The thumb rule of holidaying is never think it's too early to plan a vacation, especially when you want to extract maximum mileage out of your budgeted bucks.
Considering the ever-increasing volume of domestic holiday makers, last-minute bargains are few, if at all.
The best way to start is to make up your mind on where you would want to go. Unlike in the western world, the Indian travel distribution industry is highly unorganised.
There are hardly any web sites to compare fares or 'consolidators' that function like search engines and provide airfares, hotel room rates and car rentals under one roof, making it easier for the holiday maker.
The Web is, however, jammed with travel portals such as www.incredibleindia.com, www.traveljini.com, www.indiantravelog.com, www.journeymart.com that can lead you to great destinations.
Book your ticket now!
Do your own booking instead of relying on an agent. That brings down the cost. What has made air travel more interesting is the existence of low-cost carrier Air Deccan and the apex fares (advance purchase fares) of other airlines. Find out whether airlines offer low-fare schemes to your destination. It is worth the time.
Besides the online travel agent, do not forget to surf the websites of airlines. There are often good deals waiting to meet you.
For train tickets, www.irct.com will be your best friend. The tickets will be dropped at your doorstep the very next day for an additional cost of Rs 20 per ticket.
Get the best room rate
The mantra here is, Never Stop Bargaining. And, if hotels are adamant on room tariff, ask for an extra night at the same cost. You could be lucky for if there are no bookings for the very next day the hotel may offer you a free one-night stay as a goodwill gesture.
If that that doesn't work out, ask for an upgrade to a superior room. Still no luck? Try and get breakfast on the house or get the dinner included in the accommodation package.
Hotels, too, offer early bird discounts. But do bear in mind that this formula may not work during the peak season. There is already big shortage of hotel rooms across the country this winter season. Agents say people have already started book for the summer 2005 vacation.
When searching for accommodation facilities, do not forget to search the websites of the Indian state tourism boards. Some sites are a steal.
Also, most of the properties of these boards are located at prime spots. A great example of this is the Maharashtra Tourism Development Corporation's property at Ganpatipule near Ratnagiri. It's a combination of nice place, property and price.
Freeze sight-seeing plans, book your vehicle in advance:
Most hotels offer sight-seeing as a package deal. And it's better to make a deal with the hotels for local sight-seeing instead of searching for a local travel guide. More often than not it works out to be cheaper and also saves time.
Though in some places like Goa, if you are the adventurous type, the hotel may arrange a two-wheeler for you on rent which lets you take off on your own at about Rs 250 per day, petrol not included. The current rental for air-conditioned cars is around Rs 8-10 per km, while non-a-c cars are available for around Rs 6-7 per km.
Try to make the most out of non-peak season when hotel rooms are available at half the rate. The best thing to do, however, is to scan hotel rate cards and book on off-peak rates on dates just preceding the peak rate dates.
Try to be flexible with travel dates and times. Late-night flights on some international airlines connecting two domestic destinations are often cheaper.
For example, when flying to Kerala from Mumbai, take the late night Air-India flight for nearly half the normal fare. Also, choosing to fly on less-travelled days like Tuesdays and Wednesdays may be cost-beneficial.