Dubai or Singapore was the question during the mid of July. A little bit of discussion, some help from Google and Dubai emerged as the choice for our next family vacation, primarily for the following reasons…
- Singapore would be enjoyed more by a 7/8-year-old child than a 3.5-year-old that is what my son is right now.
- Dubai is a little lighter on pocket compared to Singapore.
- Easy availability of Indian and specifically vegetarian food is not a concern in Dubai
November end was the unquestionable time for us. We have our marriage anniversary and work assignments at my office are a little relaxed.
Next was to book a flight. Tracking of airfares for approx. a week and we were ready to book. With some ongoing promotions, MakeMyTrip.com looked most promising with Mumbai to Dubai return fare at Rs. ~43,000/- for 3 for Air India Express. With a little reluctance (read reluctance to go with Air India) we went ahead to take the risk and booked IX 247 & 248.
Yes, we choose to travel during day-time for the following reason…
- We estimated home in Mumbai to the hotel room in Dubai, end-to-end travel time to be around 9-10 Hrs. If my son sleeps during most of the travel time, he would be energetic in the morning where we are most drained due to travel.
- If he does not sleep, he would be sleepy, cranky and annoyed leading to confinement in the hotel room. So, we decided to sacrifice day-time for the comfort.
More about our flight experience in the upcoming posts.
Next was to build an itinerary and this was perhaps the most difficult yet most enjoyed part of the travel-planning. Plus, this is not a one-time activity especially for a dynamic city like Dubai where new attractions pop up now and then. More details about how we planned our activities for the vacation in an upcoming dedicated post.
Hotel selection was relatively easier. We were looking for a hotel apartment and on a suggestion of my cousin, who had been there a couple of years ago and backed by TripAdvisor.com reviews, we choose Savoy Park Hotel Apartments, Bur Dubai for our 5-night stay in Dubai. A little further browsing on TripAdvisor.com and we concluded on Ramada Abu Dhabi Corniche for 2 nights stay at Abu Dhabi. Again, MakeMyTrip.com provided the best rates and cancellation T&C for both of the hotels among other sites and apps including the direct booking inquiries to the hotel. For 5 nights at Savoy Park, we paid Rs. 6500 + AED 10 (local taxes) per night and for Ramada Abu Dhabi, we got a deal at Rs. 5000 + AED 15 (local taxes) per night.
More about our experiences at the hotel in the upcoming posts.
Unwilling to go over manual visa application process, we contacted Rayna Tours for visa application and got our 14 days tourist visa done at approx. Rs. 5500/- per person. It takes a copy of the passport to process the UAE e-Visa which comes as soft copy.
Once your visa is done, don’t miss to update the OTB (Ok To Board) with the airline if your passport is not ECNR marked.
This is usually done by the travel agency, who has processed your visa, or the sponsors of your visa. For Indian tourists, OTB is to be done only if you don’t have ECNR passport.
For the forex requirement, we found having travel card to be the most convenient, cheaper and secure way against predominantly relying on cash or international credit card. We still carried some cash and a credit card for any emergency though.
I got ICICI Bank forex card processed, for free, from BookMyForex.com @ ~ Rs. 17.75 per AED. It required a copy of the flight ticket, visa, PAN card and passport to process the forex card.
You can use the forex card to make online bookings of the places you are planning to visit. This will be cheaper than using international credit cards due to markup charges.
While issuing a new card took just a day, reloading it took 2-3 days. Loading some extra cash from the beginning will be convenient. After your travel, you can unload the balance at the prevailing rate.
Travel insurance is indispensable, especially when you are planning an international trip with a very young child. We started drilling down with PolicyBazaar.com and finalized ICICI Lombard for the same.
Last was communication and connectivity. The Internet helped us know that travellers can easily get UAE SIM card from Du or Etisalat, the two major mobile operators, at the airport. We still decided to have international roaming enabled on one phone.
Every possible thing that we could think of was planned. It was about time we board our flight to live the Arabian dream.
How we built our itinerary.
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