For Mumbai-based Srinivvasan Gopalkrishnan, head of strategy at Reliance Sports, learning is not just a consequence of travel, but part of the attraction. Memories of travelling throughout India with his father as a child have been an enduring part of adulthood. Now, at 45, he hopes to create similar experiences for his children, Viivaan, 6, and Vedikka, 4.

Gopalkrishnan and his wife Rohini Rajagopal ensure that they use holiday backdrops as veritable classrooms, to teach their children appreciation for nature, empathy, discipline and more than anything, to inculcate a sense of exploration. Like most parents, they are driven by the desire to spend a greater amount of time with their children, escape the pressures of work and make new discoveries together. Goa’s beaches have always been a staple but some of the most memorable moments have been in Rishikesh, Andamans, weekend getaways from Mumbai and most recently, Sikkim. “While all the trips had some novelty, Sikkim has been unforgettable,“ says Gopalkrishnan.

Sikkim calling

“When planning for Sikkim this summer, Rohini and I went with the assumption that travelling with children is no barrier to intrepid travel. On the contrary, they are surprisingly open to new things and thrive on adventure," remembers Gopalkrishnan. Since he had always been intrigued by the North-East, Sikkim was chosen over the easier Goa for the annual holiday. “We planned to travel to Gangtok for a couple of days, then move to a farmhouse about 100km west of the capital. We completely unplugged from the Internet and sightseeing. We chose Biksthang Heritage Farmhouse in Rinchingpong for this," he says.

Grip on work

Since Gopalkrishnan has to overlook sporting events through the year, there is no definitive lean period at work. The trips are planned around school holidays so the kids don’t have to upset their schedule. As the founder of a professional organizing service, Organise With Ease, Rajagopal has more control on her calendar. “Planning the break months in advance gives me ample time to delegate work," says Gopalkrishnan. “I’m not averse to being connected daily for about an hour while travelling so that I can address any crisis and ensure the wheels are turning smoothly at work." But Gopalkrishnan chooses to be connected only on WhatsApp or email, so he can check them at his own convenience.

Making a budget

Holidays for four can never be a budget trip. Gopalkrishnan and his wife sit at the beginning of the year to chalk out dates and approximate costs for the places that they would like to visit, keeping a buffer of 15-20%. Then it’s onto the web to check flights, hotels and Airbnb to see which destinations make sense. “Rohini does most of the legwork on research, and I chip in with the bookings, Trip Advisor reviews and availabilities," says Gopalkrishnan. “We try and lock down flights and accommodation early on to get reasonable prices. We’d rather be mindful about only that part of the trip, as during the holiday we’d like the kids to try everything without thinking of money." An extension to Darjeeling had to be cancelled last minute due to a strike. Since they had accounted for changes, this wasn’t a major setback on the wallet.

Exploring the state

The extravagant outdoors, hilltop monasteries and crisp clean air of Gangtok were expected rewards when the family left for Sikkim. But when they reached the capital, it was the viewpoints, a cable car ride and a first time tryst with yaks that kept the children engaged. “We took long walks, stayed off the Internet, hit the pool on a warm afternoon, played cricket and got some uninterrupted time with the children. As long as experiences ignite curiosity and are fun," says Gopalkrishnan. For him, the time spent in Biksthang trumped all other experiences in Sikkim.

Finding balance

Despite his hectic schedule, Gopalkrishnan believes that finding a balance between work and holidays is easily achievable. “One should have the ability to truly switch off from work, even while staying marginally connected," he says. “For us, it’s all about creating experiences that the kids cherish so that the spirit of exploration stays intact and they’re game for any new destination we propose the next time."

Trip Planner is a series that looks at how working professionals choose a travel destination keeping in mind what they want from the break without breaking the bank.

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