Tag: travel

Dec 02

Canadian Travel Cards, The Good, The Bad and Everything Else


Canadian travel Card
Canadian travel Card

 There have been a lot of changes in the Travel Card Industry, and if you like to collect points, you really have to keep on top of which is the best, for the next two years or more.

Now, we need to cover a few basic things before we get into this. First there are three main types of points to collect in Canada.

  1.  AeroPlan by Air Canada. Yes there are other airlines, but none that are National and apply to all Canadians flying.
  2. AirMiles is a private point collector that has successfully crossed the product line barrier and has been accepted by many store brands as well as Credit Card Companies.
  3. Credit Card Companies. These cards need to be broken down into sections.
    Canadian travel Card

    Canadian travel Card

    1. Traditional cards where they add to your AeroPlan or AirMiles points and

    2. The newer style cards that have their own travel point systems.

 One important point here when we get into the Credit Card systems. I do not endorse or recommend that anyone get a credit card that cannot say they would never, ever carry a balance. The whole point of saving money on travel gets destroyed if you do not pay the entire balance off each and every month and end up paying interest charges. You have been warned and I say this because the newer bank driven travel plans are, simply put, great.

I can remember when, AeroPlan was really the only card and way to get travel miles. Yep, I go that far back. But, over the years, things have changed a lot. Do I still have an AeroPlan account and do I use it? Yes, but no longer for my “basic” travel.

To choose the best card for you depends on 2 things.


  1. The travel points and how much you have to spend to get free travel and
  2. What are the soft costs that still have to be paid to get that travel?

 This second item is a really big point with the newer bank reward systems. With plans like AeroPlan and AirMiles, after you save for a long time to get your points, you still have to pay the taxes and fees. In many cases this can be over $200 per person travelling. A family of four spending $800 in travel frees is not exactly a free plane ticket.

To combat this, Banks started offering their own reward system that could not only be used for air travel, but any kind of travel including Hotels and All inclusive travel packages. This was good, in that, it offered a product outside of the plane travel, but it used to take far more points per dollar value then AeroPlan did.


Canadian travel Card
Canadian travel Card

 Are you confused yet? The 1990’s was a confusing time for travel points. The good news is that Banks have caught on to this need, more and more banks offered their own reward systems and it is getting more and more competitive. This means better and simpler choices for you, the consumer.

There are programs that offer great point value on economy flights and the same points for separate great value on vacation packages. In fact, I have just used up my AirMiles travel points and have basically stopped collecting them through Credit Cards. Yes, I will still use my AirMiles card when merchants offer this. I would be silly not too. But, not for collecting via Credit Cards. The New generation of point systems are just too good. For example, my local grocery chain offers 95 AirMile points when I buy a $200 Gift card. So, we tend to spend a little over $400 a month and by getting two gift cards, I gain and extra 190 AirMile points plus the $400 in points on that Credit Card.

AeroPlan is getting to be the same with one MAJOR exception. For flights 3 hours or less, I don’t mind Economy, but, when I travel for longer time periods I want to be in business class. AeroPlan is the best and really only choice if you want to travel Business or Executive Class on a reasonable number of points. I have never seen a card that has polarized itself quite so badly as this one. I find for any reasonable short-term reservations, booking my travel in less than a month in advance, I really have a hard time getting classic seats in economy and my newer card offer better value in any case. However, the point system leaves everyone else in the dust on Business class seats.

If we speak of AeroPlan Classic Rewards, one long haul ticket is 25,000 points. One business class is 40,000 points. Yes, these levels are changing in 2014, but I see for the small point person, it gets worse, not better. So, 15,000 points to upgrade to Business class. So a 60% increase in points.

Now, all the newer cards are based on the real cost of the tickets. So I looked up the cost from my airport (East Coast)to Vancouver (West Coast). The best Economy price was about $1,500 and the corresponding Business Class (Executive Class Lowest) was $3,500. An increase of $2,000 or a whopping 130% increase. So for any point system that uses the airline ticket price to figure out the points used, they don’t hold a candle to AeroPlan Business Class points. But again, this is the only exception that I can find.

Another way to look at this is you will need to spend $40,000 in purchases for this ticket in AeroPlan plus say $200 in taxes and fees. On the norm for leading bank cards, you would need to spend about $175,000 to $350,000 in purchases to get the same ticket. Again this really only applies to business class travel. Long story short, AeroPlan is still a good choice for those looking for long haul business class flights.

There are features I like in 3 of the newer plans, but really, it all has to come down to, Which plan will me, for my travel needs, travel sooner.


  1. If you are going to be traveling economy, I would recommend a travel card like the new CIBC Aventura MasterCard since they offer special point pricing on airfare only. Unless you live outside of a major metropolitan area like I do. In this case most tickets are over the allowed maximum price.
  2. I do really like the Scotia Gold American Express Card since it is the only one that allow you to book on any site, I.e. Air Canada or Expedia or directly with a hotel, use this card to pay and then call and have them apply the amount to be paid in points. If you hit a great seat sale, you might cash in with this card. My 2 draw backs are that for most purchases, it is still a dollar spent for 1 point and it is American Express. I still find many places that do not accept this card since they have higher costs to the merchant.
  3. But for “package travel” the all-inclusive that so many of us use, right now the choice would have to be the BMO World Elite MasterCard as they offer 2 points instead of 1 for each dollar spent and for packaged holidays, cars, hotels etc. It is a penny a point on all for redemption for mast cards with the exception to the CIBC airline system, so, about 1/2 the points needed from the Bank of Montreal Travel card.

 I am building with BMO for now, being very specific on target amounts going on the card and as these approach, I will once again check the murky waters to the Travel Card business.

I am hoping that the next big card out there will offer 2 or more points on ALL purchases, be a Visa or MasterCard product and allow me to book with anyone and charge it the points on the card. This last point is really huge and will be the next game changer since it is the one thing that will guarantee us that we are getting the best price possible and using the least amount of points to get it. The last thing it needs to have a point for point transfer without penalty to AeroPlan so if you want to be in Business Class … you can.

Hey, this is a travel article, so I am allowed to dream.

Permanent link to this article: http://stevestravelblog.com/?p=164

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,


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

Nov 18

Catalonia Bavaro Resort

This is a review of the Catalonia Bavaro Beach, Casino & Golf Resort, Dominican Republic. We chose this resort after reading many reviews on Trip Advisor. Here is my review.

Bavaro Beach - This location is further from the pack of resorts to the north. This means less venders!!

Bavaro Beach – This place is further from the pack of resorts to the north. This means less vendors!!

Okay, it’s time to set the story straight on this wonderful resort. Let me start be saying that one of the reasons we chose this resort was the large number of positive reviews versus the other resorts that seemed to have about a 50/50 split. Now that I have been there, I want to comment not only on our trip but I will try to give you a set of pointers to help you have a great trip here as well. I truly believe that many of the small number of negative comments could have been overcome if people had more information before they go.

Looking into the Lobby Area

Looking into the Lobby Area

I think it goes almost without saying that we had a GREAT “holiday”. We went with a very open mind. We have traveled to several other islands and have always enjoyed ourselves in Jamaica. This time, it was a last-minute thing and we just tried the best sounding resort and the best price. Because of some other great reviews, we were ready for several things but many things were not commented on.

Several people suggested that we should try to get villa 1 or 2, but we ended up in villa 20. Don’t be as concerned about this. Most, if not all, of the villas that will be available are great and none of the people we met there had any complaints about their rooms. They are adding some new rooms so try to get rooms towards the beach or on any of the inside rows. I would avoid the rooms on the left away from the beach as these, I would guess, might get some of the sound from the nightly shows. Villa 20 is closest to the beach on the inside row on the right hand side. So, it is just before the pool. We never heard a sound from our room and had great sleeps every night.

As you can guess, when we checked in, I was trying to get villa 2 (based on other reviews)and when I heard we were in villa 20, I spent a few minutes at the desk as the very friendly staff tried to see if they could accommodate our request. Suggestion: If there is any delay at the front desk and you want a good drink after a long day of travel, just have the person you’re traveling with walk 20 feet to the left and get yourselves a couple of cold refreshing drinks. Don’t worry about carrying the glasses out of that area and to the front desk, it is fine. The cocktail was fine, but a nice tropical drink that we took with us to our room was great.

I really don’t understand the need for the colored band they put on your wrist when you check in, but all the resorts do this. Now, I am not saying to do this … but, friends that we met at the pool said theirs “accidentally” broke as they scratched an itch and it was not long after that, that our’s somehow “accidentally” broke and then many of the others in the group of people we met there all had the same accident. We did carry them in our bag, but we were never once, asked to see them. So … hint, hint.

If you arrive in the evening, like we did, remember that the buffet area by the beach is only open in the day time, not at night. In the evening, it is 2 of the specialty restaurants, and you need a reservation. So, remember to either head back to the lobby area for dinner or just send your bags on ahead of you and grab a bite right there.

Although the staff are very friendly and most know enough English to get the job done, please remember that this is a Spanish-speaking country. I found many smiles from the staffs faces as we tried to use their language. They would help me pronounce the words correctly and the instant friendly attitude was there all week. I think many of the complaints about the staff are unfounded. My wife and I found ALL the staff to be extremely friendly, but we treated them as friends as well. The most common but still rare comment I heard about the staff was something like “The staff is not friendly, They don’t even speak English” Well, there were many people at the resort that were from France, Italy, Spain as well as French people from Quebec here in Canada. I think it would be hard to find a large number of waiters and other staff in a Spanish-speaking country that can speak 5 or more languages, right. So I think that if you give the staff a little honour and allow them to take pride in their language, you will have a wonderful experience.

Now while we are on the topic of staff, I want to cover another 2 areas that will greatly help you in you positive vacation experience. We did two things every day that made our experience there like flying first class.

1.We brought gift packs of shampoo, specialty soups, and small things like pencils and candy for kids. We got most of these things with one trip to the dollar store so it was not expensive. We just quickly made up 7 packet’s in sealable baggies and left one each day with $5 for the house cleaner. We had the opportunity to meet the house cleaner and found out she had 3 small children and she was delighted with the gifts. Everyday, we ended up with extra water, beer, towels in many different shapes and fresh flowers everywhere. However, the smile on her face was a treat in itself.

2.At the main pool bar, which was the area that we spent most of our time at, I made sure to know the name of the bartender and slipped him $5 every day. That and my wife gave him a flashing pin of a parrot and other pins that he really liked. In fact the pins were a hit and other staff wanted one. We just stuck with the one fellow and I could not get my glass or our friends glasses empty. He always had a smile and was extremely friendly.

Do you have to tip? Of course not. I truly believe that you would get great friendly service anyway. But, All I am suggesting is this: If you were not at an all-inclusive and you went for drinks or dinner, you would, most likely, tip the staff when you paid your bill, right? Well here, you do not have a bill, but you still have staff that, in my opinion, deserves a tip, and with the huge majority of the guests not tipping, you will stand out to them as someone to give special service to.

Several people reported in their reviews that there were a lot of kids at the resort. Well, this is correct, but only for one day. It seems that the staff are allowed to bring family in to the pool area for the 1/2 day on Sunday. I don’t think that this is every Sunday, but the Sunday we were there, they were highly visible. Note, this was the ONLY day we saw a lot of kids that went around together like they were very knowledgeable of the area. All other days, we only saw a few kids with their parents (guests with kids). We just went with the flow and still had a great day, but here is a suggestion, if you are concerned that this will make an unpleasant day for you then, just book one of the great excursions that are available and be out of the resort area for the Sunday morning. I highly recommend the Safari Tour that takes you out into the countryside and the off shore snorkeling – you can actually swim with sharks (remember to bring a disposable underwater camera). Personal tip. If you want to try the snorkeling, I like to pop down to Wal-Mart and pick up a low-cost mask and snorkel kit. I think it is sort of nice to have my own snorkel 🙂 We left ours in the room for the house cleaners kids. Remember for any items like that, leave a note stating that these items are for the house cleaner and you’re giving permission for them to have them.

Now while I mentioned the Safari tour, This is a great way to see the “real” country. You will be visiting places that show the different things in the country. We bought cigars at the cigar factory, pure vanilla at the plantation and a lot of other things. They offer you hats and shirts at the sugarcane area and 85% of the money spent for these items goes to a local school that they support. (Yes, it does go to the school) Another Tip: Schools are provided only until grade 4. the schools are in need of supplies and although it might sound silly to us, it is a great blessing if you bring supplies to give to the school. We brought pencils but we discovered that scribblers/writing pads/books (or even just paper) are in great need. To see these kids is a little heart breaking, but you will leave with a great feeling. As well, a lot of people brought candy to give to kids along the way, but what really got to me was that they all asked for water!!! That was the big treat for them. So, be kind to your maid, ask for extra water. Of course you will not hear them say water, but you will hear them ask for “Agua” (Pronounced A-gua.)

Here is another tip that we discovered as we came back to our country and came through customs. If you bring back the honey or other things that are not labeled, they may not make it through customs. Wood products are iffy but we made it through with the carvings and things like that. Now, on the tour, they will talk about something called Mama-Guana. It is a drink that they take once a day for good health. However you can buy the bottle with 9 different kinds of wood in side ready for the liquid ingredients. We just liked the look of the bottle with the wood inside so we bought it. At the border, it was taken because of the wood. However, they told us that if we had of filled it with the honey and rum, the alcohol would have made sure the wood was clean and we would have been able to keep it, So, if you like this, buy the honey there and mix it back at the resort with free rum before coming home. I can’t say you will pass with success, but I can say that the wood will not make it on it’s own so … with free rum, you have little to lose.

I mentioned that we have been to Jamaica before and we thought we were ready for the sun here. I am not sure what the difference is, but the sun seemed to be more intense. I brought factor 15 with the intent on quickly going to 8 and then a 4, but we ended up buying a factor 30 to protect our shoulders. We still tanned even with the factor 30 on, so, considering the expensive price on the resort stores, be sure to bring some with you.

Here is a quick check list of things to bring.

1.LARGE Insulated coffee mugs (to keep your drinks cold at the pool or on the beach)
2.Disposable underwater camera – hint, even at the beach at the resort, you can snorkel. Take along a few crunched up bread rolls for the fish and take some great pic’s
3.Water shoes – useful for going out beyond the roped area where there is some rock bottom.
4.Inflatable water raft (Buy 2 or more so you will have a spare and leave them with a newly met friends that is staying later then you.)

All in all we:
1.had great weather
2.met new great friends
3.had great service
4.went on a great excursion
5.ate at great restaurants
6.had a great time

We highly recommend this resort.

MiMi -- the best guide at the Bavero Runners safari excursion

MiMi — the best guide at the Bavero Runners safari excursion

We kept in touch with MiMi and if you are doing this tour, we recommend asking for him.

New friends we met and had fun with for the week.

New friends we met and had fun with for the week.

We always meet new friends. Break out and start talking. It makes for some fun times. I think we were up to 12 by the end of the week.


Permanent link to this article: http://stevestravelblog.com/?p=59

Nov 17

Time for a change

A new day is dawning.

A new day is dawning.

Time for a change.

After reading and spending time in many different travel sites and blogs, I did not see anything that ready covered all the basis for information that I was after.

Oh, I could find information by digging and searching many, many different sites, but why should you go through this when I already have?  this is why I wanted to create this blog. Combining my reviews that I put up on TripAdvisor and different travel sites, along with the information that I discovered along the way.

i will divide my posts into these separate categories so that if you are looking for something specific, you should be able to find it quickly and easily.

I hope you will enjoy reading through my Blog. I urge you to join and get email updates as I post new entries of my travels around the world.

Steve’s Travel Blog.

Steve Kincade


Permanent link to this article: http://stevestravelblog.com/?p=35

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