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Canada Travel news and opinion

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    Myrtle Beach has long been ground zero for Canadian golfers, honeymooners and families on a budget. Now, with the loonie in a serious slump, it may be time to give this evergreen destination a second look. Its surprisingly diverse mix of attractions -- both man-made and natural -- moderate climate, affordable accommodations plus direct flights from Toronto (on Porter or WestJet) make it a smart way for U.S. dollar-challenged Canadians to explore the coastal South.

    Here are six things to do that won't break the bank:

    1. Get out on the Grand Strand.

    2015-09-30-1443652856-3049370-Dogonbeach.jpg
    The Grand Strand, Myrtle Beach Photo: Lin Stranberg

    South Carolina has more than 300 kilometres of coastline, and the stretch between North Myrtle Beach and Georgetown, called the Grand Strand, has 96 coastline of the most beautiful coast. Hotels line the Myrtle Beach oceanfront: some, like the top-rated Hampton Inn Oceanfront, go for under $200 a night including breakfast, and it gets much cheaper the further you stay from the beach. Many hotels could use a refresh, so be mindful when you book.

    2015-09-30-1443652694-1674626-GrandStrand.jpg
    The Grand Strand, Myrtle Beach Photo: Lin Stranberg

    Some lifeguards are on the beach for your safety and others are just there to rent you chairs and umbrellas. Two chairs and an umbrella will cost you $35 a day, but you can cut costs by buying a cheap set locally and leaving them behind when you leave.

    2015-09-30-1443653622-3816415-Sandalligator.jpg
    The Grand Strand, Myrtle Beach Photo: Lin Stranberg

    2. Golf, golf, and more golf.

    2015-09-30-1443654199-641924-lg_dunes.golf.club.jpg
    The Dunes Golf Club, Myrtle Beach Photo: Myrtle Beach Chamber of Commerce

    There are more than 100 championship courses to play year-round in the Myrtle Beach area and more than half are Golf Digest 4-stars. The game is accessible rather than elitist, with courses and packages to suit different budgets and playing levels.

    If you've been meaning to learn how to play, this might be the place. There are instructors galore, and the Classic Swing Golf School at the Legends Resort is one of the most affordable in North America. If you just want to practice your putting or have fun with the kids, you can play mini-golf at dozens of themed locations for under $10 a game.

    3. Soak up some South.

    2015-10-01-1443717782-5253297-Opry.jpg
    The Carolina Opry at the Calvin Gilmore Theater Photo: Lin Stranberg

    Go out for some glitz and glamour at the Calvin Gilmore Theater. For live entertainment with a Southern accent, the crowd-pleasing Carolina Opry is the best value around.

    It costs nothing to take in the sights from the Myrtle Beach Boardwalk and catch the Skywheel lightshow at dusk. You can find metered parking or lots for just a few bucks a day. A ride on the 57-metre high Skywheel will buy you an eye-popping view of the area -- and if giant ferris wheels are your thing, you can save with a season pass ($25 and under).

    2015-10-01-1443718493-2996674-FriedGreen.jpg
    Fried green tomatoes at Tupelo Honey Cafe Photo: Lin Stranberg

    Treat yourself to some Southern French fusion cuisine at Croissants, a bistro and bakery with mid-range prices. Or taste the "new south flavours" at Tupelo Honey Cafe at Market Common, with small plate eating and drinking bargains weekdays after four.

    2015-10-01-1443719166-4851214-Tupelobar.jpg
    The bar at Tupelo Honey Cafe Photo: Lin Stranberg


    4. Eat fresh fish.

    2015-10-01-1443721545-906867-IMG_3903.jpg
    Murrells Inlet Photo: Lin Stranberg

    The seaside community of Murrells Inlet, just south of Myrtle Beach, is known as the seafood capital of South Carolina. The scenic salt marsh views from the MarshWalk are worth the trip alone, but might as well linger awhile and enjoy some fresh local fish. There's a row of restaurants on the MarshWalk, and more off the main road.

    2015-10-01-1443721355-4181867-Fish.jpg
    In the fish room at Wicked Tuna Photo: Lin Stranberg

    2015-10-01-1443722586-2063230-Fishroom.jpg
    The fish room at Wicked Tuna Photo: Lin Stranberg

    Wicked Tuna, with its own fishing boat at the restaurant's back door, is a standout. "It's easy to make good food in this area; you've got everything you need right here," says Chef Dylan Foster. "Our boat lets us adapt the menu daily to whatever the ocean is providing us." Best deals are at lunch, and the views from the deck are awesome.

    2015-10-01-1443721207-8270420-Viewmurrells.jpg
    View from the deck at Wicked Tuna. Photo: Lin Stranberg

    The budget-obsessed may be just as happy at a picnic table down the road by Murrells Inlet Seafood, where Austrian Master Chef Ted cooks up fabulous bisques and other seafood soups for a song.

    5. Get out on the water.

    Murrells Inlet and Pawleys Island, its neighbour to the south, are on the third-largest estuary in the Eastern U.S. You owe it to yourself to experience it firsthand. Even if you've never been in a kayak before, paddling around the salt marsh with the wonderful guides at Black River Outdoors, at $35 for two hours, is a treat worth every penny (free for kids under seven).

    2015-10-01-1443722869-7050995-IMG_3926.jpg
    Black River Outdoors guide demonstrates the pull of pluff mud. Photo: Lin Stranberg

    If it's open water you crave, book a dolphin watch with Crazy Sister for about the same money, or go for broke with one of their all-day deep sea fishing trips.


    6. Take a trip back in time.

    2015-10-01-1443723651-4068767-Brookgreenpond.jpg
    Sculpture by Anna Hyatt Huntington at Brookgreen Gardens Photo: Lin Stranberg

    If you have any feeling at all for history, or beauty, or the land, head south on Route 17 to experience two spectacular living museums. Brookgreen Gardens, which is closest to Myrtle Beach, is an outdoor sculpture/history/ecology museum created in the 30s by Archer and Anna Hyatt Huntington on the site of four former rice plantations. Less than $15 buys a week's admission to the gardens and zoo; tidal creek and back-roads tours are under $10.

    2015-10-01-1443724126-8916025-IMG_4015.jpg
    Hobcaw House, once the winter retreat of Bernard Baruch Photo: Lin Stranberg

    Just north of Georgetown is the must-see 16,000 acre Hobcaw Barony. The site, originally a 1718 colonial land grant, was bought in the early 20th century by Bernard Baruch and is now maintained as a research and wildlife reserve by the Belle W. Baruch Foundation. There's no admission for the Discovery Center and you can book a two-hour tour for $20.


    The cheapest time to travel?

    Hotel rates are usually lowest in December, according to flightnetwork.com, but that may be about to change. From January to April 2016, Myrtle Beach is offering substantial discounts to Canadian visitors on hotels and attractions to help offset the exchange rate. For more information : www.visitmyrtlebeach.com

    Note: The author was given a media rate for flight and hotel and a chamber of commerce pass to many attractions listed.

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    It's decorative gourd season! Let's pumpkin spice literally everything! And, hey, while we're at it, let's get out of the city to find our own great pumpkins and crisp apples, sip local ciders and ice wines, sample all the piesand enjoy autumn's glorious show before the snow falls. Here's a starter list of tasty spots for your autumnal adventures.

    Verger Lacroix, Deux Montagnes

    You can take the commuter train or enjoy the short drive out to this lovely spot to pick many apple varieties, and sample the squash fries and ice cider. Plus, you're just minutes from Oka National Park if you want to hike along the beach at Lac des Deux Montagnes.

    Marc Gibouleau Pomiculteur, Laval

    Who knew there was a 100-year-old orchard in Laval with over 15 varieties of apples, as wel as pumpkins, delicious pies and picnic tables for a lunch beneath the trees? At 30 kilometres from Montreal, this apple farm is even a nice bike ride for the (hyper)active.

    Quinn Farm, Ile-Perrot

    Another family-friendly spot with tractor rides out to fields where you can pick your own apples and choose a pumpkin or two to take home with you. Don't miss the apple butter and homemade relishes, either. Yelpers suggest you consider packing up goodies for a picnic at nearby Parc Point du Moulin.

    Vergers Écologiques Philion, Hemmingford

    In a beautiful area of southern Quebec near the Vermont border and just 35 minutes from Montreal, you'll find this lovely orchard with younger trees for easy apple picking with the kiddos, and gold medal-winning apple and pear wines for the rest of us.

    La Magie de La Pomme, Saint-Eustache

    A pretty spot to pick apples and ride the tractor out to the back fields where you can gather your own gourds of all kinds. On the weekends, try home country products like ostrich hot dogs from a nearby farm. Throughout the week you can buy cider vinegar and homemade maple syrup, lavender soup and tons more from their country store.

    Verger du Flanc Nord, Mont-Saint-Hilaire

    An orchard that practices organic and sustainable farming in the rolling hills of Mount-Saint-Hilaire, the Verger du Flanc Nord goes the extra distance as Halloween approaches: witches lead pumpkin-picking tours by twilight. Don't forget your flashlight!

    Rulfs Orchard, Peru NY

    And one across the border: if you're rolling south, peeping the brilliant performance of the changing leaves along the Adirondacks, consider stopping at Rulfs Orchard on the New York side of Lake Champlain. If it's warm enough, don't skip the homemade ice cream -- otherwise, fortify your soul with hot apple cider and donuts, explore the rolling acres of trees and green houses and maybe even chill in the pumpkin patch to get a little closer to your inner Linus and Charlie Brown.

    Good grief... and Happy Halloween!

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    An entire island has gone up for sale in B.C., and it's a beauty.

    Whitestone Island, a six-acre estate that lies about half an hour from Vancouver by private boat or sea plane, hit the market in September.

    whitestone island bc

    Nestled on the Sunshine Coast, the place takes full advantage of its surroundings.

    An open-plan, 2,500 sq.-ft. home is perched on one of the island's rocky outcrops, with massive windows offering a near-panoramic view of the ocean, according to its listing.

    whitestone island

    Boasting four bedrooms and three bathrooms, the secluded $3.8-million house has a West Coast feel with wooden beams throughout.

    The master bedroom takes up an entire floor all on its own, and the ensuite bathtub overlooks the big blue sea. (Because, of course.)

    whitestone island

    And if looking out at the stunning view through all those windows isn't enough, there's a sprawling wooden patio you could lounge on to your heart's content. (Watch video above.)

    whitestone island for sale

    As a bonus, whale sightings are common in the area, and harp seals would be your neighbours.

    There's even a pair of bald eagles to share the island with.

    Not bad at all.




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    Another day, another grey whale sighting in Vancouver.

    One of the massive animals went cruising through the city's English Bay on Sunday, to the delight of many boaters on the water and a crowd of spectators onshore.

    Johnson Chu was out with the False Creek Racing Canoe Club and later uploaded a video of the encounter to YouTube. (Watch above.)

    "It was a great ending to our outrigger canoe practice for sure," he told HuffPost B.C. in an email.

    The sighting was one of many in Vancouver over the weekend.













    Last week, at least one person was compelled to get an even closer look by jumping in the water, prompting the Vancouver Aquarium to issue a public warning on Facebook.

    "Your actions could disrupt natural behaviours such as socializing, resting, and – in this instance – feeding," said the post on Friday. "It’s not just about keeping the whale comfortable and safe, but about doing the same for you."

    It may look tempting, but don’t even think about it. Swimming towards any whale, like this grey whale, is a bad idea...

    Posted by Vancouver Aquarium on Friday, October 2, 2015





    In June, a pod of killer whales swam through the city's Burrard Inlet just as the Aquarium launched its new WhaleReport app, which allows people to log sightings with their smartphones.

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    So it's getting cold and the air conditioners are off as you settle in for a cold winter, but it doesn't have to be the end of sunny adventures. There are tons of amazing destinations that you will fall in love with this October. With beautiful weather and for even better prices than you may have realized, here's to planning your next vacation!

    1. Mexico

    Though we might have selected Mexico for their affordability factor in the month of October, there are so many other reasons that this month actually happens to be one of the best months to visit. It's October, the kids have just started up school again and people's budgets have been cut low in order to save up for Christmas... airlines and hotels knows that! If you play your cards right and save your holidays for October, then you'll find many more wonderful deals than you might have during the holiday months. To top it all off, Mexico's weather starts to change from good to wonderful and it is one of the best months to be celebrating with the locals for Festival Internacional Cervantino and the Day of the Dead.

    2015-10-05-1444053470-895292-8069378186_814755b76a_z.jpg

    Brook Ward | Flickr Photos


    2. Jamaica

    If there is one thing that makes you think about Jamaica, let it be the soul food and incredible music. October is a wonderful month to save some dollars on your annual trip and embrace culture to the best of your ability. If you head to Montego Bay, make sure to visit the Soul in the Sun Music Festival, that is of course after you've hit the beach a couple times! Be sure to check out all the travel deals as they're likely to have dropped.

    2015-10-05-1444053592-569452-5715181538_3669a622cd_z.jpg
    Droidicus | Flickr Photos


    3.Argentina

    Make no mistake, October might not have been the recommended month of choice, but the prices are unbeatable for that exact reason. Though the south of Argentina might not be wonderful weather, northern parts of Argentina including the Lake District are known to be beautiful and crisp during the month of October. If you are able, make your first stop into Buenos Aires (flights tend to be cheaper in larger cities) and check out one of the many international concerts taking place during the month of October before venturing onward.

    2015-10-05-1444053686-3468374-14072454046_a527ba1472_z.jpg

    4. Greece
    When people think Greece it is common that the first thing to come to mind is the clear blue beaches and the incomparable, delicious home cooked Greek cuisine. This stunning photograph below is one of many during the month of October. Though some areas can get a little chilly for swimming, it's a stunning time to go out and enjoy all that Greece has to offer. The summers in Greece get rather hot so it's best to spend October exploring the country!

    2015-10-05-1444053794-9088325-5961857660_3af5dfc927_z.jpg
    Theophilos Papadopolos | Flickr Photos


    5. Spain
    Summer, fall, spring and winter, there is never a bad time to visit Spain. In the South of Europe, and large enough in size to be home to beaches and Canadian fall temperatures, Spain meets the needs of every traveller year round. If you're lucky enough, Spain hosts their famous event every two years in October called the Bienal de Flamenco where the most exquisite flamenco dancers head to Seville for a festival you'll never forget. Don't forget that October is probably the best month for budget travellers.

    2015-10-05-1444053912-1066979-4572920024_5803ff1245_z.jpg

    6. Italy

    We've included Italy on our list of affordable travel destinations in October, but by no means expect this trip date to give you peace and quiet from other travellers abroad. Northern Europe tends to get rather chilly during the months heading into winter and it is the perfect time for northerners to head down south to Italy for some last rays of sun. For international travellers, you're bound to find some extremely affordable flights to Italy due to the nature of the month (right before winter holidays and right after the start of school). If you have the time to swing a trip to Italy in October, what are you waiting for?

    2015-10-05-1444054302-7209263-10387610404_ce59144ff0_z.jpg

    7. Southern USA

    their summer sun in Southern USA because it's a closer destination than the Caribbean or Europe, and can easily be visited by plane or by car. The picture below is of Florida's well-known Hollywood Studios Park in Walt Disney's World. If you're looking for a new destination to head to this October, try looking into California, Texas, Arizona or Georgia, all beautiful in the fall months.

    2015-10-05-1444054500-6910131-6291463539_d59b41f4b0_z.jpg

    We know that we're not the only ones with October secrets. Be sure to share with us your autumn travel tips so other adventurers can jump in on some October fun as well!

    Is there anything else that you would add to the list?

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    "When you came to the junction ten years ago everything was to the right -- the park, Tofino, the beaches," says Oyster Jim Martin as we hike along his life's work, Ucluelet's famous Wild Pacific Trail.

    Martin, who acquired his nickname as an oyster farmer in a previous life, devoted 35 years to creating this five mile long network of paths hugging the spectacular coastline of the Ucluth Peninsula.

    "Back then Ucluelet was all about logging and fishing and there wasn't an atmosphere welcoming to tourism," he says as we stop to admire the view from one of the trail's numerous lookout points. "This trail helped Ucluelet really come into its own."

    Long in the shadow of Tofino, its more famous neighbour to the north, Ucluelet is an unpretentious working harbour town that's becoming a popular wild west coast getaway. Today, it offers visitors everything from whale watching and kayaking excursions to fresh dining options, as well as a range of accommodations.

    2015-08-30-1440952194-5452143-msissonsucluelet7.jpg
    Photo by Wya Point Resort



    One of the most popular is Wya Point Resort, located 5 kilometres north of Ucluelet on its own stretch of private beach. This First Nations-owned and operated eco-lodge set on 600 acres of old-growth forest offers timber frame lodges boasting spectacular ocean views and walk-on beach access, spacious yurts and secluded oceanfront camping spots.

    2015-08-30-1440952863-4774493-msissonsucluelet.jpg

    Photo by Mark Sissons



    Wya Point is a successful model of culturally and ecologically sensitive, sustainable development along this still largely pristine stretch of coastline that includes world-famous Pacific Rim National Park, explains Tyson Touchie, the band's former economic development officer.

    "This is an actual village site of the Ucluelet First Nation. That's special for our people," he says. "What makes this place special is it really means something to our people because we actually own it. It's been a long time coming."

    According to Touchie, the band elders only gave the resort their blessing when assured that not a single tree would be cut down during construction, and that whatever was built could one day be removable to let their sacred forest recover. "The resulting construction is sensitive not only to our cultural needs but is also low impact," he adds.

    2015-08-30-1440952360-6647924-msissonsucluelet13.jpg
    Photo by Mark Sissons



    That evening at the Kwisitis Feast House, a Ucluelet First Nation operated restaurant with a panoramic view of Wickanninish Beach attached to the Parks Canada Kwisitis Visitor Centre in Pacific Rim National Park Reserve, Touchie shares stories of life growing up in this wild neck of the west coast woods. His grandfather carved the grand canoe on display in the Visitor Centre, which was developed in collaboration with local First Nations to accurately capture the cultural history and natural features of the area.

    2015-08-30-1440952430-3367862-msissonsucluelet15.JPG
    Photo by Majestic Ocean Kayaking



    The next morning I set off on a two hour harbour tour with Majestic Ocean Kayaking, which offers guided paddling tours around Ucluelet, Tofino, the Pacific Rim National Park Reserve and Clayoquot Sound.

    As we circumnavigate Ucluelet's harbour, owner Ted Eeftink scouts for black bears that occasionally wander along the shore. On this intertidal excursion we encounter a river otter scrambling over the shoreline rocks and a few curious harbour seals popping their heads out of the water, content to pose for my camera as Great Blue Herons and bald eagles circle overhead.

    Opportunities for up close and personal interaction with West Coast marine life also abound at the Ucluelet Aquarium, a non-profit public facility that displays everything from spotted ratfish and Humboldt squid to basket starfish.

    The aquarium's most popular resident animal is the giant Pacific octopus, which has to be released and a replacement found every four months because they double in size during that time. Collected each March from nearby Barkley Sound and Clayoquot Sound, the aquarium's remaining specimens are released back into the ocean by November.

    2015-08-30-1440952600-9163744-msissonsucluelet8.jpg
    Photo by Mark Sissons



    That rich marine habitat attracts all manner of other creatures, including a male sea lion I spot sleeping on the rear-loading ramp of a moored fishing boat the next morning as my whale watching tour embarks for Barkley Sound. Rising from its slumber as we pass, it bellows and slides into the water to bark for fishy handouts from nearby fishermen.

    2015-08-30-1440952638-9479591-msissonsucluelet9.jpg
    Photo by Mark Sissons



    Riding in the front of Subtidal Adventures' zodiac, "Discovery", I'm soon bouncing as it skims the Pacific chop, searching for humpback, gray and killer (Orca) whales, as well as seals, sea lions, eagles and sea birds. During our three-hour tour, the skipper receives word that a Humpback named Pinky and her calf have been spotted in the area. Named for the skin colour within the throat grooves, Pinky was first photographed in Barkley Sound in 2006.

    Half an hour later we're idling in between two of the Broken Islands Group under cloudless blue skies, watching intently for Pinky to breach and blow. An occasional deep dive with iconic full tail flapping elicits gasps and cheers from the zodiac passengers. Later, nearing the entrance to Ucluelet Harbour, we spot and pursue an Orca hunting at full speed, its dorsal fin knifing through the whitecaps like a U-Boat on patrol.

    Rounding the cape, I can see Oyster Jim Martin's Wild Pacific Trail, hugging the wild coastline of the Ucluth Peninsula. As the locals like to say, experiencing Ucluelet and the still wild places that surround it really is a taste of life on the edge.

    2015-08-30-1440952807-9096840-msissonsucluelet10.jpg
    Photo by Mark Sissons



    Getting there
    From Vancouver International Airport's South Terminal it's just a 50-minute hop aboard Orca Air to Tofino Airport, followed by a 40-minute drive along the Pacific Rim Highway.

    This story originally appeared in Vacay.ca.

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    A terrifying glass path wraps around Yuntai Mountain in China's Henan province at a height of almost 1,100 metres.

    What's the worst that could happen? Well, among other things, a crack could form in the glass.

    And that's precisely what took place on Oct. 5, as frightened tourists fled the path at Yuntai Mountain Geological Park, which opened in September, when a break was found beneath their feet, People's Daily Online reported.

    Mashable quoted Weibo user Lee Dong Hai saying that he heard a sound before noticing a crack in the path, which soon forced walkers off of it.

    We can't help but be reminded of this scene from "The Lost World: Jurassic Park."



    Staff at the walkway said the crack occurred because a tourist dropped a thermos on it, People's Daily reported. It has been closed, understandably, but they added that only a single panel out of three broke, so walkers' safety wasn't compromised.

    Scary though it is, the path is not to be confused with an equally freaky glass-bottom bridge that was built in Shiniuzhai National Geological Park.

    china glass bridge

    china glass suspension bridge

    The bridge was built with glass that's 25 times stronger than usual.

    We still can't help being scared.

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    Fright Nights are returning to Vancouver once again.

    The scary extravaganza takes over Playland at the Pacific National Exhibition (PNE) in the weeks leading up to Halloween. It features over a dozen rides, seven haunted houses, and several gory shows.

    These lovely characters will also be wandering around as a nice welcome:

    fright night playland vancouver

    This year, the park's new pendulum ride, dubbed The Beast, will be open — the only ride in North America that allows riders to sit either inward or outward while the swing spins them around.

    Fright Nights is open starting Friday, Oct. 9 to those age 12 and older until Sunday, Nov. 1.

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    Parking at the airport, whether long or short term, can be a hassle. But the process is easier when you have important details at your disposal before you decide on your best option. Cheapflights.ca breaks down options, costs and important details for airports across the country in our guide to parking at Canadian airports.

    TORONTO PEARSON INTERNATIONAL
    2015-09-22-1442941369-3114506-1TorontoPearson.jpg
    Image: Dan Zen, Terminal Inside via Flickr CC BY 2.0

    There are several options for parking at Pearson in terms of cost, convenience and location.

    Express Park at Terminal 1 is for those waiting to pick up arriving passengers and good for stays of up to three hours. This lot costs $5 for 30 minutes with a $50 daily maximum.

    The Cell Phone Lot is a free option for those waiting to pick up passengers, and it is a five-minute drive to both Terminals 1 and 3.

    Daily Park, Value Garage Park, Viscount Station Reserved Lot and Value Park Lot all cost $3 for 20 minutes, but each has its own pros and cons:

    Daily Park is very close to the Departure Hall and has a $30 daily maximum.

    Value Garage Park is a covered lot closest to the free Terminal Link Train and has a $20 daily maximum.

    The Viscount Reserved Lot is an outdoor parking lot close to the Terminal Link Train and has an $18 daily maximum.

    Value Park, an outdoor lot, is best for long-term stays with a $15 daily maximum and is also close to the Terminal Link Train.

    Offsite Park'N Fly lots offer shuttle service every eight minutes.

    CALGARY INTERNATIONAL
    2015-09-22-1442941398-3631826-2CalgaryInternational.jpg
    Image: abdallahh, Aérport de Calgary YYC via Flickr CC BY 2.0

    If you need to park at Calgary International you have various options to choose from depending on what you need.

    Short-term parking is meant for quick pick-ups and drop-offs and is located on the ground level of each parking structure. The first 30 minutes are free, with each additional hour being $7.95.

    Two long-term lots accommodate those needing to leave their cars for an extended period. These lots have a $10 hourly rate, a daily maximum of $27.95, a weekly maximum of $119.95 with each additional week costing $27.95. The most affordable option is the Economy Lot located north of Airport Road. It's not too far from the terminal building and there are complimentary luggage carts available. This lot has a flat rate of $11.95, a weekly maximum of $54.95 with each additional week costing $11.50. The maximum number of days you can park at the airport is 60.

    If you're picking up or dropping off, the Cell Phone Lot is a free option.

    Note that Wednesdays, Thursdays, holidays and long weekends are all considered peak periods so it's best to allow extra time to park. You can check parking availability via the Parkade Hot Line at 403- 250-7275 (PARK).

    VANCOUVER INTERNATIONAL
    2015-09-22-1442941490-7758776-4VancouverAirport.jpg
    Image: Ed Bierman, Vancouver airport via Flickr CC BY 2.0


    Vancouver International has several options when it comes to parking.

    The Parkade, if you the use self-serve payment option, costs $4 for 30 minutes, $8 for an hour, $28 for the day and $165 for the week. If you pay the cashier the cost is $4.50 for 30 minutes, $9 for an hour and $30 for the day. The weekly rate is the same no matter how you pay.

    The rates for the Economy Lot are the same for 30 and 60 minute stays, but the daily rate is $20 if you use Express Pay and $22 if you pay the cashier, and it's $130 for the week.

    The jetSet Lot is located on Sea Island close to the terminals and a courtesy shuttle runs roughly every 10 to 15 minutes, 24 hours a day. This lot costs $4 for 30 minutes, $15 for the day and $96 for the week.

    Airport South Parking services small, regional locations and has an hourly rate of $3.50 and a daily rate of $10.50.

    There is also a Park'N Fly lot, which offers an oil change service for an added fee too.

    Vancouver International also offers a free Cell Phone Lot for pick-ups and drop-offs.


    MONTREAL-PIERRE ELLIOTT TRUDEAU INTERNATIONAL
    2015-09-22-1442942076-897564-7Montreal.jpg
    Image: abdallahh, aéroport de Montréal P.-E. Trudeau YUL via Flickr CC BY 2.0

    Whether you're just dropping off or picking up, staying for the day or parking longer there are lots of options at Montréal-Pierre Elliott Trudeau International.

    Terminal parking includes the Short Term Lot, which is ground level parking and is about a three- to four-minute walk from the terminal. This lot costs $5 for 20 minutes and $35 for 24 hours.

    The Multi-Level Lot is a three level parking lot ideal for short trips and is about a six-minute walk from the terminal. The cost per 20 minutes is also $5, but the 24-hour cost for this lot is $21.

    ValetParc is the closest to the terminal and costs $35 for 24 hours. Simply leave your keys, your vehicle and your return schedule with the valet before departure.

    There are also three Economy Lots:

    EconoParc P5 is a six- to eight-minute walk to the terminal or 14 minutes if you want to wait for a shuttle ride. The costs are $5 for 20 minutes, $21 for 24 hours and $79 for seven days.

    EconoParc (P6, P7, P9 and P9) is a 16-minute shuttle ride (the shuttle runs 24 hours a day) from the terminal. This one will set you back $17 for 24 hours and $72 for seven days.

    AeroParc is also a 16-minute shuttle from the terminal and costs $14 for 24 hours and $69 for seven days.

    Tip: if you reserve parking for the Multi-Level Lot, EconoParc P5, or AeroParc online you can save up to 30 per cent on stays longer than seven days.

    Three Park'N Fly lots are also a shuttle ride away.

    For more details on parking at other major Canadian airports, visit Cheapflights.ca

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    2015-10-06-1444161193-9922695-SanFran83.jpg View From Point Bonita Lighthouse, Marin Headlands

    San Francisco, rich in history, culture and culinary delights, and it has amazingly weathered a gold rush, earthquakes, fires, hippies and free love. It can be an expensive city full of contrasts, having both techies and hipsters, the uber-wealthy and sizeable homeless population. It's a city with an eclectic mix of architecture and 19 distinct neighbourhoods just begging to be discovered.

    It has been over 10 years since my last visit to San Francisco, and this time I planned to see and explore the many different parts of the city -- all on a budget.

    Here are a few of my favourite places:

    Golden Gate Park

    This is the largest urban national park in the U.S. and there is so much to do and see. Golden Gate Park has over 1,000 acres of gardens, playgrounds, lakes, trails, monuments and museums. Here you'll see the beautiful Japanese Tea Garden with paths winding through Japanese maples, bonsai, tall stands of bamboo and koi ponds.

    2015-10-06-1444162683-2067267-SanFran28.jpg

    I loved the California Academy of Science and spent over an hour touring. They have an aquarium, planetarium and natural history museum. A fantastic place for families to explore.

    2015-10-06-1444162935-8624979-SanFran37.jpg

    The DeYoung Art Museum, also located in this park, is a leading research and educational institution. They have a fine collection of American paintings and sculptures including Native American and Spanish colonial art; New Zealand Maori, Australian Aboriginal, Indonesian displays and Mexican murals. Plus a great cafe to grab a bite post touring.

    2015-10-06-1444166117-9725601-SanFran29.jpg

    Lands End

    Lands End is a must-see, with its hiking trails, classic Monterey cypress trees, stunning views of the Pacific Ocean and the rocky windswept shoreline. From here you can also see the golden gate bridge, surrounding peninsulas, beautiful sunsets and at low tide shipwrecks are visible. I loved this area of the park.

    2015-10-07-1444179793-3431968-SanFran22.jpg

    Lands End has a good visitor's centre, free four-hour parking and it's free admission. I'd recommend comfy shoes as there is lots to explore by foot.

    2015-10-06-1444164838-7743528-SanFran21.jpg

    Point Bonita Lighthouse called the jewel of the Bay Area and stands 124 feet above the ocean. Its located across the San Francisco Bay Bridge in Marin county. Once again you get stunning views and the light from the Lighthouse can be seen for 18 miles out at sea. its worth the drive out of the city.

    2015-10-07-1444180713-1080785-SanFran63.jpg

    Union Square Shopping

    Union Square is the heart of San Francisco, and the most visited neighbourhood in the city. You'll find theaters, nightclubs restaurants, bars and the best shopping. I was blown away by the outdoor cafes and designer shops lining Post Street -- Burberry, Armani, Louis Vuitton, Kate Spade etc and Maiden Lane*, where you can furnish your home, buy a designer handbag or fabulous jewellery.

    2015-10-07-1444185960-7505224-unionsquare.jpg

    You will also see the major department stores like Saks, Nordstrom's and Macy's.

    *Maiden Lane is home to the city's largest concentration of luxury retail shops and from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. it becomes a pedestrian oasis.

    Exploring Neighbourhoods


    Nob Hill

    The area is not what it once was, although around the Mark Hopkins and Fairmount hotels it still looks pretty posh. It's situated on one of the original Seven Hills of Frisco and was often referred to as Snob Hill. This was the location for the mansions of the Big Four (rail-road tycoons), who relocated after losing their stately homes in the 1906 quake. It's still home to a lot of affluent families as well as a large number of young urban professionals.

    Pacific Heights

    There's some very expensive real estate in this district, it almost feels nouveau riche. It's the most scenic and park-like area in Northern California. Mostly residential, this privileged, elegant neighborhood embodies Hollywood's vision of Frisco with its Victorian mansions (like novelist Danielle Steele's "Spreckels Mansion"), and spectacular Bay views. One home, in particular, you should see on Franklin Street, is the Haas-Lilienthal House, an 1886 Queen Anne Victorian, complete with turrets and gables. Filmore Street is where you find most of the neighborhood's fine boutiques and restaurants.

    2015-10-07-1444187236-5522639-SanFran183.jpg

    Mission District

    Often called "The Mission" and named for the Mission San Francisco de Asis, Frisco's oldest standing building. This area is a magnet for young people as it has less expensive housing and a high density of reasonable restaurants and bars. There are many art studios and galleries and sometimes poets, musicians, and other artists gather to perform at the corner of 16th and Mission Street. There's a rich music scene here, a lot of Mexican, Salvadoran, Guatemalan and Nicaraguan restaurants and a great many unbelievable street murals.

    Haight Ashbury

    Hippies used to dominate this area, in '67 it was Ground Zero, 'The Summer of Love'. And you'll still see signs of them today as 'The Haight' has kept its own unique culture. But at some point things changed. Gone was the real bohemian aura and affluent yuppies moved in, buying up the colourful Victorians, followed by high-end boutiques, restaurants and hip cafes. Although it's not the hippie-haven it used to be you'll still find some strange and wonderful vintage stores and smoke shops. This is an interestingly colorful district - you will either Love it or Hate it.

    San Francisco Helicopter Tours

    This was definitely one of my favourite experiences. I saw the whole city via helicopter and there is no better way to do it. You can get custom tours and charters, for a group or individuals. The basic 20-minute tour (approx $200), takes you over the city, Fisherman's Wharf and Alcatraz as well as the Golden Gate Bridge (they fly over and under the bridge).

    2015-10-07-1444187774-8195537-DSC01314.jpg

    Or you might go for a five-hour tour of Napa Valley's rolling hills and lush vineyards. The staff and pilots are extremely knowledgeable and explain all the points of interest. This is one of the most unique experiences you could have in San Francisco.

    2015-10-07-1444187878-5791459-DSC01317.jpg

    Eating and Drinking

    There are more than two dozen farmers markets in San Francisco and I would be amiss if I didn't mention a few that really stand out. The Ferry Building Market is widely praised for the quality and diversity of its fresh products and attracts nearly 25,000 shoppers a week. It also has some of the best food in the city. I particularly enjoyed the Saturday market where you could sample some of the best fruits and cheeses produced in the region. Stonestown Farmers' Market is up there with its fresh organic produce and baked goods.

    2015-10-07-1444244063-6056867-SanFran84.jpg

    San Francisco is a food lovers paradise with hundreds of unique and wonderful restaurants, cafes bars in the city read my "Insiders guide to eating well in San Francisco" for some recommendations.

    Getting Around the City

    The best way of getting around the city is by foot or public transportation. San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency's "Muni" system makes it easy to explore the city. Individual rides on bus and rail cost $2 and cable car rides cost $6. Source your routes before you head out as I found most of the drivers very surly when asked questions.

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    Trick-or-treating is a Halloween staple. And it turns out candy-obsessed kids can actually thank a small Albertan hamlet for the toothsome door-to-door tradition.

    The first print use of the phrase "trick-or-treat" appeared in 1927 in the Blackie Herald (which would became the Lethbridge Herald), according to Smithsonian Magazine.

    The more you know!

    For those of us who can't quite pass as a child-sized trick-or-treater, there are plenty of other spooky activities in Alberta to get you into the Halloween spirit:




    Did we miss any?

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    our wild abandon



    Over two years ago, after a handful of drinks and a few wistful conversations, a pair of best friends decided to slap a "for sale" sign on everything they owned.

    Kyla Trethewey, 28, and Jill Mann, 27, got rid of it all in a matter of months, and used the cash to buy a trailer. Then they packed up the bare essentials they needed for everyday life inside a box on wheels.

    "'Hey mom, I just broke up with my boyfriend and I'm quitting my job to move into a trailer,' is a tough sell," said Trethewey.

    But they did it anyway — so they could explore the Pacific West Coast and parts of the U.S. full time.

    "Getting to travel and meet incredible people from different towns, cities, lifestyles, histories — those are the moments and memories that change your life," Mann told The Huffington Post B.C. in October from the duo's home base in Vancouver.

    "The reality of the way we live is not for everyone. It’s cramped. It’s dirty. It’s uncomfortable," she added. "[But] we are doing exactly what we want to be doing and not a lot of people have that luxury. Our awareness of that is constant."

    Together, the pair chronicle their travels on Instagram, though their joint account appropriately called "Our Wild Abandon."

    As our HuffPost B.C. Photographers of the Month, Trethewey and Mann tell us about the days they've spent chasing lightning, the convicts they've met along the way, and what kept them moving even when bad luck pushed them to go home.




    our wild abandon







    Q: Is the lifestyle as great as you'd envisioned?

    A: It is, but for reasons that surprised us. You’d think it was because of the beautiful places we get to see, which are many and always great — but the real takeaway for us is the people. We were not happy [before.] We were too young to be so unsatisfied and working too much with nothing to show for it at the end of the day. If anything, our only regret is not leaving sooner.

    Q: What kind of people do you cross paths with?

    A: We’ve met all sorts: from fellow photographers to prisoners serving life sentences, and a trucker that lives with six rescue dogs in his truck. Being constantly on the road keeps you out of your comfort zone and pushes you into the lives of other people.

    As far as most memorable, our friend Penni Guidry in Louisiana would be the winner. Penni is a light brighter than the sun. She built herself her own private trailer park in her yard, and represents exactly what it means to live.... She knew what she wanted and scratched it out of life. She is a hero and a second mother to us.

    Q: Speaking of people, you two are together 24 hours a day, seven days a week. How do you maintain your friendship?

    A: What we are doing is all-encompassing. We’ve spent six days apart in the last two years. We always treat each other with respect and communicate openly; we don’t have time to not say exactly what we are thinking, and this nips most potential arguments in the bud. We also just really like each other... We’re best friends and it’s comforting to not have to go through all this alone.



    our wild abandon


    Q: Can you tell us the story of your lowest low that you've been through together?



    A: Our engine seizing because of a shoddy mechanic and having to live in a junkyard in Utah. It was pretty early on — it felt like everything was moving against us. We didn’t feel ready to give up, but damn, we were close. We had put everything into this, and with no car and very little money, we didn't see an easy way out of it.

    Maybe it was pride, or a fear of failure, or not wanting to have that horrible conversation with our parents, I don’t know. But we stayed. That was a turning point for us.

    Q: On the flip side, what about your biggest travel high?

    A: Chasing lightning in Utah. This storm rolled in quickly and violently — it was like all of a sudden we were a metal plate in a microwave. Flashes were coming down too fast to count, and the thunder was shaking the car. We had to pull over and just watch for a while, even though that was probably the worst thing we could do.

    We ended up running through this field and you could feel the electricity in the air; hair standing up on end, huge flashes of blinding light in your path, and the ground shaking at your feet.


    our wild abandon






    Q: Those moments are such rich experiences, but social media can feel a little fabricated. How have you managed to stay authentic while sharing your adventures on Instagram?

    A: Originally we created our Instagram account so we would have a single channel to funnel our photos through for safekeeping, and to share with our friends and families. I think in sticking with that original intention kept it honest and close to our hearts. When you start wondering, ‘What do my followers want? What gets the most likes?’ you lose what you brought to the table in the first place: your own voice.

    Q: Can you explain the concept of all your photo stories?

    A: Our personal work is a combination of idiosyncratic self-portraits, vignettes of escapism, and surreal landscapes that communicate the feeling of fleeting youth, exploration, and a content displacement. Because the majority of our work features portraits of one or both of us, our likenesses and the story of our journey and friendship are integral to the narrative of the images. Those images tell the story of a state of constant motion, travel and discovery.

    Q: And, finally: You're leaving on your next trip in five minutes. What five things do you grab between the two of you?

    A: Cameras [Canon 5D Mark 3s], road atlas, sunflower seeds, an iPod, and two big coffees. Chances are we’ll be driving all night.



    our wild abandon





    Our Wild Abandon have travelled Europe, Central America, the Caribbean, 11 U.S. states, and much of the Pacific West Coast. Follow their work online:




    Interested in being HuffPost B.C.'s Photographer of the Month? Email us and we can chat!




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    Travel can be stressful at any given time of the year, but travelling over a holiday can be particularly nerve-wracking. If you're going away this Thanksgiving, Cheapflights.ca is here to make the process easier. Here are nine dos and don'ts to consider before you pack your bags.

    Do allow for extra time

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    Image: Leticia Chamorro, Time via Flickr CC BY 2.0

    Let's face it, holidays are busy times for travel, and Thanksgiving is no exception. No matter where you're going or what your method of travel is going to be, make sure to give yourself more time than you think you'll need to accommodate for everything from potential delays and heavy traffic, to any number of other little things that can go wrong when you have somewhere to be.

    Don't overpack

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    Image: Austin Kirk, 11/52 Weeks of Baxter - I'm Going With You via Flickr CC BY 2.0

    Whether you're travelling this Thanksgiving for a turkey-free beach vacation in Cancun or to see family and friends, do your best not to over pack. The majority of airlines charge for checked baggage and at an average of $20 to $25 per bag that adds up, especially if you're travelling as a family. Not to mention, if you don't check bags you don't have to deal with waiting at baggage claim, which means you'll be able to leave the airport faster.

    Do adjust your attitude

    2015-10-09-1444405254-9080614-3attitude.jpg
    Image: Jelene Morris, Keep calm and carry on via Flickr CC BY 2.0

    As we've mentioned, travelling over Thanksgiving is hectic, which can lead to all kinds of stress and mishaps. Do your best to keep your cool when dealing with any setbacks or frustrating situations. Freaking out never solves anything and usually makes any undesirable situation worse. Smile, take a few deep breaths, work on finding humour in every situation and remember that everyone is trying to get somewhere for Thanksgiving.

    Don't forget to check your airline's policies

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    Image: Grant Wickes, American Airlines DFW Check In via Flickr CC BY 2.0

    Start your Thanksgiving vacation off on the right foot by making sure you aren't faced with any surprises. Before you even start packing, do some research so you know your airline's policies. How early do you need to check in? What's the cut-off time for checking in? What happens if you miss your flight? How much baggage are you allowed and what extra costs should you be prepared for? The more information you can arm yourself with, the easier your travel experience will be.

    Do bring entertainment and charge your devices

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    Image: Incase, Portable Power via Flickr CC BY 2.0

    Arriving at your destination is exciting, but getting there can often feel tedious so make sure you have a few things to occupy your time. Books, Sudoku, crosswords and of course, music and movies can alleviate boredom, especially if travel delays crop up. It's a good idea to have a mix of electronic and non-electronic distractions in case you can't use your gadgets or they lose power. Speaking of those gadgets, make sure you charge them all the night before you leave. There's nothing worse than looking forward to listening to music or playing a few games and realizing your iPad is about to die, or having to tell your kids they can't watch a show because the laptop has no power.

    Don't forget to pack snacks

    2015-10-09-1444405380-4072367-6snacks.jpg
    Image: Abd allah Foteih, Close Up of Woman Eating Almonds via Flickr CC BY-SA 2.0

    We've all eaten airport food and while it is steadily improving in many cities, it's still expensive for what you're getting. And depending on where you are, pickings can still be pretty slim. Avoid being disappointed by a $7 stale muffin by packing your own simple snacks like granola bars, packages of dried fruit and trail mix, and other items that are sealed and easy to pack.

    Do prepare for crowds

    The airport over Thanksgiving weekend can often be a zoo. Long lines to check in, check bags and going through security can be a nightmare, especially if you cut things close time-wise. If you're flying internationally, it's especially important to get to the airport earlier than you normally would if you were travelling on a non-holiday days to anticpate for the crowds. Crowded airports often mean full flights, too, so be sure to considerate of your flight neighbours.

    Don't travel on the busiest days

    2015-10-09-1444405499-2080455-8busiestdays.jpg
    Image: Mark Hodson Photos, Delay at Larnaca Airport via Flickr CC BY 2.0

    Whether you're taking to the road or the skies, the busiest Thanksgiving travel days are going to be the Friday before and the Tuesday after the holiday Monday. If you can swing it, try to travel outside of those dates. You'll deal with less travel stress and maybe even save a few dollars on flights, bus or train ticket, car rentals and even hotels.

    Do consider alternate locations

    2015-10-09-1444405459-7759809-9alternatelocations.jpg
    Image: epSos .de, Airplane Flight Wing via Flickr CC BY 2.0

    The Thanksgiving long weekend is a very popular time to go on vacation. In order to save money and avoid crowds, you might want to consider skipping the more popular destinations and opting for an alternate. Some alternatives to consider include swapping Miami or Orlando for St. Augustine, which is full of charm, history and quaint shops, as well as offering almost 70 kilometres of beach. Instead of the Big Apple, consider laid back Austin, Texas or opt for Quebec City for some European flavour. Rather than Los Angeles, head to Palm Springs for great food, hiking and mid-century modern architecture.

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    There are lots of different terms for Adventure Tourism. A well-needed study done investigates baby boomers and adventure tourism. People born between 1946 and 1964 are considered the Baby Boomers and they apparently represent the largest participating age category in adventure travel. The study of 384 persons revealed that they are least attracted to high-risk adventure experiences, which constitutes 'hard' adventure, such as mountaineering, parasailing, whitewater kayaking, or extreme snowboarding. These travellers like their adventure 'soft'. They want to hike, canoe, ride horses, and camp. The biggest 'pull factor' is a beautiful natural environment.

    The study concludes that adventure travellers within this predominant group are motivated firstly by a desire to have fun and relax from stress; secondly they want to escape the daily routine and experience something new, with new sensations...

    This visitor profile may to some extent explain why we are witnessing the growth of 'Slow Adventure' Tourism. What is a slow adventure? Do adventures have to be fast to be fun? Where do you find one?

    Generally slow adventures are offered in remote or fragile environments, like mountains. There is an ecological aspect to it, to preserve and conserve the beauty of the environment. This links to Baby Boomers' reported need for beautiful and unspoilt.

    Think 'rough luxury', rather than paved roads and services everywhere. The luxury arises from intimacy with nature, an experience few urban people have, in a remote and extremely beautiful environment. Taking inspiration from Slow Food, this kind of tourism is about a high quality, personalized, handmade experience. You leave the world of mass production, pollution and stress far behind, and the first thing you do is slow down... Then you might go trekking for several days on mules in the mountains, following ancient paths without roads or other people.

    There is a personal development aspect to slow adventure too, where the Baby Boomers' need for 'new sensations' may be fulfilled. The University of the Highlands and Islands in Scotland is working on an inspiring initiative supported by the E.U. to study and promote slow adventures in seven northern countries: Slow Adventures In Northern Territories. See the film on their website to learn about Slow Adventures.

    Professor Peter Varley, at UHI Scotland, the lead partner in this E.U. project, explained what it is like:

    "Slow adventures allow participants to experience life outdoors - some talk about feeling like it is how life used to be, and how the simple things are so rewarding in these situations -- the satisfaction of sleeping under canvas and hearing waves on a beach or the stags roaring in the night -- these elemental feelings cut through the frenetic messiness of the urban everyday, and settle folk, momentarily, in the simplicity of nature."


    In the mountains of Central Italy I spoke with Roberto Canali who runs a mule trekking slow-adventure business. He also has some llamas because their wider hooves are better suited to trekking in deep mountain snow. Roberto takes many visitors with children mule trekking and recently did a four-day mountain trek with one adult and three children aged, five, eight and nine. This party said:

    "We ascended about 1,500 meters with joy and with no haste; sometimes we were tired but never stressed. We had the feeling of not being alone in this wild and unknown territory because of our three mules; Daphne, Linda and Pinocchio. They were our companions in adventure, they gave us a feeling of security and transmitted a sensation of patience and peace."


    Slow adventures still have to evolve further, hopefully following the Slow Food movement whereby food is a vehicle for social change and a process of learning.

    For instance, will the day ever dawn when the Anglo-Saxon prejudice of expecting to speak English everywhere is challenged? To have a genuine experience of an environment or distinctive culture means at least having 'taster' language sessions to inspire slow adventurers to learn the language at home and return. Until then slow adventurers can only participate in relatively commercial experiences with trained interpreters and business operators.

    But as the Italians say: 'Piano, piano....'

    Slowly, slowly, that may change...

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    As the Canadian dollar continues to fall in comparison the U.S. dollar, Canadians will look for ways to save on winter travel.

    One of our new partner sites DiscountMyFlights.ca has recently launched a tool to help Canadians find exciting, new travel locations for less money. The tool offers Canadians useful estimates for the total cost of a vacation to 119 different countries around the world. These estimates include all the important factors that go into planning a vacation: flights, hotels, meals, transportation, activities and shopping. These estimates are based on the number of adults, the number of children and the total number of days of the trip being planned.

    According to the calculations and data that was generated, Canada ranks 69 in terms of cheapest destination for couples to vacation for two weeks. The estimated cost for this Canadian vacation was over $3,000 more expensive than the cheapest country, Vietnam, assuming of course that a flight would be required.

    It's a pretty known fact that many Canadians have not traveled very much within Canada. They are quick to hop on a plane to a nearby Caribbean island, but there are many amazing destinations that are so close to us that are rarely considered, often due to flight prices being so high.

    It's no surprise that Mexico comes in as the cheapest destination for a seven-day trip for a couple. Mexico is one of the top traveled places by Canadians.

    The tool is also customizable to cater to each person's individual preferences of how they like to spend their vacation. People can select beach, history, nature, culture and food so that the tool can update based on what is most important.

    For example, if a family of two adults, two children were traveling for 14 days and they wanted to enjoy the beach, culture and food, the top three recommended locations would be Vietnam, Ukraine and Nepal -- all places I'm sure would not be top-of-mind for a Canadian family of four.

    You might be wondering how this tool was created and where the data comes from. The team over at DiscountMyFlights pulled a large amount of flight price data to determine the cost of flights between Canada and each country listed in the index. The data for the other categories like activities, food and hotels that data was pulled from Numbeo, the world's largest cost of living database to determine the average cost across each country using multiple cities in each country.

    Keep in mind that the prices displayed in the tool are average prices and not bookable vacations packages. These prices can change and fluctuate dramatically based on availability and market prices. The purpose of this tool is to get Canadians a rough idea as to what they can expect to pay.

    The tool is free to use by all Canadians and will be updated annually to account for changes in currency, flight prices and other fluctuations.

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    I have been mildly amused by all the recent blog pieces and articles extolling the virtues of travelling alone. I took my first solo trip in 1992, when I was 21. As a gift for graduating from university, my parents gave me a Via Rail pass. The pass was good for travelling anywhere in Canada, as much as you wanted, within a one-month period. For three weeks, I chugged around Central and Eastern Canada, marvelling over the CN Tower and Green Gables alike. It was sort of the equivalent of backpacking through Europe, I guess, as I stayed in hostels, cooked my own food and walked long distances because I didn't have money for taxis.

    2015-10-13-1444711114-9650425-ViaPass.jpg



    I have lots of amazing memories from that trip, but it was also an excellent real-time lesson on how to stay safe while travelling alone. My parents were classic "disability parents" -- overprotective and highly anxious about my ability to fend for myself. This wasn't all bad, as it instilled a cautiousness in me that has served me well. Whether I'm travelling or walking around my hometown, I am conscious of my surroundings, particularly after dark. I keep my head (and eyes) up, and I never count my money in public.

    While a common-sense approach to personal safety always needs to be practiced, technology -- and the safety features it brings with it -- has changed big time since my first solo trip.

    I first noticed the change when I went to New York City in 2004. My parents insisted that I check in regularly when I travelled. While I had been using email since about 1995, my parents were Luddites of sorts (i.e., they no idea how to turn a computer on). My sister was more adept and promised to visit my parents at a pre-arranged time -- the same time I would stand in front of a live-feed camera in Times Square waving wildly, so that everyone actually could see that I was alive and well.


    2015-10-13-1444711228-9747129-231150_5249005801_3634_n.jpg

    My dad always warned me not to talk to any strange men when I travelled solo.
    But what he didn't know, didn't hurt him.



    My parents passed away about 10 years ago, but I think they would be amazed at how easy it is to keep tabs on me when I'm away now. Facebook updates, live tweets, Instagram selfies, Skype, other video chat platforms and plain old texting are just some of the ways travelers can check in with loved ones -- and checking in is some of the best safety advice out there.

    How else can technology keep you safe when you travel solo?

    1. Before you leave, take photos or scans of important documents (such as driver's license, passport and prescriptions) and store them in the cloud.

    2. Use a travel app like TripIt or TripCase to store all your various accommodation and travel information in one easy-to-access place, including your itinerary, flight/train tickets, hotel confirmations and rental car reservations.

    3. Pulling out a paper map (seriously, though, does anyone do that anymore?) or a guidebook can mark you as a tourist. A mapping app is a safer way to find your way around. To avoid roaming charges and draining your battery, download maps from a site such as stay.com instead of relying on a real-time app like Google Maps. If you are moving between destinations, you can delete one map before downloading the next one, to save space.

    4. Rating sites like TripAdvisor, Yelp, and FourSquare can help you choose safe accommodations and friendly restaurants while also helping you avoid sketchy areas.

    5. One common piece of common-sense travel advice is to keep your cash and credit cards separate. That way, if your wallet is lost or stolen, you still have some form of currency to fall back on. I would suggest also stashing a few reloadable restaurant gift cards in your suitcase for emergencies. If you can load an app with some prepaid funds (such as at Starbucks), that can provide extra help in an emergency.

    6. Point number five above comes with a special caveat: never perform financial transactions (such as loading an app or gift card, or accessing your bank account) over public wifi unless you are using a VPN.

    7. Personal safety apps offer all kinds of nifty features, including automated check-ins, alerts to friends/family, audible alarms and GPS tracking.

    8. While personal safety apps such as bSafe can set up fake phone calls to get you out of sticky situations, even a non-functioning phone can be a safety device. No one can tell that there is no one on the line with you as you hold up your phone and say something like, "Yup, I'm almost at the restaurant where I'm meeting Steve and Bob. And then we'll all walk over to your place together."

    9. TravelSafe and TravelSafe Pro are highly touted apps that automatically detect your location to bring up the phone numbers for various local emergency services.

    10. The nice thing about cloud and web storage is that if you lose your phone, you can still access all your information. But what happens if you do lose your phone, and all the nifty apps you've installed on it? Make sure you have an app like Find My iPhone or Android Device Manager.



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    Truly, travelling solo is my preferred way to go. I don't have to adjust myself to anyone else's sleep/wake schedule; I can eat wherever I want, whatever I want; I can go to any sites or shops I choose without worrying my companion might be bored; and I can make deeper connections with the locals. Travelling solo can be a lot of fun, and with technology's help, it's never been safer to do so.

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    Often referred to as the "Venice of Belgium," the city of Bruges is a charming, antique sort of town that has preserved its medieval charm of centuries past. Ever since the release of the black comedy motion picture In Bruges, tourists have been flocking to the Belgian city, and they never regretted that traveling decision.

    Dominated by churches and museums, Bruges is a quiet little city that as a lot to offer. Everything from some peace and quiet to delightful and comfortable inns, it's a great city. With fewer than 200,000 residents, Bruges is slowly becoming the place to visit and perhaps relocate to in Europe.

    If you're planning to go to Europe, and Venice isn't necessarily in your travel itinerary, then perhaps take a gander at Bruges. You'll be pleasantly surprised by just how divine the city is.

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    Here are eight reasons why you should be "In Bruges" during your next vacation:

    1. A Preserved Medieval City

    If you're a history buff, particularly medieval history, then you have to visit Bruges. In all of Europe, Bruges is definitely the most well preserved medieval city. It's as if you've taken a time machine back to a whole other world.

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    2. The Belfry (Enough Said)


    The Belfry plays an important part in the film "In Bruges." By climbing 366 steps, you get to see a gorgeous panoramic view of the city. It also comes with an immaculate clock mechanism and a carillon with 47 bells.

    3. Bruges's Food and Drinks

    A small, quaint town can't be without its delectable food and beverages. If you're looking for a good meal when you're in Bruges then you must visit Vlissinghe, the oldest bar in town that dates back to the 16th century. If you're in the mood for great beer then you have to try its award-winning Brugse Zot.

    4. Artistic Taste at the Groeninge museum

    Not everyone goes for modern art. If you fall into that camp then you should certainly visit the Groeninge museum, an art museum that maintains a world famous collection of Flemish Primitives. It contains masterpieces by such artists as Jan Van Eyck, Hugo van der Goes, Hans Memling and Gerard David.

    5. Take a Walk on 'The Chocolate Walk'


    While you're in Bruges, indulge your sweet tooth. The city has a lot of chocolate shops, and there is even a "Chocolate Walk." This is a chocolate trail that goes past all of the finest chocolate shops in the city.

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    6. The Church of Our Lady

    To see the tallest structure in Bruges will leave you breathless. The Church of Our Lady is the second-tallest brickwork building in the world. It dates back to around the year 1504.

    7. The Lake of Love

    Bring your partner (or find one) and fall in love at the Lake of Love, also known as Minnewater in Dutch. It's considered the most romantic part of Bruges as it's the former harbor of Bruges that has been turned into a peaceful and romantic locale in the city.

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    8. Rooftops of Bruges

    When you think of a city to visit on your vacation, rooftops aren't necessarily the main selling point. However, the rooftops of Bruges are just incredible, and are certainly compelling to someone interested in architecture or just beauty.

    Final Thoughts

    Forget the hustle and bustle of New York City. Avoid the large crowds in Paris. Postpone your visit to Niagara Falls. Bruges is the place to be. Despite the increased number of visits to Bruges because of the picture, it still hasn't become the cliche city to visit, unlike the aforementioned. Sure, Bruges isn't the largest city in the world, but its uniqueness and charm make up for it.

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    Whether it's against an icy mountain backdrop or among long calm provincial waters, fall in Canada is a beautiful thing.

    And if you're lucky enough to embrace autumn at a national, provincial or local park, you will agree this time of the year is the best time to be one with nature. From beautiful trees to rocky cliffs to even some animals out and about, here are some gorgeous pictures of fall captured by talented users of Instagram.

    What's your favourite fall foliage spot? Let us know in the comments below.

    La Mauricie National Park







    Banff National Park







    Bruce Peninsula National Park







    Cape Breton Highlands National Park



    #cabottrail #fall #explorecanada #Canada #IGS_CAN #IG_GREAT_SHOTS_CANADA #Capebreton #novascotia

    A photo posted by StrangerAbroad (@strangerabroad) on





    Elk Island National Park







    Forillon National Park







    Georgian Bay Islands National Park







    Grasslands National Park



    Sunset on the prairies. North Gillespie Route, Grasslands National Park Photo cred: me. Spot cred: @marts.360

    A photo posted by Lee Sutter (@leesutter) on





    Gros Morne National Park



    A photo posted by Adam Carboni (@adamcarboni) on





    Jasper National Park



    A photo posted by Pierre (@7pierre4) on





    Kejimkujik National Park







    Bakers Narrows Provincial Park



    Fall up north is so pretty, six days til I'm home #northernmanitoba #bakersnarrows

    A photo posted by Jenna Klause (@jennaklause) on





    Duck Mountain Provincial Park







    Whiteshell Provincial Park







    Buffalo Pound Provincial Park



    Yeah...Saskatchewan is alright by me!

    A photo posted by Jon Durham (@donofjurham) on





    Kluane National Park and Reserve







    Kootenay National Park



    A photo posted by fabiana (@faabialva) on





    Mount Revelstoke National Park



    I'm always amazed by these remote places and the stories they must hold.

    A photo posted by Stevin Tuchiwsky (@stevint) on





    Point Pelee National Park



    A photo posted by @thomas.p.o on





    Prince Edward Island National Park



    Throwback Thursday

    A photo posted by Chantal Doyon Reichhart (@chantalreichhar) on





    Riding Mountain National Park



    "I'm so glad I live in a world where there are Octobers"

    A photo posted by Tess Oliveira (@tess_mustardolives) on





    Terra Nova National Park







    Yoho National Park



    Colours in Yoho National Park

    A photo posted by Megan McLellan (@littlebrownfox) on





    Myra Canyon Adventure Park



    A little behind the scenes action. Crouching like Gollum to get that lighting right.

    A photo posted by Taylor Thomas (@timmehthomas) on





    Spencer Gorge/Webster's Falls Conservation Area







    Killarney Provincial Park







    Wilket Creek Park



    strolls through the leaves

    A photo posted by @adventureontario on





    Algonquin Provincial Park







    Waterton Lakes National Park



    Nice #view for #lunch #fall #colors #autumn #waterton #lakes #national #park #tourcanada #parkscanada #theoutbound

    A photo posted by TheDavidBugden (@thedavidbugden) on





    Scarborough Bluffs



    Stunning bluffs #nature #toronto #cliff #fall #autumn #ontario #canada #lake #landscape #colorful

    A photo posted by Nicolas Brenot (@nicolas.brenot) on





    Blow me Down Provincial Park




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    Most people equate Paris with France, but the reality is that France has much more to offer than just Paris.

    France is a vibrant country, rich in culture and heritage. Whether it's beaches, countryside, nightlife, wineries, or cuisine, you can find all of it and much more across the country. If you want a metropolitan feel, you can find it in France. If you yearn to hide away from the hustle bustle of city life and just escape, France is also your answer.

    Here's a glimpse of some of the many beautiful attractions in France that have nothing to do with Paris.

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    1. Nimes

    Nimes is a charming old town and has one of the most beautiful Roman monuments found in France. These include a first-century amphitheater, a fifth-century temple and a first-century Roman aqueduct considered to be both a technical and artistic masterpiece.

    2. Annecy

    Annecy is considered to the Venice of France. It is a medieval town criss-crossed by canals and streams that run out to Lake Annecy. The lake is perfect for swimming and is known to be one of the purest lakes in the world. The town is also characterized by pastel-coloured buildings and will give you a glimpse of 17th-century architecture.

    3. Grenoble

    For those who love the outdoors, Grenoble is the place to visit. With three mountain ranges right on its doorstep, this city is sure to provide travelers with beautiful and stunning mountain views. You will also get a good dose of parks and medieval buildings in this city.

    2015-10-15-1444930406-7700606-10500474_6ee02210dc_z.jpg

    4. Lourdes

    For those who like nice and small places to visit, the little market town of Lourdes is an ideal location. Here you will find the Catholic shrine of Our Lady of Lourdes, considered to be an important holy site. Other religious monuments in this quiet town include the Rosary Basilica. For photographers, the region of Hautes-Pyrénées is another attraction. It links the town of Lourdes with the summit of Pic du Jer.

    5. Nice

    Nice, traditionally known as a city for the rich and fabulous, has much to offer to any normal traveler. Not only does this beautiful locate offer perfect weather all year round, but you will also be mesmerized with its scenic beaches, vibrant nightlife, charming buildings and delicious food.

    2015-10-15-1444930434-1293110-4841759965_fa8531353f_z.jpg

    6. Cannes

    How can anybody forget Cannes? Everybody knows it because of the Cannes film festival, but Cannes has much much more to offer. If you want to get a glimpse of a life of couture, luxury, yachts and beaches, you must visit the city.

    7. Marseilles

    Marseilles is another city with a rich history. It is considered to be the European capital of culture and is a must-see for art and history buffs as well as those who love art and architecture. The city also offers excellent cuisine for food lovers.

    2015-10-15-1444930499-4735805-4981133300_930081bafe_z.jpg

    8. Champagne

    Champagne, the home of France's sparking wines and champagnes. This region offers several beautiful towns that should not be missed when visiting France. These include Épernay, Reims and Troyes. If you like wineries and wine tasting -- not to mention lush green fields -- Champagne is the place to be.

    9. Normandy

    Normandy, located on the northern coast of France, has much to offer. From its beaches, to its Gothic churches, to the Channel Islands, Normandy is distinct because it meets the waters of the English Channel. This is definitely one place you should not miss.

    2015-10-15-1444930539-4779765-34116276_5b8b9adf33_z.jpg

    10. Dijon

    If you're looking for a place to escape to, Dijon is your answer. This quaint little city offers many cultural sites including churches and museums. Burgundy region will provide you access to the best wineries and then there is the shopping and the dining.

    Final Thoughts

    No one will argue the fact that Paris is one of, if not the, most beautiful cities in the world. Romance, beauty and history are some of the reasons why everyone loves Paris. But if you want to go somewhere else in France then these 10 cities are worth taking a visit to.

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    With a loud screech we lurched forward. Trunks loaded, encumbrances stowed, we were ready for our journey to begin. Admittedly, it truly began earlier that morning when we arrived at Toronto's Union Station. My eldest son, Atticus, actually gasped at the sight of the massive domed windows that spilled morning sunshine into the arrivals hall where we all stood in awe of the Beaux-Art architecture. Fittingly, as this story is concerned, the station was built by a Montreal architecture firm in the 1920s.

    As I whisked the boys past the hundreds of passengers on their way to work, I could hear whispers of the past echoing through the storied halls. It also made me nostalgic for a time in history I never had the opportunity to experience. A time before air travel was the norm. I still love to hear my mother's stories of her odysseys as a child riding the railway from East to West to visit family in California. The romance of the dining cars and sleeping berths still fills my mind with a healthy dose of wanderlust and wonder.

    Because both of my siblings reside in Montreal and because my husband was headed there for a week of meetings, I decided to take our littles on an odyssey of our own, one they will recall with fondness one day (I hope). Our plan was simple: to ride the rails east from Toronto's Union Station to Montreal and spend several days exploring the historical streets of Old Montreal and the city's beautiful parks (taking time to sample the French delicacies at the many bakeries and cafes along the way).


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    Seated comfortably in first class (or as much comfort as one can achieve with an energetic almost-one-year-old bouncing in my lap) I looked at the expressions on the faces of my little boys. Their eagerness was contagious. Just then, the tea trolley came clanging down the aisle and we were offered beverages -- with a little caffeine in my system, I too was getting in the mood. The next couple hours passed pleasantly (a few spills, walking 50 laps of our train car, multiple curious visits to the train restrooms, soiled clothing, a lost soother and many snacks consumed).

    Although there was no dining car, with the baby asleep lunch could not have been served at a more impeccable time. Much better than airline food, it also doubled as a fun activity for Atticus who was chuffed about his roast tenderloin and the little brownie for dessert.

    Several hours later we rolled into Montreal's main station. A kind porter assisted us with our effects and within minutes we were comfortably seated in a taxi on our way to the Ritz.

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    The grand chandeliers, polished brass and well-dressed doormen evoked visions of the hotel's heyday, while still hitting all the modern day luxury cues. As the first Ritz-Carlton property in Canada opening its doors on December 31, 1912, the hotel has hosted many luminaries, politicians, screen stars and starlets (both present day as well as throughout history).

    We were treated to their signature family welcome. A treasure hunt -- such old-timey fun! A game that lead Atticus up to our room to uncover several clues all hidden throughout our quarters (which were anything but old-fashioned) and ending in a treasure trove of colouring books, crayons and even a baby toy for Archer. Of course they were suitably impressed. A bowl of fruit and glasses of milk were sent up and after changing out of our traveling clothes, we were ready for our nostalgic Montreal adventure to unfold.

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    No better place to come face to face with Montreal's history than by exploring Old Montreal. Atticus enjoyed marching on the cobblestones, following the small roads, amidst the bright limestone and ancient brick buildings and discovering hidden courtyards behind the many stone doorways. Seeing the horse and buggies lead to conversations about a different time. Curious little eyes studied the arched entryways that would have originally lead to carriage houses and stables. They were appreciative little students who listened intently while Uncle Ben gave them some brief history lessons about the area and city as a whole.

    After a full day of travel and sightseeing, it was time to call it a night and we headed back to the Ritz for an enormous bubble bath and bedtime.

    Morning crept in far too soon (personally, I would have loved to lounge in the comfortable robes and heavenly beds), alas little appetites had to be curbed. Cafe Bulud breakfast was the perfect way to start our day. Atticus and Archer both did their best to attack the buffet from top to bottom. Fortunately the staff are both welcoming and helpful to visiting parents. I was able to enjoy my tea and eggs without fear of annoying other guests or patrons. After breakfast and before setting out, we fed the ducklings that live in the central courtyard and pretty pond.

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    An exciting new day awaited, as did the boys little cousins and my sister. We took our little horticulturists to Montreal's Botanical Gardens, a Montreal attraction dating back to the early 1930s, its lush and vast gardens were the perfect place for exploration. If the weather is inclement, adjust your itinerary for a visit to the neighbouring Biodôme.

    Had we had a bit more time, we would have ventured to Outrement to check out all the great parks off Rue Bernard and perhaps have grabbed lunch at one of the many child-friendly cafes. We definitely would have saved room for crème glacée at the original Le Bilboquet -- an institution in Montreal. But traveling with little ones is exhausting. Our time had passed too quickly and the journey home beckoned.

    Though I doubt visitors at the Ritz in the early 1900s would have had the unique pleasure of enjoying the Toto toilets now installed in all guest suites (bidet, seat warmer, dryer, hands-free open and close), I like to think that our Montreal tour wasn't too dissimilar to the Montreal they would have experienced. This time with my husband in tow, we wearily boarded the train back to Toronto. Both boys were asleep within minutes of our departure from the rhythmic hum of the train and we were happy to accept the offer of wine and pretzels as Montreal disappeared into the distance behind us.

    VIA Rail Business class tickets start at $109 per way between Toronto and Montreal

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