Goa with the Kids

A visit to these beaches will get your children a step closer to the sun and the sand

Rewind back even just to the beginning of the ‘90s and you didn’t see many children on the beach here in Goa—but now traveling has become so much easier and hotels and restaurants welcome families with open arms. Sunset time and you see babes-in-arms and teenagers enjoying the beach and the waves.

How did I find myself traveling in Goa, India with kids? In 2008, I had left my life in Chicago as a fashion buyer and started designing my own label with my friend, Jessica. We had a kiosk at pop up shops and street fairs. In 2012, I was pregnant with my first child Ruby and so happy to be bringing up my family in Goa. Later, I had my son, Rex. Both Jessica and I were pregnant at the same time and started designing our organic cotton square tops to make breastfeeding in public easier.

Over the years with my kids in Goa, I have naturally learned a few things along the way about traveling with kids in Goa and have hosted friends who have brought their children over on vacation. Luckily there is also a conscious expat scene and some amazingly innovative schools and friendly local doctors and dentists.

With a few conscious adjustments and compromises, bringing up children or traveling with kids in India is simple and rewarding. It’s a kid friendly place and over the past few years, I have gotten to appreciate even more the abundance of nature that the children get to experience each day… not only the beach and rock pools but the banyan trees, the jungle, the wandering cows, clucking chickens and chatty monkeys—nature’s playground.

What to Pack for Kids
Medical items to bring with you: Bring the tried-and-tested medicine from home that you know
works for your child, rather than playing roulette with new brands. For my kids, I always bought baby Nurofen and Calpol for fevers; Savlon (the dry spray is good for little cuts on tiny toes if they are in and out of the water) and gripe water for Rex when he had colic—although alternatives in India are available.

There is a fantastic ayurvedic (Indian holistic medicine) and homeopathic pharmacy called Union in Mapusa (any taxi driver will know this place); this is a great place to stock up on homeopathic treatments and creams.

My friend Angie, who is an acupuncturist with a 10-year-old daughter, here swears by the Apis Meluca cream and globules for insect bites; arnica cream is great for bruises and they have a good homeopathic starter kit which is a great travel set. Naveena who worked as a midwife here in Goa for many years recommends a travel kit including Nux Vomica (sickness), hypericum (cuts) arnica (bruises) and aconite (for onset of colds).

For stressed out moms, there is always Rescue Remedy! My all time favorite solution is Kailash Jeevan—an ointment for every cut, scratch, pimple, unidentified sore or rash! It’s available
in most general stores as well as pharmacies. People buy it by the armload to take home with them. Calendula powder is also available at the pharmacy for prickly heat or other rashes.

Baby wipes and nappies are horrible for the environment, especially in India where the garbage is such an issue… but I know as a traveler it’s very hard to not use them unless staying put for a while. I used washable nappies with Rudy, but I did have my own washing machine. But the holy bum spray (spray gun in almost all bathrooms here) also is a godsend for horrible poo situations!

Rehydration salts (or diarolites) are essential for keeping your kids hydrated—there are some orange flavored ones here but I found the blackcurrent flavor ones from the UK went down much better with both my kids.

Toys & Other Bits
Naturally you are not going to leave the front door without your child’s favorite teddy, car or blanket—certainly bring your kids’ favorite stuff. You can get plastic beach toys, buckets and cheap boogie boards in many of the general stores. And for longer stays or Christmas vacations amazon.in is fantastic.

It might sound obvious to say buy sunscreen, but although we used to be able to buy known-brands in Goa, often the sunscreen available these days is not of the same quality as it is at home, so stock up on creams and lotions for the kids and yourself.

Getting Around & Safety
Got little ones? Taxis will very rarely have access to a car seat so if you are planning to do a lot of traveling you might want to invest in one—you can order on Amazon India if you don’t want to bring one long haul. Roads are lumpy so strollers can be an issue, although it’s great for sunset beach walks; probably best to invest in a comfortable baby sling.

You’ll probably be bringing extra luggage if you are traveling with small children! Don’t worry every train station has a porter… and hotels will always help you with your luggage. It costs roughly 100rs for a porter at the station.

Before you fly book a bassinet well in advance of flying long haul. Few flights go direct to Goa, so you will probably be flying into Bombay (or Delhi first) therefore consider breaking the journey and staying overnight near the airport to avoid too long a day. Most Indian airlines do not provide great kid friendly food, I always pack a lunch and treats for my kids when we’re flying. If you are transferring from international to an Indian domestic line though check the baggage allowance as a lot of the domestic carriers have a stingy allowance and you might need to pay for extra luggage.

What to Expect from Local People
Child friendly waiters! This is not like Starbucks, waiters here will occasionally take your child off your hands (if you approve) to show them how chapattis are made in the kitchen, or teach them to make pizza, or simply walk them around the restaurant if they are crying.

Cheek pinching… the locals have no qualms with getting physical with kids cheeks—but if you (or more importantly your child) is not up for this… just let them know.

People here are super friendly and tend to ask a lot of questions, but you are not obliged to answer them all. Practice the same kind of awareness at the beach as you would wherever you take your kids—it’s a really safe place but you always need to keep your wits about you.

It is totally acceptable to breastfeed in public here, but wear a shawl or scarf.

Kids, Beaches & Jungles Goa is a full nature immersion and I’m not just talking about frogs in the bathroom or geckos on the walls. My kids are at their happiest when they are in the sand or in the jungle.

For little kids, the beach is the best playground. There are lifeguards and in the beaches of  Mandrem and Aswem, a wide beach with shallow sea (only just after monsoon should you be aware of riptides).

Also be aware that as lovely as Keri beach in the north and Agonda beach in the south are, the shelf falls away very quickly and is not so safe for little paddlers. There are starfish and rock pools and you can go out dolphin watching.

Over the last few years, a grassroots beach market has grown across the beach in Arambol, selling all types of things like macramé bracelets, paintings and handmade clothes. The kids love going there as many foreigners make yummy treats inspired by their countries and there is a big drum circle where people dance and the kids love to join in.

On the beach, all dogs with a clip in their ear have been sterilized and vaccinated against rabies by International Animal Rescue or WAGS. Maybe best to give other dogs a wide berth, just to be safe.

For bigger kids, Pink Orange Events run surf camps for kids with yoga, beach cleanups, and surf lessons. Vaayu in Aswem offers kayaks, which is a great family outing on the river.

We also always love to relax at Palm Grove beach resort in Ashwem and drink fresh juices, a great place for the grandparents to stay when they come, quiet and serene.

Going inland, my favorite places to take my two kids are the beautiful Redi Fort where the jungle has reclaimed an old fort, it’s a great place to explore. What kid doesn’t love a fort?

In Arambol you can do a short jungle walk to a beautiful Banyan Tree via the sweetwater lake and mud bath. And in Mandrem, there is a banyan tree so large that you’ll often find a cricket match going on beneath its branches.

Rahul Alvarez offers bird and wildlife walks or you can go into the Western Ghats and stay a few nights at the beautiful Wildernest eco-resort. There are morning wildlife walks, a stunning infinity pool and amazing local food. For less jungley wildlife, head to the petting zoo at Goa’s Ark in Anjuna. There is a lovely play area and many animals to meet. They also have a kid-friendly menu.

If your kids want a rest from all that wildlife and nature and they love to dance and sing, there are ballet classes, capoeira and thai boxing classes at Tito’s White House in Anjuna. You can
also look into lovely music classes with Ranjit at Shala 142 in Assagao.

There are swimming lessons at Jungle Dance in Arambol and you can stay there for lunch or evening performances and support the children’s charity that also operates out of here. Also in Arambol (if you are thinking to come for the long haul) is the Yoga Arts Centre (kindergarten and school), a sanctuary for our children using arts, yoga theory and nature to bring up the kids. Built by the expat community in a small coffee shop and now a fully operational education center.

I love watching my children grow up here, inspired by nature and plugged into an international community. It’s a great playground and education alike.

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