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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.

Vacations Away Group to Mazatlan!

December 3, 2018 Deals

Exclusive group pricing from Vacations Away!
March 1 – 8, 2019
Direct flights from Saskatoon

4 star El Cid Castilla
Pool view room – $1453
Ocean view room – $1493
**Prices include tax and are all inclusive, based on double occupancy.
Child rates available on request!

LIMITED TIME OFFER!

Book by December 7, minimum of 10 adults required for group discounts to be valid. A non-refundable deposit of $200 per person is due at time of booking, final payment due by December 27.

Mazatlan Travel Talk!

November 13, 2018 Deals, Excess Baggage
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Please join us in office for a FREE travel talk on my new favourite destination – Mazatlan, Mexico! Affordable, cultural, friendly, and fun!

We’ll talk about the city, all the amazing things on offer, the beautiful sites and delicious food. Plus the fabulous El CID resorts I had the pleasure of staying in.

PLUS as an added bonus, Roberto Rivera of El CID resorts will be joining us direct from Mazatlan! See it through a locals eyes.

***PLEASE RSVP NO LATER THAN NOVEMBER 23! Space is limited***

Event Details:
Date: November 29, 2018
Time: 7:00pm
Where: Vacations Away, Inc (40-214 Stonebridge Blvd)

RSVP to Becky at 306-477-7460 or [email protected]

Mazatlan: The Pacific Pearl

October 3, 2018 Deals
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Hello travelers and friends of Vacations Away, I have just returned from a week in Mazatlan, Mexico and I’m beside myself waiting to tell you all about it! I’ve traveled Mexico, the Caribbean, the US, Africa and Europe, but no word of a lie – I think I had the most fun in Mazatlan. And here’s why:

Mazatlan is on the Western Mainland Coast of Mexico due East from Los Cabos. This area has 2 climates depending on the time of year you go. If you visit May through October, you’ll find summer rains and humidity which decorate the whole state of Sinaloa in beautiful greens with plumeria flowers. But if you visit November through April, you’ll find a semi-dry area rich with beaches and cacti. As I traveled in September, it was not unusual for the daily temperature to reach +44 celsius with humidity……everyone, even the locals, were non-stop sweating. Through the winter months, the temperature is usually a much more comfortable +25. There were a few thunder storms during my week there, but typically late at night or early in the morning which would serve to help cool the city down.

On arrival in Mazatlan, as a group of Travel Agents from Western Canada, we were greeted by the Elite Club staff from El Cid Resorts with a beautiful sign marking our stay sponsored by Westjet and El Cid. We were greeted with a cold drink and air conditioned bus and after a 45 minute transfer provided by Prona Tours, we arrived at the beautiful El Cid Moro Beach Resort & Spa and were treated to a Mexican Fiesta show in the lobby on arrival! As our stay included the All Inclusive Elite promo, we had full access to all restaurants throughout the 4 El Cid Resorts, so our first night we had dinner at the La Pergola Mexican buffet restaurant and enjoyed a Mexican Fiesta Dinner show with live Mariachi music and folkloric dancing. You can see a snippet here: https://www.facebook.com/vacationsawayinc/videos/1900090943403941/

The next day we explored the city. Mazatlan is a city with history dating from the 16th century, so on your upcoming travels, you will see some restoration construction being done at the historic district. They are updating the walk way of the 17 km long Malecon, as well as facades of the centuries old buildings. From here, we watched the famous cliff divers performing at the South End of the Malecon. Incredibly dangerous, the divers have only 3 feet of water to dive into. 

Their precision must be exact as they need to enter the water as the tide comes in so that the water’s depth is safe enough to jump into. They perform for tips. Just beyond here, you will also find Mazatlan’s famous Ocean Pool. It’s a walled in pool filled by ocean water. This is free to the public and is something quite unique to the city.

The highlight of this evening was dinner off resort at Pedro & Lola’s in Machado Plaza. After an open air pulmonia cab ride:

we toured the gorgeous Angela Peralta Opera House, museum and art gallery. At dinner, we were treated to a local dish called Imperial Shrimp. These are super jump shrimp stuffed with cream cheese, wrapped in bacon, and in this particular instance, served in a chipotle sauce. This was divine! Mazatlan is the shrimp capital of the world, after all, and this is a must try when in destination.

After a day of site inspections at the 4 El Cid properties (Marina, Moro, Castilla & Granada), we headed on a Mexican countryside tour to the towns of Malpica, Concordia and Copala.

Malpica is a small town of 1500 with a very tasty panaderia (bakery) run out of the owners home, as well as a small market where you can purchase the famed fire opal jewelry Mazatlan is known for, as well as watch hand made tiles be created.

Concordia town is a great city with a unique historic church that due to the large number of immigrants from other nations settling here, has one Star of David on each of the 28 windows in solidarity with the Jewish Community.

Lastly, we toured the small town of Copala. Colorful homes line the cobbled streets on route to the towns 1 restaurant and artisan shops. Again, outside the historic plaza is the church dating from 1765 that is still used for Sunday service every week.

For a day of fun, we took a trimaran cruise to Deer Island which is directly across from the El Cid Moro and El Cid Castilla resorts. After an hour cruise on the water, we stopped at the island for an afternoon of snorkeling, banana boating, lunch and relaxation. The water was clean, clear and warm as a bath tub. There were plenty of shaded palapas to hang out under as well as hammocks to swing and nap in. That evening, we took a Wine Tasting Class with El Cid Sommelier, Christian, at the El Cid Moro which is provided free of charge once or twice per week to All Inclusive Elite guests.

This next day was a huge highlight for each of us. We spent the morning touring Las Labradas – the historic home of the Azatlan people.

Here they carved art into the black volcanic rocks, images ranging from circles representing the cycles of the sun, to skulls, to animals and more.

The whole area is a protected site, so collecting shells and rocks is prohibited. Make sure to spend time under the pergola watching the waves crash on the rocks.

Following this, we spent our afternoon at the wonderful El Verde Camacho Marine Turtle Station.
    

This amazing place is a non-profit organization dedicated to regrowing the number of sea turtles in the ocean. There is one marine biologist, one permanent staff member, and a team of 20 volunteers. Each night, the team watches sea turtles nesting on the beach and has 8 hours to dig and relocate the eggs to safe locations – whether at the beach sanctuary or the storage space in coolers. Each storage spot is monitored for temperature by a sensor that goes directly to the Marine Biologist’s phone.

**Marine biologist, Daniel Ruiz

After learning the procedures and had lunch, we released the new hatched turtles into the sea. Of all baby turtles released, only 1% survive to adulthood.

As this is a non-profit, the money that they make comes from tours provided by Prona Tours. Guests can donate extra if they wish, or we can even arrange for you to spend a night on site and volunteering with the team. Any money they do make goes to supplies they may need, but more importantly, to meeting with school kids to teach them about conservation.

Our last full day in Mazatlan was a free day, though we were encouraged to explore more of the city. And explore, we did! Starting early at 6:30am, I went to the lighthouse – the tallest naturally occurring lighthouse still in operation in the world. This is a hard hike. It only takes about a half hour to get to the top, but it’s half an hour going UP. It is certainly hard work and the ground is uneven, but there are several rest points throughout and the view from the top is worth it. From the top, you get the full city view of Mazatlan including Stone Island and the Pacifico Brewing Factory. The glass bridge lookout point costs $1 peso per person and is absolutely safe. Wear socks as you can not walk on the bridge in shoes, otherwise you’ll be given slippers to wear over your shoes.

Once we got back down, we stopped at a local taquiera for breakfast called Tacos Figueroa. There was a woman singing (yes, even for breakfast). I ate tacos suave de carne con papa (tacos with beef and potatoes), and fresh delicious horchata (a Mexican rice water drink with condensed milk, cinnamon and vanilla). 3 people ate a hearty breakfast of 6 tacos and 3 drinks for less than $200 pesos. Service was extremely fast, very friendly and the food was delicious and authentic with hand made tortillas. 10/10 would recommend. Find them here: https://www.facebook.com/ConElFigueroa/

After this, we joined others from the group for an excursion to the Mazatlan Aquarium.

It’s roughly the size of the Saskatoon Forestry Farm, but there are plans to expand it to be the largest aquarium in Latin America by 2021. Here we explored the indoor aquarium with all kinds of sea life, watched a diver interact with sharks, explored ruins of a shrimp boat, enjoyed the art installations made from recyclable materials, watched a 3 piece sea lion show as well as a parrot feeding experience.

Not only this, but they also had touch tanks, crocodiles, tortoises and birds on display as well as a good little gift shop. There are 9 sea lions on site, 4 were rescued and the rest were born here. The animals are well cared for and enjoy a great relationship with their handlers. The aquarium also runs a turtle hatchery and because of this, clients are also able to participate in turtle releases at their resort from November to April.

This has been a lot of information to take in, I know. But there are main points I want everyone to take home about Mazatlan:

– the people are amazingly friendly and welcoming. Almost all workers in Mazatlan were born and raised here and often confessed to having a great quality of life so they didn’t want to leave.
– the city is authentically Mexican with plenty of history
– the food is phenomenal and unique with shrimp and filet mignon being especially sought after
– conservation is near and dear to everyone’s heart
– the best money to have in Mazatlan is Mexican Peso. Vendors do not take USD or CAD cash, and often changing either currency into Peso locally can be a burden. I strongly recommend pre-ordering peso’s to take with you.
– Mazatlan is SAFE. I, and others, never felt threatened in any way. We walked late at night off resort and we all agreed that we felt safer in Mazatlan than we do at home.
– As there are 4 different resorts, El Cid has a property to cater to each kind of traveler and I’ve experienced them all to help make your holiday planning easier!

All the above is just some of the things I could tell you about Mazatlan and how wonderful it is! Please do consider making Mazatlan your next destination of choice!

Check out this fantastic video by El Cid Resorts of our amazing time in Mazatlan! https://vimeo.com/297199635/d08ff45554?fbclid=IwAR0HkZ7TrpAUzA_ZishwOtPgifvrgPBlb6xdkFrMMEjwlJsf9mQnIvA7Wog

A stop over in Amsterdam!

June 5, 2018 Deals
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In addition to my 2014 adventure to Africa, I flew with KLM who happily offer free stops in Amsterdam or Paris. I chose Amsterdam.

 **Here I am at the canals!

My friend I thought we’d take a day to explore the city. We had 12 hours. First, we had to ditch our carry on luggage, it was far too much to carry around for the day. Luckily, Schipol International Airport offers tourist lockers of varying sizes. They were easy to find, had plenty of space for items like back packs, camera equipment, and extra shoes and jackets (we traveled in February, remember).

Then, we took the train from Schipol to Centraal Station right in the heart of downtown Amsterdam. First time tourists we are, we had no idea how to read the signs. We asked a friendly local lady how to get downtown, and after thanking her the ride took about 25 minutes and ran as smooth as silk.

What’s the first thing to do in Amsterdam? Take a canal cruise, of course!

Steps from Centraal Station is the canal cruise desk. Full of kitschy knick knacks, magnets and souvenirs, we purchased our passes for 5 euro and were off for an hour cruise. We cruised past homes, ultra modern architecture, the Anne Frank House, and more. This was a perfect way to orient ourselves on the countless bridges the city has.

After the cruise, we stayed at Dam Square for some time. After all, just in this small town square is the Royal Palace, the House of Bols, the Heineken Experience, Madame Tussaud’s wax museum, the Nieuwe Kerk (new church) and more.

We took a quick half hour tour of the Royal Palace public areas – be sure to check your bags and cameras at the check in area! Following our time at Dam Square, we continued on to the flower market – the only floating flower market in the world, operating since 1862.

Blown away by the number of tour booths in the city, we grabbed a few museum passes. We guided ourselves through the medieval torture museum, and the sex museum. Being just a short stop over, we didn’t think we could do justice to the grandeur of the Rijksmuseum or Van Gogh Museum.

We strolled past unique shoe stores, hostels, had the most amazing Italian Pizza at a family owned pizzeria, and explored the red light district. The rest of our day was spent strolling the cool city streets, people watching, and visiting various monuments throughout the city.

If you’re considering a stop in Amsterdam, you won’t be disappointed! The city is beautiful, they just ask that tourists be respectful.