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Kashmir Trip ep1 - Planning and Travel Logistics

It was the pandemic era and most of our visits and trips until now had been limited to destinations within driving distance. The fear (or paranoia) had kept us bound to our homes, but there is always a silver lining to dark periods. The Covid-19 statistics showed that the numbers were stable at acceptable levels, the vaccine was proving (at least on the ground) and people were coming out of their houses. This was encouraging and relieving. It was then our bug to venture out started biting us again, asking us to plan for an extended trip. However, as always, the inertia had set it and we needed a jolt out of it. Rishik's birthday came as one for us and in a very pleasant way. This article covers our Kashmir trip planning & travel logistics.

Starting with the basics - what and where in Kashmir?

Rishik's birthday was right around the corner (ask any parents of a 3-year-old how ahead the corner is :)) when we sat down for some family chitchat in April 2022. We hadn't planned any celebrations yet and it was high time to finalize something. Soon, out of blue, the kiddo comes to us and says - papa, mujhe Switzerland jana hai (dad, I want to go to Switzerland for a trip). We knew then that the plan for his birthday celebrations would involve a trip and an extended one at that. Thus started our search for a perfect destination to usher in the big day, the day when Rishik turns four.

We started with Switzerland itself but visa situations for Europe were still challenging and then there was a fear of the sudden resurrection of Covid leading to travel bans and the associated chaos. It was the same reason we nullified most of the international destinations from our list. We did look at Nepal and Bhutan but both did not charm us enough to travel internationally at that point in time. After some research and active pursuit, wifey came up with an idea (or do we call it an order) - Kashmir! We had all heard about the beauty of the state and hadn't been to that part of the country earlier. The destination ticked most of our requirements - domestic, unexplored (by us), weather suitable, and worth a week-long excursion.

Determining the days and places!

Once the destination was decided, it was time to set the other foundation decisions in place. This included finalizing specific travel dates, itineraries, and logistics. We decided to travel from Saturday, June 18th to Saturday, June 25th, 2022. We prefer returning from long trips on Saturday so that we get a day off. This provides a buffer to accept reality and prepare ourselves for daily routines. The first thing on the cards was applying for leaves. This, at my organization, is more of a formality if you do it in advance enough. Next, we had to decide on our itinerary so that logistics could be arranged.

Getting to the itinerary

We do respect the views (at least to learn from) of the wanderers who have taken the path ahead of us. We went through umpteen blogs, travel diaries, video journals, and review portals before getting to the storyboard. Given this was a trip coming after a long gap, we were not planning to be adventurous with this one. The aim was to have a relaxing, luxurious (relatively), and fuss-free travel - yeah, I would call it a touristy view! Most of the research brought out four "touristy cities" across Kashmir. This helped us decide on the pitstops of the trip - Srinagar, Gulmarg, Sonmarg, and Pahalgam.

Given their locations, it was for us to decide the order in which we wanted to cover these. The most obvious was a night halt each way in Srinagar. It is the base camp or the city where we land and take off from. We froze the order - Srinagar, Sonmarg, Gulmarg, Pahalgam, and Srinagar. Also, we decided to do local sightseeing in Srinagar on our way back. We will talk about the reasons later.

More on the itinerary (along with specifics of hotels and other details) are covered in a separate article - Kashmir Trip in a Nutshell - Itinerary, Experiences, & Learnings

Putting the travel logistics in place

Starting with the shelter

Choosing each hotel, one location at a time

After the itinerary, we spent a lot of time researching the hotels we would stay in at the four locations. We have always trusted MakeMyTrip for booking holiday packages. They have mostly come out well-organized on our earlier trips. We started with them - reaching directly to a travel advisor rather than the online package. Simultaneously, we also asked for quotes from local travel organizers, including those on Travel Triangle. The purpose was to obtain the maximum information as we finalized the Kashmir Trip planning and travel logistics.

We advised our requirements - comfortable (inching to luxury), scenic views, safe (actually and visibly), and offering adequate food options. We reviewed each of the quotes and recommendations thoroughly. Evaluations included picture gauging, TripAdvisor reviews, phone calls to the hotel receptions, and general intuition burbs. In the end, we had all five places we would be staying.

The transport - local travel and flights to Kashmir

We also decided that our vehicle for the trip would be a bigger car (an SUV or a MUV). This was against the norm of a sedan (for a group of 2 or 3). This was driven by the apprehension that a sedan could be a bit claustrophobic for the younger one. We also researched and finalized our flights during this time. We wanted to not fly too early in the day on each side. This was to accommodate any morning mood swings that the kiddo may have. Also, we wanted to have some flexibility in cancellation, if the need arose. Considering this and our adamancy on choosing a reliable career left us with only two options - Vistara and Indigo. Indigo, with the Flexi fare option, had an upper hand in the end.

Choosing flights is an important aspect of trip planning

We advised all our partners (trip organizers) of our choices and asked them to provide suitable quotes. Soon, we had the quotes and we went with the most optimal option (not the cheapest one). Thus the reservations were made and we had most of the pieces in place. The only other thing we needed to take care of was the Gondola ride bookings in Gulmarg. This ended up being an easy task through their online portal. It was now time to wait for the travel day to approach. We were looking forward to a long-due and deserving break in the lap of the Himalayas.

Let us know if the Kashmir Trip planning and travel logistics that we covered in this article helped you in planning a trip or if you had better ideas. And to follow our experiences from the Kashmir Trip, look out for the next in the series - Kashmir Trip in a Nutshell - Itinerary, Experiences, & Learnings.

Also, if you are interested, take a glimpse of our Andaman and Nicobar Island Trip, which came just after the Kashmir Trip!

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