Milwaukee Bound?

If you happen to be headed for Milwaukee to watch the Raptors & Bucks square off in the NBA Playoffs, I’ll suggest you book a room at the Hilton Downtown. Its location is ideal! Just a few blocks to the basketball arena. (Fiserv Arena).

Less than 1 mile from Fiserv Arena and a 10 minute shuttle to Miller Park baseball stadium

The Hilton also has a lively pub with great food. All ages are welcome.

Bacon topped Wisconsin cheddar soup

The Hilton Downtown Milwaukee also is home to a Starbucks outlet. Just in case you need your Starbucks each morning.

If the Hilton Milwaukee Downtown is sold out, you can book on the next block at the Hilton Doubletree Hotel. It’s just one block away, has modest rooms and amenities but is clean and has excellent service. While there isn’t a pool at the Doubletree, it does have a gorgeous outdoor patio on the 2nd floor where you can go to enjoy a beer in the sunshine.

Skip the rental car in Milwaukee.  There are numerous pubs and brewery tours in this city, and if you want to indulge, you won’t be driving.  And in addition to free shuttles and Uber, you can easily walk from hotel to event, to restaurant. You can even plan a visit to the Harley Davidson museum. I’ll note that in my next post. Cheers!

Milwaukee is a great place to visit. I was last there in April 2019.

Rock star travel deal for families

I’m actually so excited to share this tip, I can hardly type fast enough. Travelling with your kids gets more expensive as they get older. But it doesn’t have to be prohibitive, you just have to pick the right resort.

The vast majority of all inclusive resorts in hot destinations offer a reduced price for children 12 and under, but charge full adult fare for teenagers.

I recently learned that Hard Rock Resorts and Moon Palace resorts both offer dramatically reduced fares for teens 13 to 17.  These are the gems that can save you literally $1000 or more over other resort chains.

For example, I will say the average adult package fare at Hard Rock is about $2500 per person. That’s a pretty standard price for a  luxury resort for a week in Mexico.  So at a resort where 13 year olds pay adult fare, you will pay $10,000 for a family vacation of 2 adults and 2 teenagers.

On the other hand, Hard Rock Resorts will charge you about $7000 for the same people during the same week.  So not only will you save enough money to pay your hockey fees for next season, your teens will be thrilled with the luxury amenities and non-stop activities offered by the iconic Hard Rock chain.

Hard Rock has resorts in (Mexico) Cancun, Puerto Vallarta and Los Cabos, in addition to a resort in Punta Cana, Dominican Republic.

Moon Palace has resorts in Cancun, Mexico as well as Ocho Rios, Jamaica.

Sunwing, Transat, Westjet and Air Canada each offer these resorts in their vacation packages.

Prices will vary by the dates you travel, and the type of room you select. However, for travel with teens age 13 to 17 you absolutely can’t beat this savings and the top quality vacation experience.  You’ll definitely be the Rock Star Mom when you book this one.

Air Canada pricing to Puerto Vallarta. The fee per teen is the same as the adults for this resort.

 

This resort is less expensive per passenger, but all fares are equal in price.

 

This is pricing for the Hard Rock Puerto Vallarta December 7-14th, 2020. Cost per each teen is $499 plus tax. $2000 less than each adult fare!! See the savings?

If you love this tip as much as I do, and this will save you money, please consider booking your next vacation package to a Hard Rock (or Moon Palace) resort with me.

Budget Road Trip

Are you looking for an affordable road trip?  How about somewhere pretty-as-a-picture? I think this is a guaranteed memory-maker and yet respectful of your need to stretch your Canadian Dollar as far as possible.

Banff. Yes, Banff. Or you could make the trip to Banff AND Canmore. Or Banff, Canmore AND Calgary. You pick. Just fill up the gas tank and hit the Trans-Canada highway west from Manitoba.

If you make it just as far as Medicine Hat in the first day, you will find hotels like DH3 and Holiday Inn, at about $100 a night. That includes breakfast (DH3) or waterslides (Holiday Inn).

Next stop, (about 5 hours away) is Banff National Park.   The park pass itself will cost you about $20 per day, per vehicle with up to 5 occupants.

Since this is “shoulder season” or that magical time (April to June) between busy ski season, and busy summer season, you’ll find hotels inside the park itself for under $200.  Some really great hotels (like boutique Elk + Avenue) or Buffalo Mountain Lodge right around $130 (taxes included). Gosh, you could even splurge and get the Fairmont Banff Springs at this quiet time of year for about $300 a night. (Splurge! Do it!)

Canmore, is about 20 minutes away, and outside of the National Park. You could choose to stay at a lodge there or even the Holiday Inn for UNDER $100 a night.

What is there to do/see in “shoulder season?”  Mountains! The majestic mountains are there 24/7, all year round. If that’s not breathtaking enough, there’s wildlife!  Go hiking, biking, photo gathering or visit the famous hot springs. Just be outdoors in the fresh air and take in the view.

If you’ve got an extra day, and are looking for an indoor opportunity, do visit the Banff Centre for Arts & Creativity  . You’ll be inspired.

The bottom line is, there are great opportunities to enjoy a spring road trip, to the mountains, for much less  than that very same trip in the summer.  With gas, and 5 nights in a hotel, cost shared by 3 people,  $250-$300 per person PLUS your food/entertainment/souvenirs.

 

Feature photo courtesy of Barbara Osiowy. 

River Cruises & booking early

If you are looking to book a Christmas cruise on the Rhine or a summer 2020 cruise on the Danube, definitely look at booking it in 2019. The earlier you book the better the early booking bonus and the more opportunity you have to choose the sailing you wish for.

Some of the early booking bonuses are outstanding. For example, booking an Avalon River Cruise for Spring break 2020  can be as low as $2646 for an 8 day cruise Amsterdam to Basel.

Also take a good look for Avalon’s Active labels on select tours. These cruises will feature a selection of active excursions, like bike rides. Each Avalon active cruise has at least 16 bikes on board for guest use on excursions.

If you are booking a trip a year ahead, don’t forget to purchase cancellation insurance.  A lot can happen in a year.

 

 

From Brandon to the Bahamas

If you pick the right day, this can be pretty easy. Here’s a fun hint, from me to you, …. the right day is Saturday.

The reason Saturday is “the one” is that there is a direct flight from Calgary to Nassau on Saturdays. The Brandon flight gets there in time to make this connection, so this is completely fabulous! Get to Brandon airport at 5am, catch the 6:15 flight and then make the switch to the Nassau flight about an hour and a half later. No rushing. No drive to Winnipeg.

Right now, if you book before Feb 7th, for April flights, you can save 15% off your fare with this code T20VL35.

This means the Brandon to Nassau flight and back, taxes incl is $514 per person. WOW!!

Next up, you’ll want to book a resort.

There are very few all-inclusive resorts in the Bahamas.  Most are European Plan – meaning you source and pay for your food and drinks as you go. The hotel room booking, is just the hotel room booking. Just like booking a hotel room at home, or in Europe.

The iconic Atlantis resort is in the Bahamas. It’s the one with the fabulous waterslides in the pyramids. You’ve probably seen it on tv or on the Amazing Race. There are water slides that go through (a protective tube inside)  the shark tank. Atlantis can be a reasonable price to book, but beware the high resort fees that they want you to pay at the front desk.

The newest resort is the Baha Mar complex. It’s set on stunningly gorgeous Cable Beach, and only about 15 minutes from the airport. This one tops my dream list of places to stay.

The all inclusive resorts are older, smaller and less than what you would get in Mexico.  The resorts are Breezes, Melia, Riu and the Warwick. There is also a high end Sandals resort for Adults in love.

I’ve stayed at the Melia (back when it was a Sheraton) and in the Coral Towers of Atlantis. The benefit of staying at Atlantis is the access to the waterpark. You can stay off-site, but I believe day passes are about $150US per person. Atlantis is pretty fantastic, but I don’t think I’d ever pay $600 per family of 4 (plus food and drink) to use a waterpark for 6-8 hours. But this certainly is a selling point for staying on site and having the waterpark access included in your room rate.

Nassau is not a place I’d recommend an Airbnb. There are some travel cautions set by the government for this area. And, some cruise lines have warned passengers not to go downtown when they are in port. Based on this, and my own personal experience, I’d stick to the resorts.

Definitely a place I would love to visit again and given the chance for an easy flight, at a bargain price, I’d leap at that chance to go.

 

Saint Martin/St. Maarten on sale

Both Air Canada and Westjet are offering 15% off flights to this Caribbean hot spot, when you book before January 30th.  The Air Canada code is Stmaarten2019. Westjet’s code is A56MD56 as shown below

Choose mid-week departures for the best value on flights.

Westjet exclusive code
sample dates

 

When paired with a highly rated Airbnb apartment ($919 CDN) for a week two people could travel for under $1500 per person sharing accommodations and meals.

This French/Dutch island suffered a devastating blow from hurricane Irma in September 2017. However, by August 2018 the cruise port was fully functioning and most tourist sites had been  restored. Some hotels continue to build and renovate, though the island is actively seeking tourist visits.

Visit http://www.stmartinisland.org to start planning!