People over places

I work pretty ridiculous hours 9 months a year, and then I have some free time for 3 months. My first assignment each time I get to my break is to re-connect with my youngest child.

We have made a habit of taking off together, just the two of us, for a “him-cation.” It’s all about him. He can choose the destination (within reason), choose the activities and even choose where we eat. He says “please” and I say, “yes sir!”IMG_0637

When he was little, he chose a Disney cruise. That was great fun! Though the ship had dozens of activities and excursions, all he really wanted to do was play soccer on the upper deck. If I wasn’t out there playing with him, I was sitting on a lounge chair watching, and reading a book.

As I became a fixture on the deck, watching my son, Cast Members generously brought me new books. Even other passengers offered magazines. It was sweet. Everyone aboard was very thoughtful. I enjoyed their enquiries and visits.

In the evenings we’d sit on the pool deck and watch the movies and eat pizza. Every night he went to bed happy and feeling loved. While we didn’t maximize our Disney activities, we sure had fun. Neither of us will ever forget it.

Fast forward to this year’s “him-cation” and he chose Carli. What’s Carli? Actually, it’s a who. She, is a fabulous person that I used to work with and son remembers oh so fondly from his childhood.

Carli moved halfway across the county to attend university. He missed seeing her around town. We all did. So when he asked if this year’s trip could be to see Carli, I gave her a call and then bought the plane tickets.

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Exploring the shores and looking for wildlife

She showed us the university, where she worked, and where she liked to hike. We had a blast! She remembered him as a little boy and catered to little boy things… like finding blue crabs to “race” on the beach, logs to walk on and waterfalls to admire.

My take away message here is that it’s not always about the destination, it’s about the people you share your time with and the memories you make. The best vacation ever… can happen absolutely anywhere.

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Choose your own path to adventure! It’s YOUR vacation.

 

 

 

 

But my town has nothing to offer

Have you ever said this? “My town has nothing to offer.”

Travel can help.

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Nothing but blue sky, open road and red rocks.

Here’s the thing. When YOU travel, you see and experience new things. Perhaps you come home with a business idea or a fabulous way to plan events or promote your own industries.  Or perhaps, in your travels you meet a friend and invite them to visit your community at some time.  That helps your town. You help your own town by travelling and returning with new ideas and renewed energy.

The other side of the coin is when you INVITE tourists to your community, you stimulate the economy. You see, when tourists come to visit, they stay in your hotels and eat at your restaurants and buy souvenirs in your shops.

Staff that work in the tourism and hospitality industries are often students, and when you put money in the hands of students (through employment), they SPEND it. That’s a good thing…. no, it’s a great thing! When your part time worker is not burdened by a mortgage or a heavy debt load, they spend money on dining and clothes and car repairs and social events etc.  Their disposable income is much more than the burdened family, so these part time employees are injecting new money into the economy rapidly.

It’s the circle of LOCAL. When a student shops locally, with their paycheque, they help shop owners provide additional jobs, which in turn pays for groceries, and car sales, which pays for taxes and health care, which pays for music lessons and birthday parties and so on and so on.

But what if  you’re back to the stumbling block of “our town has nothing to offer?” That’s impossible! I offer you Pisa, Italy as an example. Simply a small community with a bell tower built on swampland, that started to lean and a builder who never took credit for the error. Hundreds of years later, tourists are still gawking at the sight and also paying $35 a person to climb the legendary example of construction gone wrong.

So, I believe every town absolutely has something to offer! You just have to look at things a little differently. See things from a new angle! And invite the tourists to come.

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Travel light, but travel right!

Though I was never actually at risk of packing Crocs, a fanny pack or tube top, I do think it’s important to review your packing list for trends, local customs and potentially embarrassing faux pas for every single trip.

For example, you will not be permitted in churches, for service or tourism, if you have bare knees or shoScreen Shot 2016-02-15 at 10.25.07 PMulders in Italy. Similarly modest attire is expected in Dubai, and extends beyond mosques to include public spaces such as shopping malls.

Pinterest is a great resource for visual packing lists. Perfect for pulling together whole outfits and seeing the latest fashions. And travel blogs for notes on the local customs and real-life experiences.

Of course, make sure you have seasonally appropriate clothing in your luggage. You don’t want to get caught without a raincoat if it’s rainy season on the coast.

Regardless of destination, I won’t leave home without a hat, slippers and good walking shoes.

The hat for hair emergencies, weather issues, and a chic look.

The slippers for my tired tourist feet when I get back to the hotel. Even soft little ballet slippers do the trick and take up no luggage space. Oh, and because…hotel carpet.

Walking shoes. I walk and walk and walk on vacation. I feel that it’s one of the most effective ways to explore a destination and really see things. No one likes blisters from silly trendy shoes that look good but are not practical.

What’s the one thing I tend to forget? Believe it or not…. sunglasses! This is my blind spot, my forgotten amenity. I typically leave them in the car when I reach the airport. And as a result, I’ve had to buy replacements on the road a few times.  I have the funny yellow ones from Bermuda, the glitter crusted ones from Vegas and the cheap ones that broke after an hour in California.

And when it comes to volume, pack less than you think you need. Infact, just pack half, if your hotel has a guest laundry room on site. Truly, I’d much rather spend 1 hour doing laundry while on vacation, than drag around twice the wardrobe and pay a checked bag fee.

Do you overpack? What are your tips for travelling light and travelling right?

 

Canadian $$ At Par!

Acting swiftly to address a downturn in Canadian tourists, Myrtle Beach South Carolina has announced a plethora of deals for Canadians.

I can tell you that I was quickly and suitably impressed with their presentation and offers at VisitMyrtleBeach.com. Specifically, their Can Am Days event, and their ease of research. What a great site!

Following the links through to some of the Can Am Hotel deals, I easily searched dates and found prices around $50 a night. (There were no special promo codes or such needed.)  Prices are shown in US funds, but reflect the substantial discount to Canadians.

While it appears that hotels and restaurants aren’t able to receive payment in Canadian funds, their discounts do reflect a savings of 25% or greater, with presentation of Canadian identification, thus levelling the value to ‘par.’

 

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The available promotion dates are now through the end of April, though some hotels are offering booking dates to May 18th, 2016.

Restaurants are in on it too. Here’s a sample coupon from House of Blues. Screen Shot 2016-02-05 at 1.05.32 AM

 

The international airport in Myrtle Beach is coded as MYR. Delta Airlines will fly you there for about $420 from Winnipeg (YWG), however both Westjet and Air Canada also fly into Myrtle Beach. Be advised, there are typically 2 connecting flights. Westjet advertises non-stop flights from Toronto, but frankly I can’t see them on my searches.

I love this initiative by the Myrtle Beach tourist board and I expect that numerous other cities will follow suit in the upcoming months. Props to them for taking this bold move and reaching out to Canadians.

If I was looking to pursue a spring trip, and especially a golf vacation, I would certainly consider Myrtle Beach.

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Web page:  www.visitmyrtlebeach.com

Twitter: @mymyrtlebeach

Instagram: @mymyrtlebeach

 

Day Trip To Stanley Park

Guest post from The Thirsty Tourist

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Stanley Park is located in downtown Vancouver, a short 30-minute drive from the airport. This makes it a great day-trip for those travellers who have a layover at Vancouver International Airport. All you would need to do is rent a car or take public transportation to the park.

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Printable Map of Stanley Park

History of Stanley Park

Stanley Park is the most famous green space in Vancouver and is a park that tends to make the news quite regularly. As Stanley Park is right along the coast of Vancouver and the Pacific Ocean, it has had some historical storms that have swept through the park and caused significant damages. One famous account is Hurricane Freida from 1962 which toppled over 3,000 trees. In 2006 another storm swept through the park and uprooted 10,000 trees.

Earlier this year Stanley Park also made the news for the wind and water damage caused to the Seawall.

http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/british-columbia/stanley-park-seawall-closed-1.3321257

SP-6More recently, one of the most famous photo points in the park, a 30-meter tall hollow cedar tree, was damaged beyond repair by a fire that started within its base. This is quite sad, as the tree was one of the oldest trees in the park at over 800 years old. The best part of this landmark was that you could stand in the hollow base and get a good photo-op. My parents and I shared a great one here. Over the years, this tree has had many iconic photo-shoots.

http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/british-columbia/stanley-park-fire-claims-ancient-cedar-tree-in-vancouver-1.3374092

 

The Best Ways To Experience Stanley Park

  • By Car: The drive around Stanley Park is a leisurely one at 15KM/hr. Even at this reduced speed, it will only take you 15 minutes to travel around the park.
  • On A Bike: Bike rentals are available or you can bring your own to enjoy this scenic route. Bikers typically tend to do a couple loops of the part to get a good workout in.
  • By Foot: You can either walk around the park or enjoy one of the many hiking trails Stanley Park has to offer. My personal favourite is hiking near the Lions Gate Bridge.

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A Scenic Route

Along the Stanley Park loop there are many places you can pull off and enjoy some scenic attractions. My favourite attraction is the Totem Poles. To me, they are not only beautiful and a rich piece of history, but bring back childhood memories of when I first visited the park as a child.

SP-1As an avid photographer and hiker, I can easily spend all day at Stanley Park. The park is an escape from the hustle and bustle of the downtown metropolis of Vancouver – it is a green space that offers amazing views of the skyline. In addition to the seawall path, a paved walking and biking path that surrounds the entire park, there are several hiking paths that are scattered throughout the park. Two of my favourite spots to visit along the seawall route are the Second and Third beach locations where the ocean meets the white beach sand. As the weather in Vancouver is often rainy and windy, it’s not the best place to stretch out with a swimsuit, towel and a good book year round – but you can definitely do this in the summer months.

For families visiting Stanley Park, one of the main attractions is the Vancouver Aquarium. In addition to seeing an amazing underwater world, there are many galleries and exhibits to enjoy. This is more of a pricey entertainment stop, as the tickets can run upwards of $15-30 per person for admission. As Stanley Park is free admission, families might enjoy the large outdoor playground and seasonal entertainment such as the spray parks or the large heated outdoor pool. A family favourite is the Stanley Park Train, a miniature train that circles 2 Kilometers of track in the park. The Train schedule is seasonal and often themed around holidays such as Halloween, Christmas, and Easter.

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Great Photographs and Memories

As a Vancouver resident, I endorse Stanley Park as my day trip of choice. With so much to see and do, I have been to Stanley Park four times within the last year. I have shared my experiences with my husband, parents and even with friends visiting the city for the day. Stanley Park is definitely unique; a rainforest and ocean green space in the heart of a major city. I love that you can just get away from it all and unplug for a few hours, without actually having to leave Vancouver.

 

About the author:

Screen Shot 2016-01-15 at 4.23.12 PMCarolynne, aka The Thirsty Tourist is a storyteller, an avid traveller and photographer. Cat lover. Carolynne is the the owner and founder of The Thirsty Tourist blog. When she is not travelling, exploring, or enjoying backyard adventures, she resides in Vancouver, Canada with her husband and 4 pets

Read her blog and give her a follow on Instagram and Twitter! You’ll be glad you did!

 

Coolest thing to do with your Valentine! Literally.

 

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Vist Churchill Manitoba! Did you think I was going to say that?

You could go for Valentine’s Day weekend and (hopefully) see the northern lights. This trip could be surprisingly affordable. I just learnt that you can book a flight to Churchill, Manitoba from Winnipeg for 1400 Air Miles or less! (Flights Feb 13 – 15th, 2016 available at 1380 Air Miles.)

See, this is actually an amazing thing, because if you were to pay the cash price for the fare with Calm Air, it actually ranges between $688 and $1900 for a return ticket.

See the bargain? Staring to think it’s cool yet? The total taxes on the flight is $95. Not bad, eh?

There are just a few hotels in town, and they are not the Fort Garry, but, they will certainly do for an adventure weekend. At $139 (or less with a CAA discount) you can appreciate this opportunity for a bucket list experience. The Tundra Inn will pick you up from the airport too!

If the weather works, you could go dog sledding.  There are bed and sled packages available through Blue Sky Mush. ($400 for 3 nights accommodation PLUS a dog sled tour for 2 people!) Or, just a sled event is about $90 per person. www.blueskymush.com

But for everything Churchill, you need to check out the website.

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If you would like to go in July, or August which is peak tourist season, you might still be able to get your bargain flights off Air Miles (1400 Air Miles/1200 in low season), but hotels and tours will cost at least double. It’s simply supply and demand, and you are definitely wise to book early.

Via Rail also offers transportation between Winnipeg and Churchill. It is a 2 day ride and will cost between $400 (economy seat) and $1200 (cabin with meals) per person, round trip.

As a bucket list trip, I think it’s an amazing possibility. And it’s in our own backyard! At about $400-$500 per person, for 3 nights accommodation, air fare, meals and an activity, I think most Canadians would be envious. (Bargain price noted as with Air Miles redemption.)

 

Churchill in June. A field of fireweed highlights the landscape of Churchill in June. (Photo courtesy of Ross Mackling)
Churchill in June. A field of fireweed highlights the landscape of Churchill in June. (Photo courtesy of Ross Mackling)

 

Beluga whales, as seen in June on tour with The Churchill Experience. (Photo courtesy of Ross Mackling)
Beluga whales, as seen in June on tour with The Churchill Experience. (Photo courtesy of Ross Mackling)

 

Photo courtesy of Ross Mackling
Photo courtesy of Ross Mackling

Links:

Tundra Inn

Everything Churchill

Manitoba Tourism

The Churchill Experience

Blue Sky Mush

Assiniboine Zoo Polar Bear Conservancy 

Learn about polar bears

Via Rail to Churchill