Dr. Milan Shah’s The Best Travel Companions! A Guide for the Wanderlust Family is an adventure handbook
As we usher in 2022 and travel restrictions are still in place in countries around the globe, and here at home, airline, hotel, and other reservation cancellations have left once spirited tourists grounded. Dr. Milan R. Shah’s book, The Best Travel Companions! A Guide for the Wanderlust Family is the ideal reading companion to whet your appetite for family adventure when the world reopens this spring. Whether you intend to travel with a newborn, tweens, or teens, this handbook is an invaluable guide to eliminating most of the hassle associated with global travel.
Shah stresses the importance of vacation and exploration with your loved ones, including your spouse and children, and extended relatives, such as grandparents. The bonding with external family members results in priceless memories, and adventure stories can often be revisited yearly through conversations and photographs. In addition, grandparents and other relatives can be babysitters when it’s time for adult-only activities, giving the youngsters priceless one-on-one time with their elders.
What’s different about Shah’s travel log is he explains in intricate detail how to bring youngsters, no matter what the age, on your travel excursions. Shah, his wife Pinkie, and their children Devon, Dillan, and Maya have traveled to 7 continents and over 50 countries, and the book contains several of their family photos taken along the way.
Shah packed his book with invaluable lists and suggestions to assist parents. He starts his guidebook with ten simple rules when traveling with kids, entwining stories of various locations where the rules have come in handy.
According to Shah, rule #1 is “Include them in the decision-making process; get them excited about the destination regardless of age.” Of course, infants are not capable of this participation, but once the children get older, it will delight them they take part in a process that brings the family together.
Rule #8 is also an important lesson no matter where parents are in the world with their brood. “Even if you did everything perfectly, the kids may still disrupt, fight, whine, and cry uncontrollably. It’s not the end of the world,” Shah writes.
“Take a few breaths, do your best, and remember, it’s all going to be o.k.”
Shah explains no matter where you travel globally, local families are out and about with their children, and you should feel comfortable bringing yours. In addition, children have similar needs as adults do, so why not share your experiences with them wherever you go.
If you are like any parent and want to plan your first trip with a newborn in tow, you may have packed light in the past, but the situation with children is different. You will need diapers and rash cream, med/first aid kits, other age-appropriate essentials, and several changes of clothing for the little ones. Whether to use a backpack, carry-on, or diaper bag to handle all the extras, decisions need to be made, so plan ahead. All of Shah’s suggestions are extremely useful because they shed light on simple choices which can make the journey easier.
Shah delves into the car seat/stroller/ baby carriers, child transportation equipment arena that can present a problem at airport security stations, check-in, and airplane boarding. His advice? Decide who is in charge of the equipment and who’s responsible for the baby. Experienced travelers will agree that Shah is right about pre-planning because news reports state that today’s travelers can expect longer lines than usual at TSA. Confusion at this starting point can be frustrating.
While it’s true that much time should be spent on plans to accommodate children, Shah also explains it is important for parents to adhere to their own traveling rules to make any trip go smoothly. For example, he reminds us not to forget our raincoats, walking shoes, and dress-up, dress-down clothes. Proper planning is an essential factor in enjoying world travel.
“O.k., enough about the preparations; let’s get on to the fun stuff,” Shah writes.
Indeed, the rest of the book is chock full of stories. Shah provides descriptions of safari on the continent of Africa, nightlife on the continent of Australia, thrilling encounters on the continent of Antarctica, and once-in-a-lifetime encounters on the other four continents in dazzling, precise prose. You are on each trip with the Shahs as they circumnavigate the globe, with unlimited advice on enhancing each experience beyond the mundane.
In Africa, the visit to the continent included a big five (African Lion, African Elephant, Rhino, Black or White, the Cape Buffalo, and the African Leopard) safari during the family stay at Zulu Nyala Lodge, three hours north of Durban. Open-air vehicles are the choice for animal viewing, and they serve guests delicious meals in the main dining hall after a busy day. This private reserve is only 4,500 acres and is one of the smallest in South Africa, but that doesn’t take away from the exciting animal viewings. Upon arrival, the excitement began.
“Within a few minutes, we viewed rhinos, cheetahs, warthogs, impalas… all within a few yards of our vehicle,” Shah said. “It was surreal.”
In the Madikwe Game Reserve, the more extravagant Morukuru Family Lodge is approximately 168,000 acres. For travelers who can afford it, this hotel boasts extraordinary safari excursions while staying at a private residence and is one of the largest reserves in the country. The family has fond memories of this highly recommended reserve.
“We would sometimes park the car where the guides would lead the kids to find a species of insects/plants and animals listed in guidebooks or even camp out in the middle of the grasslands where they would set up an amazing tea/coffee experience,” Shah said.
“Or we enjoyed sundowners at a special location each evening where we could experience the marvels of a watering hole.”
On the continent of Australia, the Shahs spent most of their time in Sydney, a city acclimated to walking. They visited the Opera House, the Sydney Harbour Bridge, and Darling Harbour. Beyond Sydney, they visited world-famous Bondi Beach and capped their tour with kangaroos and koalas. With grandparents on this vacation, Shah and his wife explored the city’s abundance of eclectic dance clubs and bars filled with friendly locals and tourists.
“What made the trip to Australia was exploring the country with all of my family,” Shah said.
The continent of Antarctica would be their most incredible adventure as a family of 5. Shah recommends making travel arrangements at least a year ahead to visit Antarctica. In addition, because of extreme climate conditions on the windswept ice fields, they needed special attire while keeping in mind there are luggage limitations.
Shah booked his family on an expedition vessel that wasn’t his first choice. Age restrictions for children prevented them from traveling on an icebreaker; icebreakers allow explorers to travel deeper into the continent than expedition vessels. Shah describes the awe of being in such a remote destination, where the family encountered Gentoo penguins, Humpback whales, and Crabeater Seals, amongst other wildlife.
The Antarctic excursion was the family’s most memorable adventure, including strenuous hiking, iceberg viewing, and even a polar plunge.
“What a trip! The memories we had made those few days would be forever engrained, and there would also be a certain fraternity between the 5 of us that only we could share among ourselves,” Shah said.
Shah’s handbook is a magnificent guide all generations of travelers can relate to. The Best Travel Companions! will transport you around the globe without leaving your home. Whether you are 4, 14, or 40 and beyond, there’s no better time than 2022 to follow Shah’s advice and plan your family journey.