flooded through me.  The severity of the situation hit me soon after.  A series of possible dangerous situations overwhelmed my mind, “What if she hadn’t been able to get to the train driver? Would anyone have helped me?”  I was in a foreign country,  I did not speak the local language, I had no cellphone, and I had no clue as to what I should have done if the driver had not stopped the train.  Later my mother explained how important it was, especially overseas, to make sure I stayed close to her at all times.  Furthermore, she told me how if this were to ever happen again, I needed to get off at the next stop and wait for her to come find me.  Although this experience proved to be frightening at this age, I gained clarity and insight.  I had let my excitement land me in a potentially dangerous situation, and from that point on I can say that I’ve become empowered and stronger in my sense of self-control and patience in frightening situations.

Every country has its unique customs and cultures and people who see the world in a different light than others.  Obviously there are certain elements of danger in every area of the world. I’ve seen many dangerous boroughs in cities; the red light district of Amsterdam, the favelas of Brazil, places that I would not have liked to stray through for too long.  Naturally, traveling as three women around the world, my family has often heard, “aren’t you afraid for your safety without a man traveling with you?” more times than we can count.  Despite this, our trio has been more than capable of exploring nooks and corners of cities from Cairo to Hong Kong.  One incident that we encountered on our travels stands out more than others in leaving an imprint on my personality.  In Istanbul, Turkey in the Summer of 2011, I began to understand how each country had differing opinions of a woman’s place in society.  In Turkey, I heard a comment so shamelessly stated that I had to turn around to make sure I had heard the man correctly.  As my mother walked hand in hand with Siddhi and I (who were 12 and 17,  respectively), through the streets of Istanbul back to our hotel, a boy in his 20’s approached, asking if my mother would sleep with him.  I was absolutely shocked at the boy’s smirk, a smug grin plastered to his face as his friends chuckled from the side of the road.  My mother did not let the comment faze her, as she continued pushing through the crowd, avoiding eye-contact and any facial expression that would reveal her disgust, pulling us along with her.  Later, a few blocks past the boys my mother first tried to explain to me that they were simply asking if we wanted a free hotel room.  Siddhi and I simply raised our eyebrows and my mother realized we knew exactly what he had meant.  I learned that day, that not everyone held the same beliefs about women.  I had heard of “ roadside romeos” before, but I never thought I would experience their shameless acts.  In some areas, woman unfortunately have to restrict what they say in order to not attract unwanted attention.  As horrible as what that man said was, it opened my eyes to a new side of the world, a world with disrespect.  I gained a dose of reality and also became more conscious of the wrongs in the world that I may have overlooked previously with my naive outlook.  This practical knowledge made me smarter, more attentive, more alert, and more aware.

I have explored so much of the world in my short 16 years, and plan to continue to do so.  The encounters in each country and dealing with other social settings have molded me into a more well-informed young woman who is mindful of her actions.  From observing the fear of Tibetan monks afraid of Chinese oppression in their own homes to kids joyfully melding work and play on the streets of Cambodia, the many shades of humanity never cease to amaze me.

“The very basic core of a woman’s living spirit is her passion for adventure.” Christopher McCandless.  My journeys have taught me this and will continue to weave distinguishing characteristics into my personality as an empowered young woman.

Disneyland during Christmas: It’s Possible

By Rohan:

There really is no better way to spend quality time with your family than a visit to a Disney theme park. Charming scenery, adorable characters, and pulse-pounding thrill rides make the trip worth the often exorbitant price tag. A Disney park is beautiful every day of the year, but on Christmas, Imagineers have their chance to shine. The holiday theme makes familiar amusement parks into the perfect Christmas getaway… as long as you don’t mind spending it with thousands of people. The harsh reality of Disneyland during Christmas time is the fact that it is a popular destination for families worldwide, attracting record-breaking crowds and forewarning a miserable day. However, we were able to do it.

Step One: The Right Place to Stay

While some websites recommend that you stay at a Disney resort to enjoy all the amenities they have to offer, the fact of the matter is that time is precious during the Christmas season. We recommend checking out some of the hotels that are just outside the park campus. The Embassy Suites and Anaheim Marriott Convention Center hotels are two great options, especially if you’re traveling with kids.

Most of these hotels are considered “Good Neighbor” hotels, in that you can buy your tickets on the spot and catch a free (or very cheap) shuttle right to the main entrance. Goodbye hectic theme park parking! You won’t be missed!

Make sure you buy a Park Hopper pass, allowing you to enjoy both Disneyland Park and Disney California Adventure. Many people do not believe it can be done in one day, but it’s very manageable. Especially if you’re staying at one of these convenient hotels.

Step Two: Your Day at the Park

Make sure to get to bed early the night before. It’s going to be a lot of walking and you will have to get up much earlier than you probably want to on vacation. We suggest taking a bus that leaves around 9 or 9:30 in the morning. Here comes the real game changer: when you arrive on park grounds, go to California Adventure first, then Disneyland Park. For those of you who are unaware of the Anaheim Disneyland Resort, California Adventure has more thrill rides and family attractions based on popular Hollywood blockbusters. Disneyland is the iconic theme park complete with Sleeping Beauty’s Castle, Space Mountain, and all your other favorites.

If you get to California Adventure on time, expect little lines on all your favorite attractions including:

  • Tower of Terror (30 minute wait tops)
  • Radiator Springs Racers (GET HERE EARLY and snag a fast pass before they sell out. This is California Adventure’s hottest attraction and you may have to come back late at night to ride. But it’s totally worth it so don’t miss out!)
  • California Screamin’ (15-20 minutes)
  • Grizzly River Run (5 minutes)
  • Toy Story Midway Mania (30-40 minutes) — you might need a fast pass here too depending on the time of day.

At around 4:00, head back to your Good Neighbor hotel and take a relaxing break. At around 6:00, head over to the Disneyland park. While most people are heading over to California Adventure, the crowds at Disneyland park are much more manageable. At 6:30, catch the tree-lighting ceremony on Main Street, then head to your favorite attractions, including:

  • Big Thunder Mountain Railroad (30 minutes)
  • Buzz Lightyear Astro Blasters (10 minutes)
  • Space Mountain (20-30 minutes)
  • Splash Mountain (5 minutes)
  • Matterhorn Bobsleds (25 minutes)
  • Tomorrowland Speedway (10 minutes)

At the end of the day, head back to California Adventure one more time to hit up Radiator Springs Racers. And voila, you’ve done it!

Good Places to Eat: 

  • Cucina Cucamonga (California Adventure)
  • Main Street Bakery and Cafe (Disneyland Park)
  • Boardwalk Pizza and Pasta (California Adventure)
  • Cozy Cone Motel (California Adventure)

Traveling with Kids – A Way to Raise Global Citizens

Where do we go next?

By Lakshmi:

If you have not guessed already, I live for my trips.  Since the days we could, my husband and I have always taken whatever points we had, adding on to work or school travel to experience the magic of new places ranging from Paris to Penang, Hawaii to Hong Kong, Singapore to San Diego…..all done on bare minimum budgets, but done nevertheless.

So, when we had kids,  curbing our travel did not even cross our minds.  Instead, a choice to get bumped on a trip to Paris when I was pregnant, resulted in enough airline dollars to subsidize a trip to Amsterdam when our little one was barely five months old.  Several months later, a family wedding found us making a trip to India…with our kid screaming the plane down at landing due to severe ear pain.  That should have taught us a lesson, to maybe wait till the kids were older to take trips.  Instead, we reasoned differently….what is 10 minutes of screaming in a trip that lasted over 18 hours?  Not much, and if that was the worst we had to endure, we would just take our chances.  And off we trotted to destinations near and far, sometimes with incredibly supportive infrastructure and at other times with people glaring us down like we had no business traveling.

Early on, we learned one secret to traveling with kids, travel light, rely on local sources of food and entertainment and do not look like you are taking your kids room on wheels for company.  Sure we had to scramble in the Netherlands for baby formula without reading dutch, find medicine for an ear infection in Phuket  , etc….but the interesting thing is we knew we could manage, the kids could survive and with this confidence we marched on.

Fast forward many years and trips later, and our kids tell us that our biggest gift to them has been the exposure to so much at a young age.   A few years ago, my sixth grader opined happily that she felt good experiencing four great civilizations that were being discussed in history class.  My ninth grader at that time was so deeply touched by her visit to Tibet that it formed the foundation of her college essays many years later.  Besides being the “cool” ones in school because of their travels, the real benefits according to them have been the joys of visiting a new place, learning more about the world around them, appreciating people, foods, languages, signage, ads, cultures and most importantly to have a voice based on experience.  Henry Miller once said, “One’s destination is never a place, but a new way of seeing things.”   And for the kids, their trips made them view so many things in a new light.

– Roaming freely in Cairo and Alexandria months before the Arab Spring and then seeing all the protests and arrests and deaths on TV hit a new note of reality.

– The ability to tread in the Dalai Lama’s Summer and Winter Palaces as foreigners, and recognizing that the Tibetan leader could not be a visitor to his own homes

– Being on the beaches of Chennai and Phuket months before the Tsunami and knowing first hand of the damaged areas

– Reading about an earthquake in Hawaii, soon after we left….the list could go on and on.

The younger one waits for Time magazine every Saturday to catch up on world events and the older one just like us starts her day with visits to a plethora of websites to get the news of the day from not just the CNN perspective, but a multifaceted one.  Of course, they could have always become curious individuals, but we do believe that the trips that they have taken have promoted a level of growth and maturity that no book or education by itself could provide.

So, our little words of wisdom to parents out there, get out with your kids.  It does not have to be exotic….just some place that is just a tad bit different, with people who bring a new perspective to sow that little seed of curiosity that you can nurture over a lifetime.