How did I find myself travelling in India with kids?
Rewind back even just to the beginning of the nineties and you didn’t see many foreign children on the beach here in Goa – but now travelling in India has become so much easier and hotels and restaurants welcome families with open arms. Sunset time and you see babes-in-arms and teenagers enjoying the beach and the waves.
Ruby on her sunset walk at Arambol beach
Traveling in India with kids - the beginning
So in 2012, I was pregnant with my first child Ruby and so happy to be bringing up my family in Goa. In 2009, I had left my life in London as a fashion buyer for Urban Outfitters and started designing my own range with Fumie and selling direct at the fantastic Saturday Night Market. Then both Fumie and I were pregnant and designing our raw silk square tops to make breastfeeding in public easier. With a few conscious adjustments and compromises, bringing up children or travelling in India with kids is simple and rewarding.
Fumie and I with Ruby, Shion and Max
India is a very child friendly place and over the past few years, I have gotten to appreciate even more the abundance of nature that the children get to experience each day… not only the beach and rock pools of north Goa but the banyan trees, the jungle, the wandering cows, clucking chickens and chatty monkeys that you find all over Mama India – it really is Nature’s playground.
Ruby Climbing the Banyan Tree just by our House in Goa
We launch our first children’s collection inspired by our girls and our love for natural fabrics. This first kids collection is mini versions of four of our favourite styles in the FARA collection. My daughter Ruby’s favourite piece was the kimono as her chosen name is ‘Ruby Sparkly Rainbow Princess Kung Fu Master’, while Fumie’s little girl Shion was in love with the more girly Frill Dress.
The girls with their FARA Raw Silk Kimonos they designed.
As a regular visitor to India for many years, I have naturally learnt a few things along the way about travelling in India with kids. As a long term resident of north Goa, I've been able to have hosted friends who have brought their children over on holiday too. Happily, there is also a well established, conscious ex-pat scene and, some amazingly innovative schools and friendly local doctors and dentists that make living in Goa as enjoyable and idyllic as it sounds.
Here are my top tips for travelling in India with kids.
What to Pack?
Essentials for travelling in India with kids
Bring the tried-and-tested medicine from home that you know works for your child, rather than playing roulette with new brands. For my kids, I always bought baby Nurofen and Calpol for fevers; savlon (the dry spray is good for little cuts on tiny toes if they are in and out of the water) and gripe water for Max when he had colic - although alternatives in India are available.
There is a fantastic ayurvedic (Indian holistic medicine) and homoeopathic pharmacy called Union in Mapusa (see location here); this is a great place to stock up on homoeopathic treatments and creams. My friend Alexandra who is an acupuncturist with a 10-year-old daughter here swears by the Apis Meluca cream and globules for insect bites; arnica cream is great for bruises and they have a good homoeopathic starter kit which is a great travel set. Naveena who worked as a midwife here in Goa for many years recommends a travel kit including Nux Vomica (sickness), hypericum (cuts), arnica (bruises) and aconite (for the onset of colds). And for stressed-out mums, there is always Rescue Remedy! My all-time favourite solution is Kailash Jeevan – an ointment for every cut, scratch, pimple, unidentified sore or rash! It’s available in most general stores as well as pharmacies. People buy it by the armload to take home with them. Calendula powder is also available at the pharmacy for prickly heat or other rashes.
Baby wipes and nappies are horrible for the environment, especially in India where the garbage is such an issue… but I know as a traveller it's very hard to not use them unless staying put for a while. I used washable nappies with Ruby, but I did have my own washing machine, but the holy bum spray also is a godsend for horrible poo situations!!!
Rehydration salts (or dioralyte) are essential for keeping your kids hydrated – there are some orange flavoured ones here but I found the black currant flavour ones in the UK went down much better with both my kids. We also swear by coconuts! Wherever you travel in India they are readily available on most streets and markets and there is nothing more fun than trying to find the biggest one in the pile!
Max only drinks Giant Coconuts!
TOYS AND STUFF
Naturally you are not going to leave the front door without your child’s favourite teddy, car or blanket – certainly, bring your kids favourite stuff. You can get plastic beach toys, buckets and cheap boogie boards in many of the general stores but again we do try our best to stay away as the quality is bad and they just end up in the dump. And if you're travelling in India for longer stints or Christmas vacations Amazon.in is fantastic. I also try to look at what the locals are selling, we bought Ruby and Shion matching Indian dresses, adorable and they became Indian princesses for the day (week)
It might sound obvious to say buy sunscreen – but although we used to be able to buy known-brands in Goa, often the sunscreen available these days is not of the same quality as it is at home, so stock up on creams and lotions for the kids and your self. If you run out don’t panic, you can find it and you could always avoid the sun at peak-times, which we highly recommend.
Ruby and Shion hand in hand on Paradise Beach in South Maharastra
Travelling in India with kids - Getting around
Got little ones? Taxis will very rarely have access to a car seat so if you are planning to do a lot of travelling you might want to invest in one – you can order on Amazon India if you don’t want to bring one long haul. Roads are lumpy so pushchairs can be an issue, although it’s great for sunset beach walks; probably best to invest in a comfortable baby sling.
Travelling by train in India with kids
We have travelled around India on the train many times with our children, its actually really fun, my top tip for that is to take snacks for them, the food can be not to all children's liking, if it is a sleeper train ensure you take warm clothes, the AC can blast and become really chilly.
You’ll probably be bringing extra luggage if you are travelling with small children! Don’t worry every train station has a porter… and hotels will always help you with your luggage. It costs roughly 100rs for a porter at the station.
Flying to India with kids
Before you fly – book a bassinet well in advance of flying long haul. Few flights go directly to Goa, so you will probably be flying into Bombay (or Delhi first) – consider breaking the journey and staying overnight near the airport to avoid too long a day. Jet Airways have a very luggage friendly allowance of 46kg per person; however most Indian airlines do not provide great kid-friendly food, I always pack a lunch and treats for my kids when we’re flying, and my new top tip is to pack kids headphones, the ones provided drive my kids mad. If you are transferring from International to an Indian domestic line though check the baggage allowance as a lot of the domestic carriers have a stingy allowance and you might need to pay for extra luggage.
Travelling in India with kids – What to Expect
This is not like Starbucks, waiters here will occasionally take your child off your hands (if you approve) to show them how chapattis are made in the kitchen or teach them to make pizza, or simply walk them around the restaurant if they are crying.
Get friendly with the locals
Cheek pinching… the locals have no qualms with getting physical with kids cheeks – but if you (or more importantly your child) is not up for this… just let them know.
What is your good name?
People here are super friendly and tend to ask a lot of questions, but you are not obliged to answer them all. Practice the same kind of awareness at the beach as you would wherever you take your kids – it’s a really safe place but you always need to keep your wits about you.
Ruby loves to visit the Drum circle in Arambol
We designed our large scarves and square tops for exactly this purpose while we were pregnant! It is totally OK to breastfeed in public here but wear a shawl or scarf. In the west we are advised to feed our children up to six months old but here in India it is quite normal to see a child of 2 years still breastfeeding.
Travelling in India with kids – My Kids’ favourite things to do in Goa
Goa is a full Nature immersion and I’m not just talking about frogs in the bathroom or geckos on the walls! My kids are at their happiest when they are in the sand or in the jungle…
Ruby and Max beach exploring
For little kids, the beach is the best playground. There are lifeguards and in the beaches of Mandrem and Ashwem – a wide beach with the shallow sea (only just after monsoon be aware of riptides). Also be aware that as lovely as Keri beach in the north and Agonda beach in the south are – the shelf falls away very quickly and is not so safe for little paddlers. There are starfish and rock pools and you can go out dolphin watching.
Ruby as captain on a recent trip to spot dolphins, we saw 4 that day
On the beach, all dogs with a clip in their ear have been sterilized and vaccinated against rabies by International Animal Rescue or WAG Welfare of Animals in Goa). Maybe best to give other dogs a wide berth.
For bigger kids, Vaayu in Aswem offers kayaks which is a great family outing on the river (www.vaayuoceanadventures.in).
Going inland, towards the order with Maharashtra, my favourite places to take my two are the beautiful Redi Fort where the jungle has reclaimed an old fort – it’s a great place to explore. What kid doesn’t love a fort?
Ruby nad her friend climb the roots or Redi Fort
In Arambol you can do a short jungle walk to a beautiful Banyan Tree via the Sweet Water lake and mud bath. And in Mandrem, there is a banyan tree so large that you’ll often find a cricket match going on beneath its branches.
Rahul Alvarez offers bird and wildlife walks (www.rahulalvarez.com) or go into the Western Ghats and stay a few nights at the beautiful Wildernest – there are morning wildlife walks, a stunning infinity pool and amazing local food (www.wildernest-goa.com). For less jungley wildlife, head to the petting zoo at Goa’s Ark in Anjuna (www.goas-ark.com) - there is a lovely play area and many animals to meet.
If your kids want a rest from all that wildlife and nature and they love to dance and sing– there are ballet classes, capoeira and Thai boxing classes at Tito’s White House in Anjuna.
There are swimming lessons at Jungle Dance in Arambol – and you can stay there for lunch or evening performances and support the children's charity that also operates out of here.
Yogi Arts School RIP
Also in Arambol (if you are thinking to come for the long haul) is the Yoga Arts Centre – kindergarten and school – a sanctuary for our children using arts, yoga theory and nature to bring up the kids. Built by the ex-pat community in a small coffee shop and now a fully operational education centre (www.yogiaartcenter.com). ( Sadly the Yogi Arts School closed in 2020).
After traveling in India with my kids on so many adventures, I love watching Max and Ruby grow up here in sunny North Goa – inspired by nature and plugged into an international community. It’s a great playground and education alike. Ruby, Shion and Max have experienced more than we could have dreamed, we are truly blessed.