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Sunday, May 25, 2014

D is for Dallas - Family Fun Time!

Our first trip overseas was to Singapore in 2011, and this was when I realized the comfort of staying with friends or family. Especially when traveling with children, this can be a life-saver and really help you catch your breath in between the madness of touristy sightseeing!

Our first stop on this holiday was Dallas or rather Irving where my Chithi (Mom's sister) stays. My plan was to spend a few days "just chilling" at their home to spend some family time, as well as help the kids adjust to the change in time zones. The highlight was also to see my nephew for the first time, as my cousin who's just finishing her residency has not been able to visit us in India since he was born 4 years back. After a couple of days of home food, TV and dozing at odd times, we managed to fit in an iHop breakfast experience as well as a trip to the newly opened Perot Museum of Science. And here's that in photos :).

After our sumptuous iHop breakfast
At the Perot Museum of Science

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

C is for Change - Tips to handle changing travel plans :)

It was apparently Greek philosopher Heraclitus who said "Change is the only constant" (Yes obviously I had to google that one, the quote is so well known but not who said it :P). And this was the case with our holiday planning as well. From figuring out which hotels to stay in, to the actual dates of stay at a particular place, things kept changing for a couple of weeks until we arrived at the final itinerary. Some of the planning sites/tools that helped:

Expedia: Other than the convenience of booking everything in INR, the important thing to look out for is the "Free Cancellation" mentioned when choosing a type of room at a hotel. This usually costs a bit more, but it turned out to be a saviour when our plans changed, and I was pleasantly surprised that the credit back to the account also happened within 2-3 days of cancellation. This also made me happier with my choice to go with hotels rather than sites like airbnb (Compelling reason for that choice: No shared bathrooms :P).

Southwest Airlines: Once you create a login on Southwest, it allows you to cancel or change your bookings while crediting the amount back to your Southwest account even if not refunding in cash. The only hitch is that you have to make a new booking in the name of the same passenger that you canceled for, which means you can re-plan only so many times within a fixed itinerary. My strategy was to leave the last couple of bookings for the end, so that I could do any re-adjustments with remaining cash while completing those. Worked well, though I say so myself ;).

I know I have mentioned Southwest quite often already, but the convenience of planning on it has been really great. Only hitch might be that they have no seat assignments so for a family of 4 we might need to reach the airport and check in a bit early on each flight to be able to get at least 2 seats together every time. Once again, wish us luck on what's definitely going to be an interesting holiday and the most detailed one I have ever planned :).

Note: Too late for that luck ;). I had written this post before leaving, but didn't manage to wrap up and post it then :P. Wanted to add that the Southwest boarding procedure is actually very cool, and is based on the time that you check in. Online check-in starts 24 hours before departure, and you will be assigned a boarding group (A,B,C) and a number (1-60). Boarding the flight starts 30 minutes before departure, and goes from A-C groups seamlessly. Hidden advantage of traveling with young children - they allow you to board between Group A and B anyway ;).

All Set! - at the swanky Bangalore Airport