Tag: tips

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

Mar 08

The Casa Magna Marriott Puerto Vallarta

The Casa Magna Marriott Puerto Vallarta

Posted by Laura Snow on March 7, 2015 1


Nestled in the Puerto Vallarta Marina beach strip, the Casa Magna Marriott is a beautiful beachfront resort, with a full conference center, five restaurants, three pools and a fantastic fitness centre. The tropical grounds of the resort are covered in cacti, palm trees, flowering vines and lush gardens. The moment we walked through the front entrance, I immediately felt like I was in a tropical paradise. When you walk up the front steps you can see straight through the other side of the building to the pool and beach!

The hotel is very close to the airport, which is amazing when you just want to get to your hotel and put on cooler clothes on your arrival. It’s set outside of the downtown area, but still only a 10-15 minute bus or taxi ride to the city center or hotel zone. We had no trouble getting around Puerto Vallarta during our stay, and greatly enjoyed the quiet atmosphere of the area. The Casa Magna is not an all-inclusive hotel so has fewer people who just came to drink and party.  Even though we left our kids at home we appreciated the family atmosphere. There are three golf courses near-by, the hotel has a five star spa and you can do many water activities right from the beach in front of the hotel.

The marina is only a five-minute walk from the hotel, and has many shops, services, restaurants, boat charters and dive shops. We spent a lot of time there since we took a scuba diving trip from PV Scuba in the marina. The marina has a totally different feel at night with many open air restaurants and boats all lit up.

The grounds, pool areas, and guest areas at the hotel were kept very clean. Our bed was extremely comfortable and the room had everything we needed. You have to pay for internet in the room but wifi is free and very fast in the lobby and pool area.

All of the staff at the hotel were very friendly, and helpful especially the bellhops at the front door of the hotel. They helped us get taxis, let us know where we could walk to and remembered us when we came back.

There are many locals selling their hats, jewellery, blankets and souvenirs on the beach in front of the hotel every day. They are very nice people. Talk to them. If you don’t want to buy anything just tell them no a few times and then start a conversation. They love to talk and often have questions about where you’re from!

We ate at three of the restaurants on site and I would highly recommend any of the Mexican dishes from any of them. The buffet was excellent with many, made to order, items including a local specialty: Chicadiles. This breakfast plate is made with taco chips, eggs, shredded chicken, ranchero sauce and cheese. My husband highly recommends it! There were also made to order omelettes and breakfast fajitas! My favourite drink at the Casa Magna was a fresh juice made from cactus, celery, orange juice and some other veggies/fruits I can’t remember. It was delicious and I had it almost every day. I would not recommend getting the american style food at the resort – the “american” cheese isn’t what we’re used to. It’s a much better idea to order the local food, and try new things!

The hotel has a fantastic view of the ocean, and city, especially at night. I was also lucky enough to see a humpback whale, in the ocean, from the hotel on my last day. The rooms all seem to have a wonderful view, but we really liked ours, with the sun setting over the ocean, directly in front of the balcony.

The beach was a little rough, at times, to swim in, but clean and warm. My husband did not hesitate to play in the waves, more than once! I stuck to the pool, which was warm and had a pool bar!

While we were at the Casa Magna, Marriott Hotels had a program going on with Go Pro where you could test drive a Go Pro Hero 4 camera. This was such a fun opportunity! We took the Go Pro with us on our scuba dive to Los Arcos and are so happy we have a video to remember it by!

via The Casa Magna Marriott Puerto Vallarta.

Permanent link to this article: http://stevestravelblog.com/?p=494

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

May 19

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

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

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