Category Archives: Indian Travel

My Must-Have List of Gear for Traveling Internationally with Kids

must have gear for international travel with kids

For our upcoming trip to India this summer, I have put together a list of travel gear that we won’t leave home without!  Here’s our favorites…

The Joovy Ultralight Caboose Stroller is the best travel choice for a tandem stroller.  Last time we went to India we had just one baby, who was about 18 months old.  We left our stroller at home and went with a baby carrier instead. This time the tables have turned and with a 10 month old baby and a 4 year old, we decided that a double stroller was the best option for the airport.  Once we land in India, we will probably leave the stroller at home {unless we are going to go to a mall or someplace where the stroller would be useful}. We’re planning to leave the canopy and tray at home for a more compact fold.

Baggallini Crossbody Bag – I’ve been traveling through airports for many years now, and I always take a small crossbody bag for keeping tickets, passports and other essentials handy.  There is nothing worse than having to dig around for your passport or tickets while you are holding up a line of passengers behind you!  Now that we are traveling with a family of four – we have US Passports and Indian PIO cards to keep up with – it is much easier if I keep them all right with me, with easy access.  The bag is small enough that once we are safely on board the plane, I can slip the whole thing into one of our other luggage pieces, or I can keep it across me for safety.  I usually don’t keep much cash in my bag, I would recommend a money belt for lots of cash and extra credit cards.

Littlelife Baby Backpack Carrier – We have the Voyager S2 Model of the LIttlelife Backpack Carrier.  We used this on our last trip to India – and it was wonderful!  While I’ve decided to take a stroller for the airports, a stroller within India isn’t very practical {depending on where you are going} the sidewalks are generally uneven, and crowded. As a fair-skinned baby with a “foreign” mother, our little girl got lots of attention.  Sometimes it can be frightening for a young child, and the best part of this carrier, was that she was up high – away from prodding hands! The only downside is that it can be hot for the person wearing it {my husband in our case}. Ours goes up to 44 lbs – which means that our daughter {who is now 4} can still ride in this.  It also works for our son who is just 10 months old.  While we probably won’t be offering our daughter any rides in it – it is nice to know she can still fit in case she gets too tired to walk on any of our excursions where the stroller wouldn’t be appropriate.

ERGObaby Carrier – we will be tossing one of these in our checked-in luggage, and might use it in the instance where both kids need a ride or if I go somewhere without my husband.  While the Littlelife carrier is adjustable and fits me, I feel more comfortable using the ERGO if it is just me.  However, I would say it is easier to load a child into the Littlelife Backpack Carrier than the ERGO {especially our wiggly baby boy!}  Given our son’s personality he will do better in the Backpack Carrier because, he prefers to be on his own and have a bird’s eye view of what’s going on vs. strapped tightly to Momma. But the ERGO is light and portable and will be nice to have as an option if we need it. {Plus my daughter is still able to fit in this as well! You never know!}

Northface Happy Camper Backpack – Our daughter is old enough to carry her own backpack full of goodies, but a full size backpack is still too big for her.  I also wanted a backpack with a chest strap so that she wouldn’t have to fight with it falling off as we rush through airports!  The Northface Happy Camper is a great size for preschoolers, but still big enough to hold a good amount of “stuff” {including full-sized folders – a great option for preschool or kindergarten!}.  I have quite a few ideas for activities and surprises to fill her bag with for the airplane ride.  {details coming in a future post!} Our son isn’t quite walking yet – but might well be by the time we travel – so I also have one of these that I’ll throw in our carry-on luggage, in case he wants to toddle around in the airport terminal.

BenBat Yummigo Booster/Bag – I’m super excited about this one!  On our last overseas trip, our daughter was in between being able to kneel in a regular sized chair and still needing a highchair or booster seat.  We decided not to travel with one, but I really wish we had.  Some restaurants in India have highchairs and some don’t.  For those that do – the chairs are often well used, and not too hygienic! Believe it or not, we are trying to limit our luggage for this trip… so I didn’t want to waste space with a regular travel booster, but the genius thing about the Yummigo Booster is that it opens up like a suitcase and has tons of storage inside.  Basically, if we are going out to a restaurant in India {or to someone’s house for a meal} we will use this as his diaper bag.  There is plenty of room for diapers, wipes and his food/sippy cup.  I also plan to use it at my in-law’s houses, since they don’t have a booster or highchair at home either.  I look forward to seeing how much use we get out of this product on our trip.

So that’s my list of must-have baby gear for international travel.  I’ll be sure and update you with details and photos of all of these being put to good use on our 2 month trip to India!  Have you traveled overseas with kids?  What makes your top list of necessary baby items?  Have you used anything from my list?  I would love to hear your feedback and thoughts!

International Celebrities

Surprise, Surprise!  While we were in India on our recent trip we woke up one fine morning to THIS in the morning issue of The Hindu newspaper!  Actually my mother-in-law woke ME up at 6 in the morning to show it to me!  I know it was breaking news and all, but I could have waited another hour or so to see it…
We had attended a deaf rally the day before.  (Although we almost didn’t make it, the three of us were traveling to the rally with a cousin’s family and we had a flat tire on the way there!)  My MIL works as an English teacher at a local deaf college, and they were thrilled to have our whole family attend the “International Day of the Deaf” rally.  I suppose we were the “International” part, which is why our picture showed up the next day.  I have to say it isn’t the most flattering picture, because they stopped us and asked us to smile and show the sign for “I Love You,” but they had us facing directly into the sun, so I was squinting!  
We had a good laugh, especially because they cut my husband out of the pic, and only his hand is visible.  When Miss A saw it, we asked her who was in the pic, and she said her name and pointed to herself, then she said “Momma” and pointed to me, then she said “Da-da” and pointed to my husband’s hand!  At which point, everyone cracked up.    
We also showed up in a local Telugu paper, they were kinder, because all three of us were there, although in their photo my husband was in the middle of Miss A and myself.  
What do you think, were we “news worthy” or just a spectacle?!  (I tend to think the latter…)

Recap, Lessons and Tips Traveling in India

We’re home!  We had a month-long holiday and visited 4 different countries including India, France, Belgium & The Netherlands.  There is so much to catch up on!

Here’s a start:

  • We toured through 6 different cities in India with 12 family members.  Even with tons of advance planning, it was a logistical nightmare!  Husband and his older brother were both stressing to keep everything flowing smoothly.
  • Miss A was the center of attention, since it was the first time she was meeting most of our Indian family.
  • We were stopped by random people so they could take photos of Miss A.  She especially got lots of attention when she was riding in her red baby carrier backpack (pictured above). 
  • We highly recommend a baby carrier as opposed to a stroller when traveling to India.  Much more convenient.
  • We had mostly good health while traveling.  Miss A came down with something the morning we left for India.  She ran a fever for a couple of days and had a cough and runny nose, but it took care of itself within a few days and she was perfectly fine the rest of the trip.
  • Jet-lag – we knew what to expect for ourselves, but this is the first time we’ve traveled this far with a baby.  She was up from 2am – 6am several nights in a row that first week.  Wow that was ROUGH!  Then she would fall asleep in the late afternoon and the cycle would repeat itself.  Finally I made a rule that she was not allowed to sleep after 6 pm.  That did the trick. 
  • When we returned home we had reverse jet-lag.  It took almost 2 weeks to get Miss A back on a “normal” schedule.  We always find that jet-lag hits us harder on the way home.
  • Baby sippy cups: before reaching my Mother-in-law’s house, we spent a week traveling through India.  I was worried how I would safely clean Miss A’s cups. Every place we stayed had an electric tea kettle.  After washing with soap and a bottle brush (that I had brought from home), I just popped all the pieces of her cups inside and boiled for a few minutes. Worked like a charm.  But I sure was glad to get home to my dishwasher! (Well that and I let the maids take over a few times once we reached MIL’s house)
  • Milk for the baby: She’s been drinking whole milk for a while now, although at home we drink raw milk (more on that later!), but in India, especially while traveling, we used the shelf stable milk, called “tetra-packs.”  It is very different from what she’s used to, but she did ok.  Every time we got in the car, she would say “MILK.” So we carried it with us everywhere!
  • Carseat: No carseat for Miss A for almost one whole month!  MIL recently sold her car, because she really didn’t need it for just one person, so we were in taxis most of our time overseas.  Carseats aren’t the norm in India, and in fact, when you are sometimes cramming more people in a car than there are seats, it would be considered very “wasteful” to have an entire seat just for a baby!  She got used to me holding her while we were in the car, but she didn’t complain once we got home, which I was a little concerned about.  
  • My PIO card practically paid for itself… I got into all the tourist attractions for the Indian rate.  Example: Taj Mahal – ticket price for foreigners is Rs. 750, and for Indians it is Rs. 20!  Brilliant!
  • Things in India don’t cost what they used to!  We were constantly reminded of that fact.  My husband has lived in North America for over 6 years now, and our last trip to India was in 2007. Big difference.  We were most surprised at hotel prices and taxi prices (although we had been warned!)
  • When you have been hearing Hindi for 3.5 weeks straight, you will forget all the French you ever knew upon landing in Paris.  You will freeze when trying to think of how to say the number “4” and your Indian husband will upstage you (because he already knows like 5 languages, so what’s one more???) and he will proceed to order all the croissants and charm the socks off of the French people. (True story!)
  • We travelled “light” only 5 suitcases going there and 7 coming home.  Never. Ever. Again.
  • We had to catch 3 trains to get from Paris to Amsterdam.  7 suitcases. 2 backpacks. 1 baby.  Never. Ever. Again. 
  • Contrary to popular belief we did not pay excess baggage for our international flights.
  • However, when traveling domestic inside of India it would have been cheaper to buy Miss A a seat than pay for excess baggage. 
  • When your brother-in-law is a high ranking officer in the Indian Army, he can summon “men” to come and collect the excess baggage and deposit it at the final destination, saving tons of money on excess baggage.
  • Forget taking toys – an iPad does wonders to keep a baby entertained on long flights!
  • Next time we go to India, we’ll probably have baby #2, but we are taking only what we can carry in our hands or on our backs.  I am determined that next time we will travel light!
How about you?  Any recent trips to India or plans to go in the near future?  Any advice you would give someone traveling to a “Desi” country?  Special tips on traveling with a baby or small children?
I would love to hear your input!
Want to see a few photos from our recent trip?  Click here to view my Flickr photostream.

India Trip Preparation: Indian Visas & PIO Card – Check!

Our India trip planning is in full swing!  I think planning and looking forward to a big trip is half the fun!  Although, everyone knows nothing ever goes according to plan… Interestingly enough, we have had several friends and family interested in coming along with us to India.  At this point it looks like my parents and aunt will be joining us for part of the trip (they won’t be able to stay as long as we will).  So one things that is of utmost importance is for everyone to secure a visa to enter India.

As I mentioned earlier, we applied for a PIO (Person of Indian Origin) Card for our baby, Miss A. When we got it back in the mail, I was surprised that it wasn’t a card or even stamped in her passport like a visa – but it looks just like a mini passport.  The cover is a lighter color than regular Indian passports, and there are only a few pages inside, but it looks just like a passport.  It is valid for 15 years. I’m sure she’ll just LOVE the cute little baby photo when she’s….oh, say 13 years old!

I am also planning to apply for my PIO card (I’m eligible since my husband is an Indian citizen).  My current visa expires this year, so I may as well go ahead and get the PIO before they decide to change the rules or something!  It is more expensive than a regular tourist visa, but because there is a chance we will move back to India at some point, it makes sense for me to go ahead and get it now.  Check out this post if you are interested in learning more about PIO cards.

My family applied for 10 year tourist visas – they decided they might want to come to India again in the next 10 years (they’ve already been once before – but just had 6 month visas at that time).  We learned the hard way don’t take for granted that you will get the visa duration that you apply for – my aunt and mom got 10 year visas, but my dad was only give a 6 month visa.  You never know what you will get.  Its too bad he will have to go through the whole application process again for the next trip.

Next step… buy tickets!  We’re hoping to splurge a little and have a fun layover for a few days somewhere in Europe on the way back.  We’re thinking Paris – can anyone say “Oh-la-la?”

Passport Applications

You know you’re in an international family when…..
Your daughter isn’t even born yet and you have already printed out applications for her passport and Indian P.I.O. Card (Person of Indian Origin).
I know, probably a bit OCD, but I hate the idea of not having her passport and Indian visa in hand as soon as possible. You see, two years ago, my father-in-law suddenly passed away in India, and we had to leave at the drop of a hat. Only problem? After being married at that time for 2+ years, I had finally decided to mail off my passport to get my name changed. So we got the call on a Friday night, and needed to leave on a Sunday morning in order to get to India in time for the funeral. We hadn’t checked the mail yet that day, so we rushed to the mailbox, only to find it empty. The passport had to come the next day, or I was staying home – and I really couldn’t bear the thought of sending my husband alone in that state of shock!
Want to know the coolest part of the story? A couple of weeks earlier, when we had finally quit procrastinating and decided to send off my passport application to get my name changed – something prompted me to ask my husband if we should pay the rush fee to get my passport back sooner. Honestly, other than living near the Canadian border, there was no logical reason I needed my passport. But he quickly agreed that we should pay the extra money and rush it back.
After we got the news that Friday night, I tried calling to check on the status – or at least find out the wait times… all to no avail. So, the next morning, we got to the post office at 8 am – the time when they leave to start delivering mail. We happened to catch someone near the back door and after some begging, managed to convince her to check for us – I was never so relieved in my life, than when she came back out of the post office holding that envelope with my new passport inside. What a relief! We have to admit that it was God’s hand that not only, made us send off that application and put the rush fee on it, but also got it back to us at the last possible minute.
So needless to say, I am very convinced that I need to apply for the baby’s passport without delay. (although at this point, I’m not planning to pay the rush fees!) Once her passport is in hand, we’ll send off for her P.I.O. Card. I was actually confused whether or not she would be eligible for an O.C.I. Card (Overseas Citizen of India). So I emailed the consulate – they were very helpful and replied almost immediately. It turns out that unless my husband becomes a US Citizen and he himself has an O.C.I. Card, she cannot apply until she reaches the age of 18. Good to know! If you’re not sure on the ins and outs of P.I.O. vs. O.C.I. Cards, check my earlier post, or this link.

Photo Thursday: Kodaikanal and Indian Hill Stations

This photo was taken in India – if you didn’t know better, you might think it was taken in the Pacific Northwest (where my husband and I currently live!). This is actually a hill station in Tamil Nadu, India, called Kodaikanal. “Kodai” as it is affectionately known, is a great vacation spot. To reach Kodai from Bangalore, we used to take an overnight train ride, and then have a driver meet us at the station, we would then drive to the top of the mountain, all the while counting down the “hairpin turns” left until the top (literally there are signs that say “hairpin turn #22″). There are many hill stations, located all over India, traditionally places where the upper class escaped the heat of the summer. Now they are a favorite for vacationers, tourists, and honeymooners. There are always great activities in the hill stations, including biking, hiking, horseback riding, boating, and of course shopping!
The photo above is me and my future husband (on either end of the group) along with several friends. We were exploring some of the places that are “off the beaten path.” Can you guess what happened next? Lets just say that my future husband was trying to show off a bit too much and ended up all wet!
Other great hill stations to check out, Musso0rie, Ooty, Ladakh, and more!
Have you visited a hill station? If so which one? Is there one that is on your list of places to visit?
More great scenes from India and other places in Southern Asia coming every Thursday.
Don’t forget to, check out my Flickr photostream for more great photos. You can also buy poster-sized prints of some photos featured in Photo Thursdays in my Zazzle shop.

Romantic Destination: India

Valentine’s Day is fast approaching, and in case you haven’t caught onto the romantic mood, I thought I’d present you with a little inspiration. I know several friends who are going on trips to India over the next couple of months. Others are planning for a visit within the next year… In case you have any time in between having tea at all your Aunty’s houses, and bargain shopping, why not take a night or two for a romantic holiday from your “holiday”?
Waaay back in 2004, when I lived in India, I went on a short trip to Delhi, and met up with two friends. We decided to do a bit of exploring, and hired a driver and went on a three day road trip. We went to Jaipur, and had a fabulous time. That city is so full of history! On our way back to Delhi, we had arranged to stay at a grand fort-palace – which has been turned into a hotel. Built in 1464 AD, Neemrana Fort-Palace is now open to the public – and an amazing spot for a romantic destination in Rajasthan. At the time I visited, I was single, but I remember thinking that I’d love to return for a honeymoon one day. So far, I haven’t been able to take my husband, but hopefully one day I will!
Some of the attractions are:
Rooms range from Rs. 21,000 – for the Deva Mahal (Palace of the Gods) – which includes a Luxury suite, 2 bathrooms, study, dining & large terrace – To Rs. 2000 for the Gopi Mahal (the Milkmaid’s Palace)! (I stayed somewhere in between those two extremes!)
If you’d like more information, visit the website for Neemrana Hotels. (They have a total of 15 “non-hotel” hotels across India to explore as well) Be sure to check out the fabulous photos and the 360º tour as well!
P.S. Even if you don’t plan to stay at the hotel, you can pay a fee and tour the hotel on most days.

Anyone ever visited Neemrana hotels or any other romantic South-Asian destinations?