My Golden Rules of Bargain Travel

  1. If it doesn’t sound like you, don’t force it. It’s not the trip for you.
  2. Read current reviews and visit Oyster.com to see what the real travellers are saying. (Go back to rule 1.)
  3. Don’t put too much stock into what the tour company says. Whether Westjet’s marketing team is describing the room, or Sunwing’s, or Air Canada’s…. it’s the same room. Whether it’s “modern” “chic” “spacious” or “deluxe” that’s just an adjective. It’s the same room.
  4. Check your flight times. If the price is outstanding, but the flight connections are miserable, is it a bargain? No.
  5. Know your prices. Have a general idea what the trip typically sells at so that you can recognize a bargain.
  6. Seek out less-busy times of the year to travel. (Right after school goes back in session. Right after national holidays.)
  7. When you spy THE bargain, the right deal for you, go for it! Be decisive. Act quickly. That price, or the last two seats on the plane might be gone tomorrow or they might be sold out in an hour. You’re not the only one who’s tuned into travel deals, reading blogs and scouring Twitter trying to save money and travel more.
  8. If you don’t have all the money and the trip is more than 60 days out, call your Travel Agent, put down a deposit and lock in that price! It’s easy to do. Payment plans are available for future travel. (Does not apply to last minute travel, booked 60 days or less in advance.)
  9. If you find a bargain that you love, but can’t go… share it! Maybe it’s exactly what one of your friends has been looking for.
  10. Don’t get hung up on rewards points. Like an ugly sweater, you may have paid lots to get it, but that doesn’t mean it’s worthwhile or a good fit for this party.

Happy travelling!
xoxo Cathie

Oceania Cruises

The thought of sailing away overcomes me in weather like this. I can imagine myself sipping coffee on a balcony, scanning the horizon for dolphins and waiting for the next port.

A cruise is a wonderful way to cross off several destinations (like Caribbean Islands, or Greek Islands) without having the expense to fly to one island at a time.  This is definitely how I hope to do the ABC islands someday soon. (Aruba, Bonaire and Curacao)

This week, Oceania (Cruise Line – The luxury division of Norwegian Cruise Lines) caught my eye. They are offering some outstanding deals.  The great thing about these ships is that they are small. 700 passengers or less, feels like a vacation, not like a floating city.

Oceania has just 4 ships in the fleet, and the “Riviera” often makes the top 8 list that Cruise Critic puts out for the Best Luxury Cruises.

The Riviera, does one cruise from Montreal to Miami in late October. It’s a 14 day voyage as shown here.  But, do look at all their European offerings and transatlantic voyages too. Maybe something will catch your eye. (I’m after the Miami to New York cruise that circles the southern Caribbean. I could get my ABCs and more!)

To avoid sticker shock from some of the brochure prices, do look for specials for Canadian Residents, or for particular cruises. Or ask your favourite travel agent for help. There are numerous offers that bring the prices right down, sometimes a 40% discount or more, you just need to know where to look.

Which cruise catches your eye?

 

Air Miles & Vacation Packages

Starting January 8th, 2019 Air Miles collectors will now be able to easily purchase their vacation packages online. Air Miles has entered into partnership with online Canadian travel agency RedTag.ca and has assigned a dollar value to miles.

Almost as straightforward as using a gift card  users should be able to pay for the vacation of their choosing with Air Miles. As I understand it, purchases can be made in whole or in part with Air Miles and the balance paid by credit card.

Air Miles will be valued at 909 Air Miles = $100  towards a vacation package. Therefore a $3000 vacation would cost 27,270 Dream Miles. Or a modest, and well timed vacation to Las Vegas, for 2 adults could cost as little as 9090 Air Miles.

Air Miles used to pay for vacation packages must be redeemed through RedTag.ca and can not be redeemed over the phone or at a local travel agency.

Air Miles can be collected through numerous retailers. Those Air Miles can be collected in two categories: Dream Miles (for travel, merchandise etc) and Cash Miles (for money off groceries, gas etc at point of sale.)

Visit Airmiles.ca to learn more.

6 nights in Cabo. No nights in Calgary.

You can fly from Los Cabos, Mexico to Brandon Manitoba without an overnight stop in Calgary.

You can’t do this every night of the week, just on those evenings when there is an 8:40PM flight from Calgary to Brandon.  This evening flight makes the same-day return connection possible. So it’s important to choose your connections carefully.

Here’s an example.  Priced per 2 adults, leaving on January 11th.

Rates and availability as of 9:30pm December 26th

Let’s start with Palm Springs

If you are a new traveller, a reluctant traveller, or have waited until retirement to travel, Palm Springs California is a great place to start.  I’ll give you three good reasons to put Palm Springs on your list and why I think   it’s a zero-stress vacation.

  1. Flights from Brandon’s little airport (YBR) are very convenient. This travel day is hardly a bother at all. Your flight leaves about lunch time and after a stop in Calgary (YYC) connects through to Palm Springs (PSP) and you’re at your resort by 8:00PM. In Calgary, you’ll deplane, look for your connecting gate and head through US Customs.  Easy peasy.
  2. Driving in Palm Springs is as easy as driving in Brandon. Their downtown area is much like ours, two main roads each one-way and going in opposite directions. Just like Rosser and Princess.  The best part is there’s no ice and snow.  Just outside the city of Palm Springs you’ll find suburb areas like Palm Desert and Palm Canyon.
  3. Golf courses and outdoor activities are easy to find and budget friendly.  Deals for Canadians are even easier to find. Just stop by the tourist booth (on Palm Canyon Drive) and ask. We found a deal we couldn’t pass up. It was breakfast, lunch, a round of golf, clubs and cart rental for $50 a person.  If golf isn’t your thing, there’s walking paths, swimming and tennis at most every resort or hotel. You can catch a baseball game in the area too. There’s a professional league that plays winter ball a few afternoons a week. Tickets are about $5. (Or they were 2 years ago when I last attended.)

I checked Westjet Vacations current offerings. You can stay a week in Palm Springs for under $1100 per person. Car rental and meals will be on top of that.  Do take a look at the flight times! No need for a pre-dawn wake up call.

 

 

Anywhere warm!

The least effort I have ever put into planning a trip was going to Bermuda.

It was the last week of February about 4 or 5 years ago. I was supposed to be starting work for the season, but the weather wasn’t co-operating. If fact it was the worst weather, -35C. This meant zero chance of me starting or even considering working at opening an ice cream store for “spring.” The forecast was awful looking for at least the week ahead. I couldn’t be housebound any longer. I HAD to get out. Get away.

I had travel points, Aeroplan, to be specific. Not a lot, but enough. I literally called Aeroplan and asked the customer service agent “where can I go tomorrow with XX number of points.” Her reply was…. not tomorrow, but Wednesday I can get you on a plane out of Winnipeg and off to Belize, Bermuda or (Sarasota) Florida.

Since I knew nothing about any of the 3 destinations, it was like picking a prize door. So I took my lucky number, 2, and choose Bermuda. I booked that ticket. 4 nights in Bermuda.

Next up, I needed a hotel. I turned to Air Miles and cashed in for the Fairmont Southhampton. It was set on a golf course and had a private beach, that’s all I needed to know. Booked it.

This was actually my first out of country solo trip. I didn’t have any time to think about it. I can’t even remember how I broke the news to my husband. Probably something like…. “I hate this #^&*@@#** weather. I’ve got to get out. Back in 5 days. Good luck with the kids.” Seriously… cabin fever, makes you crazy.

Bermuda weather wasn’t glorious or “caribbean” at the end of February, but it was about 18C which was a literal 50+ degree difference from what I was leaving. Bermudians would tell you that it’s never Caribbean… it’s mid-atlantic. It was definitely good enough.

I ate the regional food, drank the rum (Gosling’s Dark) and stuck pretty close to the hotel. The private beach was too cool for swimming, but absolutely perfect for walks and listening to the ocean. The sand is, indeed, pink. Or a pinkish beige, depending on where you are and the way the sunshine hits it. The water is blue or turquoise and it is truly refreshing. Bermuda is not the kind of place you head to for a hot, all-inclusive beach vacation. But it is definitely a great place to thaw out.