How to Plan a Trip
A vacation is supposed to be a fun and relaxing break from your everyday life. However, a poorly planned vacation can end up being a major headache. Be ready to enjoy your time off by planning your travel, accommodations, and activities ahead of time. Giving yourself plenty of time to plan can be a fun way to build up excitement for your vacation.
Decide Where You Want to GoOpen or Close
It’s a big sub-continent with different experiences awaiting the traveler across every state line. There’s tropics and beaches in the South, tiger treks in the center, vibrant metropolises in the North, the heart of Hinduism and Buddhism along the Ganges plain in Bihar, serene lunar landscapes in Ladakh, and the tip of the world at Kanyakumari. Other than the Taj Mahal, think about what you want your big trip to India to be. LP offers some suggested itineraries to cut across and around, but the great thing is, like any trip, a trip to India can be anything you want it to be other than the typical backpacker trail. My first itinerary to India was all about opening my heart. To do so, I had these loose travel intentions: visit the Taj Mahal, touch the holy Ganges, volunteer, take a course in Buddhism in Bodh Gaya, lay on the beaches in the South, and a boat ride through the backwaters of Kerala. I like these Frommer’s India itineraries.
Decide When to GoOpen or Close
It’s tourist season from October to February for a reason because the weather is temperate and pleasant. At this time, if you start in the north and finish in the south, the nice weather will follow you around the country, but the shoulder months avoid an influx of crowd and not too much heat or rain. Summer is best for the far North near the Himalayas. Rivers run through Kolkata streets May to September. Jungle humidity slows movement in Kerala in April. Blistering heat scorches any face gazing at the wonders of the Taj Mahal in June. Those filmy cotton backpacker clothes barely warm you enough on the cold nights of January in Delhi. Another reason to travel to India during this time – Festivals! Diwali, Holi, Durga Puja to name a few. Check out this Indian Festival Calendar for more. Visiting India during these times will reward you with momentous experiences and a special opportunity to bond with celebrating locals.
Begin with a TourOpen or Close
I know it’s against the independent traveler ethos to organize a tour. But the truth is, traveling to India can be a little chaotic and overwhelming for the first timers. In my experience the best way to ease into travel in India was through a grass roots, locally resourced tour. It’s what I did to a) make that commitment to go and b) ease into India with the support of a tour guide and other travelers.
Get the Plane Ticket There and Back, but Not in BetweenOpen or Close
The secret to traveling in India is to not plan too much. Planning is expensive and prone to stress. My recommendation is to book the to and the fro –your in and out of India and then wait until the rest of the trip develops to book the in-county travel. It’s tempting to book all the hotels and train tickets ahead of time, I know, I’ve been there as a former super travel planner. In truth, it’s an expensive way to make you feel better and maintain control. In India, things change so much – why stress yourself with getting to a reservation in time when you want to sit on the Goa beach a little longer sipping that Fenny? Or there may be train riots and you’ll miss your connection (Happened to me!). Arrange the there and away and everything else will fall into place.
Get Your VisaOpen or Close
For US citizens, India requires a 6-month tourist visa before entering the country, which removes any thoughts of a quick escape to the country. Personally, it’s been that nice pause when I do want to run away a little form real life and think – oh I just want to go to India. Oh wait, I need a visa. As of this writing, you’ll have to send in a copy of your birth certificate and proof of your country residency. Remember, your visa is valid six months from the day you get it, not 6 months form the day of your trip. I recommend thinking/planning for it now. For US Citizens, visit Travisa to get started.
Consider Alternate Transportation OptionsOpen or Close
While flying is the quickest way to travel long distances, other options such as taking a train or bus or even renting a recreational vehicle may be less expensive within the same country where you are travelling. They may also be more fun, particularly if traveling with children.
Consider All Transportation NeedsOpen or Close
Reaching your destination is only one transportation consideration. Once you have arrived in the area, you will need to figure out how to get from the airport, train station, or bus station to your hotel. You may also have plans to travel locally while on vacation.
* Call the concierge at the hotel you’re staying at and ask whether the hotel offers complimentary or reduced-fee shuttle service to and from the airport. If they don’t, ask for any advice on local ground transportation.
* Rent a vehicle if you will need to get around a lot once you have reached your destination. If you’ll be doing a lot of sight-seeing in areas that are spread out, a rental car will be a better option than taxi services. Be sure you know your hotel’s parking policies and fees.
. * If you don’t plan to leave your destination once you get there (for example, if you’re staying at an all-inclusive resort), you may not need a rental car. Consider a taxi or shuttle from the airport instead.
* If you are going to an urban area, search online for the city’s public transportation options. Areas with subways, trains, or bus systems often offer daily or weekly passes that are much cheaper than rental car fees.
Book Your AccommodationOpen or Close
If you have a set schedule, feel free to book accommodation for the duration of your trip, but if you are going to be traveling long-term, book just the first few days. Once you know the dates you’ll be in your destination, there is no real reason not to find a place to stay. My view is that waiting will just lead to you losing your top picks. Love hotels? They won’t save you money, but you can sign up for some hotel credit cards and get free rooms, too.
Pack For Bugs, Power Outages, and Overnight Train TripsOpen or Close
My friend asked me, “what’s traveling in India like? ” There are many superlatives too describe the trip, but day to day, hotel to hotel on the backpacker trail, it’s like camping. There are bugs, electricity challenges, and a new meaning of “comfort” on long-haul bus or train trips. I recommend that when packing think of camping and bring the following.
* Buy the mosquito spray or cream while travelling from one place to other place free from mosquito.
* Flashlights, batteries and candles for power outages.
* Books/Kindle, iPod, and a sleep sheet for long train rides.
* And no wheeled suitcases! Uneven streets, stairways to cross train tracks, and bus racks mean that the backpack is the only way to go.
Give your Friends and Family Your Itinerary and Important DocsOpen or Close
There were moments when your family members may question your decision to travel to India. My own parents thought I was a little nuts. Best friend B sent me an article about not getting crushed in a religious stampede. She had just read an article about one such happening. Leaving her with my itinerary showed her that I was not going in such an area and I would “keep my elbows up” to avoid being crushed. Leaving them my itinerary and papers made them feel comforted at least by knowing loosely where I’d be and when. My mother used this information to monitor world news to make sure there were no earthquakes/storms of locusts/forest fires in my destinations.
Bookmark these India Travel Blogs, Web Sites and Buy a travel guideOpen or Close
India information outside the typical backpacker/travel planning web sites for planning and on the road. Bookmark them because you’ll go back to them again and again – before and during your trip.
* Make My Trip: India’s version of Expedia. I found great in-country airfare deals on short notice AND it added online train reservations. This last fact is a huge relief for anyone who’s tried to use the official train reservation site.
Even though there may be considered old-fashioned, a printed travel guide can be one of the best companions for your travel. They will have suggestions for activities and ratings for specific companies. The information in reputable guides is usually very accurate.
Arrange Your First Night Hotel and Airport, Railway Station, Bus-Stand PickupOpen or Close
Before going to any place book your first night hotel and book cab or arrange pickup service by your hotel to pick you from airport/railway station/ Bus-stand. After it you will be become less tense or anxious because you had arranged everything before started your journey.