Barely a week to go. The countdown has started. And if you are still the one planning for that last minute New Year's eve travel, 'frenzy' might just be an understated way to describe your state. Most of the friends I know have headed for Goa, an obvious choice for the year end, and where prices are inevitably, inflated. But they all planned their year-end holiday way in advance. Some are heading for Puducherry. Others to Mumbai and some close by hill stations. But if you are the one who is still waiting to quickly plan your year-end travel moment and are not keen to do the five-star hotel and farm house routine, there still are some choices.
I called in two experts to help pick best last minute travel destinations for New Year Eve, based on certain ground rules. The destinations may not be sought-after, but should be well-liked. Suitable alternatives, they do have a fun and adventurous side to them.
The first expert is Dinesh Kurup, Director, Sales & Marketing, Country Inn. An industry insider, who helps us pick destinations for families. The other is Kamlesh Singh, creative head for Milestone Film & Entertainment Pvt Ltd, an extensive traveller who shares his thoughts and ideas on last minute destinations, he would like to visit, but only with his friends.
Take 1 - Dinesh Kurup
How should one go about booking one's last minute holiday?
Online travel portals and deal sites are a good way to check out for last minute holiday deals. This is normally effective once you have decided the destination and budget. Follow it up with the options available and then pick the best hotel giving the most value for money.
How does one deal with the inflated prices?
Travel expenses are often the heaviest components of any travel that is planned at short notice given the way airline tickets are priced. Also, train travel is seldom available on short notice so it might just be best to choose destinations which are 'drivable'. This will keep travel costs at bay and also gives you the flexibility to travel at your convenience. Calling the hotel and asking for a spot offer can land you a better price.
Which are the best destinations in India to go to for New Year celebrations now and why?
New Year is a time when everyone spends time with family. It is best to therefore plan destinations which are less crowded and easily accessible. This cuts both your expenses as well as travel time giving you a lot more value for the money you spend and lots more time for you to spend with your family. My favourites in the North would be Bhimtal, Sattal, Ranikhet and the Corbett National Park.
These are pristine destinations which give the family an opportunity to enjoy the beauty of nature. The ample vistas for trekking, adventure activities, site seeing and boating add to their charm. For typical new year kind of fun, the Country Inn resorts have a bunch of activities planned for all age groups and budgets.
Take 2 - Kamlesh Singh
For Kamlesh, the idea of celebrating New Year at a crazed and crammed place like Goa is impersonal, but loads of fun. For him, more than the destination, the journey has to be terrific. And a place that doesn't leave you feeling spent and exhausted.
"I like to take out my bike and drive long distance with a group of biker friends. Camping and bonfire at any rugged destination is more my kind of fun," says Kamlesh.
Although popular opinion which many would shy away from given the cold, is driving down to Rishikesh and camping on the sands. "You can light a huge bonfire all night. Plus the fog in the morning is ethereal and delicate. It's heavenly. Nothing compares to this experience." According to him, the key is to stay up all night, sit huddled around the bonfire with a couple of friends, and share memories of the year gone by and welcome the new year. Its personal, nostalgic and intimate.
Of course, food and drinks have to keep on flowing. Places like Rishikesh are least crowded during the year end and one can stay at any of the Ashrams. Munikireti is a good bet too. And so is Shimla. Again the drive during this winter foggy season could be dangerous, reckless and blurred. But then navigating that safely has its own high. Shimla is a special favourite for the number of picnic spots it offers like Mashobra. It is 10 km from Shimla and offers a great view of the Dhauladhar range and is a popular weekend spot too. Naldehra, 25 km from Shimla is another spot to camp at. It has the oldest and the highest golf course in India. One can have leisure pine lined forest walks and horse rides. Kufri is the hottest spot to be during winters, because everyone lands up here to ski and for other winter sports, hoping to catch the snow. The Himalayan Nature Park here has a good collection of animals and birds found in the region. Then there is the princely Chail with a palace and flower-lined quaint boulevards.
The safe thing about these places is that you are not likely to return disappointed. The drive, the food and the time spent with friends and families will make up for any last minute glitches that can come up is a possibility in any rushed vacation. But it will offer you the guarantee of having gotten away from the humdrum of city life and the incessant and irritating question of "hey, what are you doing for new years'?"
Lipi Mohapatra lives in Delhi and when not mulling over life and day dreaming of becoming a global nomad, handles projects on higher learning for IILM-BS