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.

Road tripping with my mom

I can’t say I remember any trips with my mom, except the one epic road trip to Texas. I still smirk when I think about it. Back then, the movie Thelma and Louise was popular and road trips were the “in thing.” Girl trips and open roads were glamorous and frankly, you were making a bold statement on female independence by doing it. So, why wouldn’t we? A couple of bold, independent single girls like us, should definitely have adventure.

My mom’s friend Karen had moved to Texas and they’d often chat long distance on the telephone. Sometimes they’d rack up a bill, chatting half the evening. (Remember, long distance calls were a luxury and at 38 cents a minute, things added up pretty quick back then.) I would tell her that she could drive there for about the same amount of cash. Finally, one night, my mom figured my idea had merit.

I was about 18 at the time.  Mom, was more than twice my age, but if she were alive today, she’d tell you that back then “we definitely looked like sisters.”

She had a brand new car, so we were absolutely equipped for this, anytime. (She always had a brand new car, my grandparents owned a General Motors dealership.) I convinced her to take a couple days off and make it a 5-day weekend. We’d drive all night and get to Texas in 24 hours. As our plan developed, I really thought I had her convinced. She seemed enthusiastic in our chats, but at the last minute, she chickened out. She came home from work, was tired and decided all she wanted to do was to rest and do things around the house for her days off.

I’d seen this “cold feet” act of hers before. So while she was distracted, I packed the car anyways. If I remember correctly it was about 11pm when I convinced her to “just go for a drive and get some coffee” with me.  One loop through the neighbourhood and I headed for I-75. I told her we could stop for coffee in Grand Forks, North Dakota  which was about 3 hours away.

In hind sight, she could have probably made a case for kidnapping. Except, who would believe her? After all, SHE was the one to pick up maps from CAA earlier in the week! Ha ha!

I don’t remember everything about the trip, but I do have strong memories of the highlights. She would tell you about waking up to see me speeding on an Interstate highway and watching a State Trooper pull over 4 cars at once, but not us. She would also tell you to avoid Oklahoma City at rush hour when you really don’t know where you’re going. And I bet she would say that 5 days definitely wasn’t long enough. I tend to agree.

My favourite part of the adventure was seeing her hug Karen when we arrived (Those two were thrilled to be reunited for an in-person visit!) and seeing the Kansas City Royals play baseball.

The baseball game was a completely spontaneous decision. We were relaxed and driving home when she tuned in a local radio station. They were broadcasting a pre-game show of the Kansas City Royals baseball team. She commented that she’d “always wanted to go to a MLB game.”

I said, “let’s do it! Let’s go, right now.” And we did.

She found the stadium on a map. I got us there. At the parking gate I asked the attendant where to get tickets. He said “but the game’s sold out! Don’t you know, the famous chicken’s here?!!”

I didn’t really know what he meant, but opted to pay for parking and take my chances at the box office anyway. My mom wanted to turn back. I pushed forward again, and before we even cleared the parking lot, we were approached by a scalper. I swapped him $20 for upper deck tickets and we were in! She always thought that was “pretty balsy” and that I was a heck of a street-smart gal. Very Thelma-ish.

I remember how absolutely satisfied she was sitting in the cheap seats, sipping a lemonade and snacking on a hot dog and a bag of peanuts. That was a good day. The Royals have (or had) a beautiful stadium with a waterfall in the outfield. They also had fireworks out there post game. It was a really nice evening. We picked a motel by the edge of town for the night and finished the trip in the morning. I know in her later years she would still tell the story of the scalper, and the funny San Diego Chicken at the baseball game.

What that trip taught me was, that you can ALWAYS get tickets to a big game. You don’t have to have a big plan, or a big budget to travel and have a great time. And, I  also believe that I would absolutely take a road trip with my teens if I was invited. After all, it could very well be, a once-in-a lifetime invitation.


PS: The photo is NOT from this trip. But it’s simply a photo of my spunky young mom, back in the day. We did NOT take a gas guzzling Impala on this trip. It was infact a SkyHawk.

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

 

 

 

 

$10 Dollar Tree Camping Challenge

Lately my teen son Riley has been talking about camping and wilderness “survival.” I listen intently and try to mold his thinking towards a family-friendly summer outing. I think, “camping could be fun, I went camping with my family when we were kids. I can do this.”

But he ups the ante in a very modern way. “Mom, I found this survival kit subscription on-line and for just $40 a month (US funds) I can get a surprise box of survival tools.”

As you might imagine, I retorted pretty sarcastically and with a big NO. It went something like this…. “give me 40 bucks, even Canadian funds and I’ll go get you a mystery box of survival crap from the dollar store. And I can do this every month until you beg me to stop.”

He laughed.

I said, “I’m serious.”

I think all he really heard was “go to dollar store, buy crap.”

“Let’s go now,” he says. “Let’s do this!

Since I’m quite willing to put my money where my mouth is, I offered up $10 for each of us. I insisted he use his math skills to solve the next step and tell us how much we could buy.

“Seven things!” he says. “We can each buy 7 things at Dollar Tree.”

True. At Dollar Tree, all items are $1.25, plus applicable taxes would get us to $9.90. So we each took $10. Literally, $10. No debit cards or any extra cash. This was a survival challenge after all. LOL

He suggested we meet at the register in 10 minutes. It was now a bit of a race too! On our way, we did agree that 3 things would already be included in our challenge…. tent, food & matches so no need to try to buy those.

The results….

Riley’s choices

He bought fishing lures, fishing line and weights. Plus twine, a pocket knife, cotton balls and birthday candles. He explained that he’d use a knife to harvest a stick to make a fishing rod. The cotton balls are to use with matches to start fires and the birthday candles were to keep the fire going and to transfer flames to multiple fire sites. I couldn’t help but laugh at the birthday candles. I suggested they would also be great if a spontaneous birthday celebration broke out at the campsite. We could even celebrate some stranger’s 50th and still have spare candles. His regret, after thinking it all through… was wasting so much on fishing gear, after all we did say food was included.

Cathie’s choices

I bought a tin foil cooking pan and a long handled bbq fork. I also chose a tarp, a first aid kit, a little hacksaw and a tropical scented jar candle (What I really wanted was bug repellant or a citronella candle but I couldn’t find anything and was running out of time so I grabbed this one.) My last choice, or my luxury item as I call it, was either going to be a bubble blower toy or a deck of cards. I went with the bubbles to be a bit of a rebel, plus it was in a Star Wars package. Hours of campfire enjoyment I thought. Riley agreed the tarp was a good choice, very versatile. He laughed at my Dollar Tree hacksaw and suggested the first aid kit was well paired with it. I tend to agree. Regrets? I have none. I stand by my Star Wars bubble blower and thin blue tarp.

It was a fun experiment. The best part was the show and tell session when we got home with our loot. We laughed a lot!

As you can imagine, Riley is planning the next step. He wants the Dollar Tree hacksaw to see some use. He’s currently in the other room searching out campsites on-line. So, I guess this chapter and this little adventure, is to be continued!

To Columbus Ohio!

The Columbus Blue Jackets are on quite a roll these days! A legendary season for certain. If you’re a big hockey fan and would like to see them play in person you have a few options, even on a small budget.

  1. Use Air Miles for the flight. 2500 Air Miles and $146 cash (taxes) will get you a return flight from Winnipeg (YWG to CMH)
Dates & availability will vary

2. Use Air Miles for your hotel instead.  Or, use your Marriott/SPG points. The Courtyard Marriott is the closest hotel to Nationwide Arena in Columbus.

3. See them on the road. The least expensive Canadian city to see an NHL game is Ottawa. And if you’re a Brandon Wheat King’s fan, you’ll know that Mark Stone plays in Ottawa. So, you can see two former WK captains with one game. (March 4, 2017) Air Miles flights to Ottawa are 2000 points or less. You just pay the taxes, about $130

March 3-5, 2017 from Winnipeg to Ottawa (YWG to YOW)

(You can even go this month for 1600 Air Miles, if you have some time off right away.) Columbus plays in Ottawa on Sunday January 22nd. Their winning streak could still be alive.

January 21-23rd, Winnipeg to Ottawa (YWG to YOW). Availability subject to change without notice

Tickets to the games can be purchased through Ticketmaster or Stubhub.com for as low as $30 each.

If you are a hockey fan and love the big game, you’ll see why this could be an epic road trip.

No Air Miles? No problem at all! Air Canada and Delta both have flights on sale right now, for about $400 (Canadian funds and taxes included.) Hint…. or buy your Spring Break flights now (to most any NHL city) and catch your favourite team just before playoffs.  

If you’re a Winnipeg Jets fan, and believe this is their playoff year, you’ll want to plan ahead for April 6th in Columbus. It could be an intense game in their quest for a playoff spot.  Air Canada, April 4-7th flight is just $400.91 at today’s price.

January 4th screenshot

Or finally, you can bundle the April 4th to 7th, with hotel, through Expedia.ca with the above noted Air Canada flight for $685 with a downtown (near arena) Holiday Inn. Tickets for that Jets’ game are currently $28 & up (US funds on Stubhub.com).

It pays to plan ahead! Especially for your Spring Break hockey trip.