The first time I traveled to India or outside US with my son was, when he was almost 8 months old. My husband also accompanied me on that trip as we were nervous first-time parents flying with a tiny human ocean apart. During that visit we only stayed in Delhi and avoided any local travels within the country. You can read my experience on taking the long-haul flight with a baby here. There are some tips, tricks and details that might help you plan your flight experiences with an infant.
This trip was planned almost 2 weeks before I booked my tickets, as I found the perfect travel window and dates to take leave from my work. My family was very excited to see Vir as they hadn’t met him since our last visit and was so eager to see him all grown up. With all the excitement also came a lot of planning.
I wanted to make sure we visited Mumbai, Kota and Delhi on these two and a half weeks visit, so my son can meet my immediate and extended family as well my in-laws. I wasn’t sure when I will go next, so I did my best to cover as much I could on this vacation.
The thought of travelling to India can often make parents filled with dread or awe or possibly with a combination of both. The last time I traveled my son got sick and lost a lot of weight, he even stopped breast feeding and it turned out to be an emotional experience to see my baby in that position. Yet I knew this is the perfect age to take him, as now his immunity was way better from going to the school and that now I had better control of his diet and hygiene. I followed the recommendations and tips from a Pediatrician on this post .
Booking flights for smooth travel
This is one of the most important steps to a stress-free trip. I booked our flights with Turkish Airlines from Houston since I wanted a red eye flight where Vir can sleep in most of the commute. I categorically stuck to this airline, because it was a 13-hour journey one way. I wanted to break the journey with a short 3-hour layover before we hop on the second flight which was another 7 hours to give us a break from flying while also not spending too much time at the airport. Also, since I had planned my journey within India to major cities Mumbai and Delhi, I booked my return tickets from Delhi. This fit perfectly in plan and dint have a huge difference in fare.
My Top Kid’s Travel Gear recommendations
For details on how I kept my son busy in flight, at the airports and on my Top items for travelling with kids read here
Preparing your toddler for the travel
Once I booked the tickets I started preparing Vir that he will be travelling with only mummy and going in a very big airplane to visit Nani, Mama and Mami. Every night I would talk to him about the fun he is going to have there from sitting in a train, to seeing some animals to visiting new places.
Repeating this daily helped him be mentally ready to travel without daddy, meet new faces and most of all be excited about the long-haul flight. This worked wonders as he didn’t shed a tear while my husband dropped us off. He was in a good mood at the airport spotting airplanes and enjoying the in flight experience on the way to India and this really helped me stay stress free.
My In Flight & Layover Experience during arrival and departure.
46 hours of flight travel is way too much especially if you are doing it alone. I was nervous and was really praying everything goes well. I packed extremely light and kept a small backpack for myself for all the necessities, a busy bag for Vir and a JetKids Bed Box for converting Vir’s seat into a bed and ditched the umbrella stroller. Read my full review here on the JetKids Bed box and Top items to travel with here
As we sat in our 1st 23-hour flight to India, Vir deleted the you tube app which had all downloaded videos!! Awesome I said to myself while fearing the start already but hey I had a plan B – The Busy Bag rescued me.
Vir hardly saw the Tv in flight although he enjoyed pressing all the buttons. He slept most of the way to Istanbul and then to Mumbai. I packed lots of snacks that kept him entertained and full. I got to use the restroom once in flight and asked an attendant to watch over Vir and changed his diaper on the seat only when he was asleep to avoid all the hassle. (I did the same while coming back too)
Both the times are layover was in Istanbul and although it was tiring to be out of the plane and go through another round of security. We stopped at Starbucks to have some snacks and at the duty free to buy him a car. The new car was a reward for good behavior and hope for keeping him occupied in the 2nd flight to our destination. This tactic worked on our return journey to Houston too.
Although on our way back Vir was more grumpy than usual, it seemed like his excitement for being in an airplane had faded away. However, I made sure we have ample number of videos and games on iPad to keep him busy. At one-point Vir was frustrated with the iPad and so I bought the WiFi in flight and allowed him to see some new cartoons. The person sitting next to me was kind enough to entertain him for an hour, so I could get a break from all the whining and it did help a lot!
How to overcome Jet lag with toddler
My only worry on this travel was jet lag and so I made sure we stayed longer in Mumbai for our first stop in the country to be well rested. It took Vir 5 days to recover and be back to a normal schedule. He would sleep at 6 pm and wake at 3am for the first 2 days. From the third day I started to push his sleeping time to 7pm, following by 8pm and 9pm and within 5 days he was started getting 10 hours of sleep at a stretch. His afternoon naps started off with 4 hours and slowly brought it down to 2 hours from day 3 of arrival. We tried staying in the sun most of the day. My brother’s society had an amazing open space, pool and play area for kids. In evenings we took short Auto rickshaw rides that my son was obsessed with. Staying active, eating sufficiently and really waiting it out with my son helped us overcome jet lag.
Honestly the first week I must have slept for an average of 5 hours daily.
Best way to travel within the country
Cars/ Uber/Taxis – I didn’t carry a car seat. And I don’t advice on not taking one. Please choose as per your comfort and discretion. We mostly took Uber within the country or auto rickshaws, carrying a car seat didn’t seem practical as we dint have our own car. My son sat in my lap and honestly it wasn’t as easy as I thought since we two weren’t used to it and he would try to stand up most of the time. I only traveled in cars when it was needed, but we stayed at home most of the time. If you are planning to travel to India for a long time and have your own transportation, pl do carry a car seat or buy one there.
Trains I love the Indian railways and I was so excited for Vir to experience it again. Vir has been lucky to experience the Swiss Golden Pass when he was one year old and now the Indian Railways. He just loved being in a train and watching the train tracks and engines pass by. We traveled by AC first as it was most convenient and safe from Mumbai to Kota. We took special care of sanitizing hands and avoided eating in train.
Adjusting to Co sleeping while traveling
My son slept on his crib since he was 3-month-old and we rarely co slept as that was the arrangement I wanted, due to my monthly work travels. This was the first time I traveled somewhere without worrying about having a crib or pack and play for my son to sleep in. I knew we were going to co-sleep and was looking forward to seeing how it went. Being a light sleeper, I woke up several times in the night when Vir moved, but within a few days we both were loving the cuddles and the idea of sharing the same bed. However, I can’t remember the amount of time I was punched and kicked while sleeping by a toddler!
Getting the kids back to original sleeping schedule at home
Once we were back, I made sure my son had the same routine. I sent him to school the next day and picked him up within 5 hours. It really helped get him back to sleeping at night for longer hours. I also kept the same bedtime routine of having a bubble bath right before he sleeps, our favorite story time and a body massage. All this prepared my son, that he will be sleeping back in his crib. Staying in his room and assuring him I am there helped him sleep in his crib from the very first day we came back. I stayed there for at least thirty minutes. He did wake up in the night and came to our room for the first few days, but I remained consistent and put him back in his bed. The key is staying consistent. Within five days Vir was back to the same sleep schedule of sleeping at 9pm and waking up at 8am.
Hope this post helps all parents travelling with their kids .
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Have a fabulous trip !!