Don’t fear the charter

I get it, you’re nervous about travelling with so much in the news about COVID-19 (aka Coronavirus). It’s definitely top of mind for everyone. The more accurate information you gather, on any subject, the better decisions you can make.

The only official website that speaks for the Canadian government and can issue public travel advisories is www.travel.gc.ca. Please don’t take something you read on Twitter or other social platforms (including blogs) as gospel. The best source of information is our Canadian Government.

When people talk about being afraid to fly I would encourage them to think about the logistics and routes of specific flights they are considering.   For example charter planes that service one or two specific routes are very low risk, in my opinion. Here’s why. I’ll use an example of a plane that flies direct from Winnipeg to Cancun twice a week, and then Winnipeg to Puerto Vallarta twice more. This plane does NOT connect in Toronto or any other major hub. There are not people using this plane to connect to Europe or anywhere else. It simply goes back & forth from Winnipeg to Mexico. This specific plane does NOT fly to Italy, nor China at all. The people aboard this plane (Winnipeg to Mexico) are leisure travellers. They are going on a holiday. These are not folks coming back from a business trip in China, thru Cancun and on to Winnipeg.

The pilots and crew of the charter plane do not work for full service airlines and do not fly in/out of Korea on their days off. They work for a specific, single airline whose business is to take Canadians to/from hot holidays December thru March. They are Canadians who live and work in our communities just like you and I.

What can you do on holiday to stay healthy? The same things you do at home.  Be wary of contaminated surfaces like door handles and touchscreens. Wash your hands rigorously and often, with soap. If you feel ill, stay home. Stay hydrated and get plenty of rest.

Would I go on a hot holiday right now? Absolutely, positively. Without a doubt. Yes. If I had days off and a vacation budget, yes I would. I would book the trip, buy the insurance and pack my bags.

 

Manitoba March Break


It’s fairly commonly known that Manitoba has a late school spring break (end of March) while Saskatchewan  has theirs in mid February.

This creates an opportunity for Manitobans to find a travel bargain at the end of March, by departing from Regina instead of Winnipeg. (As their airport is not busy, as it is a regular work week, not a holiday).

Did you know there is a Sunwing flight on Saturdays to Los Cabos, MX out of Regina? (Reflect Krystal Grand Los Cabos $3k per couple, Tax included)

Did you know there is a flight to Varadero, Cuba  on Sundays from Regina?  (And really good flight times!)

If you can sneak out of school a day early (Friday March 27th) you could go to Mazatlan MX, which is typically the most affordable direct flight to in the sun.

A family of 4, (2 kids under 12) could stay at the Riu Emerald Bay resort,  in a family room, for $4572 total (taxes included).

The Riu is a good choice because it is a family friendly resort, right on the beach. It also has a newly built waterpark, plus kids’ clubs and nightly entertainment.

 

 

Screensaver worthy!

I have to tell you,  the moment I saw this photo on my friend’s Facebook feed I was absolutely awestruck.

Naturally, I complimented her on this remarkable photo of what I easily recognized as Waikiki Beach at Oahu, Hawaii.

My friend told me that her 10 year old daughter, Livia, took the photo on an iPad. Pretty incredible eh?!!

I made Livia an offer and paid her for the use of her photo on my blog. I told her that I’d love to show her talent to the world. Aren’t you glad I did?

I asked Livia if she had a review of the hotel or anything to tell our readers about Waikiki Beach or Honolulu. She reported that her family really liked their hotel, the Outrigger Reef. It had a fantastic location, view of the ocean, crafts, activities and even a Starbucks! One more unique offering of the Outrigger Reef  is that twice a week, at sunrise, they do a complimentary vow renewal ceremony for couples.  (Wow!! That’s something I had never heard about before. Livia’s going  to make a brilliant travel writer AND professional photographer someday!)

Special sincere thanks to Livia & her family for sharing this brilliant photo & glimpse into their family holiday.

 

 

No budget Napa!

Napa is not a budget trip. There are ways to cut corners, however, you can’t cut the pie in half. It would be my recommendation to postpone the trip, and save more money rather than thinking you could go and just pinch pennies.

If budget is not a worry, stay at the Napa River Inn. What an incredible location! You will have amazing dining, and even the Wine Train just steps from your hotel.

If you want to cut back, try the Best Western at the Vines. It’s still $200USD+ (weeknights)/ $300USD+ (weekends)  it’s 10 minutes from the town and will require a rental car.

On the Napa River boardwalk, in town, you will find restaurants like Napa General Store and Celadon.  $200 per couple would get you a lovely meal in a gorgeous setting.

Open air restaurant, Celadon, on the river walk in the town of Napa.

If you want to cut back I would suggest going at happy hour between 4 and 6 PM. There are a few restaurants and pubs along that strip with $6 glasses of wine and $10 appetizers. We popped into Celadon and watched the mixologist at work. That’s right, not bartender, mixologist!

Napa Valley itself, is warm. In San Francisco and the bay area I wore long pants and a jacket and still shivered. Mere hours later in Napa,on the same day, I wore a sleeveless blouse and skirt and was very warm. The difference was “quite normal” said the locals and you can expect the Napa/Sonoma area up about 15°C warmer.

When it comes to paying for things in Napa/Sonoma area I would recommend cash or a credit card. Debit cards with chip or tap were effectively useless. Any of the counter machines I tried to use did not recognize a Royal Bank card. “Tap” is not a thing in this area. Ultimately I found an ATM and withdrew more cash.

In the USA when you say “debit” they think Visa-debit. Which is a completely different thing than our Interac system. Canadian cards are certainly not as useable as I thought they were.

Realistically, I think a couple could spend $400-$500 a day in the area, without even buying souvenirs.

Downtown Napa riverwalk.

If you would like more experiences, there are also two National Parks in the Napa area where you could go hiking and find waterfalls or even camp! Expect to pay entry fee to the park and of course, a fee for your camping site. If you want to see the Petrified Forest,  (only about 20 minutes away) it is on private land and entry is $26 a person. There is also a gift shop.

 The one thing I will say about Napa is the experience is as close to Italy as you can get without being in Italy.   I think it would make the most amazing anniversary trip if you were celebrating 25 or 30 or 40 years together.

Cheers!

 

Napa, California

Napa.

Yes! Wonderful Napa, where the roads are winding and the wine stops are plentiful.

Bus tour is a must! Enjoy the ride and leave the driving to someone else. This way you can fully experience the offerings.  There are literally wineries on both sides of the road and every 5 minutes or so. Plan to spend at least a full day touring this way. 3 nights/days in the region would be better.

You could stay in the town of Napa itself. (Yes!! Do it, if it’s in budget.)  Then, in my order of opinion, American Canyon (because it’s super easy and just minutes from Napa on the right highway), Calistoga because it’s quaint & in the centre of many wineries, Fulton, Santa Rosa, or Novato. Planning to go in/out of San Francisco or the Bay Area will cost you 2 hours in each direction, plus bridge tolls.

There are wine tastings in castles, in (former) gas stations, in cellars, a former National Bank,  in mini-mall settings, and everywhere in between.

We did a self-guided tour of Castello di Amorosa. An Italian style renaissance castle just about 5 minutes east of Calistoga.

Calistoga itself is a beautiful, quaint town. A former bank on Main Street has been turned into a fabulous wine tasting venue.

In terms of wine tasting cost, if you are just popping in (not part of a prepaid tour) expect to pay at least $20+ per person per flight of wines. More for premium selections. More for a tour plus tasting. For example Castello di Amorosa in the self-guided version was $30 & tax. ($32.73). Entry for children ages 5-20 were $20 & tax.  The guided tour was $65 & up.

There is a wine train that leaves the town of Napa itself. I think it was about $200 a person. Definitely look it up. If it fits your schedule it would be an enviable way to travel & fully enjoy the region.

By the riverwalk in the town of Napa. Gorgeous cobblestone streets public gardens and quaint shops among first class restaurants & eateries.

The wine itself, expect to pay a minimum of $30 per bottle for anything in this region, and $300 or so for special bottles, and of course, there will be even more expensive specialty bottles for collectors.

Most wineries seem to have a “Wine Club” with exclusive invitations to specialty tastings, dinners and events. Standard buy in to the club, seemed to be at least the purchase of a case of wine, or $500.

Monthly winery subscriptions were also advertised often. Shipping included, in USA of course. Like a Netflix subscription they’d just keep charging your credit card & sending the wine until you stop payment.

When you’re in Napa, there’s one more thing to do… announce you’re in Napa by taking a photo at the roadside sign! There’s a pull off big enough for 6 tour buses and I expect most bus tours DO stop at the sign for a selfie and fresh air break.

Harley Davidson Museum of Milwaukee

 

The Harley Davidson Museum in Milwaukee wasn’t my reason for the trip, but it certainly was an added bonus.

We were there to see the Milwaukee Brewers at Miller Park & add another baseball to our collection.

To get to the museum, we easily walked over the bridge from our downtown Hilton hotel  in less than five minutes.

The museum itself cost $20 for adults and $10 for my teenager. We also opted to stay and have lunch on the property which cost us another $35. The food was excellent! I had mini sliders and Riley had macaroni and cheese which was topped with smoked brisket. I think you could safely recommend any of the smoked meat or barbeque on their menu. Everyone around us seemed to be eating BBQ & loving it.

The museum itself took us about two hours. There were a number of interactive displays including the engine room where you could listen to the different engine models & sounds. Riley Thought that was pretty great. I enjoyed the colour gas tanks on display which showed all of the different years and the paint colours.

The museum had bikes from the past hundred years and a lot of the stories  behind the craftsmanship.

I could see a motorcycle enthusiast spending twice the amount of time that we did and loving every minute.

If you happen to be in Milwaukee visiting the Harley Davidson Museum would be an afternoon well spent .