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.

 

 

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!

My Golden Rules of Bargain Travel

  1. If it doesn’t sound like you, don’t force it. It’s not the trip for you.
  2. Read current reviews and visit Oyster.com to see what the real travellers are saying. (Go back to rule 1.)
  3. Don’t put too much stock into what the tour company says. Whether Westjet’s marketing team is describing the room, or Sunwing’s, or Air Canada’s…. it’s the same room. Whether it’s “modern” “chic” “spacious” or “deluxe” that’s just an adjective. It’s the same room.
  4. Check your flight times. If the price is outstanding, but the flight connections are miserable, is it a bargain? No.
  5. Know your prices. Have a general idea what the trip typically sells at so that you can recognize a bargain.
  6. Seek out less-busy times of the year to travel. (Right after school goes back in session. Right after national holidays.)
  7. When you spy THE bargain, the right deal for you, go for it! Be decisive. Act quickly. That price, or the last two seats on the plane might be gone tomorrow or they might be sold out in an hour. You’re not the only one who’s tuned into travel deals, reading blogs and scouring Twitter trying to save money and travel more.
  8. If you don’t have all the money and the trip is more than 60 days out, call your Travel Agent, put down a deposit and lock in that price! It’s easy to do. Payment plans are available for future travel. (Does not apply to last minute travel, booked 60 days or less in advance.)
  9. If you find a bargain that you love, but can’t go… share it! Maybe it’s exactly what one of your friends has been looking for.
  10. Don’t get hung up on rewards points. Like an ugly sweater, you may have paid lots to get it, but that doesn’t mean it’s worthwhile or a good fit for this party.

Happy travelling!
xoxo Cathie

How much does a hot vacation cost?

Here’s a handy, off the cuff guide to escaping Manitoba and going on a tropical, all inclusive, beach vacation.

In order of typical total cost. Least expensive destinations to most expensive: Cost on each island will vary by resort and room category.

  • Varadero, Cuba
  • Cayo Coco, Cuba
  • Puerto Plata, Dominican Republic
  • Cancun, Mexico
  • Maya Riviera, Mexico
  • Puerto Vallarta, Mexico
  • Los Cabos, Mexico
  • Mazatlan, Mexico
  • Ixtapa, Mexico
  • Punta Cana, Dominican Republic
  • Montego Bay, Jamaica
  • Huatulco, Mexico
  • Nassau, Bahamas
  • Curacao
  • St. Lucia
  • St. Maarten
  • Antigua
  • Aruba
  • Belize
  • Barbados
  • Costa Rica
  • Turks n Caicos

A rough number, for a 4 star vacation, at a non-peak holiday time starts at $2000 per adult.  $1700 for your Air/Hotel package, $200 insurance, $100 gratuities & incidentals like resort fees/tourist card etc.

Peak travel is:  American Thanksgiving, Christmas, Easter, Spring Break, University Break (2nd week of Feb)  Plan for at least $2600 or more per adult for a 4 star vacation with insurance and incidentals.

Think of package vacation travel like buying a vehicle. There is everything from the Chevy Cruise to the Cadillac available. You just have to find the model, the style and the features that suit you.  Yes, they are all just “cars” but what comforts/conveniences do you need to be happy and satisfied? Travel is the very same.

My bottom line is this:  if the decision comes down to $300 and it’s the difference between being “satisfied” and “happy” choose HAPPY. (Cut out souvenirs or new clothes for the trip to cover the cost if you need to.)

When you feel like you are settling for a car/vacation because you like the price….you will start off on the wrong foot. When you find something you are EXCITED about, you also give yourself the gift of anticipation. Every day you know you have something to look forward to, even if it is 4 months away. Dare I say the hard winter days get easier, when I have something to look forward to and dream about.

Post Christmas Cuba $1387 tax in

With the school holidays starting late and going into January this year, a lot of people are looking for a post-Christmas getaway. There isn’t a lot of deep discounts out there. You can expect to pay between $1500 and $2500 for most hot beach vacations. The good news is that most are all-inclusive and most with Sunwing and Air Transat do offer direct flights.

So, if your significant other is just too hard to buy for or a trip browsing the mall gives you panic attacks, this might be the perfect solution.

Give a luggage tag with the destination written on it, as your gift under the tree, then pack and enjoy the trip together just a few days later.

I’ve spied these options at Redtag.ca

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Screenshots from retag.ca on December 8th. Prices and availability subject to change

 

Here’s the ‘big picture’ post-Christmas holiday price grid. It will give you some of the options still available to book. The prices DO include taxes.

screen-shot-2016-12-08-at-12-14-42-am
The handy price comparison grid from RedTag.ca