DRESS: (c/o) Gal Meets Glam/SANDALS: similar here/EARRINGS: Zara, more options here/BANGLES: from Indian market

As I mentioned on Instagram a few weeks ago, I’ve received a ton of questions ranging from India to what lens I use from how I pack to what app I use for my IG Stories, so I thought, “let’s get to it…all of it on the blog today!”

But before I dive in, please know I am not an expert on India nor do I know all the answers or fully understand the creative bursts that make up the wonderment of this culture. I am just happy to highlight + share with you some personal tips from my own experience in India. I hope there’s something you can take away from it, too!

DRESS: No.6 (sold out, more options here)/WEDGES: Tory Burch/EARRINGS: Oscar de la Renta

Q: “How do you pack for long trips like this? I’m curious how you arrange (clothes) without going overboard, but also having enough. Also, do you try to bring your outfits on a carry-on or risk it through luggage (and possibly get it lost)?”

A: I pack using three types of bags. First, pack-hack, is a carry-on garment bag! Surprisingly, garment bags can hold a lot of dresses + bulky pieces so I put most of my outfits in there. I use a suitcase for shirts, jeans, shoes, accessories and my steamer. Then, I bring an oversized tote (that doubles as a beach bag) as my “personal item” where I pack my computer, makeup, jewelry, camera and (sometimes) an extra pair of shoes. The only bag I check is my suitcase that way if something gets lost, I already have most outfits with me in my garment bag. Remember that “personal item?” (Oh yes!) My makeup + an extra pair of shoes are there, too. It’s not always ideal because I have to lug around two bags through the airport terminal, but it works for blog trips.

To answer the second part of your question – I PLAN ahead!

Imagine opening a magazine and seeing a 6-page spread. Most times, the clothing you see in the story matches in color, fabric choices, styles, designers, etc. I treat my blog content the same way! Usually 2-3 weeks before a trip, I start “sourcing” clothing for the location I’m traveling to, which inevitably changes, based on the destination (i.e. Mexico vs. Jamaica). I copy/paste pictures of the pieces I’ve purchased and store them in a folder on my desktop. This allows me to see the “story” as a whole. From there, I’ll send my photographer snapshots of the selected pieces and together, we’ll discuss locations in detail, how we want to shoot it and the mood we’re aiming for, etc.

If I have not stressed this enough, I am now! If you’re a newbie blogger, it is essential to work side-by-side with your photographer in adding value to your overall content shoots. Photographers are expert storytellers that can assist in translating your message as a blogger. Once you become comfortable with shooting and editing, you can spread your wings and fly on your own. Big shout out to mine, Chelsae Anne

Q: “What three things do I need most in India?”

A: Makeup removing wipes (I love these by Neutrogena), granola bars in case you get sick (huge fan of Think Thin bars!) and hand sanitizer. I also suggest packing sandals, a mini-backpack for your camera (more options here), light pajamas in case your hotel does not have A/C and Emergen-C to prevent dehydration (it’s hot, yo). I also brought a z-pack.

(And if you’re anything like me, leave room in your suitcase. There were so many fabric stores, shoe stores, jewelry stores, book stores, etc. that I wish I could have bought more from because shipping to the states can be very expensive in India.)

Q: “Do I need a visa?”

A: Short answer: yes!

All U.S. citizens will need a valid passport and Indian visa to enter and exit the country. Definitely, apply and obtain your Indian visa in advance. For any traveler staying less than 30 days in India, you can easily apply for an e-visa online (available to citizens of 160 countries)!

Q: “Is India expensive?”

A: It’s very affordable! I brought less than $1000 USD to use during my trip for food, shopping, transportation, excursions and experiences and I didn’t spend everything! I also used my American Express credit card (love it!) because the exchange rate is always the best.

Q: “How should I dress for India?”

A: Make room for lightweight fabrics (i.e. linen, etc.) to counter the heat!

Whether it be dresses, two-piece sets, proper shorts and jumpsuits to swimsuit (for hotel pool) I packed it all and mixed it with a combination of sleeve and sleeveless pieces too (featured in previous Indian Diaries Pt. 1 + Pt. 2), which were both agreeable with the culture and fashionable (check, check!). During the late spring and summer months, a sunhat and sunnies are a must, as it provides great protection from the ever present sun kisses. Also, don’t forget to include any purchases you make in India – like their stunning scarves or bangle bracelets. I fell in love with mine, plus they made for great additions to the looks!

Q: “Where did you stay in India?”

A: We stayed at Taj Lake Palace in Udaipur. Our hotel in Jaipur was OK. Although decent, I would not feel comfortable recommending it to you. Instead, I suggest Amanbagh (which was unfortunately booked). You can read more about my experience in Udaipur here and here.

JUMPSUIT: (c/o) A Peace Treaty

Q: “Why didn’t you ride the elephants at Amer Fort in Jaipur?”

A: Through research, I was made aware that these majestic animals have been, “Captured from the wild, often as babies, [where] these animals undergo a brutal training process called ‘the crush’ whereby they are beaten and starved into submission by their handlers. They are next brought into these venues such as Amer Fort, to carry humans on their backs and become props in an entertainment display.”

 So please avoid this at all costs. Elephants deserve respect, too.

Q: “What did you eat in India? Did you get sick?”

A: We did not get sick! We were thoroughly prepped prior to our trip (what to eat, what not to eat) and dined mainly within the places we stayed with the exception of hot coffee + hot teas during our City Palace adventures.

Bottled water(s) for hydration, garlic naan, cooked veggies and many servings of Chicken Tikka Masala among other popular, traditional dishes were some of my favorites.

Q: “What type of transportation do you advise?”

A: Hire a private driver. Hands down. This may sound fancy, but it’s actually an affordable and popular option in India. Your hotel can easily arrange this for you and I’d highly advise it! Picture a bit of organized chaos: an abundance of high and low pitched sounds from horns, wayward animals roaming the streets – saturated with tuk tuks and oxen carts. Now, add a local who randomly decides to stop in the middle of the road to check the time. That’s why having a skilled driver to maneuver through the above will be so helpful! As for us, we were so lucky to have met Dev through our hotel in Jaipur; he was an absolute champ and now friend!

Q: What camera do you use?

A: My photographer and I love using the Canon 5D Mark IV with a 24-70mm lens. Most of my photos in India were shot using this camera (with the exception of my iPhone) and all images were edited in Lightroom. The lighting was really beautiful so most images didn’t need much work – just slight enhancements to bring out the colors and mood.

Q: “What app do you use for IG Stories?”

A: Lately, I’m loving Unfold!

Q: “Most memorable place you went to on the trip?”

A: This is a tough question, but I would say the vegetable market in Udaipur. There were people from all walks of life. At one point, we saw a man wearing nothing but pants pushing a wheel barrel. He was covered in an orange-yellowish powder. Completely covered from head-to-toe! When we asked why this was, someone mentioned it was because he worked at a turmeric factory. I had never seen anything like that before…

DRESS: (c/o) CJ Laing

Q: “I’m just wondering what you thought of India? I’ve always wanted to go because it’s so beautiful but I’ve received mixed feedback from friends – they either love it or hate it (safety, crowds, feel sad because of lots of poverty, etc.)”

Imagine India like NYC. Would you visit NYC to relax and unwind or would you travel to (let’s say) the Bahamas for that? Sure, there are places like the Taj Lake Palace that serve as a tranquil escape from all the hustle and bustle, but overall India, as a country, is a very busy place. With its constant population momentum wrapped in tourism attractions and a heavy flow of traffic, like NYC, it’s one that never sleeps.

At one point, I lost my jewelry bag containing some of my favorite vintage pieces. Think: Chanel, Valentino, Oscar de la Renta, etc. I was a at a loss for words and thought it was gone for good, but as soon as I returned to the hotel they made me aware it was at the front desk waiting for me. And this wasn’t at Taj Lake Palace, mind you.

Not only did I feel safe, but I felt comfortable. Of course, you should always always be smart and aware of any suspicious activity when traveling, but sometimes the unexpected does happen and things are out of your control unfortunately. Yet, it’s moments like the above, where what you expect is actually the unexpected (in the best way) that makes me extremely thankful.

Is there poverty? Yes, the poverty is confronting. Although, I have never experienced “that” level of poverty, I found it to be very humbling. During my time there, I witnessed some thrilling, emotional, beautiful and sacred moments. In the midst of all the chaos, there were these smiles and laughs that led me to believe these locals were content, lighthearted and patient regardless of their living conditions. I think the juxtaposition serves as a great reminder for us to focus on what matters most: family, health and home. “Love it or hate it,” I would encourage you to see between the two and embrace an open attitude towards the unpredictability of India. To accept this invite is to experience its soul.

Xo, Stephanie

[Chelsae Anne | Photographer]