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

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Utsav – a fantasy island holiday

Last night I was watching the old period movie Utsav. Where have all the Indian women who look like Rehka gone? Anyway, that is besides the point.

It is my thesis that premium holidays are going to move much closer to ‘experiences’ than to ‘places’. While Aman Resorts was the pioneer of the place-based experience holiday (Adrian Zecha, the founder of Aman says that all Aman does is to put a picture frame around an extraordinary natural setting), the next step will involve a creation of a composite, enveloping experience. And in this, I am pretty certain that Period experiences will be a big thing in the future. A new breed of vacations specialists will emerge, combining the detailed recreation of movie sets with powerful mechanical & digital capabilities of the amusement park industry and the sophisticated guest management of top end resorts. Targeted at the premium segment of the leisure market, these vacations will induce people to ‘voluntarily suspend disbelief’ for a much longer time than the 2 hours of a movie, maybe even up to a week.

Utsav, Girish Karnad’s mid-80s period movie is the perfect inspiration for one such vacation. All guests will have to shed their modern togs in favour of ancient clothes, electricity will be completely banned and the mood will reflect the life & times of Vasantsena & CharuDutt. It is my hope that I get to conceive this project. And if given a chance, I would love to set this project in one of the uninhabited islands of the Andamans.

In the meantime, I still cannot figure out where the true Indian woman went.