Going that extra mile

Planning is pivotal when travelling with children, but sometimes you need lady luck on your side too.

MA, I want to wear my boots. I don’t like these slippers,” my daughter Sanyuktha wailed, sprawled out at the doorway and clutching her favourite toy.

“Sham, please fill Pavan’s thermos. There’s no more hot water. And I think I left his milk bottle upstairs; we need to get it washed again. Also, please throw down a few more diapers while you are there,” my husband ordered, pretending to be busy with the car.

As I stood there in the midst of the chaos, trying to figure out which issue to address first, the baby scurried away, deciding it was the right time to venture out through the back door.

This is the general scene when we are heading out to basically anywhere; be it to buy groceries or on a holiday. Failure to pack essential items (read: baby formula, diapers, water bottles, a few pairs of Sanyuktha’s shoes; the list goes on) may result in a few U-turns or a very stressful voyage. We are forced to take into consideration the individual needs of both rulers of our hearts if we intend to travel with minimum disruption. So, I tried to come up with a strategic approach.

I usually divide my packing into two categories – things to pack for the car ride and things we need at our destination.

We have made enough mistakes with our firstborn, and we are now expert packers. Still, the trips are rarely stress-free.

Recently, we had a disastrous trip, and I blame fate.

Tired of the concrete jungle and also due to Sanyuktha’s relentless pestering (“I want to go to the beach, I want to go to the beach”), all of us set out for Port Dickson. It was meant to be a day trip, so we did not book any hotel room.

The preparation was unbelievably smooth, even though we did start out a bit late. I packed a picnic lunch for us, threw in a few changes of clothes, bath towels, crammed in Sanyuktha’s beach toys and her comfort pillow and my son’s travel bag.

It’d usually take about two hours to reach Port Dickson from our place. What blew us out of the water completely was spending an extra three hours on the highway, stuck in a massive jam. Soon, we had a rebellious 10-month-old kicking up a fuss at being confined in a small, moving box when he wanted to get out and enjoy the fresh air. Running out of options, I traded the toys for CD covers, travel chargers, smartphones. My husband even offered his precious Ray Ban. Once the DVD player that we fixed in the car to allow my daughter to watch cartoons while on the road lost its appeal, Sanyuktha started whining, complaining that she wanted to build sand castles.

Soon, everybody was starving. So, the next chance we got, we stopped and had our picnic lunch at the nearest R&R stop. It wasn’t that memorable, but I doubt anybody cared. Once recharged, we hit the road again, hoping the long line of crawling vehicles will inch ahead faster.

As fate would have it, it was pretty cloudy that day. As we neared the exit at the highway, it started to drizzle. It did not stop even when we reached at the beach. There was no way I was going to let the kids get wet, so I turned to my husband and said, “Why don’t we put up here tonight so they can play at the beach tomorrow?” He agreed.

We knew it would be difficult to get a hotel room without a booking during the school holidays. It also turned out there was an important event happening in town the next day, and all the hotels were fully booked. There was only so much planning we could do. We didn’t stand a chance against the traffic, a state event and the weather. So, we resorted to having a hearty seafood dinner before returning home ... without ever setting foot on the beach.

All was not lost, the writer and her kids just had good fun in Malacca. Reader response can be directed to star2@thestar.com.my

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Going that extra mile


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