Family-friendly travel suggestions for India or points nearby
June 24, 2015 9:29 AM   Subscribe

I'll be traveling with my wife and our 2.5 year old daughter from the USA to India in early November for a very good friend's wedding in Pune. We'd like to get there 3-4 days early and decompress/adjust to jet lag/settle in. I'd love suggestions for a place to stay!

We're not looking to rough it and are willing to consider a bit of a splurge. Normally we avoid 'resorts' when we travel but having just gotten back from my first trip to India on business I think that we want a nice/fancy resort-ish place with lots of amenities, especially given it'll be our first major international trip with our daughter and we have no idea how difficult she'll be in the first few days as we get over our jet lag.

I'm not familiar with Maharashtra or its environs at all. Although the wedding is in Pune and staying close might be nice, we also aren't opposed to staying somewhere that's a short plane flight away. I'm not too keen on staying in Mumbai from what I've read - I think we'd be more interested in a place in the countryside or with a lot of natural beauty. Someplace where we can sort of veg out and get our bearings. I was checking out the Park Hyatt in Goa - it's certainly a little dear, but we'd consider something like that given the special occasion nature of the trip.

Any and all suggestions are very welcome!
posted by pziemba to Travel & Transportation around India (7 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Earlier this year, I went to the Ajanta Caves. It might be a bit far, as you'd do best making your way by taxi (I took a train from Mumbai to Aurangabad and then a bus). The Caves are amazing. I stayed at Hotel Kailas- which was about $30/night. It was a a lot for me, but I was desperate (previously, in my 3 years of travel in India, the most expensive place I stayed was $12- and usually average $5!). The grounds are spacious with decent rooms and an overpriced, tourist friendly restaurant. You can walk to the caves in a few minutes. There isn't too much else around there. Perhaps have a car and driver meet you at the airport and stay with you for a few days- stay in a hotel on the way to the caves, take a side trip or two (Ellora?), and head to Pune. A good travel agent will be able to put something great together. The caves are spectacular and very far from the places I like the most in India. They are kind of hard to get to, and a good place to spend a bit more- especially on transport.
posted by maya at 9:53 AM on June 24, 2015

Hampi was one of my favorite places in India. It's rural and an incredibly beautiful landscape strewn with boulders and rice paddies and mango groves. The world heritage site ruins there are fantastic. It's peaceful and manageable relative to the rest of India. I think it would be lots of fun with a kid--lots of ruins to explore, boulders to clamber around on, elephants being washed in the river, monkeys everywhere.

There's this resort there, but I don't know anything about it.
posted by geegollygosh at 10:17 AM on June 24, 2015

Best answer: This resort is located about a half hour's drive away from Pune city that fits the bill in terms of natural beauty and a space to veg out.
posted by tillwehavefaces at 11:47 AM on June 24, 2015

Best answer: This question finally inspired me to pay my $5 and come out of years of lurking - I had a wedding/celebration of a US-based marriage in Pune and have in-laws there.

Goa is going to be quite a trek - two years ago we hired a car with a driver to take us from Pune to Goa and it was a long and crazy ride (6-8 hours) definitely not recommended with a small child.

I wouldn't totally discount Bombay, especially if your inbound travel has you routed through town. Its pretty pricey to stay but Colaba/south bombay is, to me, appreciably cosmopolitan and very walkable compared to almost every other part of india. I'd be hard pressed to skip a chance for some Parsi Biryani at Britania Restaurant, or garlic crabs at Trishna (Bombay is a hell of a food town).

We havent done Hampi but ive looked into it for future visits - it definitely looks awesome. Nashik is also not too far and the impression ive gotten is that they are trying to create the Indian version of Napa - complete with wineries and hot air balloons, no idea of kid appropriateness or not.

You have been before but my standard advice to anyone traveling to india for the first time is to double the time and triple the energy required to travel equivalent distances at home - sitting in traffic or dealing with totally logic-free lines at airports on domestic flights is the norm and the entire experience can be surprisingly draining - ive advised friends against skip-hop itineraries that have them moving between states every couple of days and these were young healthy folks traveling without small kids.

In Pune proper, i have a couple of food-related suggestions:
-Chitale Bandhu is an awesome snack shop that my grandmother-in-law has been patronizing forever. We get folks to bring us Bakarwadi (think savory/spicy fried rugalach type things, very typically maharashtran) and Kaju Barfi whenever they come over to visit. The origial location is in the Deccan Gymkhanna area but it appears as though there are many other franchises in town.

-Krishna Dining Hall there is some debate amongst our family members if this is the best Maharastran Thali spot or not but ive had numerous really good meals there and its a fun/weird experience. There is no menu, everyone gets the same thing, and the thali is basically a buffet that comes to you. when youre seated you get a giant metal plate with smaller dishes that guys come around and fill (and refill, and refill) until you tell them to stop. its a great way to get a broad variety of maharastrian dishes (to be frank, not my favorite indian regional cuisine but when in rome, you should try it) Like with Dim Sum it pays to be patient - they will keep coming around with different dishes so you dont want to fill up too early. its very casual and affordable a great lunch if youre planning on taking an afternoon nap. dessert isnt included but you should order the shrikhand a dessert made of strained yogurt flavored with cardamom, its great.
posted by Exceptional_Hubris at 12:40 PM on June 24, 2015 [3 favorites]

Response by poster: Wow! Thanks for the super detailed reply, Exceptional_Hubris! Glad I managed to pull you out of lurk mode : )

Point very well taken about the logistical complexity of travel in India - that was the main takeaway I got from my trip there. You're right in assuming we'll be coming through Mumbai - I'm interested to hear your suggestion about considering it as a place to stay. I will check it out!

I had definitely not presumed to drive to Goa but was idly musing about flying straight there from the US (with connections obviously), then a domestic flight from Goa to Pune for the wedding after several days. That said, I've never flown on domestic flights in India so we may scratch that plan if it seems too daunting for the three of us. We're being more cautious than we'd normally be given the kid-factor.
posted by pziemba at 1:26 PM on June 24, 2015

Best answer: As an actualfax Indian, pziemba's suggestions are excellent. Especially the one about the time/energy required. I once freaked the hell out of some French friends by calling Paris 'calm and quiet' - and it really is, compared to Delhi, where I'd just been!

Mumbai can be a good choice- it's been years since I lived there but there are some lovely parks and Colaba/South Bombay is fantastic. Pune itself is lovely as well- smaller city, but much more well-planned and not quite so crowded.

I would seriously reconsider going anywhere further afield, given that domestic travel in India can be more draining than long-haul flights in the West if you're not used to the crazy. Goa especially is a fucking crapshoot if you're not interested in raves and cheap booze and if memory serves there's a massive beach party at that time of year. Avoid at all costs.
posted by Tamanna at 5:49 PM on June 24, 2015

There are some hill stations close to Pune - Mahabaleshwar and Panchgani being the top 2. Mahabaleshwar is about 120 KM from Pune and has some good hotels (resort/spa) including Le Meridien.

It might help your family relax and then you can drive down to Pune for the wedding.
posted by theobserver at 11:34 AM on June 25, 2015

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