India with a 4 year old
.. or should that say with an almost 4 year old as Tiger was actually still 3, but turning 4 just after our return from India.
So first comments in this brand new world are there were some significant things missing from our luggage namely no buggy and no travel cot. I probably could have gotten away with not traveling with an additional bed altogether but we actually travelled with a blow up 'Frozen themed' Ready Bed.
So with the much reduced packing requirements we got all our stuff into one big back pack, one small backpack and a tiny backpack for Tiger to carry. Our packing list was as follows:
Electronics: Laptop, ipad, bluetooth headphones, laptop charger, ipad / headphones / Apple watch / phone charger and adaptor, mini speaker.
Toiletries: Here, I could have taken nothing and bought it all upon arrival but probably saved money but taking big bottles. Adult shampoo, adult conditioner (she used mine), shaving gel, shower gel, rasor and spare blades, toothpaste (Colgate, again she used mine) plus adult and child toothbrush, moisturiser, adult sun cream, child sun cream, small vaseline, tampons and pads, make up (foundation, powder, mascara, lipstick), tweezers, one box of hair dye.
My clothes in a large stuff sack: My intention was to travel with no clothes and buy when I got to India but in fact I took 2x salwar kameez from home, 2x t shirts, fleece, leggings.
My small stuff sack: underwear and 2x socks.
Child stuff sack: 6 dresses, 1 warm zip up sweater, 1 waterproof lightweight jacket, 2 skirts, 3 t shirts, 10 pairs knickers, 2 pairs socks, 2 pyjamas.
Nappies: About 10 pairs. This is an interesting one, as we probably don't need them at night time, but I still put her in one so sometimes we reuse over a few nights. Equally, it is very easy to buy these from almost every pharmacy in India rather than bring your own.
Shoes: one pair of sandals each.
Diary for Tiger.
Magic clay, drawing book, small sticker book, pencil case with colouring pencils and pens, sharpener, rubber, ruler.
Finally we were ready! Thankfully, after New Years Eve partying my parents aka Granny and Grandad graciously had Tiger to play at their house whilst I grabbed an additional 3 hours sleep which made all the difference. Then at 3pm or so, after late check out from the Premier Inn at Heathrow Terminal 5, Gary dropped us into Terminal 3 to fly with Virgin Atlantic. We wrapped the bag for £15 which Tiger found highly amusing, then had a long-ish but fast moving queue for the bag drop ably assisted by having the ipad with us with downloaded Disney and Netflix movies.
Having dispatched the big bag, we were down to just a small one each, and headed for security where Tiger had an epic melt down not wanting to put her bottle through the x-ray, nor the bag on her back nor go through the metal detector and body scanner on her own. To be quite fair, I understood it, and was fairly ambivalent, but it was momentarily stressful. Also worth noting that Tiger still has a baby bottle with milk before bed and this was what she was carrying. As she was age 3, she was not allowed 'baby' products so the bottle and milk had to be disposed of and we bought a new one from Boots and semi skimmed milk (you cannot seem to get full fat milk in the airport) from WH Smith. So, all set.
On the plane itself, we were sat in the very last row, row 82 in the middle 3 seats with one gentleman. It was an 8 hour flight and I guesstimate we got 3 hours sleep absolute maximum, so not much, but equally 8 hours is not too long. When we arrived in Delhi airport, very tired, there was a short wait for immigration, but our bag arrived promptly. The only difficulty was getting the wrapping off to actually carry the damn thing (!) but it was also an amusing game to see who could get it all off beside the carousel.
I got money (10,000 Rs about £100) from the ATM, and walked straight out to the pre-paid taxi booth into the foggy Delhi morning around 9.30am. Oddly, this was the last time I saw my Nationwide debit card and I am still none the wiser what happened to it but I had another debit card as a back up and simply froze the card in the Nationwide App. The taxi was 450 Rs to our hotel, Hotel Natraj Yes Please, which was where we had stayed in 2019. The hotel was about £20 per night on Booking.com and I had booked for 2 nights even though technically we were only staying one night with an early check in and late check out.
Now, it was one of those funny times where I had such good memories of the hotel but it was far quieter, and had of course had a lot less traffic during Covid, plus they gave me an average room, but it was 'fine'. We slept for a good 2 hours before heading out to Connaught Place via 50 Rs cycle rickshaw for McDonald's and shopping where I bought 4 salwar kameez and one dress for Tiger for £225 from Biba. So in some ways not cheap, but the dresses were beautiful and just set myself up for the trip without any further worrying about having nice clothes. We took an auto rickshaw back for 100 Rs.
Overnight, with jetlag, we were both up from 3am to 6am with the iPad and laptop but in some ways just as well as it was then in the middle of the night (alerted by my Varanasi guide, as I hadn't checked emails!) that we discovered our Varanasi flight with Indigo had been cancelled so we rebooked for the earlier 3.30pm flight the following day (3rd January). We then slept almost all the way through to 11.30am and left the hotel at 12.30pm in a taxi which cost 550 Rs.
Since I had last been through it three years ago, Delhi domestic terminal had really had a transformation with an entire food hall (hopelessly overcrowded) and shops. We did attempt to queue for Subway, but gave up and got an Indian-style sandwich and doughnut close to the gate without queuing. Our flight was delayed by an hour to 4.30pm but from there on in it was plain sailing.
Varanasi airport when we arrived, was incredibly shiny, big and new, although I have nothing to compare it to having always previously travelled to Varanasi by train. It was also far quieter too than Delhi which was welcome. I paid 200 Rs for an official porter (with a proper written receipt by the female roaming Porter manager) inside the airport and a further 100 Rs for the bit outside the airport getting us to the car, probably not strictly necessary but definitely helpful.
Our guide, Priya Upadhyay, with her company Varanasi Women Tours had arranged our airport transfers so we were picked up in a lovely car and taken to our hotel Banaras Guest House (7,832 Rs, £77 for 3 nights) where we had a triple room with a balcony. Priya actually joined us for the last bit of the taxi ride to say a first hello. At the hotel, we were actually offered the 'family room' with bunk beds (which I didn't dare let Tiger see as she'd have been beside herself at the bunk beds) but I definitely preferred the triple we had because of the balcony I was able to sit on with 2 beers (250 Rs each from the hotel) each night!