How much does a hot vacation cost?

Here’s a handy, off the cuff guide to escaping Manitoba and going on a tropical, all inclusive, beach vacation.

In order of typical total cost. Least expensive destinations to most expensive: Cost on each island will vary by resort and room category.

  • Varadero, Cuba
  • Cayo Coco, Cuba
  • Puerto Plata, Dominican Republic
  • Cancun, Mexico
  • Maya Riviera, Mexico
  • Puerto Vallarta, Mexico
  • Los Cabos, Mexico
  • Mazatlan, Mexico
  • Ixtapa, Mexico
  • Punta Cana, Dominican Republic
  • Montego Bay, Jamaica
  • Huatulco, Mexico
  • Nassau, Bahamas
  • Curacao
  • St. Lucia
  • St. Maarten
  • Antigua
  • Aruba
  • Belize
  • Barbados
  • Costa Rica
  • Turks n Caicos

A rough number, for a 4 star vacation, at a non-peak holiday time starts at $2000 per adult.  $1700 for your Air/Hotel package, $200 insurance, $100 gratuities & incidentals like resort fees/tourist card etc.

Peak travel is:  American Thanksgiving, Christmas, Easter, Spring Break, University Break (2nd week of Feb)  Plan for at least $2600 or more per adult for a 4 star vacation with insurance and incidentals.

Think of package vacation travel like buying a vehicle. There is everything from the Chevy Cruise to the Cadillac available. You just have to find the model, the style and the features that suit you.  Yes, they are all just “cars” but what comforts/conveniences do you need to be happy and satisfied? Travel is the very same.

My bottom line is this:  if the decision comes down to $300 and it’s the difference between being “satisfied” and “happy” choose HAPPY. (Cut out souvenirs or new clothes for the trip to cover the cost if you need to.)

When you feel like you are settling for a car/vacation because you like the price….you will start off on the wrong foot. When you find something you are EXCITED about, you also give yourself the gift of anticipation. Every day you know you have something to look forward to, even if it is 4 months away. Dare I say the hard winter days get easier, when I have something to look forward to and dream about.

3 Tips to a lower price on the vacation you want.

You’ve found the vacation you want, but it’s just a little out of budget. Now what? Here’s a few tips that could potentially save you 10% or more.

  1. Change your dates. Even if it’s one day earlier, or later, it could save you hundreds of dollars. Pro tip: Choose “flexible dates” in your search whenever that’s an option.
  2. Take the long way. Rather than the direct flight, take a look at a flight with a connection. Think of this as talking the bus to work rather than driving yourself. The bus is less expensive, will take longer, and is less glamorous, but you’ll still get there. BUT if it eats up another half day of your vacation, is the lower price worth it?
  3. Look for re-sellers like “Sunquest Vacations.” They don’t operate their own flights, but rather purchase packages from other providers (like Air Canada) and re-sell them. Think of them as the Winners (discount clothes/housewares retailer) of travel packages. They are more likely to cut prices than to sit on inventory they’ve already paid for. They will not have the same wide selection of packages, but what if they actually have the one you want? Same as shopping at Winners…. always worth a look. And lastly, just like at Winners, if you see a deal, GRAB IT. Don’t hesitate. If you go back tomorrow, it’s very likely to be gone… sold to someone else.

Use a travel agent. While there is a service fee attached to using a travel agent, he/she has has access to superior search engines, travel consolidators and the inside scoop on promotions. Using an expert (and paying $40+ service fee)  could genuinely save you hundreds of dollars over booking a standard vacation package yourself.  Think of a travel agent as a coupon…if you have one, you should use it and save yourself some money.

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.

Instantly disappointed in paradise

Hard to believe I’m even writing about this, but it’s true. The tourist beaches of Hawaii were littered with disappointed people, looking sullen and staring into their phones.

It was UNBELIEVABLE the number of people that we had to walk around, dodge, or avoid on Waikiki Beach, because they were solely engaged with their phones. These tourists were taking selfies and trying to CRAFT happy vacation photos but letting their phones get in the way of actually enjoying themselves. And they themselves were oblivious to the other tourists trying to walk around or actually enjoy the beach.

Sunset was the worst time of the day. 

These people couldn’t even be bothered to look up between taking and viewing their own snaps. This wasn’t exclusively on the beach either, it was a hazard on the street and even hiking paths too.

There were girlfriends barking at their boyfriends. “Do it again.” “Take another.” “That’s awful! Delete it.”

And girls scowling at people for walking through “their shot” on a crowded public beach or on the narrow hiking path. I saw their non-stop scowling between forced selfie smiles….I’m sure that has to be exhausting.

I saw bathing suits chosen for photos, not for swimming. Hair done for Instagram, not for a day in the water. Makeup done for a party, not a mountaintop. Posing everywhere. What I didn’t see was participation.

I’m writing this because it bothered me to see hoards of people, instantly disappointed in their photos, and thus their own vacations, when they could be having the time of their lives.

They were standing like pylons in the road, glaring into & tapping at their phones, everywhere, in paradise! They had looks of sadness, disappointment, anger and frustration on their faces. While they stood there, toes in the sand, in paradise they had….. in that very moment ….. EVERY opportunity to turn things around and be happy but instead they choose to delete & try to rewrite a perfect lie with another photo. Over and over and over.

I feel bad for them. What are they disappointed in? How they look? (That in itself is tragic) The lousy time they are having? (They have the power to change that.) Disappointing likes per minute? Are they just photo blind to the real world? Why not be happy with yourself and do things that are fulfilling! Run into the ocean. Build a sandcastle. Get your hands wet, and sandy. Splash your friend. Chase your kids. Go surfing. Enjoy Hawaii!

I’m assuming they worked hard (and paid) for their vacation. I wish they understood the value of ‘vacation’ to their mental health. Now, and into the future, memories can really keep you going when you hit the (genuinely) bad days. It’s not what someone said in the moment, right? It’s how it made you FEEL. We’re human. Feelings matter. You should really enjoy vacationing. It feels good! Photos are only good to capture that FEELING and hold on to it. Spontaneous photos that don’t stop the action, but just capture a genuine moment in time, those are great photos.

So, frankly, I think they should be disappointed not in their crafted photos but in the (lack of) participation in their own lives. There. I said it. That’s my point. I think you suck at participating in real life when you stand like a pylon in the middle of the beach making and deleting fake smiles and yelling at your loved ones for not taking good enough photos. Are you making genuine vacation memories or merely crafting photos? Do you understand the difference?

Do you know who’s NOT disappointed in paradise? Little children and old folks. The little kids are screaming, splashing, swimming, running, and giggling with not a care in the world! And seniors… whether they were walking hand in hand with a spouse, or sitting and chatting it up with friends. They are smiling, talking, looking around and taking it all in. They looked like they were genuinely enjoying their holidays.

Think I’m exaggerating? No, I’m not. Next time you are at a concert or fireworks event, look around to see who is enjoying the music or wide-eyed by the colours exploding in the sky. And then look who’s just holding up their phone, posturing for the best angle.

Little kids and old folks. Seems to me, they’re the ones winning at life right now. Why? Because they are participating in it.

Breaking up with your bad hotel

Book with the hotel…

So you can cut & run if you need to.

Here’s what I mean. We booked a modestly priced hotel, with excellent Trip Advisor ratings, in Honolulu. (No… not the cheapest hotel out there. Not by a long shot. Don’t think I’m using “modest” as a polite way of saying cheap!) Everything about Honolulu is quite expensive, so we wanted to get as much value as we could from our accommodations. It was an honest mistake.

Here were the deciding factors in the reviews that made us book.

Free breakfast: people said things like “more than just a continental breakfast.” “Fresh eggs and waffles.”

Off the beach, but close: “just 3 blocks to Waikiki Beach, but half the beach hotel price!” “Hotel offers free towel & chair rentals for the beach.”

View of the city and the canal. “Great views and they give you free ear plugs for the noise if it bothers you.”

Here were the deciding factors that made us leave:

Wow. That noise was ridiculous. Nothing like the view of a 4 lane highway to enhance your “beach vacation.” We actually heard (from the 10th floor) a screeching near accident, which resulted in 8 seconds of car horn and another 20 seconds of angry screaming profanity. We could do nothing but laugh. And BTW, we had the window closed at the time.

3 blocks from the beach? Are you kidding? It’s more like 2 kilometres!! And you want me to carry a free (folding metal) beach chair…. like the ones from grandma’s house in the 80’s? Pass.

Now, think about that 2km walk from the beach with a tired, hot, cranky child who’s hungry. Or think about being 2 hot cranky kilometres from a life saving cocktail.  #momlife  You’ll agree saving $30 a night is NOT worth the walk.

There was a pool. A cess pool. The size of a big hot tub. Hard pass on that. I’d rather eat the stale, sticky Fruit Loops off the floor in the breakfast room.

That’s how our 7 night booking turned into a 1 night “experience.”

How did I get out of it, without losing all my money? I had booked directly with the hotel. Not Hotwire, not a discounted or non-refundable offer. Booking with the hotel is exactly what got me out of the hotel without a massive financial kick in the face. All we did was ask to change the check out date.

How did I get out of it gracefully at the front desk? Standard breakup conversation. “It’s not you, it’s me. You’re amazing. I’m just not right for you. It’s me, I should leave.”

In this case…. I literally said, “I’m just overwhelmed by the big city & tall building. It’s all making me so anxious, I need to find someplace quiet. You have a beautiful hotel, I just can’t handle the city life. I have to move on, ASAP.”

They moved my checkout date to the next morning & politely processed the bill.

We headed 2kms, or “3 blocks” towards the beach and checked into the Hilton. Re-started the vacation. Chain hotels are like ex-boyfriends. They might not be new or exciting, but they are consistent, comfortable and quite willing to take you in when you call sounding lost and desperate.

So, I blame the rosy people of Trip Advisor for failing to hook me up with a great hotel. I also blame myself thinking I could compromise location for price, because of the extra benefits. Smarten up Cathie! You KNOW location is key!

I’m also proud of myself for quickly shifting to Plan B and salvaging 6 days of precious vacation time. (I’ll make up the $30 by skipping souvenirs and lattes.)

Like life, each day on vacation counts. Be happy or move on.

Better view. Ahhh

Gem of a deal on Grace Bay

There’s a great site called Tripcentral.ca. They have a chart that can show you the lowest prices based on dates. Using this, I often clue into the destinations in my price range. For example:

A quick summary of destinations and their starting prices.

From this point I chose the Turks and Caicos. (For me, it would be a repeat destination.) I’ve been there twice and absolutely love it. It’s first world caribbean and very safe, casual and beautiful. I wish for the Turks when I’m exhausted and just want sunshine, in a laid back and relaxed tropical paradise.

So, once you click on the destination of your choice, you will see then next chart. I quickly spy the best price in April. I see it’s at a 4 star hotel with a great reputation. In March that same hotel package will cost you twice the price.

Clicking on the $1753 it takes you to a new chart which shows you the specific dates, plus the package carrier. I see that the deal is a Wednesday to Wednesday vacation, by Westjet.

A 7 day vacation, with an oceanview room, by Westjet at the low price of $1753

So, with three clicks, you can hone in on the best price and lowest priced dates.  At 40% less than the same hotel, same airline, in March I consider this a bargain. Thank you Trip Central.