Jan 202013
 

How does one plan an effective travel itinerary? It was time for an annual family vacation as we entered the new year (2013). My kids, Rhea (6 years) & Kavya (1½ years)  were keen to have something different this holidays, and so did my wife (Rajee). We had in the past been to good tourist destinations in Southern India already. This time was an opportunity to do something new and different. Quite surprisingly, we wished we were in a colder region during this winter.

Vacation with family needs planning. It is more so, if each family member has his/her non-negotiable list of personal requirements and needs. With not much choice left, I did not waste time, and after a couple of days came up with this common list of requirements for our vacation:

No.RequirementRequired By
1Vacation duration must be at least one weekRajee & Rhea
2Holiday in more than 2 placesRajee & Me
3Must see and play in real snowRhea & Kavya
4Need to capture breathtaking sceneryMe
5Must include a genuine hilly train rideKavya & Rhea
6The train ride must involve passing through at least 50 tunnelsRhea
7No wasting time in transit or travel (fast mode of transport)All
8Minimize road travel as much as possible (avoid motion sickness)Rajee
9Need fresh milk and warm/cosy place to sleepKavya
10Optimize time/effort and costMe
Table 1.0: Vacation requirements gathering list

After quite some deliberations on tourist destinations we had never been before, we narrowed down to the Himalayan region of Himachal Pradesh. Here’s how I attempted to achieve each of the family’s vacation requirements, when travelling from Bangalore.

Places to visit and stay

  • Day 0: Travel from Bangalore
  • Days 1 to 2:  Stay in Shimla (Whispering Pines CM Resort)
  • Days 3 to 6: Stay in Manali (Snowpeaks CM Resort)
  • Days 6 to 7: Stay in Dharamshala (Kangra Valley CM Resort)
  • Day 8: Return to Bangalore

As seen above, my membership with Club Mahindra resorts had to be utilized and optimized in the best way. So here was our itinerary map:

Our Himachal Tourism Destinations

Our Himachal Tourism Destinations

Itinerary from Bangalore was planned as below.

Day 0

  1. Evening flight from Bangalore to Chandigarh. (about 3 hours)
  2. Chandigarh airport to Kalka by taxi (about 1 hour)
  3. Stay overnight at a prebooked hotel in Kalka

Chandigarh was chosen instead of Delhi as the airport destination, because of the proximity to Kalka. From here, the plan was to take the toy train to Shimla. Secondly, it reduced the transit/travel time on road because Chandigarh was nearer to Kalka and Shimla than Delhi. An option existed of taking the connecting train (the Howrah Kalka Mail) from Delhi that connects with the Shivalik Express from Kalka to Shimla. However we wanted to avoid the return travel through Delhi considering the longer road travel.

Day 1

  1. Board early morning hill train: Shivalik Express (AC) at Kalka station
  2. Travel Kalka to Shimla (4h 45m). Route covered with breathtaking views of the hills and involves 102 tunnels.
  3. Pre-arranged pickup from Shimla station. Pre-booked SUV with a good local guide as the chauffeur to be retained for the whole trip for the 7 days.
  4. Travel from station to resort (40 m). Stay at Whispering Pines CM resort Shimla.
  5. Noon and Evening activities at the resort.

Day 2

  1. Morning: Shimla sight seeing including Kufri
  2. Noon: City trip
  3. Evening activities at the resort.

Day 3

  1. Early Morning Checkout: Prepare for long road travel from Shimla to Manali (about 250 km)
  2. With frequent stops for rest, some sight seeing, and some budgeted time for motion sickness episodes, the journey time is about 6 to 6.5 hours.
  3. Checkin to Snowpeaks CM resort, Manali.
  4. Evening activities in the resort.

Day 4

  1. Snow play time in Manali.
  2. Trip to Manali Solang Valley (Snow Point) enroute to Rohtang Pass .
  3. Prebooked activities with the help of the guide for skiing and playing in the snow.
  4. Road travel time about 45 mins.
  5. Evening activities in the resort.

Day 5

  1. Manali temples tour: Hidimba temple & Sage Vasishta Temple
  2. Manali hot water springs and river rafting
  3. Manali city visit and artifacts shopping
  4. Evening activities in the resort.

Day 6

  1. Early Morning Checkout: Prepare for long road travel from Manali to Dharamshala (about 250 km)
  2. With frequent stops for rest, some sight seeing, and some budgeted time for motion sickness episodes, the journey time is about 6 to 6.5 hours.
  3. Checkin to Kangra Valley CM resort, Dharamshala.
  4. Evening activities in the resort.

Day 7

  1. Dharamshala Temple tour: e.g. Bhagsunath temple, Bhagsunag Falls
  2. Tibetan and Dalai Lama Monastery tour
  3. Mcleod Ganj and City tour including Cricket Stadium
  4. Evening activities in the resort.

Day 8

  1. Early Morning Checkout: Prepare for long road travel from Dharamshala to Chandigarh (about 250 km)
  2. With frequent stops for rest, some sight seeing, and some budgeted time for motion sickness episodes, the journey time is about 6 to 6.5 hours.
  3. Board 4 pm flight from Chandigarh to Bangalore (travel time about 3 hours).

The actual trip did go about well as planned in the itinerary. My wife did get to enjoy seeing the places and the shopping places she wanted. We managed to spend some quality time amongst the mountains for a week. Lot of cold weather and snow was in abundance for the kids to play. Great nature scenes  for me to shoot and Kavya did get her fresh milk and being cosy at the resort. Few of us did have some bouts of motion sickness episodes on some challenging hill stretches on the road. But then it was a known threat to our plan, and we were well prepared.

Hopefully, this itinerary has some useful learnings to plan for future vacations from Bangalore.

  4 Thoughts on “A Bangalore Himachal Itinerary”

  1. Liked the blog! Specially the requirement matrix :)

  2. Thanks Hirak. Understanding of requirements is very important. Whether it is at work (with customer) or at home (with family) :-).

  3. Cost? can u give us a break up of different costs and the total?

    • Costs need to be broken down into
      – Flight travel (depends on the airlines you can check it out)
      – Hotels (depends on 2/3 star or 5 star – cheap yet decent ones for family start from about Rs. 2000 per night – you can get it lower though if you get out of town – but the better starred ones start around double the price and can extend even higher during peak seasons)
      – Taxi rentals (budget about Rs. 2000 per day – depending on how much you travel).

      Other expenses (variable)
      – Tourist place visits/tickets (depends on each place you wish to go)
      – Food

      Expense wise – travel (flight/taxi) and accomodation costs are the largest.