Saint Martin/St. Maarten on sale

Both Air Canada and Westjet are offering 15% off flights to this Caribbean hot spot, when you book before January 30th.  The Air Canada code is Stmaarten2019. Westjet’s code is A56MD56 as shown below

Choose mid-week departures for the best value on flights.

Westjet exclusive code
sample dates

 

When paired with a highly rated Airbnb apartment ($919 CDN) for a week two people could travel for under $1500 per person sharing accommodations and meals.

This French/Dutch island suffered a devastating blow from hurricane Irma in September 2017. However, by August 2018 the cruise port was fully functioning and most tourist sites had been  restored. Some hotels continue to build and renovate, though the island is actively seeking tourist visits.

Visit http://www.stmartinisland.org to start planning!

How to take advantage of Black Friday travel deals with very little cash.

Don’t you wish you had a couple thousand dollars sitting in your account that you could use to grab some of these fabulous Black Friday and Cyber Monday travel deals? Yeah, me too.

Here are 3 ways that you can take advantage of the great deals without putting a lot of cash down.

  1. Hotel deals. Book flights and hotels separate. You can book almost any hotel with just paying a 1 night deposit and holding the reservation with your credit card. So, book 7 nights at a great rate, and just pay for 1 night upfront, and the rest when you arrive whether it’s in a month or 8 months from now. But you are locking in today’s discount price.
  2. Think long term, not short term. If you are travelling within 60 days you will be asked to pay the whole package price. It you are booking 3-11 months in advance, you are only asked for a deposit when you book through a travel agent. It’s almost like paying your autopac insurance in monthly instalments. There is an upfront booking fee (about 40 dollars) and a deposit (most often $250-$500  per person.) but then you can pay the rest on monthly instalments or however you choose so that it’s paid in full typically 60 days before you depart. So, if you want to grab the sale price for an Easter or Summer holiday, do it now. Then you’ll pay the vast majority in 2019 after you get your tax refund or Christmas bonus. But again, you lock in today’s sale price. (Yes, you can literally sign up for a $3000 vacation package with under $300 per person upfront cost. Now this deposit is non-refundable and you will lose it if you cannot pay the rest of the commitment, but if you CAN make payments, this is the easiest way to do it. No loan or interest charges from a bank.)
  3. Collect points. Sign up for Air Miles, or Westjet Rewards, or Aeroplan programs. They are free programs. Or get the Westjet World Elite MasterCard (perks like no charge for checked bags) and start collecting points that you can use towards future travel. Even if all you ever accumulate is a free hotel night, or a short haul flight, it is something that you can use to bring more travel into your life without a cost.

Bonus tip: If you collect Westjet Rewards, you can keep accumulating them and “cash them in” with your final payment on your holiday. And yes, you can still redeem these reward dollars when using a travel agent.

 

Dollar Store Camping: What brought this on?

Let’s take a step back in this saga, before we proceed. Why am I camping like a newbie and why don’t I have deluxe camping equipment at my age? Good question. I can explain.

Though slightly embarrassing to admit, I’ve never taken my kids camping outside the backyard. At age 14 and 11 they haven’t slept in a tent in a National Park. There are a couple reasons. Firstly, my free time in the summer is extremely limited. I’m lucky to get one week off in the summer, so I really want to make the most of that time.

The marketing lure of Disneyland trumped camping one year. Cheap summer flights to the Caribbean and my intense desire for beach and turquoise water won a couple other years. Both these types of summer vacations were much more attractive than camping because camping was too much like home. (We lived on a beautiful acreage, surrounded by trees.) But now that we live in the city, the boys are missing “home” and the trees/wildlife they grew up around.

My oldest son Riley is keenly interested in wilderness TV shows, and survival videos on YouTube, and as I mentioned in a previous post he wanted to borrow my credit card to buy camping survival kits online.

So it was crystal clear to me that THIS was the time to plan a camping adventure. It won’t be long before he loses interest in family trips and becomes too strong willed to let me lead or teach. But let me say, I LOVE this age. While he’s still willing to hang out with his mom, I’m going to take every opportunity to make it memorable.

The next several instalments will be about our National Park adventure on the east coast of Canada.

Dollar Store Camping: Part 2

Dollar store camping success stories… The tools in action!

We used it for two nights, and it was a perfect camping night light. $2 And we left it for the next tenters with this label.

There’s no point theorizing. If you don’t take it on the road, you don’t truly know. So… we went camping. Here are the things we bought from the dollar store/ Dollar Tree and how we rank them.

Paper plates: Huge win. Use, then burn in the campfire. You can have spiderman birthday plates, or 50th Anniversary. It does not matter. Theme your camping and feel extra special.

Re-usable plastic cups: 2 for $1. Big win. Think wine cup.

Cutlery multi-pack: Win. Much better than asking for extra cutlery with your baked potato at Wendy’s.

Cotton balls: Riley used them for sparking the fire, with his flint. Made him feel boy-scout-ish. So, personal win for Riley.

Deck of cards: Weak. Didn’t get used. However, I think if it were raining and the campground didn’t have WIFI it would have been a big hit.

Tablecloth: YES! So good. Picnic tables are old and beat up and have bird poop. Table cloth and you’re set!

Solar puck light: I could not believe how well this worked. We charged it in the sun on the car windshield as we drove. It glowed all night in the tent.

“Copper” bowl with handles: YES! Another great one. I cooked soup, water, and even sauted scallops and spinach over a camp fire. It held its shape. The handles were effective. WIN! $3

Fresh, off-the-dock scallops in garlic butter, cooked over the campfire in the $3 “copper” pot

Oven mitts: We used them once. Could have used a towel instead. And while we could have used them to lift up the copper cooking bowl, we chose to lift it with a marshmallow stick threaded through both handles, because it was more fun. So oven mitts….waste of $3.

Tin foil: Yes, the rolls are fairly short for $1.25 but they were perfect for campfire cooking. A no-brainer. Grocery stores charge $3 or more for the same.

Bubbles: For blowing. Lame. I should have bought dish soap with that money instead. Maybe with toddlers, they would be a hit, but a fail with my teens.

Giant marshmallows. They were gross. You could’t even cook them thru. Fail.

All things considered, the Dollar Store/Dollar Tree had several things that were very useful for camping. If I could only take 5 things, or $10 worth, they would be:

  1. Cooking pot
  2. Solar Light
  3. Paper plates
  4. Tablecloth
  5. Foil

 

 

 

 

Iceland is heating up

Or at least the price war on flights to Iceland is heating up.

With Air Canada now offering flights from Toronto & Montreal, to Reykjavik and competing with Iceland Air on these routes, prices are dropping.

The same can be said for competition on the America east coast routes where Delta/Air France and KLM have dropped their prices to meet or beat those of WOW Air and Iceland Air.

Today, Delta/Air France/KLM are offering round trip, tax included flights from JFK Airport in New York, as well as Boston Logan Airport for as low as $316.(Or $421 Canadian funds if purchased through Expedia.ca) These bargain prices can be found on certain dates, from the end of August through to October 2017

Sample shown August 22-29th from Expedia.com

Even though Westjet does not have flights to Iceland, you can nab a bargain and still fly part of the way with them. Use the website for Iceland Air and leave from Winnipeg, and you will see your connecting flight Winnipeg to Toronto with Westjet.  Prices as low as $636 from Winnipeg.

icelandair.ca Sample bargain dates September 25th to October 3rd, 2017

To start your planning and learn more about Reykjavik start with their official tourism website.

Planning to see Quebec this summer?

Here’s a follow up piece to help you plan your itinerary if you were lucky enough to grab flights at that amazing deal last week.

If you’re visiting Montreal, and have even 24 hours to spare, do consider Quebec City. It’s a short and convenient Via train ride between cities. And the feel, look and movement of the cities is completely different.

I love Montreal for the shopping and the sports and the scene. It’s so modern and cosmopolitan. Yet, when I’m wishing for a getaway from stress and work, I dream about Quebec City. Old Quebec is simply the most breathtaking Canadian tribute to our heritage. I fail to find words beautiful enough to describe the way I feel in Quebec City.

But enough about me. You should see it for yourself! Here’s a few links to help with the research. I hope you can build your own Quebec experience and love it too.

Quebec Tourism

Montreal Culinary Cruise Experience

Patios of Rue St. Jean, Quebec City  (See photo at top.) 

Adventure! Zip lining at Montmorency Falls