Restorative detour

You know how ‘they say’ that travel can change you?

You know how ‘they say’ that sometimes when you get lost you actually find yourself?

You know how ‘they say’ that it’s not the destination,  but the journey instead that’s most important?

I think ‘they’ might be right.

I’ve been on dozens of trips, some good, some great, and some I’ve probably even forgotten about. But, I have to say that Costa Rica 2019 was a pivotal moment in my personal journey.

My dear friend Christina won a trip & invited me along.  We had the privilege of going to the newly opened, five star, Planet Hollywood Resort in Costa Rica. (It’s amazing, by the way!)

We left the kids, our husbands and our worries behind us. For 7 days we simply rested, recharged and restored ourselves. We read books by the pool, swam, went on nature hikes, did yoga, sang karaoke and watched 90s movies. And we laughed a lot!  (Of course it certainly helped that it was all-inclusive and weren’t worried about the expense.)

It was probably day 5 when I started to feel energized and ready to tackle my 5 year plan. I started thinking about my career goals and where I wanted to be in 2020 & in 2024.  The trip itself, was critical in giving me the chance to let go of life’s stress and regroup.  By day 7 I couldn’t wait to go home, to  see my family and to start working on making changes.

Shortly thereafter I made a big career move. It was a calculated leap of faith. I consciously decided that starting over was going to be the best way forward.

6 months later, I’m thrilled with my decisions. And reflecting back, I see how much that restorative vacation put me back on track to happiness and self-fulfillment.

What makes a travel bargain?

In my opinion, a travel bargain worth mentioning has to be the right blend of quality, reliability, and price. 

If the food is of poor quality, it’s no bargain.

If the airline regularly cancels flights or routes or has a reputation for delays, it’s no bargain.

If the discounted price still offers high quality and reliability of service, that’s a bargain. And only when it meets this criteria, do I consider posting it to the She Talks Travel Facebook forum.

What if the price is abnormally low? Then it is important to investigate further. Why is there a deep discount?  To use one recent example, the “NOW Emerald” Resort is priced  about 20% lower than its sister (and similarly named) resorts NOW Sapphire and NOW Jade.

(This is where it’s handy to know a travel professional and can ask this question before you book. “Why is this one cheaper?)

In this case, NOW Emerald is a recently acquired property. AMResorts,  (the parent chain) has purchased this location from Oasis Resorts. So, it was an existing resort that has been purchased and is in the process of renovating and rebranding. During this time of transition, and renovation, they are offering lower introductory rates.  Knowing the high quality of standards and reputation of AMResorts, you can be assured of quality food, accommodations and service. Therefore I believe the introductory price qualifies as a bargain.

Another time a bargain comes up is when there is increased competition. So for example, when Flair started flying to Phoenix, WestJet slashed their prices on the same route.  In this case WestJet was the bargain.

There is almost always a bargain to be found when you move in the opposite direction of a crowd. For example when everyone goes back to work and school in September, if you go out to travel you’ll find a bargain.

What is NOT a bargain?   Anything that is not the right fit for you or your family.   It’s simply not a good idea to force a size 9 foot into a size 6 shoe. You will regret trying or buying that “shoe” or trip, no matter how good it looks in the ads.

 

Is it the same hotel room?

 

I had the opportunity to answer a great question at work today.

“If Air Canada and WestJet and the other travel companies are selling the same hotel at different prices is it the same hotel room or different rooms?

My answer came in the form of an analogy. If you were buying a jar of Kraft peanut butter from Safeway or Sobeys, No Frills or Giant Tiger  it would be exactly the same Kraft peanut butter from the same Kraft factory. So it is also quite likely the same hotel room just being sold by two different vacation retailers.

Of course, different companies will feature or advertise that jar of peanut butter using different words (marketing descriptions). And each grocery store will put it on sale at different times or in different ways that suit their marketing agenda. But it would still be the same jar of peanut butter.

For example, a $1 off coupon, or buy 3 get 1 free promotion. Same peanut butter, and essentially the same savings, just presented to the consumer differently.

However there are some cases where hotels will block off a certain section of rooms and give them to one company to sell, exclusively.  Those rooms might have a unique view or exclusive proximity to the pool or entertainment area or something like that.  A privilege of this exclusivity is the airline/vacation provider can claim they have something to sell/feature that no other company has. So, yes, it absolutely could be a (slightly) different hotel room.

Ultimately the more buying power a company has the better deal they can negotiate with the hotel provider. So it does pay to shop around and focus on your own personal needs and situation when buying a vacation package. Prices can vary for exactly the same room. Or rooms could vary based on exclusivity rights.

To sum up with the analogy….you may not need four jars of peanut butter, even thought the deal seems attractive. The better deal for you personally, might be $1  off ONE jar of peanut butter.

So my advice is to not get hung up on the marketing words in the hotel description, but in fact analyze the description based on amenities and compare that way. “600 sq feet, balcony, king bed, mini fridge, and garden view.” That tells me what I am getting in the hotel room.

Whereas “modern, island oasis, perfect for your family, sleeps 4 and features unique herbal rainforest shower products” does NOT allow me the same insight. Yet both could be describing the exact same room.

Marketing and price are two ways that retailers can differentiate themselves in an attempt to earn your business. What YOU can do is to research, fact check, and enlist the help of an experience travel agent in order to wade through the marketing and online verbiage to get to the vacation best suited to you, at the best price.

Think Honolulu on Wednesdays, Brandon!

Before you say, “that’s not the best bargain I’ve ever seen,” stop and look at the flights!

You casually drive up to YBR, Brandon’s convenient little airport about 11AM and hop aboard your Westjet flight just after lunch. One stop in Calgary for a plane change and then you’re directly off to Honolulu. You’re there that evening. Extremely convenient.

Now look at the way back. No over night in Calgary.  Like it now? I feel like you can see the savings adding up. No gas to Winnipeg, no parking fees and no overnight in Calgary.

There are hotel packages less expensive, but I like the location of this one. We were there two years ago and stayed at the Sheraton Waikiki which is just about a mile further on this same stretch of beach.

This package from Westjet Vacations. Many other hotels available, some as low as $1700pp from Brandon
Sunset over the iconic Diamond head
View of the hotels along the Waikiki beach on a November afternoon

Abbotsford, from Winnipeg $207

Want a Canadian reprieve from the harsh Manitoba winter? Westjet.com offers bargain flights to Abbotsford BC. Taxes included, as low as $207.

Current temperature in Abbotsford is merely -4C.

You’re close to Vancouver, Chiliwack and Harrison Hot Springs too. Start your research here at HelloBC.com.

Prices vary by dates and flights.

Favourite photos of 2016

This photo represents a beautiful afternoon in Italy. It was very emotional and will be one of those moments I never forget.
Using my Canon long zoom camera, I managed to capture the soft eye and sweetness of this seal pup. It was a photo I took in San Diego, California. One of my all-time favourite photos.
I love this photo because it represents a mother-son trip to watch baseball. We went to Arizona and saw the Diamondbacks play both the Giants and the Yankees in a weekend. My son caught a ball, also had it autographed and ran the bases post-game. Such a good time!
A bridge in Revelstoke, BC from August 2016. I simply love the symmetry, and the moody colours. I’d frame this one and put it on my wall, I love it that much.
The blue waters of the Turks and Caicos will forever hold a special place in my heart. I feel so centred there. One of the happiest places on earth, to me.
I love this photo because it represents the surprisingly great time we had in Cleveland. My younger son took the photo on a Monday morning in September.