Don't let a precocious child wear you out on holiday. Christine Iyer shares her strategies for entertaining a nine-year old on the road.
Travelling with kids: preparation beats boredom
The trouble with travelling with children is that boredom can easily set in (for the kids, I mean, not the adults). I've lost count of the number of holidays during which our nine-year-old has whined, complained or plain mutinied - all on the grounds of having nothing to do. I don't blame him, really. There's nothing more frustrating than being stuck in a tiny hotel room with your irritable parents when it's pouring outside and the TV has only two channels, both in a foreign language.
But this time, I'm prepared. Coming up next month is a week-long trip to Goa, and my "beat boredom" list is full of stuff that will keep Calvin - and his parents, if it comes to that - well and truly occupied.
First things first: plan well, and don't overlook the small details. For one, never underestimate the value of a carefully packed tote bag. Calvin's will have the usual stuffed tiger, compass, drawing book and airline guide, but I'm also going to throw in a travel-size Scrabble set (which he enjoys but pretends to despise), a colourful map of Goa borrowed from my parents, and a pair of child-size but powerful binoculars bought at Toys R Us for a mere Dh15.
Next, we've picked a quality hotel, right in the centre of Panaji, Goa's capital. I have several friends who enjoy living out of a backpack with their little ones in tow and don't mind taking things as they come, but I have found that a good night's sleep in a comfortable bed in a clean, mosquito-free room usually makes for a happy, easy-to-manipulate child in the morning.
We've also made sure our room rate includes that most mundane but often overlooked essential: breakfast. It means Calvin will be well fed before we start our explorations and, secondly, it guarantees access to all the coffee we can drink before heading into town with a hyperactive boy who tends to disappear the minute our backs are turned.
Goa, thankfully, offers a lot that Calvin can (figuratively) lose himself in: the historic Immaculate Conception church, the state museum, the treasures and tourist tat at the flea market in Anjuna, long stretches of beaches and green fields everywhere, and the delectable seafood-based cuisine.
A quick check of the weather forecast reveals mostly clear skies and a slightly cooler climate the week we're going, but Goa can be notorious for unexpected shocks of the rainy kind. That's where those cheap binoculars come in - I'm hoping they'll be a handy diversion in our swanky but small hotel room whose window commands a view over the fast-flowing Mandovi River with its barges, boats and the occasional kingfisher.