Secret Ski Season

80skiing[trip style = ski]

Imagine this: you get to the ski lift(s) and there are no line-ups; you have the mountain to yourself; you get a bronzed glow because it's sunny; you remove layers because it's hot. Fantasy? No. Reality? Yes.

Say NO to Spring Cleaning & YES to Spring Skiing April has arrived, which means the secret ski season is here. When most people are spring cleaning, working on the yard and dreaming about summer, there are a [smart] few who are skiing and boarding to their heart's content in some of the best conditions of the year.  At the larger ski resorts across North America, don't let the icy/slushy conditions at the base fool you, mountains are high, so it's likely the peaks are still getting dusted with powder! Locals living in these resort areas LOVE April because the crowds have gone home, yet the snow is still good.  Case in point, this past weekend at Whistler Blackcomb, there was over 50cm of fresh!

I like skiing in the regular season and do, but April and early May are my fave months to strap on my skis.  Two years ago on May 3rd, I remember skiing in the morning (in decent snow) then spending the afternoon at the pool sipping Tom Collins--in bathing suits--with friends.  Nothing epitomizes spring skiing better than that!

Reasons to Indulge in April Skiing - snow is still falling - lift tickets get cheaper as the season draws to an end - accommodation rates are usually 50-70% off winter highs - restaurants offer promotions to get 'bums in seats' for low season ---------------------- - no icy wind blasting your face at 50km/hour - enjoying apres outside in the sun - zinc and 80's skiwear...

So, get your skis shined up, grab a stick of juicy fruit, and get yourself to the closest ski resort for some April powder. What do have to lose?

Spring Breaks that won't Break the Bank

Kauai Getaway[trip style = sun]

If you're in need of a last-minute break, don't worry, there's still time to book a family vacation for March Break that won't completely drain your bank account. Here are some cost-efficient, family-oriented options to consider:

2010 Spring Break Suggestions Kid-Friendly All-inclusives $$$$ The genius of taking your kids to an all-inclusive is there's something for everyone. All ages will have a blast. - Breezes Curacao fun fact: Curacao is outside the hurricane belt - All Beaches Resorts (Beaches is 'family side' of the  Sandals' empire) - Club Med: Punta Cana & Ixtapa *check for package deals with companies like Air Canada Vacations, Apple Vacations, itravel2000.com

Cruises $$$ The following cruise lines offer excellent kids programs allowing parents the opportunity to vacation too! - Disney - Royal Caribbean - Celebrity - Carnival - Holland America - NCL

Hawaii $$$ The price to visit the Hawaiian Isles for Spring Break can range from reasonable to expensive depending on your desired trip style/level of luxury. Here are some options including pricing considerations: $$$ - rent a condo in Kihei. Kihei is small and central with excellent beaches and a host of grocery stores. $$$$ - rent a condo in Ka'anapali, or stay at the Marriott's Ocean Club or Sheraton Black Rock. $$$$$ - rent a luxury condo in Wailea or stay at the Four Seasons Wailea, Grand Wailea or Fairmont Kea Lani.

Rent a Condo $$ Whether you want to stay close to home or venture to a tropical destination, sites like VRBO make it easy to rent a condo for Spring Break. Renting a condo also means you'll have the convenience of a kitchen, save on eating out and have more space than most hotel rooms can offer. Whether you fly or drive to your destination, staying in a condo is often the most cost-efficient vacationing option.

Scottsdale AZ :: High/Low

Scottsdale Civic Plaza / Museum of Contemporary Art[trip style = high/low]

One trip. Two experiences. How to do Scottsdale high, low or BOTH! (Pics coming Monday)


  • Stay
    • 3 Palms.  A refurbished motel with a modern flair.  In high season we paid $84 usd/night for a deluxe king room.  With contemporary design throughout, a fitness room, pool, nice restaurant and grocery store across the street, how can you go wrong?
  • Eat
    • Buy snacks and/or breakfasts and lunches at a grocery store
    • Share plates at restaurants offering huge portions like Cheesecake Factory, P.F. Chang's, California Pizza Kitchen (all in Scottsdale)
    • Splurge
      • Eat at The Avalon, a funky new restaurant at the 3 Palms.
      • Eat at La Hacienda, the Fairmont Scottsdale's newest addition, offering happy hour pricing from 5 - 7pm. $4 margaritas and appies...which I tested, and are good!  We went in thinking we'd have drinks and appies, then move onto dinner, and got too full with the appies!
  • Shop
    • Norstrom's Rack is located in North Scottsdale
    • Other outlets stores near Scottsdale can be found in Tempe (Arizona Mills featuring Neiman Marcus Last Call and Off Sacks) and Anthem (Outlets at Anthem featuring Nike, Banana, J. Crew)
  • Do (see below)


  • Stay
    • Fairmont Scottsdale.  The lobby doesn't do this hotel justice.  Sun-drenched by day and lantern-laden by night, the hotel sparkles and sprawls over the rocky red landscape.  Sitting beside the TPC golf course, this Fairmont Scottsdale could keep you busy all day long with its multiple pools, spa, restaurants/bars and a dedicated Golf Concierge.
  • Eat
    • Well, the Fairmont has successfully offered enough varied eating/drinking options to make me want to stay on-site.  With eating and drinking choices to fit every age and budget, there's Hacienda, serving excellent mexi food, Bourbon Steak House, I think this one's offering is obvious:) and to top it all off, sit beside an open fire or order a bevvie from the lounge-inspired, desert-modern Stone Rose.
  • Shop
    • Fashion Square is a shopping mecca.  You could walk 10,000 steps just going from one part of the mall to the other. Featuring stores like Barney's, Burberry, Macy's, Nordstrom, etc...
    • Kierland Commons.  An exquisite outdoor shopping experience with a over 14 restaurants and coffee shops.
  • Do:


  • Most 3 or 3.5 stars tend to offer free parking
  • If you have a hybird you can park at the Fairmont for free

Hidden Travel Costs...and How to Avoid Them

MoneyTravel is a discretionary activity subject to the economy, natural disasters, health scares and the like.  When times are tough, it's one of the first things to get cut from people's annual budgets.  With hotels and airlines constantly riding the wave of the masses' elective spending, in the past 10 years MANY hidden costs have crept into the overall cost of vacationing.  As a result, the total cost of hidden travel fees could be its own line item in your travel budgeting!

Here are the Major Hidden Costs of Travelling:

  • Booking Online:  Whether you are booking through expedia, travelocity, priceline or hotwire, there's a always a service fee applied.  This is the cost of doing business with a travel re-seller, yet sometimes, the cost of booking through a travel discounter can be way lower than booking through the hotel direct.  Travel re-seller's service fees can run somewhere 10 - 20% of your booking's cost.
    • How to avoid it: Search via Kayak, who will send you to the Airline or Hotel's own website which won't likely have online booking fees.
  • Travel Insurance: I am including this in the hidden fees of travel because it's something people often forget, yet is a necessary expenditure.  This small investment in your well being can cost between approx: $1-2/day depending on your age and health.
    • How to avoid it: Many travel credit cards have travel insurance included for up to 8-days or more.  Check with your travel credit card for complete details.  You want to be sure about this!
  • Airport Parking/Cab to and from Airport: Because this is not often an exorbitant fee, getting to and from the airport is not always a cost people account for in their vacation's budgeting.  Cab fares can vary, but airport parking can run from $5 - $20/day at most airports.
    • How to avoid it:  Get a ride to and from the airport, take public transit (some cities have better transport than others) or opt to park in the lot further away from the airport for slight savings.
  • Airline Baggage: Most airlines are now charging for checked baggage as well as checked baggage that's over the weight limit (which seems to get smaller everyday).  This cost is usually from $15 - 40/bag.
    • How to avoid it: Travel with a carry-on, but also be aware of carry-on weight limits as well. One other option, best for frequent travelers is an annual bag fee program. For $249 a year, you can check an unlimited number of bags on all United flights. So far, no other carriers have come out with a similar program.
  • Airline Food: For domestic and some international travel, most airlines are scrapping meals unless you're flying Hawaiian, LAN, Turkish or the like.
    • How to avoid it: Eat beforehand or bring a snack.  Recently I was leaving for a week-long trip, travelling on a 7-hour international flight with only pay-for food service.  Realizing that I couldn't leave much in my fridge, I brought along brie cheese, carrots and bread sticks --a much nicer snack than you could buy on the plane anyway!
  • Hotel Resort Fees: Upon check-in, most resort-style hotels now charge a non-negotiable resort fee ranging from $15 - 20/day.  Sometimes this includes parking, a drink and a daily newspaper; worst-case scenario you just pay the fee to use the hotel's facilities...isn't that what your original hotel fee is for?
    • How to avoid it: Paying resort fees is largely unavoidable, however, if you book your travel through hotwire, priceline or the like, hotels are supposed to give the option to decline the resort fee. Also consider booking a condo through vrbo.  Many condos have free parking included.
  • Hotel Parking:  It's now rare to find a hotel that doesn't charge an extra fee for parking.  Sometimes they are kind enough to include it in the resort fee, but if you're not staying in a resort-style hotel, then you're likely going to pay between $12 - 25/day to park.
    • How to avoid it: Book a business-oriented city hotel on the weekend.  Most hotels who largely welcome business clientele tend to discount or offer free parking on the weekends to fill rooms when business travellers are at home.  Most motels don't charge for parking.  Otherwise, you could look into other parking options on the street, etc..
  • Hotel Internet: With generation Y aging into independent traveling age and expecting included internet, my prediction is that in 10 years hotel internet fees will be a thing of the past...if hotels want to compete.  But in the meantime, hotel internet charges run from $10 - 20/day.  Note that wireless is sometimes included in resort fees.
    • How to avoid it:  Most hotel loyalty programs offer free wireless.  Otherwise, go to a nearby coffee shop, restaurant or mall to pick up a wireless signal. Note that most US cell carriers have very reasonable packages for inter-us calling and data, but Canadian companies are 'behind the 8-ball' on this topic and charge the moment you leave your city.

Approximate Totals (3-day domestic trip) Online Booking ----50 Travel Insurance --6 AirportParking---30 Airline Baggage---30 Airline Food-------15 Hotel Resort Fees-60 Hotel Parking-----45 Hotel Internet----30 Total------------$256 Finally, here's a VERY HELPUL Airline Fee Matrix (bags, food, pets, seat assignment) comparing many major airlines.

High/Low - Booking a Vacay in Maui

maui[trip style =  sun + beach]

Booking a vacation in Maui can be wildly expensive or moderately priced depending on: - when you book - how you book - who you book with - your penchant for luxury - whether you eat-in or go out - the number of activities you do while there

All these things considered, here's how to do Maui High, Med and Low: {do one or combine all three} High

  • Flight: fly business class with your preferred airline. Note that airlines carrying on to Australia, etc... will have a more luxurious offering than those just doing direct or one-stop runs back and forth to the islands.
  • Accommodation:
    • Ritz Carlton Kapalua
    • Four Seasons Wailea
    • Fairmont Kea Lani Wailea
  • Car: Avis and Hertz offer the best high-end car rentals at the Kahului Airport (OGG)
  • Eating out:
    • Mama's fish house (all fish is fresh and caught by some of the servers)
    • any restaurant at the Four Seasons Wailea
  • Activities:
    • charter a helicopter over the mountains and/or to Hana
    • luau at the Hyatt Ka'anapali [much better than the luau at the Wailea Marriott]
    • for more activities, see lists below


  • Flight: Alaska and Hawaiian Airlines offer friendly service in economy class, but many other airlines like Air Canada or West Jet fly direct to Maui. If you want to splurge a little, Hawaiian Airlines' business class has semi-reasonable prices, from around $550 each way (out of Seattle).
  • Accommodation: take an educated risk and book your hotel via hotwire or priceline. When you book in the "Resort Class" of properties for the Wailea/Makena or Ka'anapali areas, you end up with one of two hotels for the each area.  Prices can be as low as $120/night (not including taxes). *If you book through one of these websites, your hotel has to ask you whether or not you want to pay the resort fee, usually $25 extra per day.
  • Car: Get your car through priceline or hotwire and pick it up at the airport. 
  • Eating out:
    • Humu-humu at the Grand Wailea
    • Mala at the Marriott Wailea
    • Joe's at the Wailea Tennis Club
    • Roy's in Ka'anapali
    • Hula Grill in Ka'anapali
  • Activities: see high or low activity lists.


  • Flight: set up a Kayak Fare Alert for airports in your area and OGG, Maui's airport. Book when dates and prices appeal to you.
  • Accommodation: staying at a rental condo/home with a kitchen is an excellent way to control costs. Some best bets are: vrbo.com, ownerdirect.com
  • Car: if you want any flexibility while on Maui, renting a car is required, especially since grocery shopping and self-guided excursions will be a big part of your getaway. Bidding for a car on Priceline can be a cheap way to get a vehicle.
  • Eating out: take advantage of your kitchen and make some nice meals in your rental condo---most of which have BBQs in the common outdoor areas. If you're set on eating out, the Barefoot Bar at the Hula Grill in Ka'anapali has an excellent Happy Hour complete with live music. In Wailea, Cheeseburger Island Style has excellent prices and a great breakfast special.
  • Activities: There is so much to do in Maui that doesn't require a tour guide. Here's a sample:
    • drive to Hana
    • watch the windsurfers and kite-boarders at Hookipa beach
    • browse the shops in Paia
    • take advantage the beaches in front of any hotel --all beaches are public
    • snorkel at Black Rock in Ka'anapali or Ahihi Bay in Makena
    • stand-up paddleboard in Kihei
    • take surf lessons in Lahaina
    • drive to watch the sunrise at Haleakela (wear warm clothes, it's cold at 5.30am!)
    • walk the seawalk in Ka'anapali and/or Wailea
    • swim at Black Rock while the Sheraton's torch-lighting ceremony is taking place (watch for 'the dive' at the end)

[photo by @tripstyler]