My dad’s guide to travel

A lot of my travels have been with my family. We’ve gone everywhere from posh Singapore to the harsh NathuLa in the Himalayas. And it is one traveller, who despises travel, who made a lot of it possible. From helping plan the itinerary to booking his office’s holiday homes to haggling with taxi guy’s in Manali in a sudden burst of fluent Hindi we didn’t even know he was capable of, my dad has done it all and hated every minute of it. This is his advice on how travel and these are words to live by for me, at least most of it. I’ve also added my little comments to some of it (in brackets) in order to have some balance to this blog:

  • If you want to travel, don’t. It’s too stressful and an utter waste of money. You want to relax, stay home, you want to try new food, then order food home, if you want to waste money, order random junk home. You want to see the world? Use Google. You want to stress yourself out? Do taxes. You have so many options of wasting time and money, all from the luxury of home, why waste it all travelling? (You see what I have to deal with?)
  • If you still must travel, like my idiotic son (That’s me!!!) seems to like to do, then plan in advance, well in advance. Not planning anything and going for a long journey may seem like a fun idea at the time but it usually ends with a lot of wasted time and money looking for places to stay and transport. Stay and long distance travel needs to be preplanned, if possible. You’re not in a Disney movie, nothing is going to work out on its own for you, let it go. (Couldn’t agree with him more, small weekend getaways can be spontaneous but long journeys require bookings unless you’re backpacking with a tent or something of that sort and are willing to rough it out. You want comfort and affordability? Book early!)
  • That said, don’t over-plan. You don’t need to know what you’ll be doing at every minute of every day. You’ll inevitably stress yourself out when something is closed or you get delayed and you’ll stress everyone else out by rushing them along in order to stay on schedule. (Which can and has led to a lot of fights and drama). Know where you want to go and prioritize based on the time you have.
  • Don’t overdo the sightseeing. You’re there for leisure travel, do it leisurely. (Dad joke). You can skip a few places if it means getting enough time to spend on the ones you like. Again, it’s about your priority. Enjoying a few places is better than rushing through them all. (This is a big issue I have with group tours, they never give you enough time at the interesting place and give you too much time in the bus. It’s also the problem you will face if you over-plan.)
  • Pack light. You don’t pack half your wardrobe for a 10-day trip. (He just glared angrily at my cousin sisters, hehehe). Just pack enough for the trip and a few spares in case of any unforeseen issues. Pack only how much you can carry and actually carry what you pack!
  • Dress appropriately. Shorts and all may be good for tropical Goa but they’re utterly pointless in the cold winters of Darjeeling. (You’ll always see some idiots doing this. It’s painful to watch them stubbornly shiver). Similarly, don’t wear flip-flops while trekking or fancy dress shoes to a beach. (I’ve seen people trek in dress shoes and high heels, why would you even attempt that? Why?). Also, something with pockets is recommended. It may not be as fancy or fashionable but it’s far more practical. (This is a weird issue with women’s clothing in particular. Most jeans and other clothes they have either don’t have pockets or have pockets so small you’ll need to fold a postage stamp to get it to fit in. Again, why?)
  • Don’t see the entire trip through your camera screen. Don’t keep asking others to keep taking photos of you, don’t overdo the selfies, one or two pictures are enough, hundreds are just stupid and ask people’s permission before taking pictures of them. (Got it?)
  • Don’t try to experiment with food too much since an upset stomach will kill your trip. (While I do advocate for and follow the try anything once attitude, both my mom and dad are now senior citizens and have health issues, so you can see where he’s coming from.) Go to places which are reasonably crowded, be it a fancy restaurant or street food, the chances of that place giving you so kind of stomach bug are rarer, cause it won’t be so popular if it did, statically speaking. Also, when in doubt eat the food you’re used to. (You can always find a dosa or paratha place anywhere in the country and in most places abroad now anyway though sometimes finding one is a bit of a challenging issue. Also, Hungry people are mean!!!)
  • Travel within your means. Don’t take loans or skip meals to save money or any nonsense like that. You want trek in the alps and don’t have the money, go to the Himalayas. Don’t have the money for that either? Then do to a hill near you. It’s better to go on smaller economical trips than paying for one big trip by burning through your savings and landing in debt. (Your rich friends have the cash to travel, you may not, you pauper. If you can’t go to Switzerland with them, take them to Sikkim with you.)
  • Be prepared to sacrifice a few things. This being primarily food and sleep. Though a few luxuries like wi-fi and a hot shower may also have to be on the list. Suck it up and deal with it. (This is another contentious point on trips, especially when some people are ready and some aren’t. People get offended when you tell them they’re slow apparently.)
  • Take the train! (Yesss) Flights are quick but boring and expensive while buses are slow, uncomfortable and ironically still expensive.
  • Call your hotel before you start your journey. Just to ensure they keep a room available, that you are aligned with their policies like check-in times and the like, and to see if the hotel actually still exists or not. (I’ve had a rather annoying situation where the hotel had been suddenly shut down the week before we arrived much to our utter horror. Wasn’t my best trip)
  • Always keep hard cash with you, along with cards, e-wallets, apps and whatever else you people pay with these days. Digital India and demonetization be damned. Also, keep small change with you, 10s, 20s and the like, the person you’re paying will be thankful for it. (This has proved to be true time and time again especially with small shopkeepers and bus conductors who take it as a personal insult of the highest order if you don’t give them proper change.)
  • Be prepared for the unexpected. Always keep slack time between connections in case the train or flight is late (Which it will be), you don’t get your hotel room on time (You won’t), your car has a flat tire (It’s inevitable), and the like (misery in other creative ways). What you expect to take 30 mins will take a minimum of 2 hours at least. Suck it up and deal with it you weakling (Did he just call me a weakling?).
  • Don’t turn up in the newspapers. Don’t get too drunk and start a fight or drive, don’t do drugs, don’t try to smuggle something illegal or piss off the locals or fellow travellers. Can’t stress this enough. (Nothing to add here. It’s just a weary warning)
  • Finally, if you still want to travel after all the advice go ahead. You’re a lost cause. (I’m discretely packing my bags in the background)
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