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.

Air Canada to Antigua

Every time I get the chance, I ask a flight attendant about which Caribbean island is their favourite. I figure, they should know, right?  Antigua comes up over and over again.  So, I keep it on my radar looking for a bargain. It’s usually 30% more expensive than Mexico and twice the price of Cuba.  But…. what if it is twice as nice?  Well, finally a bargain. Someone should go and report back to the group!

AND take a look at Air Canada’s NEW price match guarantee. 

From Air Canada Vacations. NOW with price drop guarantee

Or, January 12th, if you can go right away!

Overnight in YYZ required, but you really will get a full 7 days of vacation on the beach. Great flight times

Ultimate budget bargain

You know that feeling when you’re desperate to leave the cold weather behind, but your budget screams Raman noodles? But you STILL want to go, so groceries be damned.

Can you compromise a bit?  5 night vacation instead of 7?  Can you book and go at the last minute? Eat granola bars, and buy your own bottle of rum, but still live on the beach? Then, tropical vacation might just be do-able after all. Check this one out. It leaves Winnipeg on Saturday. (Yes, this Saturday).  How’s $555 tax & flight included?

screenshot Jan 3, 2017
From selloffvacaktions.com

Everyone’s version of “worth it, is different.”  I think there’s a vacation for everyone and everyone’s budget. But it’s about compromise. Of course, we all want luxury 5 star vacations for $500 but that isn’t reality.  Value is probably the best word for me to describe what I find a worthwhile vacation. I like to feel like I’m “getting what I pay for” and maximizing my dollar. You know, 5 star vacation, at 3 star price. And it’s very possible, simply by compromising on the dates. Go when others are not. Don’t go at Christmas, but instead go two weeks before.

As always, check the recent TripAdvisor reviews for honest, current, relevant feedback. And only YOU can determine what is good value for your hard earned money.

Current Trip Advisor reviews for the Melia hotel as shown above.

Add insurance, whether on your credit card or not. A bargain can turn into a financial disaster when you go without a safety net. And less stress. Manitoba winters can throw a wrench in things. So can a flu or sudden illness.

Think Honolulu on Wednesdays, Brandon!

Before you say, “that’s not the best bargain I’ve ever seen,” stop and look at the flights!

You casually drive up to YBR, Brandon’s convenient little airport about 11AM and hop aboard your Westjet flight just after lunch. One stop in Calgary for a plane change and then you’re directly off to Honolulu. You’re there that evening. Extremely convenient.

Now look at the way back. No over night in Calgary.  Like it now? I feel like you can see the savings adding up. No gas to Winnipeg, no parking fees and no overnight in Calgary.

There are hotel packages less expensive, but I like the location of this one. We were there two years ago and stayed at the Sheraton Waikiki which is just about a mile further on this same stretch of beach.

This package from Westjet Vacations. Many other hotels available, some as low as $1700pp from Brandon
Sunset over the iconic Diamond head
View of the hotels along the Waikiki beach on a November afternoon