Travelers and families gathered on Saturday at Gandhi’s Restaurant in West Lake Worth to experience a sampling of Indian cuisine as well as receive a series of lists for our journey.  The day marked 100 days until travel, and the group couldn’t have been more excited…and a bit nervous too!  The food was wonderful and our gracious hostess, Ms. Sherri, shared her experiences of traveling and living in India for over 17 years.

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Students and parents were given a packing list, and packing into a duffel style backpack was modeled at the meeting.  We will be bringing only a carry on bag for the journey.

The lists below were an informative aspect to the event itself:

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We had one hiccup during the agenda, and that was my gross miscalculation that we would all be able to complete the online visa registration process at the restaurant, and have forms signed on the spot with a notary.  I envisioned the group being able to have packages ready for FedEx.

So how did my timing end up so far off?  CIBT (also known as Travisa, Cox and King, and Zierer…evidentally a number of visa services have since merged), has an extremely convoluted process.  We were advised by EF Tours to use a visa service and to forego the eTourist visa option on the Indian Visa webpage.  With that being said, traveling with minors requires several additional visa application steps and the application kit is something that must be read with extreme care.

As the group leader, I navigated through this process first and successfully obtained my Indian visa, which was shown to the group.  I tried to have a list of important steps already constructed so that people wouldn’t fall into some of the pitfalls possible. Needless to say, despite planning on some of the pitfalls, I didn’t account for all of them.  One of the major time delays was that the applicaiton kit that is sent by CIBT is a writable document, so some parents accidentally filled out the “this is not an official document” form instead of clicking to the link embedded in the packet to the Indian government page.  Needless to say, we didn’t get everyone’s visa application completed at the meeting, but hopefully families left with a better idea of how to navigate the program.  It certainly was a learning curve for all, and a great example of how sometimes the plans you set forth can be changed and not everything in under your control.  Travel is a push/pull experience and having an open mind in which you are able to roll with the punches so to speak, is the best outlook to have.

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