All-Inclusive Month :: Matchmaking

all-inclusive matchmakingLast week, in the first installment of our all-inclusive month feature, we dispelled some stereotypes, namely that all packaged-vacation resorts are the same. This week, our rhetoric turns into action suggesting different all-inclusives based on popular vacation preferences. Find the right fit and you'll have the week of your life, find the wrong fit and you'll wish you were at the Copa, Copa Cabana, the hottest spot north of Havana... But first, some all-inclusive rules of engagement...

Rules of Engagement Here are some rules of engagement as you plan an all-inclusive vacay:

  • Do you want to be completely cashless or dole out daily tips? Some resorts you aren't allowed to tip, others it's generally expected.
  • Is premium vs well liquor important to you?
  • Are multiple à la carte {vs buffet} restaurants important to you?
  • Do you want exciting kids programs?
  • Are you a scenester? Some resorts have more of a scene than others.
  • Do you want motorized sports or is a water trike more your style?
  • Don't forget about bugs {sand fleas, mosquitoes and noseeums}. Not a big deal, just something to be aware of in a tropical climate. Bug spray is always an asset.

Matchmaking [trip style =  if you like pina coladas, and getting caught in the rain...] If you want to bake in the sun, drink for a week and party like it's 1999---and don't really care where---something in Veradero or Mazatlan will probably return the lowest price and bang for your buck. All-Inclusive Budget Suggestions: - Do a search for "vacations" on itravel2000.com, entering your departure point, destination {all of south}, dates and star level. Don't forget to click advanced search in order to select "all-inclusive" + "beachfront." You'll be floored at how many reasonably-priced options are available. - To ensure you're getting the cheapest price, 'google' the resort to see if other travel suppliers are offering it for less.

[trip style =  modern family] You want to have fun and you want your kids/teens to have fun---without breaking the bank. Is it possible to combine all these features? Yes, if you avoid high season at resorts like Beaches Turks and Caicos. It has it all: 16 restaurants, a surf simulator, a lazy river, kids and teen programs, zero entry pool, spa, swim-up bars {for both kiddies and adults}, etc... All-Inclusive Family Suggestions: *Beaches, Turks and Caicos *Breezes, Curacao *Franklin D Resort, Jamaica {vacation nanny included}

[trip style =  splurge/save] If you splurge on shoes, handbags and jeans, paired with the occasional outlet-find top, you'll likely enjoy a high/low resort complete with a few fabulous features, yet manageable price tag. It's kinda like shopping at Off Saks... All-Inclusive High/Low Suggestions: *Riu, Los Cabos *Breezes Grand, Negril *Club Med, Florida *Barcelo Bavaro Palace Deluxe, Punta Cana

[trip style =  posh spice] If you're into exclusive getaways, I'd suggest a private island-style, rustic-luxe all-inclusive like the first option below. Beyonce's been known to jet-set to Half Moon as well... All-Inclusive Exclusive Suggestions: *Fowl Cay Resort, Bahamas *Royal Plantation, Jamaica *Half Moon, Jamaica {ask for all-inclusive plan}

[trip style = a-list] If you make a habit of staying at Rosewoods, Ritz' and Four Seasons, and sipping mint-infused mineral water under spritzers in a spot at the pool where everyone can see you, then these resorts might peak your interest. Note the below properties are not small, so if you're looking for a posh hideaway, see above. All-Inclusive A-List Suggestions: *Grand Velas, Riviera Maya *Excellence, Punta Cana *Secrets, Riviera Cancun *Royal Hideaway, Playa Del Carmen

All-Inclusive Month :: Coming Up Friday, Feb 18th – All-Inclusive vs Non-Packaged Vacation Monday, Feb 21st – From the Archives :: All-Inclusive Tricks of the Trade Friday, Feb 25th – Fashion Friday :: Rockin’ the All-Inclusive

[photo by @tripstyler, taken at Sandals Whitehouse in Jamaica]

Spotlight :: Portland

portland spotlight

[trip style = urban]

Following last Friday's ode to the Ace Hotel Portland, I wanted to unearth more of Portland's mysteries beyond its no sales tax fame.

No Comparison

Portland is in a category of its own. Sure, I could compare it to other places, but that wouldn't do the river-side city justice. Just like the colourful tattoos adorning the extremities of almost every 20- or 30-something I came across, the city's arty urbanism is displayed on every street corner. Beyond Portland's gritty-fabulous facade, a few things stood out: Indie - it seemed like the epicenter of everything and anything independent, from music to movies; Vintage - although there's been a lot of new development, the city has maintained a vintage feel in its art deco-inspired architecture and thoughtful preservation of old buildings; Authentic - from people's attitudes, to restaurant food, to decor, there wasn't a hint of fake.

Smell the Roses

Aside from the overwhelming friendliness of people in Phoenix and Scottsdale {maybe it's the desert sun?}, Portlandites are among the most humble, understated and sincere people I've met in any US city. This quiet, friendly confidence is even more impressive given the climate is similar to Vancouver's on-again, off-again weather. Given Portland's affectionately known as the City of Roses, maybe stopping to smell the roses has something to do with the culture of nice?


Walking everywhere wasn't just reserved for tourists. Each day and night we walked from city centre to river-front, cafe to restaurant and shop to shop. Other than one Container Store-induced jaunt into the 'burbs {by car}, we were able to pound the pavement in any direction we pleased. On a busy US Thanksgiving weekend, surprisingly, the city centre didn't show a hint of excessive traffic. Portland's transportation norms embrace walking and riding the street car.

Bacon Maple Doughnuts & Other Delicacies

I should have guessed Portland's foodie scene would be incredible based on its well known street food scene. Although I'm sad to say I didn't taste any of the street carts' delicacies, I was blown away by the bacon-maple doughnuts, bistros, coffee shops and restaurants. Aside from one hurried and greasy meal at a popular restaurant which shall remain nameless, every spread was sumptuous and each restaurant's atmosphere was the perfect compliment to the food.

portland dining pics



Dinner :: Gruner, Irving Street Kitchen, Clyde Common

Brunch :: Tasty n Sons

Coffee/Doughnuts :: Stumptown, Voodoo Doughnuts


Bookworms :: Don't miss the massive Powell's Books.

Other :: Walk along the Willamette river, visit the Saturday Market, catch an indie flick at the Living Room Theatres

Get There

Car :: six hours from Vancouver, 3 hours from Seattle

Train :: 8 hours from Vancouver, 4.5 from Seattle via Amtrak Cascades {now with wifi}

[photos by @tripstyler & @nate_fri]

Travel Trends :: Yurts & Canvas Tents

travel trends yurts[trip style = camping + glamping]

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Ever considered forgoing a hotel stay to indulge in the understated comfort of a yurt, tee pee or canvas tent? Alternative lodging is making a comeback, not only evidenced by the ultra-hip Ace Hotel Palm Springs using yurts for some of their spa treatments, but according to Oregon State Parks, yurts are "a quickly-growing national phenomenon." Not sure if it's because the recession caused people to think twice about how much they spend on travel, or if it allows people to get away from it all with a little more comfort than nylon tenting; either way, alternative camping-like lodging is where it's at.

Low-End yurt in oregonPampering yourself in a permanent-esque shelter at provincial, state or private campgrounds provides a happy medium between fumbling with tent poles and staying in a hotel. What's great about this type of accommodation is you can partake year-round: most yurts---even those at campgrounds---have heating. Two years ago my husband and I had our first yurt experience in mid-November when we went surfing with friends in Oregon. At first I was scared that the cold weather and chilly waters of the Pacific would never allow my body temperature to reach normalcy, but within minutes of getting back to our yurt, we were warm and toasty thanks to its heating system. > Renting yurts and canvas tents at campgrounds ranges from $35 in low season to $89 in high season.

High-End high-end campingDon't be fooled, luxe camping isn't always cheaper. Some hotels offer this type of accommodation at a premium for people who want an authentic rustic experience in the wild, like at the Clayoquot Wilderness Resort, which is glamping at its best. Speaking of glamping, at this time last year I was about to fly to Africa to stay in a luxury canvas tent at the Fairmont Masai Mara (see my hotel review here). My experience there was the most glamorous camping I've ever encountered: a gorgeous off-white canvas tent avec mesh windows and an attached front deck overlooking the hippos in the Mara river. Our tent sat on a concrete platform covered with browny/copper-toned rustic tiles, accompanied by a cozy 4-post bed, brown leather directors chairs, shower, bathroom and area to get ready.  Heaven. > Prices for high-end camping vary; however, luxe camping can be much more expensive than staying in a hotel.

Resources If you don't want to go as far as Africa to glamp, here are a few local options: - Whistler, BC ~ yurts + cabins at Riverside campground - Interior, BC ~ canvas tents at Kumsheen's campground - BC Parks' Yurts ~ Mostly in BC's Interior - Oregon ~ State Park cabins + yurts - Washington ~ State Park cabins + yurts

Tips for Staying in Yurts or Canvas Tents - most yurts are outfitted for year-round stays, especially those on the temperate West Coast - bring earplugs---the rain can get loud at night - yurts usually sleep 4, canvas tents 2-4 - often pets are not allowed

[images by diamondmountain, dave and @tripstyler]

Go Long...

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It's Wednesday. You've been busy and haven't planned anything for the Labour Day Long Weekend because you: a) haven't had time b) couldn't be bothered c) think it's too expensive to go anywhere. It just so happens I can help you with all three excuses, unless you want to stay home! Here are some high/low long weekend getaways designed to get you outta town!

Long Weekend Getaways Pitch A Tent [trip style = camping] Keener campers have already reserved their campsites for the long weekend, BUT, one of my fave Vancouver Island locations, Rathtrevor Beach, still has sites available. This gorgeous beach is just below an incredible Spa (The Grotto at Tigh-Na-Mara Resort) if you want to take time away from your Coleman Cooker to relax in their large mineral pool, stand under their cold-plunge waterfall or soothe your muscles in the hot tub! PS - If you go camping, check out our 6 hand-picked free camping apps

Shop 'Till You Drop [trip style = urban] The Westin Bellevue is offering a special package for lovers of the mall and back to school shopping. Check into the hotel this friday or saturday night and get a $100 Bellevue Collection gift certificate per night and complimentary parking. Wowza!

Let Kayak Decide [trip style = spontaneous] I did a post on Kayak Explore a few months ago, and can't think of a better service to help you decide where to go for the long weekend! Just enter a few details like budget and when you want to go, and the map-based service will show you where you can fly, and for how much!

Circle Of Life [trip style = eco] Who knew a little beach community on Vancouver Island would have hanging spheres as an off-beat accommodation? It doesn't get more West Coast than this: three wood and fiberglass orbs suspended by ropes from rainforest evergreens. When it's time to descend into reality, heated washrooms and showers, a kitchenette and a small sauna await you.

Glamp It Up! [trip style = glamping] If money is no object, experience the great outdoors in style at the Clayoquot Wilderness Resort. All inclusive 3-night packages from $4,750.00 CAD include return airfare from Vancouver to the Resort, deluxe accommodation, all meals, snacks and beverages {including alcohol}, massage treatments and guided activities including fishing. PS - don't let the canvas tent-facade fool you, this remote resort has not deterred this famous couple from making the trek deep into BC's gorgeous landscape!

Planning Ahead [trip style = wine tasting] If you can't get away this weekend, why not plan ahead? Here's the perfect night away: a Harry Connick Jr. Concert at a Seattle winery! Does it get any better than this? Although the concert's on a thursday night {sept 26}, maybe you could make that your 'long' weekend?

And if you want even MORE options, check out these getaways for everyone from lux lovers to campers!

Avoid Extras with Allegiant Air

how to book with allegiant[trip style = budget conscious]

Flying discount carriers like Allegiant Air can be a good thing when you pay the advertised rate. However, if you're not savvy when purchasing your seat, there are multiple hidden fees that creep up unless you know how to navigate the booking process.

{It's Travel Beauty Month, so don't forget to comment on our blog to win a great travel skincare set from Skoah. Details here.}

I can't tell you the amount of people who told me they got a good rate with Allegiant, but ended up feeling duped because they got charged for extras. If you even select a few of the extras, the price can skyrocket into the realm of legacy carriers or higher!  If you're trying to keep the price of your trip in-check, the extras aren't necessary, and here's how to avoid them:

Allegiant's Main Extras

  • checked bag ($14.99 - $35 per bag and per segment)
  • seat pre-selection ($11-14 per segment)
  • priority boarding (Approx. $7 per segment... Only available if you've pre-selected your seat)

Keep the Price Low With Allegiant, purchasing your flight is a multi-step process--one that can be simplified and made more efficient if you know when to say NO to extras. After you select your flight's destination and dates...

  1. Hotel: you'll be asked if you want to book a hotel. Say no, there's a small "no thanks" link at the bottom of the page.
  2. Car: same deal, say no to rental car with the small "no thanks" link at the bottom of the page.
  3. Scooter: who asks about a scooter rental? Same instructions as above.
  4. Passenger Info: fill in the required fields to move forward.
  5. Confirmation: this page is multi-function showing total trip cost, flight confirmation details and seat selection. Don't bother pre-selecting your seat, you can do that at the airport. Use the small link "remove all seat selections and priority boarding." When you click on this link, there will be a sneaky pop-up window encouraging you not to remove seat selection, but clicking it will ensure any priority boarding and seat selection is removed and you can advance for the same price.
  6. Payment details: now you get to pay.

Other Tips

  • Carry-ons are free with no weight limit and you're allowed two (ie - bag + personal item)
  • If you want to ensure there's enough space for your carry-on on the plane, sit in row 15 or higher.  Planes are boarded from the back, forward. Because of the price of checked bags and Allegiant's mostly short-haul flights, most people bring carry-ons so overhead bins fill up fast.
  • Fill up a water bottle after security or buy a bev on the plane. Everything on board, including water, is for purchase.
  • Most allegiant planes board at small airports in the open air, so if it's raining you may want an umbrella to protect yourself from a soggy ride.
  • If you really want to pay for priority boarding (which is not worth it) then you can check-in online, otherwise, you'll line-up and check-in at the airport.  (Pre-selected seating is required to purchase priority boarding)
  • The seats on Allegiant's planes don't recline. It is likely they will on the planes that will go to Hawaii.

[photo by cliff1066]