Travelling with kids: Living with Limited Mobile Time On A 10-day Road Trip

Picture this  – 4 adults, 2 rowdy pre-teens (8 and 5 respectively) and a 10-day road trip from Gurgaon to the Spiti valley and back. This is our tale of survival – from their boredom.

We are the new-age parents – the ones who decided that one’s enough for the two of us and that we can easily do a back-packer version road trip, without loading in tons of visual stimulants (read apps, phones, films and more) through it all. We decided to do it with the bare minimum – capitalising on the no-signal zone from Tabo onwards.

Our Spiti Valley trip was a journey which broadened my horizons and satiated my senses. It was also an epic exercise in patience – especially against the dreaded question, “Are we there yet?”

The Spiti Valley journey

Spiti valley journey

Road trip to Spiti Valley. (Image: Gaurav and Vidhi Gaur)

Our June journey to the Spiti Valley (find the travelogue on Coins & Maps), was an exercise in patience for both the children and the adults. Why? Restrictive spaces and explosive temperaments!  For 10 days, we bundled up as six adults and four children in two SUVs – driving at a breakneck pace till we reached the next halt.

This also meant keeping the kids occupied through the car journey as we barely had the time for frequent halts. The fact that we had already told the kids that we were in a no-phone zone had to be adhered to as well – wouldn’t do much value for our words, if we were sneakily eyeing our own screens, right?

Here’s how we managed it:

  1. The trash bag doll dresses

Bin liners as children's playthings (Image courtesy: San Fransisco Chronicle)

We discovered that children, when left to their own devices, made playthings out of anything – seriously anything! The two girls, aged 5 and 9 coveted nothing else except these black bin liners which we had pocketed for the journey, especially to keep our ride somewhat clean.

These bags ended up shredded beyond the tiniest pieces of black polythene in a bid to create bustiers, sarees, dresses and shorts for three long-suffering Barbie dolls. Additional shreds went into creating hair-ties and headbands, wristbands and waist-ties.

2. Stone collectors

Children collecting stones on the sidelines of our Spiti Valley road trip. (Image courtesy: Vidhi and Gaurav Gaur)

As we travelled from Narkanda to Spiti, Tabo and Kaza, there were innumerable points in the terrain where we were stuck owing to landslides, potential rocks and blastings. Then, there were the scenic points on riverbeds and ravines where we just had to stop, marvel (and shoot a few selfies).

All these stoppages left the three builders visibly miffed and annoyed. So, what do we do? We asked them to become stone collectors instead. The trio picked rounded pebbles and jagged shale to their heart’s delight, set on creating a rainbow set of nature’s goodies to take home.

We obliged with bags, thankful for the change in temperament.

3. Plain old fights

When all else fails.

We handled fights on who gets to sip water first, who sits in the boot (with the luggage), who gets the trash bag first, whose view is better, who can sit in her ma’s lap and even who can stay awake longer.

There were also those on who got a piece of biscuit first, why does X do something that Y doesn’t and why was the sun so bright. We heard it, we heard it all, we refreed them and we survived. Phew!

4. Homework attempts

One of our kids had a book to read, the other had worksheeets to fill. The book was hastily downloaded on Anybooks (wonderful app for ebooks BTW) and the other child was encouraged to pick up the sheets whenever there was a fight (see above) or nothing else to do.

Did we succeed?

We were able to cover 4 pages on the books and some doodles on the sheets. In fact, one of our halts on the way back, a nature retreat camp in Kalpa valley, Kinnaur had a library with a few kiddie books, We had a better success rate on those books than the assorted homework.

In the end, tired and drained by cranky kids and the pace of our journey, we decided to give in, with half-hour intervals on TV time on screens. A video film blared in car 1 while we mums handed over our phones on the way back from Narkanda to Chandigarh to the kids.

Have any of you had better real-life luck on your long road trips with kids? If yes, do hit me with a note in the comments below. I’ll take notes from it!

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