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    "I've worked my whole life to be a professional ski bum and it's turned out pretty well by this point," says Jeremy Derksen. But his way of life faces a threat: climate change. After all, how do you follow the snow when you can't be sure where it will fall?

    Derksen, 38, has been hitting slopes since he was five years old and now works as a media guide for Travel Alberta and a freelance writer. This past winter confirmed his belief that that ski-friendly weather is "so unpredictable today from what it used to be."

    cypress mountain no snowSnowboarders make their way down a run at Cypress Mountain in West Vancouver, B.C. on Feb. 9, 2015. The ski hills around Vancouver suffered with little to no snow that season due to warm temperatures and rain. (Jonathan Hayward/Canadian Press)

    Derksen planned to spend his Christmas break skiing interior British Columbia with his wife and three kids. No go.

    Though Eastern Canada was getting slammed with what the media labeled a polar vortex, many of the hills around the Okanagan region like Sun Peaks and Silver Star weren’t even open yet due to low snow conditions and warm weather.

    "It's unheard of and weird," Derksen shrugs. So, like a migrant worker following the crops, he ended up in Marmot Basin in Jasper National Park, Alta., where great snow conditions ended up giving him a lot of work.

    A near miss for one relieved ski bum. "Nowhere else was getting good powder. It was a pretty ugly scenario."

    "My hope is that they can grow up and have the same kind of experience as I did. We have to think of future generations and what they're going to get."

    If Marmot was fat with powder, another Alberta ski hill, Castle Mountain in the south of the province, was starved. Warm temperatures forced it to shut down in the middle of February. "It literally didn't snow," says Jason Crawford, sales and marketing manager for the resort. The early closure was bad for business but also bad for jobs, causing trimmed hours and dozens of layoffs.

    Crawford doesn't know what to expect in coming seasons. Though there have been some "banner years," snow is harder to count on as Castle deals with, he says, "a lot more fluctuation."

    Seasons of uncertainty

    At some Canadian resorts, shifting weather patterns are tending to dump snow later in the season. That doesn't always mean more profits. Hills like the Lake Louise Ski Resort have stayed cold enough to sustain seasons well past the usual closing date, but the crowds drop off into spring regardless of the conditions.

    "When people start golfing in Calgary, they stop thinking [of coming] here," says Dan Markham, the resort's director of brand and communications.

    Don Williams, the co-owner and manager of Mission Ridge Winter Park, one of Saskatchewan’s only ski hills, says much the same thing about skiers-turned golfers come March. “When the season ends, it comes to an abrupt end,” he says.

    cypress mountain no snowA young skier makes his way towards the lifts at Cypress Mountain in West Vancouver, B.C. on Feb. 9, 2015 during an unseasonably warm and rainy period. (Jonathan Hayward/Canadian Press)

    The other end of this calendar can bring problems as well, according to Derksen, who lives in Edmonton. Snow may fall sometimes in the mountains early in the season even when there is nothing on the ground in interior Albertan cities.

    "It's always weird to start thinking about skiing before there’s snow on the ground where you live," he says. "Your mind isn't turning that way."

    He welcomes the fact that the crowds leave more space for him on the hill, but he realizes this isn't sustainable for resorts in the long run.

    "I can't be selfish and say it's fine if nobody shows up, because without that revenue [resorts] won't be able to stay open."

    snow making machine(Photo: Ruth Hartnup/Flickr)

    Ski hills have long been using technology to outsmart the fickleness of the weather — just look at the indoor hill in Dubai or the outdoor snow resort without snow at Liberty Mountain in Virginia.

    Other outdoor resorts have long made use of snow-making to create a base in the beginning of the season. It works well if temperatures are well below freezing but snow isn't falling. And if there is plenty of time — weeks — to manufacture the powder.

    Williams says his bottom line has been slammed in this closing window. In recent years he's only had about a one week to make enough snow since temperatures aren’t consistent anymore in his resort, about 75 kilometres northeast of Regina.

    "Now we just have to spend the money to do the snowmaking in a shorter period of time," he says.

    castle mountain skiingVarying temperatures affect the quality of the snow made at Rabbit Hill in the Edmonton area. (Photo: Paul Jerry/Flickr)

    Rabbit Hill, a small operation in the Edmonton area, hasn't missed any opening or closing dates mostly because they don’t rely on natural snow. But varying temperatures affects the quality of the stuff they make, according to director of marketing Jocelyn Wetterberg.

    "As long as the temperatures are good we can start making decent snow," she says, but the quality of the snow they make gets a lot more natural at around -15 C.

    "Warmer temperatures definitely makes for more work," she says, and this costs the ski hill more money as they have to find creative ways of managing the snow, whether using grooming machines to break through layers of ice that form when it rains, or stockpiling natural snow when it comes in and moving it around the hill later on.

    "We've been lucky to have the systems we have and the staff we have to deal with this new and changing climate," she says. "They’ve been able to battle Mother Nature head on and give us great results."

    The next generation

    Derksen says that while he's not a scientist, he reads up on climate change because of the effect it has on the winter sports he loves. Every year he sees more signs of climate change — even in the good years, as heavy snowfall can be just as much an indicator of new trends or variability.

    "It's just this feeling that has sat in the pit of my gut for a while," he says. "I see what it's doing to us and doing to the industry. I think we all need to do what we can."

    He's worried about the way conditions are going, not only for him, but for his three kids, aged between one and seven, who are already skiing.

    "My hope is that they can grow up and have the same kind of experience as I did," he says. "We have to think of future generations and what they're going to get."

    Avalanche Warnings

    canada avalanche monasheeA skier tries to beat a small avalanche in British Columbia's Monashee mountains. (Photo: Steve Ogle/Getty Images)

    Bruce Jamieson knows avalanches. The adjunct professor has studied the natural disasters for decades with the University of Calgary's Applied Snow and Avalanche Research, and he’s used everything from touring skies to helicopters and snowmobiles to get up close to potentially dangerous snow.

    One time, too close. In 1982, he got caught in an avalanche near Fernie, B.C. and managed to fight his way out by pushing away blocks of snow over his head.

    Jamieson says that seasons with extreme swings in temperatures and changing conditions are the worst for avalanches. When the temperature warms up and snow becomes to melt, it can form a hard layer of snow which is then covered by subsequent snowfall when the weather cools down again.

    Afterwards, for up to a month, outdoor enthusiasts may trigger the softer upper layers of snow to slide down the mountain.

    Some of the early wet seasons that are becoming more common with climate change — rain in the middle of February, for example — can cause problems at elevations of around 1,500 to 2,300 meters, levels popular for backcountry skiers, notes Jamieson. His research shows a weak but noticeable trend of worsening avalanche conditions overall, though these trends don't necessarily apply to everywhere because climate change manifests in different ways in different places.

    Climate stability key

    Dan Markham at Lake Louise Ski Resort concurs that stability in climate or gradual but consistent snowfall are the keys to having fewer avalanches. "Consistency leads to a better chance of safety."

    Still, as climate change stirs up and changes weather patterns, Pascal Haegeli, an assistant professor at Simon Fraser University, and a principal at Avisualanche Consulting says it’s difficult to predict the effect on avalanche conditions.

    "Unfortunately there is relatively little out there that looks at climate change and avalanches and their effect on skiing safety so far," he says.

    Yes, the more extreme weather predicted by climate models could result in more layers in the snowpack in some areas, increasing the danger of avalanches there.

    Then again, Haegli points out, if warmer conditions erase snow in some areas, the danger of such slides in those areas may disappear completely.

    This is published in partnership with The Tyee. Joshua Rapp Learn is an environmental journalist based in Washington, D.C. You can find his work in Scientific American, Canadian Geographic, The Toronto Star, The Globe and Mail, The Tyee, and other publications in the U.S. and Canada.

    climate change tyee

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    Winter approaches quickly.

    While many might dread it, we're excited. Sure, the cold season can bring plenty of inconvenience on roads and public transit but it can also make for some spectacular sights across Canada.

    The Great White North is home to incredible terrain, historic sites, and cities that can sparkle with a sprinkling of snow.

    We know winter has its challenges. But for now we'd rather focus on the beauty.

    Here are 12 breathtaking sights to see in a Canadian winter:

    "Canyon Lights" in North Vancouver, B.C.

    canyon lights capilano


    They're quite something.

    canyon lights

    Niagara Falls. Frozen.

    niagara falls frozen

    niagara falls frozen

    And especially at night.

    niagara falls frozen

    niagara falls frozen rainbow

    An ice hotel.

    hotel de glace
    (Photo: Flickr user Rachid Lamzah/License)

    hotel de glace
    (Photo: Flickr user Clément Belleudy/License)

    Could you sleep here?

    hotel de glace
    (Photo: Flickr user Pierre-Arnaud Kopp/License)

    Winter art projects. Like Montreal's "Entre les Rangs."

    entre les rangs

    entre les rangs

    Or "Prismatica."


    Old Quebec City.

    quebec city winter

    quebec city winter

    It's magical at Christmastime.

    quebec city winter

    Night skating in Montreal's Old Port.

    skating montreal winter
    (Photo: Flickr user Michael Vesia/License)

    It's breathtaking.

    skating montreal winter
    (Photo: Flickr user Christophe Roudet/License)

    Upper Canada Village in Morrisburg, Ont.

    skating montreal winter
    (Photo: Jazmin Million/Wikimedia Commons)

    Its "Alight at Night' event sees millions of lights strung around historic buildings.

    upper canada village alight at night
    (Photo: Flickr user The Real Canadian/License)

    upper canada village alight at night
    (Photo: Flickr user In the Bag Solutions/License)

    Moraine Lake in Alberta.

    moraine lake alberta frozen

    It's pretty at any time of year. But winter is special.

    moraine lake alberta winter

    The Icefields Parkway.

    icefield parkway winter
    (Photo: Flickr user Daveybobby/License)

    It's a spectacular drive through Alberta's Rocky Mountains.

    icefield parkway winter
    (Photo: Flickr user Daveybobby/License)

    The Northern Lights over Nunavut.

    northern lights canada winter

    Watch them light up the snow on the ground.

    northern lights canada winter

    Winter can be tough ...

    maritime snow tunnel
    There was so much snow in the Maritimes last year, some people had to dig a tunnel to reach their car.(Photo: Stephanie Collicutt)

    But it can also make for plenty of icy beauty.

    northern lights canada winter

    So just remember this when the cold gets you down.

    winter canada landscape

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    The holidays are a happy time of year. Days are filled with entertaining, shopping, gift wrapping, baking and decorating. But how much does all that festive fun cost? All of it comes with a price tag, no matter which holiday you're celebrating, where you're celebrating or who you're celebrating with. Have you ever stopped to think about what else all that seasonal spending can get you? Perhaps a closer look at your budget could be the key to a different type of holiday cheer. After all, if Santa gets to travel around the world for Christmas, why can't you? With that in mind, is here to show you how far your festive spending can take you.

    Decorating a Christmas tree
    Image: Laura Bittner, Christmas tree via Flickr CC BY 2.0

    The price of a Christmas tree varies depending on height, but after looking at several vendors, the average cost is around $43 for a real tree. When it comes to decorating that tree, a box of ornaments costs around $30, a tree-topping star is $20 and a package of GE StayBright 50-Count Indoor LED Mini Christmas String Lights will set you back $10. All of that adds up to $103. Skip the tree and, instead, put that money towards two Air Canada Maple Leaf Lounge passes ($50 each if you purchased a Flex fare).

    Sending holiday cards
    Image: UnknownNet Photography, Day 349 - CY365 - Christmas Cards via Flickr CC BY-SA 2.0

    The average cost of a holiday card is around $4. Skip buying a card and you could use that $4 on earbuds, a can of Pringles or a bottle of water on a WestJet flight. If you're planning to send cards to more than one person, say to 15 of your closest friends and relatives, that's $60 plus postage. That money could get you two checked bags on Air Canada or Delta, both of whom charge $25 for each checked bag.

    Image: Stephane Mignon, Christmas via Flickr CC BY 2.0

    Giving your home a seasonal face-lift can be fun, but it can also be costly. Decorating for the holidays comes down to taste and preference. Suppose you go to Canadian Tire and spend $40 on a wreath, $3 on a pack of gold bows, $10 on a pack of holiday tea lights and $25 on a decorative snowman. That adds up to $78 in holiday decorations. Alternatively, $78 would also cover a spa treatment or a car rental.

    Image: Jamie McCaffrey, Another Christmas day comes to an end via Flickr CC BY 2.0

    Playing host to loved ones during the holidays can really add up. According to projections made by BMO Financial Group about what Canadians would be spending over the holidays in 2014, $211 was allocated to entertaining. Rather than getting your home ready for company, you could use that money on a weekend getaway or a whole day at the spa if you really want to treat yourself.

    Festive food
    Image: Austin Kelmore, Christmas Dinner Setting via Flickr CC BY-SA 2.0

    The holidays are synonymous with food - cooking it, eating it, talking about how much of it you consumed. And all that food doesn't come cheap. If you're cooking a holiday dinner you may, for example, purchase a 15-pound turkey, two pies and three bottles of wine. If the wine costs around $12 a bottle, the pies cost $9 each and the turkey runs you around $45 (based on Loblaws pricing), you're looking at spending just under $100. If you opt out of hosting a holiday dinner, you could use that money on one night in a hotel overlooking Niagara Falls or a couple of nights in a budget-friendly Airbnb room.

    Gift giving
    Image: Swaminathan, Over the Pacific via Flickr CC BY 2.0

    Instead of buying presents for everyone from your mom to your great aunt, why not give yourself the gift of travel? According to projections made by BMO Financial Group about what Canadians would be spending over the holidays in 2014, $551 was allocated to gifts. That money could be spent on a round-trip flight from Toronto to Cancun, Mexico, or Fort Lauderdale, Fla.

    Host/hostess gifts
    Image: slgckgc, A bottle of red via Flickr CC BY 2.0

    In addition to the gifts you buy for family and friends, celebrating the holidays also means going to various parties. For most people, this means bringing a little something for the host(s) of the event. One of the easiest things to bring is a bottle of wine. A decent, but not overly, costly bottle will run you around $15. If you're skipping the festivities and don't have to fork over money for the wine, you can spend that $15 on a tablet rental on a United flight for some personal inflight entertainment.

    Family travel

    Instead of travelling to see your relatives, take the money you would spend and fly to Europe or the Caribbean instead. Send your family a postcard and, instead of holiday gifts, get them a cool souvenir. Or, even better, get the whole family together somewhere new. Trade all the flights home for the holidays for tickets to Florida, and pool gift-giving money to rent a house for the celebration.

    The whole holiday season
    Image: TravelingOtter, Beach at Westin Aruba via Flickr CC BY-SA 2.0

    This season, if you don't spend money on the seasonal items and scenarios we've listed, you could save up to $1,107. That money could easily be spent on a flight to a warm and sunny destination like Aruba or Hawaii. Now, if that doesn't put you in the holiday spirit, we don't know what will!


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    Ireland's shoulder and low seasons offer some of the most favourable conditions for travellers. Temperatures in October and November tend to be more comfortable than the cold, rainy winter months, but tourists still enjoy the lower prices and sparse crowds associated with the low season. Pack a couple of sweaters and follow these five tips to making the most of your fall visit to Ireland.

    Photo credit: Cord Cardinal

    1. Consider Renting a Car
    Renting a car in a foreign country can seem overwhelming at first, especially when you find the steering wheel on the right side of the car, and you're supposed to drive on the left side of the road. However, you'll quickly adapt to the new way of driving, and you'll love the freedom you have to explore Ireland's vast landscapes on your own schedule.

    Pick up a detailed map upon arrival or arrange a data plan with your phone company before you go. Otherwise, you'll rack up unbelievably large data charges within just a few seconds of using Google Maps or another GPS application. Most of Ireland's vehicles come standard with a manual transmission, so pay a little extra for an automatic transmission if you're nervous about driving in a new country.

    2. Pack Your Rain Gear
    Photo credit: Cord Cardinal

    Rainy days are common in Ireland -- no matter which season you plan to visit. However, rainy days are even more common in fall with the cooler, rainy winter season approaching. A rain jacket and an umbrella are essential travel items for any trip to Ireland.

    3. Plan To Stay A While
    Ireland is roughly the size of the American state of West Virginia. Seeing that fact alone makes tourists think they can cram every must-see Ireland site into a week or two-week vacation. Travellers hoping to drive across the entire country should consider visiting Ireland for roughly one month (or longer).

    Those who are on a more restricted schedule, such as a visit of one to two weeks, should choose a specific region to explore in full. Spend your days discovering the coastlines, gardens and castles of the South, the wild landscape of the West, the capital city of Dublin and the East Coast or the counties of Northern Ireland.

    4. Don't Miss The Gardens

    Photo credit: Eskling

    Ireland's fall gardens are unlike anywhere else in the world. Visit the world famous Mount Stewart Gardens in Newtownards to take a special fall tour with the head gardener, enjoy the festivities of the October Autumn Fair or see November's Festival of Lights.

    Although, not all tourists make it to Northern Ireland on their visit. Fortunately, the eastern and southern regions of the Republic of Ireland are loaded with carefully crafted, scenic gardens displaying the country's best fall colours.

    5. Ask For Discounts
    It never hurts to ask. Fall is one of the best times of year to get special rates on accommodations, tours and other services during your stay. October lies in Ireland's shoulder season, and November is officially considered the "off-season," which means you can wheel and deal on better rates for visiting when the weather can be a bit more variable.

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    With the Canadian dollar going south, rich Albertans are looking west as they snap up ritzy vacation properties in British Columbia.

    Whistler, Sun Peaks, and Vancouver Island are just a few places where buyers from Wild Rose country are shelling out for recreational homes.

    They're helping to drive some real estate markets to their best results since the 2008 recession, according to Elaine Hung, vice-president of marketing with Sotheby's International Realty of Canada.

    "For Canadian snowbirds, as well as Canadian travellers, they're now looking at local destinations to travel to," Hung told The Huffington Post B.C. in an interview. "With local tourism comes an increase in purchasing recreational property in these real estate markets."

    The dropping value of the Canadian dollar — which has sunk from US$0.88 last year to $0.75 on Monday — is part of the reason Albertans are turning away from vacation properties in areas such as California and Arizona, or Sun Belt destinations like Hawaii and Mexico.

    luxury real estate
    This timber frame home at the Sun Peaks ski resort is on the market for $3.6 million. (Photo: Sotheby's)

    The trend has been a boon for places like Whistler, an international ski resort that saw its best September for real estate since the economic meltdown seven years ago, Hung said. Sun Peaks' real estate market has also seen a rebound, she added.

    Hung said while buyers from Alberta are on the increase, international and B.C. buyers are still in the game.

    Her comments come months after a report from Royal LePage showed a surge in buyers picking up cottages, cabins and chalets in B.C.

    The Canadian dollar and falling oil prices were both cited as factors at the time.

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    Criss-crossing the world in recent months has made me worried, very worried.

    It is not just the seemingly intractable problems that we are grappling with as a society -- climate change, the migrant crisis, terrorist attacks, to name a few. It's how today's younger generation seem to be increasingly glued to their screens and becoming more withdrawn. The lack of active face-to-face engagement.

    The increasing availability of cheaper smart phones and tablets, as well as the spread of online commerce, could mean that we are headed towards less collaboration as a society and more isolation. There's a cool new term out there called 'deviceolation' and the implication is that as young folks spend more and more time glued to their screens they lose the crucial skills of interacting with people.

    Many successful couples I've spoken to in the past weeks have expressed genuine concern at how their children are losing the ability to introduce themselves to strangers and conduct a productive conversation. They blame, in part, the increasing amount of time kids spend on their devices.

    It's too much chatter, and too little real-life conversations.

    There's some research out there already that's worth serious contemplation: the Wall Street Journal recently published findings showing that the number of children as young as two using devices has doubled in the past five years. What is more is that this cohort is having trouble expressing empathy or reading facial expressions. They are also having problems concentrating.

    It seems grown ups don't measure up that well either. The average adult now spends six hours-a-day online, and some 30 percent of iPhone users check their Twitter feed before even getting out of bed.

    On the road, we tend to be geeks. Thirty-five percent of travellers use their smartphones more often while travelling than in their daily lives.

    In fact, it's become such a concern in some quarters that one of the world's largest airlines - Cathay Pacific Airways of Hong Kong - teamed up with the good people at Mashable to kickstart a campaign called #OneDayOffline. The idea is simple -- encourage people to log off their devices for one day and enjoy life, especially when travelling. They call it achieving a #lifewelltravelled.

    The ongoing campaign encourages people to write in and declare how they will spend one day offline. My favourite is: 'I'd rather stroll rather than scroll.'

    They then went one step further and handpicked some of those who wrote in to spend one day offline -- in upstate New York. They then turned in their devices (one said it was like losing a limb) and spent a blissful day getting to know each other, picking apples, cleaning horse stalls. Eloquently simple, isn't it?

    I'm not quite sure where Cathay plans to go with this or how it adds to their bottom line. But I applaud them for launching this undertaking! Let's see if it goes viral.

    (For their part, Cathay says mobile technologies and social media platforms can be dangerously addictive. "This virtual world behaviour might get in the way of some very special real world moments.")

    I love the idea of staying offline while travelling. How many times have I sat next to someone on a long-haul flight as many as 14 hours on some journeys -- and not traded a single word? It's become even worse now with the multi-channel universe being beamed up to the skies, and new distractions such as in-flight wifi.

    Yet there have been times that when I've made the effort -- reached out and introduced myself to the person next to me. That simple act has rewarded me handsomely. Sometimes even with lifetime friendships. I've met tycoons, senior corporate executives, entrepreneurs -- and on one flight even an Afghan-born flight attendant who offered to read my palms and my soul. And believe me, when travel delays hit, you're always one step ahead by knowing someone on that flight or in that queue in order to collaborate on quick solutions.

    I've even encouraged people to suppress their fears in approaching the mighty and wealthy. If you spot a Bill Gates or Mark Zuckerberg at a conference or in an airport, go up to them and introduce yourself -- maybe even ask what their biggest problem is. Why? Because even the most successful tycoons or billionaires have problems their teams haven't been able to solve -- maybe you can!

    One last thought: the next time you hit the road, try switching off and tucking away your devices. You'll be amazed at how much more of the world you take in -- and appreciate!

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    Photo credit: ZoRRo79

    Small towns offer charm and hospitality that bigger cities just can't achieve. While some travellers choose to be surrounded by tourists shopping in London or lounging with fellow snowbirds in Ft. Lauderdale in the winter months, you could be out finding some of the world's best hidden gems. These five small towns from around the world are ones that will wow you with their beauty and change your idea of a winter vacation forever.

    1. Cua Van, Vietnam

    Vietnam is an off-the-beaten path place to escape winter's frigid temperatures. Many visitors to Vietnam head straight for the bustling metropolises of Ho Chi Minh City or Hanoi. These cities offer the historical architecture and awe-inspiring temples that many travellers seek in Southeast Asian countries, but you'll find an even more inspiring Vietnam experience in the tiny town of Cua Van.

    This small town, six hours from the capital city and floating on the turquoise waters of the Ha Long Bay, offers a feeling of authenticity and serenity that can't be found in the city. Homes aboard rafts, towering green-covered limestone hills and accommodations just inches above the water make this small town unlike any other in the world.

    2. Annecy, France
    Photo credit: Kosala Bandara

    Paris is one of the most romantic places in the world -- no matter the season. However, when many tourists imagine a romantic photo op under the Eiffel Tower, they're disappointed to find droves of tourists doing the same.

    Escape the tourist crowds of Paris, and enjoy a true winter romantic getaway in the small town of Annecy. It's a place that surpasses everyone's expectations (even those who call it home) with its charming Vieille Ville old town area, surrounding snow-capped mountains, the teal Lac d'Annecy and the famous lakeside chateau that has remained in place since the Middle Ages.

    3. Victoria-By-The-Sea, Canada

    Prince Edward Island's Victoria-By-The-Sea is a popular destination in the summer months, but the small fishing village offers just as much beauty in winter. Spend the holiday season in a decked out village hotel sipping tea and strolling the tree-lined streets to snap photos of historic homes sprinkled with snow. Dine on fresh fish, lobster and handmade chocolates while enjoying the serenity and charm of a town that boasts a year-round population of roughly 200.

    4. Bled, Slovenia
    Photo credit: Ben

    Bled, a small postcard-worthy town in the Slovenian Alps, looks just as picturesque covered in snow as it does when the grass is green. The small mountain town, which is teeming with tourists in summer, becomes a relaxing getaway with stunning views of the snow-covered Karwanks and Julian Alps when the temperatures drop.

    Whether you're interested in an action-packed getaway on nearby mountains, exploring the town's medieval Bled Castle or simply kicking back with your loved ones in one of the world's most romantic settings, you're bound to be blown away by Bled.

    5. Blowing Rock, United States

    Blowing Rock is famous among North Carolinians and others who are in the know, but it remains one of America's best kept secrets. This charming town in the Blue Ridge Mountains boasts a year-round population of less than 1,500, and you're guaranteed to meet a number of them when popping in all of the cute shops along the downtown streets. A stay in Blowing Rock also plants visitors just minutes from three of the top ski resorts in the southeast, which open their doors from December to March.


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    It's the time of year for my annual girl's trip south. It happens annually the same week each year, and the four of us talk about the last time and the next trip at the same time.

    This year we have a new girl joining us. She asked us what she should pack, and I had to think beyond the bathing suit and suntan lotion for an answer.

    My answer applies to all vacations. These are things you just need to have. Period.

    Unless you are used to sleeping with the person you are sleeping with; their sleeping habits are going to be different. Maybe they move a lot in the bed (even in separate beds in the same room would cause you to hear them), maybe they get up two or three times a night. Maybe they snore or talk in their sleep. Earplugs are mandatory when sharing a small space with others (like a hotel room).

    Not only will you need earplugs for sleeping, sometimes you just want (or need!) silence during the day. Regardless of how social you are, everyone needs a little down time, a little me time. Going on vacation with others doesn't always give you that opportunity. Sometimes alone time comes while sitting on the beach and NOT listening to the steel drum band. Earplugs can help with that.

    An e-reader
    Loaded up with many different book choices. I love my new Kobo Glo HD. I can easily read it on the beach (unlike my iPad which is impossible to read on the beach or in the sun), and I can read in bed at night without the light on. I need to read at night before I go to bed, and when I need to turn the light on for that, it naturally disturbs others. The Kobo Glo has it's own built-in light that doesn't shine so bright it keeps others up.

    I'm also not a great sleeper, so if I wake up in the middle of the night, I can easily just read myself back to sleep. This is a must have on any vacation, girlfriends or not.

    Just in case you don't normally wear pajamas, please pack them. Nothing sexy, nothing revealing. Something that you can lounge around in and feel comfortable. You may be comfortable with your nakedness, but it doesn't mean your friends are. Your girlfriends will thank you for it.

    And as I've discovered on my girls trips in the past, everyone likes their bedroom a different temperature. Pack a pair that will keep you warm (or cool) enough for you.

    Air freshener spray
    Face it, sometimes not everything smells great when you are on vacation, and the need to make a room smell better will be necessary. Better to spray than to avoid using the bathroom (the consequences are much larger in that case).

    A snore guard, if necessary
    Not everyone will think to pack earplugs, and your room mates might not appreciate your snoring. I don't snore normally, but when I travel with my girlfriends, I pack one anyway - just in case. I would be mortified if they told me in the morning that I was snoring all night. Then you can be sure that I wouldn't sleep any other nights in case I was snoring and disturbed them.

    Better safe than sorry.

    While there are a million other things to pack (passport, toothbrush, etc.), these are the things that affect your roommates more than they affect you. We are a world filled with people that only think about themselves. Don't let that be you -- think of others and pack with them in mind!


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    Isn't packing for your trip the best part of vacation? Yeah, not for me either.

    With the holidays and winter vacation just around the corner we could all use a few tips to ease the packing process. I travel quite often, and usually with both kids. As a result I have learned some little tricks along the way. So read on if you would like to make the packing process easier.

    1. Packing Cubes
    Using packing cubes are by far the easiest way to organize your travel. They are these awesome durable, zipable, smushable bags that fit into your suitcase, usually the top is made of mesh so you can see right through them. I have been using them for quite some time for my family of four. I use one packing cube per person, that way everyone's clothes are divided before you go. It makes the unpacking/sorting process way easier when you get to your destination, especially if you are staying in separate rooms. You can pop out each person's cube and give it to them. Smaller packing cubes can be used for shoes, toiletries, etc.


    2. Roll It Up
    If you want the most bang for your suitcase-space buck you need to roll those clothes. They take up a lot less space when rolled and they are less wrinkly when you arrive. Win win.

    3. Don't Over Pack
    I know we all like options, especially when on vacation, but try not to go overboard. If you have access to laundry facilities while away (and it's either free or not crazy expensive) pack enough for four days and wash your stuff. Most of the time when we travel we stay with friends or family or in a place with laundry, so this tip is key for us. I pack all of our stuff in one large suitcase for a seven to 10-day trip, or one medium suitcase for a long weekend. Less stuff = less stress. Trust me.

    If you can't wash your clothes while away try to pack very versatile, easy to mix and match pieces. And LOTS of underwear. You CAN re-wear the same outfit. People won't judge you (well maybe they will but who cares). It's probably the minimalist in me talking, but seriously, I have never run out of clothes while traveling and I'm always way happier to be pulling my one suitcase in an airport than I am watching everyone else struggle to cart all their stuff around.

    4. Travel Toiletries
    Economically speaking travel products are a huge rip-off. Why on earth would you pay $1 for one-tenth the amount of product that costs $3? That math just doesn't add up. That being said, travel toiletries are super convenient. Especially while traveling by plane. I have a few solutions to this. Save your samples and re-use your bottles: I end up with tons of free samples throughout the year. Shampoo, body wash, face wipes, etc. I save them all for travel. I hate buying new travel sized products, so I will save the containers my samples come in and re-fill them with the full size stuff. Make sure the bottles close very well and they won't leak and you're good to go. To be extra safe I usually put leaky, soap stuff in a plastic baggies and then into a packing cube.

    Bonus tip: Separate your travel toiletries by type and keep them separate from the rest of your stuff. I have ours in labelled bins in the linen closet. That way I can just grab and go as needed.

    5. Don't Bring What You Can Buy (within reason)
    Listen, when we're heading to an all inclusive in the Caribbean I am bringing enough of everything. There is no way I'm going to pay $20 for $8 sunscreen at the resort or $30 for 10 diapers (okay, maybe it's a bit of an exaggeration but I'm not that far off). If we are travelling within Canada or to the U.S., I just bring enough for a few days and supplement as needed. I'm not going to waste precious suitcase space to pack a week's worth of diapers, snacks for the ride home, or anything else I can easily pick up while away.

    Have a great travel tip? Get in touch and tell me about it.
    Happy organizing and happy travels everyone!


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    Miami's little sister boasts pristine beaches, world-class shopping and luxury resorts -- all within two walkable kilometres.

    Swipe your room key in the mirrored lobby of the St. Regis Bal Harbour Resort and the elevators whisk you to your floor -- no buttons to press. This elegance and efficiency imbues the hotel where everything is, quite literally, elevated. The landscaped grounds and pools are immaculate, and service is perfection. The famous bar has a Bloody Mary menu (the New York St. Regis is said to have invented the drink) and there is a nightly Champagne-sabering ritual. You'll understand why families travel from Russia and Eastern Europe and check in for a month.

    Right across from the St. Regis, the famous Bal Harbour Shops have everything a fashion maven could want, from Balenciaga to Bonpoint. Start at The Webster -- the outpost of the famous Miami store where the best items from all the collections are curated together like at a fashion shoot (a Chloe sheepskin jacket hangs next to a Stella McCartney jumpsuit and Chanel cardigan).

    Be a movie star for a day and book one of the Oceanfront Day Villas at the St. Regis. You'll have a butler who arrives at the push of a button, private loungers at the beach and pool, an indoor daybed, minibar, flat-screen, a full bathroom, dining area for four and a bottle of Dom. You'll wonder what the other 99 per cent are doing. Insider tip: book the cabana custom-decorated by the stylish folks from The Webster (see Shop).

    Work out:
    Once the season is in full swing in November, Exhale Spa at the newly refurbished Ritz-Carlton Hotel offers yoga, Barre and Pilates classes you can book online. Stop by the pool bar after for delicious marinated shrimp lettuce wraps.

    The Rèmede Spa at the St. Regis is about as luxurious as it gets, with every last detail attended to (they even had complimentary contact lens cases). The customized massage includes a foot paraffin treatment and aromatherapy scalp massage.

    The Bal Harbour Shops outpost of Toronto's Gee Beauty does a great 30-minute oxygen facial. Do pre-book a make-up session afterward for your evening out.

    Do like the locals do and dine long and late at the Japanese Makoto, where families in their Miami-style finery sip champagne and dine on sashimi and charcoal-grilled beef. Do make a reservation--even in the off-season it's fully packed.

    --Sarah Bancroft


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    ORLANDO, Fla. — Warm-weather places like Florida are going to be seeing less of their most popular visitors: Canadians.

    That's because fewer Canadians are coming to the United States this year due to the weak Canadian dollar.

    Visits by the United States' largest supply of international visitors are expected to be down by 8 per cent this year and another 1 per cent next year.

    Still, some 21.1 million Canadians are expected to come to the United States this year, making up almost 30 per cent of the U.S.'s international visitor total.

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    Orlando is known as a theme park hot spot, but when it comes to culture, Disney World's home has a surprising array of sophisticated dining, shopping and entertainment options. On a recent trip to the land of Mickey, we saw first-hand that you don't have to be a kid to enjoy a magical experience in the sunny city.

    The Four Seasons Resort Orlando at Walt Disney World Resort boasts some of Orlando's best bites, sips and sights. By day, we enjoyed the royal treatment poolside, complete with warm towels and cocktails, while nights were spent savouring the local gastronomy at Spanish steakhouse Capa (hint: the top floor location gives the perfect view for nightly Magic Kingdom fireworks). After a day of fun we recharged in our spacious room, with a balcony overlooking the resort (think pools, waterslides, a golf course and more) -- one of the best views in Orlando.

    When you think of Orlando, dining usually isn't the first thing that comes to mind. But the theme park haven is upping its culinary game as of late with several new restaurant openings this year. For an Asian fusion adventure, tuck in for the excellent Peking duck at Morimoto Asia in Disney Springs (a new resto from Iron Chef Morimoto). Paired with sake sangria and topped off with Oreo tempura for dessert, this titillating dining experience would give any roller coaster ride a run for its money.

    We loved soaking in authentic Vietnamese culture in the historic Mills 50 neighbourhood. A popular spot for locals, this is a must for escaping the tourist scene. Spend an hour or so meandering through Tien Hung Market (one of Orlando's first Asian markets) and browsing the many souvenir, jewelry and food vendors. For the best Pho we've had, hands down, stop for lunch at Vietnam Cuisine.

    Visit the resort town of Winter Park for a unique, only-in-Orlando experience. You will love the Scenic Boat Tour on its chain of six lakes (we didn't know Orlando had lakes either!). Famous families--the Walgreens (owners of the successful drugstore), and children's TV host Mr. Rogers' family--owned vacation homes here. After the tour, shop Park Avenue's high-end boutiques or simply enjoy the view of the beautiful park across the street.

    Recharge after a long day of touristing at the Four Seasons Resort Orlando at Walt Disney World Resort spa. We highly recommend the Classic Peptide Facial, which is a full facial plus a neck, shoulder and arm massage. Focused on deep cleansing and brightening, it includes extractions, exfoliation, serums, a yogurt mask and hot towels. Can we say heaven?

    Orlando is definitely more than just the Mouse.

    --Megan Bourassa


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    The villain from "The Lord of the Rings" wasn't about to sit back and let "Star Wars: The Force Awakens" hog all the attention.

    Sauron might as well have awakened in this spectacular eruption at Italy's Mount Etna on Thursday.

    mount etna

    The eruption produced some heartstopping photos that show lava exploding with dark clouds and lightning. The scene looked like it was lifted out of J.R.R. Tolkien's books.

    These images were captured as the Sicilian volcano's Voragine crater had its first eruption in two years, The Guardian reported.

    mount etna

    Lava sprang as high as one kilometre over the volcano, while a cloud of ash reached as high as three kilometres into the air, Wired said.

    The eruption lasted just under an hour, but it was more than enough time to capture pictures that made it look like Mount Doom.

    Here's a shot of the mountain from "The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King":

    And here are some more stunning photos of Mount Etna's eruption:

    mount etna

    mount etna

    mount etna

    mount etna

    mount etna

    mount etna

    mount etna

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    Calgary's restaurant scene has really begun to heat up over the past few years, and 2015 was no exception.

    Here are our pick's for the year's five best new restaurants in the city.

    1. Native Tongues

    #tbt throw back to corn season. How we miss you so! #yycliving #yycfood #yyceats #capturecalgary #bmexfamily #yyc

    A photo posted by Native Tongues Taqueria (@nativetonguesyyc) on

    Where: 235 12th Ave S.W.

    What to try: Their tacos al carbon are wood-fired and served family-style. Best paired with "mezcalgaritas" for the whole table.

    Native Tongues is part of the BMeX restaurant group, along with sister restaurants Una and Ox & Angela. With a pedigree like that, it's no suprise that the neighbourhood Mexican restaurant's cuisine is top notch. Come for the perfect masa tortillas, stay for the mezcal.

    2. Pigeonhole

    Hong Kong Style Steamed Fish #wholefish #dinnerfortwo #pigeonhole #yycfood

    A photo posted by @pigeonholeyyc on

    Where: 306 17th Ave. S.W.

    What to try: Pigeonhole's cuisine is, well, hard to pigeonhole, so it's hard to pick just one thing. Instead, go for the Russian caviar service, which is served with traditional garnishes: crumpets, capers, egg mimosa, red onion, crème fraîche and lemon.

    Pigeonhole nabbed the top spot on enRoute magazine's list of Best New Restaurants in Canada this year. The wine bar serves creative small plates and is run by chef Justin Leboe, who is also behind neighbouring restaurant Model Milk.

    3. Last Best Brewing & Distilling

    Grilled BC Octopus with winter squash puree, toasted hazelnuts, parsley, fried capers, sultana gastrique

    Posted by Last Best Brewing & Distilling on Thursday, 22 October 2015

    Where: 607 11th Ave. S.W.

    What to try: The Black Apron Beef Rib ribeye is spiced with local, Fratello brothers coffee and comes with a side of cheese curd mashed potatoes.

    Last Best is a brewpub that does its best to showcase local, Alberta ingredients — and the intent is evident in the name. The Last Best West was an initiative by Sir Wilfred Laurier's government to market the Prairies to homesteaders. The area was said to be both the last, and best chance for pioneers to settle and shape their future. Last Best does an amazing job of pairing elevated comfort food with local craft beer.

    4. Nice Cream

    Where: 4 4604 37th St. S.W.

    What to try: Try the Earl Grey ice cream. We'll leave the toppings up to you.

    Nice Cream fuses sweets with science. It claims to be the only spot in Western Canada to offer liquid nitrogen ice cream. The ice cream blend, made with high-quality local ingredients, goes into a stand mixer along with some liquid nitrogen. Vapour billows out, et voilà — delicious instant ice cream!

    5. The Bro'Kin Yolk

    Where: 130 12580 Symons Valley Road N.W.

    What to try: Fried chicken and house-made Belgian waffles. Enough said.

    The Bro'Kin Yolk is located up near Symons Valley Ranch, but trust us — it's worth the drive. Not only are you avoiding the downtown brunch crowds, but you'll be treated to some delicious, local eats.

    Also, the food at Bro'Kin Yolk helps a good cause. The breakfast spot is partnered with Mealshare (each Mealshare dish ordered sends a meal to someone in need) and $1 from every water purchased goes towards KidSport Calgary.

    Honourable Mention: Tamarind Vietnamese Grill & Noodle House

    Enjoying this beautiful bowl of Laksa Soup, hoping its super powers banish this head cold I feel coming on. It's been a...

    Posted by Anita Virginillo on Monday, 5 October 2015

    Where: 106-1111 6th Ave. S.W.

    What to try: The laksa is a rich, creamy coconut-based delight with enough turmeric and galangal to cure any cold.

    While not new, Tamarind rebooted itself over the past year to become a completely vegetarian and vegan restaurant. It's never been better. The family-owned restaurant makes all of their broth and tofu in house, which lends itself to some of the best pho in the city.

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    It might be tempting to huddle up indoors all winter, but this is Alberta — a little bit of snow shouldn't stop us from enjoying our beautiful province.

    Rather than going into hibernation, try a fun new outdoor activity instead. You can even reward yourself with some hot chocolate after!

    If skiing, snowboarding, or tobogganing are ho-hum to you, here are seven off-the-beaten-path outdoor activities to try so you can beat those winter doldrums.

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    A 101-year-old Canadian who charmed the Internet when her son recorded a video of her playing in the snow may have just done it again.

    Armand Foisy was driving with his mother, Albina, last month in Lillooet, B.C. when he stopped the car on the side of the road. The senior decided to jump out of the car to throw a snowball and just enjoy the winter weather.

    "Oh my, oh my, look at this," Albina is heard saying with wonder in the video that has delighted watchers not only in Canada, but also around the world.

    Armand Foisy told The Huffington Post Canada last month that his mother has an "unending curiosity."

    The video that he originally uploaded to Facebook has been viewed more than eight million times.

    Armand has now posted a second video showing his mother's reaction to all the hoopla.

    As she watches a local newscast about herself, Albina exclaims, "There I am! That's me! That's me!"

    We were excited to see you too, Ms. Foisy.

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    There's more to Los Cabos than the partying streets of Cabo San Lucas. This region of the Baja Peninsula is decorated with dynamic geography, from desert landscapes, to white sand beaches and undulating mountains. Partnered with unique resorts and the historic streets of San Jose del Cabo, Los Cabos is a hard destination to beat.

    Perfectly located between Cabo San Lucas and San Jose, with modern Mexican decor teasing the eye and attentive and friendly staff, the Hilton Los Cabos Resort is the perfect escape. The beachfront infinity pool will make you drool as you pamper yourself with exclusive Peter Thomas Roth products (in every room) and treat yourself to a delectable breakfast at El Mason.

    Located behind San Jose del Cabo's historic main square is the much-admired Art District, where Mi Cocina at Hotel Casa Natalia is nestled. Walk its cobbled streets, pop into eclectic galleries and end with dinner at Mi Cocina. Opened in 1989 by French chef Loic Tenoux, the restaurant embodies how well Cabo's international vibe blends with its historical feel. Share the grilled octopus, ceviche and shrimp tacos, and drink the tamarind margaritas.

    The traditional Mexican temazcal at the family owned Hacienda Encantada is an otherworldly experience. With temperatures reaching up to 60 degrees Celsius, this ancient cleansing ritual takes place in a spiritual sweat lodge run by a shaman and healer. This natural herbal healing is an intense experience (drink lots of water before), but good for the mind, body and soul.

    Do some eco-adventuring with Cabo Adventures and hop on a mountain bike or a camel to explore the Bajan desert. Just a 25-minute drive from Cabo takes you to entirely different landscape where white, blue and green dominate the desolate and beautiful terrain. With breathtaking views, this area is known for its vultures, natural aloe, flora, fauna and many other medicinal plants. Stay and have a delicious Mexican spread at the outdoor kitchen, and sample the locally made herbal damiana liqueur (served in a bottle shaped like a voluptuous woman, an ode to its fertility benefits).

    Surround yourself with luxury while working your muscles at a TRX class at Esperanza. This wellness resort is an A-list hideout, with everyone from Jennifer Aniston to President Obama favouring its offerings of detox and seclusion. Be sure to stop at the spa to take in the overwhelming scents of citrus and grab a bite at their poolside organic restaurant. If TRX isn't your thing, grab a paddle board and head to Playa Palmilla for bright blue water and a clear view of El Arco, the infamous rock arch that dips into the sea where the Pacific Ocean meets the Sea of Cortez.

    Cabo, we're coming back.--Aleeza Khan


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    Marseille, France's second most populous city, is too frequently overlooked or avoided by tourists who have been turned off by news reports portraying it as the French capital of crime. Someone should have told me that before I showed up there! All my things were stolen at the Saint-Charles train station. Passport, camera, camcorder, cash, ID cards. Obviously, I had to spend a night and an afternoon at the police station.

    At least, Marseille has more than petty thieves and a rough-around-the-edges look and feel: travellers to Marseille will find the city is full of delights, including fantastic food and wonderful wines. Here are a few of my favourites.


    The Best of Marseille -- Restaurant: Alcyone

    It's just before going to the station to meet a guest -- just before being the victim of that thief -- that I found myself in an extraordinary, Michelin rated restaurant. The Alcyone offers the best in fine dining from one of the finest hotels on the coast, the spectacular InterContinental Hotel Dieu, which overlooks the harbor and Notre Dame de la Garde, the church that crowns the city.

    Under the direction of chef Lionel Levy, the Alcyone is an experience of high gastronomy and impeccably paired wines. Click here to see the details of my luxurious evening.

    The Best of Marseille - Restaurant: La Table du Fort

    After a day spent walking in the hot sun on the edge of the Mediterranean, from the Museum of European and Mediterranean Civilisations (MuCEM) to the port, I found myself only a short walk away from a charming little restaurant, La Table du Fort. There, culinary French classics and special attentions of both proprietors are the highlights of the restaurant. Click here to see what I mean!

    The Best of Marseille - Hotel: Alex Hotel

    Details matter, and that's why one often finds that an exceptional three-star hotel in a good location is better than an ordinary five-star that isn't as conveniently located. In that spirit, I decided to stay the Alex Hotel, which faces the train station, and I loved it!

    The Best of Marseille - Hotel and spa: C2

    Of course, after getting all of my things stolen at the train station, I spent a rough night, with little sleep, and in the morning, I was in no mood to enjoy the city. I was tense and eager to quickly leave town -- especially now that I had to go to Paris to get a new passport. Still, somehow, I managed to relax. I thought, "What's the rush to leave town?" I knew from experience that one cannot judge an entire city just because of one visit.

    Admittedly, my "zen" outlook was heavily influenced by the spa treatments at Hotel C2. This five-star hotel is luxurious and impressive in the most unexpected ways. Somehow, in the pool, after a good massage and a fine cup of tea taken while reclining on a lounge chair, I came back to my senses. See some photos of this beautiful hotel here!

    The Best of Marseille - Restaurant: La Poule Noire

    I resolved to take a long hike to the summit the next afternoon, capped by a visit to the Notre-Dame-de-la-Garde and a brief viewing of one of the major projects of Le Corbusier's "Radiant City" -- which, I must confess, I found not so radiant. Afterward, I headed for La Poule Noire, where chef Franck Paté's menu focuses on cuisine of the market, using seasonal ingredients and a classic technique that showcases them beautifully. The photos do not lie, it was very good!

    The Best of Marseille - Restaurant: La Manne

    Alas, it is impossible to truly take the pulse of a city in only a few days. Unfortunately I had to leave before I had completed my exploration of Marseille. I was able, fortuitously, to once more break bread with the locals at La Manne, which is very near the Saint-Charles train station. They were warm and gracious people, which somehow took away the sting of my next errand -- to the capital to replace my stolen documents. Cheers!

    Marseille may not be the most beautiful city in the world. Its citizens may not be the friendliest to strangers. But the city does have many charms for travellers, not least of which are its fine eateries!

    In this series, Cédric Lizotte visits some of Europe's best restaurants. On his blog, Continents & Condiments, he shares his inside knowledge about the best places to sample the delights of some of the best chefs on the planet. Follow his gastronomical journey on social media with the hashtag #CedricInEurope.


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    If the winter blues already have you planning your next vacation, why not go passport-free and visit some incredible cities closer to home. For 2016, is revealing the 10 best value Canadian cities whose hotels won't break the bank, but will give you an incredible stay.

    As trivago's best value cities list shows -- calculated using the annual average price of a standard double room and the city's average hotel rating -- planning a Canadian getaway in the New Year will not only be fun, it'll also be affordable.

    10. Moncton, NB
    © Tourism Moncton

    Average accommodation price per night: $137
    City's average hotel rating: 80.45/100

    9. Kelowna, BC
    © Tourism Kelowna

    Average accommodation price per night: $151
    City's average hotel rating: 80.13/100

    8. Mont-Tremblant, QC
    © Association villégiature Tremblant

    Average accommodation price per night: $201
    City's average hotel rating: 84.63/100

    7. London, ON
    © Tourism London

    Average accommodation price per night: $120
    City's average hotel rating: 78.58/100

    6. Niagara-on-the-Lake, ON
    © Tourism Niagara-on-the-Lake

    Average accommodation price per night: $220
    City's average hotel rating: 88.87/100

    5. Charlottetown, PEI
    © Tourism PEI, Stephen Harris

    Average accommodation price per night: $162
    City's average hotel rating: 82.49/100

    4. Penticton, BC
    © Destination BC, Don Weixl

    Average accommodation price per night: $133
    City's average hotel rating: 78.43/100

    3. Golden, BC
    © Tourism Golden

    Average accommodation price per night: $144
    City's average hotel rating: 81.10/100

    2. Nanaimo, BC
    © Tourism Nanaimo, Ted Kizinski

    Average accommodation price per night: $130
    City's average hotel rating: 79.81/100

    1. La Malbaie, QC
    © Tourisme Charlevoix, Annie Bolduc

    Average accommodation price per night: $144
    City's average hotel rating: 84.32/100

    Inspired to visit these bargain hotspots and need a place to stay? Find your ideal hotel at the best price by comparing hotel rates on over 250 websites here!


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    Photo credit: Stephen_AU

    Iceland probably isn't the first place that comes to mind when you imagine a winter getaway. In fact, the snowy weather and short winter days (December sees four to five hours of daylight each day) are enough to deter the most adventurous travelers. After all, why escape the cold to another cold destination? Or how can you expect to see any sights within just five hours of daylight?

    Iceland winters offer a special experience that those who visit in the more friendly summer months never see. The following five reasons to visit Iceland in winter are guaranteed to kick your cold-weather-hating, daylight-loving instincts to the curb.

    The Northern Lights

    Photo credit: Victor Montol

    If you've browsed the web in search of photos of Iceland, you've probably found some awe-inspiring pictures of the aurora borealis, or Northern Lights. Iceland's iconic Northern Lights displays, which are the mesmerizing colors produced by collisions of the sun's electrically charged particles entering the earth's atmosphere, are easier to see in the longer nights of winter. The sunrises and sunsets last for hours at a time on these shorter days, which mean's you're bound to snap hundreds of postcard-worthy photos with perfect lighting.

    You Can Still Swim

    Photo credit: Roderick Eime

    You won't want to dive head-first into the ocean in an Icelandic winter, but you will want to visit some of the island's countless geothermal pools. These geothermal pools are heated by earth's energy, and they stay warm enough to swim inside at all times of year. The geothermal pools are typically outside, so you'll never feel like you're wasting the day away when lounging in one of Mother Earth's jacuzzis.

    Reykjavik Is Always in Season

    Photo credit: Berit Watkin

    Reykjavik, the northernmost capital city in the world, is a magical place surrounded by natural wonders. Visit in December, and you'll find holiday ice skating rinks, festivals, and the city's entire downtown area transformed into a massive Christmas village. However, January and February still see Reykjavik thriving with its usual happening nightlife scene, museums, art galleries, bustling geothermal pools, world-class restaurants, hip cafes, and microbreweries.

    It's Not As Cold As You Think

    Photo credit: Diana Robinson

    Iceland's name alone makes many potential visitors turn away, but the Land of Fire and Ice isn't as cold as it seems. You'll likely find snow on the ground when you arrive, but you will notice it's not any colder than other favorite winter destinations like Paris and New York City. Temperatures in Iceland's lowlands average 0-degrees Celsius (32-degrees Fahrenheit) in the winter months, which means if you bring a cozy jacket, you won't be deterred from exploring the outdoors.

    Iceland's name alone makes many potential visitors turn away, but the Land of Fire and Ice isn't as cold as it seems. You'll likely find snow on the ground when you arrive, but you will notice it's not any colder than other favorite winter destinations like Paris and New York City. Temperatures in Iceland's lowlands average 0-degrees Celsius (32-degrees Fahrenheit) in the winter months, which means if you bring a cozy jacket, you won't be deterred from exploring the outdoors.

    It's Cheaper

    Photo credit: Greenland Travel

    Summer and Christmas are some of the most popular times to visit Reykjavik. However, if you head to the island in the less popular winter months of January and February, you'll see prices on car rentals and accommodations cut nearly in half. Iceland is teeming with Airbnb rentals that often go unused this time of year, so do your research wisely, and you could find an amazing deal on your winter-weather island getaway.


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