Category: Quick Get-a-ways

Feb 03

What to take or not take (Part 2)

Best Bavaro Runner Guide ever!  Luis R "Mimi"

Best Bavaro Runner Guide ever! Luis R “Mimi”

In my last letter, I covered some of the basics on light travel packing. Now I want to share a few interesting things I discovered over the years.

Once you go to an area for five or more times, you will most likely buy less and less to bring back with you, In fact you may find yourself leaving more there then you bring back.  Many times now we have packed in many different formats with thinking about what can we bring to benefit the locals to how we can save money on travel bags with those nasty airline fees.

So here are some helpful tips for different types of travelers.  I hope you read my earlier article and think about how you can get your packing down to smaller amounts of bags. It might be from 4 to 2 or as my wife and I travel from two large to one small suitcase.

  1. For the traveler that loves to shop and will be buying something for all the Grand Kids, Friends and neighbors, let me suggest a few things. First try to get your own packing down to on average suite case.  Then with a matched set of luggage, the real packed bag can fit inside of the larger one. If you can’t quite do that, you will find lots of room around the outside of the smaller bag to free form pack things like T-shirts, or other things that can be rolled.

    With our set, we can even put a soft sided medium duffel bag on wheels. So if you are travelling somewhere new that you want to buy “stuff”, you will only pay the airlines for one bag on the way down and you will have the choice of one or more bags to hold the goodies and only pay for that portion on the extra bags.

  2. Now for people traveling to returning locations, you most likely can get away with the one bag and save in both directions, but I want to suggest that  the more you know about a people group, the traits of a country, the more you can have an extra highlight by bringing things that people will really like.

    Now, this is directed at the traveler that is going to one location, usually today this means an all-inclusive vacation that you will be staying at for a full week. In this case you will travel with two pages and do the double bag trick and return with one bag.  Let me share with you some of the things that you might want to do.  The first time we went to Cuba, we knew the basics that we could take for people.  Ten years later we returned to Cuba and this time we did it a little differently.

    Now before I get into this, you have to realize that we get a real kick on seeing faces light up and knowing that we gave them a few things that are sometimes hard to get there.  It is not that they cannot afford to buy them, the resort staff are very highly paid in tips (and sometimes supporting large extended families), but they just cannot buy things that are extras.

    Travel Bag in a bag

    Different shot showing all the extra space between the smaller bag and the larger one.

    So knowing that the staff in the rooms will change sometimes day to day once they know you have gifts and you will also meet a bunch of great staff in the restaurants, and on the resort in different area. So my wife spent all of a few extra dollars and went to the dollar store for gift bags and tissue paper to make up nice looking presents. The staff, were all so pleased with this and it really did make our trip better seeing the smiles.

    I remember on the day we left, we asked if the people who were so friendly to us could meet with us for a little something. To our surprise, they were ALL there and lined up in a line to say good bye.  It was very touching and it was so nice to have the gift bag concept ready to go so we could personalize each one.

  3. Finally, I want to switch gears to the Dominican Republic. How can we apply the same thing here?  On one hand we have a country that still has a very low income level, but we are dealing with resort staff that really do make a good living compared to other countries. 

    One of the things that you will find here is the need to help the school systems. There are other writers that are trying to make a mark and tell you not to bring school supplies as the delivery of the supplies causes interruptions and actually hurts the system.  All I can say is we have never experienced this and there is a right and a wrong way to do any of these outreach things.

    In this case, I have to really tip my hat to a local company that supports one school each year. The school agrees to be interrupted in order to get the much needed supplies. Seems like a good trade off and everyone is on board with it. The company is Bavaro Runners.  When you take their safari trip, and you let

    Bag in a Bag minus our cat.

    Great trick to save on paying for 2 bags when you will only need 2 in one direction. — No the cat is not being packed.

    them know you have school supplies,  they will stop at one of more remote schools, away from the resorts that are really, truly in need of paper (heavy and costly to import), pencils, rulers, etc.

    If you want to read more on this check out their “Giving Back Page” 

    I want to also recommend a good friend and one of the best guides they have. If you want to go this route and you are in the Punta Cana area, please ask for “MiMi” and tell him Steve from Canada sent you.


Permanent link to this article: http://stevestravelblog.com/?p=197

Jan 18

What to take or not take on your next vacation

No I am not talking the latest fashion trends, but rather some of the things you may not have considered. In this article, I will be talking about some tips for you that hopefully will make your travel better and even more rewarding than ever before.

 

travel

Yes, here I am at the end of a long day of traveling. and yes, these are my zippered off travel pants 😉

There are different types of trips and your packing needs will vary depending on the trip. Over the years, my wife and I have decidedly downsized our packing style. Yes, the ladies still have their “things” that need to be packed and fashion dress is important. However, when you get down to the average week long get-a-way to an all-inclusive, you will find that you want to grab those extra ½ hours in the fun having fun instead of going back to the room to get dressed for a formal dinner.  Even if you do, and I will only comment from the man’s perspective here, the dress code can be modified slightly and I have never been questioned at any restaurants for these things.

For example, I have a pair of brown pants that zipper off at the knee. I like wearing these comfortable pants with a nice but casual shirt on the plane. One of the main reasons I like this is that I can convert them to a pair of shorts on the plane before that lovely burst of hot island air hits you when the plane door opens. Yes, many of the smaller islands including the DM still disembark onto the tarmac, and it is blessing for those 4-8 minutes you are on the plane after the door opens.

More importantly, by doing this, I have a pair of short pants for the day excursions and if we go out for a meal where men are required to wear long pants, with a simple zip, I once again have long pants.  Now, I know it is a po-pa and some will say that is just not right but here is the second thing I do. It has been over 10  years since I bothered to pack dress shoes for any vacation to the south. I know some will cringe, but I have to say we need to get over the little things in favor of having a good relaxing time.

Again leaving the cold, I dawn my socks and then put on my sandals. My logic for this is twofold, First, once you are on board, you can ditch the socks as you are “indoors” as socks and dress shoes don’t really work with short pants and two, it is enough for me to wear this when going out to dinner where open toed sandals are not permitted. I have to admit I have gone to the steak house many years ago at one resort when it was very hot and humid where they told me I need at least socks. I was determined not to wear my dress shoes for some reason, I went back and put socks on and then my sandals and never looked back.

I tell you this so that you will see it is more important to bring 3 bathing suits a few tops and go and have fun. We have gone from two suitcases, to one large one to one small suitcase, but we also take more with us then we bring back.

travel

All resorts have staff working in different areas, the question is how much do you tip?

Remember I said it depends on your destination on what you will bring? We like to bring presents for the people that work at the resorts. If you do a little research, it is not too hard to figure out what the local employees would appreciate. For example, we may not realize thisand it will only apply for my readers that are allowed to travel to Cuba, but in this country, even things like tooth brushes and toothpaste we very welcome. Even if they have the money to spend on such things, many times, it would just not be something that is available in the local stores.

Although we do leave money as well, be aware that in many places money is not a tip for that person, but for the workers as a whole. I have heard of some very bad reports including the establishment taking and then giving out after their cut.

Each country will have need of different things. Again in Cuba it is the things that they cannot get their as in basic useful things. I remember at a restaurant one night, the fellow cutting the beef could not speak very good English. Word must of gotten around about us because he asked if we had any “smelly smelly” for his wife and daughter. We did have some things and the next day we happy gave what we had. What I was not expecting was the follow up to this.

I have always found the staff great in the resorts.

I have always found the staff great in the resorts.

I saw him several days laterand he was so happy to see us. Sharing that his family was delighted with the giftsand he asked us to come to his station that night. We did soand he produced a small box of cigars, someone in his family owned this small plantation and he wanted me to have this. I have learned over the years to never say no in this situation as it would be considered an insult so I accepted, but still I think about the fact that I gave him something they could not get, but it must of still cost him a lot to gift back what he could.

To finish with Cuba, other things that are hard to come by are Flip Flops, Kids toys, colouring books and crayons. It is also very important to make up little cards where you say that these things (listing them) are a gift from you and write in the name of the person you are giving it too. Without this management may take these things as well.

In my next post I will look at the very different DMR, things that make great gifts everywhere and some thoughts to make that plane ride even better.

 


Permanent link to this article: http://stevestravelblog.com/?p=190

Nov 28

Review of Radisson Suite Hotel Halifax

Excellent Staff makes an Excellent trip

 
Review of Radisson Suite Hotel Halifax
1649 Hollis Street, Halifax, Nova Scotia B3J 1V8, Canada
 
 radissonEvery hotel I stay at, I try to give them the benefit of the doubt.  After just returning from a trip to the states, I was at this place and I thought, “Here we go again”. There were some minor things wrong like a dirty fridge, a dead remote and a left over wire hanger on the shower from someone else’s dry-cleaning. 
 

But, the response from the local staff to these concerns was fantastic. After years of travel, I should be the first to say, every hotel cleaner is going to have an off day. Sure there are checks that can be in place but from time to time, these can get missed and in my case I had an early 1 PM check in to boot.

I want to congratulate the front desk team and especially Jessica who went out of her way to make sure that a tired travel writer’s or guests concerns were addressed professionally and promptly. The fridge was sparkling when I got back to the room, and I settled in for the later evening. I was a tad hungry and ordered a basic “Duffy’s Classic Burger” ½ hour before the service ended for the night. Again it did not seem to be my night as the burger came with the burger warm, but the blue cheese slice was cold and un-melted on a cold bun. Along with this there was no salt for the fries and they were very bland. This meant the ½ way finished; I just could not finish it.

The next day, I had multiple staff contact me to make sure that things were looked after correctly. The restaurant staff, I am sorry that I did not make note of her name, called and apologized for the meal and offered to make it right. I had just returned from a meal at my daughters choice of restaurants, “Henry’s House” and had even brought back desert. Thinking quickly, they offered a complimentary specialty coffee, which I thought was a touch of class. 

Jessica caught me earlier in the lobby and personally apologized for the problems I had at that point and again offered to make it right which, through herself and the GM Jamie Bolduc, did so. Absolutely wonderful service and that personal down east caring that I never find elsewhere. I am sure it was Jessica that contacted the food staff to get sure i was satisfied. What great service.

I think I was in the same room as I had a few years ago and the renovations are first class. I love the suite design which is the same as before, of course, but they updated everything on the interior. The hardwood flooring is nice, still keeping carpet in the separate bedroom. The TV’s accept HDMI so I can feed my Google movie’s which is a plus and the overall design was excellent. 

As far as the room itself,  many resort level has never been this good. The bed was excellent. Multiple pillows on the a first class mattress, made for a great sleep. The bathroom had two doors and offered a TV in the mirror and a shower that had a huge shower head and still had plenty of pressure. Large enough that you could step in and out of the water flow as needed. Simply a wonderful start to the day. My only note on this is that if you like a cold drink, the ice machines are only located on the even-numbered floors. Knowing this ahead of time means you can simply ask one of these floors to make life the small bit better.

I guess my overall feeling this trip was this; could it have been better? In on sense, yes, since I had a few minor things go wrong, but in the greater sense, no. What really matters to me is the staff. If they care and look after you like they did here, then you could not ask for a better stay. 

I tip my cyber hat and fully recommend this establishment to one and all. 

Oh, I did not get the opportunity to use the pool / hot tub and exercise room, but I did go there and it looked very clean and welcoming. The exercise room had a number of elliptical machines which are my fav. 😉


Permanent link to this article: http://stevestravelblog.com/?p=152

Nov 26

Let’s talk Florida!

Let’s talk Florida! — for today, it’s Anna Maria Island!!

I know that as soon as I say “Florida” most people will automatically think of Orlando, International Drive, Universal Studios and of course the place with the mouse, Disney.  Now, don’t get me wrong here. I grew up with Disney and later Universal. I am a coaster freak, and lately I have become a real fan of the simulators like Despicable Me. At the age of 53, I loved being transformed into a Minion and flying through everything. I will talk more on these areas in another article, but just not here.

There is more to the great state of Florida then the theme parks. Although we “travel” we still like to have several trips to Florida each year. This is a great place to really unwind and still have a week of full days with lots of activities, no matter where you are. Well, within reason. There are some places that have really nothing to do, but just relax, and that can be perfect as well.

Anna Maria Island Beach

Anna Maria Island Beach

Today, I want to introduce you to a spot that has great relaxation and yet is close to fun activities in almost every direction toy can travel. Anna Maria Island is located on the Gulf Coast of Florida, travelling south from Tampa and St. Petersburg, you will cross the Skyway Bridge and land in the Brampton area. Just turn towards the Gulf of Mexico and over a few island causeways, you will find yourself on Anna Maria Island. A touch of the past. This is actually the first of  three islands connecting to each other call North, Central and South Island, North being the actual Anna Maria Island.

Besides having many locations that you can stay at the give you that million dollar view every evening as the sun goes down, there are a lot of things to do, all within easy reach by car. Wait a minute …

Anna Maria Island Sunset

Anna Maria Island Sunset

Did I almost blow past the sunsets, just like that? As with many locations on the Gulf Coast, the sun sets straight out in front of you on the beach. The sunsets are truly spectacular and can make for a romantic evening, if that is what you are looking for. Just be on the beach at Sunset, and you will see what I mean.

The beach is truly a first class beach. I do like to get my walks in on the beach with the surf lapping on my heals as I walk as far as I want and then head back to enjoy the rest of the day. Some people here end up walking very slowly and spending relaxing hours on the beach doing something that you don’t normally find as an activity. That’s right, “Shark Tooth Hunting.”

I was introduced to this great “sport” by my friend Bill Hall. He dawn’s his bike bandana and start walking, looking intently at the spots where shells would gather and wash up in the eddy’s . He is as happy as a clam and had more relaxation then many would from a good jig saw puzzle.

Miles of Beach at Anna Maria Island

Miles of Beach at Anna Maria Island

I know this may sound strange to some, but for some reason, connected to the currents of the Gulf, Sharks would end up somewhere in the ocean to die. Over time their teeth would become mineralized by the ocean replacing the calcium in the teeth with the minerals found in the ocean. The result is fossilized sharks teeth and again for reasons I do not understand, they are very concentrated on this beach.  Go figure. For people that “want” time on their hands and surf sound the day away, this can be heaven. A treasure for those that do not need to find a treasure.

For others, like my wife, Judy, It is a good 3-5 mile brisk walk to start the day and then on to new adventures. Some days this included popping over to Brampton for a relaxing day of shopping and your Starbucks fix.  If you like flea markets, you have to take a trip to the Red Barn Flea Market in Bradenton.  With 145,000 S.F. of space, it really does have something for just Red_Barn_Flea_Market_3[1]about everyone.  If you are renting a home on the Island for a week, the Red Bard has a great Farmers Market with rows on rows of fresh produce.

If that is not in the cards for the day, you can head on down to the peer and  locate some great food. Either on the peer, but also in many other areas. By tradition, you have to visit Rotten Ralphs for some great eats. With 7 miles of beach front, there are many great choices in the food area.

If you like pancakes, you can fins that as well, right on the beach. A nice walk and then another to work off the carbs. really though it is a very nice social event and well worth taking it all in.

Now if you want to do this, you will need accommodations, and the three islands off three different  distinct choices. The North Island (Anna Maria Island)  is more ritzy and offers some unique choices while the South island is more of the up coming place for clubs and moderate rooms.

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While not well known to the public at large, this area is well supported on the Net. Check out these sites to help you chose where you should stay on your next get-a-way or romantic trip.

 The main thing to realize is that at Anna Maria Island, you have a taste of the real old Florida. Sit back, relax, enjoy good food and share the moments with friends. But, remember you are still very close to the modern Florida and yes, i do recommend that you take some day trips. Perhaps up to Tarpon Springs where they harvest sea sponges or into Tampa to the Aquarium or to Busch Gardens and hit a few rides with or without the kids.

If you want to have still another different Florida vacation, I will be sharing on Central Florida in an upcoming post. Heading to the other side of the state, I will have separate posts on the theme parks area of the state. Stay tuned for this. 

If you liked this article, I do ask that you

  1. Subscribe to my Blog at Steve’s Travel Blog
  2. Like our Facebook Page and
  3. Send us your comments to help us in future posts.

For more information please check out these links

https://www.facebook.com/amisland

There are rates for every price range. Here is a site that is well maintained and offers a great selection.

https://www.facebook.com/amiaccommodations

don’t forget the Flea Market 🙂

https://www.facebook.com/RedBarnFleaMarket

Another great resource. 

http://annamariaisland.com/

 


Permanent link to this article: http://stevestravelblog.com/?p=137

Nov 19

Delta Halifax Business Travel Review

After staying in many rooms that I consider “normal” I think I have grown used to having somethings not being perfect. In this case, I have to say that, the more time went on, I was looking closely since I could not find anything wrong with this hotel.

The room was super clean and did not smell like perfume, stale smoke or chemicals, just nice and clean.

Excellent room at the Delta Halifax

Excellent room at the Delta Halifax

I can’t tell you how nice it was to have this as I hate smells covering up other smells and people saying that, that is “clean” To me cleaner small is just as bad on my nose as a stall room. Most likely it is worse for me. Wonderful first impression to have real “clean”.

The staff from the front door, to the check in to the people who attended the room were all friendly with a smile and for the most part, used my first name when addressing me once they knew it. Nice touch.

I was going to go out and sample the local restaurants, but I had emails and work to do first and I ended up ordering from the room service menu. This is not something I like to do, since I have found that hotel quality usually lower than the hard-working restaurants competing for the dollar. I even had a few restaurants recommended to me by clients I was meeting with. In this case, I have to admit that even the food was great and priced to where I feel I got great value for what was spent. Actually, I will go on to say that the simple meal I ordered was far above average. French onion soup was excellent, and the steak sandwich was a full strip loin steak cooked to perfection and was tender and with a really great taste.

One of the reasons for booking this hotel initially, is the central location to everything. It is connected internally to a mall, it is connected to internal walkways to the entire downtown core. I had 3 meetings in the morning and only went outside by choice to enjoy the great weather.

Being connected to the downtown business towers is great, but also being connected to the historic properties and to the boardwalk area was really nice to have as well. Just another step above the hotels that are several blocks away from all of this, and it was priced very nicely so that was not a reason in deciding hotels.

Would I recommend the Delta Halifax and would I stay there again? 100% yes.

Please take this review to heart and go and see what Maritime hospitality is really all about.

I hope this is helpful to you and Enjoy,

Steve

Permanent link to this article: http://stevestravelblog.com/?p=72