How to efficiently travel plan with the top 7 tips

Travel Planning

So you caught a bug to go places, see and do things but are anxious of how and where to begin? The thought of the gigantic mountain of things to do before starting the actual travel is enough to make a beginner feel jittery.

I won’t lie and tell you that I spent a lot of time reading stuff and learning how to plan for a successful trip. I do spend a lot of time reading now, but I had my own personal planner when I started travelling. The perks of a travel junkie spouse.

After having travelled a fair bit, I started participating in the planning, have my say and take control of the itenary.

The entire process booking tickets, researching the place and the overall planning gives me immense satisfaction and makes me giddy with anticipation of turning the plans into reality. I do the research and draw out the draft, which the both (my husband and I) of us sit and finalise.

While you plan, it is important (and fairly obvious) to take into consideration your budget, interests and priorities. Here are some things that we always take into account while planning our trips.

1.Travel tickets

Travel

Book as early as you can and go for the non-refundable ones if your dates are final. Saves a lot of money. Go for the no-frills airlines, like Tiger Air, that offer some of the cheapest tickets.

2.Accommodation

Hotels

Again non-refundable deals are the best. Hostels and shared accommodations work best for people who don’t mind strangers and the space constraints.

Location of your accommodation is important. Consider priorities of your group and think of a location that agrees with most (if not all) interests.

We are just back from Singapore and we stayed in little India to accommodate our parents’ strictly vegetarian palate. Hunting for a veggie restaurant everyday had the potential to spoil our day. So think about things that would turn the experience sour and accommodate for those needs.

3.Commute

Local commute

Make generous use of Google maps and find out the distances between your places of interest when deciding the mode of transport.

If you plan on using public transport, check their website and keep yourself informed about buying tickets or travel cards.

If you plan to use taxi, Google and read about others’ experiences with taxis at the places your are visiting.

I highly suggest to get a prepaid local number and data activated on it to use for maps.

4.Itenary

Itenary

Plan each day out and list out the activities. Best to write everything of importance you found while reading about the place and print it out to carry it with you.

Note down all places you want to visit and prioritise. Start the daily itenary with the high priority ones(obviously). Note down their opening and closing times, duration(approx) of the visit, tickets and options for commute.

Read a lot of reviews to get an idea about the experience.

Take into account lunch and other breaks you might need if you travel with elders and/or children.

That said, I highly recommend leaving a little room for spontaneity and surprises, if you can. This gives you an opportunity to explore the place and learn new things.

For eg., ask a local what they suggest for an evening experience or a little known place that you can visit.

5.Packing

Like every traveller worth his/her salt, I too recommend travelling light. Pack only the essentials.

Tip: If you are on a long trip, especially if you have to carry you luggage around, then instead of packing clothes for each day you can choose to re-use them as much as possible and make sure you have laundry facilities at the place of your accommodation.

Note: I will soon be uploading a free packing checklist to print. So you can save yourself the hassle of making a list and download it instead.

6.Cultural sensitivity & law

Each country is different, sometimes each state is different when it comes to law. Read about the strict rules and regulations of the place your are visiting and make a mental note of your habits that might violate the law.

For example, in Singapore littering is an offence and attracts heavy penalties. If you are from a country where littering isn’t that big of a deal, you would need to remember to keep the banana peel with you until you find the bin.

Also remember to read a bit about the culture and what might cause offence to the local population of the place you are travelling to. You would be surprised how what you think are small things might end up offending others. You always want to be a polite and thankful traveller.

7.Safety

Travel Planning

Not all places are safe, even in the city you live. It would do you good to be on your guard and read all you can about safety with respect to the places you want to visit and your time of visit. Make sure to have a working mobile phone that you can use during emergencies. If you read a lot of reviews that a place might not be safe, it is better to skip it. If you are on a long stay at a particular location, make local friends or hire travel guides who can accompany you to such places.

Hope you found these tips helpful to plan your next trip efficiently. I wish you an enjoyable trip.

Do you have more tips for the amateur traveller? Leave a comment below.

The blaze of Delhi and Agra

Here comes the delayed second bit of my so-called travelogue.

Lately life has been a roller-coaster, what with a full-time job which takes full time and little bit of house hold chores, amidst taking time out to keep myself clean healthy. I end up exhausted every single night with absolutely no time to write whatsoever. Though I don’t forget to read the blogs I am regular at, so I don’t miss out on things I enjoy reading.

As usual, I digress at the very beginning. Let me cut straight to the travelogue.

Day 5, Delhi.

We reached Delhi by 7 am at ISBT Kashmere gate and waited to find a decent taxi who might con us very little. We could already feel the hot air on our faces. Hiring a taxi, we headed towards Paharganj, well-known for its cheap non-expensive hotels. We had booked hotel Kwality through their website.

We checked in only to find ourselves in a shabby little hole they called double bedroom. The other room in which we got an extra bed was pretty good in comparison. We somehow spent a night there and asked for a change of room from next day onwards. I am not someone who splurges on stays, I’d rather spend money travelling and seeing more places, but this was the limit. The room looked so shady I refused to bathe with lights on. So I had the bathroom light off when I was in there, which cracked up the husband. *eye roll* So to be changed it was.

Bath and breakfast later, we headed out to the nearest metro station. The plan was to visit Qutub Minar, Connaught Place, Rashtrapati Bhavan and India Gate through the network of metro rail.

Last time we were in Delhi, we went for a one day trip to all the tourist places which includes running from one place to another, our preference of the place not taken into account, since it is a bus full of tourists. So this time around, we were on our own and wanted to explore the effectiveness of Delhi metro. I should say that it was very effective and useful.

Qutub Minar is one place which I can visit many times and still marvel at its structure, not only the Minar but the surrounding ruins as well. It is an amazing place. We reached there donning our caps, just when the sun was at his peak. We took our time, went around and took a lot of pictures.

Then we came to Connaught Place and aimlessly roamed a bit. Just when I was pondering over my mindless-ness, flashed the main aim of the moment – to have lunch. Now, we had to hunt for a decent place to sit and eat lunch. We being vegetarians and hygiene freaks, not many options were open. Me and S ended up arguing about a common place to eat because in-laws don’t eat bread so burger and pizza are out of question for them, I don’t eat at shady little places, so those meals are out of question for me. So we had a little heated discussion or may be it was the Delhi heat getting to me. Later I, S, his sister and her son ended up eating at McD and his parents ate rice at a little place. I later found out from a friend that there was a Saravana Bhavan nearby. Dang! I’m not a Saravana Bhavan fan, but it would’ve helped.

After a bit of shopping at Janpath, we went to Rashtrapati Bhavan. It was a lovely spectacle of the majestic old buildings under the orange light of the setting sun. Last time, we weren’t allowed to go so close to the square in front of the complex. This time, we sat at the compound wall of Rashtrapati Bhavan and roamed around in front of the nearby buildings seeing all officials leave sharp at 5:45. I was wondering if they ever have deadlines and work overtime or slog like we do.

I, S’s sister and her son lazed on the lawn while S and his parents went around to see the Parliament house. Then we walked down to India Gate. Lights were on by the time we reached, which was as we planned. It looked different, more majestic. But the crowd and litter kind of put me off.

We took an auto rickshaw to the metro station and headed back to the hotel. Needless to say we both slept in the dingy room.

Day 6, Agra.

Woke up early in the morning as we had booked a cab to pick us up at 7am for one day trip to Agra. He was there sharp at 7 and we got going. I have to say something about the cab services that we booked. We booked the trip through ziptrips.in. You can choose the type of vehicle and number of places you want to see and the trip will be customized for you. You can also talk to their representatives online.
They sent us the details of the driver in email. They missed sending sms as mentioned in their site. But there he was bright and clean at the time mentioned by us.

Plan was to visit one among the wonders of the world The Taj Mahal (obviously) and Agra fort. We had been to Fatehpur Sikri, the last time and I found it beautiful. Due to lack of time, we had to let it go from the schedule.

We had awful parathas somewhere on the way, which made me sick by the time we reached Agra. It was quite late as we had to get a flat tire repaired on the way. I distinctly remember it was very hot and I was finding it difficult to breathe. I like how they’ve banned all vehicles from the office where you buy tickets. They have electric vehicles which charge 10 rupee per head to drive to the main entrance of Taj. I had no enthusiasm to see the Taj. I just went through to get done with it. I badly wanted to have something cool and something nutritious and juicy like watermelon. So we purchased one whole watermelon, get it cut then and there and devoured it. Though I felt ok for a while, the uneasiness kicked right back in. Agra fort is a vast and beautiful monument. I wish we had more time to check it out.

I fell completely ill while returning back and vomited twice, didn’t have dinner and longed to just get back and sleep at the hotel. Thankfully they gave us another, much better room. And I just slept like a log.

Day 7, Delhi.

Though exhausted, I did have a little bit of spirit left in me to explore some more of Delhi. This time Akshardham temple, Sarojini market and Red Fort.

We hired an auto rickshaw directly to Akshardham, instead of taking the Metro because he offered us discount to the hyped price. We are nice and lazy like that. Again, by the time we reached, sun was right above our heads making us tired, thirsty and irritated all at the same time. But it helped that the Akshardham temple is so beautiful and a treat to the eyes. It is artistic, majestic, beautiful and traditional all at the same time. They told us that all the carvings were handmade and it took nearly 11,000 men 6 yrs to finish the structure. The huge Swaminarayan statue makes you feel so small. We even watched the Swaminarayan movie and went through the whole exhibition show of the life history of Swaminarayan played out by dolls. Very neatly done. There was even a boat ride through history. Wonderful I’d say, this is how you improve tourism. Give people a chance to get to know your culture and history while making them feel good about money well spent. We’ll definitely go there once again. Also, the lunch we had there was simply awesome. After all that oily parathas it felt like amrita to my tongue.

We shopped a bit in Sarojini Nagar market. I didn’t buy much, but S’s sister splurged quite some. When she wasn’t done even by 7pm we were getting sceptical about the light and sound show we planned to watch at Red Fort. Sure that we’ll miss it and still taking a chance, we caught a metro to Chandni Chowk. As expected, the show was over, but there was one more in English at 9:30pm. We decided to wait.

We walked a bit to the place where seating arrangements were made and waited in dark for the show to start. All the while trying to shoo away the mosquitoes which bit and tore us apart. Finally when the show started, I waited for something to happen. Besides the lights on three buildings and the commentary coming from different speakers at different times, there was pretty much nothing in it. We decided to call it a day and went to find a hotel for dinner. Dinner was had at a very nice restaurant which I think charged extra for serving after 10pm; ridiculously expensive. But hey, I got to eat dosa after a week.

Day 8, Last day in Delhi, back to Bangalore.

We had booked cab from ziptrips.in for the last day too as we had airport drop in the evening. We had lined up Raj Ghat, Indira Gandhi museum, Lotus temple and Parliament house.

Lotus temple is an amazing architectural structure which makes me spellbound every time I’m inside it. It helps that you are supposed to maintain pin drop silence when inside the hall.

We spent some time checking out stuff on the way in Dilli Haat, but didn’t buy anything. The good driver dropped us to the airport at a time too early for our flight. We checked in and while away time looking at all setting sun and taking off flights.

Reached Bangalore late at night and boy did it feel good to be back home. Never thought I’d say that. Never thought food would get to me so much during travel either. But ever since I fell ill on Ladakh trip, I’m kind of a wary eater while travelling.

Lesson learnt from the trip : never visit Delhi/Agra in summer. Always research for food options near the place you stay and/or visit.

Yes, yes I know, time for pics 🙂

India Gate in the evening

Orange sun over Rashtrapati Bhavan

View of India Gate from Rashtrapati Bhavan

Qutub Minar. I know you’re thinking what I was thinking when this was taken.

Lotus temple/Bahai meditation center

View of Taj from Agra Fort

The Taj Mahal

Interior of Agra Fort

In the beautiful mountains

It’s been some time that I’ve written a travelogue or for that matter anything. My recent tour of Manali, Delhi and Agra provided a beautiful opportunity for me to wake up the writer in me.

A week’s worth of travel and sight seeing and eating whatever is available actually made me crave for home made food. So much so that as soon as I came in I hogged the first thing that I was able to prepare.

As usual, I digress. Let me get straight to the beginning of the trip. Travel to Delhi and then to Manali.

Day 1, Delhi, Manali.

We had planned well in advance for the trip, so the flight tickets were booked to and from Delhi. On 27th evening we boarded the Flight to Delhi. Then sat in the AC bus to the inter state bus stand to catch the pre-booked HRTC Volvo to Manali. We later learnt that it was a big mistake to book the government bus. We left the bus stand at 8:45. The bus kept stopping everywhere and we reached our destination only at 11 am the next day. Landed at our hotel very tired and cranky.

Day 2, Manali.

Thankfully we had the hotel cab pick us up from the bus stop.
We had booked Sarthak Resorts in Manali (Naggar road). We had been there after our wedding (2+ yrs back) and liked it so much we booked it again. It is not too expensive and suits our taste as well as pockets pretty nicely. We had a valley view room so we could see the snow capped mountains through the huge window.

Most of the first day went in taking rest and in the evening we went to the Manali market. It got very cold in the evening (which we had not anticipated) and it was drizzling too. We did some window shopping and ate chats for dinner.

Day 3, Snow point, Solang Valley.

As the previous time, this time too we booked cab from the hotel for our day trips. The snow point is a point upto which civilians/tourists are allowed on the Rohtang pass road. I was very hopeful to see Rohtang pass but it was closed. The driver informed us that it might open in late May or early June this year. It differs every year and depends upon snowfall.

So we reach somewhere higher than Gulaba (which was our snow point last time) but there wasn’t much fresh snow. Whatever snow was present was pretty dirty due to too many tourists walking over it. As it had rained the previous evenings there was slush everywhere. My in-laws managed to enjoy a lot, but as I had seen better and fresher snow I was disappointed and moreover damn scared to walk on the ice. We also had to walk a long way and trek up the hill a little, as there were too many parked vehicles and our cab couldn’t go any further than a point.

SIL, her son and FIL opted to ride the horses up the hill. But my MIL put a brave face and walked with us and she trekked up the hill too. So obviously we had to walk back the same distance. There was and is nothing much to see in Solang valley except for the paragliding which didn’t interest us(me and husband) as we had done para-sailing here in Bangalore. So we decided to get back to the hotel and take rest. On the way we stopped at Kothi at the same restaurant where we had been last time for lunch. I still remember the distinctive and very tasty dum aloo that I had eaten in 2009. This time too it was delicious but due to the crowd I couldn’t enjoy much. But unfortunately I don’t remember the name.

Day 4, Manali local sightseeing, back to Delhi.

We had planned to do local sightseeing for half a day and leave for Delhi. We covered Vasisht (don’t ever fall for the Chingu trap*), Manu temple, Hadimba temple and Tibetian monastry near the market.
Later we caught the HRTC bus back to Delhi from the bus stand in the Market. We reached Delhi next morning.

Now is time for some pictures.

Mist covered mountain

Mist covered mountain

View from snow point

Snow point: On the way to Rohtang pass

Ponies

Ponies to bear your weight

Another breathtaking view

Yak, the cow of Himalayas

Beautiful view from up the mountain

View from our hotel window

Marijuana on the roadside. I’m not gonna tell you where exactly

To be continued …