Please, Take the Wheel

As you know my eyes have been opened to more and more travel opportunities through my new job as a travel consultant. I have been reading and learning about tour companies and things you can experience through guided vacations. I was definitely surprised to learn that it is very affordable to participate in a guided tour rather than trying to do everything on your own.

6 months ago, I did not have any idea you could easily find like minded people and join their well planned excursions, rather than trying to “re-invent the wheel yourself.” I think this would have really benefitted me when I toured Ireland in 2017. Though I had a decent time and saw many things,  I felt like I was missing out and not really experiencing Ireland. I was a casual tourist, and certainly did not  have the full, and the enriching Irish experience I had hoped for.

So this next time, I’m looking at an award winning tour company in Europe called Back Roads Touring as my way to show my son Switzerland.  Rather than putting all the pressure on myself to do months of research and then try to coordinate everything,  I will enlist the experts. It already feels like a relief. I’d love for someone to take the lead so my son & I can both enjoy the adventure to the fullest rather than us both wondering when I’ll make the next wrong turn.

Here are three tour companies, of many, that my travel agency recommends. (I bet these will get you started on thinking about your next adventure!)

G Adventures  A Canadian company well known around the globe.

Back Roads Touring  A Specialist in Europe. Small groups of 18 or fewer.

On The Go Tours  Specializing in 4 & 5 Star Luxury Guided Tours. Often with incredible deals on last minute adventures.

Consider the math if you think that $2000 is too much to pay for a 7 day guided tour.  As an individual you might pay:  7 nights hotel ($1400), plus taxis/uber/shuttles ($300), plus admission tickets to museums/activities/monuments ($250) plus select meals ($300) for a total of $2250 or more. While you could share the hotel and taxi expense with your spouse, that’s true,  the meals and tickets are individually priced regardless. Also consider the value of NOT stressing about planning and research and driving routes. Would that make your vacation more enjoyable?

If you’re interested in any of these tours, track me down at McPhail Travel in Brandon and let’s talk! (Cathie@mcphailtravel.net)

 

On The Go Birthday Celebration Deals October 2018

 

 

 

 

Honeymoon Holiday Bargain

Have you dreamt of a second honeymoon,  or even the first honeymoon that you postponed because life got too busy?

I’ve spied a BARGAIN this coming December. Direct flights from Winnipeg to Cancun, and a week at Secrets The Vine Cancun. In a honeymoon, or master suite, under $5000 per couple.

**Other dates available. Rates will be higher. **

The Master suite is over 1200 square feet with a private balcony overlooking the ocean. Teak furnishings and glorious views.

All taxes, gratuities included. Top shelf spirits, room service & more.

Video tour of the hotel

If you’re interested in booking, please call me at (204) 726-8468, 9-5pm Monday to Friday.  (My direct line at McPhail Travel in Brandon.) You can also email me anytime at Cathie@mcphailtravel.net  I’d love to help you plan your romantic getaway.

 

Date:  September 26th, 2018

Rates quoted are current at time of publication. Rates subject to change or sell out without notice.

Casino Art

One of of my favourite activities in Vegas….. yes, THAT Las Vegas is to consciously take in the public art. I think it’s one of the most enriching non-gambling experiences you can have there.

Exceptional art is everywhere. You’ll find it in the halls and lobbies of every MGM hotel, in the shops and even in the casinos.

I LOVE the art experience at Aria Hotel & Casino. From the minute you arrive in the valet drive, to the minute you head up to the buffet, there’s creative and poignant art to dazzle the senses.

If you choose to explore your desire to see fine art, head over to Bellagio to their dedicated gallery. Admission is $14/person but is well worth it.

We’ve seen an Andy Warhol exhibit there, and most recently (Summer ‘18) a Water Exhibit.

 

Bellagio Gallery of Fine Art

 

Bellagio Gallery of fine art.

 

Felt art in the halls of Park MGM
Felt art in the halls of Park MGM

 

Ceramic art at Aria

 

Design and functional art everywhere you look.

Park MGM Experience

I have been to Vegas twice this year. Twice I have stayed at the Park MGM.  And twice I have been very happy with the experience .

I went to Vegas in May for the U2 concert. The concert was taking place at the T-Mobile Arena which happens to be right next-door to Park MGM. Literally, a two minute walk from the hotel lobby to the line up to enter the arena.

So, do take note if you’re heading to a hockey game or concert at the T-Mobile arena, the Park MGM is ideal.

From TMobile Arena balcony lounge, looking towards the ParK MGM Hotel & the Park Theatre. (Where Aerosmith, Cher, Lady Gaga, Bruno Mars have residency.)

But what is the hotel like?  I really like it. It is modest by my measure of Vegas hotels. It is the old Monte Carlo, but completely redone and rebranded as Park MGM. The rooms are fairly basic (no mini fridge)  but they are modern, the bathroom showers are perfect and they’re nicely decorated.

Think of it as a little sister to Bellagio. It is part of the same hotel chain and even connected by a free tram.  By my estimate it’s 1/5 of the size of Bellagio.  It’s pretty hard to get lost at Park MGM. That’s a good thing.

While the hotel doesn’t have a vast selection of restaurants, the courtyard of the arena does. So all you have to do is walk outside the hotel and you have plenty of choices. Also across the courtyard is the NYNY Hotel & Casino which offers a little more action.

The second best asset of Park MGM is the pool area. There are 3 separate pools, lots of great loungers, the poolside food is excellent and there’s plenty of sun.

The 3rd best feature of the Park MGM is the price. It typically falls in the bottom 1/3 of Vegas Strip hotels, depending on events and time of year. Regardless, of whether it costs $50 or $129 per night,  it will be comparatively less then other hotels of equal quality. Based on this I find it is excellent VALUE.

**not a paid endorsement. I’m in no way affiliated with the hotel or MGM chain. I’m just a frequent Vegas visitor with high regard for this renovated hotel. I hope you find benefit in my review.

 

 

Raving about Lago

I was in Las Vegas  two weeks ago for a quick couples’ getaway and I want to tell you, briefly, about one of the best meals I’ve had in recent memory.

It was our wedding anniversary and I wanted to eat at Lago (restaurant) at Bellagio (hotel).   As I love to research and to know what I’m getting into before I set foot in a restaurant,  I looked at the menu online and also read the Trip Advisor reviews.

In doing the research I estimated a dinner bill of about $300-$400US for what we would likely choose.  That being out of the budget I went ahead and made a lunch reservation instead. (This is definitely your take away tip from this blog post.  “Don’t skip the restaurant, just have lunch instead of dinner.”)  By the way, this restaurant has a wine list where bottles range between $75 and $3500.

At lunchtime this particular restaurant even offers a “prefix menu.”  Basically it is a modified menu where you choose an item from each course offered and pay one price. In this case, Lago offers a 3 course lunch menu at $28 per person. Example: choose one of 4 appetizer options,  choose one of 4 entrées and then dessert.

First, let me say that the ambiance was amazing! The view was amazing! The service was amazing! And the menu choices were amazing! Do you get the picture? Simply amazing!  Long before the food was even served I was loving Lago.

I started with a fancy gin cocktail.  So fancy that it had little flavoured blood-orange beads and an orchid in it. Fancy!!

For entrées I had Seabass and my husband had lasagna.  They were each very well crafted. Delicious! Really outstanding  flavours, perfectly cooked.

The dessert was chef’s choice and I have to say absolutely outstanding! They tasted even better than they looked,  if that was even possible. I can only describe the tiny cake as a cheesecake hugged by cherries and chocolate, glazed with more chocolate and  garnished with chocolate. And I do like chocolate!

I finished the meal with a cappuccino and lingered over the view a little while longer.

Definitely the best meal I’ve had in a long time, likely top three lifetime.

I’m very glad we went for the lunch option rather than bypassing the restaurant all together.

Our bill was just over $100, plus a generous gratuity. Excellent value, in my opinion. I would highly recommend Lago.

 

 

 

 

Two areas that could really use your tourism dollars

When we see natural disasters occurring, we often feel helpless.

Take for example the wildfires in British Columbia this summer, or hurricane Maria  that devastated Puerto Rico in 2017.

What can we do?

Once the immediate threat has passed and the community has had a chance to rally and recover one of the things we as outsiders can do to help, is visit.  An injection of new money helps to sustain jobs and provide businesses with the chance to rebuild.

Tourism Victoria is going through a re-branding process. Their new slogan “Oceans apart from Ordinary” focuses on their natural assets.

Victoria is a very convenient WestJet flight from Brandon. On sale you’ll find flights under $400. The same can be said about numerous British Columbia cities.

Puerto Rico requires more than a weekend holiday and might be best used as a cruise port right now. Sale flights can often be found from Winnipeg at that $500 mark. Popular cruise lines that are using Puerto Rico in the fall of 2018 include Royal Caribbean, Disney and Carnival.