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Canada Travel news and opinion

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    Rebecca Field Jager and Samantha Gary hangin' out at their homestead at Lost Valley Ranch

    Recently Girls Flight Out travelled to Colorado where we discovered the real high you get when visiting this state comes by way of its geographic diversity, mixture of charming small towns and urban cultural centres, and the people's passion for all things outdoors.

    Colorado is considered the dude ranch and rodeo capital of the United States so we made sure the first leg of our trip was a four-legged one. Lost Valley Ranch treated us to an authentic western experience -- to get a taste of it, take a gander at our Get Your Cowgirl On video.

    4 Fab Towns You Must Hang Your Hat In

    A weeklong trek saw us pulling into several Colorado towns as well as the State's capital. While each stood out individually, all were as seamlessly woven together as patches on a quilt.

    Fort Collins

    Fort Collins' historic Old Town is the heart of this mid-sized college town famous for its beer scene.
    Fort Collin' historic old town is the heart of this mid-sized college town famous for its beer scene

    "We call 'em the three B's of Fort Collins," our guide told us. "Beers, bikes and bands." Sure enough, our tour included stops at a couple of the city's 20 craft breweries most of which are located in historic downtown. Happily, the area also boasts artisanal coffee and chocolate shops, boutiques, bistros and bars. The town boasts a thriving music scene -- painted pianos dot the streets -- so this is the kind of place you can grab a pint, kickback and enjoy the sounds of local and international talent. For dins, we dug in at The Kitchen, a nearby restaurant with a long-table communal feel and local, sustainable philosophy. We snuggled in at The Armstrong Hotel in Old Town, a beautifully restored 37-room building that originally opened in 1923.


    Boulder's downtown Pearl Street Mall offers 4 blocks of traffic-less wining, dining and shopping opportunities.
    Boulder's downtown Pearl Street Mall offers 4 blocks of traffic-less wining, dining and shopping opportunities.

    The first city in the U.S. to buy open-space land with tax-payer money, Boulder is a outdoor enthusiast's dream with some 18,000 hectares of wide open space beckoning hikers, bikers, climbers and the like. For those who want to do something a little more laidback the Pearl Street Mall is comprised of a 4-block traffic-less street flush with shops, patios, restaurants and cafes. Rather than try to pick from the slue of places to eat, we joined Local Table Tours where Megan Bochulz, a local entrepreneur and food guru, took us to a few hotspots to sample. Afterward, we nestled into the quaint cottages at Colorado Chautauqua, a National Historic Landmark situated on 40 acres of land at the base of the Boulder Flatirons.


    50 year-old kayaks line what is reputed to be the most photographed wall in town.
    50 year-old kayaks line what is reputed to be the most photographed wall in town.

    After a rejuvenating stay at Mount Princeton Hot Springs Resort (think geothermal waters and luxury cabins) we pulled into Salida, a small town with the Arkansas River running through it. Surrounded by 14,000-foot mountain peaks, here art meets nature. The downtown streets are lined with restored century-old brick buildings housing art galleries, vintage stores, cafes and gift shops packed with the works of potters, painters, sculptors and the like. Home to FIBArk, which is billed as America's oldest whitewater festival, Ladies put down your purses and pick up your paddle -- kayaking is must.


    Larimer Square plays a huge role in Denver's vibrant culinary and nightlife scene.
    Larimer Square plays a huge role in Denver's vibrant culinary and nightlife scene.

    A group of ladies outside of Ophelia's Electric Soapbox in town for Fierce! Queer Burlesque Festival.

    A group of soccer moms from 4 different states and one Canadian province celebrating their ladies' getaway at TAG restaurant.

    As the wide-open spaces of Colorado gave way to the Capital's urban landscape, as a concrete-hugger (by nature), I couldn't wait to soak up all The Mile High City had to offer. We checked in to the contemporary, luxe ART Hotel located downtown, at which the suites, floors and lobby are adorned with curated hand-selected works of art. Our evening began at Cooper's Lounge in Union Station, a transportation hub with so many interesting bars, eateries and shops, it's a wonder travellers don't miss their trains. Mind you, most folks there are locals or tourists unwinding over drinks and a bite to eat in the 100 year-old building that has been restored to the nines. After cocktails, we headed to TAG, one of many topnotch restaurants in Larimer Square, Denver's oldest district, and then took a stroll beneath the pretty white lights strung across the streets popping into a handful of clubs.

    Day-time in Denver also offers plenty to do. The Denver Art Museum houses an extraordinary collection of American Indian and Western Art. And for a little retail therapy and to rub shoulders with the well-heeled locals, head to Cherry Creek North to check out the indie restaurants and one-of-kind boutiques. There, I met Cindy Johnson co-owner of Sol, a lingerie boutique and bra-fitting destination. She invites women on a girls' getaway to book an appointment at her shop where with the help of professional outfitters and libations of your choosing -- martinis, champagne, wine -- you'll enjoy a fun afternoon and bring home a souvenir that lifts more than your spirits! Speaking of spirits, two Denver establishments contributed wonderful cocktail recipes you can make at home. Go to and give 'em a shot!

    Must-Sees Along the Way

    The Broadmoor -- An idyllic 5-star 3,000-acre in Colorado Springs that's been a playground for the rich and famous since 1918. We took a tram up to Restaurant 1858 at Seven Falls where the rustic but elegant food was as sumptuous as the scenery.

    Garden of the Gods -- On the way out of Colorado Springs we stopped at Garden of the Gods Park, a national natural landmark. The cluster of enormous misshapen red rocks is so jaw-dropping no wonder the park is the most visited attraction in the region. The movie at the Visitors Centre takes you back a billion years in about 15 minutes, and is well worth the watch. It answers the first question that will pop into your mind when you first set eyes on the rocks -- how in the world did they get there?

    Disclaimer: Rebecca and Samantha were guests of Lost Valley Ranch. All other aspects of this trip were provided by Colorado Tourism.

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    Many of us are still toiling away inside air-conditioned offices or sweating it out in opposite conditions. But let's not forget to embrace some fun somehow.

    The people at Playland amusement park wanted to remind everyone of just that when they dispatched a bumper car into the streets of downtown Vancouver recently.

    From the city's seawall to cruising the bike lanes, the rogue bumper car did typical Vancouver things.

    Like trying to park next to a Ferrari.

    "Vancouver has this reputation as a no-fun city, but we don’t think that’s true," said Playland marketing director Kim Madu in a news release. “So much fun happens at Playland every day, so we just wanted to take a little piece of the park and spread the fun around a bit."

    Driven by Vancouver comedian Ivan Decker, the bumper car was a surprising, welcome dose of summer.

    Playland is Canada's oldest amusement park and is open through September.

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    In the travel industry, the definition of luxury is evolving and shape-shifting. It is no longer about 1000 thread count linens and star chef's (although these are also wonderful). It is about a feeling. An authentic experience enjoyed alongside the like-minded. It is being off-the-grid and the beaten path, unplugging, the road less-travelled, but alongside other interesting people. Achieving this type of luxury, especially when it comes to family-friendly travel, is challenging in a world catering to formulaic, packaged tours and amusement-saturated destinations that tend to be over-crowded and over-priced.

    Like most remote and magical hidden corners, we heard whispers and rumblings from friends and colleagues about Nicaragua as a travellers' delight. One friend spoke of a laid-back boho beach town in the south, another insisted we visit a colourful colonial city, we read about the volcanos -- some still active, tropical birds and monkeys, okay they had me at the monkeys......

    After a busy few months our little tribe was craving a getaway, and a tropical climate sounded like just the thing to cure the winter blues, and more importantly, renew our spirits, spark our imaginations and heighten our slightly dulled senses. It takes a special place to tick these last two boxes, especially somewhere that can also cater to our travel needs as parents to two little tykes - also along for the journey.

    The flights to Managua were eventful (I was covered in vomit from hour two of the first leg). But despite the comedy of errors and a sick baby, we landed in the early afternoon, met by our driver Franklin who whisked us to Granada in his comfortable air-conditioned vehicle. Only an hour from the Aeropuerto Internacional Augusto C. Sandino, this vibrantly-hued, hot and humid town at the foot of Mombacho Volcano, dates back to 1524. It's brightly coloured buildings, tropical climate, cobbled streets and approachable size made it a great base for a few days of relaxing, dining and discovery.

    We could never have imagined how welcoming Nicaragüenses (and their country) are to families. Almost all the restaurants we dined at in Granada had an inviting kids corner. There were many fellow families, both local and foreign and our boys made fast friends multiple times a day. We would exchange knowing glances with their parents, as if to acknowledge a mutual respect for discovering the beauty and bounty of Nicaragua for families, but also in solidarity for how tired we all felt after attempting to keep up with our children in the heat!


    While in Granada, be sure to check-in to Los Patios, a true boutique hotel, this design-conscious gem provides guests with the perfect oasis from the colourful, hot and dusty streets. The plunge pool is just the right temperature to refresh, the rooms are spacious and comfortably minimalist and the multiple hammocks, lounge chairs, couches welcome the weary traveler to repose. Family-friendly surroundings meant we met several other parents with young children during our stay. Be sure to request the large quarters looking onto the pool from above with a gorgeous little patio and massive bathroom (cots available).


    Nicaragua is home to 19 active volcanoes. To our four year old, this information was fantastical. Next trip we will definitely add Ometepe to the itinerary, a beautiful island surrounded by a fresh water lake and home to not one but two volcanoes. A UNESCO world heritage site, we missed out on the reportedly beautiful beaches, archeological treasures, ancient myths and legends, hidden waterfalls and an enigmatic lagoon.

    But we did get to spend a refreshing afternoon splashing and swimming in the crater of the Apoyo Volcano. We made black sand body masks, ate fresh seafood and beat the intense heat by floating in her turquoise waters. At 200 meters deep this Laguna is the lowest point in Central America.


    Also just a short drive from Granada is the Masaya Artisan Market. Full of colourful crafts and every manner of jewelry, hand-made straw things, textiles, woven goods, wooden toys and hammocks - truly something for every family member, little and big! The perfect place to do all your souvenir shopping - visit in the morning if possible, before the heat of the day.


    Another easy field trip from Granada are the Isletas. Located just outside the city centre in lake Nicaragua, 365 islands dot the shore. A Nicaraguan cottage country, many of the wealthy locals and international guests keep their weekend and holiday hideaways here. The formation of islands is a result of a massive Volcano Masaya eruption 1000's of years ago. Fascinating for parents and kids alike, and a relaxing way to spend a morning on the water. Charter a shaded boat around the lake (request an English guide) and stop for lunch at one of the island cafes. Don't miss monkey island so your kids can say hello and feed the little rascals.

    After a few days as tourists we were ready for some laid back beach time. Only a couple hours by car to San Juan del Sur, but a world away from home. This hot and humid hippie beach town is youthful and fun with a thriving nightlife and lots of hipster restaurants, boutiques and bars. We opted to spend our first four nights in a more remote location about 25 mins outside of town. Tucked in the hills above a trifecta of epic beaches is Hulakai.

    Part surf retreat, part boutique backpackers lodge, part contemporary b&b, hard to characterize but easy to enjoy. One of the Inn keepers and founders of Hulakai describes it as "a place we always thought and hoped we would find as travelers". Tyler is a father himself to three young children and beyond his warnings about the tropical creepy-crawlers, strong undertows and the gate-less infinity pool, the hotel is warm and welcoming to families. We spent our days here visiting the rugged beaches in the surrounding area, adventuring into town for ice cream, watching epic sunsets, enjoying family dinners around the long dining table at Hulakai and just generally relaxing.


    An equally great family-friendly option for lodging is Pelican Eyes, in the hills just above San Juan Del Sur, it's an easy walk into town but has an air of exclusivity thanks to it's perch above it all. Living up to it's name, guests get a beautiful birds-eye view of the cove below. The refreshing infinity pool is where we spent the majority of our mornings and after a siesta we would wander into town for smoothies, sunset beach walks and dinner.


    Nicaragua is brimming with natural wonders, seeing it through the eyes of our children allowed us to revel in the small nuances and delight in the mundane. We will definitely return again soon, if our boys have anything to say about it! If you are planning a Fall or Winter getaway, be sure to take our advice and see Nicaragua while it is still relatively untouched, you won't regret it!

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    During her 12 month jaunt around the world -- from Slovenia to Vietnam, Peru to Malaysia -- Geetika Agrawal, a Delhi-born, New York-based creative director and design educator, turned her passion for arts, culture and travel into a new creative startup.

    Vacation with an Artist (VAWAA) is an eight-month-old platform helping travellers connect with artist studios around the world to learn a new skill.


    Learn rattan weaving in Malaysia, natural dyeing in Vietnam, work with a street artist in Argentina or contemporary ceramics in Slovenia. These interactive, creative experiences are for one to three guests at a time and range anywhere from 10 hours to 100 hours, typically over a couple of days to a few weeks. Taking place in an artist's workspace, travellers looking to dive into a new skill experience a seemingly longer, hands-on experience with periodic or daily interaction with the artist -- different from the typical two or three hour workshops usually offered to tourists.

    For Geetika, the idea for VAWAA had been brewing for a long time, inspired by her early childhood and college travel experiences in India, her academic and professional background in Architecture and Industrial Design along with her personal need for creative learning during her travels. After taking a sabbatical from work and joining Remote Year, a yearlong program for digital nomads, Geetika had the opportunity to work on her idea while travelling to 12 countries in 12 months. During her travels, she focused on personally curating the artists, visiting them in their studios, taking photographs, developing the VAWAA brand and launching the site in November 2015, six months into her travels.


    When curating the artists, Geetika has a process and criteria in mind. "I look for two things -- their depth and mastery of art so they have an immense knowledge to share with different skill levels, and an open, welcoming personality to spend a few days with people from around the world."

    For Juliet Imbert, a French artist and eco-fashion designer from Paris, collaborating on a specific project with Katja Špiler, a ceramics artist from Slovenia, is how she created an enriching, life-changing VAWAA experience for herself. Juliet is a young, stylish artist with an energetic spontaneity that carries into her travels. "I'm a freelancer so I have a chance to say, OK, let's go to Slovenia for a week!"


    With that same carefree attitude, she found VAWAA on Facebook and within a week booked her ticket to Slovenia. "For a long time, I wanted to learn to make doll heads in ceramics. I didn't know Katja worked in that technique, using plaster to do moulds. I was expecting nothing, just you know, let's see how it goes. It was a huge surprise and a beautiful one. Katja is a friend now, we Skype and I'll be back in Slovenia in September to collaborate with her again."


    For Vu Thao, a textile artist and fashion designer from Hanoi, Vietnam, it's this idea of learning and sharing ideas that piqued her interest in offering travellers a chance to learn natural indigo dyeing techniques from ethnic groups in a remote part of Vietnam. "The thing that interested me [about VAWAA] is that it is a new concept of studying and travelling at the same time. I travel a lot and many times that's where the creative ideas come from, by observing other cultures and the people around you. You carry this back home and that's how you start to make things."


    After working with a number of fashion designers in London and Berlin, Vu launched her own fashion brand, Kilomet 109. Collaborating with ethnic minority women in the mountain regions of Vietnam, she created an eco-sustainable fashion line focusing heavily on traditional techniques and textiles, 100 per cent developed in the country. "We plant our cotton, hemp and silk and we also weave and dye ourselves using 100 per cent natural dye."

    Over the course of five days, travellers visit Cao Bang, an artisanal village north of Hanoi. "The community I'm working with is the Nung An ethnic group, which is one of the very few ethnic communities left in Vietnam to work as a community. We have 12 women working together in the village, well-known for weaving and indigo dye for a long, long time." Travellers learn to make dyes, understand how to grow indigo, magenta and other natural roots, take part in the pre-dye process and create their very own hand-woven, hand-dyed samples.


    Through VAWAA, Vu has already booked a few sessions with travellers this year, mainly with artists and designers from New York -- a few fashion designers, an interior designer and a knitting artist. "People who want to participate in VAWAA already have a love for what they are doing or trained in what they are doing so they have experience. The VAWAA platform is selective and because people invest in the trip, they have a real desire to learn about other cultures which I really like."


    Back in New York, fresh from her remote year travels, Geetika is looking ahead to the future of VAWAA. "Beyond expanding the network of artists and countries, I also want to make this a platform the artists themselves can use. As I met with each artist, they have expressed interest in collaborating with each other as an international network of artists. If the Uruguayan musician wants to collaborate with the writer in Vietnam, then yes, I want to make that happen."

    With a new platform like VAWAA, adventure travellers, sabbatical-seekers, artists and designers craving to explore the world while sharing ideas with like-minded people can hop a plane to Kyoto to learn calligraphy, Bangalore to learn bamboo bicycle making or like Juliet, to Slovenia to learn contemporary ceramics. Whether it's the desire to make something with your hands, to learn a new skill, take part in an artistic process from start to finish, or to express your individuality, all it takes is just a few clicks to kick-start your creative journey.

    Photo Credit: Geetika Agrawal, Juliet Imbert, Vu Thao.

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    new brunswick fall

    Travellers are constantly trying to escape the cold of winter and visit the beach in the hot summer months. However, the constant demand for such vacations means more expensive airfare to Mexico in February and outrageous accommodation rates at Myrtle Beach resorts in summer.

    Fall, with its back-to-school madness and higher chance of hurricanes, is one of the best times to pack your bags -- if you can. The following are four reasons why.

    The Weather Is Still Beautiful

    Whether you're into snapping photos of the changing leaves or sun-tanning on the beach, fall can be one of the best times of year for ideal temperatures. Southern destinations that are sticky and sometimes unbearable in the summer months offer fall air and sea temperatures that hover between 20 and 30-degrees Celsius.

    Hurricane season in the Caribbean and along America's East Coast stretches from June 1 through Nov. 30, with September and October being peak activity times. However, many travellers don't know that the southeastern region of the Caribbean sees the lease number of hurricanes, and the ABC islands are rarely affected at all. Fall can be one of the best times of year to snag unbelievably low prices in the Caribbean if you're willing to take the hurricane risk.

    Discounts Are Coming Back

    Fall discounts aren't just prevalent in the Caribbean -- deep discounts can be found throughout Canada, the U.S., Europe and in numerous other areas around the globe. It's much easier to find flight, accommodation, tour and even food and drink specials when most of the tourists have headed back to work and school. It's simple -- a lower demand for goods and services means lower prices for you.

    The Crowds Are Gone

    Photo credit: Nicolas Raymond

    You know that your destination will be less crowded in fall, but you probably won't fully understand the benefits until you arrive. Less-crowded often means you can forget about dinner reservations, you don't have to worry about a packed hotel pool, and you can take in the true serenity of a picture-perfect place. If you're more into taking full advantage of your destination than sharing it with fellow travellers, you'll love the peaceful (but not downright boring) atmosphere that fall adventures can bring.

    There's Even a Name for the Season

    Fall is referred to as a "shoulder season" in many parts of the world. Travel and Leisure Magazine referred to it as the "Mama Bear" of travel times. It's somewhere between the outrageous prices of the high season and the undesirable weather of the off-season. The shoulder season means it's time to take advantage of all of the above -- ideal weather, unbeatable deals and snapping photos without crowds of people you don't know in the way.

    The shoulder season is often a favourite among locals, too. The stresses of the busy season have given way to more relaxing days, where they can focus on providing better service at a more relaxed pace. So don't be surprised if you're welcomed with open arms by those hoping to eke out a few extra tourist dollars before the off-season blues sets in.

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    Photo credit: Jeremy Thompson

    The world's most famous theme parks, like Walt Disney World Resort and Universal Studios, attract summer travellers in droves. However, many don't know that we have some of the best theme parks in the world right here in Canada. You don't have to spend your savings on costly hotel rooms, outrageous entrance fees and flights for the whole family to enjoy these underrated parks located throughout the Great White North.

    Calypso Water Park -- Limoges, Ontario

    Consistently rated the best water park in the country, Ontario's Calypso Water Park is exactly what you need on a hot summer day. The park features 35 waterslides, including the lighting fast "Adrenaline" slide and the famous "Black Hole," as well as more than 100 water games, the largest wave pool in the country and plenty of slides and splash pads for the little ones.

    Photo credit: Courtney Walker

    Calaway Park -- Calgary, Alberta

    Calaway Park has been making summer more exciting for 35 years. This Calgary warm weather staple features an abundance of thrilling and family-friendly rides, ranging from the extreme Vortex coaster to Bumper Boats and the soaking wet Timber Falls log ride. In addition to rides for every level of thrill seeker, the park features a scenic adult- and kid-friendly railroad, games, food, shows, shops and the must-see Robinson Crusoe Cinemagic 3D experience.

    Playland at the PNE Vancouver -- Vancouver, British Columbia

    Travel back in time while still getting your summer thrills at the Playland amusement park at the PNE Vancouver. This historic park opened in 1958 and still features the original Wooden Roller Coast assembled the same year. However, not all of the rides are old-fashioned. Visitors can get a serious adrenaline rush on "The Beast," Canada's most extreme pendulum ride, or enjoy more low-key fun with the park's abundance of games, family-friendly attractions and summer-long events.

    Photo credit: abdallahh

    La Ronde -- Montreal, Quebec

    La Ronde is the second largest amusement park in Canada and arguably the most exciting. The park, owned and operated by Six Flags, features all of the adrenaline-pumping rides visitors expect from the famous amusement park group. Adrenaline junkies have to ride the Boomarang, Cobra, Goliath and Demon coasters as well as the brand new "The Vampire Backwards" backwards roller coaster debuting in the summer of 2016. Family and kid's rides as well as delicious park eats and annual events make La Ronde a must-visit summer destination.

    Canada's Wonderland -- Vaughan, Ontario

    Canada's Wonderland is the country's largest and most famous park, and that's for good reasons, too. The park is home to more than 200 attractions, ranging from the hair-raising Leviathan coaster (the fastest and tallest in Canada) to the soaking slides at the Splash Works Water Park and the kid-friendly Planet Snoopy attractions. If you're looking for a park that's guaranteed fun for the entire family, Canada's Wonderland should be on your summer of 2016 bucket list.

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    Don't let the end-of-summer blues rule your fall. Afterall, autumn is one of the most precious seasons in the Great White North. Warm summer temperatures linger while leaves paint colourful backdrops and tourists flee from some of our country's most popular tourist destinations.

    Fall also means lower accommodation prices. Resorts, hotels and Airbnb rentals that were out-of-budget in the summer months become drastically more affordable for those who are able to get away in September, October and November. The following six destinations, big and small, are ones that will wow you with lower prices and uncompromised fall fun.

    Muskoka, Ontario

    Photo credit: mathewingram

    Muskoka may not be on everyone's travel radar, but the picturesque town's repeated recognition from National Geographic Traveller and other popular publications has made it a favourite pick in the warm summer months. However, Muskoka really shines when the crowds head home and the leaves change colours.

    The area, known for its pink granite outcrops, becomes even more colourful when the shores of the Georgian Bay Islands turn glittering shades of reds, oranges and yellows. Even better, costly summer rentals (including paddleboards, kayaks, ATVs and more), resorts, bed and breakfasts, spas and golf courses drop their rates in this shoulder season.

    Vancouver, British Columbia

    Many Canadian travellers are convinced that every visit to Vancouver is an expensive one. But the trendy West Coast city sees a huge drop in tourism when September hits. Travellers will notice popular hotels cutting rates by 15 to 20-per cent in September and offering perks like free parking, loaner bikes, complimentary breakfast and transportation to downtown. Vancouver's average temperature in September is 18-degrees Celsius, which means you don't need to don your winter gear for deep discounts.

    Whistler, British Columbia

    Photo credit: Jason Gain

    Dissimilar to other popular travel destinations around the country and the world, winter is one of Whistler's busiest seasons. Late September and early October are the best times to watch the leaves change colour, and they're also prime times to enjoy lower prices before the winter tourist crowds arrive. This season is also ideal for visiting Whistler's famed hiking trails, beaches and lakes in a more laid-back (and scenic) atmosphere than summer.

    Lake Louise, Alberta

    Similar to Whistler, fall is the shoulder season in Lake Louise -- a favored summer and winter destination. This means one of Canada's most sought-after destinations, with its snow-capped mountain peaks, turquoise lakes and towering pines, becomes remarkably more affordable. Hotels and vacation rentals drop their peak summer rates in September, and they continue to drop even farther in October and November before the winter rush. Best of all, visitors can hike, bike, canoe and soak in the area's natural beauty without the usual hoards of tourists.

    Lunenburg, Nova Scotia

    Photo credit: Andreal Vail

    UNESCO World Heritage listed Old Town Lunenburg is known as the best remaining example of a British colonial settlement on the continent. The historic town, established in 1753, exhibits most of its original appearance and layout, wowing visitors with architectural tradition, historical importance and delicious seafood. Lunenburg gives fall travellers an opportunity to experience European culture and heritage without leaving Nova Scotia and without emptying their wallets. Fall accommodation rates are often less than $99 per night (for a cozy stay overlooking the water), while tours and museum tickets hover around $10.

    Toronto, Ontario

    Our country's largest city never seems to slow down, but those who are in the know search for unbeatable downtown deals in fall. The Delta Toronto knocks roughly 25 per cent off of their lowest rate for fall visitors attending cultural or sporting events downtown. Similarly, museums and theatres offer discounted or even free tickets to certain performances, tours and exhibits. The city certainly never empties, but the slower back-to-school season always brings perks for those who have a chance to get away in autumn.

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    Thinking about touching down in London town this summer? With vivacious festivals, tons of outdoor attractions and the city playing host to Europe's biggest street party, there has never been a better time to venture to the capital city.

    Although the sun may not always be shining (don't say I didn't warn you) the vibrant metropolis offers loads to do -- guaranteed to brighten up your day! So grab your passport, your best posh accent and check out what you can get up to across the pond:

    Photo Cred - Buckingham Palace

    Buckingham Palace Tour
    As one of the few working royal palaces left in the world, Buckingham Palace is a must see. Explore the 19 lavish state rooms, check out the Fashioning a Reign exhibit - 90 years of style from the Queen's wardrobe, and wander through the Royal garden discovering its more than 350 species of wild flowers. Oh, and if that doesn't tickle your fancy, afternoon tea is included!

    Photo Cred-

    August 4-17 - Film4 Summer Screen at Somerset House
    If you're a film fanatic, you definitely can't miss the Film4 Summer Screen in the iconic Somerset House courtyard. Everything from popular favourites, to contemporary classics and award-winning flicks are projected under the summer skies onto London's largest outdoor screen. This year the screenings are truly a must for movie buffs with an onsite film poster exhibition in collaboration with the Print Club London. So grab a blanket, a few of your favourite snacks, some of your closest mates and enjoy a film experience like no other.

    Photo Cred - David Sedlecky

    August 28-29 - Notting Hill Carnival
    Notting Hill Carnival, also known as Britain's biggest street party, fills the streets of West London with colourful costumes and vibrant music every year. Join in on the fun and watch performers dance their way through the streets to the sounds of Caribbean music, enjoy live performances from local bands, top international artists and musical groups from around the world, and feast on some of the world's best Caribbean street food.

    Photo Cred - Paul Farmer

    Cable cars
    Aside from the obviously famous London Eye, there are tons of other great ways to catch a glimpse of London from above. Try gliding over the Thames in the Emirates Air Line cable cars. It crosses the river from the Greenwich Peninsula (with views of The O2) to the Royal Docks. And perhaps the best part, it only costs a simple bus fare!

    Photo Cred - Ladan Takow

    Saatchi Gallery
    The Saatchi Gallery boasts one of the coolest contemporary art displays in the whole of London. The gallery operates as a springboard for young artists to launch and promote their careers by exhibiting their work when they are still virtually unknown. End your tour by booking a table with your friends for some afternoon tea at the Gallery Mess café. With freshly made tea, warm scones, cakes and mini sandwiches, it doesn't get more British than that.

    Photo cred - Petr Broz

    For the shopaholics out there, Oxford Street is a definite hotspot for some London shopping, especially with its proximity to Hyde Park, The British Museum, and The National Gallery - to name a few. However, with the convenience of the London underground you can also easily venture to Westfield Shopping Centres located in White City (West London) or the city's largest shopping centre in Stratford (East London).

    Photo Cred - Jason Paris

    Something different...
    So you've explored London's iconic landmarks, but you're really looking for something that offers a surprising and unique perspective of the city. Known for street art, quirky bikes and its urban edge, Shoreditch has become the place to be, filled with independent shops, bars, markets and restaurants.

    Here are some things you might enjoy:
    • Watch a movie at The Electric Cinema with cozy armchairs and cashmere blankets
    • Tickle your tastebuds at The Urban Food Fest on Shoreditch High Street, which takes place throughout the summer
    • Visit the first ever Cereal Café in London, providing over 120 different types of cereal at any time of the day

    There is so much more to see in this vibrant British capital that you'll wish you could stay a little longer. And if you're looking for the ultimate souvenir, why not record your epic trip and see if it wins this year's travelcuts film fest.

    By Sawiya Ali for travelcuts
    Sawiya Ali is a 23 year old journalism graduate from London, UK. After graduating from University, Sawiya had the urge to experience something new and out of her comfort zone. She moved to Toronto, Canada to pursue two things she is passionate about: travel and writing. Currently, she is working as an Online Marketing Coordinator for travelcuts, giving her the best of both worlds: writing about travel!

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    A heavy cloud of uncertainty still hangs over the United Kingdom weeks after the vote to leave the European Union.

    Prime Minister David Cameron resigned, Theresa May became the new British leader, S&P downgraded the UK's credit rating, and the pound plummeted to a 31-year low.

    The months following Brexit look bleak for the British. But as the UK closes the door to the EU, it has unintentionally opened another to Canadian travellers.

    The pound sterling is sitting just above $1.70 CAD and, while this might not seem like a steep drop, it could be enough to persuade more Canadians to visit the UK.

    After all, the pound has long hovered just below or above $2 CAD, causing Canadians to think twice before booking London getaways. No tourists want to feel like they're paying double for everything -- from hotels and transportation to meals and entertainment, so many have simply chosen to vacation elsewhere.

    Yes, Brexit might be hanging over the UK like a permanent raincloud, but -- from a financial standpoint -- it's shedding much needed sunshine on Canadians' holiday hopes.

    Some economists even predict the pound will be on par with the U.S. dollar by the end of the year if Britain doesn't develop an exit strategy soon, according to MarketWatch.

    Canadians, however, shouldn't await the pound's slide to parity with bated breath. Instead, they should take advantage of the waning currency by exchanging money sooner rather than later.

    Individuals planning vacations in the near future -- fall or winter -- might also want to book and pay for hotels, transportation, and tours today in case the pound recovers.

    Exchanging money now and booking in advance could save tourists thousands of dollars -- especially individuals and families heading to London, which is notorious for its expensive accommodation and dining.

    Flights to the UK, however, are highest in the summer, making October and November the best bets for Canadians hoping to take advantage of the lower pound without paying exorbitant airfares.

    Major airlines haven't reacted to the Brexit outcome yet. A return trip from Vancouver to London on Air Canada in August costs just over $1,000 with taxes. As expected, the same trip costs more than $100 less in November. However, if the pound continues to drop, Canadians should keep an eagle eye on airline travel deals because major carriers will want to take advantage of the lower sterling.

    Brexit has, of course, stoked tensions and confusion over passport and travel regulations within Europe. Residents of EU member states can currently pass freely into other EU countries. How the rules will change for British citizens in the wake of Brexit remains to be seen.

    Although EU leaders have made one opinion clear: the UK does not deserve to enjoy the benefits of membership in the European Union if it does not contribute to it.

    So the British might soon have to pass through passport control in EU countries and citizens of EU countries might have to do the same in the UK. Travel visas, though, seem like an unlikely stretch.

    But how will any changes to border control regulations impact Canadians travelling through the UK? If citizens of EU countries start having to line-up at passport control in the UK, Canadian tourists are likely to encounter longer passport and immigration wait times. But that seems like a minimal price to pay.

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    With the low Canadian dollar, families across the country are satisfying their travel itch the old-fashioned way: through the open road. Whether it's driving through the Great White North or heading down south, road trips are a cost-effective solution to a summer getaway. Professional Organizers in Canada are sharing their tricks for keeping the good times rolling as you explore the open road.

    How to pack

    • Plan ahead: Don't leave packing to the last minute. Set up bins for each family member -- electronics, food, medications and shoes -- so you can toss things into it when you think of it.

    • Strategies and Techniques: The car has limited space so only bring clothing you'll need and use keeping the weather in mind. Roll clothes or "pack flat" to avoid wrinkles and maximize space. Also consider filing clothes instead of piling clothes so you can see everything you pack. Instead of rummaging through your trunk every time you need something, use clear containers or bags to hold items you may need to find while driving. Things like food, electronics, safety kits, swim suits and a change of shoes should be easily accessible and placed into a clear bags or portables container with a lid to keep contents contained.

    • Checklists: Create a laminated re-usable checklist and use it whenever you go on a road trip to reduce packing stress and eliminate the cost of replacing necessary items that were forgotten. Use it when packing up your belongings so nothing is left behind.

    What to pack

    • Food tips: Make sure the kids stay healthy by packing non-perishable food. This will avoid fast-food and gas station snacks along the way. Consider fruit that doesn't need to be refrigerated, such as apples, bananas or dried fruit. Opt for healthy but tasty treats to keep the kids happy. Allergen-free kale chips come in a variety of flavours that even the pickiest eater will enjoy. If you do need to stop for food, stop at a grocery store and pick up ingredients for sandwiches or buy a pre-made salad.

    • Entertaining tips: Pack tablets, books or colouring kits to keep the kids occupied. Be sure to monitor technology time and encourage family discussions while driving.

    • Medical tips: Always include a first aid kit, prescriptions, thermometer, pain medications, allergy treatments and bug repellent.

    What to do in the car

    • Create an adventure binder: Have the kids research the journey. Create a table of contents and have them include itinerary, maps, destination information, restaurant menus and pit stop attractions, or use Pinterest to create board specifically for each trip.

    • Technology: Download online apps that can get the whole family involved. Trivia apps will allow for some friendly trivia competition while still keeping everyone's brains hard at work. With an ever-changing library of quizzes, you'll never be bored. Just make sure the passengers are in charge of the device and not the driver!

    • Be realistic: Plan your stops ahead of time. This will avoid long days of driving and allow you to book hotels and activities in advance. Know where you'll stop for gas, activities and when to call it a night.

    Need help organizing a stress-free summer vacation? Visit to find an organizer near you.

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    We recently found in one of our surveys that one in four business travellers* experience travel stress and with business travellers spending an average of 8.9 hours by themselves in their accommodation each day (including sleeping) when travelling internationally, where you choose to rest your head can help to make or break your trip.

    For many of today's road warriors, that means going beyond the traditional executive crash-pad of the past. While business travel can be exciting and full of opportunities, it can also at times feel lonely, with many of those surveyed saying they miss family, friends and general home life (34%). All the more reason to make sure your accommodation ticks all the right boxes. Especially if, like one in five business travellers, one of your favourite things about a business trip is extending it into a holiday.

    Leave it to to reinvigorate your business trip with these alternative and unique stays, from cosy B&Bs to stunning apartments, all highly endorsed by fellow business travellers in some of the top cities around the world booked for business trips.

    Out of this world
    For something completely different that will take your business trip to a whole new level, try sleeping in a space pod! You won't be the first to step outside of the box--or pod, business travellers are loving this futuristic feeling.

    MET A Space Pod, Singapore, Singapore
    Photo Credit:

    Hostel life
    You certainly won't get lonely at this happy hostel where you can meet and mingle with travellers from all over the world. Kick back in the common room and taste a 'Good Cachaça'--one of Brazil's favourites drinks after a long day's work.

    São Paulo Lodge Business Hostel, São Paulo, Brazil
    Photo Credit:

    Viva la villa
    For a unique and more extravagant stay with first class business support, book Rocco Forte on your next work trip. Embrace a royal experience at a historic site that offers gourmet food. It's time to ditch the buffet and enjoy a grand stay!

    Rocco Forte Villa Kennedy, Frankfurt, Germany
    Photo Credit:

    The local Londoner
    Whether you need to cool off and relax after a strenuous day, or you need a quiet place to keep working, Still Life Borough is a haven of peace in a busy city that's all yours. Hungry for something different but delicious while you work on that presentation? Head downstairs and take a stroll to nearby Borough Market to get a taste of some of the world's finest food.

    Still Life Borough ,London, UK
    Photo Credit:

    Serene in Switzerland
    A busy work schedule can mean you never experience the serene side of Switzerland. But even if you don't have time to explore, you can get a snapshot of the area's splendour by staying at the beautiful Beauvilla Bern. This historic villa built in 1902 is lavishly unique and only a 10-minute walk from the old town, in case you want a quick peak at the enchanting surroundings.

    Beauvilla Bern, Bern, Switzerland
    Photo Credit:

    B&B in the heart of Milan
    Experience a different side of Milan at a comfortable and quaint B&B in the heart of the city, close by but tucked back from the chaos you may have escaped after work. Time to rejuvenate on that next business trip!

    B&B Bonaparte Suites, Milan, Italy
    Photo Credit:

    Book a boutique
    Offering an exclusive experience and featuring beautifully upscale designs combined with all the technical support you need for that last minute meeting prep, it's no wonder that business travellers are booking more boutiques! Make your next trip to China one where you treat yourself after working hard to bring in the bacon.

    One96, Hong Kong, Hong Kong
    Photo Credit:

    Home NYC
    Live like a local New Yorker in a stylish home near Manhattan's famous Central Park. Plush bathrobes and slippers await at this sophisticated yet cosy pad with free Wi-Fi throughout. Head out to the charming patio at the end of your--probably very long and exhausting--day.

    Home NYC, New York, USA
    Photo Credit:

    Hostel or Personal Space?
    Have you heard about's lavish poshtels? Sputnik is a perfect example of the new 'posh hostel' trend. Whether you want your own private space or you're feeling social, you will make no mistake at this trendy traveller's paradise.

    Sputnik Hostel & Personal Space, Moscow, Russia
    Photo Credit:

    Brussels' top business B&B
    How about a chic B&B on your next business affair in Belgium? The elegant rooms overlook Josaphat Park and feature high ceilings, crystal chandeliers and hardwood floors. Time to turn off the lights? These high tech rooms are operated by an iPad.

    B&B Avenue Deschanel, Brussels, Belgium
    Photo Credit:

    *Research commissioned by and independently conducted among 4,555 people (18 -65) across USA, UK, Germany, France, Spain, Japan, China, Italy who had travelled internationally for business four times or more in the past year. Research took place between 29th of January through the 11th of February 2016.

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    The CEO of one of Canada's major airlines says a national carbon tax could "kill" his industry if the government isn't careful.

    At least one economist says he's "hilariously wrong."

    WestJet CEO Gregg Saretsky told the Pacific NorthWest Economic Region (PNWER) conference on Tuesday that his company is working with the federal government on its plans for a carbon tax that will apply across Canada, The Calgary Herald reported.

    gregg saretsky
    WestJet CEO Gregg Saretsky speaks at an annual general meeting for shareholders at a TMX market opening ceremony in Toronto on May 6, 2014. (Photo: Mark Blinch/Reuters)

    Saretsky said the airline industry already works with thin margins.

    And while he prefers a national tax to a patchwork of rates in different provinces — B.C. and Quebec have their own taxes; Alberta will impose one starting next year, and Ontario is looking into one of its own — he said the federal government should tread warily in the course of instituting one.

    "Our business makes $14 in profit per guest. So the minute you add any kind of outrageous carbon tax, it's very simple and easy to wipe out $14," Saretsky said, as quoted by the Herald.

    But one Calgary economist is taking the CEO to task for "baseless hyperbole."

    University of Calgary professor Trevor Tombe tweeted that Saretsky that airlines could just increase fares to accommodate for a carbon tax.

    He also tweeted a chart showing that a tax of 7.5 cents per litre on jet fuel purchases (which is less than what B.C. charges for jet fuel purchases on inter-province travel) is small compared to the cost of fuel itself.

    Tombe also noted that WestJet's fuel efficiency has improved enormously over the past 16 years, and that a carbon tax could give the airline a "competitive advantage."

    Canada will put a price on carbon by the end of the year, Environment Minister Catherine McKenna told Bloomberg last week.

    The federal government will also release a plan this fall for reducing emissions, which could require private companies to disclose their emissions.

    Her remarks came as provincial leaders met to discuss whether or not to back a national carbon tax.

    McKenna hasn't said she would impose a price on carbon unilaterally if the provinces don't come to an agreement. But Prime Minister Justin Trudeau didn't rule out that possibility in an interview with CBC News.

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    We are right into the swing of things with summer and many are underway with vacations and travelling. It's a good time to relax and explore but it doesn't mean you have to leave your fitness behind.

    Whether you're on vacation or traveling these 5 tips can help you stay fit while doing so, in the summer or year round.

    1. Book Hotels With Gyms

    A pretty good place to start as even the lower quality hotels tend to include some form of fitness center. If you're in the process of booking a hotel find the one with the best fitness facility that fits your budget. Or at least find one with a pool as swimming is still one of the best full body and cardio workouts you can get.

    2. Find Day/Week Passes At Local Gyms

    Depending on which city you're going to, take a moment and look up gyms in the area where you are staying. Many gyms now offer a free week trial or day pass to prospective members. Sometimes you can get these set up before you even arrive to keep those workouts going full steam while you're on the move. I always do this wherever I travel and even use a few different gyms free guest passes if I was staying in the area for a longer period of time.

    Another tip is to look for hotels that have connections to local gyms so that guests can use the gym facilities if the hotel is without their own fitness center.

    3. Using Bodyweight Exercises In Your Room

    I'm pretty sure the rooms you will be staying in will have a bed and chair, if not you may want to work on your booking skills.. With just these pieces of furniture, you can do bodyweight exercises like push-ups with your feet elevated on a chair or bodyweight dips using the chair and the bed to still get a good upper body workout in.

    *Bonus tip: There are a lot of good apps that can give you a boot camp style, high-intensity workout right in your own room and you don't even need any equipment. My favorite are Tabata style workouts which are a 4-minute workout and you can find them in any app store for free.

    You pick an exercise such as burpees or mountain climbers and perform them at a high intensity for 20 seconds followed by a 10-second rest and you repeat this 8 times. The app keeps you on track with the rest periods and it might not sound like much but is one of the best quick workouts you can do.

    4. Using Playground Equipment & The Great Outdoors

    Ask around to find local parks that may contain playground equipment. With things like monkey bars you can perform pull ups and chin ups and you can use the wide open space to run sprints. With sprints, you can follow a high-intensity interval protocol where you sprint/run and then follow that with a walking recovery period. You can perform this for 3-8 rounds

    For a beginner: sprint/run for 15 seconds and walk/light jog for 30 seconds
    For intermediate: sprint/run for 30 seconds and walk/light jog for 60 seconds
    Advanced: sprint/run for 60 seconds and walk/light jog for 90-120 seconds

    This form of high-intensity interval training increases aerobic and anaerobic capacity and also burns calories long after you are done exercising.

    5. Renting Bikes To See The City Better & Exercise

    From Citi Bikes to small companies that rent mountain bikes this is the best way to see the area you are in, cover some good ground and get a good workout while you're at it. I have traveled quite a lot of the world and this is my go to in every area I end up in. Look up bike companies online before you go so you know what's available whether you're in a big city or out in the country.

    One of the best workouts I've ever had was in Italy where we rented bikes in Florence and went into the Tuscany region. There was no better way to see the amazing countryside and I was sweating more than Kim Kardashian having to compete in a spelling bee.

    Wrapping It Up

    Between the long drives, sun burns and one too many frozen margaritas vacations and traveling can be fun and draining but you don't have to deprive yourself of fitness and exercise while you're away.

    These 5 tips will help you get in at least a basic workout in before hitting the all you can eat pasta bar.

    *Bonus tip: Don't eat at the all you can eat pasta bar...

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    VANCOUVER - A man has died while hiking on a popular trail on North Vancouver's Grouse Mountain.

    North Vancouver RCMP Corp. Julie Ash says it happened at around 8 p.m. Wednesday night.

    Ash says the man in his 50s went into medical distress on the Grouse Grind trail.

    She says RCMP, North Shore Rescue and B.C. Ambulance responded.

    A member of the volunteer rescue group was actually hiking at the time, and witnessed the collapse, team leader Mike Danks told CBC News. The member alerted 911 as well as North Shore Rescue.

    Ash says the man was pronounced dead and was not transported to hospital.

    The B.C. Coroner's Service is now investigating.

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    I am traveling more and more these days and I love it! But it is a challenge to maintain the same healthy eating patterns (and exercise) I do at home and take those habits on the road with me.

    Recently, I was lucky enough to speak with Bridgette Clare, RHN at Vega. Bridgette shared with me easy and practical tips that will keep your healthy habits on track during your travels.

    Stock Up On Sandwiches

    Quick, convenient, satisfying and portable. What more can you ask for? Your options are endless, from classic peanut butter and jam, to a veggie sandwich slathered with black bean hummus.

    Pack Snacks

    What's easier than a PB&J sandwich? Fruit and nut butter. Spread or dip the nut butter of your choice with fruit like apple slices, bananas and berries.

    Avoid Getting Hangry

    Hanger is combo of hunger and anger that happens when we wait too long to eat. Nip hanger in the bud by eating regularly. Need something quick on-the-go? Try a protein and greens shake with almond milk, in a shaker cup for easy protein.

    Stay hydrated

    The easiest way to maintain your healthy lifestyle while you travel is to always pack a water bottle. Keep it full and make sure you drink plenty of water and before, during and after your travels.

    Mix Things Up

    Homemade trail mix is a travel staple. Pre-portion your mixes before you hit the road to make it just as easy to grab trail mix as it is to nosh on junk from the gas station.

    I also spoke with Fairmont Pacific Rim's executive chef, Nathan Brown. Nathan provided the top tips on how you can eat healthy on your travels.

    What are the top tips for eating healthy while travelling?

    Healthy eating while travelling is about being prepared. While some establishments do healthy eating better than others, do your research and locate establishments before you travel.

    What can you do if you have dietary restrictions?

    The best thing to do is get in contact with the chef of the hotel prior to your travels to let them know the specifics of your dietary restrictions. Most chefs have been trained to prepare a vast array of special dietary and allergy-specific meals, and many hotels will have menu options that cater to dietary restrictions, preferences and allergy sensitivities.

    Can you ask room service for modified meals?

    Many hotels will have many healthy items on existing menus that contribute to overall well-being. Having dishes on a menu that are healthy, gluten free, lactose free, vegetarian, or vegan should always be available. If they are not in the actual in room dining menu, they may be available in the hotel's all-day dining restaurant menu.

    Is it a good idea to email the hotel before you leave to ask about healthy eating options?

    This is the absolute best way to ensure you get what you want. If you have specific dietary needs, the kitchen will love that you gave them extra time to plan something special for you.

    What are healthy snacks suggestions for jet lag?

    Stay hydrated during and after a flight.

    Vegetable juices will give you some of the energy you are missing. Stay away from sugar, it will give you a feeling of a false high and the "sugar crash" will be worse. I find it helpful to stay away from carbohydrates as well.

    I love travelling healthy! Your suggestions are always welcome, as I continue on my journey to live life to the fullest. Let's have the very best 2016!

    Visit Sacha daily at

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    If a holiday abroad isn't on the cards for you this summer, don't worry. There are plenty of ways to make your Ontario staycation fun without breaking the bank. From sunbathing on Toronto Islands to camping in Algonquin Park, here are our five best ways to enjoy the province on a budget this summer.

    1. Scarborough Bluffs Park
    If you're looking to escape Toronto for a few hours, consider The Scarborough Bluffs for a breath of fresh air. Spanning 14km of Lake Ontario's shore, The Bluffs offer moderate hiking and walking trails with gorgeous views of the lake. Visit the park either by the TTC or car -- free parking is available on site.


    2. Toronto Islands
    The Toronto Islands may be small, but there's no shortage of things to do there. If you'd like to explore the islands at a clip, rent a bike from the Bicycle Centre or BYOB (Bring Your Own Bike). More of a water baby? Canoes and kayaks can be rented on the islands, but you can also boat over from Toronto if you own your own. The 18-hole disc golf course is also a cheap and cheerful island activity.


    3. Algonquin Park
    The summer is the ideal time for a digital detox, and Algonquin Park is the perfect place to disconnect. With more than 2,400 lakes and 1,200 km of streams and rivers here, you won't have time to miss your phone. Camping is particularly popular in Ontario's oldest provincial park and there are plenty of accommodation options for the experienced and novice campers alike.


    4. St. Jacobs Country
    Foodies looking for some much needed R&R should check out St. Jacobs. St. Jacobs Farmers' Market -- Canada's largest year-round market -- has a plethora of food vendors, as well as crafts and imported goods. After gorging yourself, explore the community by foot on their many paths and trails. You may see some horse and carriages along the way!


    5. Niagara on the Lake
    Niagara on the Lake is great for a weekend getaway. The heart of Ontario's wine region, there are plenty of wineries to drink and dine at. Not to mention, the lake is only a short drive away from Niagara Falls. If you don't feel like seeing the falls up close, pack a picnic and enjoy a bird's eye view of them. Want to splurge even more? There's always the casinos!


    Whatever you decide to do this summer, visit to make sure you're getting the best deals and tips for your staycation.

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    hungarian spa

    Going to a spa on vacation can be expensive, but you don't have to give up on the idea of indulging in treatments on your next vacation. Scoring cheap spa time may be easier than you think.

    Savvy spa junkies can have their beach vacays and poolside massages, too. With a bit of planning and with these tips from, you'll be saying "ahhh" on your next vacation.

    Tips on scoring budget-friendly spa time on your next getaway

    Get social: Be sure to follow hotels, tourism bureaus and spas in the destination you want to visit. Many resorts, tourism boards and spas use social media to market their services and offer exclusive deals like coupons, packages, promotions and flash sales.

    Buy more: You can increase your chances of a discount or extra spa time by booking more than one service on the same day. If the spa menu doesn't include a section with packages, then ask. Most spas are happy to provide a discount for multiple treatments or add an additional service for free.

    Bring friends: Enjoying a spa day solo can be relaxing, but bring buddies and you could score spa savings. If you plan to bring a friend or two, call the spa ahead of time to see if you can get a discount for your group booking. While many spas offer couples treatments, many are willing to extend the same offerings to duos and trios of friends.

    Go local: Consider taking a staycation and see if local spas in your area offer province resident rates. The money you save by not booking a pricey hotel can be put toward your spa day.

    Be an early bird: If you fell in love with being pampered on a cruise, committing to another one early (even while you're still at sea) is a good strategy as cruise lines typically offer incentives like cabin upgrades and onboard credits to passengers who book early. Just be sure the onboard credit can be used to indulge in spa services.

    Get onboard early: Once on board the cruise ship, head straight to the spa for a tour and take advantage of discounts. Many shipboard spas offer discounts on the first day of sailing for spa services because it tends to be a slow day. While most passengers are busy settling into their cabins, you will get to preview the spa first, sometimes before the ship has left port, at a fraction of the cost.

    Procrastinate: If your schedule is flexible, try booking your hotel or local spa day last minute. Many spas are eager to fill gaps in the schedule. It's worth a shot asking for a discount because, without your reservation, it's likely the spot would have remained vacant.

    Search for deals: Check websites like Groupon and LivingSocial for deals on spa services. Be sure to read the fine print before you buy to ensure the deals include the services you want. Also, conduct a general Internet search for resort and spa promo codes. Even if you can't find a promo code for the spa, finding a promo code for a discounted stay at a resort will free up excess funds for a spa day.

    Go to Asia: Booking a trip to destinations in Asia like China, Taiwan, Thailand and Vietnam is paradise for spa lovers, particularly those who like to indulge in massages. Depending on your destination, a quality, hour-long foot massage or a comprehensive two-hour body massage can cost as little as $10. With prices this low, you can afford to get a massage every day!

    Buy a package: Before booking your hotel stay, check the resort website for any package offerings. Oftentimes, guests can get a massage or other spa service for a few dollars more per night and far less than what you would pay for adding a trip to the spa post-booking. If you're staying at a timeshare, ask about owner discounts for any nearby spas.

    Be neighbourly: Staying at a hotel that doesn't have a spa? Ask the concierge if your hotel has relationships with other resort spas or local spas in town. Many spas have arranged discounts with hotels to get guest referrals. If you're staying at a hotel that is part of a chain, inquire if other sister properties nearby have spas and do some comparison shopping. Consider going to a less luxurious hotel for spa treatments (say a three-star resort versus the four-star hotel you're staying at), as the prices may be lower for virtually the same treatments.

    Go early: If you're headed to a higher end spa, chances are it has a sauna, steam room and more. Arrive 30 minutes or more prior to your appointment to have time to settle in and enjoy the facilities for free, extending your spa time.

    Be a fan: Sign up for hotel and spa newsletters and their loyalty clubs to earn points to get free treatments.

    To find out more on where you can go to get pampered on a budget, go here.

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    A friend of mine recently moved to Nanaimo and she shared with me that it is a wonderful and often overlooked destination.

    I love finding out about cities from a local's perspective. So I decided to spend a few days in the Harbour city and share with you what I experienced. I found the people to be warm and welcoming, and the weather was very nice. It was a wonderful experience.

    Credit: Cinnabar Vista Productions/Tourism Nanaimo


    There are lots of beautiful parks and trails to choose from when visiting Nanaimo. Some of the more popular trails are the Trans Canada Trail, Harbourfront Walkway and Parkway Trail.

    Fun Activities

    One of the most amazing experiences is being in nature and swimming with the seals. Sundown Diving has guided tours, they provided all the equipment and tour. To do this fun activity, you should feel comfortable in the water.

    A Flightseeing tour is a fun way to see a new destination. You can see the destination from a new perspective and see the sights from the comfort of a smaller plane. Sunshine Coast Air has daily tours that provide you with a great way to see Nanaimo and the area.

    If you love food and trying local dishes, you may want to hop on the Vancouver Island Expeditions. They provide a west coast experience, including a stop at St. Jean's Cannery where you can eat lots of delicious smoked salmon and take it home with you too (makes a great gift!)

    Catamaran tour with Vancouver Island Catamaran Sailing. I love laying out in the sun on a boat. Relaxing and a nice way to enjoy the harbour. It is really comfortable and a great way to enjoy an afternoon and see the sights.

    If you are a history buff, then you will want to check out the Cannon firing with the Nanaimo Museum, held at noon (open 7 days a week from the May long weekend through Labour Day). Also, make sure to visit the Bastion and get a peek into the region's history.

    To keep everyone in the family entertained and enjoying the outdoors, try Wildplay. They are 10 minutes (north) from downtown Nanaimo in a beautiful setting. Lot of different activities from bungee jumping, to zip lining and much more!


    I always say, I have dual citizenship in both luxury and the outdoors. So after spending time outside, it is always nice to look around a few local stores. Here are a few wonderful stores in Nanaimo:

    NYLA Fresh Thread Clothing Store is a men's store with styles to suit everyone. Owned locally, it is a fresh take on guy's clothes that are comfortable and look great.

    Flying Fish has everything from gorgeous sofas, to items for the kitchen and lovely gifts. It was easy for me to spend lots of time in this store and it seems to be popular with locals too.



    Try the Nanaimo Bar Trail tour! You can visit local cafes and sample each variation of their own version of the Nanaimo Bar. Everything from vegan Nanaimo Bars, to Nanaimo bar cheesecake and much more.


    You can take a scenic 10 minute ferry to the Dinghy Dock Pub. This pub is unique because it floats on the waters of Protection Island. Very popular with visitors and locals alike.

    Do you enjoy a good beer? Then this is the place for you, Longwood Brewpub. It also has scrumptious pub food.

    Nanaimo Bar Recipe

    To get you excited about your visit to Nanaimo, try making your own Nanaimo bars. It is a big part of their history and community.


    Coast Bastion Hotel has lovely harbour views and is located downtown. The Grand Hotel is north of Nanaimo and hosts high teas and whiskey tasting events.

    For more accommodation options check out Tourism Nanaimo for more ideas.

    Picnic lunch

    I love eating healthy when I am traveling (and at home), if you want a healthy picnic try Powerhouse in Nanaimo. They have lots of healthy vegan options too.

    Farmer's Markets

    Bastion Waterfront Farmers' Market

    This popular market is in downtown Nanaimo. Every Friday, the market is held at the Pioneer Plaza with plenty of local products and lively music.

    Getting Around

    Try National Car Rental in Nanaimo for friendly car rental service. To get around by local transportation try BC Transit.

    Getting There

    To get some spectacular views and try a different way of traveling to the island. Helijet has transportation from downtown Vancouver to Victoria, daily.

    Or another option is to travel by ferry.

    Your suggestions are always welcome, as I continue on my journey to live life to the fullest. Let's explore some wonderful places and have the very best 2016!

    Disclosure: This video was partially sponsored by the businesses featured in this video. This video and post also appear in, and all opinions in the post and video are completely my own.

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    Tired, so darn tired. All the time.

    I feel like I spend most of my life in a state of exhaustion. Why not take a vacation you ask?


    I am one of those people who always feels guilty about leaving the office, leaving the team, leaving the kids.

    Guess what? I got over it. By the time you finish reading this, you'll be over it too.

    We recruited another couple who we knew would be up for the challenge of relaxing and doing nothing all day on vacation and started our planning.

    Our top 5 requirements?
    1) The ability to do nothing if that's what we wanted to do.
    2)Good food. And Mangoes. Lots and lots of Mangoes.
    3)A reasonable price for a 5 day getaway
    4)4 hour or less flight.
    5)Luxury accommodations. Hey, I'm a princess, I have no problem admitting that.


    After endless searching, we discovered the Hyatt Ziva Rose Hall Jamaica and before my hubby who has anxiety about leaving the office could change his mind, I booked it.

    Let me start by saying, THIS IS NOT A SPONSORED POST! No one has paid me to write this, or to say nice things about the resort. These are the honest words of a very relaxed just back from vacation mom.

    This particular resort managed to fulfill all 5 of my requirements. We managed to book a package for around $1500 per person with the flight being just under 4 hours (Toronto to Montego Bay).

    The Mangoes were good. No, they were great. No, they were so good that I was literally biting into them with the juice running down my arms like a 2 year old learning to eat, but I was smiling all the way through so don't judge me.

    The rooms in tower 3 with the Junior Suites are heavenly. The rooms overlook the ocean where you fall asleep to the sound of the waves hitting the beach. The rooms are luxurious, clean and modern. If you happen to be one of those people who over-pack like me, you know, those just in case clothes and shoes we pack that make our husbands think we are nuts? Feel free to pack them so you can fully appreciate the crazy amount of storage space that the room has. You wouldn't want to neglect all of that amazing drawer and closet space!

    The most important portion of the trip? The ability to do nothing if we wanted to. I feel like we managed to exceed expectations on that one. With the exception of walking to the restaurants, the Jerk Pit and the dessert cafe's (are you noticing a theme?), we really managed to spend what Guinness would likely categorize as a record breaking number of hours in the pool.

    Now of course we weren't completely lazy bums on this trip. We got out and visited the ocean daily to ensure that our leg muscles had not atrophied, we went sailing because the resort was just too beautiful to not get an ocean view of it, and we even took on a Kansas city family in a friendly game of beach volleyball, but other than that, we pretty much managed to relax the heck out of those 5 days.

    Why the review on this particular resort? Well, I travel a lot. Almost always for work. I am not easily impressed. I have high standards when it comes to accommodations, food, service etc. This particular resort managed to exceed my expectations. So much so that we are already contemplating our next visit there with kids this time because they happen to have a fantastic kids club.

    From the fabulous service at the pool cabanas from our new found friend KerriAnn, to the smooth check in with Issia, to the amazing dinner service from Dean Martin, our trip was total and utter perfection.

    Need a break? This Hyatt resort in beautiful Montego Bay is the place to be.

    Oh, and just because there is no such thing as a diet while on vacation, make sure you stop at Scotchies on the way back to the airport and pick up some Jerk Chicken! You'll be amazed how many lines you can bypass at the airport when you offer up Scotchies!

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    So, first, the bad news... I've been with an Italian for almost five years and I'm ashamed to admit my language skills are still tipping towards sub-par. His family, all based in the lovely Tuscan town of Piombino, speak no English at all and, while my ear has improved visit over visit, I imagined that I would be much further along by now. Nevertheless, we have spent summers and a Christmas holiday together getting by on broken conversations.

    The good news... I know I am not the only one sitting around a dinner table pulling the best I-have-no-idea-what-you're-saying-but-this-food-is-amazing face. My good friend Anne has a Lithuanian husband and has learned much about how to cope with being the only one in the room who can't communicate with words. As I am about to leave for the annual summer sojourn in Italy, we got to chatting survival and I have compiled her best strategies to thrive in a foreign environment.

    Smile and nod. A lot.

    "Even though you don't know what they're saying. You might come off as a little simpleminded, but it's better than coming off all cold and threatening. In my case there was much thigh squeezing and comments on the strength and fullness of my figure (I found out later), but I smiled and nodded my way through it. Five years later we still spend hypnotic amounts of time smiling and nodding at each other. However, amidst the physical assessments and the eating, there's a comfort in this very basic acknowledgment that we are in this together."

    If you don't already know, find out about the cultural views on making eye contact.

    "You don't want to be staring great granny down thinking you're bonding over a mutual love of her progeny when she's actually thinking you're a disrespectful tart who is waiting for her to keel over so you can assume the matriarchal throne. Eye contact means a lot in most cultures, be it in the making or avoiding, so you'll need very specific guidance on this one, and it's helpful if that happens before you arrive at the front door."

    Eat everything that's offered to you and do it with abandon.

    "I don't know of any culture on earth that won't appreciate you appreciating their food. Eat things you don't normally eat, while pushing yourself to the brink of fullness. Ask, if you've got a designated translator, about the food, the preparation and the customs. They will be watching your face, so don't fake it, throw yourself into it. The kids too (see photo below of Anne's son cooking with Baba)! There will be lots of time in the years to come to discuss the benefits of a vegan lifestyle, or ponder the use of additives, or question how pink pork should really be. For now, they are forming first impressions and you won't get another chance. One of my mantras in life is, start the way you want to end. In this case, you're starting with warmth and enthusiasm, which are a lot more important than expressing views of what constitutes a proper dinner."


    Keep it light.

    "The mimed version of 'why I'm against arctic drilling' is never going to play out well. I use a lot of thumbs up (I like!) and wrinkled nose (I don't like), or wrinkled nose and head tilt (I'm not sure about that, but not in any kind of committed way). Your political beliefs may or may not be aligned with theirs, but we all like to commiserate about the weather and people invariably want to know what you've been doing in the area they live in and love."

    Show an interest in family history, family artifacts and family pictures.

    "You never know what you might find out. I genuinely loved hearing the stories of my husband's great grandparents, and we ended up finding out a lot of things he didn't know because nobody had ever asked the questions I, with his help, asked. If you have kids, or might have kids, these visits are an incredible opportunity to gather genealogical history for your children. They will also, and I can only imagine this is universal, be pleased to see that you care enough about their son or daughter to spend time in the anecdotal and historical reaches of their family tree."

    Think gifts.

    "Stay attuned to what kinds of things the family might like, need or want. The next time you come you'll likely bring a gift, and it needs to be a much more thoughtful one than you might have brought the first time. What kind of soap is there in the bathroom? Would they like teacups or olive oil? Something homemade, or fancy, or both? Your partner might say things like, "Oh we don't need to bring anything, it's fine". Please ignore because it's always a good thing to opt for a little gift that simply says, I thought of you and I wanted to show you that I care about getting along with you."

    Don't disengage.

    "There will be situations where things are going on around you that you don't understand - family catch-up time, questions about other people you may or may not know, general overviews of life since the person you're with was last there. Don't pull out your phone and start texting, or check your email. For now, you're on stage, and you need to stay plugged into the room around you. Look at the room, watch the interactions, see the person you love in the middle of the people who've loved them for longer than you have. There's a lot of information on display in these moments so be a detective and check it all out."

    Remember that your partner is in the middle, and that's tough.

    "He or she has to decide what to translate, and when. Should he tell you that granny appreciates your fat thighs in the best way possible? Should she translate the joke everyone's laughing at, even though it won't be funny to you? Going home as an adult is always a little complicated. There's always a little collision of the past and the present, and having to navigate those waters while also filtering and translating. Contextualizing for someone else is tiring and takes practice."

    In the moment-to-moment, they might forget that you aren't following the conversation, or they might get caught up with friends and not want to stop to catch you up. You might feel left out or left behind.

    This is the time to check in on any abandonment issues. It may have felt like the trip is all about you... you're the travelling exhibition, after all. Keep in mind it's actually a lot more about the other person frantically building bridges between a new life and an old life. They're going to need your moral support just as much, if not more, than you need theirs."

    Don't panic.

    "It gets easier. In the first few visits you will feel exhausted by the newness, the foreign-ness, the complexity of not being able to unscramble one word from the next in a sentence. It's as lonely and tiring as it is rewarding and heart-warming. I can tell you it gets exponentially easier with every visit, and the slightly-more-comfortable place you get to is quickly re-established on the next visit. You could be perceived as anything from a novelty item to an outright threat, depending on all kinds of things that are out of your control. Try to keep a sense of humour and not let whatever comes your way knock you off your base. You will go back to your normal life and you will be the same couple you were when you left. Only with insight and added depth to the relationship.

    Anne Samulevicius lives in Corsica and blogs at She also contributed more great advice to my guidebook How To Make Big Moves: Relocate Without Losing Your Mind.

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