Sometimes it’s expensive to live in Canada, especially when it comes to travel.
Here’s a perfect example.
Currently the Bahamas Tourist Board has a special; book a minimum four night package at participating hotels by May 10 for travel ending no later that December 22, 2010 and receive one free companion flight.
There’s a large selection of hotels to choose from including Atlantis. I’d been to Atlantis before and loved it. It’s a wonderful place for both families and couples.
To sweeten the deal, Atlantis has a coinciding special of a fourth night free.
It gets better. Some packages give $650 in free add on activities which include two dolphin interactive programs, two free dinners, sunset martinis and more.
To get the free companion ticket, the whole package including flights needs to be booked through the hotel.
Victor, a friendly agent at Atlantis found me an great deal on a four day package in the Beach Tower section.
This is where it gets expensive for Canadians.
The cost for a family of two adults and two kids under 11, flying on Air Canada out of Toronto is $5935.90. HOWEVER if the same family were to fly out of Buffalo on US Air with the same package it would only cost $2,392.00. That’s less than half price.
Lesson learned: If you live close to the US border, always compare prices on flights from both the Canadian airport and the closest US one. The money saved could be worth the extra hour or two it takes to catch your flight.
Is Paris on your mind? I’m not talking about Paris Hilton. Think romantic, exciting Paris, France.
Hotel accommodation in the ‘City of Lights’ can be expensive. Private apartments are the way to go. Many of these rentals are located in the centre of all the action. We’ve rented apartments that were less than a five minute walk from the Louvre or Notre Dame and only paid $800 CAD for the week!
Not only do you save on accommodations, you also save money with a kitchen or kitchenette and usually get more space for your travel dollar.
My kids love Gatorland in Orlando, Florida. It’s a great way to spend half a day (or longer) and at $23.00 per adult and $15.00 per child, it’s a real deal.
This privately owned, 110 acre theme park has more than just alligators. Besides the Alligator Island, the breeding marsh and the nature swamp walk, there are also entertaining and educational shows, flamingos, a barnyard petting area, snake displays and, my kids favourite, an aviary of friendly Lorikeets. There’s even a splash park.
The boys enjoyed trying gator meat at one of the snack bars.
Gatorland has a fabulous web site with all kinds of information, history and fun facts. They even supply some great educational links but best of all is the live gator cam.
The Lakehouse Restaurant at Science North in Sudbury is beautifully located on the shores of Lake Ramsey. The view was lovely. If only the same could be said for my meal.
Preferring quality over fast food, we decided to have a late lunch at this restaurant. My father ordered the steak sandwich and I decided on the Pad Thai recommended by the waitress.
Bad choice. The Pad Thai was probably one of the blandest I’ve eaten. There was even a small puddle of soup-like liquid underneath the noodles. Where were the spices, fish sauce, and egg? One positive; the four shrimps in the dish were not over done.
The waitress came by to ask about our meals. My father said his was enjoyable; steak perfectly done and smothered in mushrooms. I said that mine was disappointing and explained why. The waitress apologised and said that she had thought the dish was good because it was the only Pad Thai she’d ever sampled.
Later, I asked if she had told the chef. She said yes but didn’t expand on her answer. There was no attempt to compensate for my meal, (which I couldn’t finish).
A comment card was delivered with our bill. I filled it in with my comments and email address. Four days later, I’ve not had a response. I’m not holding my breath.
One of the things I love about Banff, Alberta is that many of the best things to do are free.
Go For a Walk or Hike: There are so many trails to choose from all with fabulous scenery. I especially enjoy the trails along the river, on Tunnel Mountain (perfect for viewing the hoodoos) and around the Cave and Basin.
Check out the Banff Springs Hotel: It costs nothing to walk through the beautiful halls and many gorgeous rooms of the historical Banff Springs Hotel. Many of the large windows have tables and chairs just begging you to sit and soak up the view. My sister and I played a few rounds of our favourite board game there.
Enjoy the scenic drives: There are so many to choose from in the area. In the summer, I love to drive through the Banff Springs Golf Course and check out some of the world’s most scenic golf holes.
Browse the shops on Banff Avenue: Ok, if you buy something it’s not free but there are so many neat Canadian Rocky displays including life sized stuffed animals, skeletons, fossils and more. I always enjoy watching the fudge being made (and trying samples) at the Fudgery and can never resist popping into Welch’s Candy Store for their huge selection of old fashioned (and new) sweets.
Banff Natural History Museum: (Small Fee) Both adults and kids would enjoy this small, historical collection of preserved native animals.
Cave and Basin: (Small Fee) An enjoyable exhibit highlighting local Rocky Mountain history. Also includes information and viewing of the Banff Spring Snails found only in this area.
Free Yoga Lessons: Lululemon offers yoga lessons when the store is closed. Although very popular, the class I attended was geared more towards an intermediate level. My version of “Bird of Paradise” was more like “Moulting Crow”. Check the store for schedules.
This is just a short list of Banff offerings. I’d love to hear your tips on things to do for free (or next to free) in the Banff area.
Often people think it’s expensive to stay in Banff but that’s not always the case.
This past weekend my sister and I stayed at the Tunnel Mountain Resort. We had a one bedroom condo with a wood burning fireplace, full kitchen, bathroom, jacuzzi, dining area, pull out couch, balcony and separate bedroom. Despite it being the Alberta public school winter break, we still only paid a total of $184.00 for both Sunday and Monday night.
Although our condo could do with some refurbishing, it was clean and spacious with a comfortable bed. The management even included some extras such as a generous portion of firewood.
Earlier we had checked out their Executive Suite. It was brand spanking new with a steam shower, electric fireplace, microwave and small fridge. Although it was a more luxurious suite, my sister and I chose the more spacious condo with the kitchen.
Resort facilities include a pool, exercise room, bbqs, hot tubs and sauna, not to mention wonderful views. The staff were friendly and accommodating.
My sister found this deal on Expedia.ca.
I’ve left the best to last. On our first night a herd of Elk made an appearance right in front of our balcony. You just gotta love that Rocky Mountain experience.
Kimberly Scutt lives in Southern Ontario with her husband and two boys. When not dreaming or planning her next vacation, Kimberly spends her time writing travel guides for kids and running a marketing/special events company. She is currently putting the final touches on her “Kid’s Guide to Venice” and writing a “Kid’s Guide to Hawaii.”
Kimberly is not currently affiliated with any travel service or product.