Tag: Family

May 16

Classic Resort on St. Pete Beach

Postcard Inn on the Beach — A treat for those wanting something different.

This place, along with a few other locations are the dieing breed to the classic hotel of the 50’s and 60’s. It’s cute, nostalgic you might feel that a Star from the old movies might walk around the corner.

That is what I was after and that is what I found. Was it your modern box hotel with the same old, same old? No way. This place oozes a rich history that you just can’t find everywhere but still exists here.

This 2 story walk up is located directly on the beach with a classic tiki bar style bar with live music that will have you smiling no matter what your age. While we were there we saw young couples, people living a dream, people wanting to escape and even a couple young boys where one was being deployed the next day.

At 57 years old, it was a fun night of people watching and yes, I bought the young fella a drink that was shipping out the next day. My wife and I watched the usual gang at the bar, One lady celebrating a divorce and some younger kids that couldn’t keep up with here.

In the day time, it was kiddies in the pool, people celebrating young love and the classic walks up and down the beach looking for discoveries that have yet to be found.

There are very few places left on earth that are so close and easy to get to yet transport you to a vacation spot that feels half way around the world.

Was it perfect from a travellers stand point no, but the good over rode the bad and when you are vacationing, to me that is the most important point. The beds were very comfortable, We had the usual things in the room but , here, the room should be a place to sleep and if that is what you want, this will fill the bill.

I usually work while travelling, I look for a good work station etc and you will not find that here. There was a spot to set up my gear, but you would not want to sit there for any length of time and I did not. About the only real complaint that I had on the room is that it was newly refurbished and did not have light blocking drapes. The mini-blinds gave you privacy, but did nothing for blocking out the morning light. I saw some rooms on the other side that had the drapes, but I do not know the condition of those rooms.

The food was quite good for breakfast, but a little expensive, we took leftovers back that did us for several meals. 😉 But really, you are on the strip, there are so many places to try out for food it is unreal.

Towels are available at the pool, but also available at the front desk for the asking along with bags of ice that are also available out of the machines, but the commercially packaged ice had no “flavor” so it was a plus to take the extra 2 minutes to walk to the lobby.

I should also point out that the staff was very professional and looked after us very well. When we arrived early, the place was sold out and the room was not yet ready. However, they invited us to take advantage of the resort and phoned us when the room was ready. We still checked in several hours early.

I would 100% recommend this property for your next trip. I feel you should take advantage of this and a few others that most likely will be replaced with the typical 500 room resort in the near future. At some point the land will just be too valuable for this to remain, but I dearly hope that it will be here for years to come.

The owners of this resort seem to take pride in keeping things as they were and take pride in the up keep of the physicality. Enjoy and have a blast soaking in the atmosphere.

Permanent link to this article: http://stevestravelblog.com/?p=585

Aug 22

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


Permanent link to this article: http://stevestravelblog.com/?p=331

Jul 03

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

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