After several alterations, we finally settled for a week-long road trip through Punjab for a quick summer break. The boys would then stay back with their grandparents in Gurgaon, while we return to Mumbai to make the last mile arrangements for an impending house shift.
Admittedly, road trips are our thing. One of my sons has labelled us travel junkies, thanks to the long road trips we set out on, every now and then. The twins had their first before they turned two and at three and a half they accompanied us on a trip by road from Mumbai to Kerela. Two years ago when our pandemic pet dog, Sugar, joined the family, we broke her into the ritual with a 14-hour drive to Goa even before she completed six months.
Road trips are a way to let go and literally surrender yourself to the journey.
More than that, they let you really feel the place you are driving through and be one with the earth. This is sounding a bit spiritual because it is; you get the opportunity to really meet yourself.
The latest one to Punjab was undertaken in the peak summer heat of May. Nevertheless, the drive was calming. The money connect got triggered when someone asked about the cost of the rental car we picked up at the Delhi airport to drive us through Punjab. The car would stay with us for a week, at the end of which we would return to Delhi and have it picked up. The total cost came to roughly Rs 25,000 or thereabouts. Upon hearing the cost, the remark was an obvious, ooh that’s expensive. But when you think about it, return airfare for a family of four from Delhi to Chandigarh is slightly more than Rs 20,000. If you are booking online, then all fees included, this is likely to be closer to Rs 30,000 and that’s just to one destination, we managed to cover at least four in our one-week road trip.
There were several other moments on the journey where one realised the monetary benefit of road trips.
Let me highlight a few:
- Having your own car means no need to hire transport to move within the city. This saves you taxi fare and lets you experience the new town or city to its fullest.
- The local food joints and roadside eateries are a lot more accessible. This can save cost and at the same time enhance your experiences manifold.
- There is no question of paying for excess baggage.
- There are no encounters with high-priced and crappy airline food.
- You can dress down in the car rather than indulge in fancy outfits.
- What you save on travel you can use towards luxury stays.
On this trip, we drove through fields outside of Mohali in search of a suitable water pump where the kids could jump in and get wet and landed in a field being ploughed through by the farmer on his tractor. He graciously allowed the boys to hop on the tractor with him and ride for as long as they desired. These experiences are unique, priceless and can’t really be planned. It’s an added bonus to having your own ride. Not to mention the stops at dhabas along the highway with authentic lassi, Punjabi parathas, butter chicken and dal makhani to die for!
It’s not all glory, love and fresh air, there are setbacks too. The setbacks are what make the trip an adventure. Nevertheless, being aware and prepared can go a long way in keeping the experience wallet-friendly.
- You will have a flat tire, be prepared.
- Don’t overlook the additional cost of filling fuel. If you are renting a car, depending on the distance you intend to cover you can decide on a petrol versus a diesel engine.
- Toll payments can also add up.
- Motion sickness is a real problem for some, load up on tablets to help you through this.
- You will lose your way despite the GPS, it’s all part of the adventure. What’s a road trip without a wrong turn?
- You will always be underprepared, despite packing enough food, pillows and card games.
The good news is that music and conversation never seem to run out.
In between multiple rounds of Atlas with the boys and loud car singing, we enjoyed the flawless highways in Punjab, the irrigation system in never-ending sunflower fields and driving alongside the boombox carrying tractors with the Canadian flag firmly etched on the top.
How much are you willing to pay for an unmatched experience like this?
Rather I would say it’s a bonus saving to feast on local culture and cuisine and be able to see and experience a whole lot more than what you might when you fly in and out of a city.
A few years ago when we had taken a rental in Portugal, Europe, we had the privilege of getting stuck in a traffic jam upon entering the city of Porto, giving us all that much more time to enjoy the river and the sights along with it.
The way I see it, road trips are an out-and-out win-win experience. Not only do you save money but also you get to savour the locales like vivid sketches forever imprinted in your mind.
I hope you too will consider a family road trip for your next vacation.
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