Sunday, 22 February 2015

Travel Tip of the Week - Best Bang for the Buck

We try to be as thrifty as possible when travelling whether it relates to transportation, accommodation or dining. Yet dealing a country's currency can be both a challenging and costly venture. On our recent trip to St. Lucia we contacted a local travel agency to determine the type of currency used. While it was recommended for us to use US currency rather than purchasing the local currency the cost of our trip soon began to rise.
With a substantial gap between the Canadian and US dollar we first lost money on the exchange rate. As we continued to purchase meals, groceries and items for the next ten days not only did the rate keep changing (for the worse) but we also found we were being charged more for items because we were paying in US dollars. By the end of the trip we became painfully aware that our trip, while still less expensive than a resort stay, had not been as inexpensive as we had predicted. Our advice is to speak with a local resident, whether it be the reservations desk at your resort / hotel, the host at your B&B or rental property or a tour guide and determine which currency will stretch your dollar the furthest.

Sunday, 15 February 2015

Travel Tip of the Week - Mobile Malfunction

While we live in a very mobile world, are able to work remotely and have become accustomed to having online access at our fingertips yet sometimes those devices are limiting and an actual laptop or PC is required. On our recent trip to the Caribbean I travelled with only an Itouch as my means of communicating with the world. This method worked fine for our last two trips to Europe but now that we have needing to upload images, blogs, articles or information for our business our technology needs have changed. While mobile devices are very space efficient and provide access to many travel friendly apps there were definitely some limitations with regard to uploading and publishing blogs, being able to see the full screen and all features in varous social media platforms and being able to upload information or images. I was constantly having my access to apps blocked by my email server or the system crashing trying to access or load certain sites. I have great love for my mobile devices as they truly take up so little space when travelling. Yet there is a time and a place for cutting back and working remotely is not one of them. So if you have mastered mobile travel I would love to hear your strategies but for now this gal is going back to lugging the ol' laptop with her.

Sunday, 8 February 2015

Travel Tip of the Week - Are You Street Smart?

Travel can be exhilarating as it provides you with new experiences, exposure to new cities and to new cultures. Yet, when in unfamiliar settings, it is possible to find yourself in the face of real or perceived danger. It is easy to get caught up in the excitement, the activity around you and you many not be as aware of your surroundings when there is so much to take in. Perhaps you have ventured too far off the beaten path into an area that is not ideal, found yourself in an environment or are around people that make you feel uncomfortable or, for some unknown reason, the hair or the back of your neck is standing up and your heart is racing.Your intuition is a strong compass when travelling and it is important to stay in tune to your internal radar, "spidey-sense", or gut instinct.
Whether you are travelling with another friend or as a couple it is good to have a predetermined secret word or phrase that you can use to your compassion that you feel it is time to leave. We have had to use this code on a few occasions when one of us felt uncomfortable or had the feeling that the situation was tenuous.
It is good to research possible dangers online before travelling if possible. The Virtual Tourist website has a category designated to WARNINGS and DANGERS and will actually identify street names to avoid. While it is not productive to fear the world it is important to arm yourself with knowledge and to venture to destinations that do not put yourself or those you care about in harm's way. So the next time you venture out have a code word handy, just in case, so that you can enjoy your travel experience to the fullest and return with good memories.

Monday, 2 February 2015

Travel Tip of the Week - If you can afford the fare, you can afford to share

Imagine that you live in a tropical place where sun-filled days, island music and ocean breezes are the norm. For some North Americans that would be a dream come true where frigid winters are but a distant memory. However, to live in this kind of paradise costs money and, despite the traveller's romantic notions, high levels of unemployment, poverty, low wages and long hours can be a very real part of the local landscape. As a result many islands view tourism as their main commodity contributing to their wealth, popularity, and sustainability.

When reading travel reviews I often hear people complain about the 'beggars' on the beach, in the town, or outside their resorts and how it was a nuisance on their holiday. I find it ironic that we are bombarded by corporate ads everyday through television and radio ads, newspaper flyers and electronic signs but when it becomes real,  where we are actually in an environment where a minimal contribution can make such a difference, we feel we are being violated. I am not talking about dealing with aggressive harassment but rather understanding that tourism is the only way that some of these vendors can make a living.

Tipping your tour guide and bus driver, when they have spent their entire day with you creating memories you will share with others for years, is always met with genuine appreciation. Observing someone demonstrating their craft provides great opportunities to purchase souvenirs in your vacation community rather than at the airport or in a big mall. Leaving personal care items in your room for housekeeping staff (a $30. trip to the dollar store can make a real difference) is a simple yet caring gesture . Tip everyone - the person who serves you coffee in the morning, the housekeeping staff, bartenders, servers and drivers as a few dollars can go a long way in some countries and is a great way to express your appreciation for the services provided. We were once told by another tourist "They are not serving me - they are giving me a service". That was a real eye opener for me not only on how tourists can be perceived by the locals but also the value that small tips can make for each person.

So my challenge to you is to really embrace your next vacation experience by looking for small ways  to contribute to that community, appreciating the employees that make you feel special on your vacation, and viewing the merchants as the spirited and often talented entrepreneurs that they really are.