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Canada Travel news and opinion

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    Alberta’s small craft breweries have been prospering ever since the provincial government made a change in the budget to promote local brews.

    In late 2015, Alberta lowered the mark-up and liquor tax on local, small brewers which could allow the craft beer industry to grow past 20,000 hectalitres per year, The Canadian Press reported.

    The change upset out of province producers, but made small, relatively unknown Alberta brews a seriously appealing option for consumers looking for a cheap drink.

    Not only are these Alberta brewers inexpensive, but they've got uniquely delicious draughts. It looks to be a record-breaking hot summer — what better time to relax on a patio and sip a tasty local lager.

    Here are nine Alberta craft breweries worth checking out:

    Alley Kat Brewery

    alley kat
    (Photo: Alley Kat)

    Alley Kat is a beloved Alberta staple, and for good reason. The Edmonton micro-brewery's Scona Gold Kolsch took home gold in two categories at the Canadian Brewing Awards, bringing home the title of beer of the year for the province. The kolsch is described as a barley ale that's less hoppy than an IPA, with a crisp finish.

    The Dandy Brewing Company

    (Photo: Dandy Brewing Company)

    Dandy is a Calgary nano-brewery that focuses on the science behind the brew. The company's ales are living, unfiltered and unpasteurized, which means they continue to ferment right up until the first sip.

    The Dandy in the Underworld is described as a dark coloured but light bodied stout, with notes of coffee and chocolate.

    The Grizzly Paw Brewing Company

    Grizzly Paw was the first brewpub in Canada to start canning it's beers, and they are continually pushing boundaries.

    Rundlestone Session Ale, pictured above sitting on the top of Rundle Mountain, is a light, bitter pale ale. The ale, like all of Grizzly Paw's brews, is made with glacier water.

    Tool Shed Brewing Company

    tool shed
    (Photo: Tool Shed Brewing Company)

    Though Tool Shed is a small brewery, it definitely punches above its weight. The Calgary company is run by two best friends with a taste for good brew and a great sense of humour.

    "Our friend Joe taught us that not everyone is born with People Skills so thankfully it now comes in a can," writes Tool Shed. People Skills lives up to the name — it's a smooth, dare we say "friendly" cream ale.

    Troubled Monk Brewery

    troubled monk brewery
    (Photo: Troubled Monk Brewery)

    Troubled Monk is the newest brewery on the list, but it’s made a grand entrance. The Red Deer brewery recently took silver at the World Beer Cup in its category, beating out 81 other international beers. It also netted a gold, silver and bronze at the 2016 Canadian International Beer Awards.

    Village Brewery

    village brewery
    (Photo: Village Brewery)

    Yes, that's a photo of a beer float. Calgary's Village Brewery partnered up with local gelataria Fiasco Gelato to release a beer and sorbetto pairing. The Village Squeeze is a golden lager with notes of malt, lemon and fresh raspberries. Fiasco Squeeze sorbetto shares the same flavours — if you've got a sweet tooth, this is worth a try.

    Jasper Brewing Co.

    jasper brewing co
    (Photo: Jasper Brewing Co.)

    Jasper Brewing Co. was the first brewery to open in a Canadian national park. It's one of four brewing companies owned by Bearhill, a local chain that also has locations in Banff, Wood Buffalo and Calgary.

    Jasper's lineup features delicious stouts and ales, and their beautiful labels are seriously cool.. They feature photos of landscapes around the area taken by Albertans (like the one pictured above).

    Something Brewing

    Something is brewing in Red Deer. Something Brewing's Dark Side beer definitely lives up to the name — the German black beer has some deep and intense flavours. Despite the name, the force is definitely with this brew.

    Ribstone Creek Brewery

    Ribstone Creek Brewery might be located in the tiny village of Edgerton, but it's beers have made a splash all across Alberta.

    Their award-winning drinks are canned with gorgeous images of Alberta — prairies, bison and cowboys — on the label.

    The Old Man Winter Porter has been a particular hit, taking home a silver medal at last year's Calgary Craft Beer Festival.

    Like these picks? Think we missed one? Let us know in the comments!

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    The loonie may have seen stronger growth than any other currency among G10 countries so far this year.

    But the good times won't last, if a report by CIBC Economics is any indication.

    The bank issued a forecast Friday showing that the loonie could drop to as low as $0.73 against the U.S. greenback by September, before its value improves by sometime early next year.


    The dollar had been a source of concern for Canadians in January, when its value fell to a low of approximately $0.68 against the U.S. currency.

    Analysts later observed a "Revenant"-like comeback that saw its value climb as high as $0.79 in early May, thanks to factors such as better-than-expected economic performance and higher global oil prices.

    Its growth was stronger than the currencies in countries such as Norway, Japan, New Zealand, Australia and the U.K.

    But its value has since dropped again, closing at about $0.766 on Friday, and it could fall even lower as the economy is expected to contract in the second quarter.

    fort mcmurray wildfire fire

    The reason, the bank says, is the wildfire that has ravaged Fort McMurray and ground oilsands production to a crawl.

    The fire has resulted in the loss of approximately $1 billion worth of oilsands production.

    That equals approximately 0.33 per cent of Alberta's GDP in 2016, and 0.06 per cent of Canada's GDP, according to the Conference Board of Canada.

    cibc tower

    But Canada isn't expected to feel economic pain for long.

    The federal Liberal government's stimulus package will likely boost Canada's GDP sometime this year.

    That, and higher oil prices could push the dollar as high as $0.775 in the first quarter of 2017.

    canadian dollar

    While a low loonie can benefit sectors such as manufacturing and tourism, it's also keeping Canadians from planning summer vacations in other countries.

    A survey by Tangerine bank has found that only nine per cent of Canadians plan to vacation in the U.S. this summer, while only eight per cent expect to travel elsewhere.

    Two-thirds of people surveyed blamed the loonie for limiting their travel plans.

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    Beating the crowds when travelling for business doesn't have to mean taking a 4am flight or flying on Christmas Day, as many business hub destinations are also easily accessible from alternative, quieter international airports.

    The experts at Vision Travel have chosen their top 5 alternative airports to make business travel quicker, easier and more hassle free:


    United Kingdom: London Gatwick vs. London Heathrow
    As one of the busiest, most frequented airports in the world, travelling through London Heathrow can often be a time-consuming and confusing experience. From May 2016 both Air Canada Rouge and WestJet will commence flights to another leading London airport, Gatwick. Still ideally located for accessing central London with a 30-minute direct Gatwick Express train to London Victoria station, business travellers can definitely benefit from this new route.

    Average annual passenger figures - Gatwick: 40 million vs. Heathrow: 74 million


    Japan: Narita Airport vs. Tokyo Haneda Airport

    In 2014 Japan Airlines made headlines in Canada as it began its first Dreamliner service from Vancouver International Airport to the second-largest airport servicing the Greater Tokyo Area, Narita Airport. As well as regular direct flights with Air Canada from Vancouver, Narita Airport is an ideal option for those looking to avoid the crowds who use Tokyo Haneda Airport - dubbed last year as the 4th busiest airport in the world.

    Average annual passenger figures - Narita: 35.5 million vs. Haneda: 72.8 million


    United Arab Emirates: Abu Dhabi vs. Dubai
    With daily direct Etihad Airways flights from Toronto Pearson International Airport, Abu Dhabi is a great choice for business travellers working in the Middle East. In 2014, Skytrax awarded Abu Dhabi 'Best Airport in the Middle East' for the third-consecutive year, reaffirming their position as a world-leader in aviation hubs. For those working in Dubai, travelling from Abu Dhabi airport is easy and affordable with a free Etihad Airways coach service and taxis costing just CAD100.

    Average annual passenger figures - Abu Dhabi: 23.3 million vs. Dubai: 75 million


    Canada: Hamilton International Airport vs. Toronto Pearson International Airport
    Hamilton is one of the smaller, lesser-known airports in Canada yet it runs a non-stop service to 11 destinations across Canada and North America as well as connecting flights to 25 destinations including Vancouver, Victoria, San Francisco and Los Angeles. With less approaching road traffic, easier parking and much less passenger frequency than Toronto Pearson, Hamilton can be a great option for business travellers from southern Ontario.

    Average annual passenger figures - Hamilton: 332,000 vs. Toronto: 2.9 million


    Germany: EuroAirport Basel-Mulhouse-Freiburg vs. Zurich Airport
    For those conducting business in central Europe, flying into an international city airport can mean travelling alongside hordes of tourists and holiday-makers. As one of the top destinations for foreign capital, Germany is a regular business hub - yet a good option for avoiding the crowds travelling through Zurich is to use the lesser-known EuroAirport Basel-Mulhouse-Freiburg, located in both France and Switzerland on the German border. Air Transat offers seasonal flights to EuroAirport Basel-Mulhouse-Freiburg from both Toronto and Montreal and those needing to be in the heart of Zurich can take advantage of the regular shuttle bus service.

    Average annual passenger figures - Basel-Mulhouse-Freiburg: 7 million vs. Zurich: 26.2 million

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    Canadians hoping to catch what may be The Tragically Hip's final tour were left empty-handed and angry when tickets quickly sold out on Monday morning.

    Presale tickets for the band's "Man Machine Poem Tour," announced last week after lead singer Gord Downie revealed his brain cancer diagnosis, were snapped up faster than fan club members could access them.

    And seeing the tickets appear at massive markups only added to the pain, CBC News reported.

    tragically hip
    Gord Downie of The Tragically Hip performs on Day 9 of the RBC Royal Bank Bluesfest on July 17, 2015 in Ottawa, Canada. (Photo: Mark Horton/WireImage via Getty Images)

    The presale for the band's shows went on sale at 10 a.m. local time.

    But tickets for the Vancouver show were gone from Ticketmaster only an hour later — right around the time fans started seeing them on StubHub for anywhere from $310 to $3,653.

    Ticketmaster prices had ranged anywhere from $116 to $166, according to CBC News.

    tragically hip
    The Tragically Hip's lead singer Gord Downie performs during the band's opening act for the Rolling Stones in Moncton, N.B., on Sept. 3, 2005. (Photo: Paul Darrow/Reuters)

    Global News reported that members of the Tragically Hip's fan club were given special presale access, allowing them to buy a maximum of four tickets on a single credit card.

    But music journalist Alan Cross said "something really stinks" after presale tickets sold so quickly.

    "Mad doesn't begin to describe the mood across the nation," he said.

    Many fan club members wrote to him, saying it was impossible to buy tickets within minutes of them going on sale.

    Although not everyone had the same experience.

    StubHub later issued a note to Hip fans.

    But that didn't exactly quell the anger.

    The Tragically Hip added four more tour dates in response to the outcry.

    In addition to the dates they'd already announced, the Hip will also play:
    • Vancouver's Rogers Arena on July 26

    • Edmonton's Rexall Place on July 30

    • Calgary's Scotiabank Saddledome on Aug. 3

    • Toronto's Air Canada Centre on Aug. 14.

    Tickets will go on sale at 10 a.m. local time on Tuesday, May 31.

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    Bali is different than any other island in Indonesia. Its people practice a different religion, elaborate ceremonies are abundant, the arts and crafts are out of this world, and it's far more than a tropical vacation destination.

    When you tell your friends you're travelling to Bali, images of coconut palms and picture-perfect beaches may come to mind. While Bali does offer all of those things, you won't want to spend your entire vacation sipping frozen drinks on the beach. The following four experiences are ones that can only be had in Bali, and they'll leave every visitor with a better understanding of what makes this Indonesian island such a special place.

    Meet the Balinese People and Learn the Four Balinese Names
    Photo credit: williamcho

    When you arrive in Bali, you'll probably be a little confused by how many Wayans and Ketuts you meet. Most Balinese people are named one of four names, Wayan, Made, Nyoman or Ketut. Balinese parents don't buy books about baby names at Barnes and Noble. Each child is named by the order of his or her birth, and it doesn't matter if they are a boy or a girl. The first born is named Wayan, the second is named Made, the third is Nyoman and the fourth is Ketut. If a family has more than four children, the names start over again with Wayan.

    You'll likely meet a Balinese person whose name isn't one of the four listed above. Some are given names that denote their caste, while others simply choose to use a nickname to set themselves apart. The naming system can be tricky to understand at first, but there's no better way to learn than to ask one of the many friendly Balinese people you meet along your journey.

    Discover the Balinese-Hindu Religion

    The majority of Indonesians are Muslim, but most Balinese people follow the Balinese-Hinduism religion. The moment you land at the airport in Denpasar, you'll discover that the lives of the Balinese people revolve around their religion. You'll find daily offerings to the gods everywhere from temples to street corners and car windshields. The Balinese people celebrate 60 religious holidays each year, and you'll find them worshipping, praying, and making offerings at all times of day.

    Attend a Balinese Ceremony
    Photo credit: inspiring!

    Dive deeper into the infectious Balinese-Hinduism religion, and you'll find yourself enjoying a once-in-a-lifetime experience at a cultural ceremony. Balinese people hold ceremonies for every milestone in a person's life, and with such tight knit communities, don't be surprised if your new Balinese friends are attending multiple ceremonies each week.

    Whether the ceremony is celebrating birth, death, marriage, a teenager's entrance into adulthood, or a number of other life experiences, you're guaranteed to enjoy the jovial spirit, delicious food, traditional Balinese dress, heartfelt prayer, and so much more. The Balinese people are welcoming to those who wish to admire their ceremonies, and expressing a sincere interest in attending one is typically all you need to do to receive an invitation.

    Stock Up on Authentic Souvenirs

    With so many shop attendants attempting to lure you into their stores, it can be difficult to steer clear of the touristy shops along the streets of Kuta, Ubud, and other popular tourist destinations in Bali. However, it pays to experience the hustle and bustle of a Balinese street market, like the Sukawati Art Market in Sukawati, the Kumbasari Art Market in Denpasar, and the Badung Market in Denpasar. They're some of the best places on the island to stock up on traditional Balinese jewelry, paintings, handicrafts, and batiks, but you'll have to be prepared to bargain.

    Photo credit: mripp

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    Photo credit: DeeMakMak

    Traveling to Cambodia will change your life. Many travelers have already added a visit to Angkor Wat to their bucket lists, but they don't know that a trip to the Kingdom of Cambodia may change the way they travel and see the world entirely. In just a 1-hour-long flight from Bangkok, you could be experiencing the land once known as the Khmer Empire.

    The following four ways that traveling to Cambodia could change your life are just a few of the many reasons to consider the Southeast Asian country for your next travel adventure.

    Money Doesn't Buy Happiness

    The phrase "Money can't buy happiness," is thrown around all of the time, but the Cambodian people are a personification of that phrase. The moment you arrive in their country and hop aboard a tuk tuk to your hotel or guesthouse, you'll be greeted by smiling faces. Ninety-three per cent of Cambodians are Theravada Buddhists, a branch of Buddhism that's doctrinal core is based on the oldest Buddhist texts developed over thousands of years through interactions with diverse cultures. The open-mindedness of the Cambodians you meet will make you feel less like an imposing tourist and more like a long-time friend.

    Poverty holds an overwhelming presence in Cambodia, but you'll find it hard to believe when you experience the hospitality and generosity of the Cambodian people. Don't be afraid to get to know your tuk tuk driver, your restaurant server, your bartender, local shop owners and those who simply call this magical country home.

    It's Okay to Be a Tourist

    Photo credit: Schwarzkaefer

    Traveling throughout Southeast Asia can make you feel like an experienced adventurer. Many like to call themselves "travelers," not "tourists." However, it's okay to gawk at the majesty of ancient Angkor Wat, one of the largest religious monuments ever created. It's okay to record a video of yourself bobbing down the street in the back of a tuk tuk, and it's okay to feel shocked when you hear about Cambodia's recent and painful history of mass starvation and execution under the Khmer Rouge. The best way to experience Cambodia is to put your ego aside and immerge yourself in the dramatic history and culture of one of the world's most underrated travel destinations.

    Plans Don't Have to Be Followed

    If you have a set travel itinerary for your visit to Cambodia, burn it now. Cambodia is a country that encourages you to go with the flow. Some travelers prefer to spend an entire week taking in the majesty of Angkor Wat, while others will wander for a couple days and hop a bus to Cambodia's idyllic beaches or the hustle and bustle of Phnom Penh. It's impossible to stay on schedule in Cambodia, so use the advice of the friendly locals and your fellow travelers to guide you toward a spontaneous and unforgettable experience.

    Travel Isn't All About You

    Photo credit: totalitarism
    Every trip you take doesn't have to be perfect. Sure, you spent a lot of money to get to Cambodia, took time off work and may not have another travel experience of this caliber for a while. But in Cambodia, you have the opportunity for your trip to have a huge impression on someone else. Decades of corruption and war have taken their toll on the country, and visitors can give back in countless, not-so-time-consuming ways. A number of volunteer companies, like GlobalTeer and Projects Abroad, offer volunteer programs for visitors.

    If your visit to Cambodia is too short for volunteer work, simple gestures, like buying a Coca Cola for your tuk tuk driver or packing some old clothing to give away, can make a big difference in someone's life.

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    Travel industry insiders worried about the impact of global events, such as terrorism and health scares like the Zika virus, have no great cause for concern, according to new research released by Travelzoo Canada. The research shows resilience from Canadian tourists, with international travel bookings expected to increase for summer 2016.

    Travelzoo's latest findings show that 83 per cent of Canadians are planning at least one summer vacation abroad this year, compared to 76 per cent last year.


    The rise in vacations is not limited to the summer months either, with travel across the whole of 2016 expected to increase on last year's total bookings. "Canadians clearly have the travel bug," says Lara Barlow, Travelzoo Canada Country Manager. "These results are reassuring to those in the travel industry who were concerned that recent world events, as well as the low Canadian dollar, could really dampen the appetite to travel this year. We're seeing that the reverse is true and Canadians are planning to book even more vacations -- both at home and overseas before the year is out."

    Canadians Love the Beach

    Photo courtesy

    Canadians are beach-lovers, as a third of survey respondents said their preferred vacation features sun and sand. The second-favourite choice, at 16 per cent, was taking in incredible landscapes and geography. When asked specifically about the types of domestic vacations they prefer, respondents favoured coastal vacations (29 per cent), and big city visits (second place with 15 per cent).

    USA Bound

    Flickr photo by Bobby Hidy

    The United States continues to rise in popularity as the top overseas destination for Canadians. Over two-thirds of respondents plan to visit the country in the coming twelve months. "Canadians are encouraged by the slight increase in the loonie and the U.S., because of its proximity, is traditionally the go-to international travel destination for many Canadians," says Barlow.

    Staycations on the Rise

    Photo courtesy of

    Domestic vacations are also increasing. According to the study, 80 per cent of respondents took at least one domestic vacation in 2015 and 87 per cent plan to take one in 2016. The survey identified the two main reasons for choosing a staycation as visiting family members (55 per cent), and because the location is close and within easy reach (32 per cent).

    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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    Few of us think about what we're wearing when we board a flight, which is why one woman's experience is so surprising.

    A Seattle burlesque performer said she was asked to change out of her shorts before boarding a plane home from Boston because they were deemed inappropriate.

    Maggie McMuffin told WTHR that before she was about to board the May 18 JetBlue flight, an employee approached her, saying the black-and-white striped shorts were too short and she needed to change.

    "It's obviously subjective," she said of the airline's opinion of her outfit, noting that she wore the shorts on a JetBlue flight from New York to Boston the same day without issue.

    She told the staff she didn't have anything else to change into, so they suggested she buy something at the airport.

    The other option was to be booked on another flight, she told Kiro 7.

    She ended up spending $22 USD on some sleep trunks and took her scheduled flight.

    In a statement to Kiro 7, JetBlue said that the flight and on-board crew discussed McMuffin's getup and decided that her "burlesque" shorts might offend families on the plane.

    "While the customer was not denied boarding, the crew members politely asked if she could change. The customer agreed and continued on the flight without interruption," they said.

    "We support our crew members’ discretion to make these difficult decisions, and we decided to reimburse the customer for the cost of the new shorts and offered a credit for future flight as a good will gesture.”

    "Sexism is alive and well in this world. How does what Maggie was wearing effect her ability to fly? It doesn't."

    When the outlet asked if McMuffin would have been allowed on board if she refused to change, a spokesman said they couldn't address a hypothetical situation.

    In a Facebook post defending the performer, friend Molly McIsaac expressed her anger at JetBlue's actions.

    "Sexism is alive and well in this world. How does what Maggie was wearing effect (sic) her ability to fly? It doesn't."

    What do you think? Were her shorts inappropriate? Let us know in the comments below.

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    The enthusiasm for craft beer has exploded on a global scale, and now virtually anywhere you go, a quality craft beer awaits. However, there are some select vacation spots that offer a beer tourism experience like no other, and this should be on every beer lover's list to travel to at least once:

    Brussels, Belgium


    Known around the world for their stellar creativity and quality, Belgian beers should not be missed. Brussels is a fantastic central point for exploring the Belgian beer scene, and even has a beer tour featuring a 300 year old tavern.

    Munich, Germany

    The German's are responsible for the Beer Purity Law of 1516 so it goes without saying that they brew some of the crispest, cleanest beer available in the world. Munich also happens to be the epicentre of Oktoberfest, where the beer flows like water.

    Portland, Oregon


    No other city in the world has embraced craft beer more than Portland. The city that celebrates being weird has the most breweries than any other city in the world. Not only does that make it extremely easy to hop from brewery to brewery, but one company even provides a pedal powered tour.

    Osaka, Japan

    Craft beer has really taken off in Japan, and while there are a number of strong examples in Tokyo to point to, Osaka has taken the lead in showcasing some of the best craft beer Japan has to offer. No two breweries or taprooms are alike, it's a pleasure hopping around finding these unique watering holes.

    Prague, Czech Republic


    One of the most beautiful cities in the world also hides a vast history of craft beer. The first recorded monastery brewing beer in the city goes all the way back to 993 AD. While taking in all the history, Prague also happens to be one of the few places in the world where you can bathe in beer.

    Dublin, Ireland

    Ireland is practically synonymous with beer, and for most, Guinness comes to mind instantly. But the Emerald Isle has more to offer than just Guinness, with the majority of beer consumption actually more focused on Lagers.

    Denver, Colorado


    Portland isn't the only US city with a thriving craft beer scene. Denver continues to build an impressive line-up of award winning craft breweries in the city which consistently top the best of North America. I'd suggest going around the annual beer festival to capture them all in one location.

    Toronto, Canada

    Speaking of festivals, Toronto hosts the largest beer festival in the entire country. Pairing beer and bands, the three day festival showcases the best breweries from around the province. During the rest of the year, the city houses some of Canada's best breweries and brewpubs.

    Shanghai, China


    While many of the first microbreweries in Shanghai have admittedly been started by ex-pat's, the local demand for craft beer has skyrocketed. European beer has mostly dominated in the market, but demand is shifting and there's a real sense of adventure and exploration with the beer scene in Shanghai.

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    Photo credit: @Saigon

    Many travelers are no longer leaving their work behind when they hit the road or take to the skies. To some, it's because blogging about their adventures is how they support their travel addiction. Others simply can't let work obligations from home slide while they're out exploring.

    Those who travel and work at the same time know there are a number of must-have gadgets for keeping travel dreams and paychecks alive. The following are five essential travel gadgets for those who simply can't quit their jobs every time they want an adventure.

    Kensington Absolutepower

    Not all planes are equipped with USB ports or outlets, and if you don't have a power accessory on hand, you'll get very little work done in flight. The Kensington Absolutepower laptop, phone and tablet charger offers 100 watts of power and the ability to charge two USB devices and your laptop at the same time. Even better, it's the most powerful, lightest and smallest portable charger in its class, so you know you're getting the best of the best when you opt for this Kensington product. Finally, watching and worrying about your laptop battery diminishing in flight is a thing of the past.

    Unlocked Smartphone
    Photo credit: Anne Worner

    Before you take to the skies for your next adventure, be sure you have an unlocked smartphone with the ability to create a personal wifi hotspot. Because your smartphone is unlocked, you'll be able to pop in a sim card from your destination country, purchase a data plan and use your hotspot anywhere with cell service. This simple trick will save you the agony of seeking free wifi everywhere you travel and will also save you those big bucks spent at coffee shops around the world. Now, you can work in the comfort and convenience of your hotel room, even if free wifi is not offered there.

    TP-Link N300 Wifi Antenna

    You can keep your phone's data use to a minimum by picking up the TP-Link N300 Wifi Antenna as well. This ultra-handy device can pick up wifi signals within a 200-yard radius and amplifies those wifi signals, so they can be used in your hotel room, your RV or wherever you find yourself trying to get some work done. This pint-sized item increases your laptop's wifi signal strength by 3 to 5 times and easily folds away when not in use.

    Universal Plug Adapter
    Photo credit: cogdogblog

    It sounds so simple, but if you find yourself in a foreign country without a universal plug adapter, you'll be heading to a nearby mall before you even think of getting to work. Purchase two universal plug adapters (they only cost a few dollars each) before you hit the road, and you'll be able to charge your laptop and your phone or tablet at the same time.

    Grid-It Organization System

    Anyone who has ever traveled with all of the devices, adapters, power packs, chargers and other accessories needed to work on the go know that backpacks, suitcases and briefcases turn cords into tangled nests in a matter of minutes. The Grid-It organization system by Cocoon organizes your cords, headphones, chargers and gadgets and holds them firmly in place, so you know where to find them without having to untangle them. Whatever type of work you do on the go, there's no doubt you'll benefit from keeping your supplies in one easy-to-reach place.

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    Some 60 million tourists visited New York City last year. So when it comes to ladies' getaways know, hospitality-wise, you're in good hands. Recently, Girls' Flight Out landed in the Big Apple to soak up its exciting literary scene. Home to publishing giants, top-notch agents, best-selling authors as well as aspiring scribes, ladies gather your gal pals-- this is Book Club gone wild. And yes, the city is infused with thousands of restaurants, bistros and bars, so there will be plenty of wine available.

    Here are 6 must-dos to include in your litinerary:

    1. Check in to the Algonquin Hotel
    Rebecca checks in with Matilda, the hotel cat who can often be found at the front desk.

    Affectionately known as "The Gonk", this national historical landmark is steps away from Times Square and boasts an endless list of famous wordsmiths who have stayed there including Gertrude Stein, J.D. Salinger and Tennessee Williams. This is where Dorothy Parker and her band of critics, editors and Pulitzer-winners hung out at the now-famous Round Table throughout the 1920s. It's also where The New Yorker got off the ground. Rooms and suites are appointed with a comfy work desk just begging you to jot down a line or two. The lobby is jaw dropping so even if you're not a guest, stop in for a bite at the restaurant or a drink at the legendary Blue Bar.

    2. Check out the New York Public Library

    Located on Fifth Avenue at 42nd Street, the Stephen A. Schwarzman Building is known as the main branch of a massive library system that includes 92 locations. Since it opened its doors back in 1911, this has been the go-to destination of scholars, researchers, writers and millions of patrons. Check out for a list of tours, exhibits, and special events, many of which are free. Tickets to LIVE from NYPL, a series of debates and discussions with notable writers, artists, and leaders can be purchased online. Past guests include the likes of Toni Morrison and Margaret Atwood.

    3. Visit the Morgan Library and Museum
    Library at the Morgan

    What began as a private library by financier Pierpont Morgan, is now a complex of buildings located at 225 Madison Avenue at 36th Street. There, you can soak up temporary exhibits, take a guided tour, attend lectures, concerts and workshops. Holdings include an astonishing collection of letters, original manuscripts and printed books and feature three Gutenberg Bibles, and works by Byron, Dickens, Poe, and Twain.

    4. Take a guided literary tour

    Walking tours are alive-and-well in NYC with sites such as www.literarypubcrawl offering tours with stops at popular wateringholes along the way. The Greenwich Village crawl takes place every Saturday with participants gathering at White Horse Tavern, a bohemian hotspot back in the 50's and 60s that saw writers such as Dylan Thomas and Jack Kerouac saddle up to the bar. For Sex and the City enthusiasts, www.onlocationtours offers a guided tour lets you hop off the bus to hang out at the fictional foursome's favourite locals.

    5. Read up at The Strand
    Books by the foot room at The Strand

    Billed as the sole survivor of what was once dubbed "Book Row, a 6 city block area of Manhattan flush with 48 bookstores, this iconic indie book store has been titillating bibliophiles since 1927. With its 18-mile collection of new, used, collectible and rare books, you'll need to leave plenty of time to browse the aisles, and get recommendations from the highly-knowledgeable staff. Be sure to settle in for a read on the rare books floor, which is home to readings, signings and literary events as posted on

    6. Head to Brooklyn
    Lobby at The Box House

    Whether you take the train or walk across the Brooklyn Bridge, a literary haven awaits you. Boasting book festivals, readings, workshops, and scores of cafes flush with scribes, this borough is a must-see on any NYC lit vacation. The tree-lined streets of Brooklyn Heights alone were once home to literary greats from Norman Mailer to Arthur Miller to Truman Capote. With so much to see and do, you may wish to stay a night or two so check out's list of cool accommodations which includes B&Bs, apartments and guesthouses. Girls' Flight Out chose The Box House, a fab boutique hotel with a suite that offered us a full living area, kitchenette and a fun and funky vibe.

    7. Go to the theatre, darling

    Be it Broadway, Off Broadway or Off Off Broadway, your NYC Get Lit trip demands catching at least one page-to-stage adaptation. This summer, you can watch your favourite fictional characters come to life by taking in the musical, The Color Purple based on the book by Alice Walker; the play, The Curious Incident of the Dog at Night-time based on Mark Haddon's best seller; or Sense and Sensibility based on Jane Austen's classic. Check out before you go to check out what's on.

    Disclaimer: Aspects of this trip were provided by and Porter Airlines. The author is a partner of

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    In terms of summer vacationing, this summer most Canadians can agree on one thing: travelling to the US may not be in the budget.

    The Canadian dollar is at an unfortunate low, and as most analysts are identifying Canadians as hesitant of heading south of the border, we look elsewhere to more economically friendly destinations. As such, short of travelling to another country, many Ontarians are heading for the rural parts of the province, which has been a staple choice for cottage owners and Airbnb renters for quite some time.

    Road trips are a quick and essential way to get a breather from the city. It keeps your cash saved while not skipping a beat once Monday hits (most of the time, at least). When searching for the right vehicle to take into the countryside, you'll want to watch for three features: terrain options, safety precautions, and temperature control.

    In April I had the opportunity to bring the 2016 Ford F-150 Limited for a relaxing stay in Creemore at the Lavender Hall Estate, for a pre-summer (and pre-foliage) getaway. The pick-up truck has traditionally been the choice for many Canadians who spend most of their time on dirt roads, while less for those who own a parking spot in a condo. For this road trip, I took plenty of off-road notes on how the Ford F-150 Limited handles the excursion.

    The F-150 Limited includes a 3.5L V6 EcoBoost for improved fuel efficiency from its previous iterations, with a sizeable gas tank for added mileage. Long drives mean less fill ups, although it's a challenge to compare gas costs when compared to smaller vehicles. Still, the truck does provide an amicable amount of space for storage in the rear cabin and room on the bed for your toys, like bikes and boards. Part of the fun in heading north is stargazing, which the twin panel moonroof provides with added spaciousness - something far more enjoyable when not engulfed in city smog.


    The built-in tech includes numerous terrain options for stability on sandy roads, which get trickier when heading up or downhill, or when the rain comes down. Heading to the Lavender Hall Estate took us through dirt roads off Google Maps, including improper navigation on elevated paths and streets-that-were-definitely-not-streets. Terrain management assisted in keeping the tail from swinging around like a pendulum when booming down gravel streets.

    The temperature options provide comfort on the highway and when planning an overnight stop. Dual zone automatic temperature control and heated/cooled front seats can be controlled both in the console and on the 8" LCD productivity screen, which includes the new SYNC 3 voice-activated system, which I previously reviewed. As the summer gets melty, and the worst of the bugs hover eagerly outside your windows, it's smart to keep the A/C on and windows rolled up most of the time.

    Safety is another important factor when spending a few hours on the road. The F-150 Limited includes a collision warning system with brake support that simulates brake lights in your heads up display. It also pre-charges your brakes and increases your brake assist sensitivity for full responsiveness, in the event a moose terrifyingly appears ahead of you. To assist your passengers, an inflatable second row outboard safety belt is installed to reduce risk of injury to the head and neck. Also, the console includes a 360 degree camera with a split view display, utilizing four separate cameras for complete visibility - helpful as I drove in the daytime, but also useful to watch for animals when parked in the dark.


    The trip-friendly features were a bonus during the two hour journey to Creemore, and allowed me to take in the beauty of Ontario en route. Arriving at the Lavender Hall Estates, which required some verbal directions from the owner of the property Randall Munger, we were greeted to a beautiful 200 acre estate that featured a private pond with a floating dock and plenty of space to be free. Popular for weddings and couple getaways, the estate had four quaint rooms -- one with a jacuzzi and another with a two level loft.

    As timing may have it, complete relaxation and well, leaves, were still a few weeks ahead, which only means I need to return for a proper summer outing and better photography sessions. The next morning, we headed up to Wasaga Beach for an afternoon of lake views and muddiness, before heading back to the city.

    As we enter road trip season, safety and comfort are important factors when hitting the road for extended periods of time. While the Ford F-150 Limited may be a bit overkill for the daily commute downtown, its diverse amenities appear to set the base for a safe and relaxing adventure, no matter the cargo or people you may be driving.

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    For many parents the thought of a Disney Vacation brings visions of apocalyptic temper tantrums, crying, hungry and over-tired children.

    For parents of children with special needs top that with a tenfold of anticipated stress and anxiety that accompanies the thought of maintaining a manageable environment while "doing Disney."

    Our main goal was to make this trip as easy and enjoyable as possible. Thinking through the many catalysts that could trigger a breakdown and the tools that we could use to manage them, here's how to take away the cringe-worthy worry, survive Disney with special needs, and keeping everyone smiling.

    12 Ways to Survive Disney with Special Needs

    1) Teach Spontaneity

    I know this sounds kind of ridiculous but kids with Special Needs (especially ASD/Autism) thrive on routine. Yet life doesn't adhere to a particular schedule no matter how hard you try. We spent a lot of time prior to the trip working on "what if's" and "Big deal ?or little deal?" scenarios. Our goal was to get the kids ready for plans not working out the way they should and keep expectations of routine low.


    2) Be Strategic

    As we started planning, we looked at the busiest traffic times of Disney and chose one of the lowest of the year. This allowed for low volume line-ups and often discounts on packages and accommodations. We think this is one of the MOST important parts of being able to survive Disney with special needs.

    For the record, we went Sun-Thurs the first week of November which rarely saw a line-up over 20-30 minutes & allowed us to experience many more rides in a day.

    3) Make it EASY

    We booked our flights and hotel using Expedia, which offered comparisons and made choosing simple and quick. To save money, we flew out of Buffalo to Orlando, and then took the Magic Bus to Disney. This direct and comfortable shuttle system took our luggage straight to our hotel, and our bags were delivered shortly after we arrived directly to our room. This made getting through the airport a snap, which is rather incredible and definitely something I recommend for anyone travelling with children, special needs or not.

    4) Stay on Site

    We chose The Polynesian Resort for a couple of key reasons. The first, is that it is one of three on-site resorts that connect to Disney via the Monorail. We got an incredible deal for a multi-family room making access to and from the park quick, easy and fun throughout the day. It is also the best resort to watch the fireworks nightly with a perfect sightline to the show without the overwhelming loudness and crowds inside the park.


    5) The Magicband

    Staying on site also gives you access to the Magicband that goes with booking at any Disney World Resort. Truly one of Disney's smartest additions to the park and makes life so simple with customized Disney experience. Your Magicband is everything. From your hotel room key, FastPass+ access, your wallet throughout all the resorts and Disney World. You are able to purchase food, drinks & souvenirs in Disney using the Magicband which made walking around so much easier.

    6) The FastPass+

    The FastPass is a god-send for special needs parenting as it allows you to pre-book 3 rides in advance each day. This can be done via the Disney app, and provides a specific time you are "reserved" to head to the ride. Any opportunity where we can prevent angsty waiting is incredibly powerful in our world.

    *FastPass+ bookings can be done 30 Days in advance.

    7) Disney Parks Disability Access Service Card (DAS Card)

    The DAS Card allows persons with special needs, be they apparent or not, to arrive at a ride and receive a time to come back. So instead of standing in line for an hour, we could leave and come back later, which reduced our wait time in the actual line considerably, and gave us the flexibility to do other things that would contribute to our Disney visit in a positive way. We got ice cream, saw characters, took a bathroom break, shopped and occasionally just sat down for a rest till it was time to go back to the ride.


    8) Take Breaks

    Staying so close also allowed us to choose when we were going to take some "breaks", heading back to the hotel pool to refresh and regroup, providing some peaceful downtime before we headed back to the park. With the Monorail 5-7 minutes to the park, it allowed us the flexibility we needed to manage those moments where we thought we were hitting our limit.

    9) Use meal/snack times as distractors

    One of the most difficult and often stressful parts of traveling with a special needs child is eating out, with unfamiliar foods and lack of routine, so we opted out of the meal plan to avoid the food lines, choosing instead to rent a car and drive to a nearby Target for familiar and healthy lunch/snacking foods. The fridge in our room allowed for us to start every day with a quiet, calm breakfast and we used food in the park to keep the kids busy while waiting.

    10) Noise cancelling headphones

    A number of the rides at Disney can be loud and jarring, so we packed a pair of noise cancelling headphones in the event that things got too much. This gave our son a chance to deeply cushion the incredible sensory experiences going on around him.


    11) Have a flexible plan

    Getting to the park early and choosing the most popular rides first was our strategy and we were able to enjoy them without ridiculous wait times. We tried to keep the rides balanced to reduce sensory overload, and if we did a closed, fast paced or loud ride, we would follow it with an open and slower ride that would be more relaxing and lower growing excitement levels. There will be moments you need to adapt. Just stay checked in with your kids and see what they can handle.

    12) Breathe & Enjoy

    The attendants and everyone we encountered at Disney were amazing, with customer experience obviously a priority. This is supposed to be fun for the whole family. So do as best you can to plan ahead, let routine go, let it flow, enjoy the moments and you too can have a Magical Disney vacation.


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  • 06/03/16--09:50: See Italy Like The Locals Do
  • Over the past few years, I have had the pleasure of visiting Southern Italy for two key moments in my life: the first being my honeymoon, where my Italian-Canadian husband introduced me to the Italy he knows, and the second being his sister's Sicilian wedding, where my entire extended family introduced me to the Italy they know. My in-laws have deep roots in the south, and now, so do I. So instead of putting together the traditional Sip, Stay, Shop travel diary, I've chosen four places in the most intense Italian sud -- an area still largely undiscovered by tourists -- that I simply have to see again.

    MASSERIA SUSAFA: Pulling up to the villa in the hills of central Sicily where my sister-in-law was hosting her wedding literally took my breath away. After a white-knuckle drive along a charmingly winding and washed-out dirt road, the unexpected appeared: a meticulously landscaped pine drive, leading to a steel and stone masseria, or country estate, rosemary hedgerows, and then golden wheat fields as far as the eye could see. Primarily a boutique wedding and agritourism destination for in-the-know Europeans, anyone can, and should, brave the drive to bask in the sights, smells and tastes of this 300-year-old working Italian farm.


    OTRANTO: A whitewashed slice of Greece near the tip of Italy's stiletto, Otranto is a paradise waiting to be discovered. The coastal drive to get there--dotted with hidden swimming grottos and seafood to nourish the soul--makes the day of travel from Naples worth it alone. An ambling walk from our hotel, the Relais Valle Dell'Idro, gently guided us towards the seaside resort's impossibly romantic central promenade, filled with Italian day-trippers and sun-kissed families sharing plates of frittura mista. Flanked by a soaring medieval fortress at one end and a quintessentially Italian beach at another, time ceases to tick by in the distance between the two.


    AMALFI COAST: The Amalfi Coast is hardly a secret; however, the travellers who venture beyond Rome and Naples to this dizzyingly improbable UNESCO World Heritage rarely go past the renowned towns of Sorrento and Positano. This is for two good reasons: 1) They are beautiful. And 2) Tourists are warned explicitly to not drive the hazardous Amalfi Coast road. Before she immigrated to Canada, though, my mother-in-law used to summer on the Amalfi Coast as a teen, so my husband and I have made a point of seeing it all. Listen to church bells peal out over the Piazza del Duomo in Amalfi, relax in sundrenched Praiano, buy lemons from a roadside stall in family-friendly Maiori, catch a boat to a hidden cove from the beach in wee Erchie (where we base our stays, at the Limoneto di Ercole apartments), and eat the freshest catch of the day in authentic Cetara. Then leave it all in the glowing rearview and go see the ruins of Pompeii.


    TAORMINA: Long a playground for the rich, and richer, Taormina is a spectacularly situated resort destination on the east coast of Sicily. In addition to boasting world-class luxury shopping and azureblue beaches, Taormina is also just a helicopter ride away from the volcanic spectacle of the Aeolian Islands. I suggest booking a vacation rental through Keep peak season in mind-Taormina is Sicily's most popular summer getaway--and if you get the chance, try to catch a touring pop star performing in the city's ancient Teatro Greco.


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    Whether you're looking for an adventure retreat, luxurious settings or a relaxing escape from daily life, a lodge can be the perfect alternative to staying in a hotel. Some of the most spectacular lodges are found right here in Canada. For those searching for a longer journey, booking a stay in a place like Soulshine in Bali or Borana Lodge in Kenya will be sure to fulfill, if not go beyond, your expectations.

    Read up on these five lodges that are located in some of the most inspiring places around the world.

    1.  Baldface Lodge, Nelson, British Columbia

    Located just outside Nelson, British Columbia, Baldface Lodge is where very special things happen. A cat boarding (and skiing) lodge known for its steep, open and forested terrain, as well as its beautiful post and beam lodge, roughly 36 people at a time can gather here throughout the winter months to enjoy some of the best snow conditions anywhere on the planet.

    But it's not just the magical terrain that makes the experience. It's the people, the vibe and the culture that owner Jeff Pensiero has created that makes this place stand out. It's one of those rare places I have visited where you arrive as a guest, but leave as family, and that speaks volumes about the people who put this place and experience over the top.  

    2. Sanctuary Gorilla Forest Camp, Uganda

    We have all heard the phrase "there's no place like home." To me, it refers to the comfort, familiarity and general security that we feel when we are in our most familiar spaces, namely our homes. Sometimes lodges can take on this feeling if what is outside the lodge feels like hard work, stressful travel or perhaps sensory overload. This is the case at Sanctuary Gorilla Forest Camp in Bwindi National Forest in Uganda. 

    Sanctuary Gorilla Forest Camp is one of the only lodges located inside the National Forest, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Most people who journey here are coming for a very specific reason and that is to trek through the jungle in pursuit of a glimpse of some of the last remaining mountain gorillas on the planet. It is unpredictable and, when your guides are armed
    with machine guns (not for the gorillas, but the guerrillas), it feels very intense. 

    This is one of the top adventure travel and eco-tourism experiences, and spending 60 minutes with 20 or so gorillas, well, that's pure magic.   

    3.  Langara Fishing Lodge, Haida Gwaii, British Columbia

    Haida Gwaii, formerly the Queen Charlotte Islands, are often referred to as the "edge of the world." At the most northern tip of these islands, indeed the most northwestern part of British Columbia, lies a small island called Langara. It is here where a handful of sport fishing pioneers put roots to create the undisputed king of all fishing lodges: Langara Fishing Lodge. 

    With a focus on salmon and halibut fishing, it simply does not get better or more breathtaking. The fishing season runs from late May to early September, and guests fly by charter from Vancouver to
    Masset, and then by helicopter to a remote floating lodge where boats and a huge staff await anxious anglers. 

    The place explodes with wildlife that includes humpback whales, orcas, sea lions, bald eagles, and of course, all sorts of fish. At the end of the day, you return to the docks where young and energetic staff greet you, process your catch and clean your boat. Inside the floating lodge, a hot tub, bar and five-star cuisine await. At 5 a.m. the day starts again. It's incredibly amazing that this type of experience exists just a short three-hour flight from Vancouver.  

    4.  Soulshine, Ubud, Bali

    Just outside the hip and trendy town of Ubud in central Bali is a very cool 25-room lodge called Soulshine. Renowned as one of the world's most popular yoga destinations, it is not surprising that the rooms are almost always fully booked by organized yoga retreats led by some of the world's top instructors. 

    The warmth of the Balinese people and their fresh and delicious cuisine radiate at Soulshine. Not surprisingly, a rooftop yoga studio overlooking rice fields and temples in the village of Mas make this a special place to hang out. The private pool and deck in the jungle are also pretty zen places to relax with a fresh fruit juice.

    A five-minute scooter ride and you are in Ubud, with all the culture and richness of Bali at your fingertips. If you are lucky, musician Michael Franti, founder and co-owner of Soulshine, will be strumming his guitar and singing in the open-air kitchen and dining room, the heartbeat and gathering place at Soulshine.   

    5.  Borana Lodge, Kenya

    In Central Kenya, on the Laikipia Plateau, you will find Borana Lodge.  A third generation, family-owned ecolodge that embodies the pinnacle of safari tourism, sustainability, conservation and community engagement. The lodge, one of the most iconic in East Africa, is a gorgeous collection of eight cottages with a beautiful main dining area and lounge with grand fireplaces and massive windows that invite
    and even pull the outdoors in. 

    The lodge is the perfect launching place for safari drives and the area boasts the greatest concentrations of wildlife in the country, after the Masi Mara to the south. Borana is one of those places where the lines between inside living and outdoor wonder become blurred and the experience of rhinos, lions and elephants walking around seem to happen whether you are on safari or lounging at the pool in the lodge.

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    If you're looking for a place to set up a tent and start a fire, Ontario has a lot to offer.

    With thousands of camping sites including back-country camping (for experienced campers), car camping, group camping, and cabin and cottage rentals (a.k.a. glamping), national and provincial parks in the province are home to some breathtaking views and challenging trails.

    From the sandy beaches at Pancake Bay to getting lost in the wilderness at Algonquin to the clear-blue water in Tobermory, Ont., there is something out there for everyone. Below, we've rounded up 24 of our favourite Ontario camping sites from one end of the province to the other — closer to our nation's capital.

    sandbanks provincial park
    Sandbanks Provincial Park beach.

    We've also included some of the biggest attractions including which parks have the best sunsets, hiking trails and which ones would make ideal romantic getaways. Ontario Parks also has even more information on each camping site and if you're wondering about bringing your little one (a.k.a. your pet), this blog has a great list of pet-friendly beaches and parks.

    So what are you waiting for? Grab those marshmallows, pick up a pair of hiking boots and hit the road to discover Ontario's green secrets.

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    Hitting the open road with the whole family is a favourite summertime activity, but most parents know that a long car ride with the kids can be stressful. The fact is, children are four times more distracting than adults when travelling in a car and infants are eight times more distracting than adults, according to CAA.

    If you're planning a weekend staycation or a holiday road trip this summer, how can you keep your kids busy in the car so you can stay focused on driving and avoid the dreaded "are we there yet?" Here are my ten top tips for toys and activities to keep the kids entertained, and the must-have travel necessities you don't want to leave home without.

    1. Magnetic Drawing Board. Like a tablet for little ones, they can doodle to their heart's content then the easy-slide eraser cleans the screen. Ideal for hours of no-mess drawing fun.

    2. Electronic toys. Leapfrog offers a super selection of toys to entertain and educate. There are personal toddler laptops, called "Leaptops", and a guitar that teaches numbers, animals and animal sounds in English and Spanish, available at Toys 'R' Us.

    3. Interactive books. With visual cues that help children identify words and take other actions, these books hold kids' attention longer than regular books. Great for children ages 2 to 4.

    4. Magnetic travel games. Kids can play "Take 'n' Play", Go Fishing or Hangman, without worrying about losing the game pieces in the car. Available at Chapters Indigo.

    5. Suitcase Toys. Look for toys that are packaged in a suitcase like the Lego Juniors Suitcase available at Chapters Indigo. Or create your own "Adventure Packs" - fill a colourful bag or lunchbox with new toys especially for the road trip such as sticker packs, colouring books, crayons, card games, and window decals. It makes packing a breeze, and with such a variety of items kids won't be bored.

    6. "I Spy". A classic travel game, fun for younger children. You may want to set the rule that players can only choose items in the vehicle, or things that can be seen for enough time to allow others to guess.

    7. Scavenger Hunt. You can download printable lists online that will keep your kids focused on finding items such as a vehicles, road signs, animals, or scenery. The first person to find all items on their list is the winner.

    8. Sing-a-long. No road trip is complete without a soundtrack! Keep a selection of CDs handy and have the kids sing to their favourite songs.

    9. Team story telling.
    If you have older children, get creative with a group story. One person in the car starts with the first line, and each player takes a turn building on the tale, one line at a time. You can start with a simple "Once upon a time there lived a prince" or for more amusement try "Joey the frog always had pink spots."

    10. Bubbles! When the sun is shining, the windows are down and the sunroof is open, is there anything better than bubbles to keep the kids entertained? Look for "Fubbles", the car-friendly, no-spill bubble container, available at

    Do you have any travel toys or games that have entertained your kids and made a road trip more enjoyable for everyone? Share your tip or story below. And happy motoring!

    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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    Photo credit: Grand Velas Puerto Vallarta

    Not all holidays can be month-long adventures through Southeast Asia. And not every summer vacation can be a costly train trip through Europe. If you're seeking a more short-term getaway that gets you more bang for your buck, you may want to consider an all-inclusive resort.

    All-inclusive vacations aren't the trips in which you end up learning the local lingo or dining at street stalls. But they are the ones that allow you to completely relax without worrying about plans, money or transportation. The following are five reasons why you should consider an all-inclusive vacation for your next short-term getaway.

    You Know the Cost of Your Trip Upfront
    All-inclusive vacations offer that completely stress-free feeling of leaving your wallet in the room. You can stop worrying about how many meals you eat at restaurants or how expensive three orders of chicken fingers for the kids will be. Even more, you can enjoy all of the tropical fruity drinks you desire, without having to shell out $12 every round. When you book your all-inclusive getaway online, you know what you'll be paying (aside from tips and shopping), so you can budget for your vacation and possibly even have it paid off before you go.

    Everyone Can Do Their Thing
    Photo credit: Peter Laborne

    Vacations get complicated when every member of your group wants to visit a different tourist attraction, dine at a different restaurant or try a different activity. At an all-inclusive resort, everyone can eat, drink and adventure as they please. Send the kids out kayaking while you sink your toes into the sand, or let them dine at the beachfront snack shack while you enjoy a lavish meal at the steak house.

    There's More to Do Than You Think
    I once thought I'd go crazy on an all-inclusive vacation. After all, I'd be stuck inside the confines of a resort for seven straight days. But it's amazing how time flies when you're kayaking, snorkeling, sailing, dining, sunbathing, building sand castles, doing water aerobics, enjoying nightlife and taking advantage of all of the perks of an all-inclusive resort. Because everything was included in my stay, I was able to try new adventures (sailing a catamaran) and eat new foods (deep fried conch) every day of the week.

    You Get to Taste the Local Cuisine
    Photo credit: keatssycamore

    You may not be dining at street vendors and local hole-in-the-wall restaurants, but you still get to taste the local cuisine while staying at an all-inclusive resort. And even better, you don't have to feel bad about spending money on that local cuisine if it doesn't suit your taste buds. All-inclusive resorts are equipped with several restaurants and buffets, many of which offer a number of local foods for guests to try.

    All-inclusive vacations don't shelter you from the local culture like many travelers assume. They simply bring the local culture to you, so you can kick back, relax and have a good time.

    You Can Tailor Your Vacation to Suit Your Needs
    Whether you're simply spending a long weekend away from it all or are finally taking that much-awaited, ultra-luxurious honeymoon, your ideal all-inclusive getaway can be altered with certain personal touches. You can opt for lavish packages with personal butler services or hang the "Do Not Disturb" sign on your door to relax in peace. The staff at all-inclusive resorts know that their customers all want different things, and they make it easy for you to communicate and receive exactly what you're seeking from your vacation.


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    Photo credit: Malcolm Duchamp

    It may be called the "Great White North," but Canada isn't just a travel destination for winter adventures. In fact, Canada comes even more alive in the summer months with its ideal temperatures for adventuring, abundance of outdoor festivals, picture-perfect beaches and so much more. The following five towns throughout Canada are the best of the best for family-friendly fun during the summer months.

    Twillingate -- Newfoundland and Labrador

    If you've never stood in awe of an iceberg drifting through the water off the shores of Twillingate, you're missing out. Known as the "Iceberg Capital of the World," Twillingate is the premier destination in Canada for admiring icebergs from shore or on one of many unforgettable boat tours. Twillingate is home to just 3,500 residents, but the quaint fishing village is always prepared for the spring and summer crowds of iceberg viewers. Don't forget to leave yourself plenty of time to explore the Twillingate's art galleries, museums, beaches and locally famous seafood restaurants.

    Montreal -- Quebec

    Photo credit: nonanet

    Montreal is the No. 1 place in Canada during the last week of June and first week of July. The Festival International de Jazz de Montreal, known as the Montreal Jazz Festival, turns a portion of downtown Montreal into a must-visit street fair, complete with one of the largest jam sessions on the planet. The festival features hundreds of outdoor concerts, indoor shows, jazz cruises, walking tours and the Rio Tinto Alcan Family Club, offering workshops, a snack bar, picnic area, animation center and more to kids of all ages.

    Away from the festival, parents and their little ones can explore the La Ronde theme park, the Granby Zoo, botanical gardens, the Montreal Insectarium, beaches, parks and all of the family-friendly fun the city has to offer.

    Stratford -- Ontario

    The southwestern Ontario town of Stratford may not be one of the most visited in the country, but it's one of the most beautiful. The picture-perfect town was named for Stratford-Upon-Avon, England, and became known for its Stratford Shakespeare Festival in the early 1950s. Visit during the Stratford Festival, which runs from April to October, and you're guaranteed to enjoy modern and classic plays, Broadway musicals and an array of other performances for theatre lovers of all ages. Aside from the festival, your family will fall in love with the town's riverside parks, galleries, boutiques and restaurants -- all in the walkable downtown area.

    Tofino -- British Columbia

    Photo credit: Aaron Carlson

    When you're searching for the perfect family beach vacation destination, there's no better place to look than Tofino. Whether you're interested in hiking, mountain biking, whale watching, surfing, beachcombing, shopping or dining, Tofino has it all. Lounge in the sun with a drink in your hand while your kids try surfing lessons or head out on the water together with stand-up paddleboards or kayaks. With everything from mountains, to rainforest trails, beaches and a charming downtown area, you'll never have to worry about your little ones getting bored in Tofino.

    Churchill - Manitoba

    Snorkeling is a common summertime activity, but snorkeling among beluga whales is not. Churchill, Manitoba offers a once-in-a-lifetime experience for visitors who are willing to travel way up north. Head to the Hudson Bay to admire the roughly 3,000 beluga whales that congregate in the area to feed each summer.

    You can get up-close-and-personal with the gentle giants on one of many nature tours. Step into a thick wetsuit, and you'll be guided into the river estuary via Zodiac boat, where you'll enjoy the unforgettable experience of snorkeling with playful beluga whales. Your kids will never complain about family vacation again.

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    Photo credit: Otto (Rodriguez)

    Although, you can use the media's insistence that El Salvador is plagued by gang violence, which the majority of the country is untouched by, to your advantage. This picture-perfect country with black-sand beaches, tourist-friendly colonial towns, ideal surfing waves, coffee plantations, and a string of hikeable volcanoes, is off the beaten path for more tourists. The perks -- you enjoy better prices, fewer crowds, and more authentic experiences with the country's warm-hearted locals.

    The following are just a few of many reasons to visit Central America's most underrated country.

    You Can Hike Volcanoes

    A string of Volcanoes run through the core of El Salvador, and most of them are hiker-friendly. The Parque Nacional Los Volcanoes, formerly known as Parque Nacional Cerro Verde, offers hectares of thick forest that is home to hundreds of bird species. Take the paved road to the visitor center and enjoy a mellow walk through the nature loop or hike to the volcanic peak of Santa Ana or Izalco for postcard-worthy views. El Boqueron is located just outside of San Salvador and offers well-maintained trails to the lip of a mind-bending crater. Because the peaks of El Salvador's volcanoes are generally low (the highest peak is 8,950), hikers of all levels can enjoy the country's best views.

    You Can Spend Days (or Weeks) at the Beach

    Photo credit: Ivan Garcia

    Many travelers imagine Costa Rica or Belize when they hear about Central American beach vacations. However, El Salvador offers less crowded beaches, inexpensive beachfront accommodations, world-famous surfing waves, and a number of trendy beach towns with happening bars and restaurants on the sand. La Libertad and its famous surf spot, Punta Roca, attracts water sport enthusiasts from around the world, but its nearby El Tunco and Sunzal that are favorites among backpackers and travelers of all ages.

    El Salvador's small size works as an advantage to beach lovers, allowing them to reach dozens of picture-perfect beaches in a matter of minutes.

    You Can Discover Historic Towns

    The media has driven travelers to think El Salvador's towns are gang infested, but that's far from the truth. Visitors can explore an abundance of quaint, colonial towns offering souvenir shops, cobblestone streets, and delicious Central American cuisine. Travel just 50 kilometers north of San Salvador to the country's cultural capital, Suchitoto, where the winding streets come to life with art, crafts, and food vendors every weekend. Similarly, the Ruta de las Flores winds through a picturesque collection of villages that have become melting pots of indigenous flair and colonial architecture. The cobblestone streets of the Ruta de las Flores town of Juayua is a must-visit for its nearby waterfalls, hot springs, and weekly food fair.

    You Can Discover Ruins Without the Crowds

    Photo credit: IrvinJp

    If you've ever visited the Chichén Itzá ruins of Mexico or Peru's Machu Picchu, you know what it's like to explore ancient archaeological sites among droves of tourists. El Salvador's ruins aren't as dramatic as others in Latin America, but they offer peeks into ancient Mesoamerican settlements without crowds of camera-toting tourists.

    A few miles south of San Andres is the "Pompeii of the Americas," a UNESCO World Heritage Site by the name of Joa de Ceren. A volcanic eruption roughly 1,500 years ago buried the village in volcanic ash, preserving it for modern exploration. When discovered, the preserved clay urns still had food inside. The site isn't equipped with placards or signs, so it pays to hire a guide to provide the ins and outs of El Salvador's rich Mayan history.

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