Get in that photo!

I’m not the first person to say it. But it’s a message that should be echoed over & over until we all hear it.

“Mama, get in that photo!”

The excuses in our heads are bunk. The odds of our kids looking at a crafted photo and remembering us as “perfect” are zero anyways!

Our kids will remember us as their one & only, amazing, irreplaceable mom because we PARTICIPATED.  We made cookies at midnight, played on the swings, went on nature walks & made soup when they were sick.

Please. Please don’t say no to posing when your hair’s a mess, you’re 20 pounds more than you want to be, or your clothes are 10 years old. The kids hear that, and it will affect how they view women, motherhood & themselves into the future.

So put down the camera, pass it to your husband, a stranger or a selfie stick. Get in the photo!! You matter & your kids love you exactly the way you are.

Capture that moment!

I unabashedly share this one. Without excuses or apologies for the way I look.  I was walking the ocean floor with my kids at The Bay of Fundy. And I WAS the tallest in the photo! How cool was that!!!

Baseball in Milwaukee

If you’re going to travel to baseball stadiums and collect baseball souvenirs eventually you’ll have to go to Milwaukee.

This past Easter weekend Riley and I travelled to Milwaukee to watch the Brewers play the LA Dodgers.

We picked up tickets online at StubHub for $35 a piece. It’s early in the season so I think that’s a pretty fair price. We sat in the club section front row, which is prime area for catching a foul ball. During our game there were 4 fouls into our section, Riley narrowly missed catching one. So in this instance, we had to buy our souvenir ball from the gift shop.

Some of the perks of sitting in the club seats is that there is that waitress service to your seat, but there is also specialty food kiosks on the concourse. Things like carved meat sandwiches, and cheesecake, things that you wouldn’t get in the regular seating.

One of the other perks of sitting in club is that there are more washrooms per capita.

There are less crowded souvenir stands in addition to comfy chairs and big screen TVs on the concourse. There were even phone charging stations.

I will say that every baseball stadium I’ve been to there are good seats and there are great seats but there are truly no “bad seats.” So whenever you sit, you’ll still have a fabulous time!

There can however be bad weather, but not a big deal in Milwaukee because they have a covered stadium. So no worries about a rain delay in Milwaukee.   But if the weather is sunny and fabulous, it has a retractable roof so they can open the dome and let the sunshine in.

In terms of ballpark food, I had a bratwurst dog and local craft beer at a cost of $17.  Riley had chicken fingers, waffle fries, a bag of peanuts and a Pepsi For about $22.

Miller Field is about 10 minutes from Downtown Milwaukee and most of the hotels or restaurants have free shuttles to the ball park. That was awesome! I love a free shuttle!  Our driver, Steve, had lots of personality and it was a fun little shuttle drive. (Don’t forget to tip your shuttle drivers!)

If you’re looking for a great ballpark don’t overlook Milwaukee!  Great city, great time.

Rock star travel deal for families

I’m actually so excited to share this tip, I can hardly type fast enough. Travelling with your kids gets more expensive as they get older. But it doesn’t have to be prohibitive, you just have to pick the right resort.

The vast majority of all inclusive resorts in hot destinations offer a reduced price for children 12 and under, but charge full adult fare for teenagers.

I recently learned that Hard Rock Resorts and Moon Palace resorts both offer dramatically reduced fares for teens 13 to 17.  These are the gems that can save you literally $1000 or more over other resort chains.

For example, I will say the average adult package fare at Hard Rock is about $2500 per person. That’s a pretty standard price for a  luxury resort for a week in Mexico.  So at a resort where 13 year olds pay adult fare, you will pay $10,000 for a family vacation of 2 adults and 2 teenagers.

On the other hand, Hard Rock Resorts will charge you about $7000 for the same people during the same week.  So not only will you save enough money to pay your hockey fees for next season, your teens will be thrilled with the luxury amenities and non-stop activities offered by the iconic Hard Rock chain.

Hard Rock has resorts in (Mexico) Cancun, Puerto Vallarta and Los Cabos, in addition to a resort in Punta Cana, Dominican Republic.

Moon Palace has resorts in Cancun, Mexico as well as Ocho Rios, Jamaica.

Sunwing, Transat, Westjet and Air Canada each offer these resorts in their vacation packages.

Prices will vary by the dates you travel, and the type of room you select. However, for travel with teens age 13 to 17 you absolutely can’t beat this savings and the top quality vacation experience.  You’ll definitely be the Rock Star Mom when you book this one.

Air Canada pricing to Puerto Vallarta. The fee per teen is the same as the adults for this resort.

 

This resort is less expensive per passenger, but all fares are equal in price.

 

This is pricing for the Hard Rock Puerto Vallarta December 7-14th, 2020. Cost per each teen is $499 plus tax. $2000 less than each adult fare!! See the savings?

If you love this tip as much as I do, and this will save you money, please consider booking your next vacation package to a Hard Rock (or Moon Palace) resort with me.

Budget Road Trip

Are you looking for an affordable road trip?  How about somewhere pretty-as-a-picture? I think this is a guaranteed memory-maker and yet respectful of your need to stretch your Canadian Dollar as far as possible.

Banff. Yes, Banff. Or you could make the trip to Banff AND Canmore. Or Banff, Canmore AND Calgary. You pick. Just fill up the gas tank and hit the Trans-Canada highway west from Manitoba.

If you make it just as far as Medicine Hat in the first day, you will find hotels like DH3 and Holiday Inn, at about $100 a night. That includes breakfast (DH3) or waterslides (Holiday Inn).

Next stop, (about 5 hours away) is Banff National Park.   The park pass itself will cost you about $20 per day, per vehicle with up to 5 occupants.

Since this is “shoulder season” or that magical time (April to June) between busy ski season, and busy summer season, you’ll find hotels inside the park itself for under $200.  Some really great hotels (like boutique Elk + Avenue) or Buffalo Mountain Lodge right around $130 (taxes included). Gosh, you could even splurge and get the Fairmont Banff Springs at this quiet time of year for about $300 a night. (Splurge! Do it!)

Canmore, is about 20 minutes away, and outside of the National Park. You could choose to stay at a lodge there or even the Holiday Inn for UNDER $100 a night.

What is there to do/see in “shoulder season?”  Mountains! The majestic mountains are there 24/7, all year round. If that’s not breathtaking enough, there’s wildlife!  Go hiking, biking, photo gathering or visit the famous hot springs. Just be outdoors in the fresh air and take in the view.

If you’ve got an extra day, and are looking for an indoor opportunity, do visit the Banff Centre for Arts & Creativity  . You’ll be inspired.

The bottom line is, there are great opportunities to enjoy a spring road trip, to the mountains, for much less  than that very same trip in the summer.  With gas, and 5 nights in a hotel, cost shared by 3 people,  $250-$300 per person PLUS your food/entertainment/souvenirs.

 

Feature photo courtesy of Barbara Osiowy. 

Different Islands, Different Personalities

I’ve had a lot of people ask about Hawaii lately.  And with good reason, flights have been on sale, and it’s a gorgeous destination.  But not all Hawaiian vacations are created equal.

I want to briefly tell you about my perceptions and my experiences in each of the main islands.

Honolulu 2018

Honolulu: It’s the main city in the island of Oahu. The main tourist area in that city is Waikiki beach. These three names are for the same place, but sometimes people use them in odd context and it sounds like 3 different places. Basically it’s like saying “I’m going to stay in Green Acres, when I go to Brandon Manitoba.” Or, I’m staying on Waikiki Beach, when I go to Honolulu, Oahu.

Honolulu, the city, is full of hi-rise buildings, expensive shops and big city living. It is intensely busy and popular. Waikiki beach area is crowded all year long.  Parking at hotels is so limited, that most charge $30-$40 per night for parking.  You don’t actually need a car if you’re staying in the main tourist area, it’s faster and easier to just walk. Plus, there’s public transportation. Tourist trolleys come by every 10 minutes or so.  If you go to Honolulu, it may be inexpensive to get there (cheap flights) but it’s expensive and oh so crowded once you arrive. Honolulu is where you will find Pearl Harbour and the museum dedicated to it.

Maui is the 2nd largest of the Hawaiian islands. It’s nickname is the Valley Isle. Its population is spread out over the island, and features a few main tourist areas. The areas are like townships. Kihei, Wailea, Ka’anapali are some of the most popular tourist areas. I think of them like Morden, Carmen and Winkler. Each area has everything you need, easy to drive around in and quite similar.  Maui does not have the intensity of Oahu, that’s for sure. There are no great big hi rises all jammed onto one little beach.  In fact there are so many beaches and things are so spread out you really do need a car to get around in Maui and enjoy the scenery. Good news here though, you won’t have to pay for parking. One of the things I like best about Maui is whale watching, and of course, sunset walks on the beach. I felt that stress melted away in Maui. The warm breeze and the tropical laid-back pace made it my favourite Hawaiian vacation. It’s a little more expensive to get to, but I found it less expensive overall once you’re there.

The third most popular island that Air Canada and Westjet take Canadians to is The Big island. This is where you will find the city of Kailua-Kona, and “the volcano.”  Mt Kilauea is an active volcano area and part of the island’s National Park system. This active volcano erupted May 2018 consuming thousands of acres and dozens of homes in its path.  The Big Island itself is incredibly diverse.  Lava rock has left some areas looking like Mars – black and barren. Other areas are more like rainforest and are known for growing incredible coffee. (I visited a coffee plantation in Kona area and it was absolutely fabulous! One of the highlights of the trip for sure.)  Beaches are harder to find in the tourist areas of Kailua-Kona, some are small and others have black sand.  The island itself seemed more “American” than Maui and was a blend of modern culture and newer buildings.

Lava rock formations in Kona

My suggestion to anyone planning a trip to Hawaii, is to clearly understand the differences in lifestyle and activities and then choose your vacation accordingly. Find the island that suits you and go for it!

GoHawaii.com

 

 

Happy Anniversary to Us!

If you want to be a writer…. then, write.

I can’t imagine the number of times I’ve repeated this in my own head. It’s simple. So simple! And I can’t even say where I heard it first but it’s become my mantra. I take it to mean, “whatever you want to do, JUST DO IT. GET STARTED! GO FOR IT!”

If you want to be a skier, then ski! If you want to be a painter… then paint!

In my case, I’m fulfilled and I sleep better when I empty my brain. I’m forever writing and scripting and telling stories in my head. There’s a running commentary and sometimes comedy show, being narrated in my own mind. I’m a storyteller. It’s simply who I am. Does it pay? No. Does it matter? Yes! Does it make me happy to write? Heck yeah!

There was a time when I owned a busy restaurant, and it was a constantly moving, flowing, real life game of “Diner Dash.” (That’s a video game where you keep cooking and serving guests and each level gets harder and harder and more chaotic until you collapse and die. The busier you are, the more you “win” at the game. Which is, exactly like real life in the restaurant biz.) And while my restaurant was popular and it paid the bills I was also working ridiculous hours and I often longed to run away, to “escape.”  During that time, a friend (Melynda) introduced me to blogging. (Thanks Mel!)  Since my escape was travel, I titled my first blog “escapethe204” and hosted it on a free blogging website.  I did that for almost 5 years, sporadically, but there was some good content.

Three years ago I was doing some soul searching while on vacation. (Doesn’t everybody?) I knew back then I would need an exit strategy to get out of the restaurant business and I would need to find a way to transition into a new career. I decided to get more serious about writing and what made me happy. I felt the next step was to own and control my own website and domain. I made a long list of domain names and “personalities” for my writing. I got focused about my topic and realized that in order to generate enough content to keep going I would need to have a wide scope and be able to sustain a high level of enthusiasm. That’s why I chose travel. I’m genuinely passionate about travel and I felt that others might want to follow along and discuss it as well.

And that’s how “She Talks Travel” went from concept to life plan the first week of December 2015, in a hotel room in Montreal. From there, I moved forward to investigate and determine that “she talks travel” was available across all the popular social media platforms. That’s when I set about to stake my claim to that name and go forward and “brand” my own travel blog.

I justify the expense (about $300 per year) to have my own hosted site as a similar expense to any other hobby just like painting or skiing. You have to invest in equipment in order to participate. I never set out to sell anything or generate income from clutter ads or gimmicks. I didn’t want to ask for sponsorship or make myself feel obligated to write or perform, so I’ve always just kept it a personal expense. The happiness and personal satisfaction level is still high, so I do consider it worth it.

I sold the restaurant a year ago. I took some time for myself and then decided to pursue a career in the travel and tourism industry. And wouldn’t you know it…. being a known travel writer actually helped me land the job! Am I going to quit writing now that I work for a professional travel agency? Heck no! In fact I’ve paid up and renewed this site for another year. So, happy anniversary! And cheers to the next year of learning and exploring and travelling! I love that you’re here for the ride. Thank you!