3 Essential Items for Travelling Around America

A successful trip is often reliant on the items you include in your backpack. I personally prefer to pack at least a day in advance so I have sufficient time to get in all the essential things I might need on my journey. There are numerous horror stories of people who suffer awkward moments while travelling due to the lack of simple yet basic stuff.

Crater Lake in Oregon National Park, USA
Crater Lake in Oregon National Park, USA

Depending on the region you plan on visiting, certain items will come in handy during your trip. Always remember that the same packing checklist may not work for every weather or locale. You must revisit the list and tweak it for each new outing that you plan. Here are the three most essential items for travelling around America:

#1 Clothing

Weather patterns around the USA tend to reach both hot and cold extremes depending on the prevailing season. If you have a detailed itinerary of the locations you’ll most likely visit, checking the weather forecast to know the climate patterns will help you choose appropriate clothing. For example, if you plan on going up North where it is usually cold, carrying a light top and some cute shorts will make no sense. Instead, choose a variety of clothes suitable for different occasions. When in the right clothing, you are more comfortable, and travel is more enjoyable. Maximize on your packing space through the following hacks:

Use Packing Cubes

Cubes ensure you pack minimally and pick only the essential items for the trip. It is anyway wiser to travel light. They come in a variety of sizes, so you are free to select ones that best match your needs. If some clothes don’t fit, consider leaving them out.

Roll the Clothes

Whether you are using packing cubes or just a plain old suitcase, rolling your clothes leaves enough room for extra items. Another reason why rolling is better than folding your stuff – they do not wrinkle. That means, no fretting over creased clothes and no need to carry an iron box.

Don the Bulky Clothes

Some clothes often take up large spaces in your bag. That is why wearing such clothes, especially when they are in line with the weather of the destination, allows for more room. Heading out to ski? Wear the jacket and scarf instead of stuffing those into your overpacked bag.

#2 Accessories

Holidays are all about feeling good and looking even better. Accessories complement our style and hence, bring out the best look. An accessory can be footwear, jewellery, a handbag or a belt. When crossing different states in the USA, you notice a change in fashion trends. Thus, what is suitable in New York may be old in Miami. Be a step ahead of the fashion fad by incorporating different sets of accessories for each look. For example, you can pick a frame from Eyeglasses.com to match your shoes or clothes. Tips for accessorizing include opting for a signature accessory or choosing one with a striking colour or pattern. Remember, the best accessories back up your style and do not dominate the entire look.

#3 Toiletries

Toiletries refer to items that are essential for your comfort and survival during a trip. Items like sunscreen, shampoo, soap, and insect repellent are valid examples. Although small, the components prove valuable when touring regions with diverse climatic conditions. For example, in hot, humid areas, sunscreen helps protect your skin. While most toiletries are prone to leakage and can be tricky to handle while on a trip, you should always ensure you have the essentials. At the very least, pack your toiletries inside a plastic bag to prevent spillage.

Final Thoughts

Travelling is therapeutic. However, the experience can turn sour once you realize you’re missing essential items and can’t easily access them. Have a checklist for the items you intend on carrying to avoid forgetting some. Essential items like clothing, accessories and toiletries should make it to the top of your list.

Do you keep a checklist before packing for a trip?

What item do you never miss to pack for a holiday?

Let me know through your comments below.

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Top 5 “Love” Destinations in India for The Perfect Valentine Trip

Valentine’s Day is regarded by many as the day of love and endearment. Some couples also vow to renew their promise of togetherness. Dreaming of wooing your Valentine with the most romantic gift ever? Well, the best Valentine’s Day present you can give is the gift of quality time together. Nothing is more romantic than getting away from your monotonous life for a while and being with your special someone so you can express your feelings without any distractions. Plan a trip to one of the most romantic places for Valentine’s Day and rejoice in each other’s company as you nurture your relationship.

Date scene by a secluded sandbank
Date scene by a secluded sandbank

Celebrate your love at one of these romantic destinations in India that truly bring love in the air. Take your Valentine to a long romantic drive to one of India’s best destinations for Valentine’s Day. If you’re travelling by train to your dream Valentine destination in India, you can also check PNR status online and get waitlist PNR prediction to stay updated with your train ticket status. Consider some of the best tourist places for couples to make your Valentine thrilled to bits while you strengthen your bond. Presenting 5 romantic places to visit in India:

#1 Udaipur

Lake Fatehsagar in Udaipur: for dates that go beyond the ordinary
Lake Fatehsagar in Udaipur: for dates that go beyond the ordinary

Dazzling yet calm lakes, picturesque hills and lively markets lend to the magic of this regal city. A stay at The Leela Palace or The Oberoi Udaivilas will make your romantic vacation surreal. The intricate architectural elements throughout the city are flattering, and nature only adds to the abundance of natural beauty in Udaipur. Relish a quiet boat ride on Lake Pichola in the ‘Venice of the East’. Visit the homes of the royals of Mewar, intriguing museums and the majestic complex of Udaipur City Palace. Celebrate Valentine’s Day with a candlelight dinner and experience ‘royal’ treatment at one of the lake-facing restaurants by its banks.

#2 Gulmarg

It's hard not to love the snow in Gulmarg
It’s hard not to love the snow in Gulmarg

Nestled in the Peer Panjal Range of the Himalayas, Gulmarg wears the aroma of Jammu & Kashmir. It offers a great chance to spend those lovely moments together, enjoying this ski town’s scenic beauty. Gulmarg is one of the top places to visit on Valentine’s Day since it’s surrounded by snow-clad mountains, steep ravines, forested valleys and meadows sprinkled with flowers. Do not miss Gulmarg’s gondola ride, trekking in the woods, and snowboarding and skiing on powdery white slopes in the winter. One of the best Valentine’s destinations, all the memories here will last forever.

#3 Havelock Island (Andaman Islands)

Stroll through the pristine beaches of Havelock Island
Stroll through the pristine beaches of Havelock Island (PC: Bishnu Sarangi)

Havelock Island is among the most romantic places to go during Valentine’s week. The sandy beaches, turquoise waters, you and your love are enough to celebrate this special day here. There are many resorts that cater to couples. For instance, Silver Sand Beach Resort will genuinely help you experience the true offerings of Havelock such as exploring the corals through scuba diving or snorkelling. Enjoy the serenity of The Andaman’s – one of the most peaceful places to go for Valentine’s Day. The ideal way to do this is to grab a drink, lie together on the beach, and spend that much-needed time together!

#4 Darjeeling

Revive the romance in your relationship in the tea gardens of Darjeeling
Revive the romance in your relationship in the tea gardens of Darjeeling

Darjeeling is a beautiful hill station in India – one like no other. Whether you consider the crisp mountain air or the tranquil tea gardens, every part of this town begs you to live it up with your Valentine. Its chocolate hills, winding roads and toy-train rides make it a dreamlike place to spend a few days with your loved one. Have a cup of Darjeeling tea with your beloved and gorge on momos together. Walk through some tea plantations such as the lush Marybong Tea Estate, and take in the pleasing aroma of the tea leaves.

#5 Goa

Vagator, one of many beaches that define the susegad life in Goa
Vagator, one of many beaches that define the susegad life in Goa (PC: Dominik Hundhammer)

It’s impossible to skip Goa when talking about love destinations in the country! Skip the crowds when you stay in South Goa’s adorable beach shacks to experience isolation in bliss. Looking to explore Goa’s nightlife instead? Places in and around Panjim and the beaches of North Goa won’t disappoint. Venture away from the coastline to savour Portuguese tradition and culture. A hike through the thickets around Mandovi River and Dudhsagar Falls is perfect for adventure lovers, not to forget dolphin cruises and parasailing in Goa. One of the top choices for Valentine’s Day, Goa lures couples with its stunning beaches, magnificent sunsets and the sound of soothing waves crashing against the shore.

Order a Cake on the Train: A Love-Filled Surprise-on-Rails for your Loved Ones

Valentine's Day Journey: Exotic flavoured cakes to order in the train

Cake, a celebratory treat, is one of the best ways to express your love. The Valentine’s Day merriment is incomplete without a cake. Now, if you’re travelling via train with your significant other, and want to order cake in the train, just visit RailRestro’s website on your mobile phone or download their Android or iOS app. Ring in this Valentine’s Day by ordering cake or food in train. RailRestro has a bunch of cake flavours that you can order in the train, including:

  1. Black Forest Exotic Cake: This black forest cake will bring instant cheer to your beloved and make her/him smile ear to ear.
  2. Chocolate Truffle Cake: Chocolate is the most loved gift on Valentine’s Day. This decadent chocolate truffle cake is delicious enough to make your Valentine overjoyed.
  3. Strawberry Crush Cake: The bold red colour of this strawberry cake beautifully complements the Valentine’s Day theme.
  4. Eggless Pineapple Cake: Soak in the fruity flavour of pineapple and set aside all guilt as you dig into this eggless cake in the train and uphold the celebratory mood of the day of love.

How are you planning to celebrate Valentine’s Day in 2021?

Got some more romantic destinations in mind?

Let me know through your comments below.

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Make Your Past Trips Come Alive Until You Can Travel Again

It is hard to ignore what the pandemic has done to the travel industry. On a personal level, the simple joys of jetting off to a new place on a whim has become a distant dream. Even a short walk about the neighbourhood requires masking up and social distancing, while returning from a trip to the grocery store is followed by manic sanitization. In the middle of all this, how do we keep that enthusiastic traveller in us alive? I’ve penned down some suggestions which have personally worked for me. Hope you will benefit from them too.

Flip Through The Old Albums

I stand under a pergola in Warsaw's Łazienki Park
I stand under a pergola in Warsaw’s Łazienki Park

The future may seem a bit bleak for now, but you can go back to your past to relive those times. A classic way to do this is to bring out the dusty photo albums tucked away in a shelf that’s hard to reach. If most of your memories are stored digitally, stack up your external hard disks, pendrives and even old laptops which have hundreds of folders that you haven’t opened in ages. Time will fly quickly as you stop to look at each picture and smile, almost like an octogenarian reminiscing about her youth again.

Read About The Places You’ve Already Visited

The Alpsee Lake is before me in the Bavarian village of Schwangau
The Alpsee Lake is before me in the Bavarian village of Schwangau

This may sound like an odd thing to do. We mostly read up on destinations that we haven’t yet been to, aiming to gather tips on what to do and see if we ever plan a trip there. The other reason for most of our obsessive travel reading is to experience a place that seems totally out of reach to us. (If I can’t ever be there, I can at least dream about it, right?) But I’m suggesting that you pore over books and articles on the sights that you’ve already seen. The joy that familiarity brings is quite different from a vicarious travel experience. You’ll also end up feeling delighted, knowing that you’ve already explored something so beautiful.

Share Your Memories With Family

My husband and I pose for photo with the turquoise Maldivian waters as the backdrop
My husband and I pose for photo with the turquoise Maldivian waters as the backdrop

Happiness multiplies when shared. We have heard this so many times, yet how little use we make of it. Sit down with your partner, children and folks to talk about all the trips you’ve taken together. Project the old videos and photographs on your big-screen TV and walk on the memory lane together. My parents-in-law love it when we show them clips from our holidays. Even my husband loves looking through pics with me.

Immortalize Moments On Canvas

Our click from The Maldives on a canvas print by Canvas Champ
Our click from The Maldives on a canvas print by Canvas Champ

The best times I’ve spent with my hubby abroad has been in The Maldives – the destination we chose for our honeymoon. We have countless pictures from that luxury holiday, and just can’t stop gushing each time we flip through the clicks. I decided to surprise Martin with a canvas print of our photo taken in front of the water villas, and he was overjoyed! You too can delight your loved ones with canvas, acrylic or metal prints of your favourite pictures on CanvasChamp. You’ll even get 5% off when you make a purchase through my referral link and use the code OINDRILADE.

Binge Watch Travel Flicks

My treehouse at Pench Tree Lodge, Madhya Pradesh
My treehouse at Pench Tree Lodge, Madhya Pradesh

If there’s anything more exciting than browsing your own travel videos, it is watching a movie based on a location that you’ve already visited. While the plot or the romance add to the essence of the place, it is ultimately the destination that will excite most of us travellers. Travel documentaries can be just as good, if not better.

What does your post-pandemic travel scene look like?

Do you believe that printing your photos make the memories tangible?

Let me know through your comments below.

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7 Gorgeous Pre-Wedding Photoshoot Destinations to Rock Your D-Day Countdown

Does travel have to stop when wedding bells are in the air? Not at all! While marriage brings with it a bix box of changes, there are plenty of moments you can enjoy as you continue to indulge the travel bug in you. If you are planning to do a countdown to your wedding day, celebrate the entire journey through professionally clicked photos in breathtaking locales. Pre-wedding photoshoots are quite “in” these days, and you shouldn’t miss these last fun memories of your bachelorhood. Here are 7 beautiful places that will add some more oomph to the romance brewing between you and your soulmate-to-be:

#1 Northern Ireland

A soon-to-be-couple hide from the thundering Irish clouds under an umbrella.

Few destinations can match the pristine sights of Northern Ireland. Whether it’s the Irish countryside, the charming Tudor castles or the unpredictable weather, this part of the United Kingdom offers stunning backgrounds to add some character to your pre-wedding photos. If you’re planning on staying even longer, the capital city of Belfast makes for a great destination wedding option as well!

#2 Kerala

The forests of Kerala set the perfect tone for a romantic shoot.

If your wedding countdown pictures are to be shot in India, there are choices galore. The enchanting forests and backwaters of Kerala add rich colours to the photographic palette. You don’t always have to stick to the popular areas of Munnar, Periyar or Fort Kochi. Go beyond and explore the riverside of Iritty or the waterfalls of Peechi.

#3 Vietnam

Rural Vietnam provides a charming backdrop for pre-wedding pictures

While Vietnam is traditionally a favourite with backpackers and solo travellers, the Asian gem has special offerings for couples looking to shoot their pre-wedding pics. Skip the busy streets of Ho Chi Minh City and escape to the rock-strewn island of Ha Long Bay to snap some gorgeous photos against clear waters. The country is quite affordable, so the only big expense you’ll have to take care of is that of the photographer.

#4 Rajasthan

The groom-to-be twirls his bride-to-be in a palace in Jaipur, Rajasthan.

How can we forget the Indian state famous for its palaces and regal gardens! Rajasthan’s diverse landscape affords you the lakes of Udaipur, the desert sands of Jaisalmer, the blue-hued houses of Jodhpur, and more. Find top pre wedding photographers in India and create your own royal-themed pre-wedding album with period costumes to match the grandeur of the forts.

#5 New Zealand

Lake Wakatipu in Queenstown makes for a great place to kiss!

There’s so much more to New Zealand than Hobbiton! Live your fairytale dream in Queenstown as you pose before the mighty Southern Alps. Looking to add a local cultural twist to your pre-wedding pictures? Head over to Rotorua to dance with the Maori tribe as your photography team tags along. To lend a formal feel to your pictures, Auckland provides the urban cityscape you might be looking for.

#6 Ladakh

A man proposes to his lady by the Pangong Lake in Ladakh (PC: Saurabh Chatterjee)

The newly formed Union Territory of Ladakh is blessed with magnificent scenery. From the Himalayas of Nubra Valley to the Buddhist monasteries with their giant prayer wheels, there’s a lot to see. Pastel shades of clothing work best with the barren reddish brown and dark grey mountains of this part of Kashmir. Stage a romantic dinner or proposal by the famous Pangong Tso – the lake which attracts travellers from all over the country.

#7 The Maldives

My husband and I share a cosy moment on a private island in The Maldives

This classic honeymoon destination is also a lovely option for a pre-wedding photoshoot. The Maldives has over a thousand islands that make this country so exotic. Book yourself some water villas on a private island, and get ready for the most romantic settings on white-sand beaches, tropical gardens and even beside underwater corals!

Still wondering whether you should organize a pre-wedding photoshoot before you tie the knot? The short trip will certainly be worth your time and money!

Where did you have your pre-wedding photoshoot done?

Getting married? Which photo-destinations are on your mind?

Let me know through your comments below. 🙂

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Discover Saudi Arabia Beyond Mecca & Medina: Red Sea Reefs, Spice Markets & More

Saudi Arabia is fast becoming a popular destination among leisure travellers (apart from the usual religious tourists who go there to visit Mecca and Medina). Now that this Gulf nation has opened its doors to leisure tourism, there is an excitement among travellers looking to explore newer places with distinct cultures and people. Apart from two of the grandest destinations of Islamic worship (Mecca and Medina), which attract millions of pilgrims every year, Saudi Arabia has a myriad of surprises for other types of visitors: from magnificent shopping destinations to dive sites, Saudi Arabia has something for everybody.

A Glimpse Of Saudi Arabia

Aerial view of Saudi Arabia
Aerial view of Saudi Arabia

Even though Saudi Arabia is a desert country, there are 9,900-foot high mountains of the Asir, enchanting reefs of the Red Sea, interesting streets and spice markets of Jeddah, extensive date palms of Al-Hofuf and lots more. Remember to read the dos and don’ts before travelling to this Middle Eastern country. Dressing ultra-conservatively is mandatory here. Below are a few places that you must visit while in Saudi Arabia.

Jeddah

Scuba diving in the Red Sea of Jeddah

Jeddah is a must-visit if you are planning a vacation in Saudi Arabia. This former capital is also a Red Sea trading port and a melting pot of various cultures. The gateway for Hajj pilgrimage to Mecca and Medina, Jeddah surprisingly has many beach resorts, scuba diving activities, mesmerizing street markets, open-air cafes, and lots more.

Al Ula

Intriguing rock formations in Al Ula

Scattered with golden rock formations in the northwest part of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Al Ula is a stunning city. It boasts of lush citrus farms and the ruins of many ancient kingdoms, the most famous of which is Medah’in Saleh, containing 2000 years old Nabatean tomb clusters. The site remains partially open from December to March for travellers who wish to attend the winter festival of Tantora that features various musical, entertainment, and cultural events.

Riyadh

Riyadh at night (PC: lawepw)

The capital of Saudi Arabia, Riyadh is a beautiful urban sprawl with many attractions to lure sightseers. From the recently renovated historical site of Diriyah to the bustling traditional market of Souq Al Zal and Taiba, the city offers multiple enchantments. A towering plateau, known as the “Edge of the World”, is a two-hour drive from the city, and a famous hiking destination for visitors and residents. The view from this place is exquisite and the silence is imposing. Rising a whopping 992 feet above the ground, the Kingdom Centre of Riyadh is an iconic symbol of Riyadh that houses everything, from a shopping mall to a residential complex, and even an observatory. The third tallest building in Saudi Arabia offers its visitors both a figurative and literal perspective of Riyadh which is home to 5.2 million people.

Madain Saleh

Mada’in Saleh (PC: Omar A.)

Madain Saleh is a striking combination of outstanding history and gorgeous architecture. The former grandeur and importance of the city are clearly evident in its marvellous ruins of towers, dwellings and walls. An ancient Ottoman railway and the old tombs give visitors a truly ethereal feel. The city dates back to the Nabatean Kingdom, which is similar, both in design and origin, to the recently discovered lost city of Petra.

Asir National Park

Jabal Sawda mountains in Asir National Park (PC: marviikad)

With a relatively cooler climate than the rest of the kingdom, Asir National Park, spread across 4500 sqkm, woos travellers with various picnic spots, campsites and a thriving environment, apart from Hamadryas baboons and splendid birds. The Asir Mountains are also a treat and a must-visit. Jabal Sawdah, the highest mountain in Saudi Arabia, comes under the Asir National Park. Here, you can enjoy many trekking, camping, biking, cablecar rides, and much more.

Saudi Arabia’s Coastline

Tiran Island offers ample snorkelling opportunities in Saudi Arabia (PC: fabian.kron)

Contrary to the popular misconception that Saudi Arabia is a country only with deserts, the Kingdom has a sprawling coastline, both on the Red Sea and the Persian Gulf. This makes the country a scuba diving and snorkelling paradise. Not only is the shoreline beautiful, but the famous sites like the Boiler wreck also provide you with much-needed solace from the crowd (since scuba diving is not so popular among the Saudis).

Najran

View of the Najran oasis from Al Aan Palace (PC: Charles Roffey)

Situated close to the border with Yemen, Najran is a vibrant city that shares its Saudi Arabian cuisine with that of neighbouring Yemen, resulting in a warm and tantalizing taste of Arabia. The city offers a bouquet of history, architecture and culture, along with a heartfelt welcome to all its visitors.

Al Habala

Habala Valley near Abha, Saudi Arabia (PC: Wajahatmr)

Built by the Khatani tribe to stay safe from the Ottomans some 370 years ago, the unique and mysterious “hanging village” of Al Habala is a place you must visit if you are in Saudi Arabia. Made from local rocks, Al Habala derives its name from a type of rope ladder known as the Habal which used to be the only way to access this series of sandstone houses that stay perched on a ledge of a steep cliff 400 meters above.

Flying to Saudi Arabia with Nesma Airlines

Nesma Airlines (PC: Björn Strey)

One of the popular airlines flying to Saudi Arabian cities, Nesma Airlines came to the fore in June 2010. This Saudi Arabian airline has grown manifold ever since, and currently operates scheduled flights on domestic and international routes. It is headquartered in Jeddah and has three operational hubs, one in Cairo, Egypt (Cairo International Airport) and the other two in Saudi Arabia (King Abdulaziz International Airport and Hail Airport). With a fleet of 10 aircraft, this airline flies to 16 destinations, including Saudi Arabia. Nesma is growing at a steady rate as passengers prefer it for its affordability, hospitality, best in-flight services, and more. Book your flights on Nesma Airlines via Cleartrip (website or app) to save a significant amount.

Have you been to Saudi Arabia?

Got any interesting stories from the Gulf?

Let me know through your comments below. 🙂

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