Why is this a bargain?

Prices and availability subject to change without notice. This screenshot was valid for booking Aug 4, 2019. The further past this publishing date the less likely the bargain is still available.

This Air Canada vacations package came up in a recent search. It is priced for two adults and two children under age 12.

To have the total cost under $4000, (or 1000 per person) is remarkable when considering your package includes flights, bus transfer, checked luggage, plus a week in five-star accommodations, including meals and beverages. Wow!

Why is it so cheap? These are quiet travel dates, halfway between US Thanksgiving and Christmas.

Dreams Resorts are part of the AMResorts chain and are known for their family focussed entertainment, accommodations, and unlimited luxury.  Unlimited luxury refers to 24 hour room service, snacks, no limits on a la  carte restaurant reservations, free kids’ club programming and much more!

To go to this resort with your family over Christmas, expect to pay about $2400 a person.

I’d love to book this, or any other Dreams Resort, for your family.  If you live in western Manitoba, please do track me down at SellOffVacations in Brandon.

Where do you buy a bathing suit?

You’ve been busy planning and preparing for your trip, and then you realize you don’t have a bathing suit.

Sure, you’ve been to the pool, but that was to take the kids to swimming lessons.  You didn’t go in the water.

Sure, you’ve been to the cabin recently, but you’re too busy preparing meals and looking after guests to go in the lake yourself.

And suddenly, you’re stressing about a bathing suit for your Vegas pool, or anniversary cruise.  Bathing suits can be a hassle. The ones that are pretty, aren’t too practical, and the ones that ARE practical, aren’t too pretty!

So where do you buy a nice bathing suit?   If you’ve got two weeks, for shipping, try CUPSHE.COM Their bathing suits are well made, well priced and there’s a style for everyone. The only challenge I’ve had is sizing. I feel like I’m between a small and medium, but each time I’ve ordered a medium, they’ve been a little bit too big. I should confidently err on the smaller size in the future.

Secondly, La Vie en Rose has surprised me with good quality, style and affordability. They have a new store open in Brandon’s Shopper’s Mall, so you can even go in there and try on bathing suits.

Thirdly, if you’re in a pinch and want something plain and $40 or less, go to Superstore. Their Joe Fresh clothing line is affordably priced, well made and it would certainly do the trip for any hotel pool or waterslide.

Is it the same hotel room?

 

I had the opportunity to answer a great question at work today.

“If Air Canada and WestJet and the other travel companies are selling the same hotel at different prices is it the same hotel room or different rooms?

My answer came in the form of an analogy. If you were buying a jar of Kraft peanut butter from Safeway or Sobeys, No Frills or Giant Tiger  it would be exactly the same Kraft peanut butter from the same Kraft factory. So it is also quite likely the same hotel room just being sold by two different vacation retailers.

Of course, different companies will feature or advertise that jar of peanut butter using different words (marketing descriptions). And each grocery store will put it on sale at different times or in different ways that suit their marketing agenda. But it would still be the same jar of peanut butter.

For example, a $1 off coupon, or buy 3 get 1 free promotion. Same peanut butter, and essentially the same savings, just presented to the consumer differently.

However there are some cases where hotels will block off a certain section of rooms and give them to one company to sell, exclusively.  Those rooms might have a unique view or exclusive proximity to the pool or entertainment area or something like that.  A privilege of this exclusivity is the airline/vacation provider can claim they have something to sell/feature that no other company has. So, yes, it absolutely could be a (slightly) different hotel room.

Ultimately the more buying power a company has the better deal they can negotiate with the hotel provider. So it does pay to shop around and focus on your own personal needs and situation when buying a vacation package. Prices can vary for exactly the same room. Or rooms could vary based on exclusivity rights.

To sum up with the analogy….you may not need four jars of peanut butter, even thought the deal seems attractive. The better deal for you personally, might be $1  off ONE jar of peanut butter.

So my advice is to not get hung up on the marketing words in the hotel description, but in fact analyze the description based on amenities and compare that way. “600 sq feet, balcony, king bed, mini fridge, and garden view.” That tells me what I am getting in the hotel room.

Whereas “modern, island oasis, perfect for your family, sleeps 4 and features unique herbal rainforest shower products” does NOT allow me the same insight. Yet both could be describing the exact same room.

Marketing and price are two ways that retailers can differentiate themselves in an attempt to earn your business. What YOU can do is to research, fact check, and enlist the help of an experience travel agent in order to wade through the marketing and online verbiage to get to the vacation best suited to you, at the best price.

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.