Bombarded with inspiration

Ever feel overwhelmed by travel planning? I’m feeling it right now. Travel planning anxiety…is that a thing? TPA?

Here’s the thing, I want a vacation. I need a vacation. But there seems to be a veil of social media pressure to have an AMAZING vacation. And right now, it clouds the view on everything. There is an air of pressure to have THE BEST vacation, a hey LOOK at my photos vacation. And every single time I open my email there’s a “LIMITED TIME OFFER that is EXCLUSIVE” for me.

I’m tired of being shouted at. I just want to go somewhere quiet and lovely and relax. Am I right, or am I wrong? Can’t anyone just casually tell you about their happy place?

I opened an email this morning from KLM Airlines. I’m a fan. They definitely know a thing or a million about travel. Today’s sales lead was about the new Dreamliner planes flying from Toronto and Calgary four times a week (as low as $685 direct and tax in). I found myself clicking links and looking for flights that suited my budget and wondering when I could go to Amsterdam and with whom. And then I started to feel stressed.

And then I started to think about the Tropicana Hotel in Vegas, because it’s been over a year since I’ve been to Vegas, and Vegas is my default (quick, cheap and always a good time) getaway. And I truly love Vegas, because when I’m there, I’m bombarded with lights and activity that I forget about work (which is admittedly very hard for me to do). And I like that feeling of “forgetting about work.” The Tropicana is alluring for me because it smells like coconuts, and is so small that you can get to the pool from your room in 2 minutes, and there’s a Starbucks on the way and right now I’m so tired (from work) that a two minute commute to a lounge chair is all I have energy for. And their rooms are pretty and white and tropical, which I love. BUT my inbox also has invites and “exclusive offers” from The Wynn (which I have never been to, but is definitely on my list) and The Bellagio (which is my favourite but is expensive and I don’t know if any visit can ever compare with the time I was upgraded to the Bellagio Suite, so why bother) and Caesar’s Palace (which is celebrating their 50th anniversary and I love their Laurel pool) and Monte Carlo (which is so central and has a great pool and I could stay practically free) and lastly (probably not lastly, I ignore a lot of emails) The Cosmopolitan Hotel (where I would love to stay to try to be hip, but I probably wouldn’t fit in, but still, “see Bruno Mars at the Chelsea” at the Cosmopolitan Hotel is on my Bucket List).

And I desperately want to go back to the Turks and Caicos because it probably IS my happy place. And I even see great flight prices right now, but I can’t get the time off work. And I probably don’t have the budget for it right now. It’s expensive, but less so in the summer. And honestly, there is no wrong time of the year for the Caribbean.

So there it is, dear travel diary, my cluttered, overwhelmed travel thoughts and why I’m stuck in the mud right now and desperate to go, but overwhelmed with offers and flat broke in time.

I have TPA. Travel planning anxiety. And I’m going nowhere.

Do you feel it too?

Packing help is just a tweet away

Are your scissors too big? Nail clippers allowed? What about knitting needles? What CAN you take in your carry on bag on the airplane?

Well, your answer is only a tweet away. The agency responsible for air transport safety in Canada (CATSA) will reply to your tweet with a yes or no. It’s that easy.

Tweet them your photo or your question at @catsa_gc

Also available in French @actsa_gc

For additional, and more detailed regulations and a full list of carry on restrictions, to to their website.

There’s also an APP for your phone! Link to it from their main website.

With all this technology at your fingertips, there’s no excuse to pack the 4 inch scissors and the oranges!

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Blogs I’m reading

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Looking for a fresh read? Here’s the fabulous 5 that are open on my desktop right now!

  1. Eatlivetraveldrink.com
    You’ll love Nicki’s Instagram too @eatlivetraveldrink
    Click on this link to see her recent post on Ireland.
  2. 2girlstrippin.com
    Full of sass… grab a seat in their sidecar and buckle up for adventure!
  3. Choosetravelonline.com
    They’ve got 5 reasons to convince you to take on a travel adventure in your gap year.
  4. Whereisnoodles.com
    Well written and always fresh! You could click here to read her tips on travelling to Amsterdam.
  5. Thethirstytourist.com
    A fellow Canadian, Carolynne has been there, and done that, coast to coast. Have you been to Newfoundland? She has. Here’s Hunting for Icebergs.

 

Bonus blog for flair and style: 

Dianaelizabethblog.com

I love her fresh, fabulous style and she has simple, 3 step advice for looking great in your travel photos.

Got a blog we should check out? Do post it in the comments.

Phoenix?!! I never knew.

Phoenix! When can I go back?

Need a quick vacation? Something action packed and easy to navigate? I have the answer! Phoenix, Arizona.

My son and I wanted to see a couple major league baseball games. We were on a very tight time schedule, Between work and school, we could only find two nights to get away that worked for both of us. A quick search of the MLB master schedule revealed all the games and cities that would work for our dates.

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We narrowed it down to a few choices and then compared flight schedules and prices. Phoenix was quickly identified as the best value for time and money when it came to flights. In fact, even at last minute prices (we booked on 4 days notice) Delta sent us round trip, taxes in for $350 CDN. So, already this trip was off to a pleasing start

For our hotel, we chose the SpringHill Suites (Marriott) Downtown Phoenix for 3 main reasons. Location, free airport shuttle and excellent Trip Advisor reviews. This turned out to be a brilliant choice!

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The airport shuttle was easy, convenient, clean and also available for short trips in the downtown area. It even had a luggage rack! This is actually a pretty rare asset.

The location was unbelievable. I honestly couldn’t have asked for more. We were a casual, stroll in flip flops to the baseball stadium, which incidentally is called “Chase Field.” (More on Chase Field, later.)

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We were 3 blocks from a major dining hub called the Arizona Centre, It had sit down restaurants, patios, waterfalls, gardens and casual eating areas. It was absolutely beautiful. An oasis in the city.

If you had young children with you, the hotel was right across from the Arizona Children’s Museum. We didn’t go, but it was very inviting and actually right there in the same block as the hotel. Rather, we opted to cross the street and go one block further to the Arizona Science Centre. It’s 4 levels of interactive displays, plus and IMAX theater and special travelling exhibit space. We spent just 2 hours there but could have easily spent twice that time. A full day for the really inquisitive mind. Admission was $27 for the both of us, with a modest $2 CAA discount.

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IMG_0205Sharing the same entrance courtyard as the Science Centre is the Museum and also the Heritage Center. The Heritage centre consists of a museum building, stores, restaurants and a coffeeshop, all in original period buildings. The Rose and Crown is one such restaurant, Pizza Bianco another. Each has casual outdoor patio space where you can dine or enjoy a beverage. We chose to stop in at Royal Coffee Bar. It was amazing to me, that in a heritage space of very limited size, they actually roast their own coffee. A very impressive operation. The equipment and furniture still looks brand new even though they’ve been at this location 3 years. It’s obvious that the owners and staff take a great deal of care and pride in this business. Open daily from 8am to 3pm I think it’s a ‘must see’ for coffee lovers if you’re in the area.

In all my travels, I can’t think of another area that was so absolutely all-ages suitable, incredibly convenient, and packed with amenities all within easy walking distance. I’m in awe really. It was exactly what I was hoping for in a quick weekend trip.

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If you wanted to travel to Phoenix for a basketball game, or concert, it would be likely located at the Talking Stick Arena (formerly American Airlines Centre) and is just one block further than the baseball stadium. More restaurants, and a courtyard full of pre-game bars are right there at the doorstep.

This was a two night getaway, that felt like so much more! Without taxis, Uber, or wasting time in traffic we had a chance to relax, enjoy and participate fully in exactly the vacation we wanted. The baseball game… well that was incredible. Worthy of its own chapter.

Pittsburgh in the 2016 NHL Playoffs

Mere hours ago the dates and times were announced for the Eastern Finals in the 2016 NHL Playoffs. It will be the Pittsburgh Penguins versus the Tampa Bay Lightning.

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Game 1 will be hosted in Pittsburgh on Friday, May 13th. Flights from Winnipeg, with either Delta or United are still sitting under $600 (tax in, return).

There are several hotels near the Consol Energy Centre in Pittsburgh. You can’t get much closer than the Hilton DoubleTree.

I’ve priced out a trip for game 5, on the Canadian long weekend, through Expedia.ca.

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Tickets to the Eastern Finals are about $160US each, from Stubhub.com

If you go for game 5, you will be able to go to a Pirates’ baseball game as well. They play just after lunch, and hockey starts at 7pm. If you have time to linger an extra day, and fly home on the 24th, you will then fly with United Airlines for the best bargain price. This “extra” day can raise your total package price per person, as little as $25. This is, indeed, staying at the same hotel. So, for an additional $25 would you stay and see a little more of the city? I think so!

You’ll have to act quickly and decisively when booking, as seats on flights and to the games will be snapped up by eager fans wanting to do the very same trip.

If you have Air Miles, or Aeroplan points, do check for flights on your respective sites. Sometimes you can get a free, last minute flight. This worked for me in last year’s playoffs when the Jets were playing Anaheim.

Exclusive Pool Access – Vegas

If you love the heat and want to spend a little time just relaxing by the pool, may I suggest the Laurel Collection rooms at Caesar’s Palace.

The Laurel section of the hotel has its own exclusive check-in desk (around the side, not the front entrance),  its own elevators, its own security, a Starbucks location near the check in desk and very best of all, its own pool.

Access to the Laurel pool is by room card and check in with an attendant. The area has attentive service, complimentary treats (water coolers, and we were offered freezies) and great quality lounge chairs and towels.

The main pool area can be packed. Of course, in 30C weather, it SHOULD be packed. But for just a few extra dollars you can get an upgraded room and access to the exclusive pool. In my mind, it is WELL WORTH IT.

To find these rooms, simply look on your preferred booking site for “room types” and make sure you book a “Laurel room.” I found it here with Westjet for less than $100 more, per couple, over 4 nights.

Thinking about Caesar’s Palace and my favourite tips, may I also suggest that you eat at Bobby Flay’s restaurant on site there. Excellent! Everything we tried was simply excellent.

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Screenshot, May 2nd, 2016 Westjet Vacations