Ready, set, pack your bags! The top 10 cities in Canada are waiting for you to check in

By Lara Vukelich

Canada—from sea to sea—is a land filled with fascinating places and amazing adventures. The only problem: Where to travel? Here are ten of the best, must-see spots for any Canadian determined to discover the true north strong and free.

The new year is here – If your resolution was to do more travelling in the Great White North, you’re in luck. There are loads of intriguing destinations awaiting your arrival, from British Columbia to Newfoundland and Labrador. Whether you want to make use of your lucky skis or your super flattering snorkel mask, you can find the perfect spot to spend your vacation time in 2016. Here are the top 10 Canadian cities to visit this year (in no particular order).

Vancouver-Island-161209

Nanaimo, BC

This slice of harbourfront heaven is on Vancouver Island. Why do you need to pay it a visit? The reasons have a little something to do with the thriving arts district and bounty of heritage buildings, and a lot to do with the lively waterfront district. You may visit Nanaimo for the scuba diving and swimming lagoon, but you’re sure to stay for the loads of restaurants and bars along the shore and the short ferry ride to Canada’s only floating pub. The best time to visit is during the summer, when the climate is mild and you can make the most of the outdoor amenities. Book a room at Coast Bastion Hotel for a stay at an eco-friendly accommodation with stellar water views.

Halifax Maritime Museum

Halifax, NS

If “walkable city” is high on your priority list when you’re seeking a new travel destination: Welcome to Halifax. Of course, if you get a hankering for tobogganing (and who doesn’t, from time to time), the capital of Nova Scotia is still an excellent place to visit. You can also feast on ocean-to-table cuisine until the button pops off your jeans, then meander through the Halifax Public Gardens. Historians of all ages will also want to visit the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic, where one of the world’s most impressive Titanic collections is on display. Visit Halifax from May through October, when the weather is best and the number of events is truly impressive. Book a room at the Prince George Hotel for world-class amenities and service.

“Halifax’s rich history always fascinates visitors. The area’s history of European settlement goes back more than 250 years, and that’s reflected everywhere you look. Spots like the Halifax Citadel National Historic Site and the Canadian Museum of Immigration at Pier 21 give visitors the chance to explore the fascinating personalities and stories that shaped this region.” – Trevor J. Adams, Senior Editor at Halifax Magazine

Jasper Winter

Jasper, AB

For a quiet retreat in 2016, head to the alpine town of Jasper. Set amid the towering trees and rugged mountain peaks of Jasper National Park, this unique destination will have you switching off your smartphone (Candy Crush will keep). There are any number of reasons to pay the town a visit: hiking, biking, canoeing, and skiing to name a few. If you keep your eyes peeled for Big Foot as you make your way to the turquoise lakes, we won’t judge. Any time is a good time to visit Jasper; canoe and hike by summer and snowshoe by winter. If you get chilly, forget about your slippers and head to Miette Hot Springs for a dip. Stay at Pyramid Lake Resort and you can write home about your personal, in-room fireplace and private trails.

Tofino surfing

Tofino, BC

Tofino is beloved because it’s quiet, funky, and the surfing is great. It’s a safe bet you’ll love it too. Grab your board when you head to this Vancouver Island destination – the North American surfing is at its peak here. Of course, you can also spend your time whale watching or investigating Hot Springs Cove. Storm watching is another favourite pastime here, so bring your camera and don’t tell your mom what you’re up to (she might get nervous). Go in the winter for storm watching, or pay a visit from May to October for drier weather and better whale watching. A stay at Cox Bay Beach Resort gives you direct access to the sand.

Alma Coast

Alma, NB

Spend some time walking on the ocean floor in 2016 – just because you can! When you book a trip to Alma, located on the shores of Bay of Fundy, you can witness the famous 50-foot tides first hand. At low tide, you can walk out and wiggle your toes in the sands of the ocean floor. While you’re there, be sure to nosh on locally-caught lobster. The best time to visit Alma is summer, when you can witness the breathtaking tides from the docks in Alma Harbour. However, if you visit during the winter, winding snowmobile trails await. Stay at the New Horton Lake Inn: You can’t beat the private garden and spacious front porch.

Old Quebec

Quebec City, QB

Quebec City has maintained its European charm and French heritage, of that there is no doubt. Why should you visit in 2016? Tu vas l’adorer, of course. That’s “you’ll love it,” for our non-French speakers. The city’s Old Town district is a UNESCO World Heritage site, and you’ll be impressed with the array of art, culture, and food. But some of Quebec City’s best assets are found in the quieter attractions: the faint cracks in its storied cobblestone streets and the fresh air wafting through public parks. If you want to avoid high season, keep Quebec off your calendar between the end of June and early September. Spring and fall are lovely times to visit, and you’ll have more of the city to yourself. It’s hard to beat a stay at the Auberge Saint-Antoine, which is known for its fine service and walls laden with French art.

Photo Credit: Suzy Lamont Photography

Photo Credit: Suzy Lamont Photography

Kingston, ON

Kingston’s title as capital was short-lived, but its reputation as a hub for culture is going strong today. Not only can you enjoy a Thousand Islands cruise out ofKingston, but you can put on your best elbow-patch jacket and explore the likes of Fort Henry National Historic Site and the Bellevue House. The best time to visit Kingston is the summer; winter months can be bone-chillingly cold, while summer temperatures hover at a much more temperate degree. Book a room in at the Secret Garden B&B Inn, where you’re treated to a boutique-style experience and plenty of character.

Brockville Park

Brockville, ON

We think a visit to the 1,000 islands area is always a good idea. In 2016, treat yourself to a vacation to historic Brockville, where the menu of indoor and outdoor attractions is extensive and exciting. Make sure to visit the notable Brockville Arts Centre, one of the best historic theatres in the whole country. Then walk the Brock Trail or paddle down the St. Lawrence River. Brockville is friendly and scenic – you’ll be taking postcard perfect pics from the moment you arrive (get your Instagram technique ready). Summer and winter are both good times to visit; when the landscape freezes over, snowshoeing and skiing become favourite pastimes. Stay at the Pine Street Inn B&B for charming accommodation – rooftop terrace included.

“People often ask me what they can expect from their visit in Downtown Brockville. With riverfront trails, cycling paths, shopping, dining, and history; there truly is something for everyone!” – Meg Plooy, Executive Director of the Brockville Downtown Business Improvement Area

St Johns

St. John’s, NL

The City of Legends (otherwise known as St. John’s) has the cosmopolitan nature of San Francisco, but it has never lost its small town charm. People love it for lots of reasons, from the character of historic Water Street to the stunning natural landscapes. You can visit St. John’s with action on the mind and go ziplining or kayaking, or show up with an empty stomach and snack your way down George Street. Temperatures in St. John’s will never be mistaken for Mediterranean, but July and August offer something close to temperate. Of course, if you love the chill, you can visit in winter for a cool weather hike along the East Coast Trail. Book a stay at the Murray Premises Hotel, in the heart of the city, and you’ll have brick walls and stone fireplaces to keep you cosy in your room.

Regina Wascana Center

Regina, SK

Regina is the sunniest capital in the country and the home of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, just to name a few of its bragging rights. It’s also a major city with tons of family-friendly bike trails, attractions, and the charm of hand-planted trees. You can visit Regina for many incentives, including vast Wascana Park and the Regina Globe Theatre. Go ahead, grub on food cart offerings in between visits to the Saskatchewan Science Centre and Government House. The best time to visit the sunny capital is between May and September, when you can linger around Wascana Lake without catching a chill. Stay at the Delta Regina, and you’ll be in the heart of the city with views to brag about!

“There is a lot to love in Regina. From sporting events to cultural sites to entertainment, Regina has something for everyone and every season. With our unique attractions, Regina will capture your heart. Hang with the locals and enjoy some of Regina’s best restaurants and vibrant nightlife. You will find something to love all year round.” – Deborah Rush, Director of Tourism & Branding for Tourism Regina

 

20 Things You Want to Pack – But Shouldn’t!

20 Things You Want to Pack – But Shouldn’t!

Source: Wendy Perrin | Trip Advisor

What should you keep out of your bag?  Here are things that travel experts and savvy frequent travelers advise never to pack:

  1. More than one pair of shoes

“I have a strict two-pair limit per trip. I wear a comfortable pair of walking shoes onto the airplane, and I pack a nicer pair for dinners/nights out. Depending on the type of trip, I might substitute hiking boots or sandals in place of the dressy shoes. It’s a lot easier not to check luggage when your bag contains only one pair of shoes.”

—Sarah Schlichter, senior editor, Independent Traveler

  1. New shoes
  2. White sneakers

“Shoes need to be broken in before you commit to walking around in them day in and day out.  While sneakers may be comfy from the get-go, in foreign cities bright white sneakers are a dead giveaway that you’re a tourist.”

—Wendy Perrin, TripAdvisor’s Travel Advocate

  1. New underwear

“Take your oldest underwear with holes in them, and when they’re dirty, just throw them away!  Also, use compression bags or packing cubes to organize your clothes; use the compression bags to store your dirty clothes.”

—Nancy Quon

  1. Clothing with patterns

“Instead of clothes with patterns or colors I can wear only once, I pack multi-purpose clothes that won’t look dirty after one use or clash with other items.”

—Josh Roberts, managing editor, Smarter Travel

  1. Clothing with logos
  2. Expensive watches

“I’m always tempted to pack T-shirts or hats with my alma mater or favorite sports team labeled on them, but these clearly shout ‘tourist.’ I usually pack only clothing with no writing on it; it helps me blend in. I also never pack my expensive watch, since it’s another safety hazard.”

—Johnny Jet, JohnnyJet.com

  1. Every medication you could ever need

“Pack your prescription meds, but don’t pack an arsenal of over-the-counter medications and things like throat lozenges. Buy yourself a purse-sized pill container and take what you need in that. Unless you are visiting remote places, most pharmacies abroad are fabulous to spend time in and it can be part of your overall travel experience. Some of my favorite over-the-counter lozenges and topical creams come from France!”

—Robyn Webb, RobynWebb.com

  1. Clothing that requires ironing or drycleaning

“Hotel laundry services are super-expensive, and there are plenty of great fabrics that can be washed and air-dried so you can bring fewer items and wear them more often.”

—Jeanne McGeehan Egan

  1. Hairdryer
  2. Curling iron
  3. Hairspray

“You just don’t need them. They will have a hairdryer and spray at your hotel—and, at a nice hotel, a curling iron too—all to borrow (says the woman who still packs all three. I blame my mother.)”

—Paula Froelich, editor at large, Yahoo! Travel  and A Broad Abroad

  1. Beach towels

“Hotels give out pool towels, and if you need beach towels, you can buy cheap ones locally and either leave them behind or, if you love them, send them home.”

—Julia Hauldren

  1. High heels
  2. Anything you can buy at your destination

“Unless you are traveling for a wedding or a special event, there are a multitude of modern shoe options that will keep you looking stylish during your travels and are practical enough to use more than once. I never find myself reaching for the heels I used to throw in my bag ‘just in case,’ most of the time because I’ve spent the day exploring the city and my feet are tired.  And anything you don’t pack gives you the perfect excuse to buy while there!”

—Tyler Govaars, The Weekend Edit

  1. Guidebooks
  2. Maps

“Once upon a time we needed to pack guidebooks, but today you can download maps and guidebooks as apps. They are more up-to-date than books and don’t weigh a thing or take up valuable space. And an app such as TripAdvisor for Mobile doesn’t require Internet service to use.”

—Lissa Poirot, editor in chief, Family Vacation Critic

  1. Books

“I know that holding a Kindle is not the same as holding a book, but traveling with one is much easier. Plus, most libraries offer e-books, so you don’t have to pay for great things to read on your trip. You can even download more books from anywhere in the world, as long as you have an Internet connection.”

—Jonathan Sacks, Everybody Hates a Tourist

  1. Laptop

“Unless you have heavy-duty work to do, leave your laptop at home and rely solely on your smartphone. I’ve even started leaving my tablet at home. My Android Note 5 can do just about anything I need to do while on leisure trips.”

—Linda Terrill, The Luxury Travel Group

  1. Luggage

“I do two-night trips with just my laptop bag. If you can avoid checking a bag, you avoid losing a bag, and you save precious moments of your life at baggage claim. If you can avoid even needing overhead bin space, you don’t have to board the plane as early, and you move around unfettered through the airport and through life.”

—Gary Leff, View From The Wing

Top 10 Places to Live or Retire in the World!

Top 10 Places to Live or Retire in the World!

Panama Earns the No.1 Spot in This Year’s Index

“We’re healthier and living a better lifestyle here than we ever did in the U.S.,” says expat Mitzi Martain, who has lived on her farm near Santa Fe, Panama for nearly nine years now. “And our Social Security income covers all our monthly expenses.”

Mitzi and her husband Bill are two of the approximately 50,000 U.S. expats who have found their piece of paradise in this year’s winner—Panama.

“We are so blessed to live where we do,” say Connie and Mikkel Moller, who have called Pedasí, Panama, home since 2012. “Our stress level is 10% of what it used to be.”

Panama has long been a favorite of retirees. You’ll find them along both Caribbean and Pacific coasts, on white-sand islands, living contentedly nestled in mountain valleys, and along the glittering promenade of Panama City. Panama has hands down the best package of retirement benefits in the world. Pick your climate—tropical or temperate. And it’s close to home, just a three-hour flight from Miami.

“It is definitely cheaper than the U.S.,” says Maureen LoBue, who enjoys a beach life in San Carlos. “Water is included in my rent, so I just pay electricity, which last month was $16. My satellite internet service is just $15 a month. And when I buy produce at the local market down the street, I can fill a bag with fresh veggies for less than $5.”

“A couple can manage on as little as $750 a month here, if they own their home,” says expat Carl Conway who (like the Martains) has also found his ideal retirement in the mountain town of Santa Fe.

“Utilities are very low, at around $100 a month for electricity, water, trash pickup, internet, and even cellphone cards. Keep in mind you don’t need heating or air conditioning up here, and that makes a big difference. So even if you rent, a monthly budget of $1,500 is more than plenty.”

In Panama, you can live whatever lifestyle you desire. You can hike green hillsides, explore rainforests teeming with exotic wildlife, or just laze on a Caribbean beach and watch the world go by. And if you’re an urbanite, you can savor the incredible dining and culture of places like Panama City.

“In Panama’s capital I have the best of both worlds,” says IL Panama Editor Jessica Ramesch. “There’s a growing cultural and arts scene. I collect flyers of all the fabulous activities there are to do here. Opera showcases, art exhibit openings, and handicraft festivals…[and] there are so many new restaurants every week, I stopped trying to keep track.”

The World’s Best Places To Retire In 2016

1. Panama has long been a favorite for retirees and this year it has taken the top spot in our retirement index.

2. Another long-time favorite with expats, Ecuador has taken second place this year.

3. Mexico, which this year scored highly across the board, has once again taken the bronze medal

4. Costa Rica, another firm favorite with IL readers, has notched up an impressive score in one of our new categories; healthy lifestyle.

5. Malaysia is bursting with things to do, see, and experience. From a rich culture to the tantalizing food, you’ll never be short of something to do, hence the country’s high score in entertainment and amenities.

6. This year Colombia has risen two places in the index. Its high scores in healthcare, healthy living, and entertainment and amenities has ensured a spot in the top 10.

7. Puerto Vallarta is undoubtedly one of the best choices in the world.

8. Nicaragua is an immensely affordable place to live and this is where it shines in the index.

9. Sunny Spain has come out on top in the category of infrastructure. This European retirement haven has modern roads, extensive public transportation, and excellent internet coverage.

10. Finishing up our top 10 list, Portugal, like its neighbor Spain, has excellent European infrastructure.

 

Vacay.ca Announces 2016’s Best Places to Visit in Canada

Vacay.ca Announces 2016’s Best Places to Visit in Canada

Sea-to-Sky Country in BC is number one

TORONTO, Jan. 4, 2016 /CNW/ – A low Canadian dollar and cheap gas prices will impact tourism as road trips are expected to dominate travel in the country this year, Vacay.ca experts say.

Sea-to-Sky Country, Cabot Trail and Tofino will benefit the most. The full list:

1. Sea-to-Sky Country, BC
2. Cabot Trail, NS
3. Tofino, BC
4. Ivvavik National Park, YT
5. Toronto, ON
6. Irish Loop, NL
7. Calgary, AB
8. Gjoa Haven, NU
9. Montreal, QC
10. Canmore/Banff, AB
11. Halifax, NS
12. Dempster Highway, YT
13. Saguenay, QC
14. Ottawa, ON
15. Okanagan Valley, BC
16. Quebec City, QC
17. Fogo & Change Islands, NL
18. Saskatoon, SK
19. St. Andrews By-the-Sea, NB
20. Muskoka, ON

Read the story on Vacay.ca: http://vacay.ca/2016/01/20-best-places-to-visit-in-canada-for-2016/

Website: www.vacay.ca   Twitter: @VacayCanada   Facebook: vacay.ca

SOURCE VACAY.CA

10 Holiday Travel Tips to Keep Your Vacation Jolly!

Planning to visit Grandma’s or spending Christmas in Paris? Traveling over the holidays can be notoriously busy, expensive and stressful, but the news isn’t all bad. Check out these 10 holiday travel tips and find some joy this season.

10 Holiday Travel Tips to Keep Your Vacation Jolly!

1. Avoid peak travel dates.
Travel off-peak whenever possible. Fortunately, Christmas and New Year’s Day fall on Wednesdays this year, so travel will likely be more spread out than normal, with no obvious peak days.

2. Book early.
Fares are only rising, so those who hold out in hopes of a late-breaking sale are likely to get left out in the cold or pay a very steep price for their procrastination. Be prepared to be flexible with dates and flight times.

3. Shop around.
Comparison shopping has never been easier. During peak travel season, casting the net as wide as possible will help you understand all of your options. For many travellers, price isn’t the only or even the most important factor, especially during the holidays. Thoughtful, deliberate use of the “search adjacent days or airports” features found on many websites may also surrender greatly improved fares and travel times.

4. Know your airports.
Checking alternate airports is a pretty standard tactic, but at this time of year it can really make a difference. You can score on almost every front – parking, rental cars, traffic to and from, nearby hotels – and save both time and money. Smaller airports see fewer flights and therefore, typically, fewer delays.

5. Plot connections carefully.
When booking flights, check your search results carefully for sufficient time during layovers, and build in some time for flight delays and weather woes. Avoiding really tight connections may save you a sprint through the terminal or a missed flight.

6. Leave early.
During peak travel times, many of the delays you’ll face lie on this side of security, from traffic jams and full parking lots to absent shuttles and long lines. Rather than striving to “arrive at the airport early,” you may want to try to “leave for the airport early” to anticipate the peripheral delays you may encounter.

7. Pack wisely.
In the past, you may have been able to fit everything into your carry-on without having to check any baggage – a strategy we still recommend. However, the TSA rules about liquids and gels make this a trickier proposition. When packing, keep in mind that most airlines are now charging travellers a fee for checking any bags on domestic flights (and even some international ones).

8. Use the Web for more than just booking.
The latest self-service developments in online travel can be tremendous time-savers during peak travel times. Whenever possible, print your boarding passes at home, use check-in kiosks or even pull up your boarding pass on your smartphone. Consider doing your holiday shopping online and having your gifts shipped to your destination.

9. Travel early or late in the day.
As a rule, airports are least congested at times when most people would rather be at home or asleep. Delays are far less likely for morning flights, and airports usually unclog as the afternoon and evening peak passes. Caveat: Staffing can be spotty for really early flights, so although your flight is highly likely to be ready to leave on time, check-in may take a while, along with other personnel-dependent steps like riding shuttle buses.

10. Consider package deals.
Peak travel periods can be the best time to buy package deals, even for folks who would never buy one, as the bundled pricing offered by packages can be very competitive, even (or especially) at times of high demand.

A Few Bonus Tips:

  • Be prepared for more than the usual slowdowns at security. Even though the TSA’s liquid and gel rules have been around for many years now, folks who fly very rarely may not be familiar with all the ins and outs, and the newer full body scanners could catch even frequent travellers off guard.
  • Gas up the night before you travel; no one leaves enough time for buying gas on the way to the airport.
  • Investigate your frequent flier options to get better (and better guaranteed) seats.
  • Keep your cool. Airline employees have considerable power over your well-being. Unfortunately, many enjoy wielding it against you, and few respond well to anger.
  • Have phone numbers for everything: your hotel, your car rental agency, your airline, friends at your destination.
  • Choose non-stop flights. The worst, most brutal delays occur in connecting airports, where you have no home, friends or family to retreat to.
  • With airlines continuing to cut back on service, it’s more important than ever to confirm your flight several days before you leave – that way you’ll have a little leeway to make alternate plans if necessary.
  • Don’t overpack even checked luggage; overstuffed bags that must be opened for a security check are much harder to repack.
  • Do not wrap gifts, especially if you intend to carry them on the plane. Even in checked baggage, there is a strong chance they will be unwrapped for inspection by security personnel. Consider gift bags instead of wrapping paper this holiday season – you can easily remove the items from their bags if required and you don’t have to do a last-minute wrapping job at your destination.
  • Give your cell phone a full charge, and write down or program the phone number of your airline so you can call easily as your flight time approaches.

Excerpted from the Independent Traveler 

Want to ensure that your clients are properly protected over the holidays? Review their vehicle coverages as well as travel medical insurance policies with them before they head off on their trip. Not sure what they’ll need? ILScorp has hundreds of hours of online, accredited continuing education classes for insurance agents, to get you up to speed.

Plan ahead to save on expensive holiday travel costs, experts say

By Craig Wong

THE CANADIAN PRESS

OTTAWA – The holidays can be an expensive time of year and flying home or to sunnier climes can be even more so.

But experts say planning ahead before heading to the airport can save you cash.

Travel agent Omar Guechtal says simple things like remembering to take snacks and an empty water bottle to fill after you’ve cleared the security screening can save you money.

“It is just a matter of being savvy and being smart with regards to what you’re going to do and how you’re going to be doing it,” says Guechtal, an assistant team leader at Flight Centre in Ottawa.

Knowing the rules and limits that apply to what you can take on board a flight and how much you can check will save you any extra charges for oversized bags, he adds.

“A lot of the airlines are cracking down on it and enforcing them quite strongly, especially when it gets to carry-on luggage when people think they get away with a duffel bag because it is soft,” he said.

But it isn’t just the little expenses.

Guechtal says don’t forget things like travel insurance.

“It is definitely something that people see as an expense,” he said, but it can help keep you on track financially if something goes wrong.

Brent Reynolds, vice-president of marketing and analytics at Capital One Canada, says the costs of travel add up quickly beyond airfare and accommodation.

“People budget for the big items like a flight and hotel, but they often forget the little things like those day-of-travel expenses,” he said.

Based on credit card data, Capital One estimates that Canadians who use their credit cards on the day of their flight spend an average of $58.65 in additional travel-related expenses.

Taxis, airport parking and checked bag fees all take a bite.

Reynolds noted that if you’re looking to stay on budget, avoid the duty-free store where the highest average purchases by those using their credit cards are made.

“If you’ve got a specific purchase in mind, that’s one thing, but if you’re just trying to kill time, you might want to stay out of the duty free-shop,” he said.

Reynolds also said to be aware of the benefits associated with some credit cards that could result in savings.

Certain reward programs allow you to use points to pay for the extra costs related to your trip, while other programs like CAA offer discounts for members on services like airport parking.

Guechtal adds to not forget the return leg of your trip.

If you’ve packed your bag to the limit on your departure, you won’t have any room to bring home gifts or souvenirs.

“Usually I will ensure that my checked luggage stays unchanged and then I will fly out light on my carry-on so that on my way home, whatever souvenirs or whatever it is that I have is actually the weight that was allocated for my carry-on,” he says.

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