Monday, December 8, 2014

Post Christmas Bliss: All inclusive beach vacations

All of these look pretty fabulous to me. Who wouldn't love 5 diamonds for Christmas? has a nice selection of post-holiday destinations.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Fast Five Travel Tips: Lousy gifts for travellers

Do you love an explorer? Does he or she live for the open road? Well here are a few gifts I think you ought to steer clear from.

5 Lousy gifts:

1. Tickets to the symphony. Whoa.... Are you saying travellers don't like the symphony?  Ok, tickets in general. I'm just saying you should not shell out big money for tickets or anything that is date specific, because you never know when they'll be hitting the road for their next travel fix. How about a hand-written coupon from you with an offer to go out to the symphony, Oilers' game, Emerson Drive concert or the like, when it is convenient for them?

2. Knick knacks and table ornaments. You don't want to weigh down that free spirit. Maybe a wall map or a custom wall canvas made from one of their own photos instead?

3. Cooking lessons. Don't sign them up for any class that requires weekly attendance. We can learn the lessons of regional cuisine while we travel. In fact, we prefer it that way. What about a gourmet gift basket of treats that reminds them of a favourite destination?

4. A big sweater. Do you know how much they weight and how hard they are to pack? Boo! A quick dry, light and versatile zip-up is a much better choice. 

5. Luggage. Unless your favourite traveller is 18 and moving away from home, luggage is a lousy choice. It's too personal. If I'm going to drag something around the world and back, I'm going to want to choose it myself. A gift card is a better choice. 

Fast Five Travel Tips: Great gifts for travellers

Christmas is around the corner. Are you still looking for ideas on how to treat your favourite traveller? Here are a few suggestions sure to please.

1. Gift card to have photos printed. And/or the offer of your time to help organize travel photos and put together an album.

2. Bamboo socks. They are a little pricey ($10-15 a pair) and would be a great treat to the frugal traveller. Bamboo is comfortable, breathable, naturally antimicrobial, quick to dry and made from a renewable resource.

3. "Plane pack" a little gift bag with all the necessities... hand sanitizer, gum, kleenex, ear buds, peanuts/crackers/dried fruit.

4. Phone charger. Who couldn't use a spare?

5. Gift card for a popular hotel chain, or Air Canada. You can pick these up at the post office, or at  You can even use your own Aeroplan miles to pay for them.  (The other Canadian airline does not offer gift cards.)

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Week in Vegas $570

How much would you pay to avoid the Christmas hustle? Are you getting tired of the chaos, the stressed shoppers and the commercialism that is December? Maybe you just hate the cold weather and icy roads this time of year. Why not disappear for a week and enjoy some time in Vegas?

This is exactly where I would be if it weren't for family and work commitments this time of year.

Enjoy a week, with direct flights from Winnipeg at the MGM Grand hotel for only $570. That's like paying $82 a night for hotel and getting your flights completely free! Or, paying for a flight and getting a week's hotel for free. There really aren't any better bargains, which are inclusive of tax, out there.

I chose the MGM Grand hotel for a couple reasons. Firstly, it's huge and a hub of activity. You will never be bored. There are shows, concerts, nightlife and more right under your own "home" roof. It is also in a fabulous location. If you want to go out exploring, you are steps away from other great hotel and casino complexes. The drinks are good at MGM Grand... some places have terrible service and watered down drinks, but not here. If you want to drink Corona and play penny slots, that's an option.

If you would rather stay at another hotel, you could choose Planet Hollywood ($502), The Venetian ($767), The Mirage ($602) or Caesars Palace ($646). 

If you'd like a hotel without casino, but with a kitchenette, bigger rooms and an ideal location (connected to Aria and Bellagio) definitely stay at Vdara ($723). I've stayed there and love it. The rooms are gorgeous and the little market restaurant has fabulous food in a cafe type setting. There is also a Starbucks in the lobby. It's an oasis on the strip, but mere steps away from all the action. I highly recommend Vdara

Flights are direct, on Westjet and from Winnipeg airport. 
You can book with any agent you like, or on-line. 

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Top 3 Hammocks

People like different things from a vacation. I like my hammock time. When life starts stressing me, I start strategizing ways to get back to a hammock.

Things I look for in a hammock are comfort, location, proximity to water, and beverage accessibility.

My top 3 hammocks are:

1. At the Hyatt Grand Cypress in Orlando Florida. First of all, there were 3 hammocks available. Never did I have to wait for a chance to sit and relax. It was also a fabric hammock which is certainly more comfortable than a rope hammock. It was a glorious rich purple colour. It was near the man-made lake and had some sun shelter. It was also near the kids' area which included a rock wall. Though I did have some concerns about wrecking my bliss with the sound of screaming kids, that never did happen. One morning I even did some parenting from the hammock and cheered for my son on the rock wall while I relaxed. There is a pool bar and waitress service in the area should you wish to have a beverage. Each hammock also had its own side table perfect to keep your belongings and/or beverage nearby. What puts this hammock over the top is that in the evening, you can see the Disneyworld fireworks in the distance. What could be more perfect than that?

Ocean Club (east) Turks and Caicos Islands
2. At the Ocean Club in the Turks and Caicos. I loved my hammock time here. For a long time the photo of me and this hammock served as my Facebook profile picture. However, it's not my all time favourite anymore. It was a rope hammock, at the edge of the beach restaurant/bar, and next to the ocean. It was under a palm tree in the caribbean, which makes it pretty damn perfect. However, you kind of felt on display to the diners and folks sitting at the patio tables 20 feet or so away. While you could hear the lounge music, which was very soothing, you could also hear other people's conversations and kids yelling and splashing in the pool. BUT, it is located at a near perfect resort, at the edge of one of the world's top beaches (Grace Bay) and I loved my time there.

3. At the Sheraton Waikiki Beach in Honolulu Hawaii. It was the least comfortable of the hammocks, but its location was amazing. It was mere steps away from the ocean, it was tied to a palm tree and it was available when I wanted it. While it lacked beverage service, it made up for it in the view. You could see Diamond Head in the distance.

Do you have a favourite hammock? Please leave the locations in the comment box. I'm always on the lookout for new destinations.

Hyatt Regency Grand Cypress, Orlando. Best hammock ever!

Sheraton Waikiki Beach, Honolulu

Monday, December 1, 2014

Cyber Monday Travel Deals

There are a few fun things out there today. Lots of hotel discounts. Just pick your favourite chain and head to their website. For example, the Marriott chain is offering 30% off for bookings made by midnight.

Air Transat went for a wild bunch of fun with a Twitter Auction. As anticipated, there was lots of grumbling from the peanut gallery. "Why is it only on Twitter?" "Why aren't there deals from Halifax?" And so on and so on. But I, on the other hand, completely applaud their gusto. They went for it! And the auction proceeds were going to charity. Big win for Air Transat in the Cyber Monday event.

Some lucky person got a 5 Star All-Inclusive week to Jamaica for $1717. That includes tax and is for 2 people. Pretty amazing eh?  Results, and the last couple auctions (from Vancouver) are still on.

Air Canada also offered 15% off any flight in the next 6 months, if booked by tonight. But, seems to me their prices are starting 15 or 20% higher today anyway. are offering a great number of affordable packages, and as a Cyber Monday special, they are adding value in the form of free cancellation up to 3 days ahead. 

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Fast Five Travel Tips: Black Friday Strategies

Are you getting twitchy thinking of the deals on the horizon? Will you shop in the malls, or buy on-line? And while you are planning your holiday purchases, you may wish to take a moment and consider your upcoming travel needs as well.

In the past, there have been deals on select flights or select hotels, rather than blanket discounts. You can expect deals to be available this weekend, as well as additional deals on "cyber monday."

Here are my tips to maximize your success buying travel and getting that deal this weekend.

1. Identify your needs. Make a list of the hotels and destinations you need to go to in the next 6 months. (Think hockey/volleyball/school/family obligations.)

2. Wish List. Make a list of your possible travel dates for "wish list" travel.  As in, if there was a remarkable deal to Arizona, WHEN would it be possible for you to go? If those dates and deals line up, you might just hit the jackpot.

3. Get in the loop! If you're not a member/social media follower of the hotels/airlines/travel companies you wish to buy from, add them now. Sign up for their e-mails, follow them on Twitter. You want to be among the first to know of the deals.

4. Grab your money. Will you be using a credit card? Pay Pal? Know your limits which card(s) offer additional benefits for travel purchases. (For example, travel insurance included, rental car benefits, etc.)

5. Know the norm. (Know the current and average prices of what you're after) Scout the websites and travel blogs now. Know the current prices so you are not fooled by misleading advertising or big bold statements. Just because it "looks" like a big deal, doesn't mean it is.

Lastly, when the deal comes, be prepared to act. Just like the shopper grabbing that last coveted Christmas toy from the shelf, someone can just as easily grab the last seat on a flight or hotel room that you were hoping for.

Companies that typically offer deals (or have in the past) on Black Friday/Cyber Monday.