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Canada Travel news and opinion

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    WASHINGTON — Prime Minister Justin Trudeau will use his visit to Washington to announce support for a plan that could revolutionize the way travellers cross the border — affecting multiple modes of transportation, sources say.

    He intends to endorse a pre-clearance experiment that would allow people to clear customs at train stations, bus stations and off highways the same way they already can at several Canadian airports.

    canada border us
    Sources say plans to move forward with a pre-clearance system will develop during the prime minister's U.S. visit. (Photo: The Canadian Press)

    Two industry sources and one national government confirmed that after fits and starts the initiative will move forward during the prime minister's visit that begins Wednesday.

    A U.S. official speaking to a public event would not go as far as confirming specifics but suggested an elaborate agreement later this week will include a pre-clearance component.

    "They will be announcing a number of developments," Alan Bersin, assistant secretary for international affairs at the U.S. Department of Homeland, told a forum hosted by the website Politico and the Canadian American Business Council.

    "There's really been a radical transformation in the way Canadians and Americans view the border."

    Asked what announcements could be forthcoming he referred to three areas, including long-expected plans to share data for land travellers the way it's shared for air travel; swaps of exit data; and pre-clearance.

    He said governments are starting to move beyond the old dichotomy of trade versus security at the border — and are designing a more sophisticated system intended to achieve both.

    "There's really been a radical transformation in the way Canadians and Americans view the border."

    The basic idea is that travellers should be screened by customs officers far away from the border, to ease pressure on existing choke points and speed up travel.

    The concept was announced a year ago by the Harper government and the Obama administration — but it hadn't moved forward. It requires implementation legislation in both countries and neither country had yet indicated any intention of doing so, with Canada's change in government further muddying the picture.

    That legislation would deal with thorny legal issues — such as the right of customs officers to carry arms in the other country, and the procedure for making an arrest on foreign soil. The governments insisted last year that any arrest would have to be performed by an officer from the host country.

    The new system would start with pilot projects in several places. One business source said Trudeau and President Barack Obama are expected to identify them this week. He said they will include the port at Quebec City and at Massena, N.Y.

    "It has the potential to put millions of dollars back into the economy of North America."

    Another business group that has spent years pushing for pre-clearance called it marvellous news if it's true that Trudeau plans to move ahead.

    "It's brilliant. Much needed," said Scotty Greenwood of the Canadian American Business Council. "It has the potential to put millions of dollars back into the economy of North America."

    But one U.S. official who's seen the issue gain momentum before only to have it slow down warned: "It's not final until it's final."

    The hurdles include passing a similar bill in the U.S. Congress — which often kills or blocks legislation.

    However, a bill introduced a few days ago received numerous sponsors from both parties, increasing its chance of passing. That left open the question of whether Canada would introduce a similar bill.

    Sources said that's part of what will be announced this week.

    -- This feed and its contents are the property of The Huffington Post, and use is subject to our terms. It may be used for personal consumption, but may not be distributed on a website.

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    An Air France passenger will not be prosecuted after she reportedly hid a four-year-old girl in a carry-on bag on a flight from Istanbul to Paris.

    A woman was arrested at Charles de Gaulle Airport on Monday after she had allegedly hidden a Haitian girl she was in the process of adopting in a bag at her feet during the flight, AFP reports.

    A source told the news agency that the woman had been denied access to a flight after passing security with the child, and later boarded another plane with the girl in her bag.

    air france plane

    The bag was placed on the floor and she draped a blanket over it before the girl indicated that she had to go to the bathroom.

    Eventually, a fellow passenger noticed something moving inside the bag, reported in French.

    Halfway through the flight, an attendant found the child who looked to be one or two years old, another passenger said.

    air france plane cabin

    The woman and the child were then moved to the front of the plane. No one on the flight was informed about what happened over the PA system, reported.

    A source told AFP that the woman will not face prosecution. They were still at the airport as recently as Wednesday, as authorities completed their investigations. The child is doing fine, added

    In a statement to Mashable, Air France said it is "fully cooperat[ing] with the investigation underway being conducted by the competent authorities."

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    If you walk in to the Henn-na (or the Weird Hotel) in Japan, you will likely be met by two receptionists. Both speak English but neither is like any receptionist you've ever seen before. One appears to be a perfectly airbrushed woman. The other is a dinosaur. Both are robots.

    The reception desk at the Henn-na Hotel in Japan

    The concierge at Henn-na is also a robot, as is the porter. While the Weird Hotel may be just that -- weird -- robots are still showing up in hotels, cruise ships and airports around the world in a quest to better serve travellers.

    The Aloft, Residence Inn and Holiday Inn hotels in California use robots to deliver room service. Costa Cruise Lines' Pepper the robot assists passengers and is trilingual in German, Italian and English. Royal Caribbean's Quantum of the Seas has a Bionic Bar with robot bartenders. KLM's "Spencer" robot takes care of customer service at Amsterdam Airport Schiphol. The upscale Nihonbashi department store in Tokyo has even jumped on the bandwagon, unveiling humanoid ChihiraAico as their consierge.

    Toshiba's ChihiraAico at the upscale Nihonbashi department store in Tokyo

    The list of robots in the travel industry continues to grow and on March 11, Toshiba unveiled Chihira Kanae, its most advanced, human-looking robot, at ITB Berlin, the world's largest tourism convention.

    The idea that robots will be at the front desk or even helping you with your luggage on your next vacation is not so far-fetched.

    Toshiba's ChihiraKanae, unveiled this week at ITB Berlin

    In fact, according to a global survey by Travelzoo, a global media commerce company, 80 per of travellers expect robots on their vacations by 2020 and almost two-thirds said they are comfortable being served by robots in some capacity.

    Chinese, Brazilian and American travellers are the most positive about how robotics and artificial intelligence can enhance travel in general - 92 per cent of Chinese and 73 per cent of Brazilians and 71 per cent of Americans said they were comfortable with this idea. Other nations appear more cautious. Only 37 per cent of Germans and 47 per cent of French respondents said they were comfortable with cyborg hospitality.

    Toshiba's ChihiraJunco welcoming tourists at AQUA CiTY ODAIBA, Tokyo Waterfront City

    The main advantages travellers see in robots are related to general efficiency, data retention and recall. More than three-quarters of respondents think that robots would be better than humans at handling data (81 per cent) and dealing with different languages (79 per cent), while 76 per cent believe robots have better memory overall. And 81 per cent of respondents cited their untiring energy as an advantage.

    But that doesn't mean that respondents don't have their concerns. 75 per cent said robots are impersonal. 70 per cent doubted they would be able to understand informal language such as slang, idioms, local dialects or irony. Seventy-five per cent worried that their bionic counterparts would eventually take away jobs.

    Commenting on the survey's findings, Travelzoo's European President, Richard Singer said, "Right now is a very exciting moment in the history of the travel industry - groundbreaking technology is revolutionizing what is possible from the perspective of customer service, entertainment and personalization. Robots and artificial intelligence are making their debut on the tourism stage, and our research into global acceptance of robots working in the travel industry is largely positive. Most nations are starting to open up to the idea of robots in travel and see the tangible benefits heading our way in the very near future."

    Andrea Chrysanthou is an editor of the Travelzoo Canada blog and is based in Toronto, Ontario. Travelzoo has 250 deal experts around the world who rigorously research, evaluate and test thousands of deals to find those with true value.

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    Saskatchewan, my home province, has a reputation for being flat and boring. Now, don't get me wrong. I've lived here almost my entire life and I love it. I'm proud of my prairie heritage. We're friendly and welcoming people, and we're surrounded by natural beauty: wide open skies, 100,000 lakes, an amazing amount of sunshine, and surprising landscape variations, like the Athabasca sand dunes. Still, we don't have the same kind of breathtaking natural wonders as some other provinces. No orca whales like those off Vancouver Island, no Rockies, no Group-of-Seven-esque Canadian Shield, no Niagara Falls, no icebergs.

    I've been well steeped in the notion that Saskatchewan is beautiful but, compared to other places, it's nothing special. And so, it honestly came as a surprise to me when far-flung friends posted on social media that seeing the northern lights (aka the aurora borealis) is a bucket list item.


    Photo credit: Colin Chatfield, Chatfield Photographics. Used by permission.

    True to Saskatchewan stereotypes, I grew up on a farm. It was not unusual to see the auroras out dancing over the fields at night, particularly in the winter. Now that I live right in Saskatoon, I don't see them as often, but I have caught them over my backyard a time or two. To me, the auroras are akin to rainbows. The lights aren't a daily occurrence, and although they are always majestic when you see them, they're just part of life in Saskatchewan. Yep, I took them for granted.

    But once I realized that seeing the aurora borealis is, for some people, a bucket list item, I started paying more attention. And here I was in for another surprise. If you search Google for images of the aurora borealis, and you'll see a beautiful array of colours lighting up the night sky in the photos. I assumed these were images were photoshopped because the auroras I've seen have been primarily green.

    In fact, digital single lens reflex (DSLR) cameras pick up colours in the auroras that are too faint for the human eye to see. As well, as Mike Taylor explains, the long exposure times and high ISO settings available on today's digital cameras also help boost the colours captured in aurora photographs.


    Photo credit: Colin Chatfield, Chatfield Photographics. Used by permission.

    Before you start planning your aurora hunting trip, keep in mind that what you've been seeing in recent photos is likely not what you will see with your naked eye. The lights are always majestic, though, and with the right camera equipment, you can see and capture the amazing colours too. If this hasn't deterred you, read on.

    What to expect
    Each aurora display is unique: their intensity, the colours, the duration, and how the lights shift and dance will vary every time. I've seen the auroras mostly as sinuous green shapes. But they might appear as horizontal bands, or as vertical spikes; and depending on your own eyes and where you are in the world, you might see any colours of the rainbow. The show might last anywhere from a few minutes to pretty much all night.

    When to seek them out
    Auroras occur year round - but they are easier to spot during the winter months when the nights are longer and the darkness gets more intense. In the far north, polar night lasts from mid-November to the end of January, and in that lengthy darkness, there are more opportunities to spot the lights. Further south, your best chances to spot them are around the midnight hours, year round.


    Photo credit: Colin Chatfield, Chatfield Photographics. Used by permission.

    Where to find them
    While the northern nights have been spotted as far south as New Mexico and Georgia in the USA, your best chances to see them are in the regions under or near the auroral oval. One caveat: do not attempt to visit the auroral oval in the high summer months. The region isn't referred to "Land of the Midnight Sun" for nothing.

    In Alaska, Fairbanks is the best destination choice, but tour companies offer excursions out of other Alaskan locations.

    Canada offers several prime locations for viewing the northern lights. While it's no surprise that the lights dance in the Yukon, the Northwest Territories, and Nunavut, the aurora also puts on a show in more southern locations like Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia, and southern Ontario.

    The Scandinavian countries of Norway, Sweden, and Finland are also under the auroral oval, and each offers unique opportunities to view the aurora borealis. Even though I can occasionally spot the northern lights in my own backyard, I wouldn't say no to a night or two in one of the glass igloos at Finland's Kakslauttanen Resort.

    One of the best places in Greenland to catch the lights is in stunning Kangerlussuaq, which boasts 300 clear nights every year. And opportunities to view the aurora borealis in Iceland are plentiful, with several destinations and tours geared towards aurora hunters.


    Photo credit: Colin Chatfield, Chatfield Photographics. Used by permission.

    How to prepare
    There are certain things that you can do to increase your chances of spotting the aurora borealis - the timing of your trip, the location you choose, and the duration of your stay will all impact your odds. Do your research. Long-term aurora forecasts are not terribly accurate, but you can track aurora activity at sites such as There are also groups of people dedicated to tracking and photographing the aurora. I belong to the Saskatchewan Aurora Hunters group on facebook, where the regulars are extremely helpful and knowledgeable.

    Shooting the Northern Lights
    While you can photograph the aurora borealis with some point-and-shoot cameras, a good DSLR camera and some basic accessories will dramatically improve your captures. Colin Chatfield, a prolific aurora photographer based in Saskatchewan, has honed a list of equipment suggestions. You'll want a camera that is good for long-exposure night photography, and there are several models by Canon, Nikon, and Sony that fit that bill. A sturdy tripod (strong enough to keep steady in the wind) is essential to keeping your camera shake-free during the long exposure times; and a remote shutter release cable can improve your camera's stability as well. Of all your equipment, the lens is the most important. A wide-angled, fast lens is ideal, but also pricy. The best are around 11mm and with a speed of f/3.5 and faster, and may cost $800 and up. If you are purchasing a lens specifically for an aurora hunting trip, just buy the best you can afford.

    If you are planning to photograph the lights, try to scout out good locations during the daylight hours. Dedicated aurora photographers often capture the aurora borealis in photos with grain elevators, abandoned barns, bridges, or lonely rural churches, or a beach, reflected against the water.


    Photo credit: Colin Chatfield, Chatfield Photographics. Used by permission.

    Be patient
    Sit back and be patient, and be prepared to be awed by the aurora borealis dancing across the big night sky.

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    In the months leading up to my trip around the world, I received a lot of well-meaning advice from friends who had experience in this sort of thing. The advice ranged from useful and personal ("I know you have weird stomach problems, so bring lots of antacids, some charcoal pills, and a tiny trowel to dig a hole* if you're out in the country") to light-hearted jokes ("Don't drink yourself to death") to heartfelt advice from my mom ("Don't drink yourself to death").

    But the most common piece of advice I've been given is straightforward: Experience the local culture. I mean, really, what else is there to say? When you're somewhere new, you can easily have new moments and experiences on a daily basis, which is almost unheard of back at home. So why not get out there, right?

    (Plus, you can try to hit that coveted sweet spot of being a tourist without seeming like a tourist, which is almost always a concern for people who passionately argue about the difference between "travel" and "tourism," almost definitely while they play a Mumford and Sons deep cut in the background.)

    I'm not alone on this trip, and I don't mean that in a metaphysical no-citizen-of-the-world-is-ever-alone type of way; I mean that I'm doing this with around 70 people following the same itinerary and sharing the same workspace as me. That means that I get to watch how everyone finds their own way to experience the local culture, from immediately hitting up museum tours to starting a game of football with the locals.

    It also means I get to feel Extremely Canadian when I make a Breaker High joke and no one understands that we are all living out a Ryan Gosling teenage romantic comedy.

    The point is, there are so many ways to apply your existing expertise and interests to connect and interact with a new place, and I'm always deeply impressed to watch someone I know do just that. So I figured I'd do the same with two of my lifelong passions: Eating and Drinking.

    A local friend of Remote Year is a man named Martin. Martin is a lawyer/restaurateur/sommolier, and as soon as I learned this, bystanders could actually watch my sense of self-worth collapse in on itself like a dying star. He graciously invited two groups of us to enjoy a five-course wine and food tasting at his restaurant, La Bodeguita De Güemes. He had me at "five-course."

    The evening was straight out of a travel show. There was laughter, heartfelt conversations, and the single best empanada I've had in my life. We bonded, we learned, and I shit you not, a mime showed up. It was the essence of experiencing the local culture. Who can't get behind a good wine tasting?

    Spoiler: Me.

    It wasn't that the wine wasn't delicious (it was), or that the food wasn't delightful (it was). It's that, to my overgrown toddler sense of taste, everything is equally good. I'd like to believe there's a logical reason for this.

    "Damn, this wine is good. It tastes like wine."

    Maybe I delved too greedily and too deep into a Pizza Pop when I was a child, and my tastebuds calcified from the heat.

    Maybe years of drinking $7 wine straight from the bottle devolved my tongue into a sea slug that can only detect the presence or absence of alcohol.

    Because if there's no scientific explanation for why a rich Malbec made in the Argentinian countryside does it for me just as much as a room temperature white wine I once found wedged behind my bookshelf, then I'm left with one conclusion: I'm too uncultured to actually experience other cultures. Any truly cultured moment, anywhere, should be off-limits to me.

    I am the Crocs of people.

    Martin would show us how to tease all of the proper flavour notes and smells out of each glass of wine. He'd ask us to compare the aroma and taste with each sip, and quiz us one the different things we could taste. All around me, people were shouting out different answers as he smiled approvingly. Hints of vanilla (from the oak in the barrel). Notes of pepper (red pepper, to be precise). They were all getting it, and it was honestly inspiring.

    And my only thought was: "Damn, this wine is good. It tastes like wine."

    The world is wasted on me.

    Mike Sholars is currently residing in Córdoba, Argentina as he travels the world for a year while working remotely for The Huffington Post Canada. Remotely Interesting is his weekly travel column. Follow @sholarsenic on Instagram and Twitter to be assaulted with his bad jokes and shaky photos.

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    Is a weaker Canadian dollar clipping travellers' wings? Would-be vacationers could find themselves paying 30 per cent more for their warm-weather getaways this year. As the Loonie hovers around US$0.75, three-quarters admit the weak currency has impacted their trip plans.

    But cash-strapped travelers needn't settle for a staycation, as a number of travel rewards credit cards can effectively offset travel costs.

    However, using plastic to fund a vacation can be a point of confusion. While there are a number of fantastic travel offers available in today's market, many Canadians aren't aware of travel rewards best practices, and there continue to be misconceptions around the true value of rewards, and how to effectively earn and redeem them.

    To help Canadians take flight faster, has revealed the Guide to Flying for Free - How to Cash in Travel Rewards Credit Card Points. The guide provides clarity on choosing the right card, and insight to the value offered by popular rewards programs.

    How to Pick the Perfect Travel Rewards Credit Card





    How Big is That Bonus... Really?

    We've all seen the ads -- sign up today and get 50,000 points! Seems like a really sweet deal -- but how much is a point really worth? It depends on the card and the way you redeem. Here's a breakdown of what the most popular points in Canada are worth* when cashed in for travel:

    American Express Blue Sky Points
    Each: $0.01
    Points needed for $100 in travel: 10,000
    Redemption - Great: Book any travel and apply points to your balance. A minimum 10,000 is required to redeem. Points are converted to statement credits of $100 each, which can then be applied to any travel purchase.
    Blackouts or Restrictions: No

    American Express Gold Rewards Points
    Each: $0.01
    Points needed for $100 in travel: 10,000
    Redemption - Great: Book any travel and apply points to your balance. A minimum 10,000 is required to redeem. Points are converted to statement credits of $100 each, which can then be applied to any travel purchase.
    Blackouts or Restrictions: No

    BMO Rewards
    Each: $0.01
    Points needed for $100 in travel: 10,000
    Redemption - Good: Travel must be booked through the BMO Rewards travel agency, either online or over the phone. You must have a minimum of 100 points to redeem. If you don't have enough points to cover your trip, you can pay the remainder with your credit card.
    Blackouts or Restrictions: No

    Capital One reward miles
    Each: $0.01 each
    Points needed for $100 in travel: 10,000
    Redemption - Great: Simply charge your travel expense to your card, then apply points to your balance. There is no point minimum required to redeem, and points can be used to pay taxes and other surcharges.
    Blackouts or Restrictions: No

    CIBC Aventura Points
    Each: $0.03
    Points needed for $100 in travel: approx. 3,300
    Redemption - Ok: Travel must be searched for via the CIBC Aventura rewards portal, which includes all airlines. Flight types are classified as long haul, short haul, domestic and international, and require a minimum number of points to qualify per category. There is a maximum cap on the number of points you can redeem, and points cannot be used to pay for taxes and other surcharges.

    Scotia Rewards Points
    Each: $0.01 each
    Points needs for $100 in travel: 10,000
    Redemption - Great: Simply charge your travel expense to your card, then log into your Scotia Rewards account to apply points to your balance. There is no point minimum required to redeem, and points can be used to pay taxes and other surcharges.
    Blackouts or Restrictions: No

    RBC Rewards Points
    Each: $0.023
    Points needed for $100 in travel: approx. 4,300
    Redemption - Ok: Redeem your points online via the RBC Orbitz portal, over the phone, or via Carlson Wagonlit Travel. Flight types are classified as long haul, short haul, domestic and international, and require a minimum number of points to qualify per category. There is a maximum cap on the number of points you can redeem, and points cannot be used to pay for taxes and other surcharges.

    Each: $0.15 each (varies based on flight redemption)
    Points needs for $100 in travel: Approx. 667
    Redemption - Ok: Flights must be booked via AIR MILES' Dream Rewards Centre, which prices point requirements based on mileage. Redemption costs are higher during the high season, and AIR MILES cannot be used to pay for taxes and other surcharges.
    Blackouts or Restrictions: No

    Aeroplan Miles
    Each: $0.23 each
    Points needs for $100 in travel: approx. 4,300
    Redemption - Ok: Travel must be booked by the Aeroplan rewards portal, and are restricted to Air Canada and other partner airlines. Point redemption is divided into two tiers: Fixed Mileage and Market Fare. Fixed Mileage Flight Rewards travel can be booked for fewer points, but are subjected to limited availability and seasonality.
    Blackouts or Restrictions: Some seat restrictions

    TD Rewards
    Each: $0.005
    Points needs for $100 in travel: 20,000
    Redemption - Good: Book travel on any airline, or book through Expedia for TD, then log in in to your TD Rewards Account to pay with your points. Points can also be used to pay for taxes and additional surcharges.
    Blackouts or Restrictions: No

    *Based on value of signup bonus. Note values may vary depending on redemption method, flight seasonality and flight class).

    Tips for Using a Travel Rewards Credit Card

    Seek out the perfect plastic: There is a wide variety of travel rewards programs to choose from and each offers a different earning and redemption structure. It's important to determine whether a card's earning potential can be maximized based on your specific spending habits -- for example, gas and grocery purchases, or earning on all spending.

    Heed the fee:
    Travel rewards cards are often packed with additional insurance, concierge and lounge benefits -- and that means the majority charge an annual fee. Look for cards that waive this charge for a limited promotional period, and determine whether your annual earnings offset the fee amount. For those who are fee adverse, a non-fee card with a lower earning threshold can be a better fit.

    Ask about redemption:
    Those points won't do much good if they're grounded during your desired departure season. Seat capacity, seasonal, and minimum redemption restrictions are common pitfalls vacationers should be aware of. For the greatest flexibility, look for cards that allow points to be redeemed directly on travel purchases charged on the card.

    Cover yourself:
    Many travel cards come with built-in insurance benefits -- but you shouldn't assume you're covered. At a bare minimum, ensure you have sufficient travel medical and accident insurance for yourself, spouse and any dependents travelling with you. Add-ons like trip interruption, delay and cancellation coverage can provide greater peace of mind on your journey.

    * Preparing for Takeoff: Air travel outlook for 2016 -

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    One of the great pleasures of travel is, of course, the different food options that are available at different destinations. But for those travelling with food restrictions -- allergies, gluten-free, vegetarian, vegan or religious boundaries -- it requires some definite pre-planning to ensure a healthy diet can be maintained and medical safety is managed.

    Flying? The challenges can start here. I found a comprehensive list of some of the most popular airline food restriction policies over on RoadWarriorVoices, who got their information from Allergic Living.

    Each airline varies. Some are still serving nuts (peanuts, cashews or mixed nuts), others have gluten-free meal options, one (Jet Blue) even allows allergy prone passengers to board early to wipe down their seats before general boarding.

    (Please check with airline prior to travel as policies change frequently.)

    Air Canada does not ban passengers from bringing peanuts on board, but will allow you to request a "buffer zone" on a flight, whereby passengers within that zone will be warned of severe allergies. It is worth noting that unaccompanied minors with severe peanut allergies will not be allowed to travel alone. Most airlines will have EpiPens or other allergy medications on board, but of course it is suggested that passengers bring their own.

    If you are not allergic but have dietary restrictions because of celiac, or are vegetarian, vegan or eliminate certain foods because of religious reasons, you will need to plan ahead in order to make sure you can always access the food you need.

    Vegan blogger Tory Aston shares some of her best travel tips over on TheKindBlonde, including the fact that her number one rule of veganism is the same as girl scouts: always be prepared.

    She recommends the Happy Cow app for travel, which will find all types of vegetarian cuisines, including vegan. If you can't find a vegan-only restaurant, go to a vegetarian spot and other restaurants which might have vegan dishes available.

    She also suggests packing your own snacks (Clif Bars, crackers, etc.) and recommends visiting local grocery stores once you've arrived to stock up for snacks or entire meals.

    If you're not planning on eating out at a lot of restaurants, consider upgrading to hotel rooms with kitchenettes. You'll likely offset the cost by eating in. Remember to load a translation app or take along a foreign language dictionary to look up ingredients.

    The Independent Traveler also has great information on travelling with dietary restrictions, including trip planning, even to go as far as with a specialty outfitter that caters to your particular dietary needs. They suggest Kosherica for Kosher foods.

    Carry food allergy translation cards if you are travelling to a country where they don't speak your language. You can pull these out at restaurants to make sure to avoid any confusion and potentially harmful mistakes. has printable gluten-free cards available in 54 languages.

    And finally, check your health and company insurance to see if you are covered should you fall ill as a result of eating something you shouldn't have. Otherwise, look to purchase travel insurance that will cover you.

    This post originally ran on What She Said Radio. Listen Monday to Friday on Sirius XM Canada Channel 167. Kathy's How She Travel segments air Fridays at 10:45 a.m.

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    Did you fly from Beijing to Vancouver on an Air China flight that landed at 9:30 a.m. on March 3?

    Then you may have been exposed to the measles.

    A passenger on that flight developed symptoms of the illness after disembarking, and was "infectious during the flight," Vancouver Coastal Health (VCH) said in a Friday news release.

    The health authority is asking anyone who was on this flight to ensure they are "up to date with measles vaccinations."

    They should also keep an eye out for measles symptoms such as a red rash, cough, fever, runny nose or pink eye until March 24.

    "Measles is highly infectious and spread through the air [when] someone who is infected coughs or sneezes," the statement said.

    "Measles can be a serious illness with complications such as inflammation of the brain (encephalitis), convulsions, deafness or brain damage."

    air china flight
    Air China flight sits on a tarmac at Changshui Airport in December 2015. (Photo: Zhang Peng/LightRocket via Getty Images)

    The alert comes amid concerns about low vaccination rates throughout the Vancouver area.

    Last year, CBC News compiled VCH data to look at which schools throughout the region fell below the 95 per cent herd immunity rate for measles shots.

    The Vancouver Waldorf School in North Vancouver, for example, only had a measles vaccination rate of 27 per cent, while Grandview Elementary School in East Vancouver had a vaccination rate of 47 per cent.

    The provincial government last year sent out a mailing reminding parents to have their children vaccinated.

    "Not immunizing children puts all of us at risk" the letter said.

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    Canada is the world's second largest country, and the diverse landscape that comes with that much territory means there are infinite adventures to be had. However, a number of Canada's coolest excursions are those that are distinctly Canadian. The following five adventures are the best of the best that you can only have in the Great White North.

    Get Your Adrenaline Pumping on the Glacier Skywalk


    Alberta's Jasper National Park is no stranger to wild adventures, but the Glacier Skywalk offers a jaw-dropping adventure beyond the park's storied mountain peaks. The Skywalk, a glass walkway protruding from a cliff and dangling 918 feet above ground, offers arguably the best views of the Canadian Rockies in the entire country. The glass-bottom walkway is guaranteed to give you goosebumps, but the views of valleys carved by glaciers, waterfalls and snow-covered mountain peaks make it well worth the adrenaline boost.

    Spot Icebergs in Twillingate


    The small coastal town of Twillingate offers a unique experience for visitors between the months of April and June. Gleaming white and blue icebergs float through the area's waters from the arctic, creating a show for all to enjoy. Visitors can hop on one of a number of Twillingate Island's boat tours, which will take you shockingly close to the action.

    Take a Dog Sledding Tour in Banff National Park


    Canada isn't the only country that boasts dog sledding as a must-do activity, but it's the only place where you can dogsled through Canada's first national park. Cruise through tree-covered mountain valleys, passed glaciers and along rivers with a team of huskies on a half or full-day tour of some of Banff National Park's most picturesque scenes.

    Surf Legendary Swells in Tofino


    Planning a dream surf trip? Look no further than Canada. It may not be the most famous surf destination in the world, but that's part of what makes the shores of Tofino so special. Canada's surfing capital offers 35 kilometres of beach breaks that are suitable for all levels of wave riders. The chilly water, which hovers around 10-degrees Celsius, keeps crowds at bay, but bring a wetsuit, gloves and booties, and you'll get a taste of the area's fabled strong and consistent swells.

    Ski Chest-Deep Powder on Duffy Lake Road


    Canada is home to some of the world's best ski resorts. However, some of the most unforgettable snowy adventures are those that can be had off-piste. Duffy Lake Road, located an hour north of Whistler, has become known its abundant snowfall and resistance to B.C.'s coastal meltdowns. If you're looking to make first tracks on some of the world's best big-mountain terrain, Duffy Lake Road (Highway 99) is a hidden gem for avid powder enthusiasts. Don't forget to check the area's avalanche report before you go.

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    March Break is just around the corner and, like many Canadians looking to get away, you might be feeling a little pessimistic about how the loonie's nosedive is impacting your travel plans. But while many of us may claim there is nothing good about a low dollar the majority of Canadians will still make the most of their March break vacation - whether that means a staycation or snapping up last minute deals. By being savvy, flexible and creative, you might be surprised and just have one of your best vacations yet!

    Search to Save
    The Internet is your friend when it comes to saving money and finding the best travel deals. It pays to shop around and with so many sites like, Expedia and Hotwire that offer real-time comparisons, it's easy to find the best prices available on hotels and flights. Many of these sites also help you navigate your journey through user reviews and star ratings while some, like Tripadvisor, also help you find the best attractions, things to do or places to eat while in destination.

    Last Minute Mania
    Don't overlook opportunity. According to our recent travel poll of 5,700 members, 39 per cent are planning to vacation outside of Canada, but nearly 46 per cent are opting for a staycation and another 15 per cent say they are not taking a vacation at all. That means travel companies who were expecting a higher number of travellers down south are offering enticing deals, many for $1,000 or less. If you're intent on getting out of Dodge, pack a bag and be ready. As long as you are willing to be flexible on your departure and/or destination, there are some great last-minute deals to be had.

    Get Creative
    Even if it doesn't involve a hot, sandy beach, you can still have a fun and relaxing vacation. Family time, adventure, getting pampered and shopping top the list of what Ebates Canada members value most about March Break getaways. Choosing a staycation and exploring new parts of Canada will be popular this year. But whether you travel to another province or simply discover a neighbouring town, get creative and be open to new experiences.

    Not just for tourists
    We often take our own city for granted, but try playing tourist for a few days ¬and you might be surprised at just how much there is to do and see, from restaurants, shops and new attractions. Make it adventurous and exotic by visiting locations that make you feel like you are travelling outside the country; shop the markets or sample the cuisine in ethnic neighbourhoods like Chinatown or Little India. Take a guided tour of local historic buildings or architecture, or do an art gallery crawl. Think of things you've been wanting to experience but haven't got around to, like a new restaurant or spa. Maybe rock climbing, paint night, or the latest museum installation?

    Consider a short road trip to a nearby town or city you've never been to. Whether it's a hike through the countryside, a stroll on the boardwalk or coffee in a main square with quaint shops and cobblestone roads resembling Europe, you don't always have to go far to feel like you're abroad.

    Find extra savings
    There are other ways to save more on your travel this March Break. Consider sites like Airbnb to find affordable accommodations that also have kitchens, which will reduce or eliminate restaurant expenses, along with other costs like parking and service tips. In many cases, you'll find the lodging options are way more interesting, quaint, or homey than a hotel room.

    Visit Groupon to look for extra savings through flash sales on everything from travel and hotels to a range of nearby attractions and local activities including dining, spa treatments and more.

    Check your loyalty programs to redeem points that will help defray some of your travel costs and, finally, don't forget cash-back programs, where you can earn money back on the purchases you make - including on travel!

    Sari Friedman is the Marketing Director of Ebates Canada and resident shopping expert. is Canada's largest cash back shopping site. As a fashion enthusiast and new mom, Sari has an eye for finding and sharing amazing deals on the hottest trends and must-have styles.

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    The Côte d'Azur is one of the most beautiful places on earth -- the azure blue of the skies and sea are just the tip of the treasure chest. The ancient hill towns and villages are gems in themselves, and each has its own special charm.

    Making scents in Grasse and Èze

    When I heard about places in medieval Grasse and even-older Èze where you could book an appointment to create your own perfume, I was totally smiling. See some sights, have some fun and bag a trophy souvenir? You bet.

    Fresco at the International Perfume Museum, Grasse - Photo: Lin Stranberg

    Scent-free may be the new normal, but I love the stuff in private. So I followed my nose to Grasse. Two weeks later, I drove some visiting friends to do the same in Èze.

    Where French perfume got started

    The French did not invent perfume, as I learned at the elegant International Perfume Museum in Grasse, but they've been making all the "it" fragrances here since the 19th century. Grasse is a hill town surrounded by flowers. This is where the industry started up.

    The International Perfume Museum in Grasse - Photo: Lin Stranberg

    The museum is worth a visit, as is the town itself. Grasse has cobblestoned streets, sidewalk cafés and a view clear down to the sea. Your only clue that it is the centre of a billion dollar industry is the everywhere signage for the big three perfumers, Fragonard, Galimard and Molinard, whose artisanal factories, ateliers and boutiques are a major presence in town.

    View down to the sea in Grasse - Photo: Lin Stranberg

    Composing fragrances at a 127-note organ

    Galimard, the oldest of the three, has been family-owned and operated since 1747. In the 20th century, the Roux family bought it from the descendants of the original Galimards. They are not the biggest, but they suited me the best. I liked the quality of their products and their options of learning one-on-one with a perfumer or in a group with other instructors.

    If you love scents, you know what it's like to look for one that matches your personality. You sniff around the perfume counters and buy the one you think comes closest because you have no other option, really. A bespoke perfume -- a signature fragrance all your own -- is tough to come by, even in big cities like Toronto or New York. The handful of places you'll find offer a relatively small selection for the base, middle and top fragrances that compose a perfume. With 127 in all, feminine, masculine and unisex, Galimard is the real deal. Their selection is the biggest in Grasse.

    Perfumer Caroline de Boutiny at the Galimard lab in Grasse - Photo: Lin Stranberg

    Working with a professional Nose

    My appointment was with perfumer Caroline de Boutiny, an impressive professional who says making perfume helps you "to capture your own identity and be unique." She set me up at one of several perfume "organs" in Galimard's Grasse atelier. Two weeks later, she worked with my friends in Èze, where the perfume organs are identical and the process is the same.

    Erin Meagher selecting scents at a Galimard perfume organ in Èze - Photo: Lin Stranberg

    Based on our taste in popular brands, she pre-selected a dozen or so small brown bottles for us to sniff as our bottom note. We narrowed it down to 6 or 7, then she eliminated those that would clash. We did the same for the middle or "heart" note, then the top note. She composed the formula and quantities for us to combine, and didn't lose patience when I lost count (all those thin red lines on that narrow glass beaker!)

    Working with her was a unforgettable experience for us. In the summer months, Mme. de Boutiny works with customers in Grasse while another perfumer works with customers in Èze.

    Mandy Wallace blending perfume at Galimard in Èze - Photo: Lin Stranberg

    We each came away with a lootbag full of luxe. Inside was a beautiful 100 ml. bottle of our own signature scent, labelled and numbered, with an elegant old-school atomizer and a certificate I might even frame. Bonus: we can order our signature scents in a range of products online by using our private numbers.

    Fresh cuisine in ancient Èze

    The walled village of Èze is dramatically perched on a sheer rock mountaintop high above the Med between Monaco and Nice. It was settled and fought over for thousands of years for its strategic location and sweeping views of the sea.

    The golden goat is part of the view at the Chèvre D'Or restaurant - Photo: Lin Stranberg

    The only way to improve on a great view is to find the perfect place to appreciate it. In Èze, that would be the gloriously appealing Château de la Chèvre d'Or, voted #1 hotel outside Paris for France and Monaco last year by Condé Nast Traveler readers. Drinks or a meal here are always a brilliant idea.

    We had a spectacular lunch at the Michelin two-starred main restaurant, served against an ethereal backdrop of the big blue stretching to Cap Ferrat, Nice and beyond.

    Chef Ronan Kervarrec, a Breton with a light and passionate take on classic French cuisine, has a particular affinity for seafood. The appetizer of scallop and ceviche, and the main course of St-Pierre, known in English as John Dory, raised the bar for me forever. It was full-on gastroglam to the very end and the clever dessert surprises of Pastry Chef Julien Dugourd. Service was professional, crisp and warmly hospitable. Check your diet at the door.


    If you go in May or later, one of the two terrace restaurants would be the place to be. Same view, simpler menus. Reservations are a must, especially in the warmer months.

    After lunch, take some time to stroll through the sculpture gardens so you can enjoy not only the historical details (the Iron Age battlement is certainly worth a linger) but the urbane whimsy that flows, like the tranquil fountains and waterfalls, throughout this magical location.

    The Chèvre d'Or is an intrinsic part of the village of Èze - Photo: Lin Stranberg

    For more information on Grasse: Grasse Tourism
    For more information on Èze: Èze Tourism
    For what to do in Monaco, see: 6 Ways to Live the Dream in Monaco

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    Many adults who are involved in overseeing the care of a senior parent or loved one can attest that the details involved in the day-to-day and immediate future can be consuming. As such, it's no wonder that the idea of introducing travel plans and arrangements into a set care schedule can be overwhelming.

    However, if the senior in your life loved to travel before he or she reached a certain age, chances are this may still be something they would like to do. The benefits of travel on the soul do not disappear as we grow older. In fact, there are many instances where travel has proven to be extremely beneficial for seniors, adding excitement, something to look forward to and an overall new perspective on living.

    In addition, helping your senior loved one recognize the dream of travel into a reality is a priceless gift.

    We've prepared a short to-do list that can help you prepare for any upcoming spring break travelling plans with your senior loved ones. Following these simple tips can ensure your travel is as smooth as possible for both yourself and your senior travel companion.

    Consult with a doctor and primary caregiver

    When seniors have special health care needs, their primary caregivers are often the most up-to-date in terms of their everyday medical routines. Not only will they be able to inform you about the necessary medications to pack, but there are a number of other concerns they can address, as well.

    On top of their basic medicinal needs, primary caregivers will know if your loved one needs any special vaccinations before travelling as well as how to cater to any unique limitations they may have. It's also important to consider the mental health of seniors when preparing for a trip, whether it's a weekend trip or a month-long getaway. Primary physicians know how to address a patient's potential for heightened anxiety and treat it in the most effective way possible.

    Stay organized

    Safe, healthy and enjoyable travel requires strong organization -- especially when you're an older adult. We all know how frustrating it is when you board the plane, settle into your seat and realize you've packed something essential away into your luggage.

    When you're travelling with seniors, it's important to avoid this dilemma. Help them pack their luggage and carry-ons well in advance to ensure they always have their essential items close at hand. These items may include medications, light snacks, warm items of clothing and basic medical records.

    If you're travelling by plane, it's also a good idea to pack carry-on items like compression stockings to prevent blood clots and numbness. Again, talk openly with your senior travel companion to assess their unique needs.

    Prepare a routine

    A certain level of routine is important for any globetrotter, no matter the age, but as we get older, the potential confusion that comes with being in a brand new environment increases. Luckily, this sense of confusion can easily be transformed into enjoyment with a routine aimed at curbing stress and anxiety.

    This routine does not need to be strict or complicated, but it's important for seniors to know what to expect throughout each day. In terms of timing, a schedule that echoes their home routine will support their overall health, sleep and well being throughout the trip. The need for a consistent schedule is even more important when travelling with someone with dementia or Alzheimer's who may become disoriented more easily.

    Research your destination

    Not all travel destinations are equal when it comes to medical facilities and caregiving services. If you're travelling to an area you're completely unfamiliar with, take a little time to do some research beforehand.

    When you're scanning the area, some things you want to look out for are nearby hospitals, care centres, walk-ins and pharmacies. Again, if your travel partner has unique needs such as mental health issues or the need for specialized services, ensure that those are available in case of an emergency.

    It's also important to research how the particular destination you're travelling to deals with healthcare for non-citizens - that way you're covered no matter what arises.


    Communication with your senior travel companions is key -- before, during and after your vacation. Before you depart, it's necessary to communicate openly and honestly about needs, restrictions and desires. This will help you and your loved one create a travel plan that ensures you both have the best vacation possible.

    Keep the communication going throughout your trip. Consistently check in with the seniors you're travelling with to make sure they're happy, comfortable and calm. Before you start each day, let your travel companions know what's on the schedule and what they can expect. This way they'll have time to prepare any additional supplies they might need and get in the right headspace too.

    When you return from your trip, debrief with your travel partner. Check in to see what they liked and disliked about the trip, what could have made it more comfortable for them, and whether their systems are adjusting properly to being back home.

    Travelling with seniors certainly takes a little more time and thoughtfulness. But if you put in the effort, the reward that comes from an incredible trip with friends and family makes it all worth it.

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    Photos by Sam Gary

    If you think all-inclusive vacations in the Caribbean are just for couples, think again. The notion of gathering a gaggle of gal pals and jetting off to a tropical island with pretty much everything pre-paid holds tremendous appeal. Recently, Girls' Flight Out embarked on a Sunwing vacation to Puerto Plata in the Dominican. Beyond the sun, sand and sea we discovered the beauty of all-ins.

    All the big decisions are made before you get on the plane.

    Yes, as a group you have to decide on an overall budget and which island and resort has the greatest appeal, but once you get that settled pretty much everything else is in place. All-inclusives are paid up front, meaning that other than incidentals and souvenirs, you only have to open your wallet once. And with the Canadian dollar down these days, many Caribbean all-ins offer great value.

    Everything is contained in one spot.

    Courtesy of Sunwing

    Resorts are geared toward folks seeking a hassle-free holiday. Once you're there, you're there, so every service or amenity most of us would need is on hand, from well-appointed and spacious rooms to restaurants and bars. Boutiques, gift and tuck shops to watersports, towel service, spa treatments and other entertainment options also abound.

    This means you and your friends can hang out at the beach as a group all day or split up and go your separate ways with no worries about catastrophic misconnections. Even on larger resorts, you're likely to run into each other eventually, and in the meantime it's nice to know you're MIA girlfriend can't be too far away. Ditto for your room -- its close proximity is especially beneficial should you want to let your hair down at the late-night disco.

    Food and drink options abound.

    Fresh fish and so much more served up daily at Viva Wyndham V Heavens resort.

    Gone are the days when everyone eats the same thing. With so many diet restrictions and preferences in play these days, it's refreshing to travel as a group knowing there's something to suit everyone's needs.

    At Viva Wyndham V Heavens resort, where we stayed, there were five restaurant options each offering a different ethnic cuisine. The kitchen staff helming the buffet-style eatery did a wonderful job of serving up a vast, ever-changing selection. Camera-girl Sam dove into the vegetarian fare, whereas I went wild on meat-forward dishes. Seafood lovers were in Heavens.

    The menu is priceless.

    The joy of not worrying about price when ordering off the menu is yours for the duration of your holiday and gone too is the end-of-the-meal awkwardness associated with splitting the bill. All-in vacations give everyone a chance to indulge in what they want (and as much as they want), budgets be damned.

    It's nice to share a meal with friends with monetary concerns off the table. And, of course, it's fab to enjoy cocktails, no holds barred.

    You can have as much chill time...


    and thrill time as you want.


    Some people like to relax, others want to be constantly on-the-go. Most prefer a mix of both. All-ins allow everyone in your group to enjoy a holiday tailored to their preferences. From shopping trips into a nearby town to a variety of excursions (Nexus Tours provided a selection with a range of price-tags attached) to lessons offered privately, you can head off the resort as a group, split up into smaller groups or experience something alone.

    Be it zip-lining, hiking, snorkeling, sailing or any number of other adventures, now is the time to do what you love or try something new. Afterwards you can all meet up back at the resort and swap stories. Embellishing is allowed -- part of going all-in is going all out.

    Disclaimer: All aspects of this trip were provided by Sunwing Vacations.

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    Knowing your rights -- and your travel insurance options -- can go a long away at the airport.

    It's a worst-case vacation scenario -- you've been waiting for hours at your airline's gate with your tropical itinerary and (increasingly cranky) kids in tow, when they make the announcement: your flight will not be taking off as planned. Flight cancellations are often panic-inducing, especially if there are connecting flights, ground transportation and hotel reservations on the clock -- and your dollar.

    Fortunately, you don't have to join the airport chaos. Being a savvy and well-prepared traveler can mean the difference between hours of stranded misery and salvaging your vacation. The trick is knowing your rights as a passenger -- and covering yourself when the airline isn't obligated to compensate you.

    The Cause for Cancellation Makes a Difference

    Airlines cancel flights for a number of reasons, and the cause will impact what you're entitled to. If the delay or cancellation is the fault of the airline (like mechanical failure or crew hours expiring), passengers can expect to receive some compensation. In these cases, airlines generally have to provide passengers with food vouchers every four hours, and pay for hotel accommodations should you be stranded away from your home city overnight for over eight hours.

    Depending on the airline you may also receive additional benefits such as free phone calls, toiletries, ground transportation, etc. Check with your airline before you fly to determine what exactly they offer in a cancellation / extended delay situation.

    Your Ticket is a Contract

    The airline is bound legally to get you from point A to point B -- or refund your money altogether. Their first course of action upon cancellation is to rebook your flight, either on a later departure within its fleet or by purchasing a seat for you on a partnership airline. But that's where the guarantees end; while they'll try to get you out as soon as possible, this can vary widely depending on weather conditions and the frequency of flights to your destination. In many cases, you may not be guaranteed to get a seat in the same class on your rebooked flight.

    When Weather is a Factor

    However, you're out of luck if weather is to blame; in Canada, the airline is under no obligation to feed you or find you accommodation while waiting to be rebooked, leaving travellers to their own resources. Fortunately, there are a number of travel insurance policies that can ease the pain of weather-related delays and cancellations. Remember, these coverage types are usually considered to be add-ons; at a bare minimum, you should have adequate travel medical and accident insurance for yourself, spouse and any dependents travelling with you.

    TIP -- Even if your flight status is delayed, it doesn't mean you can leave later for the airport. You could miss your flight and potentially void any delay coverage you may have!

    Trip Delay Insurance

    Should your flight be cancelled or delayed for any reason, this coverage can ensure your comfort and peace of mind while awaiting your new travel itinerary. It allows the policy holder to reimburse any costs that arise from their delay, including:

    • Meals

    • Hotel stays

    • Clothing purchased

    • Ground transportation

    • Any deposits you made for other components of your trip (e.g. missed hotel stays)

    Questions to Ask Your Insurer
    • Is there a minimum delay length before the insurance is valid (e.g must be stranded a minimum of three hours before purchases can be made and reimbursed)?

    • Are there any types of purchases that won't be covered by the policy, for example, books, maps, toys, etc.

    • Is there a maximum I can spend daily on accommodation or meals for reimbursement?

    • How soon after my trip must I provide receipts for my purchases to receive reimbursement?

    Trip Interruption Insurance

    This coverage will reimburse you for any unused, un-refundable part of your trip should you have to return from it early, or are delayed along the way and need to catch up. For example, if you fall ill or are injured while on your trip and must travel home and miss your pre-booked tour and hotel stay, or miss your arranged ground transportation or hotel check in at your destination due to a flight delay.

    Questions to ask your insurer:

    • What types of delays are eligible for re-imbursement should I miss a connection and incur additional travel costs to catch up on my trip?

    • Are there any scenarios where my trip interruption insurance is void (e.g. should you miss your cruise's departure because you lost track of time).

    • Could my coverage be void if I have any pre-existing health issues?

    Cancellation Insurance

    This covers you in the case you must cancel your flight before your departure (not in the case of an airline cancellation). It generally covers you if you cancel due to:
    • Unexpected illness or hospitalization of ticket holder, spouse, or dependent

    • Death of ticket holder or close family member

    • Jury duty

    • Military service

    Where can you find additional travel insurance coverage?

    There are a number of travel insurance providers offering a variety of policies in Canada. It's smart to compare what they offer when choosing the right coverage for your trip, especially if you're travelling at a time of year (like March Break) when weather and overbooking can lead to airport headaches. Try a great resource like to compare policies. Some travel rewards credit cards also offer additional insurance perks - regardless of how you obtain your policy, knowing the extent of its coverage can give you peace of mind - whatever you encounter along the way.

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  • 03/15/16--12:08: 48 Hours In Melbourne
  • In writing my guidebook on how to relocate abroad, I came across all sorts of statistics indicating that Melbourne was one of the top spots to make a big move.

    As luck would have it, my brothers gifted a mini-break in the city for my 40th birthday. Already in New Zealand for the big one, it was an easy jump over the Tasman Sea and, with a few local recommendations (thank you @_itsbeautifulhere!), we were ready for a very full three-night visit.


    Upon arrival, our first stop was to check in at The Langham. Conveniently located with sweeping views over the Yarra river and Melbourne's bustling Central Business District. After a quick confirmation of treatments at the hotel's Chuan Spa, dinner was the next order of business. We hopped in a cab and directed the driver to Fitzroy and Marion Wine Bar. Go, obviously, for the wide range of vintages on offer, but be sure to order the whole flounder to share.

    From that first evening out, our focus had shifted to food and here are a few more gems we discovered:

    Mama's Buoi - Look no further for a place to recharge your shopping engines. Fresh Vietnamese salads with bbq chicken make for a satisfying lunch.
    Curry Vault - Casual curries in one of the cities laneways. Best onion banji!

    LYGON STREET...Everything Italian!
    Brunetti - This institution does a smaller outpost in the CBD, however the original is worth going the extra mile. And not just for the espresso; there's the pizza, pasta and pastries to fill your plate. La dolce vita, indeed.
    Gelatissimo - They had me at dairy-free chocolate gelato, but others in my party enjoyed scoops of salted caramel and apple pie.
    Tank - Another perfect lunch... This time it was grilled calamari salad.

    Siglo (2/161 Spring St) - A classy rooftop patio with delicious bar snacks and creative cocktails.
    Embla (122 Russell) St) - We literally stumbled across this spot on our walk from Siglo to the hotel. A diamond-in-the-rough wine bar that also does morning coffee.

    Colonial Tramcar Dinner - Don't make the mistake of thinking this is "too touristy". The ride is actually a very unique way to see a bit of the city; made all the more delightful by entertaining staff and lovely food.

    Queen Victoria Market - I love a market, even when I can't take any of the fresh produce home with me. There's always bound to be cafes and shops around and, inside this one, we loaded up on products from Coconut Revolution.
    A local tip is to hit the South Melbourne Market on the weekend.

    Australian Centre for the Moving Image - Never disappoints. The last time I was in the city (2011), I checked out an incredible Disney exhibition. This time, it was Julian Rosefeldt's fantastic Manifesto starring Cate Blanchett. The permanent exhibits are a cool hit of culture for all ages.

    All said, Melbourne is a wonderful walking city and I can see (and taste!) why people are on the move here.

    Images courtesy of the writer's Instagram. Her guidebook, How To Make Big Moves: Relocate Without Losing Your Mind, is now available on Amazon for Kindle.

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    Denmark has reclaimed the title of world's happiest country, bumping Switzerland to second place in this year's edition of the UN's World Happiness Report.

    Released to coincide with World Happiness Day on March 20, the UN released the fourth edition of the index which ranks 156 countries by their "happiness levels."

    After losing the title to Switzerland last year, Denmark stole back the crown of world's happiest country -- a title it's claimed three out of four years.

    New this year, the report also took into consideration the "inequality" of happiness and well-being among citizens.

    Dominating the top 10 list are Nordic and Scandinavian countries, with Denmark, Iceland, Norway, Finland and Sweden taking up half the spots.

    To compile the ranking, editors considered the GDP per capita; the healthy years of life expectancy; social support; trust (measured by a perceived absence of corruption in government and business); freedom to make life decisions; generosity (measured by donations); and new this year, happiness inequality.

    Because after studying rates of distribution, editors say they found a correlation between countries with more equal distributions of well-being and higher life evaluations.

    Happiness is argued to serve as a better indication of human welfare than income, poverty, education, health and good government when measured separately.

    The importance of making happiness and well-being a matter of public policy has also been recognized by four national governments: Bhutan, Ecuador, the United Arab Emirates and Venezuela have all appointed ministers of happiness.

    Denmark has repeatedly taken the top spot in happiness and life satisfaction rankings be it the UN or the OECD, thanks in part to generous parental leave policies, gender equality, work-life balance, and safety.

    Here are the world's top 10 happiest countries:

    1. Denmark
    2. Switzerland
    3. Iceland
    4. Norway
    5. Finland
    6. Canada
    7. Netherlands
    8. New Zealand
    9. Australia
    10. Sweden

    Landing at the bottom of the World Happiness Report index are Burundi, Syria and Togo.


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    Whenever my husband and I travel, we inevitably find ourselves in the airport duty-free shop where he looks for new and interesting additions to our home bar. No, we're not big drinkers but he takes pride in his collection of rum from around the world.

    Duty Free at the Miami International Airport. Flickr photo by Mark Hillary

    I digress.

    While my husband peruses the alcohol aisle, I make a beeline for the cosmetics and fashion sections. My eyes are on the hunt for a great designer piece at an unbelievable price. Alas, after much experimentation, I've come to admit that "duty free" does not always mean "deal."

    I've also recently discovered the Holy Grail of duty-free shopping: The website lists prices for everything from Bacardi Superior Rum (cheapest at the Germany airport; US$11, compared to US$23 in the UK) to Prada brushed-leather wedges (cheapest in Canada; US$2187 compared to US$3269 in India).

    The duty free shop in Sydney International Airport. Flickr photo by Ryan Wick

    As you can see, prices can vary drastically. While some items are absolutely worth buying at duty free, others are likely the same price that you'd find at stores around your own city (and you don't have to lug them around in your carry-on).

    We've done some research and discovered what you should pick up and what you should leave behind the next time you're killing time at the airport.

    Shopping in the grandiose Dubai International Airport. Flickr photo by Shahid Ahmed Siddiqi

    Before you read on, remember that the best way to score a bargain is through research. Upload a currency-converter app to your smartphone ahead of time so you can make calculations abroad without using data (although some airports offer free Wi-Fi). Get prices at local stores before your trip or use your smartphone to research prices back home so you can really gauge whether something is a deal.

    A List of What to Buy or Skip at Duty Free

    Alcohol - Buy

    Alcohol is almost always a great buy. Flickr photo by Eric Lefevre-Ardant

    Alcohol is almost always a great deal at duty free. If you want to be sure you're getting the best price, visit to compare. Also, the only exception to this is national liquor brands in places like Mexico or Cuba are often the same price in the grocery store as they are in the airport, so it may make sense to buy ahead and pack them away in your luggage.

    Jewellery / Sunglasses - Research

    Branded sunglasses and jewellery are easy to research online, so it's definitely worth doing the legwork before deciding whether to purchase. However, non-branded jewellery, like a pair of silver earrings or a gold bracelet, is unlikely to be a real deal. Visit local jewellery markets or look for sales at your local jewellers instead. The only exception is if you see a piece of unique jewellery that you fall in love with and may not be able to find elsewhere. In that case, it will be up to you to gauge whether you can walk away.

    Cigars and Tobacco - Buy

    Cigarette Aisle at the Schipol Airport. Flickr Photo by Aaron C

    These are normally heavily taxed, so buying them duty-free is a great way to go.

    Electronics - Skip

    You can almost always find better deals at the local big box stores, especially when those stores have sales. Also, if you're like me, and like to try out your electronics, duty free is not for you. Those headphones that are advertised as the greatest can sometimes be a disappointment and if you bought them at duty free, good luck trying to return them.

    Designer Fashion - Research

    Duty-free fashions at the Okinawa airport. Flickr photo by Masayuki (Yuki) Kawagishi

    Designer fashions may be cheaper in duty-free shops, but do your research ahead of time to compare. Also bear in mind that if an item is worth more than your exemption allows, you will have to pay taxes on anything above your exemption allowance. For example, if you've only been abroad for 48 hours, you are only allowed a $200 exemption. If a purse costs $1000, you'll have to pay taxes on the $800.

    Beauty Products - Research

    Selection of beauty brands at Narita International Airport, Japan. Flickr Photo by slayer

    Fragrances are often discounted in duty-free shops, but it's definitely worth doing your research. The same applies to makeup. Many department and specialty beauty stores have online sites, so it's very easy to know right away if you're getting a bargain.

    Candy and Snacks - Skip

    Airports are well aware that you may get peckish while waiting for your flight, so food prices are almost always more expensive when compared to supermarket prices. The only items worth purchasing are boxes of chocolates or candy that come in souvenir or novelty containers. They can make great last-minute gifts, but you should know you likely overpaid for them.

    Andrea Chrysanthou is an editor of the Travelzoo Canada blog and is based in Toronto, Ontario. Travelzoo has 250 deal experts around the world who rigorously research, evaluate and test thousands of deals to find those with true value.

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    Alaska Airlines just gave a big lesson in how to smooth things over with passengers this week.

    Flight 800 was travelling from Sacramento to Seattle on Monday when a drunk passenger started disrupting the flight despite crew members' best efforts to calm him, said King 5 News.

    The passenger eventually locked himself in a bathroom, and the flight was grounded in Portland so he could be handed over to police, KOIN 6 reported.

    alaska airlines

    The rest of the passengers eventually arrived in Seattle at around 1:15 a.m., over an hour behind schedule.

    But Alaska Airlines had a perk for customers who were inconvenienced.

    Twitter user @madisadventures tweeted the following on Tuesday:

    That's one way to win them over!

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    MONTREAL — Canada's air transportation industry is expected to earn healthy profits over the next five years despite a continuing decrease in airfares, according to a new report from the Conference Board of Canada.

    The agency anticipates airlines and travel companies will earn nearly $7.5 billion in pre-tax profits over the next five years, more than twice that in the period between 2000 and 2015, which included the global financial recession.

    air canada west jet
    A WestJet Airlines aircraft leaves the gate as an Air Canada Jazz passenger jet taxis to position, at the Vancouver International Airport. (Photo: Adrian Brown/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

    The sector earned a record $1.56 billion in estimated pre-tax profits in 2015, up 31 per cent in one year and more than double the $685 million earned in 2012.

    "The skies have rarely been as bright for Canadian air travel as they were in 2015," said the board said in its report released Wednesday.

    Revenues were $25.8 billion last year and are expected to reach $31.7 billion in 2020.

    "The combination of booming demand for air travel and the drastic reduction in material costs has proved to be the most positive event to strike the industry in a very long time," it said.

    "The skies have rarely been as bright for Canadian air travel as they were in 2015."

    Although profits are expected to remain well above pre-2015 levels, the board they should dip roughly 2.5 per cent annually in the coming years as companies deal with the threat of new low-priced competitors and higher costs, before recovering in 2020.

    Airline profit margins are expected to decrease as revenues are partially offset by increased costs, including a forecasted nearly two-thirds increase in fuel prices between 2016 and 2020.

    Weaker loonie altering travel plans

    Meanwhile, the board said the weaker loonie has altered travel patterns.

    Fewer Canadians are travelling from nearby U.S. airports and the number of Canadians travelling to the U.S. is down. Visits by Americans to Canada are up as are the number of international travellers flying to Canada.

    The number of Canadians flying overseas has increased by 33 per cent since 2010, including a 10 per cent gain in 2015.

    Airlines have responded by adding offshore capacity. WestJet (TSX:WJA) will start flying large planes to London Gatwick this summer while Air Canada (TSX:AC) is adding Casablanca and four European destinations.

    "Healthier international demand, coupled with the fact that Canadian airlines can now tap more foreign markets than ever before, will provide the final piece that solidifies the industry's expansion over the next five to six years," the Conference Board said.

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    If you're making a trip to the east coast, you'll want to leave room for some fog in your suitcase.

    P.E.I.-based tourism company Tranquility Cove Adventures is in the final phases of launching two products for visitors to buy as keepsakes of their trip.

    The first is canned sand from P.E.I. beaches. The second is fog. You know, that cloud of haze that makes it different to see the road when you're driving.

    Perry Gotell, who owns the company, told CBC News the products are set to make their debut in May.

    "On the foggy days you'll see me down at the end of the wharf with my can arm. We'll be canning P.E.I. fog and we'll be selling that to the tourists also," he said.

    Cans of sand and fog will be sold at a price between $5 and $10 in tin cans. But fog will be sold in smaller quantities.

    New for 2016 PEI Beach Sand. Take a little piece of PEI home. Tranquility Cove Adventures

    A photo posted by TranquilityCoveAdventures (@tranquilitycoveadventures) on

    "We don't want to get it so that when they open up a can, that you can't see your way around a room," Gotell said.

    While Gotell's idea to retail fog may be, um, questionable, he won't have a shortage of potential buyers.

    Tranquility Cove Adventures, which offers services such as deep sea fishing, starfish hunting and a private beach for weddings, has a perfect rating of five stars on TripAdvisor.

    "We don't want to get it so that when they open up a can, that you can't see your way around a room."

    Time will tell if Gotell's souvenirs have a demand, but he's not the first to dive into the business of selling air. An Alberta company's already beat him to it by selling bottled air from the Rocky Mountains.

    The idea to sell air is also being tested in highly polluted cities in China, where clean air is quickly becoming a luxury.

    So maybe Gotell is jumping into the fog and air market right on time?

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