Category: Business Travel

Excursion Trip

How blessed are we who get to travel in our course of life? Recently, I wrote about extending your trip to include a separate stop at no cost to you if you are using travelling from most of the major point programs.

Flying over the Rocky's

Flying over the Rockies on my way to LAX


I was travelling on AeroPlan for that trip and instead of just heading to Vancouver, I booked a multi-leg trip to include a weekend stopover, flying into LAX with no other cost other than the hotel for two nights and incidental costs that most people incur while travelling.

Hotel in LA

Hotel in LA

Since this was my first trip to this end of the country, I was not sure where to stay. The choices are many and so I headed over to TripAdvisor to make my choice. I was looking for something different. I wanted to be fairly close to the Airport district as I thought many of my readers would be selecting this area for a short stop over and yet close enough to several attractions so I can see the area while I was there.

Santa Monica Pier

Santa Monica Pier — The end of Highway 66

I have to say, I had an awesome time. Between the charter local bus service for the hotels in the area, the local bus service was second to none. I was shocked that for a very low fee, compared to my local city, I was on a bus that whisked me straight over to Santa Monica Pier. It was a doubly great since I was travelling on the Memorial Day Weekend.

Santa Monica Pier

Santa Monica Pier

Now I know some may be saying that it would be too busy and if you were to travel by car, I would agree with you 100% as parking looked to be a little tight, but arriving by local transit was no problem and the areas to explore were all fine. On the pier itself, you had families sharing food, laughter on the rides and fishing from the pier. It was really nice to see.

Fishing at Santa Monica Pier

Fishing at Santa Monica Pier

Down on the beach, we had the celebrations to honour the fallen which was touching to see. A large display of crosses were arranged on the beach with several to represent other religions of the soldiers that gave their lives for the freedom, not only in the USA but for everyone that enjoys the democracy we have and the freedom to travel around the world.

Memorial Day at Santa Monica Pier

Memorial Day at Santa Monica Pier

One nice touch was the shop out at the end of the pier that marks the end of highway Route 66. Such a famous iconic place to say “we were there” On your next trip I can only urge you to take that extra step and explore the many choices you have for stop over or multi-leg trips. I am sure you will find it a pure pleasure.

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Travel as far as you can

How Far Can You Fly?

How Far Can You Fly?

When you travel, are you taking full advantage of the connections that you have to take? Have you considered extending that business trip by a few days and taking in the sights of one of your stops?

Pacific Coast

Pacific Coast

Why not do this on purpose and take full advantage of the possible stops along the way.

Recently I had to take a business trip from the East coast of Canada to the West coast. As I thought about stopping off in Toronto or Calgary for a few days, I thought, “I wonder how far I can travel on the same number of points.

For this particular trip, I was travelling on AeroPlan points. They have an option on booking that you can plan a “Multi-Leg” journey where you can pick an extra stop along the way and chose different dates. This allow you to select the path of your journey and the duration of each segment stopover.

Yes, there are limits to how far you can journey but it is very flexible and well worth the time to investigate this great option. It seems that if the extra leg is within a short-haul flight of the farthest destination, you can easily book it at no extra points.

My flight would have seen me leave New Brunswick, fly through Toronto and on to Vancouver. But, as I looked at my options, I went from my home base, and selected LAX as my first stop. This still took me up to Toronto and then a direct flight down to LA for an awesome Memorial Day weekend at the end of Highway 66. Some of you will know this as the Santa Monica Pier.

Santa Monica Pier

Santa Monica Pier — The end of Highway 66

From there, I selected my second leg that went from LAX up to Vancouver and after my work was complete, I flew from Vancouver back to the east coast as my third leg of my trip.  You do have to love the adventure of travel and you can even make the flight more enjoyable by selecting the best craft type for your journey.

I chose to fly business class for several reasons. Most are the usual ones that have to do with comfort but this time, I selected the flights that had the most modern seating arrangements. When I booked my segments, I first looked at the craft type and then confirmed this on the SeatGuru site. I like this site because they give you tips on the best to the worst seats to select on the flights.

I wanted to experience the full sleeper seating options and I was able to select three different styles on the longer segments of my itinerary.  For the flight from Toronto Canada down to LAX I was shown the back seat on the single row side had extra space and privacy. This turned out to be an excellent recommendation and made for as close to a perfect flight as I have ever had.

Flying up the Rocky's

Flying up the Rocky’s

For the heavy traffic but shorter flight from LAX to Vancouver, I also had a great seat. This was surprising to me since it was an Air Canada Rouge flight. As many of my readers know I am not fond of Rouge and I would not call myself a fan, but, I have to admit they have really improved things. Still a long ways to go, but it is worth noting that things are getting better. Keeping in mind that my Android device still would not work on the Rouge entertainment system, but, as always, I re-loaded my tablet with a few good movies and a book or two.

I will share more on my LAX side trip later, but for now, I do hope you will consider taking a little more time booking your next flight and take the opportunity to travel to a new place. Experience what is all out there for you to enjoy and live life to the fullest.

Permanent link to this article: http://stevestravelblog.com/?p=513

INTERCONTINENTAL TORONTO CENTRE

 InterContinental Hotel Toronto Centre

InterContinental Hotel Toronto Centre

INTERCONTINENTAL TORONTO CENTRE

Stayed August 14-16, 2014

Room: King Suite on the 19th Floor.

What a delight to stay at the Intercontinental Toronto Centre. I was on a trip to a conference and I wanted to be within walking distance. This seemed like a good choice. Being part of the IHG Hotel line, I was able to take advantage of the priority check in which had me in my room in a few minutes. This was a nice surprise since I arrived after 5 PM and I was concerned about a check-in at this time of day.

No worries at this place. My fist session was at the Roy Thompson Hall at 7 PM which was only about a 4 minute walk from this hotel. I had time to order and eat a delightful room service burger and still had time to walk, not up the street, but rather through the City Way. An internal walkway that went through several of the downtown buildings.

Azure Staff -- Great Food

Omelet Staff -- Great Food

Omelet Staff — Great Food

The next two mornings I had a delightful breakfast buffet at Azure, the restaurant inside of the hotel. I do like a buffet, but I am fussy eater in that I want to have fresh, hot, well seasoned food with great service. They have it all here. I usually go do different spots for each meal but I wanted to come back and try more of the food here the second day. Not only was the omelets service excellent, the rest of the choices were all good as well.

I have two other points for you in this review. Usually, I like to give kudo’s to a staff member or two that I think went above the call and offered excellent service. I honestly cannot do that here. Everyone from the hotel front desk to the staff at Azure were all great. Fast efficient and making sure I wanted for nothing. Hat’s off to the staff here. Good staff means a great management team in the background. This means you should have a great experience as well. I am including a few photo’s of staff members.

INTERCONTINENTAL TORONTO CENTRE Spa

INTERCONTINENTAL TORONTO CENTRE Spa

I did not have time to treat myself at the Spa, but, I did take a walk through and the Spa facilities look very nice. I wish I had of stayed an extra day to unwind from everything and indulge myself here. Maybe next time.


Finally, if this is just a stopover, then this won’t impact you as I am sure all the rooms are great, but if you are coming for two or more days, I would highly recommend upgrading to a suite. I did and I was super pleased. It is only a modest increase and to have a separate room, separate from the bedroom to relax in, just make it feel so much more relaxing. I have stayed in other hotels where it was not worth it, but at the Intercontinental Toronto Centre, it is worth the upgrade 100%
Book InterContinental Hotels and Resorts today!

I do want to say that the prices might seem high to the budget traveler to stay in the downtown core, but I compared most of the hotels in the business district and I found this hotel to be of great value. If your travels are taking you to Toronto, save on all the daily cab fares and treat yourself to a hotel stay here. I am recommending this one.

INTERCONTINENTAL TORONTO CENTRE Business Desk

INTERCONTINENTAL TORONTO CENTRE Business Desk

INTERCONTINENTAL TORONTO CENTRE Bathroom

INTERCONTINENTAL TORONTO CENTRE Bathroom

INTERCONTINENTAL TORONTO CENTRE Suite Room

INTERCONTINENTAL TORONTO CENTRE Suite Room

INTERCONTINENTAL TORONTO CENTRE Bed Area

INTERCONTINENTAL TORONTO CENTRE Bed Area


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The Best Kept Secret of the Canadian Airports!!

Seats in the Maple Leaf Lounge

Seats in the Maple Leaf Lounge

We’ve all been there, the three-hour stop over or worse, the unexpected delay. Whatever the reason, so many people just don’t know what to do in times like this. They end up walking from one area to another and then, they decide to grab a bite and a drink. We all know that without blinking an eye, thirty to fifty dollars can disappear just like that.

I know a lot of people know about lounges, but they have never been in one or have on that rare occasion when they flew business class. Many people think  the only way to get into an Air Canada Maple Leaf  Lounge is either by flying as part of your job and you gain Elite Status, or by having all-powerful business class ticket.

Entrance to the Maple Leaf Lounge

Entrance to the Maple Leaf Lounge

Now granted, that used to be true. But now there are many ways to gain access to either the Airline Lounge or the multitude of third-party lounges like Priority Pass.  I think it because of these new lounges that Air Canada with their Maple Leaf  Lounges relaxed  the ways that you too can enjoy these day saving experiences.

In North America, there are 18 locations where you can relax in an Air Canada Maple Leaf lounge. Since most flights connect at major centers across Canada, the odds are very good there will be on in your next connecting flight.  If you now have the right Credit Card, you can get free access. If you’re traveling on Flex (One up from the bottom in fare tiers) you can now buy a one time pass for either $25 or $50. Is this worth it? Well if your flight is delayed, and you are going to have something to eat and drink, it sure is!

But , if your flight  has a known stopover there is even a better way. All you have to do is join AeroPlan and collect 7,000 points per person, and you can buy a pass no matter what class ticket you are flying in.  So, the question is; Is it worth it?

Bar at the Maple Leaf Lounge

Bar at the Maple Leaf Lounge

Remember I mentioned the stop over and buying some food and a drink? Well in the lounges, they always have a choice of really good soups and a salad bar that is second to none. and a lunch and dinner there are usually several hot dishes in trays. I have never walked away hungry and it is all complimentary.  Not only that the drinks, including coffee, tea, espresso etc and all beer, wine and top shelf spirits are also complimentary.

So, value wise, the price is already covered with what you would have spent outside the lounges in the busy airports. Now picture free Wi-Fi, Cell-Free quiet locations so you can truly relax. Full business centers that are top-notch. The list goes on to Great service, all the latest in Magazines and Newspapers and all the seats are spaced out and comfortable.

Shower in the Maple Leaf Lounge

Shower in the Maple Leaf Lounge

There are also some hidden features that are not really advertised and there are things you can do to make the next connection even better. I have seen more than one lounge that have private shower areas so, if you need to freshen up on a long trip, you can. The drinks and food are help yourself. It is nice that you are already past security so no problem getting some snacks and juice for the plane. This way, you are not at the whim of the busy staff in the air.

If you are traveling with children, many locations have a TV room that is separate from the rest that have kid’s shows on. Not only is this a nice touch it keeps the kids quiet and away from the other passengers that are trying to read or catch up on their emails in a quiet atmosphere.

Food in the Air Canada Maple Leaf Lounge

Food in the Air Canada Maple Leaf Lounge

Can you tell I really like these lounges? You won’t find these to the south of the border under the star alliance carriers. Yes, they have lounges, but most things inside you have to pay for. So, you tend to get a bunch of business travelers hovering at the bar where you pay and are expected to tip if you want a second drink. No, Air Canada does it best. Help yourself to food, snacks and enjoy. Find that perfect seat and unwind while you wait for that connecting flight. If you want your next trip to include the travel days as a good day, take in a lounge. hosted by Air Canada. One more way I can say I am proud to be a Canadian.

Permanent link to this article: http://stevestravelblog.com/?p=262

Easy Listening at 35,000 feet

Easy Listening at 35,000 feet.

Easy Listening at 35,000 feet.

I’m not sure which came first, either more people choosing to listen to their own devices while flying or the now growing trend from airlines like Air Canada Rouge to only offer video and audio through passengers devices. Either way, this is now very much the reality, and it presents a new problem for us, the traveler.

I have tested multiple devices with the standard ear-buds that come with them and with the back ground noise and popping ears at cruising altitude, the quality of the sound just disappears. If you are going to travel and want to relax with a movie or you favorite music for three and a half hours while in flight, you need to invest in some good quality noise cancelling/damping headphones. So the question is, which will be best for you?

It’s easy to read the reviews and compare the different qualities that are out there, but that does not mean they will be good for in flight use. So, we looked at multiple brands and after testing on the ground, we narrowed it down to two units that we thought were very good quality and still at a reasonable price. We wanted to also make sure to test the best in-ear and the best over-ear products while in-flight.

Bower & Wilkins C5 In-Ear Headphones.

Bower & Wilkins C5 In-Ear Headphones.

For the in-ear, we choose the “Bower & Wilkins C5 In-Ear Headphones” as our number one product pick. It has several very nice features that will be appealing to many different people. It uses passive technology get rid of that background noise and enhance the sound coming to your ears. We really liked the secure loop that expands to let you loosely wear these is a normal environment or they can be snugly inserted for the noisier environments.

 

able planet Linx Fusion

able planet Linx Fusion

For the over-ear product, we went with the “able planet Linx Fusion” as the number one pick for this category. This unit has a rechargeable battery built in and offers you a truly great listening experience in any environment. It not only blocks out the background noise, but, at the same time, it is enhancing the quality of the to-ear sound through their 4-D technology.

Both of these products are worthwhile purchases and we feel you will be pleased with either choice. But, which one is better for air travel?

For traveling, the compactness of the C5 was great. However, If you are carrying your laptop, tablet and other things in your carry on, then size is not really a factor and we had no problem with the larger Linx Fusion.

Carrying sizes

Carrying sizes

But, the point has to go to the C5 since many travelers would only have their tablet and headphones for on the plane.

During the flight both products worked well. The C5 needed to be firmly in the ear as the environment was noisy. The Linx Fusion has a firm tension and snuggly covered your ear, offering you a very nice sound experience. However, while this was fine for music, when it came to videos and if you wear glasses, the added pressure on the rim area did cause some discomfort over time. This is going to be the case for all over-ear products.

When it came to meal time, it was the Linx Fusion that won the point. The C5 being firmly in the ear, caused that very loud internal sound while eating and drinking. Try eating a potato chip while you have your fingers covering your ear and you will understand. We had to loosen them and then the sound quality went away.

Overall, while there were some things that are noted, both products are the best in their class. If you are a convince person that likes to travel light and pauses the entertainment while you eat, then the “Bower & Wilkins C5 In-Ear Headphones” is a clear choice. If you want the best overall sound quality and power assisted noise cancellation then the “able planet Linx Fusion” would be an excellent choice for you.

Either way, they both pass the In-Flight test and both provide “Easy listening at 35,000 feet”

Permanent link to this article: http://stevestravelblog.com/?p=249

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