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.

Don’t do bad things!

Travel should be safe, happy and enrich your life. Don’t mess that up for yourself, or others.   Like these two:  Tourists facing jail time for graffiti

I’ll tell you a personal story, because I think it’s kind of sweet. When my son was almost 4 we were watching the Brandon Wheat Kings play and his favourite hockey player (Mark Stone) was sent to the penalty box. This was upsetting for my son. He absolutely hated seeing Mark in “hockey jail.” Later that night Calder (my son) got the chance to tell Mark exactly how he felt.

It was skate with the player night, and during the post-game event, Calder had Mark’s full attention. Mark, (all 6 foot 6 of him, on skates) was down on his knee to listen to Calder.

“Don’t do bad things!” Calder said. “Don’t do bad things.”  he repeated over and over. “No goals in hockey jail.” Which we as parents, interpreted for Mark … “you can’t score goals while sitting in the penalty box.”  Mark assured Calder that he understood the message “don’t do bad things” he repeated over and over. “Don’t do bad things.”  Satisfied that he had been heard, Calder was ready to skate. He and his hockey idol skated around. At the end of the the event Mark said goodbye to the little guy and assured him that he would “not  do bad things” and try his best to stay out of the penalty box. It was a nice moment. Very memorable.

So, that’s pretty much all I’m going to say, because the message certainly does apply to travel.  “Don’t do bad things.”  But honestly, I shouldn’t have to say this. It’s common sense.

1) Jail time isn’t a joke. Jail time isn’t two minutes in the penalty box.

2) Respect the culture and customs of the country you are in. You are a guest. Be on your best behaviour. Obey the laws.

3) If you have a conviction at home. Even if YOU THINK it’s minor, it could very well prevent you from getting a tourist visa, or being allowed entry into a foreign country. Assault, drug possession, DUI (Driving under the influence) are all potential barriers to you being free to travel. So before you buy a plane ticket, check with the embassy. Do your homework.

And most of all, the bottom line is that travel is a privilege. “Don’t do bad things!”

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.

Please, Take the Wheel

As you know my eyes have been opened to more and more travel opportunities through my new job as a travel consultant. I have been reading and learning about tour companies and things you can experience through guided vacations. I was definitely surprised to learn that it is very affordable to participate in a guided tour rather than trying to do everything on your own.

6 months ago, I did not have any idea you could easily find like minded people and join their well planned excursions, rather than trying to “re-invent the wheel yourself.” I think this would have really benefitted me when I toured Ireland in 2017. Though I had a decent time and saw many things,  I felt like I was missing out and not really experiencing Ireland. I was a casual tourist, and certainly did not  have the full, and the enriching Irish experience I had hoped for.

So this next time, I’m looking at an award winning tour company in Europe called Back Roads Touring as my way to show my son Switzerland.  Rather than putting all the pressure on myself to do months of research and then try to coordinate everything,  I will enlist the experts. It already feels like a relief. I’d love for someone to take the lead so my son & I can both enjoy the adventure to the fullest rather than us both wondering when I’ll make the next wrong turn.

Here are three tour companies, of many, that my travel agency recommends. (I bet these will get you started on thinking about your next adventure!)

G Adventures  A Canadian company well known around the globe.

Back Roads Touring  A Specialist in Europe. Small groups of 18 or fewer.

On The Go Tours  Specializing in 4 & 5 Star Luxury Guided Tours. Often with incredible deals on last minute adventures.

Consider the math if you think that $2000 is too much to pay for a 7 day guided tour.  As an individual you might pay:  7 nights hotel ($1400), plus taxis/uber/shuttles ($300), plus admission tickets to museums/activities/monuments ($250) plus select meals ($300) for a total of $2250 or more. While you could share the hotel and taxi expense with your spouse, that’s true,  the meals and tickets are individually priced regardless. Also consider the value of NOT stressing about planning and research and driving routes. Would that make your vacation more enjoyable?

If you’re interested in any of these tours, track me down at McPhail Travel in Brandon and let’s talk! (Cathie@mcphailtravel.net)

 

On The Go Birthday Celebration Deals October 2018

 

 

 

 

Raving about Lago

I was in Las Vegas  two weeks ago for a quick couples’ getaway and I want to tell you, briefly, about one of the best meals I’ve had in recent memory.

It was our wedding anniversary and I wanted to eat at Lago (restaurant) at Bellagio (hotel).   As I love to research and to know what I’m getting into before I set foot in a restaurant,  I looked at the menu online and also read the Trip Advisor reviews.

In doing the research I estimated a dinner bill of about $300-$400US for what we would likely choose.  That being out of the budget I went ahead and made a lunch reservation instead. (This is definitely your take away tip from this blog post.  “Don’t skip the restaurant, just have lunch instead of dinner.”)  By the way, this restaurant has a wine list where bottles range between $75 and $3500.

At lunchtime this particular restaurant even offers a “prefix menu.”  Basically it is a modified menu where you choose an item from each course offered and pay one price. In this case, Lago offers a 3 course lunch menu at $28 per person. Example: choose one of 4 appetizer options,  choose one of 4 entrées and then dessert.

First, let me say that the ambiance was amazing! The view was amazing! The service was amazing! And the menu choices were amazing! Do you get the picture? Simply amazing!  Long before the food was even served I was loving Lago.

I started with a fancy gin cocktail.  So fancy that it had little flavoured blood-orange beads and an orchid in it. Fancy!!

For entrées I had Seabass and my husband had lasagna.  They were each very well crafted. Delicious! Really outstanding  flavours, perfectly cooked.

The dessert was chef’s choice and I have to say absolutely outstanding! They tasted even better than they looked,  if that was even possible. I can only describe the tiny cake as a cheesecake hugged by cherries and chocolate, glazed with more chocolate and  garnished with chocolate. And I do like chocolate!

I finished the meal with a cappuccino and lingered over the view a little while longer.

Definitely the best meal I’ve had in a long time, likely top three lifetime.

I’m very glad we went for the lunch option rather than bypassing the restaurant all together.

Our bill was just over $100, plus a generous gratuity. Excellent value, in my opinion. I would highly recommend Lago.

 

 

 

 

Two areas that could really use your tourism dollars

When we see natural disasters occurring, we often feel helpless.

Take for example the wildfires in British Columbia this summer, or hurricane Maria  that devastated Puerto Rico in 2017.

What can we do?

Once the immediate threat has passed and the community has had a chance to rally and recover one of the things we as outsiders can do to help, is visit.  An injection of new money helps to sustain jobs and provide businesses with the chance to rebuild.

Tourism Victoria is going through a re-branding process. Their new slogan “Oceans apart from Ordinary” focuses on their natural assets.

Victoria is a very convenient WestJet flight from Brandon. On sale you’ll find flights under $400. The same can be said about numerous British Columbia cities.

Puerto Rico requires more than a weekend holiday and might be best used as a cruise port right now. Sale flights can often be found from Winnipeg at that $500 mark. Popular cruise lines that are using Puerto Rico in the fall of 2018 include Royal Caribbean, Disney and Carnival.