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Travel With Purpose

October 26, 2019 Deals
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This week, Becky and Vacations Away owner Michelle N. were in Seattle for the annual Ensemble Travel conference. The theme of this years event was “Travel With Purpose”, and speakers included Spencer West, Brett Tollman of The Travel Corporation, Ally & Scott Svenson of the Seattle Coffee Company & Mod Pizza, and Jodi Manning of Cool Effect just to name a few.

What is travel with purpose and how can we take part? The current climate crisis is a focus every day for each of us. We can’t ignore it (nor should we). At Vacations Away, when you book your vacation with us, we provide reusable drink mugs with straws, travel totes/backpacks for day excursions and beach uses, addressable luggage tags to avoid using the paper ones that are airport provided, documents are sent out in a PDF to your email rather than being printed out (unless you opt in to paper copies), etc. As an office, how do we do our part? We recycle printed paper and work on excel spreadsheets, we wash and recycle take out containers, soup cans, yogurt cups etc, and we collect our compostable food waste to add to compost.

There is always more that can be done and climate change is bigger than a system of reduce, reuse, recycle and avoiding plastic straws and cups. It goes to the core of humanity. We know that todays’ traveler is more concerned with the experience than the destination. They want more fulfilling adventures and want to return from their trip feeling like they left some good behind and that their trip made a difference. This week, we were reminded of longstanding and new to us companies offering travel experiences with which you can make a direct effect on the local economy and ways you can reduce your carbon footprint. For example, Canada’s own G Adventures founded the non-profit charitable organization Planeterra in 2003. Guests travelling with G Adventures can make a donation with their booking that goes directly to Planeterra and due to G’s profit margin they are able to cover 100% of Planeterra’s overhead costs. This means every single dollar raised stays in the communities where they are actively working. Planeterra has contributed millions to social enterprises like Parwa Restaurant in Peru, Mi Cafecito in Costa Rica, Tribal Textiles in Zambia, Women on Wheels in India, the Maldives Plastic Program, and many more. Planeterra is focused on helping disadvantaged women in rural areas, creating new pathways for youth, preserving local culture and environmental protection. To that end, Planeterra currently has 85 active projects in 51 countries across all 7 continents.

Equally important is The Travel Corporations’ TreadRight Foundation. TreadRight essentially means “Make Travel Matter”. With every vacation you book with any of The Travel Corporations’ brands (Trafalgar, Insight, AATKings, Uniworld, and Contiki to name a few) they want to ensure that each and every traveller treads right. TreadRight’s mission is simple – to have a positive impact on the people and communities they visit, to protect wildlife and marine life, and to care for the planet we call home. The easiest way to contribute to TreadRight and their global initiative is the next time you book a vacation with one of the Travel Corporations’ brands, elect to receive e-documents instead of printed documents. In doing this, TreadRight will plant a tree in your name. Since starting this particular initiative, TreadRight has planted over 100,000 trees spread over 700 acres through North and Latin America, Asia and Africa. Alternatively, if you have no travel plans but want to do better on your next vacation, let the world know you’ve heard by taking TreadRight’s pledge: https://www.treadright.org/pledge/

Cool Effect. This company, which has partnered with Ensemble Travel, is doing everything in their power to reduce carbon emissions. What are carbon emissions and how does me paying money  equal  a reduced carbon footprint? I asked that question, too. I had no idea. Every one of us creates carbon, when you breathe out you put carbon into the atmosphere. No one can be faulted for a natural, biological necessity. What we can do is look after the carbon we create on a day to day basis via our daily habits. Every person creates, on average, 17 tonnes of carbon per year. For example, a flight from San Francisco to New York creates approximately 2 tons of carbon per person. To offset that carbon emission would cost around $7 per tonne. What happens then, is that money is given to programs that help reverse carbon emissions such as Sea of Change in Myanmar where mangroves are planted along the coast line for coastal protection against rising sea levels. Mangroves naturally absorb carbon and store it in the soil. They grow quickly and can therefore soak up a large amount of carbon in a short amount of time. That money you donate also goes towards initiatives like BioGas digesters for farmers, providing clean cookstoves to impoverished families, erecting wind turbines and capturing methane which is then converted to usable energy. To my mind, that fee is worth every penny.

So what about you? How can you as a traveler help this issue? First, it’s obvious – travel with PDF documents or use the tour operator app, refuse single use plastics by taking your provided Vacations Away travel mug, pay via the airline or Cool Effect to offset your carbon footprint, take an hour to pick up garbage from the beach or park, choose hotels and resorts that have made commitments to green initiatives (Hyatt, Fairmont, Sandos, AMResorts, etc), and elect to only have room service every other day. These are the items to get you started, but what about something bigger? What else can you do? Take the road less travelled. Avoid the overcrowding in Italy’s Cinque Terra by heading to the Amalfi Coast instead, visit Eastern Europe to help out the local economy who are so in need if tourism’s economic benefits. Travel with tour operators who offer local living experiences so you can have a meaningful cultural exchange. Stay in locally owned hotels and eat at locally owned and operated restaurants. Pay fairly for the items people are providing and take the train instead of flying – it’ll be a more relaxing and beautiful way to see the location you would have otherwise missed while in an aircraft. But also, don’t take this information to make yourself feel badly for your past travel habits. We can be a part of society while learning how to better it. After all – once we know better, we do better.

#MakeTravelMatter

https://www.cooleffect.org
https://planeterra.org
https://www.treadright.org
https://greenglobaltravel.com

Vacations Away Exclusive!

July 8, 2019 Deals
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SOUTH AMERICA & ANTARCTICA CRUISE
JANUARY 31 TO FEBRUARY 22, 2020
ABOARD HOLLAND AMERICA’S “ZAANDAM”

Vacations Away welcomes you to climb aboard this spectacular 22 day cruise from Buenos Aires, Argentina to Santiago, Chile
South America, with its ice-blue glaciers and red-hot tango; and Antarctica, utterly stunning in white!

We are pleased to offer exclusive group rates on this unique itinerary aboard the intimate Zaandam, carrying only 1,432 guests.  Their gracious and warmly attentive service instantly make you feel at home.

Cruise Itinerary

31JAN20  DAY 1  BUENOS AIRES, ARGENTINA
01FEB20  DAY 2  BUENOS AIRES, ARGENTINA
02FEB20  DAY 3  MONTEVIDEO, URUGUAY
03FEB20  DAY 4  DAY AT SEA
04FEB20  DAY 5  PUERTO MADRYN, ARGENTINA
05FEB20  DAY 6  DAY AT SEA
06FEB20  DAY 7  PORT STANLEY, FALKLAND ISLANDS
07FEB20  DAY 8  DAY AT SEA
08FEB20  DAY 9  ANTARCTIC EXPERIENCE  (CRUISING)
09FEB20  DAY 10  ANTARCTIC EXPERIENCE  (CRUISING)
10FEB20 DAY 11  ANTARCTIC EXPERIENCE  (CRUISING)
11FEB20  DAY 12  ANTARCTIC EXPERIENCE  (CRUISING)
12FEB20  DAY 13  DAY AT SEA
13FEB20  DAY 14  DRAKE PASSAGE AND CAPE HORN  (CRUISING)
14FEB20  DAY 15  USHUAIA, ARGENTINA
14FEB20  DAY 15  DAYLIGHT CRUISING GLACIER ALLEY,  BEAGLE CHANNEL (CRUISING)
15FEB20  DAY 16  PUNTA ARENAS, CHILE
15FEB20  DAY 16  STRAIT OF MAGELLAN  (CRUISING)
16FEB20  DAY 17  SAMIENTO CANAL AND AMALIA GLACIER, CHILE (CRUISING)
17FEB20  DAY 18  CHILEAN FJORDS (CRUISING)
18FEB20  DAY 19  PUERTO CHACABUCO, CHILE
19FEB20  DAY 20  CASTRO, CHILE
20FEB20  DAY 21  PUERTO MONTT, CHILE
21FEB20  DAY 22  DAY AT SEA
22FEB20  DAY 23  SANTIAGO (SAN ANTONIO), CHILE

Prices start at only $4,998.00CAD per person plus taxes & port fees of $737.50CAD  (based on double occupancy).  Airfare and insurance are additional.

**Optional extensions:
3 night pre cruise excursion to Iguazu Falls
or
1 night pre cruise stay in Buenos Aires plus  1 night post cruise stay in Santiago

For complete details, please contact Michelle Nogier at [email protected] or (306) 477-7460 / (800) 689-8747

Space is limited!  Call to reserve your room today!!

Prince Albert National Park

July 8, 2019 Deals
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Ah, P.A.N.P – so much to do, see, taste, explore.

In our office, both Desta and Becky are avid campers. Becky’s family just hopped on the camping bandwagon in summer of 2018, while Desta has been camping her whole life but has had the pleasure of travelling with her own kids over the past 10 years. Desta often frequents Prince Albert National Park, and Becky just spent her first holiday there for Canada Day long weekend in 2019!

If you’re like Becky and just beginning, it’s probably best to stay closer to town. Camping in Beaver Glen campground just outside the townsite of Waskesiu is great – fires allowed, water and power sites, sites suitable for tenting, elk walking through, birds and wild flowers to explore. The streets are well cared for and are great for bike rides. Plus, take a walk or bike ride past the oTentik’s for the access route to the Beaver Glen beach. Also available is the Red Deer campground which is in town, full service but fires are not allowed. Either campground is a short distance to the townsite. The huge main beach of Waskesiu is across the street from the Waskesiu Trading Company (home of the best cinnamon buns), and a short walk from Pete’s Terrace for an unreal lunch or night time pint.

If you’re a seasoned camper, you can certainly tackle back country camping on a hike or paddle up the river to discover Grey Owl’s Cabin on Ajawaan Lake. Desta did this with her family in 2018 over 3 days and 33 kms. With a canoe packed with tent, food, and supplies, they paddled from Waskesiu, along Kingsmere Lake to the last back country campsite called North End, then hiked into the cabin to see the homestead, the beaver dam inside the house, and the graves of Grey Owl, his wife and their daughter in the secluded Ajawaan Lake wilderness.

If you’re not as brave, try any of the other short and beautiful hikes closer to Waskesiu townsite. Becky did the 2km round trip Mud Creek hike with her husband and 4 year old in about 1.5 hours (slow going with a little guy) but it can typically be done in about 45 minutes. Stop by the visitor centre to grab a map showing all the hikes available and their routes.

While Waskesiu beach is beautiful, there are plenty of quieter, smaller, lesser known spots a short drive away down the narrows road. Becky and Desta both spend time with their families at Paignton Beach down the Narrows road. Grab a picnic table with a fire pit, set up your chairs and roast hot dogs while the kids play in the water. Fire wood is free, and there’s a shelter for groups who like the cover – you’ll find fish filleting stations nearby. Becky’s spot was fronted by tall birch trees that were home to 3 baby Red-headed Woodpeckers calling for their mama to feed them.

If you’re travelling with little ones – be sure to check out the PANP Nature Centre on the edge of the Waskesiu Beach. A fully immerive (and FREE!) play centre for kids to learn all about the complete and traditional use of the plains bison, the many birds found in Saskatchewan, the types of trees found, wolves and their diets, wigwam construction, puppet shows and a dress up corner. Plus make sure to pick up your activity booklet, finish the activities and return it for your own National Park medallion.

Grey Owl’s centre to rent the popular quadricycles, and the Waskesiu Museum are must visit’s as well!

If your travels are keeping you home this summer, take a day trip to Waskesiu, and make sure to pencil in Emma Lake for another visit!

Travel Insurance

June 5, 2019 Deals
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At Vacations Away, we feel strongly that any time you book a trip – part of that booking should be a Travel Insurance policy.

Once your vacation or flight is booked, they are typically non-refundable. Now with the advent of “basic economy” flights, changes can’t be made, even for a fee. These are highly restrictive airfares and the only way to protect your investment, is to purchase travel insurance.

Let me highlight the most comprehensive policy we can offer you through Manulife:

Premium Protection Plan is a relatively new plan that was introduced in November of 2017. This insurance is only available through travel agents, and must be purchased within 72 hours of making your booking – after 72 hours have elapsed, this insurance is off the table. Why you ask? Well, here are the inclusions:

– For those up to age 74 (at time of purchase)
– For travel up to 30 days
– $10,000,000 medical coverage in destination (with no medical questionnaire required)
– Flight & travel accident
– Loss/damage/delay of baggage
– Interruption
– Cancellation for anything unexpected (plus cancel for any reason to get up to 75% back)

All those benefits are great, but the real kicker comes with the cancellation benefit. Normally with travel insurance, you can only cancel for medical reasons that are not pre-existing. Now, with Premium Protection Plan, if it’s unexpected – you can cancel. Basement flooded? You can cancel. Dog gets sick? You can cancel. Destination wedding couple has broken up? You can cancel. If you didn’t see it coming, it’s covered. Plus, that cancel for any reason benefit. Say you and your fiance have booked a trip for 3 months from now, she’s pregnant but only just at 7 weeks. 2 months down the line, you’re 1 month away from your trip, and you start to get concerned about traveling while pregnant. Well, you can still cancel and get 75% of your vacation package back. Pretty great for peace of mind, isn’t it?

Interruption, that’s huge too. People often say “I don’t need that, I’m going no matter what!” Well, are you sure? What about this past winter when the United States government was on shut down, so all the airports in New York shut down as well? People in Toronto waiting for their flights to NYC were stranded. This is when that Interruption insurance kicks in. This insurance will pay for accommodation while you wait to get to destination. Plus, it also covers meals and entertainment. All of this is covered, a nice hotel plus meals and a movie if you wish…instead of spending hours and hours waiting in the airport with nowhere to get comfortable. Let’s say for a moment you’re on your way to the airport. Driving from Warman to Saskatoon, for example. Well, it’s January 20th and there’s a snow storm, you hit the ditch and you’ll be there for a while, waiting for a tow truck. You miss your flight. Well, interruption insurance will help get you on the next flight to Puerto Vallarta, they’ll reimburse you for days lost if you miss a couple days trying to get there.

Either of those benefits are reason enough for me to want to protect my investment (I have been through both situations). Not to mention the other benefits included!

Can you really afford to walk from your deposit? Or even the full package price? Are you ok with missing out on your vacation AND your money?

If not, protect your investment with Manulife’s Premium Protection Plan.

Destination Weddings

April 11, 2019 Deals
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If we’ve said it once, we’ve said it a hundred times…….at Vacations Away, we LOVE destination weddings! Here’s why:

  • It’s easy for the bridal couple! There are no months of scouting venues, deciding on photographers (and do we want a videographer??), catering, colors, dresses, suits, seating arrangements, reception or no reception, reception entertainment, florists, set up and take down, etc. When you choose a destination wedding, you pick a package at time of booking, and 3 months prior to arrival, the planning begins! When you get to destination, you have a meeting with the coordinator that takes less than an hour in most cases, and that’s it! Everything is done for you.
  • They are beautiful. Whether you choose a garden, beach or terrace venue, it will make for gorgeous vistas in your photos.
  • As most happen in the winter season, you don’t have to struggle with high season venue prices at home in the summer!
  • There are group perks! Complimentary welcome cocktail parties or beach bonfires, complimentary rooms, upgraded seats, etc! Just ask us!
  • Destination weddings are so affordable for the wedding couple! A local wedding can easily cost over $20k, but a beautiful destination wedding is typically well under $10k! Including travel.
  • Girls….you can ditch the heels!
  • You can choose anywhere in the world! Not just yours or their home towns.

Yes, with a destination wedding your guest list can certainly become whittled down. But as the saying goes…it is YOUR day. It’s about you, you do what you want with your partner for YOUR day. Remember that.

We would love to help anyone interested in a destination wedding! We all have plenty of experience booking and planning a variety of destination weddings, including same sex marriages!

**Main image of Vacations Away couple Jennifer & Louis in Cuba

All the Disney Vacations!

March 27, 2019 Deals
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Oh Disney. How do we love thee? Let us count the ways!

  1. Disneyland, California
  2. Disneyworld, Florida
  3. Disneyland, Paris
  4. Tokyo Disney Resort, Tokyo
  5. Hong Kong Disneyland Resort, Hong Kong
  6. Shanghai Disneyland Resort, Shanghai
  7. Aulani, a Disney Resort & Spa in Ko’olina, Oahu, Hawaii
  8. Adventures by Disney: Disney Family Vacations
  9. Disney Cruise
    1. Disney Dream
    2. Disney Fantasy
    3. Disney Magic
    4. Disney Wonder
    5. + 3 more ships coming in 2021, 2022 & 2023!

That is 12 ways to experience Disney right now! 12! Count it…12!! There are options for family getaways, weddings, honeymoons, babymoons, river cruises, European explorations and so much more. Whatever kind of traveler you, Disney delivers!

And just remember….it all started with a mouse.

Explore Canada in 2019!

March 27, 2019 Deals
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From sea to shining sea, Canada has every kind of vacation you could ask for. Beaches in BC, sacred Indigenous lands, adventure trips with dog sled transport, French flair in Quebec, literary masterpieces in Charlottetown, tranquil island cruises, sports/hunting/fishing excursions and that’s just barely scratching the surface.

At Vacations Away, we feel strongly that each and every person should take the opportunity to see what’s right here, in our own back yard. Desta has traveled extensively through BC, Dar took a family self drive to Newfoundland, Becky knows every corner of Alberta almost, Michelle Nogier spent plenty of time exploring the Niagara region with Marian and the rest is on our list!

Anderson Vacations, a Canadian company currently celebrating 25 years in business, offers the gamut. Escorted tours, self drive packages, custom tailor made options, tundra tours to Churchill, Haida Gwaii experiences with local elders, culture walks in Saskatoon and Regina and so much more.

Trafalgar & Globus offer high end and modest tour options throughout the country, often in combination with stops across the border to the south.

Taking an Alaska cruise? Tack on an extension through the Yukon and Northwest Territories!

Feeling super adventuresome? Sign up for an expedition to the high Arctic!

In Canada, the options are endless. And best of all – you don’t need a passport!

Paris!

January 24, 2019 Deals
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Ah, l’amour! C’est magnifique. 

Spend this Valentines Day in the city of love with your most loved one. Round trip flights from Saskatoon to Paris pricing from $1079 tax in per person! **Prices are subject to change, book today! Call us at 306-477-7460

Cuba!

January 24, 2019 Deals
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Let’s face it…you’re traveling to a different country. Things WILL be different. Here are a few tips to make travel to Cuba as easy, and surprise free as possible. This will ensure you enjoy your time in the AMAZING country of CUBA!

  1. Leaving the resort? Take along some toilet paper, or little packages of Kleenex. Public washrooms will not provide this or might charge for it! Better to be prepared! Also, use the bins nearby to discard the tissue, not the toilet bowl.
  2. Like spicy food? Creamer in your coffee? Kraft peanut butter? Bring it along (in your checked baggage of course)!
  3. Forget the internet – As far as the internet goes, Cuba is among the most poorly connected countries in the world. Relax and take a break from the cyber world!
  4. Always stash some cash – Cash is king in Cuba and you should never rely on credit or debit cards for payments. ATM’s are scarce. They do not accept credit cards drawn off any US banks. Exchange your CAD to the Cuban Peso at the resort.
  5. Travel Insurance for Cuba – You will need to have medial insurance for your trip to Cuba. They do spot checks at Customs and if you can’t produce policy documentation, they can deny you entry into the country.
  6. Havana good time!! Take the time to check out Havana. Hire a car (a cool 50’s style one) for the day and check out the sites! Places like the Hotel Nacional, Jose Marti memorial, Revolution Museum, upscale Miramar and more!
  7. Learn as much Spanish as you can—there can be a language barrier. Even simple words and sentences will go a long way in Cuba. People love to talk to you and if you know a little of their lingo, they’ll be even friendlier.
  8. Electricity—Most resort have outlets running on 220 voltage, where an adapter/converter would be necessary. Especially items like a curling iron or hair straightener.
  9. Take plenty of toiletries and first aid products -Forgetting your toothbrush, shampoo, or sunblock usually isn’t a big deal when you travel. A convenience store or pharmacy is usually close by. But in Cuba, due to the trade embargo, certain toiletries can be tricky to find for both Cubans and visitors, or very expensive when they can be found. Be sure to pack extra in your suitcase before heading to the airport.
  10. Soda tastes better—After sipping a few Cuba Libre’s, you might notice that pop tastes differently than what you’re used to back home. That’s because all soft drinks in Cuba are sweetened with cane sugar instead of the high-fructose corn syrup used in Canada.
  11. Resorts can be dark at night. Take a little flashlight. They conserve their power and reduce the lighting.
  12. Hot water is hit and miss. Try to shower during the less popular times of the day.
  13. Drink bottled water.
  14. Relax, enjoy yourself. Take in the culture and expect it to be different than Canada!

As Canadian tour company G Adventures put it: It is important to note that Cuba tends to be quite different to other areas of the world you may have traveled in. Buildings and infrastructure are generally old and may not have been maintained to the highest standard. Elevators, internet and A/C often break down, things happen very slowly and water pressure and hot water can be minimal. Cuba is an amazing place to visit but to fully enjoy and relax, western expectations should be left at home and your sense of adventure should be your guide.