The vacation planner

Planning the annual summer vacation with family? Here's how to make a trip that's memorable for all the right reasons

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A vacation with family can be especially unnerving, simply because of the variety of requirements that have to be catered to. While on one hand a vacation is meant to refresh and rejuvenate, some holidays can go awry and leave a bad taste for the lack of two key elements—meticulous planning and timely execution. So, for those who wish to enjoy their summer sojourn to the fullest, here's a ready reckoner...

Choosing where to go

The choice of destination can make or mar your vacation. So, before zeroing in on where to go, answer these basic questions to make the best selection:

What is the purpose of your trip? There is a plethora of holiday types available—from rest and relaxation to shopping and sightseeing, from nature trails and adventure, to road trips and cruises. What you expect from a holiday is the primary factor in deciding the destination. For example, history buffs must go to a heritage city, the adventurous should opt for trekking and those who want to laze around must head to a resort. What sort of budget are you looking at?

While a major chunk of budget will be taken by travel, the other will be covered by stay and food, minor expenses including travelling within the city, shopping, among others. Keep these in mind when you select your destination, since some destinations are inherently more expensive than others.

What is the length of your stay? If the vacation is going to be short, then you need to select a destination that's not too far away, else you will end up spending more time travelling, than actually enjoying the holiday. Destinations that have a lot of sightseeing options are best for longer vacations. Avoid long trips for children and elders, as they may not feel comfortable being away from home for too long.

Who are you taking there? Mohit Gupta, Chief Marketing Officer, MakeMyTrip.com advocates, "Choose destinations keeping elders and kids in mind because some hotel or location may not be suitable for them." Travelling with kids or elders is a different ball game. Too much travelling, sightseeing or shopping will tire them out and make them cranky and irritable. Destinations that are too cold or too warm do not go down well with elders and kids. It is thus important to select a destination that provides interesting activities for all the people travelling with you—whether it is elders, children or those in your own age group.

Getting the best

Once the big decision has been made, it's time to get down to the nitty-gritties of deciding the travel dates, checking for flight/train/hotel availability and booking the travel and stay. Karan Anand, Head, Relationships and Supplier Management, Cox and Kings [India] advises, "Book travel and accommodation at least a month in advance." Booking early ensures that the travel and stay can be as per your preference and also opens avenues for massive discounts through negotiation. Organise travel schedules so that you reach your destination during the day.

Any unforeseen circumstances are best handled during the day—being stranded anywhere during the night with family is unadvisable. It's best to stay at a hotel that is close to the marketplace or the station or airport or at least the major sightseeing destinations, to reduce some of your intra-city travelling.

family having fun"Be sure to check up on travel insurance before you make any bookings", recommends Kashmira Commissariat, COO, Outbound Division, Kuoni India. Find out in advance the options for local travel—whether you would have to hire a cab or travel by bus and train. If possible, make these bookings in advance. The last thing that you would want is to spend the holiday cooped up in a hotel, simply because local travel is not good enough.

"Check the facilities that the hotel tariff includes. Most good hotels offer sightseeing tours and transportation in their package, which can be a good money saver. Also, don't hesitate to ask for an upgrade—most hotels will provide a little extra facility at 'no extra cost', simply because it gives them a happy, satisfied customer," says Vishal Gupta, VP, Hotels and Operations, Cleartrip.com

The internet is also a great resource to improve your travel experience as it offers handy travel hints based on the destination.

"Being online," says Kashmira "allows travellers to have information required to plan a holiday at their finger tips." For travellers wary of online bookings, Himanshu Singh, MD, Travelocity.co.in has some advice, "Online bookings are safe. All you need to do is check that the website you use has highly secured online protection methods and a robust risk and fraud management system. The privacy and security policies should be clearly mentioned."

Packing it up

"Travel light should be the mantra", says Karan. While travelling light is obviously the best, there are few essentials that you must never forget. Make detailed lists of the things that you would need. One list per person is a good way.

"Take weight restrictions into consideration when travelling by air, and also never overstuff your bag. Keep some space for last minute additions," says Himanshu. "Always take the weather at the destination into consideration", opines Mohit.

Seasoned travellers suggest a few things that can escape even the most detailed list. This list includes a spare pair of spectacles, camera rolls and memory stick [to back-up and store digital photographs], a torch, foldable bags [to put in any purchases made during the trip], mosquito repellent cream, hand sanitisers, one photo copy each of your passport, visa and emergency contact information including address and telephone number in each bag that you carry and badges with your contact information to pin up on your children's clothing when travelling.

Get your family doctor or paediatrician to prescribe all possible medicines that might be needed during the trip.

If you are travelling by air, remember to carry essential painkillers, anti-emetics [drugs used to relieve nausea, vomiting, and headache] and other prescribed medicines for diabetes, high blood pressure or other health problems you may have.

Always remember to carry extra clothing for children and elders. Carry your child's favourite book or toy to soothe them when they get cranky or uncomfortable in strange places.

So, however tedious it may sound, there is no escaping the fact that the right planning and execution go a long way to creating a super family trip that's laced with pleasant memories. So plan, execute and enjoy.

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