In this column, Avijit Das Patnaik focuses on family travel with 10 tips keeping in mind touring inexpensive countries (Asia, Middle East, East Europe).
With holiday season coming up, it’s pertinent you know that a wonderful vacation can go massively wrong with just one mistake, mishap or misplace. A stolen wallet, forgotten passport, a con experience, a bad driver, an upset stomach – can all ruin your plans. As an avid traveller, I thought of sharing few tips which would certainly protect you from some mishaps.
1. Do not take your best clothes, excess clothes
Western travellers travel light and smart; they only pack apparels most of which can be disposed during the tour. At your vacation destination likely no one knows or cares about you. If you wear same shirt for three alternate days, it won’t matter.
Best clothes always attract best pickpockets. Ordinary clothes discourage pickpockets. Social media pressurises us to wear new clothes daily for snaps to be posted. But trust me, in this age of excess information, no one remembers what you wore three days ago. At times you too. Can you yourself recall what you wore three days ago in ten seconds? When you start disposing stuff during vacation, the emptied space is taken up by new shopped materials. Your overall luggage doesn’t increase.
For a family of four it’s important not to have excess luggage – at max 3 medium suitcases for a week long trip. Less luggage means less luggage booking costs (in budget airways); less mess in hotel room; easy to manoeuvre around in standard taxis; plus you can focus on other aspects than be lost in managing your luggage.
If clothes or luggage falls short, off course you can buy some from the destination, which act as memorabilia. Research says 20%-40% of the stuff we pack, are never worn. Avoid that.
2. Shop at top floors of cheap malls
When you carry less clothes, you have an incentive to shop cheap. Most Asian cities have cheap malls, factory outlet malls, wholesale market malls. Do not shop at ground or lower floors, maximum crowds are there. Explore the higher floors, as crowds are less, easy to move around and will get cheaper bargains.
I recently brought printer cartridges at Kualalumpur from a I.T. mall. The HP cartridge price difference between ground floor and top floor was around 40% cheaper. Ditto for kids clothes recently in a wholesale Indra Square mall at Bangkok.
3. Toilets at mall top floors are always cleaner
While shopping on top floors get yourself and kids to finish toilet routines. In most Asian countries the toilets in ground floor malls would be the worst due to excess foot falls – almost anyone who needs to freshen up in an AC environment will come there. Use top floor ones, they would be neater, less used and with all sundries (toilet paper, soap dispensers) in place.
4. Avoid weekends for queueing places
Theme parks are always expensive, crowded, unpleasant during weekend. Plus the long queues which make your precious holiday time unproductive. During weekends the average waiting time for a theme park ride ranges from 15 min to 60 min. Most of these rides are just 5-10 mins long. That’s 80% unproductive time.
Keep theme parks and other crowded places only for weekdays. That’s easily 20% savings in entry fees too. It helps kids do more rides and even repeat rides they love. Shopping should be left for weekends when likely more flea market options too come up.
5. Hire a cab instead of group tour
If you are going free and easy, and I recomend that, it’s always better to bargain a nice cab driver to take you around your favourite places. That way you can pick and choose what to see and how much time to spend at each. The cost of 4 group tour tickets will always be higher than cost of cab plus individual entry fees. Often with kids, visit to museums and places of worship could be tiresome as they may seem least interested. When you hire a cab, your family chooses the places.
Remember, in group tours, not all things they show are worth it, some they put in as add ons just because it’s close by and make the numbers. For example, in my recent Istanbul visit I realised group tours are packaged such that you need to take two tours to cover main spots. With a customised itinerary you can do that in a day. A cab gives more comfort to kids too. Also for short distances a cab ride is cheaper than four metro train tickets. But remember, fix the car at the destination, Internet prices are always too costly.
6. Replace mini bar stuff smartly
Mini bars items inside hotels are offcourse expensive. A thumb rule is to teach kids not to touch them barring emergencies. But if in case of emergencies they are consumed, you can always walk across to nearest departmental store and replace them. The housekeeping activities likely happen after 11am. If your kid has consumed yesterday evening, you still have 12hrs to replace.
7. Always wash your dishes before use
Your apartment or hotel may have a kitchenette in the room. Their staff would be nice to wash the dishes you dirty in the room. But it’s best advised you wash once yourselves before use. It’s been found, most apartments (and even branded hotels) don’t do a great job in cleaning room utensils. It’s down to the cleaners mood that day. Some just use water / wipe with wet cloth / just wet wipes. Most just use glass cleaning liquids to wipe. Both aren’t recommended and can pose a health hazard.
8. Get kids to search room
During checkout, give your kids 15 mins to search every nook and corner of your room/apartment if you’ll have forgotten to pack anything. Adults only look at places they kept stuff. Kids look at every possible drawer, corner, behind curtains, under beds etc and will find out either important document or currency you forgot to pack. They get fun in playing the detective role too.
9. Keep the purse home when venturing late nights
If adults want to venture late night to explore night life, then keep only loose cash. Your credit cards, ID card, passport etc need not be with you when you are out. Keep only limited loose cash so that your pockets aren’t bulging and if anyone manages to hoodwink you its just cash lost.
Loss of credit cards, passport or ID cards pose multiple other challenges which will surely spoil your holiday. If you are using a local sim then hopefully it’s inside a spare phone so can carry that too.
10. Local sim & Google maps are best friends
If staying for over five days, a local sim is recommended with data pack. Google maps help like none else. Just check it twice and the cab driver will know he cannot fool you by driving long. Often while touring, language barriers make it impossible to explain directions to a driver. Google maps rock!
Hope the above tips help make your vacation better. Keep a lookout in this section for more travel tips. All suggestions and feedback are welcome, do drop them in comments section.
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