Family Trip to India: The Itinerary

This past trip has me wondering if my life calling isn’t in media, but in travel tours.  You looking to travel to India? Let me know!  I’m about to start my own boutique agency from my couch.  Seriously…

Mehrangarh Fort, Jodhpur
Mehrangarh Fort, Jodhpur

India is a massive country the spans diverse terrains, cultures, religions, languages… I could go on and on.  So it’s daunting when you first try to plan a trip.  Where do you begin?

the-golden-triangleMost start with the Golden Triangle – the relatively close cities of New Delhi, Agra and Jaipur.  You get to see a major city, the Taj Mahal and a range of forts/palaces.  To expand on that there are a few extra cities/locations you can tack on that are in driving distance: Udaipur, Jodhpur, Ranthambore National Park, or Pushkar.  I’ve done this route three times… starting to feel really comfortable with it.

Part 2 for us, and a second trip for most, is South India – Mumbai, Goa, Chennai, Bengaluru, Kerala, etc.  This climate is much more tropical and the food distinct from the North (I love a good dosa!)  You’ll need a flight or very long train ride to connect a trip North with a trip around the South.

Tourist Selfie!
Tourist Selfie!

side note: don’t worry about being a “tourist”.  You are one; accept it.  You will experience India even if you visit the major sites.  India will get in your face no matter what… just throw in a few restaurants outside the hotel and get outside the tour van every once in a while to make sure.  If I get my act together and really start planning for people, I would include a few trips to “normal” locations – someone’s house, the mall, a hospital – just to be able to compare and get the full picture of Indian life.

Our India itinerary

The whole crew at the Taj Mahal
The whole crew at the Taj Mahal

North India

Red Fort Dehli

Day 1: Delhi

  • Red Fort
  • Old Fort
  • Humayan Tomb
  • Parliament
  • The Imperial

Taj MahalDay 2: Agra

200kms drive from Delhi to Agra; approx. 3 1/2 hrs

  • Agra Fort
  • Taj Mahal

Ranthambore National ParkDay 3: Travel Agra – Ranthambore

250kms drive from Agra to Ranthambore; approx. 5 1/2 hrs

  • Fateh Pur Sikri (A fort and shrine on the outskirts of Agra)

Tiger Hawa Mahal

Day 4: Ranthambore

  • Ranthambore Tiger Reserve

180kms drive from Ranthambore to Jaipur; approx. 4 1/2 hrs

Hawa MahalDay 5: Jaipur

  • City Palace
  • Amber Fort
  • Hawa Mahal
  • Jantar Mantar
  • Shopping!

Birla Temple JaipurDay 6: Jaipur

  • Shree Laxmi Narayan Birla Temple

335kms from from Jaipur to Jodhpur; approx. 6 hr

You could stop at Pushkar along the way, but an annual festival made it too crowded for us to stop.

india pottery villageDay 7: Jodhpur

  • Osian Village Tour

Day 8: Jodphur

  • Mehrangarh Fort
  • Umaid Bhawan Palace
  • Jaswhat Thada


South India Map

Day 9: Mumbai

1 hr flight from Jodhpur to Mumbai

  • There are many great things to see in this city, but we had to focus on our wedding reception that evening.

view from the road IndiaDay 10: Bengaluru

Flight from Mumbai to Bengaluru

Start drive to Mysore stopping at a few malls to wait out traffic

180 kms; approx. 5/6 hr drive due to speed bumps along route

Mysore Palace - Our Hotel!
Mysore Palace – Our Hotel!

Day 11: Mysore

  • Chamundeshwari Temple
  • Sri Nandi Temple
  • Mysore Winter Palace (A reasonably priced hotel!)
  • City Palace

Day 12: Hassan

120kms Mysore to Hassan; approx. 3 hours

  • Chennakesava Temple
  • Halebeedu Temple
Coffee Beans Drying
Coffee Beans Drying

Day 13: Chikmagalur

65mks Hassan to Chikmagalur (Serai Resort); approx 2 hrs

  • Coffee Resort & Spa
  • Coffee Plantation
  • Tea Plantation about 60 kms away

Day 14: Bangalore

248kms Chikmagalure to Bangalore; approx 6 hours

  • St. Thomas Cathedral (very intriguing for a Christian to see South Indian interpretation of religion)
  • Vidhana Soudha (Government Building)
  • There is much more, but we spent the time with family

Indian GirlThe drives may seem rough, but if you’re traveling with people you like and the kind of travelers who need a break every once in a while, the tour vans give you that break while keeping you on the move.  You won’t even find yourself napping that much… there’s just too much to see out the window.  (That’s why I recommend a van over a tourist bus… closer to the ground, less tinted windows, etc.) Indian traffic/driving is the 8th wonder of the world 😉

Indian Camel
One post for each city with hotel, restaurant, site information and pictures are on the way!






Wedding Trial #1: The Guest List

Hand HoldExcuse me?  You want to invite who?  His dentist from 3rd grade?  His father’s  dry cleaner?  His 3rd cousin 5 times removed who he’s never met?

I’m not being dismissive to disrespect any of these wonderful people… I’m letting future MIL’s and FIL’s know what it sounds like to an American bride when she’s reviewing the Indian in-laws’ guest list.  For American brides and grooms, the guest list can be the greatest subject of contention.  Mostly, it involves many awkward conversations with people who want to go, but you have no room for.  Luckily, it’s generally understood as the norm and doesn’t hurt too many feelings.  In fact, it’s frowned upon to cause a (public) stink if you’re not invited.  But for Indians… it’s not so simple.  Before I get into why, let me breakdown an American couple’s mindset to make it as understandable as possible.

Why are American Brides & Grooms forgiven if they cut the guest list?  Why is it acceptable for American Brides & Grooms to stick to a number between 50 – 200 guests?*

  1.  The American Wedding is allowed to be “intimate.” This is the Bride and Groom’s day! You’re told that this is the most special day of your life, and you really only want the people you care about most to surround you.  You don’t want a near-stranger messing up your dream day!
  2. It’s EXPENSIVE!  Food, favors, transportation… the cost per guest adds up quickly.  You don’t want to be paying for any-ol’-person, who may or may not be in your life 5 years down the line.
  3. The venue has a limit.  For every bride that lies and says, “The venue doesn’t allow too many people, so we have to keep the guest list down,” there is a bride telling the truth.  The increasingly diverse and unique wedding venues on the market often have a cap at 100, 150, 200, 250, etc, simply because of space, number of bathrooms or the fire code. (They also have a minimum for specific nights, but that’s no help at the moment).

* There are many, many exceptions to this. For example, I know some religious communities have a very large ceremony and a smaller reception.  But this has been my experience and the internet wedding industry seems to support this.

I would like to note that I never thought I’d be writing this.  All of my adult life, I always said, “When I get married, the most important thing to me is people.  I will sacrifice other places in the budget to have everyone I love there.”  However, after the initial month of meeting with vendors, I understood what I was truly up against.  It helped that I didn’t get married until I was 29.  By that age, you realize you’re not as close with your freshman college roommates or you know that your first boss won’t keep in touch 5 years later.  I was able to reduce my list without more than a sleepless night or two.  Seeing how many actually accepted is drama for another post…

CoconutsIndian families follow one saying: the more, the merrier!  Or more accurately: the more, the more blessed!  Indian families feel very strongly that EVERYONE should be invited.  To not be invited is an insult.  Imagine a rural village in India.  When a wedding comes around, you invite the entire village!  It’s not uncommon even today to jump open the doors of the wedding hall and let anyone come in for a meal.  For my husband, parring down the list was heart-wrenching.  For my in-laws it was nearly impossible.  They were positive they would need a hall for at least 350 people.

From what I can tell, this perspective is based on at least three principles:

  1. The more guests, the more blessings!  There’s no cap!  And who doesn’t want good luck and blessings?
  2. The wedding is a merging of two families and two communities, not two people.  This is a day for the families.  The wedding is very much a platform for the parents, much like America many decades ago, I might add.
  3. What goes around comes around.  If everyone invites everyone, you will be repaid for your investment with many, many wedding parties in the future.

There are probably more philosophies behind this, but these are what I’ve devised so far.

So, how do you have an Indian wedding in America without going bankrupt?  Do you have the wedding in India? Is it even cheaper there?  How many relatives would have to travel?  Can they even get visas?

How do you have an American bride’s dream wedding in a small barn or chapel with 300+ guests?  How does an American bride still feel like it’s “her” day, when she sees a sea of unfamiliar faces?

The answers aren’t just about the numbers or even about culture.  They’re about feelings too. My next post will tackle the many combinations of weddings for an American/Indian couple. And I’ll let you know what we chose to do… including the regrets.

Everyone’s an Auntie!

Does it seem odd that your boyfriend/fiance/friend seems to have 2,5,11,20… an ever-expanding number of Aunts?  Either his parents should have had their own reality show (19 Kids And Counting Indian-style) or you’re missing something.

In Indian culture (and a few others), any woman about 20 years older than you is your “Auntie”.  This applies to neighbors, your parents’ friends, your friends’ parents, etc.  The same goes for “Uncle”.  But BEWARE – notice I said, around 20 years older… like every culture on the planet, no woman wants to be called “old”, so watch out for the neighbor who’s only 10 years older…  One rule of thumb I’ve heard: “If they have grey hair, they’re an Auntie or an Uncle.”  But tread lightly!

There’s a twist though: you never call your actual Aunt – “Auntie.”  There are a particular set of names just for your blood relatives.  As far as I know, all of the Indian subcultures put an emphasis on birth order.  Therefore, there are different names for older brother, than younger brother.  There are also specific names for uncles who are older than your father and for brothers who are younger.  I didn’t get started on learning the long list of titles until way too late, now I am about to go to India to meet them all.  And from the many “Do you know who I am?” challenges I got at the wedding, I have a feeling I will be put to the test.

Let’s learn together!  Feel free to email me at samosasandsunshine@gmail[dot]com with any corrections or variations you encounter!

**Note:  The title can be said solo or comes after the name (i.g. Sunshine Auntie, Matt Uncle, Geeta Auntie etc.)

Catch-all for Adult Woman – Auntie or Mami
Any older Adult Man – Uncle or Mama
Grandmother – Pati
Grandfather – Thatha
Mother – Amma
Father – Appa
Father’s older sisters – Peri Amma (means Big Amma)  
Father’s older sister’s husband- Athimber
Father’s older brothers – Peri Appa (means Big Appa)
Father’s older brother’s wife – Peri Amma  
Father’s younger brothers – Chitha Appa (means Little Appa)
Father’s younger brother’s wife – Chithi
Father’s younger sisters – Athai 
Father’s younger sister’s husband- Athimber 
Mom’s brothers – Mama
Mom’s brother’s wife – Mami or Peri Appa
Mom’s older sister – Mami or Peri Amma
Mom’s younger sister – Chithi
Mom’s younger sister’s husband – Chitappa
Older Brother/Older Male Cousins- Anna  (This is not Anna from Frozen.  This is a long A. Ahn-na)
Sister/Older Female Cousins – Akka
Younger Brother – ?  Call him by his first name
Husband’s Older Brother – Anna
Husband’s Older Brother’s Wife – Manni
Husband’s Younger Brother – Refer to him as Machiner, but address him by his name because he’s younger
Husband’s Younger Brother’s Wife – Refer to her as Machini, but address her by her name
Mother-in-Law – Mamiar  (But in my case, I’ll be calling her what my husband called her – Mumi)
Father-in-Law – Mamanar  (Same here – I’ll call him Papa because we want to feel closer)
Son-in-Law – Maple
Daughter-in-Law – ?
Brother-in-Law – Athimber
**Check out how female names end in “i” and male names end in “A” – that will throw you for a while.
You may hear these more often since Hindi is more well known.  For example, my husband uses mostly Tamil terminology, but still calls his father PAPA instead of APPA
Mother – Maa
Father – Papa
Daughter – Beti
Son – Beta
Older Sister – Didi
Older Brother – Bhai
Younger Brother – Bhaiyya
Husband’s Older Brother – Jetji
Husband’s Older Brother’s Wife – Jetanhi
Husband’s Younger Brother – Devar
Husband’s Younger Brother’s Wife – Devarani
Mother-in-Law – Saas
Father-in-Law – Sasur
Daughter-in-Law – Bahu
Son-in-Law – Damaad
This is all good in theory, but I have a feeling it’s flexible in real life.  For example, my husband has heard his younger brother call him “Anna” a total of 0 times in his life.  Hopefully, I can update this post as I encounter each one of these people in person.
Check back next week for the beginning of my Wedding-specific advice.  Post 1 will be One Wedding or Two? which will dive into the options on how to create the dream wedding experience that leave you and your husband… and your families satisfied.  I’ll go into our own very difficult decision and a post-mortem on how it turned out.
Shortly after, we’ll get into – You’re Inviting Who?  A guide on what to expect when working out the guest list for your wedding(s).
As always, please email your own experiences to samosasandsunshine@gmail[dot]com to get in on the action.