Monday, September 15, 2014

Family of 3? Christmas Vacation Trip

If you're hoping to book a Christmas vacation, you should seriously consider booking before September 30th. Unless, of course you prefer to spend more.

You can budget about $2200 per person for a hot holiday during this peak season.  If you're having a reggae Christmas down in Jamaica, you can plan on about $8000 for a family of 4.

What about a week in Tampa Florida? December 21-28th?

I spotted this deal on for a family of 3. The only rooms left are the 1 bedroom suites which can accommodate one adult and 2 children, OR two adults and one child. This might be an absolutely perfect package for a single parent with international travel documents.

It's from Winnipeg, to Tampa and includes a week on the beach, daily breakfast AND a car. Trip advisor reviews are good for this hotel. If you're dreaming of a Christmas vacation on a beach, in a safe and relaxed area. This might be just the ticket!

At a total price of under $3300 Canadian, this might be your Christmas bargain. To book now, you need to put just $750 down and pay the rest in November.

Start your research on the Tampa and Clearwater Bay areas here.

Fast Five Travel Tips: Avoid baggage fees

1. Pack like a pro.  Roll your clothes. Pack in jumbo ziploc bags. Only take what you need. You CAN do this with a carry-on.

2. Go to the Caribbean (See, no Westjet bag fees to the Caribbean)

3. Carry the airline credit card.

4. Skip the souvenirs. Why check a bag just to bring back souvenirs? Why not bring back memories and photos instead? Alternatively, you could have your purchases shipped home. You would be surprised how many places offer this service.

5. Do your research... what does the hotel provide, so you don't have to pack it?  Did you know that Fairmont hotels, and many Westins and Marriotts too can offer fitness gear to their guests?

Does your hotel/resort have a guest laundry room? More do than don't. Would you rather do a quick load of laundry for $5 for your family during the holiday, or pay 3 checked bags at $25 each to have more clothes?

The Delta-fication of Westjet

September 15th, 2014.... the day Westjet started charging for checked baggage.

It was a Canadian thing. They were the most polite, most friendly, and the most, don't-worry-about-it airline. Welcome aboard... sure, bring your stuff, relax, let us pour you a coke and offer you a peanut-free snack.

Westjet, our little Canadian-engine-that-could. A jumpstart company founded in memory, heck not even 20 years ago, built on employee investment and partnership. No more community minded company than Westjet. Do you remember their Christmas commercial?  We all cried.

Today, all is forgotten as people take to Twitter to spew their aggression against baggage fees.

While baggage fees are getting all the buzz, they also announced a new tier system to their frequent flyer program. This is a pretty good advancement for folks who use Westjet regularly and for business travel.

These changes make Westjet a little more mainstream and a lot more Delta-like. This isn't a bad thing. Delta, which became a code-share partner of Westjet just last year, is one of the world's most successful airlines. 

Lastly, with both these airlines you can avoid (1) checked bag fee by carrying their credit card. With their signature credit card you are awarded this privilege. Plus, you also earn credit towards future flights. 

Are you onboard? 

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Comparing Apples to Apples (St. Lucia)

These are the current prices for a trip to St. Lucia this weekend.

Now here are today's prices for the same trip in January 2015. Same hotels, same airline etc.

Our third comparison is for Westjet to St. Lucia, at the exact same hotel, exact same days as the Air Canada bargain. 

Literally, the half price for the same vacation, thanks to a little research. 

See why I get excited when I see a fabulous vacation, for a budget price? Same joy, same relaxation, half the price.... or as I think of it, twice the vacation potential for the same money. 

Seriously, St. Lucia? $639 tax in!!

Ok, I need to stop seeing these bargains. I can't go. There's no possible way. Work, work, work. But wow, this is an incredible deal. The all-inclusive prices start at a flat $1000.

This is about 55% less than you will pay this winter for a week at the same resort. Or 25% of the Christmas price.

Can YOU go now?

Prices are a little higher each week as the fall progresses into winter.

The great thing about a last minute get away is that you can check the forecast before you book.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

$853 to the Turks n Caicos - leaving NOW

I wrote about this bargain a month ago. I can't even believe it dropped another $100. Crazy! Crazy good!!  Can you go this weekend? or

How do you get those Air Miles?

It's an easy formula. I can break it down to 4 steps. The very same advice applies to the Shoppers Optimum program. It's another excellent program for returns. I highly recommend it.

My experiences are based on shopping for a household with 4 people. Would be MUCH harder to do as a single shopper, BUT, you would need fewer points for your personal redemption needs, so it will work out well regardless.

1. Shop when they "pay" you to shop.  Bonus reward days happen at least once a month. Watch for 20x Air Miles. (Also known as customer appreciate day. Generally first Tuesday of the month at Safeway.)  Shoppers Drug Mart offers their 20x on a Saturday or Sunday usually.  Shop on these days.

2. Buy the staples on 20x days. You will always need toilet paper, kleenex, juice boxes, chips, frozen vegetables, cheese, margarine, etc etc. Whatever your household burns through, plan to buy a month's supply if at a good price (always watch for sales).

3. Air Miles credit card.  You won't get a ton of miles this way, but an extra 40-100 a month will add up to a free domestic flight every 18 months or so.

4. Buy your gas at Shell and your beer at the MLCC and always keep your eyes open for bonus Air Miles.

It's ultimately a re-training of the way your grocery shop, but it can pay huge rewards without affecting your monthly budget.  Rather than buying a little of everything each week, buy a month's supply of things you always use on bonus reward days and just buy fresh goods (veggies and milk) in the alternate weeks. If your monthly grocery bill is $400 plan to spend about $280 of that on your "big shop" once a month and about $40 on the 3 alternate weeks, rather than $100 each week.

My way, you net about 286 miles at Safeway in a month, in just basic Air Miles. (No product bonuses). At $100 per week, you would get 20 basic Air Miles for the month.  See the difference?

With product bonuses, I expect to get about 400-500 Air Miles each time I do a "big shop". Based on this alone, I would collect about 5000 or so Air Miles a year. That's 2 domestic flights, or gift cards (think Christmas gifts) etc.

At Shoppers Drug Mart, I use the same formula, but buy products like body wash, hand soap, laundry detergent, feminine products, vitamins, razors, perfume, makeup etc etc only once a month. They have excellent sales on these items, so when the rewards days and sales match up.... yahoo!

For me, it's all about finding ways to subsidize travel. Free flights or hotel bookings can really add up to some great vacations at a really affordable overall price.