Image credits – opodo
Better Late than Peak Seasons
There are two ways of travelling economically—either be flexible about your destination or be flexible about the time of year you visit the destination. And, if you already feel dismay rise up in your heart, stubborn in its choice of destination, the only option left is timing your holiday according to your budget. Every destination has a peak season, when everything from flight tickets and hotel rooms to cab fares and foods cost more. It is a matter of plain economy to time your travels before or after the peak season timeframe. For example, hotel rooms and homestays in Kashmir are exorbitantly high in March-April. This is the time of the year when Tulips and sixty other varieties of fragrant flowers cover the Valley, decking it up in bride-like splendour. Holidaying in Kashmir from December to January, during the off-season, is also near impossible due to the extreme cold and snowfall. Thus, September to October is the perfect time to experience “Agar firdaus bar roo-e zameen ast”, Kashmir, when the weather is pleasant and one can visit the different parts of the region without emptying your account or freezing to death.
A Friend in Need is an App indeed
Kudos to technology for saving our backs, inventing all sorts of apps needed during travels. On your vacations abroad, Google Translate can prove to be a lifesaver, enabling you to give directions to cab drivers, read names of roads, order foods, exchange pleasantries and ask for help in local languages. Camera and editing apps, such as Camera+ for iPhones and Snapseed, Camera 360 Ultimate and Camera FV-5 for android users, can substitute DSLRs, doing just as good jobs as the bulky apparatus. No matter which corner of the globe you are planning to explore, the AccuWeather app will keep you abreast of the latest weather updates, cautioning against unexpected rainfalls and storms—or inviting to make hay while the sun shines. Google Maps and Citymapper are essential apps for avoiding traffic-congested roads in times of hurry, navigating your way around unknown cities like a pro. The CityMaps2Go app lets users download maps of cities and even remote towns for offline use, in case Wi-Fi is unavailable. Also, install the XE Currency App to keep a tab on your expenses in different currencies while you go round the world. Last but not the least, WhatsApp calls are a lifesaver, enabling you to stay connected to family and friends, never missing out anything on your globe-trotting spree.
All’s well if you Book the Right Hotel
Facilities, tariffs and location are the three watchwords of making hotel selections. Apart from basics like room-service, parking, AC, free Wi-Fi, geyser and television, look for other specific facilities like currency exchange, airport shuttle, car hire service, laundry service, trouser press, daily maid service and free luggage storage. Opting for hotel rooms that come with complimentary breakfasts can mean significant savings at destinations where food is costlier. If traveling with kids or senior citizens, you might want to find out whether the hotel provides medical help in times of emergencies. Apps like Trivago lets you compare tariffs of hotel rooms, but before making reservations at surprisingly low rates, always check whether the location of the hotel is favorable. Booking hotels located far away from the city-center or on the extreme outskirts will multiply your cab expenses, eating up your time, hindering you from visiting all the places in your travel itinerary—you will be throwing out the baby with the bathwater.
Not every destination allows humdrum hotel stays. If you are traveling to the Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe, you will have choices of accommodations ranging from the humble self-catering and camping to luxurious suites with plunge pools and viewing decks. Houseboat stays at the “Venice of the East”, Alleppey is imperative for enjoying the serenity of Kerala backwaters and getting a taste of local cuisines plus life-style first hand. Contact the right authorities, making reservations, confirmed via emails, to enjoy exotic accommodations.
There’s No Place like Home-Stays
Countless homeowners are listing their properties online for travellers, who want to experience luxurious yet more personalized hospitality, and a relaxing ambience. Airbnb is offering endless choices of accommodations from romantic cabanas in Armenia to duplex houses in Kashmir, stretching the limits of your travelling experiences with each stay. Most of the home stays that are listed at Airbnb come with complimentary breakfasts. Complying with the requests of guests, hosts at home stays sometimes provide square meals throughout the day. Travel booking biggies like MakeMyTrip and Goibibo have started listing affordable home stays at par with Airbnb. Well decorated interiors, warmth of hospitality, complete privacy and more dwelling space at same or lower prices make home stays perfect choice for the home away from home comfort.
When in Rome, Eat as the Romans
Rome or any other destination, eating what the locals eat will make your trip all the more memorable. Each part of the world has a distinguishing cuisine that reflects the lifestyle of its locals/culture and offers some delicious surprises for visitors. A visit to Petra in South Jordan is incomplete without tasting Falafels and Mansaf, a rice dish made of lamb meat, curd and spices. Likewise, when in San Francisco tasting clam chowder, a hot soup served in bread bowls, thrills the taste buds. Cuisines near at home like the freshly made ice-creams with diced strawberries at the strawberry firms in Mahabaleshwar and chicken cooked inside bamboo shoots at Araku Valley are equally memorable. Lovers of Biriyani will be delighted with the rich aroma and bona fide flavors of Hyderabadi Biriyani served at Paradise Hotel in Hyderabad. There is no better way of satisfying culinary curiosity than trying local cuisines at the places you visit. Unfortunately, rampant commercialization of traditional recipes at tourist spots prevents travellers from tasting authentic indigenous foods. Do your research regarding the cuisines of a place and find eateries that serve them best before traveling.
Fortune Favors the Informed Shoppers
Shopping is one of the exciting bonuses of travelling. Just like food, every place has some unique merchandise that characterises its culture and traditions. Being a country of history and heritage, every nook and corner of India boasts of exclusive items worth splurging, yet there are a number of products that one gets at affordable prices as keepsakes or gifts for dear ones. If you are planning to buy famous handloom saris from Madurai or sandalwood powder at Mysore, the Government controlled Cooperative stores would be the best options for genuine products. The Golghar beside the GPO of Varanasi offers freshly woven silk-brocade Benarasi saris in a spectacular plethora of colors and designs. Connoisseurs of collectibles and mementos shouldn’t limit their research to finding out specialty merchandise offered at tourist spots but also discover the best outlets where those products are available.