Traveling in Tibet is as safe for kids as it is for their parents. While the high Tibetan plateau may be the highest place on the planet, very often, the kids that visit this region are more adaptable and have fewer problems than their parents. As an experienced Tibet travel operator, we have arranged wonderful Tibet tours for many families with kids such as a tour to EBC for a family with a 3-year-old son and a Yamdrok Lake tour for a family with a seven-year-old daughter. In comparison with taking a trip to well-developed cities like Shanghai and Beijing, a trip to Tibet with kids requires a lot more planning and preparation, and is much more challenging.
1. Involve Kids in Tibet Itinerary Planning
Your kids may not always like the same things that you do, so it is important to include them in your planning of the Tibet family tour with kids. Activities that you may enjoy, such as wandering around dusty monasteries or sitting quietly to watch the monks at prayer, just might not be the kind of things that your kids are going to enjoy. And if the itinerary is filled with things that the kids find boring, you will find that they get fidgety easily and tired more quickly.
When planning your itinerary for a trip to Tibet with your kids, try and include them in the discussions, and ask them what it is they would like to do, so that you can find a balance between your family’s activity preferences. Usually, kids are interested in activities like experiencing Tibetan countryside life which is totally new for them. You should also consider the pace of the tour, and understand that your kids will get tired faster at higher altitudes. You need to set the pace of the tour to one that all of you can manage adequately.
Once you have all decided on where you want to go and what you want to see on your family itinerary, then we can customize your Tibet tour to match the schedule to the pace and activities that you want. This way, the whole trip can be as interesting for your kids as it will be for you.
2. Talk about What to Expect during Tibet Trip
Tibet is a completely different place to any that you or your kids may have been to previously. While Buddhism is prevalent in many countries in Asia, Tibetan Buddhism is unique to the plateau, and the culture is one of the most unique in the world. Even the landscape is different from anywhere else. It is important that you prepare your kids for the changes they will encounter. The Tibetan culture is one of the most important things to prepare them for, as they are unlikely to have ever seen a culture quite like this. And with certain taboos in Tibetan culture, it is important to make sure that your kids know what is and is not allowed in Tibet, and what they are able to do.
The landscapes and scenery are another matter for discussion before you depart for Tibet. Thousands of snow-capped mountains, stunning turquoise lakes, vast open prairies, and exquisite glaciers are all things that they will encounter from day one of your arrival in Tibet, before you even get to Lhasa. Prepare your kids for the exciting and wondrous sights they will see on the vast open Tibetan plateau.
Food can be a major concern when traveling with kids. They can often be picky even when at home, so expect them to possibly be more so when abroad. To try and prepare them for this, it is often a good idea to let them try some of the local Chinese or Tibetan dishes from restaurants in your home country. While Tibetan restaurants may be hard to find, there are plenty of Chinese restaurants, which can help them prepare for the foods they will encounter. If they are not a fan of Chinese or Tibetan cuisine, or you cannot find a Tibetan restaurant near your home, then it is a good idea to bring some of their favorite packet and dried foods with you. You can find some western foods in the shops in Lhasa, so you can sometimes buy their snacks there, to save on luggage space.
The hotel situation is another major preparation item for travel with kids. Your kids are used to their own bedrooms, and maybe a little shocked at the accommodations in the more remote parts of Tibet. You need to show or tell them how the accommodation will be for those destinations in Tibet that only have basic accommodation. This usually means no electricity (or limited supply), no running water, no hot water for showers, no indoor toilets (you should train them in how to use the Asian squat toilet), and what to do to stay safe in shared bathrooms.
3. Explain Dos and Don’ts in Tibet
Tibet is a very different culture with a very different way of life from anywhere else on the planet. It is important that your kids understand the taboos in Tibet, such as not taking photos without permission from the person involved; not touching the heads of people, especially monks; where not to point the soles of your feet when sitting down; and how to accept drinks, food, and gifts whilst in Tibet.
There are also some things to let your kids know about for those that are joining a Tibet small group tour. Group tours are tours with a number of people from different backgrounds combining their trip together through a tour operator. When traveling on a group tour, being on time for collection from the hotel or ending the tour in an attraction is important. You do not want others to be waiting on your arrival. And let your kids know that they should be quiet and listen carefully when the guide, or a local expert, is explaining something to the group.
4. Keep Health in Tibetan Plateau
Altitude sickness is the biggest concern of any parent taking their kids to the high Tibetan plateau. However old or young your kids are, you should have them checked by your local doctor to ensure that they are fit and well enough to travel to Tibet and endure high altitudes and the possibility of altitude sickness. Altitude sickness can be a little debilitating, but is not normally harmful or fatal, unless ignored and the body is not permitted to adjust properly.
The same general guidelines apply to kids as they do to adults, and to help them acclimatize properly, you should follow the simple guidelines on acclimatization. Firstly, refrain from taking showers for a few days when you arrive. Even if you have hot showers in your hotel, being wet will increase the risk of altitude sickness in both adults and kids. You should also make sure that your kids drink plenty of water and remain hydrated, as this is another major cause of increased risk.
When touring the city over the first few days, try to keep your kids from racing around, no matter how much they may want to. Excessive exertion can increase the risk of altitude sickness, so running around should be kept to a minimum. You should also make sure that the kids are in bed early enough, so they are not tired the following morning. Fatigue can aid in bringing on altitude sickness, and the more fatigued they are, the more serious it can be.
5. Special Packing for Kids
Packing for the kids is much harder than packing for yourselves. While you can always go without something you forgot to bring, your kids will not be happy if their favorite toy is missing or they forgot their warm sweaters. And once you arrive in Tibet, it is often not possible to just pop to the shop to buy something you forgot for the kids. However, carrying very heavy luggage around with you while touring Tibet is also not a good idea, especially at the higher elevations.
Make sure you make a list of the things they cannot live without, such as a favorite toy, and omit the things they really agree they do not need. Always make the list with your kids, so that you can be sure you did not forget something. Once you have the list complete, and both of you agree on it, start packing, and check off the list as you pack. This way, you will be able to maintain a decent weight of luggage while ensuring your child has everything they need.
Aside from the usual packing of clothes and stuff, make sure they have a small pair of decent sunglasses and that you include a good SPF 30+ sunblock for the kids. The sun in Tibet can be harsher than in the tropical countries of Asia, due to the thinner atmosphere and UV protection from the ozone layer. And it is easy for the skin of a child to burn in the hot sunny weather. And for those long trips between attractions, including the train ride to Tibet if you travel that way, it is useful to bring along some small games, such as packs of cards and games on a tablet or phone. Kids can get bored very easily in certain conditions, and while the landscapes and scenery of the plateau may be wonderful, to some kids, one mountain looks just like another. Small games can also help if they over-exert themselves and need to sleep. The games often make their eyes tired so they sleep more easily.
Traveling to Tibet with kids is no problem really. All you need to do is prepare them properly for the trip. This is essential that it is done both physically (in their packing) and mentally (knowing what to expect), and can help both you and your kids enjoy the amazing plateau experience much better. Follow a few easy-to-use guidelines and you will find your trip to the Roof of the World will go off with a bang.