Having a job in the United States means that I’m limited to a rough maximum of 2 weeks of vacation and I want to optimize that time. This means that we need to decide where we are going to go in India and how we are going to get around. The goal is to create a back-of-the-napkin kind of stage of vacation planning where you organize enough information to submit for time off from work.
If you’re following this thread, here’s how I determined that we would go to India for vacation.
Step 1: Deciding what region to go to in India
The first step is to figure out where in India we actually want to go. This can be difficult so here’s my strategy. First and foremost in deciding what region of India to explore I look at a few places and consider our own preconceived notions on what we have to see, the highlights of the highlights.
The highlights of highlight that we know about without doing any research are the Taj Mahal. It fits what we love, it’s cultural, it’s old, and everyone who has been there having something good to say about it. The other area we have heard of before doing research is the Maldives. The Maldives is a gorgeous place where our impression is that it is beachy. We’ve just been to the Galapagos so we are looking to skip the Maldives. The last place that I have an impression of is Mumbai because I work in technology. In researching Mumbai the city is interesting but built for business, so there is not much in the city that I have a dedicated interest in seeing. Finally, we know we can see Bengal tigers in India – something we both want to do,.
This means that the place that is a true must for us is the Taj Mahal, which is in Agra, India and we want to see if we can organize to see some Bengal Tigers.
Agra is just north of the middle of India with the closest city being Delhi, India. This means that we will need to fly into Delhi and make our way to Agra to see the Taj Mahal.
Researching the flights to India, we learned that only direct flights go to Delhi. So no matter what, we will be in Delhi
Step 2: Itinerary ideas from tour companies
How I like to find other key areas to go on a trip is by looking into organized tours, other blogs covering the region, and friends who have actually been there. Again, we don’t go on the larger tours, we use their ideas as inspiration. As for blogs, we take them with a grain of salt. Other bloggers always try to say that every place they go is amazing and as big travelers we know that is just not true.
In researching larger tours, I learned that nearly every tour stops to see the Taj Mahal which is about 4/5 hours south of Delhi by car. The better tours stopped at a few other locations along the way, which I also took note of for further research as good places for us to explore and stretch our legs.
A few other places that we learned of wet our travel appetite even more. Jaipur sounds beautiful and is often referred to as the Pink city so we wanted to see that. Varanasi is more of a local place that is home to the Ganges river where religious people bathe in the river celebrating where one of their buddhas achieved enlightenment. Finally Bengal tigers – can be hard to see but offer us an opportunity to go on safari and chill out for a few days.
Step 3: Top places in India mentioned by Blogs
While tours are good for getting itinerary ideas, blogs are great for learning more about a country than just where to go. Also, some bloggers are country-specific and have extensively traveled through India which gives them more insights and abilities to see things that are off the beaten trails. Once again, we take everything they say with a grain of salt. We’ve seen bloggers on trips having a terrible time but setting up a perfect photo for their blog. So they often don’t give the full picture.
Taj Mahal – Our opinion is that this is recommended by everyone. Of course, we’re going there.
The Himalayas – Stacey and I have been to Tibet and what we saw there is very similar to what we would see from the Indian side.
Rajasthan – This is the desert region of India and Jaipur is one of the main cities to see there we are focusing on getting to see Jaipur. There are other places to see! But we are focused on what is possible for 2 weeks.
Goa beaches – We are into adventure and feel that the Goa beaches are a great place to kick back, but we can skip it.
Delhi – Yes, we will be there.
Ellora & Ajanta Caves – I sooooo want to see the caves! But I don’t think we will be able to make it there on this trip.
Step 4: Structuring the trip
We’ve decided on the following. To explore the city of Delhi, Agra, Jaipur, Varanasi, and Bengal tigers.
Time to Chill
Something we have learned about ourselves is that we need a little downtime in the middle of the trip. Sometimes when we don’t have much on our schedule, where we can just be and explore the place that we are in. We decided that there are 2 opportunities for us to do this. The first is safari and the second is Varanasi. Safaris go out in the early AM and come back before lunch then go out again in the afternoon and come back for dinner. So safari time actually has some nice downtime built in. Varanasi is a religious capital and a very interesting place overall. Spending an extra day or two there will give us that additional time to chill.
The Outline of the Plan
The flight into Delhi leaves on Friday night from New York City and arrives in Delhi on Saturday late at night.
All Sunday, when awake we will explore Delhi and leave Monday morning by car to Agra stopping at a few places along the way.
All day Tuesday we will explore the Taj Mahal, the Red Fort, and perhaps the garden across the river.
Wednesday we leave and go on Safari to see Bengel tigers, having the evening safari on Wednesday.
Thursday we have a morning safari and the evening safari plus whatever else we can do in the region.
Friday we have a morning safari and drive to Jaipur and explore Jaipur in the afternoon.
Saturday and Sunday we will spend exploring Jaipur.
Monday we will fly from Jaipur to Delhi and from Delhi to Varanasi.
Tuesday and Wednesday we spend in Varanasi. Mainly to chill out and enjoy the culture.
Thursday we fly to Delhi and explore Delhi.
Friday and Saturday we explore Delhi and fly home in the evening on Saturday,
Boom. Trip outline established. Now to get the time off.