We really don't think we are qualified to give advice on how to travel with kids. Every child is different and every family is different. So what works for one may not work for another. So this page is more of a collection of what worked for us and what didn't and not a series of dos and don'ts for you to follow strictly on your travel.
We are South Indian vegetarians. We have only one kid - a son. He is prone to motion sickness and is a low to mid functioning autistic. If you share any of these descriptions/background, you will find this page more useful than other parents. If this page actually inspires anyone with an autistic or a motion-sick kid (or any kid for that matter) to travel/not give up travelling, we will consider our effort a resounding success!
In case any of you have any advice for us, please share them with us. This page is more of what we tried to make a trip work with our kid. It need not be the most optimal way we could have gone about doing it. We would not know any better if you guys don't tell us about it.
Here is a summary of things that worked for us
Since our son has motion sickness, we keep the driving to the minimum. We make sure our flights are direct and we restrict ourselves to city sightseeing. A typical itinerary would be flying to a new city, take a hotel at a central enough location and tick off the sights in the city. The typical trip would be about 8 to 10 days long.
From age 3, on the day we fly, we give our son an anti-motion sickness tablet. Half an Avomine generally is enough to keep his tummy quiet.
Flights of 3 hours or less seems most optimal. Anything more has given us problems keeping our son (and his tummy) quiet. This also means we don't have too much of a jet lag when we land at our destination
We generally plan nothing on the day we land and the day we return. We try to stay as close to the downtown/attraction as possible. Once we land, we pretty much walk to all the sights or keep it to a short taxi ride. In India auto-rickshaws work the best for us. It never induced motion sickness. It is not fast enough!
We make sure we keep our son's sleep time and meal times the same as at home. Till he was two, this meant taking a giant stroller and ensuring that we are in a museum type setting where he can sleep peacefully while we can still continue sight-seeing. After two, this means coming back to the hotel during noon time to put him to sleep. Sometimes I take off to see a couple of lesser known places that my wife isn't keen on during these afternoon siestas.
Here are the list of trips we took with our son. In order to give it a context, I have also added a few of his major milestones in the list. I plan to add a link to each of these trips and in there, I will describe the day-to-day events focusing on our son. This is not a full fledged travel journal as I don't plan to describe what we saw/did that day in any great detail. If you happen to go to the exact same places or a similar place especially with a child of a similar age, (we hope) you would find these journals more useful than the summary above. These write-ups are based on meticulous notes that my wife had jotted down in her journals:
Jan 2008 - Birth of our son (we were living in California, USA at this time)
May 2008 - (Memorial day weekend) Driving trip to Santa Barbara, California (3 days)
Mar 2016 - Assam (10 days): Pranav stayed with his grandparents and did not join us for this trip
Sep 2016 - Tamil Nadu (10 days): Pranav stayed with his grandparents and did not join us for this trip
Oct 2016 - Himachal (12 days): Pranav stayed with his grandparents and did not join us for this trip
Nov 2016 - Bengal (10 days): Pranav stayed with his grandparents and did not join us for this trip
Before I am done, I would like to add that overall our travels have gone more hard and restrictive after our son was born. If you want a quick answer to the question as to whether kids affect travelling lifestyle in a negative way, it would be yes (purely from our experience). Yes, there are families that have taken amazing journeys. But we would like to stick our head out and claim that they have (like us) travelled "despite" kids and not "because of" kids. But it is not all doom and gloom. Here are some of the things that have actually improved because of our son.
We end up spending more time at one place and thereby end up seeing/enjoying more than what we do otherwise. You will never run out of things to see/do (at least in a big city). We spent a week in Delhi and that gave an opportunity for us to discover two wonderful museums - Craft's Museum and the Doll's Museum. If we had done the trip when we were just a travelling couple, we would have budgeted a couple of days in Delhi and would surely have missed these two gems (at the very least!).
We also spend a lot more time at a given site. We have done plenty of roll down the window, click a snap, drive away view points/monuments. At the end we are left with a bunch of "did we actually go there" pictures. We can no longer do that with our son. By letting him get out and run around the monuments and view points, we take in that much more of the sight and we really don't need the pictures to remind us how beautiful the places were. They are etched in our memory
Instead of staying in who-the-heck-cares hotels/shacks, we end up staying in better ones and sometimes discover some real gems. For example, we would have rushed lake Atitlan as an one-day affair from Antigua. Since we had a kid, we ended up staying at the lake's unique La Casa del Mundo for couple of nights and anyone who has stayed there would know how much better that is when compared to a rushed one day trip.
When I was travelling solo, I had a lot of opportunities to talk to the locals and meet fellow travellers. After starting to travel as a couple, these meetings became less frequent. People don't tend to barge into a personal space of a couple as often as they do with a solo traveller. That changed after the kid. Somehow people don't mind entering the personal space of a young family. Sometimes it could be irritating. But most times, it is a welcome chance to chat with a stranger
I used to be most scared when I was travelling as a solo. I had all the time in the world to read the "Dangers and Annoyances" section of Lonely Planet, look around in a cafe and notice the imaginary potential "con-men" etc. With a kid who needs constant attention, I no longer have the time to worry about anything else. Lets face it 99% of things I worried about never actually happened. Worrying about them did actually spoil my trip... a tiny bit.