The very thought that March is slipping out of hand and it will be April in no time and May, June will speed in as promptly, makes me want to go into a hibernation locked in an AC room (with somebody sponsoring the electricity bills), till the winters are back. I stopped at June, because July has my birthday and I remain too busy promoting my wishlist so that dear ones get a fair chance to pamper me with gifts. But, how did I sin to deserve the demotion from “Dilli ki garmi” (read “summers in Delhi”) to “Hyderabadi garmi” (summers in Hyderabad), still remains a secret! It could have been “Bangalore ki garmi” (summers in Bangalore), but my employers would not have it. A vacation to beat the heat becomes imperative, what say?
I rarely travel solo, but when I do, I prefer picking some holiday package with pre-designed itineraries and bookings. And if you keep a watch on the latest offers from different Travel Agencies and choose carefully, you end up saving good moolah which can be put to better use like shopping (so believes the shopaholic in me). Take my trip to Vaishno Devi for instance, where I booked my air tickets from Yatra.com and saved 20% on my 2 days/1 night Hotel stay. The only risk factor is you pay before looking at the product. So cross checking before you type in the numbers of your credit card by reading reviews from real travellers in community sites like mouthshut.com, virtualtourist.com, tripadvisor.com, travel.sulekha.com, travel.yahoo.com really helps.
From my travel experiences over the years, I have zeroed on makemytrip.com, yatra.com, coxandkings.co.in and thomascook.co.in as the best places for fishing holiday packages in India and abroad. Of Make My Trips’ latest tax free packages, the Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand tour in 9 Nights for just Rs. 49,500 (with minimum deviations as per the departure city), and with inclusions like free international SIM card with the ticket, accommodations at nothing below 4 star hotels, Singapore Visa Fee, sightseeing et al, sounded absolutely tempting. Their “Book a Hotel on Make My Trip and get money back on your Train Ticket” also looks like a hot cake. Yatra’s 3 Nights/4 Days Honeymoon Special Package in Switzerland for Rs. 1,38,560 and 51% cash back on the companion, made me wish two things – I am married and my husband doesn’t mind splurging on travelling. A healthy competition is Cox and Kings’ 40% Cash Back on Europe tours.
For domestic holidays, travel deals so abound that writing about them would take up columns and you might end up thinking I am commissioned to promote each. Surfing the sites yourself is the best option. Now, this reminds me of the internet inhibitions in Assam. For example, if MaPa considers going on a pleasure trip (I’d have a mild heart attack out of joy), he would never surf the internet for the best deals. He would rather consult the local travel agent near his ASEB office than trust some website with his credit card details. I am not saying the local agent will dupe him or my referred sites are the best. But having worked with travel agencies and understanding how they design low-cost tours, I would rather travel with one of these and either take a package and ask them to customize it as per my preferences or plan my itinerary myself and just make flight bookings through them. Sitting right where I am, I can chart my entire travel itinerary with a few clicks of the mouse! The facilities don’t end here. You can also find like-minded travel buddies online or join traveller groups and get, set, go. Oktatabyebye.com and wowsumitra.com (for women travellers) are the recommended ones. For cruise vacations in the Brahmaputra, the offerings from jungletravelsindia.com look lip-smacking.
Travel smart with the world wide web! Your help at hand (yours truly) is only a mail away.
Makemytip/Oktatabyebye (from BSNL & MTNL phones): 1-800-11-8747
Cox & Kings (from BSNL & MTNL phones): 1-800-22-1235
Thomas Cook: 011-23416580/23344617
Jungle Travels: 0361-2602186/2602223/2540995Post Script: I and a few other NRA (Non Residential Assamese) Kolongporiyas (I am a Nagaonian, by the way) have joined hands to volunteer as career counsellors for the aspiring lot back home. So far we have a travel writer (me), a bevy of well established Engineers (Amar Saikia, Gaurav Dey and Arnov Hazarika) and a Management Specialist (Subho) in the group. Be the first one to boost us up or mail your education/career queries related to the said fields at email@example.com. Phenomenal enthusiasm so far and I am anxiously waiting to watch us in “action”. More about the Kolonporiyas next Saturday!