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.

Where have the bargains gone?

I was just about to start writing a column about my frustration in travel bargain hunting lately, and a Westjet Flash Sale popped up in my in box. Great news I thought!  Crisis averted. Something good to write about!

The ad was for 35% off fares of the first 2000 bookings. The sale stared at midnight. My clock read 12:35AM. Excellent! Time to nab a bargain for myself….. but no luck. That code was only good for the first 2000 people and I wasn’t one of them. So, I have to say that was disappointing. Imagine the early risers who think they have a chance at 6am and go through the same frustrating process I did.  Westjet would be more realistic saying it’s a 15 minute sale, not a “flash sale.”

But OKAY, I thought, will use the consolation code for 15% off. So I took a look, absolutely nothing caught my eye. The code is valid for US destinations. Well, frankly the Canadian dollar is worth 65 cents. So, a discount of 35% would be required for it to be a deal at par.  15% discount does NOTHING to bring a trip to the US into favour. Never mind, the political issues.

So, I’m another hour invested in bargain hunting and nothing to report.

This winter has been harsh in Manitoba and more people than ever are travelling. The increased demand for vacations has seen many flights and routes, and resorts sold out. Never mind a deal, there’s nothing “in stock” to buy. A last minute hot vacation is almost akin to a Cabbage Patch Doll at Christmas in the 80s or a Fury in the 1990s.  Elusive and if you spy one, you should grab it.

What’s left is Cuba, lots of Cuba.

Maybe time to turn our eyes to Europe and start planning Spring and Summer vacations?

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!

Different Islands, Different Personalities

I’ve had a lot of people ask about Hawaii lately.  And with good reason, flights have been on sale, and it’s a gorgeous destination.  But not all Hawaiian vacations are created equal.

I want to briefly tell you about my perceptions and my experiences in each of the main islands.

Honolulu 2018

Honolulu: It’s the main city in the island of Oahu. The main tourist area in that city is Waikiki beach. These three names are for the same place, but sometimes people use them in odd context and it sounds like 3 different places. Basically it’s like saying “I’m going to stay in Green Acres, when I go to Brandon Manitoba.” Or, I’m staying on Waikiki Beach, when I go to Honolulu, Oahu.

Honolulu, the city, is full of hi-rise buildings, expensive shops and big city living. It is intensely busy and popular. Waikiki beach area is crowded all year long.  Parking at hotels is so limited, that most charge $30-$40 per night for parking.  You don’t actually need a car if you’re staying in the main tourist area, it’s faster and easier to just walk. Plus, there’s public transportation. Tourist trolleys come by every 10 minutes or so.  If you go to Honolulu, it may be inexpensive to get there (cheap flights) but it’s expensive and oh so crowded once you arrive. Honolulu is where you will find Pearl Harbour and the museum dedicated to it.

Maui is the 2nd largest of the Hawaiian islands. It’s nickname is the Valley Isle. Its population is spread out over the island, and features a few main tourist areas. The areas are like townships. Kihei, Wailea, Ka’anapali are some of the most popular tourist areas. I think of them like Morden, Carmen and Winkler. Each area has everything you need, easy to drive around in and quite similar.  Maui does not have the intensity of Oahu, that’s for sure. There are no great big hi rises all jammed onto one little beach.  In fact there are so many beaches and things are so spread out you really do need a car to get around in Maui and enjoy the scenery. Good news here though, you won’t have to pay for parking. One of the things I like best about Maui is whale watching, and of course, sunset walks on the beach. I felt that stress melted away in Maui. The warm breeze and the tropical laid-back pace made it my favourite Hawaiian vacation. It’s a little more expensive to get to, but I found it less expensive overall once you’re there.

The third most popular island that Air Canada and Westjet take Canadians to is The Big island. This is where you will find the city of Kailua-Kona, and “the volcano.”  Mt Kilauea is an active volcano area and part of the island’s National Park system. This active volcano erupted May 2018 consuming thousands of acres and dozens of homes in its path.  The Big Island itself is incredibly diverse.  Lava rock has left some areas looking like Mars – black and barren. Other areas are more like rainforest and are known for growing incredible coffee. (I visited a coffee plantation in Kona area and it was absolutely fabulous! One of the highlights of the trip for sure.)  Beaches are harder to find in the tourist areas of Kailua-Kona, some are small and others have black sand.  The island itself seemed more “American” than Maui and was a blend of modern culture and newer buildings.

Lava rock formations in Kona

My suggestion to anyone planning a trip to Hawaii, is to clearly understand the differences in lifestyle and activities and then choose your vacation accordingly. Find the island that suits you and go for it!

GoHawaii.com

 

 

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