I have mixed feelings about summer holidays. On one hand it makes family travel easy, on the other it turns the whole of India and beyond into fish market! As we Indians are family oriented and over 1 billion, summer vacations mean crowds, high prices and a wait everywhere. And I am not a fan of any of these!
I immediately denounce the usual suspects in the hills like Manali and Shimla as I know they will be beyond crowded. Luckily we all love to travel to offbeat destinations which are low on luxury but otherwise amazing.
The other problem with summer vacations is the weather. Everywhere other than the high hills is hot! North India starts to bake slowly putting places like Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh out of equation. Actually I have been to Madhya Pradesh in June. I enjoyed my morning and evening safaris in Kanha but I had strict instructions to stay indoors in AC otherwise during the day. They served lunch in the room itself! It was not a bad deal but I was alone on that trip. I am not sure how feasible this would be with kids!
South India can fare marginally better weather wise in places like Coorg and Munnar. But Coorg Resorts, even bigger ones like Orange County would get crowded in vacations. Kerala Resorts start offering discounted prices too.
I think offbeat North East India would be a good choice for summer vacations as the weather will be good and it would still not be too crowded. But somehow the flights to offbeat places are so expensive that I can take a foreign vacation in the same price! And that is why I love to travel when everyone else is at work and kids are in school!
However as my girls are growing up I too need to plan vacations more in line with their school holidays. This year I intelligently took them abroad in the small break they have before the major summer break. It was quite alright to go then. Not too many people at the airport, the destination was also not crowded and the weather was nice. I think I am going to seize on the smaller break more and more.
It is that time of the year again when a lot of people will plan to travel. After all it would be summer vacation time soon! Destinations would be discussed and debated, mountain vs sea debates will flare up.
However I stand aloof and do not join in the excitement. For one even though my daughter goes to school, she is still quite small. So, traveling on extended weekends is not a problem. Two, everyone and their relatives will be planning to travel during the school holidays. That leads to trains getting booked within minutes of becoming available for reservation, increased airfares, costlier hotels and food and what not.
I often stay away from traveling during summer vacations, at least to the popular spots. But I met my nemesis once, in Hong Kong. My daughter, niece and I traveled to Hong Kong in 2014. My daughter’s passport has just arrived and I decided to take her and my niece on their first trip abroad. So far so good.
We landed in Hong Kong safe and sound. As the trip was with the kids the main thing on the list was the Disneyland. However we did not know that August was the school holiday time in Hong Kong. On top of that we went to the Disneyland on a Sunday. It was a hot day too. As soon as I got down from the bus, I noted the location of the taxi stand. I had a suspicion that the girls might wish to go back early, much before the 9.00 pm fireworks!
I have grant it to them, the kids were good sport. They did not complain much for waiting in the lines that formed in front of various rides. For almost every ride the wait time was 40 to 60 minutes! By four in the evening the kids told me they wanted to go back home! Off we went to the taxi counter and to our hotel! That is what summer vacations can do to your travel! So while you plan to travel in the school holidays, I think I am going to take it easy!
I have no qualms in declaring that I am extremely middle class. I am really a sucker for value for money. I have recently been given two gadgets which I simply love. I really like them to bits. But they are so damn expensive that when at a future date (really far away in future) I will have to replace them I don’t think there is even a remote possibility of me buying them. Actually it is this scenario that set me on the value for money idea.
When it comes to travel value for money is again the mantra for me. I am not very particular about hotels, I can travel in local buses, and the like. After all if I had a free hand, I would travel every other weekend. In fact, in March I traveled on three consecutive weekends, two of them to foreign locations. It is another matter that I fell ill after coming back. Now as I like to travel so much there is not a chance that I can stay in posh places every time. For me the room has to be clean, it should have hot water and I am all set. Whenever I write about fancy hotels chances are that I was invited.
But summer vacations completely ruin my orientation. As my daughter is growing up and is in standard 1, I too have to think of summer vacations as travel time. Everything you try to book, cost at least twice more than the off peak rates. Anywhere you go in India it feels everyone else is also visiting the same place.
For example, my nephew and I wanted to trek in Ladakh but for the same price I managed to reach Maldives in the past! So, all you bright people out there, how do you manage to get good deals during Indian summer vacations? I tried digging high and low on bargains and found some on Goibibo shop page on Flipit. But still how do you wise folks travel during summer without breaking the bank?
You know, I could have actually titled this post ‘I hate summer vacations!’
If you are reading this in Delhi I know how you feel, we are reeling at 45-46 degree Celsius and escape is constantly on our minds. After all it is the perfect time for family travel. The temperatures are scorching, the schools are closed and that big family trip can be planned now! Above all most of us want to escape the heat, if only for a few days.
Whether you prefer the package holidays or you swear by DIY time is just right to get away. There are plenty oftour packages from Delhiboth for India and abroad. However, if you are stubborn like me and would still like to go the DIY route there are even more options waiting to be explored.
However when was the last time when you traveled during summer vacations to one of the popular tourist spots within India? Do you remember the crowds? And the rush in the trains? Cheap train tickets make destinations affordable for everyone but given the capacity of our railway system summer train travel becomes one of the most challenging thing. Also all the tickets to the trains are almost gone by now and if you even have wait list 1 chances are no one will cancel their long planned holiday. This has actually happened to a friend. She had wait list 1 on a South bound train and it remained firmly stuck there.
Escape to the Hills!
Also there was a time when summer vacation meant a visit to the favorite aunt and spending time with cousins. I still remember those summers, where I would climb up the mango or the blueberry (jamun to be precise), get bruises and cuts and enjoy large family meals. Such holidays are probably not so popular any longer? I am told that many parents in the metro cities feel compelled to take a vacation abroad otherwise their child will feel left out after everyone returns to school and starts talking about their foreign trips. Times are surely changing.
So given the scenario I approach the summer vacation trips a bit gingerly. I remember being stuck at Joshimath during summer with my husband and both of us were really taken aback by the number of people we saw at the place. It was packed to capacity, lunch time meant most restaurants would be full. It also meant a lot of litter thrown around. Hotel prices would also head sharply in northerly direction. Even the most basic hotel would come at a steep price.A few trips like this and we started avoiding the main places during the school holidays. This trip to Joshimath was actually a short one as we were heading on a trek after two days of rest and those two days were more than enough.
In Search of Peace
But now we have our school going daughter, and summer vacations are slowly climbing back on our charts. She is still in KG 2 so we are fine, we just take her on small trips and we take turns to go trekking. But there will be a time when we will have to make our peace with traveling in summer time. Till then we are not venturing out to any mainstream place during the summer holidays in India.
What is your take? Are you brave enough to go to popular tourist places during the school holidays?