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!

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

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.