India had always interested me and I had wanted to go for a long time but wanted to take the family when the kids were old enough to appreciate it and not be overwhelmed . I didn’t know where I wanted to go and a few friends had traveled in the golden triangle only but no friends with families ,so , I started by reading the Lonely Planet guide to India ,which I can recommend. Since I still couldn’t visualize “ the pink city” or the “blue city”, I then looked on youtube for people’s travel footage , quite helpful . Once I had a sense of where we might want to go to get a range of experiences, I started to look at the travel blogs. I looked on the lonely planet thorn tree blog, but mainly got my information from the Fodors.
We have traveled a great deal and always take just carry on.
I thought I would include some of the items we pack if folks are interested. Some of these items have been included after we learned from painful experience.
Extra credit cards – international phone numbers to cancel them should they get stolen
Name and phone number of our travel agent/locations
Copy of our itinerary
Copies of vouchers
Carry-on back pack
Smaller day pack
Small compressible bag- the bag we would keep the snacks in
Compressible duffel- in case we bought too many souvenirs to fit in our bags
Liquids in quart bag and spare quart bag
1-2 additional zip locks
1 rain coat-brought it, didn’t use it
polar fleece- used it constantly the last week
Keens- looked funny but I walked all over in them and they were comfortable
Long pants , for both men and women, no shorts
silk long wraparound skirt.,made of old saris. Worked great, cool, dried quickly.
mittens or gloves,
hat for sun
Scarf,the men needed one for Amristsar as well.
Sarong to wear over swim suit in the water, needed it in Kerala, would recommend quick dry
medical kit:Afrin: Stool softener( you are sitting around and constipation can happen)
Rubbing alcohol to dry ears , Vasoline,Tums ,zantac
Ibuprofen ,Benadryls ,Dramamine, Imodium
malarone for malaria prophylaxis,
had meds for infectious diarrhea ,which we didn’t use
scopolamine patches for some of us who get car sick.
ambien is very helpful for jet lag
Hand cream- north was very dry and with the constant hand washing, it was very helpful to have
Hair conditioner- wish I had had it.
head lamp-episodic loss of power in the hotels, dark areas at the sites ,keep at hand
silk Sleeping sack
laundry stuff- wash line ,stain remover packets, woolite packets
Duct tape-wrapped around a pencil (kept my husband’s hiking shoes together during one trip)
Pens and pencils
Sun glasses and spare
Glasses and spare
Cashmere travel throw
Neck pillow if needed
Camera x 2,Charger,batteries ,photo discs Very painful lesson when the 1 camera you bring on a trip dies the 2nd day!
Padlock and length of chain for locking luggage to luggage rack
Husband took his blackberry to stay connected with work, but Castle and King gave us phones to be used in country. It was helpful to connect with our drivers . We had requested 2 phones thinking we would frequently be separated but just used the one.
We made the international plane reservations on our own, and set a couple of hotel reservations up at the beginning and end of the trip, then realized that there were lots of moving parts and we would need to take a number of flights to make it workable. At that point, I got the Castle and King travel agency recommendation. I had contacted several agencies , but found C and K prompt and mid range and decided to go with them. Arvind the manager, was very helpful in booking the route ,the flights and remaining hotels in the northern part of our trip. He would suggest hotels and I also had ideas of places we wanted to stay. He was able to get bookings when I was not, perhaps because of cancellations ,I don’t know.
The drivers were all extremely safe and I felt very comfortable on the crazy roads with them. Most of them didn’t speak much English, which generally wasn’t an issue since we had guides with us in every city in the northern part. One notable exception was Krishna, a driver for Castle and King,who was an amazing driver, and could also speak some English. We had gotten his name from this blog and we were very happy with him. The guides were all pretty good ,and some were amazing.
For Kerala, We chose to use a different agency, which specialized in Kerala only. That didn’t go as well, in part perhaps because of expectations we had, but also because it was a different pace ,with more scenery and less historic sites to see. The driver picked us up at the airport but didn’t speak much English. He was a very safe driver , but there were many things we passed by ,which we had questions about, but he couldn’t answer. The only bookings we had were the hotels and the car and driver but we didn’t realize this until we read the small print. For example ,the brochure would say, do a wildlife safari in Wayanad, but this had not been booked and was only a suggestion for us. Once we realized what was going on, we went into gear and started planning. I had brought the India book (the tome) with me and we also had internet at times , so we quickly planned a few interesting things.
This was actually one of the easiest trips we have ever taken . Having a travel agent in India was tremendously helpful and Castle and King did a great job! It was so nice having a car and driver, and a knowledgeable English guide.
We were in country 18 days and we saw a lot. It was a whirlwind tour but most of the time, it didn’t feel crazy at all. We relaxed in the car, on the planes and in the trains. We had brought an ipad mini on the trip and had loaded a number of books on it. It was a very popular item, for reading, email, skyping as we often had wi fi in the better hotels, and loading and viewing our photos Everyone brought paperbacks as well. We all read prodigiously .
Some things I learned along the way.
35 km can take 2 hours to drive. In other words, the traffic was very bad ,and the roads often didn’t permit efficient travel.
There is no ( well hardly any) fast food in India and a dinner on the road will take about 45-60 min.
If you express any interest in an item to a tour guide, you will quickly find yourself in a back store room with often nice things, but at high prices with a hard sell. One can find out about silk weaving, pietra dura, block printing, gem work, etc., but the price paid is the time spent extricating oneself without buying .
New Year’s Eve is celebrated in India and it did change our touring plans for that day.
Christmas was not an issue, which is what I expected.
We had some sinus issues for the first week since the air quality was so poor, until we got to Udaipur. No one had any gut distress except me and I had 1 bout of diarrhea on the tarmac going back to Amsterdam.We got bolder and bolder with our food choices. My son stayed strict vegetarian and lost 15 lbs (which he didn’t have to lose), I ate meat 3 times and lost 5 lbs. In the end I was eating cucumbers and carrots that someone else had pealed because I missed the fresh veggies so much. My husband and daughter basically ate what they wanted and didn’t lose any weight. We were very careful about the water ;drank and brushed our teeth with bottled water, which was available in all the hotel rooms and from the driver of our car. Purell was used frequently
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