Long holidays or just weekend getaways, a little planning is what it takes to make them fun

The ‘yes or no’ survey from Budget Travel asked: Would you fly six hours to a place for a four-night stay? We debated: ‘Six hours’ is just the flying time. Add the drive-to-the-airport time, waiting time, and the check-out time at the destination — about 10 hours? We still punched in ‘yes’. What if it is Dubai? But would we travel that long for a weekend break? No, we said, reluctantly. We wondered: Aren’t we making a mistake if we did that? How do we make weekend trips as much fun as week-long ones?

“I’m glad you asked,” said Dipankar Ghosh of Prakruthi, a travel outfit. “A weekend getaway is a different kind of excitement, but people take decisions based on long-holiday experiences. Note down these points,” he urged.

First, ask yourself Why are you off? For a completely-cut off, no-gizmos, just-rejuvenation getaway? To check out a must-see monument? Adventure sports? Trekking? Bird watching? Pick one, or max two, he says. “I hurried an American group through a Mahabalipuram tour, and a 50-plus woman tourist wouldn’t budge. She said ‘I need to understand, appreciate the significance. I have to take it all in’. What she saw, she saw well. It makes a load of sense.”

It’s tempting to make the most of every second on a trip, but rushing to five different places around the spot can be physically and mentally exhausting. Why not take a long walk around a lake / waterfall, soak in the scene from a temple compound? How about a trek on Saturday and a leisurely lunch on Sunday? The two-day programme is not an endurance test! Be realistic about what you and your companions can happily handle. You don’t want to return to work feeling you need a vacation.

No bulk luggage, says Dipankar. “The knapsack is now the laptop bag. Add iPad, iPod, handycam, mobile phone and kids’ hand-held games to the luggage, and you have a situation. So buy a backpack for each member (self-responsibility), pack clothes in cushion / pillow covers and stack them neatly in each. The elderly will have strolleys. Lug only what is essential for two days. Why should you have check-in luggage? Right dress, right occasion. If you’re heading to a hill station, dress in layers, so you don’t need to pack them in a bag. Carrying sports equipment? Consider shipping them ahead. Better still, rent them at the spot.

And then, there are the longer holidays where you need to save time. While visiting places such as Disneyland, book in hotels close to the attractions. The rooms are slightly more expensive, but you save time, and reach the gates fresh and ready-to-explore. Also ensure seamless journeys. “For instance, if you’re flying to Delhi and driving 200 km to Rajasthan, and are caught in a traffic jam, you are pushing yourself into anxiety. Choose road trips that won’t strain the driver either,” says Dipankar. “Don’t take flights with multiple connections. Dot-coms that offer relatively inexpensive flights make you switch planes at hubs, so possible delays. Prefer non-stop ones. And don’t choose places that require various forms of transport to reach.”

On-a-whim road trips are infinitely exciting except at meal times. “We flew to Vizag from Chennai and hired a car to drive to Chhattisgarh,” says Suresh from Bengaluru. “We wasted two hours of driving time looking for a decent vegetarian restaurant. Wish we had done our meal research.” Go where the wind takes you, but have an idea of the destination layout. “You have a lot of options,” points out Dipankar. “Mobile / dashboard GPS, print-option road maps… why would you be lost?”

Prepare for a new time zone, if you’re easily jet-lagged. Sleep on the flight. Soon after you check in at the hotel, go for a walk, have dinner in the city and ease into local time. So, happy holidays!

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MetroplusJune 28, 2012