Book online and you could be missing out on the best deals.

 

I love this catchy little phrase!

“Internet to look… travel agent to book!”

Credit goes to my colleague, Holly, in the Winnipeg office for sharing her motto.

Here are 5 good reasons to use a travel agent, even if you’ve done all the research & are confident in your vacation selection.

1. Get the best price!  The Internet won’t offer you an in-office discount, but a local agent could.

2. Exclusive offers. Which ones do YOU qualify for. What offers are you missing?

3. Review the terms and conditions of your vacation package. Don’t miss out on Price Drop Protection because the Internet didn’t show you how to register.

4. Insurance. The “worry free” insurance you add for $50 in the booking screen doesn’t offer you cash back, interruption coverage, medical insurance or ‘cancel for any reason’ protection. A travel agent can show you why you need a comprehensive package and give you hassle-free peace of mind. If you’re under 29 years old, you can get a full package of insurance including medical for just $48.15.

5. Payments! No interest, no credit check. Put as little as $50 ($50 is an early bird promotional rate… $250 is the norm) down on a package for next year and make payments at your own pace. Pay with your debit card in office if you like. A credit card is not required. Save the interest & keep your money in your own account longer.

 

 

All inclusive, not all exhausting.

It’s hard to explore all the time. Maybe you can relate?

I can’t be the only one who is so exhausted that I just want to have an ultra-easy vacation with comforts that I know I can count on.

A big fluffy bed in a clean room, with a big shower and maybe even a tub. A hotel room where there is room to spread out so the kids aren’t tripping over each other and no one is fighting for space.  Somewhere where no one has to sleep with their brother or compromise with a cot.

I want room service. And I want a balcony.  I’m not even fussy about the view. It could overlook a garden, the pool or even give only a glimpse of the ocean…. it doesn’t matter.  As long as it doesn’t overlook my unwashed car,  my neighbour’s dog house,  or the lawn I need to mow and the bike I need to repair.

I don’t want to walk 4 km to get to the pool or the beach or get up at 6 AM to reserve a chaise by the ocean.  I don’t want to stand in line to make a reservation and I don’t want to have to walk up to the bar each time to get a drink. Is it so wrong that I just want a drink delivered to the pool deck  so I don’t have to put my book down?

And I don’t  want to negotiate either an appetizer or a dessert with the kids. I would love for them to eat as much as they want, so they are no longer hungry, without me having to calculate the cost and take away from my meal accordingly. (Teenagers eat a car payment each month at home!)

And lastly what I want from my vacation is something to do in the evening after dinner.  It does not have to be a Cirque du Soleil show or anything. It could be a movie theatre with old movies, or it could be a games room with a ping pong table. Just something where we can laugh and share an experience as a family.

Sounds like exhausted-me wants an all inclusive resort.  A small property, by the beach, family friendly and “unlimited luxury included.”

Now, if I can just find the right space on the calendar!

What makes a travel bargain?

In my opinion, a travel bargain worth mentioning has to be the right blend of quality, reliability, and price. 

If the food is of poor quality, it’s no bargain.

If the airline regularly cancels flights or routes or has a reputation for delays, it’s no bargain.

If the discounted price still offers high quality and reliability of service, that’s a bargain. And only when it meets this criteria, do I consider posting it to the She Talks Travel Facebook forum.

What if the price is abnormally low? Then it is important to investigate further. Why is there a deep discount?  To use one recent example, the “NOW Emerald” Resort is priced  about 20% lower than its sister (and similarly named) resorts NOW Sapphire and NOW Jade.

(This is where it’s handy to know a travel professional and can ask this question before you book. “Why is this one cheaper?)

In this case, NOW Emerald is a recently acquired property. AMResorts,  (the parent chain) has purchased this location from Oasis Resorts. So, it was an existing resort that has been purchased and is in the process of renovating and rebranding. During this time of transition, and renovation, they are offering lower introductory rates.  Knowing the high quality of standards and reputation of AMResorts, you can be assured of quality food, accommodations and service. Therefore I believe the introductory price qualifies as a bargain.

Another time a bargain comes up is when there is increased competition. So for example, when Flair started flying to Phoenix, WestJet slashed their prices on the same route.  In this case WestJet was the bargain.

There is almost always a bargain to be found when you move in the opposite direction of a crowd. For example when everyone goes back to work and school in September, if you go out to travel you’ll find a bargain.

What is NOT a bargain?   Anything that is not the right fit for you or your family.   It’s simply not a good idea to force a size 9 foot into a size 6 shoe. You will regret trying or buying that “shoe” or trip, no matter how good it looks in the ads.

 

Calistoga Pottery

So…. we were hanging out in downtown Calistoga, California looking at the tourist map on Main Street.  I see it lists of a number of antique shops, coffee shops, restaurants and a bookstore. Off in the corner a little square on the map says “Calistoga Pottery.”

My eyes lit up! Of course and I had to check it out.

Calistoga Pottery is a little shop behind a home on the highway just before the turn into/out of Calistoga. We had the privilege of chatting with the owner/operator/artists, a husband and wife team. He makes the pottery and she glazes the pottery. Together, Jeff and Sally have been in business almost 40 years.

They make dinnerware for more than a dozen of the local restaurants. A list hangs on the wall by the door. They also sell their pottery to the public out of this working studio, the one pictured here.

Both Jeff and Sally were absolutely lovely to talk to and were particularly enthusiastic when we told them we were from Canada. Sally told us of a time when she lived in British Columbia in the 1970s. She remembers it very fondly. When it came time for me to complete my purchase, she joked that I could even pay in Loonies (Canadian coins) if I had them!

Sally showed me a number of her signature glazes, including one that was made from the ash of grapevines from a local winery.  Such a beautiful effect on clay!

I did also mention to Sally, how much her shop reminded me of the pottery business established in Manitoba by another potter, my friend Jeff Bettle. “Manitoba Jeff” has transformed an old church and made it into his home and studio over the course of the last 20 years. I told her how much I admire people who master their craft and share it with others.  Theoldchurch.ca

Maybe someday the 2 Jeffs and Sally will bump into each other at a clay convention. They can swap stories and tell the tales of life and work aside a highway, and the tourists who stop in. And they’ll have a laugh about that charismatic chatty Cathie who happened to connect over clay, in Calistoga California one July afternoon in 2019.

Where do you buy a bathing suit?

You’ve been busy planning and preparing for your trip, and then you realize you don’t have a bathing suit.

Sure, you’ve been to the pool, but that was to take the kids to swimming lessons.  You didn’t go in the water.

Sure, you’ve been to the cabin recently, but you’re too busy preparing meals and looking after guests to go in the lake yourself.

And suddenly, you’re stressing about a bathing suit for your Vegas pool, or anniversary cruise.  Bathing suits can be a hassle. The ones that are pretty, aren’t too practical, and the ones that ARE practical, aren’t too pretty!

So where do you buy a nice bathing suit?   If you’ve got two weeks, for shipping, try CUPSHE.COM Their bathing suits are well made, well priced and there’s a style for everyone. The only challenge I’ve had is sizing. I feel like I’m between a small and medium, but each time I’ve ordered a medium, they’ve been a little bit too big. I should confidently err on the smaller size in the future.

Secondly, La Vie en Rose has surprised me with good quality, style and affordability. They have a new store open in Brandon’s Shopper’s Mall, so you can even go in there and try on bathing suits.

Thirdly, if you’re in a pinch and want something plain and $40 or less, go to Superstore. Their Joe Fresh clothing line is affordably priced, well made and it would certainly do the trip for any hotel pool or waterslide.

Get in that photo!

I’m not the first person to say it. But it’s a message that should be echoed over & over until we all hear it.

“Mama, get in that photo!”

The excuses in our heads are bunk. The odds of our kids looking at a crafted photo and remembering us as “perfect” are zero anyways!

Our kids will remember us as their one & only, amazing, irreplaceable mom because we PARTICIPATED.  We made cookies at midnight, played on the swings, went on nature walks & made soup when they were sick.

Please. Please don’t say no to posing when your hair’s a mess, you’re 20 pounds more than you want to be, or your clothes are 10 years old. The kids hear that, and it will affect how they view women, motherhood & themselves into the future.

So put down the camera, pass it to your husband, a stranger or a selfie stick. Get in the photo!! You matter & your kids love you exactly the way you are.

Capture that moment!

I unabashedly share this one. Without excuses or apologies for the way I look.  I was walking the ocean floor with my kids at The Bay of Fundy. And I WAS the tallest in the photo! How cool was that!!!