x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 21 January 2018

Travelling with Kids: Our holiday helper

When Calvin was born and our decision-making process went from an easy match-destination-to-budget affair to match-destination-to-baby drama.

There was a time when deciding where to go on holiday used to take about a minute, childless and fancy free as we were. That was more than nine years ago. Then Calvin was born and our decision-making process went from an easy match-destination-to-budget affair to match-destination-to-baby drama.

The nightmare lasted several years, from finding child-friendly hotels to desperately trying to slam shut suitcases overflowing with baby gear. There were occasions when I refused to put in my husband's stuff, mostly comprising a toothbrush and a pair of shorts, on the grounds that we still had to buy and fit in a nappy pack on the way to the airport.

But things have changed now. For one, Calvin, crazy as he is about travel, is always part of our "where to go" discussion. He's a wealth of information, since most of his reading features Lonely Planet (and the odd Roald Dahl or Wimpy Kid for light relief). It's quite handy to have someone who can reel off, say, a list of must-see attractions in Kuala Lumpur or historic sites in Beijing. He's also happy to browse said travel guides and mark hotels for us to consider, although he does tend to veer towards the swanky kind.

Second, he loves flying and knows his airlines pretty well, so he's able to make useful contributions towards researching flights online. And because he knows his aircraft inside out - he can squint up at the sky and tell you whether the plane flying overhead is an Airbus or a Boeing - he can quickly figure out seating configurations and tell me with authority which seats to book.

Third, he loves the experience of new cultures and cuisines (he'll try anything once), and enjoys looking up restaurants serving local food, enthusiastically jotting down their names on our "when we get there" list. When I returned from a recent solo trip to Austria, Calvin made me describe the cuisine in detail, then spent hours searching for images on the internet to go with my descriptions. He even got me to cook kaiserschmarrn (after about a week of constant nagging), a dessert of shredded pancakes dusted with powdered sugar and served with berry preserves and fresh fruit. It is now his second-favourite "anytime dish" (after sushi, which he'd do anything for, because his mum finds it too fiddly to make).

Lastly - and this is his most important role in our planning - he believes in travelling light, just like his dad. Which means that all he needs are a few changes of clothes, his travel books and, only because I insist on it, spare socks. He watches like a hawk when I pull the suitcases out and makes sure mum isn't sneaking in unnecessary items. This makes my husband extremely happy, because nowadays there's plenty of room for his toothbrush and shorts.