Breaking up with your bad hotel

Book with the hotel…

So you can cut & run if you need to.

Here’s what I mean. We booked a modestly priced hotel, with excellent Trip Advisor ratings, in Honolulu. (No… not the cheapest hotel out there. Not by a long shot. Don’t think I’m using “modest” as a polite way of saying cheap!) Everything about Honolulu is quite expensive, so we wanted to get as much value as we could from our accommodations. It was an honest mistake.

Here were the deciding factors in the reviews that made us book.

Free breakfast: people said things like “more than just a continental breakfast.” “Fresh eggs and waffles.”

Off the beach, but close: “just 3 blocks to Waikiki Beach, but half the beach hotel price!” “Hotel offers free towel & chair rentals for the beach.”

View of the city and the canal. “Great views and they give you free ear plugs for the noise if it bothers you.”

Here were the deciding factors that made us leave:

Wow. That noise was ridiculous. Nothing like the view of a 4 lane highway to enhance your “beach vacation.” We actually heard (from the 10th floor) a screeching near accident, which resulted in 8 seconds of car horn and another 20 seconds of angry screaming profanity. We could do nothing but laugh. And BTW, we had the window closed at the time.

3 blocks from the beach? Are you kidding? It’s more like 2 kilometres!! And you want me to carry a free (folding metal) beach chair…. like the ones from grandma’s house in the 80’s? Pass.

Now, think about that 2km walk from the beach with a tired, hot, cranky child who’s hungry. Or think about being 2 hot cranky kilometres from a life saving cocktail.  #momlife  You’ll agree saving $30 a night is NOT worth the walk.

There was a pool. A cess pool. The size of a big hot tub. Hard pass on that. I’d rather eat the stale, sticky Fruit Loops off the floor in the breakfast room.

That’s how our 7 night booking turned into a 1 night “experience.”

How did I get out of it, without losing all my money? I had booked directly with the hotel. Not Hotwire, not a discounted or non-refundable offer. Booking with the hotel is exactly what got me out of the hotel without a massive financial kick in the face. All we did was ask to change the check out date.

How did I get out of it gracefully at the front desk? Standard breakup conversation. “It’s not you, it’s me. You’re amazing. I’m just not right for you. It’s me, I should leave.”

In this case…. I literally said, “I’m just overwhelmed by the big city & tall building. It’s all making me so anxious, I need to find someplace quiet. You have a beautiful hotel, I just can’t handle the city life. I have to move on, ASAP.”

They moved my checkout date to the next morning & politely processed the bill.

We headed 2kms, or “3 blocks” towards the beach and checked into the Hilton. Re-started the vacation. Chain hotels are like ex-boyfriends. They might not be new or exciting, but they are consistent, comfortable and quite willing to take you in when you call sounding lost and desperate.

So, I blame the rosy people of Trip Advisor for failing to hook me up with a great hotel. I also blame myself thinking I could compromise location for price, because of the extra benefits. Smarten up Cathie! You KNOW location is key!

I’m also proud of myself for quickly shifting to Plan B and salvaging 6 days of precious vacation time. (I’ll make up the $30 by skipping souvenirs and lattes.)

Like life, each day on vacation counts. Be happy or move on.

Better view. Ahhh

Beautiful Seattle Train Station

This is the beautiful, and recently restored King Street Amtrak Station in Seattle.

Insider tip:If you’re travelling here, pack a lunch and bring your own postcards as there are NO restaurants, lunch counters, coffee shops or souvenir stands. A ticket booth, and a vending machine is all you have.

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.

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

Air Canada to Antigua

Every time I get the chance, I ask a flight attendant about which Caribbean island is their favourite. I figure, they should know, right?  Antigua comes up over and over again.  So, I keep it on my radar looking for a bargain. It’s usually 30% more expensive than Mexico and twice the price of Cuba.  But…. what if it is twice as nice?  Well, finally a bargain. Someone should go and report back to the group!

AND take a look at Air Canada’s NEW price match guarantee. 

From Air Canada Vacations. NOW with price drop guarantee

Or, January 12th, if you can go right away!

Overnight in YYZ required, but you really will get a full 7 days of vacation on the beach. Great flight times