By Deenaz Raisinghani
It is that time of the year again! Days are getting shorter and temperatures are dipping further. December is an exciting month as it signals the end of the year, and brings with it a lot of promises and plans for the coming year ahead. With schools shut for Christmas and New Year, asking for that annual leave from office sounds more legit than it would during other times of the year. While you may have already planned that New Year holiday with your family, there is no harm in considering these unique getaway ideas that may turn out to be more exciting than that annual family resort vacation to Goa. After a lovely trip over the last couple of weeks, the Backpacking Mama is back again bringing you readers some ideas that may compel you to consider including these plans in your holiday season list:
Spend New Year with those who need it
Have you ever wondered what the underprivileged and neglected sections of society do on Christmas and New Year? They probably do not have the luxury to spare a holiday for themselves or travel anywhere during this season. They often spend these holidays just like they would any other time of the year: by working! Try asking your domestic help and she would probably laugh at the concept of a Christmas lunch or a New Year trip. So why not introduce your kids to the idea of a socially inclusive celebration? This could include playing secret Santa and going to an NGO for underprivileged kids or old age homes. Spending the day with them and gifting them what you would normally gift your friends and family this season would probably double the joy of giving. Even if you do not have a big budget to spend on gifts for all of them, why not take a few of these kids along with yours for a picnic outside the city. Not only will they appreciate this once in a blue moon getaway, your children will also make new friends and learn a lot about appreciating and being content with what they have. Gift these kids the love of smiles and laughter of a family this season and you all will come back with a heart full of satisfaction.
Spend New Year in a stunning family-friendly destination
If your family is the kind that prefers to bring in the new year in a different destination, this is the perfect time to book that family holiday. The world is your oyster during this season as almost every country including ours has some form of celebrations this time of year. You are literally spoilt for choice with travel deals, holiday packages, destination getaways and what have you! From theme parks like Disneyland and Orlando, to Santa’s Finnish Lapland, to journeys on the famous Polar Express, your kids will obviously appreciate trips during this time of the year as cities are adorned in all their festive glory to welcome the new year.
From hearing the cathedral bells chime as you walk around cities in most parts of Europe, to visiting the Santa Claus village, reindeer farm and dog sledding in Finland, to witnessing the Osaka winter illumination festival in Japan which is so bright and decked up that it can probably be seen from the moon, there are loads of things you can do with family. In India too, you can choose between tourist destinations such as Goa, Kerala, Ooty, Assam, Manali, Andaman Islands and Rajasthan. However, do remember that along with your family, there will be millions of other tourists who will be visiting these destinations during the holiday season and most of these tourist-friendly cities will be jam-packed with people. This means that not only will flights will be more expensive, but public transport and attractions within the city will be super crowded.
In places like Japan, some tourist attractions are closed during this time and you will likely miss out on the best places for sushi and izakaya that would have been open other times of the year. You can probably choose lesser crowded beach holidays such as Gokarna or Pondicherry instead of Goa if you want to skip the crazy New Year tourist rush. So, do your destination research, book ahead, choose wisely but by all means bring in the New Year with a dream holiday they will always remember.
Feel that adrenalin rush with your kids
Nothing feels better than a walk or a run in fresh environs, right? A trek or a hike is the perfect thing to plan with your family if you are the kind that doesn’t mind exercising your body to look fitter in the new year. There are several trek operators that run treks and hikes for families starting from relatively lesser levels of difficulty to ones that involve some amount of steep climbing. If you have younger kids, hiking may be a better option than trekking as the land is relatively flatter so kids can walk with you. Apart from trekking, there are other adventure activities such as parasailing, snorkeling and scuba diving if you are hitting the beaches with your family, or dune bashing and ATV riding if you are somewhere near a desert location such as Rajasthan, Dubai or Sharjah. We tried our hand at bungee jumping and zip lining (without the kid) when we were travelling through New Zealand around winters and it was an incredible experience.
Camp under the stars and make a wish for the New Year
Another option that allows your family more intimate time and a unique experience is to camp somewhere and allow your kids to take in the joys of sleeping under the stars. There are several tour operators across India that have special packages for New Year camping and also allow families and occasionally pets to join in. These camps have special New Year activities such as star gazing, bonfire and music, game night, treasure hunt, village walk, etc, that your entire family can enjoy. We recently camped with Chalohoppo at Camp Yedikha in Zakhama, Nagaland and our daughter absolutely loved the experience even though she is a toddler. They had a bonfire, live music, delicious meals every night and hiking and trekking facilities to places nearby that we made the most out of. These experiences of going away from city life and bonding as a family while sleeping in a tent are unbeatable and it can definitely be a fantastic option for the holiday season. There are several camps in Western and Southern India as well where it does not get too cold, and your children can truly enjoy being out in the open, helping you with barbeques beside a lake and just playing around with other kids in a natural setting. Carry your own tent and pitch it at a spot you like, or camp with an organized operator and cherish the community camping experience.
Make the most of this time and plan a smashing surprise for your family. Until next time, keep travelling, folks!
(The writer blogs at Backpacking Mama.)