Planning a holiday abroad? Book your hotel online.

Over the last few weeks I have had a number of people asking me various doubts on planning an independent international holiday & particularly about booking hotels abroad. So, till such time as HolidayIQ launches a comprehensive international section (don’t worry, that is coming soon & I promise, it will be a great planning tool), here is a quick primer on how to book hotels & resorts abroad.

I am an online guy, so my first preference is always to book hotels online. With both Travelocity and Expedia launching India sites, the widest international hotel inventory is available to be booked from India and paid in Rupees. So, it sure beats your neighbourhood travel agent hollow. And since both sites have an Indian call centre, one can also talk to a real person in India to double check your bookings, which is often a real comfort.

I stress-tested booking a family room (4 people, 2 adults and 2 kids) at Orlando – in or around Disneyworld – on both the sites. Both Expedia & Travelocity did a good job and threw up a number of options (although Travelocity gave funny error messages & repeatedly failed in my Firefox browser which was a disappointment). However, Expedia’s search methodology was a shade more user-friendly since it allows you to find hotels by naming the Attraction you want to go to and throws up hotels around the attraction. Of course, both Travelocity & Expedia also allow you to narrow the list of hotels in the search results by distance or ease of access to the attraction.

Both excelled in prices. Hotel room prices around Disneyworld started in Expedia at Rs 1386 per night and in Travelocity at Rs 1583 per night. Continue reading

Between Baby Sitter and Brain Doctor : A guide to guiding tourists & travellers

Recently I met someone who has the onerous job of helping first-time European tourists ease themselves into India. And who thought the job was ‘somewhere between being a Baby Sitter and a Brain Doctor’. Other than the fact that the phrase has a nice ring to it, it made me think about Tourism (you’d have thought that I have had enough, but obviously not).

I think this neat phrase actually captures the essential difference between the modern Tourist and the intrepid Traveller.

Tourists go to a new place to wonder at how different it all is. The idea is to somehow get to a point where you feel lost, baby-like and in constant need of looking after. And a whole paraphernalia has developed to cosset you in this place. Resorts, guides, concierges, charter flights – the works. The more I think about this, the more I can see its attraction. In a world that demands a lot from each person, a ‘touristy holiday’ is exactly what you need. To leave the cares of existence and move to the cossetting of childhood. In such a situation, I can see how the Baby Sitter idea works.

The Brain Doctor comes in when you meet Travellers. Travellers ‘go away’ for exactly the opposite reason. They go to conquer. Not for them the innocent pleasure of regression. Continue reading