You’ve landed in Montreal and you’re all excited to try the Quebec invention known as Poutine (pronounced ‘Pu-tin’ in French, like the Russian leader).
Most travellers based out of Toronto, Canada have probably heard of YYZ Deals and its amazing flight deals. Chris Myden, the founder of the site, has discovered a way to automate the search process and posts about great deals he finds on flights from Toronto to numerous destinations around the world. On occasion, he even posts infamous ‘mistake fares‘ that allows purchasers to book flights well below cost.
A little known secret for those visiting Toronto and need fast, reliable internet.
Tangerine Cafe, at the corner of Yonge and Shuter (221 Yonge Street, Toronto), just north of Queen and Yonge in downtown Toronto, offers free GREAT wifi. All you need is to register your email address with them when you first open your browser. You do NOT have to be a Tangerine client to walk-in and use the wifi.
Whether you’re a local or just visiting Toronto, if you’re looking for a solid breakfast place with great service, selection, and pricing, Boom Breakfast & Co. is the place to be. The selection alone will keep you wanting to go back over and over, while their Monday to Thursday $5.99 special will keep your wallet healthy.
It goes without saying, travel and cold suds go hand in hand. It’s a great way to unwind after a long day of sight-seeing or bond with friends old and new.
Portland’s reputation for beer is legendary with more than 80 (yes 80!) breweries within the greater Portland area. With this many breweries, it’s impossible to leave a pallet unsatisfied no matter what your taste. Best of all, since Portland law states that all alcoholic establishments must offer food, many breweries have invested in the full experience by offering great meal pairings to their beers.
If you’re short on time while visiting Portland Oregon, below is a list of some great options (some not so obvious). For each day that you have in Portland, mix one item from the ‘A’ list with one or two from the ‘B’ list below.
So you’ve decided to take on Las Vegas! Here’s quick summary and checklist of what to expect and how to survive.
As you’re probably aware, Vegas has many layers. Everything from a family friendly layer to the absolutely ‘can’t tell anyone this happened’ layer. It’s all what you make of it. In general, Las Vegas is very safe, especially on the main strip, and very well lit at night as one would expect.
Things you should know:
1. Dress shoes and dress shirt are mandatory to get into most nightclubs. Heels are a must for ladies. This is of course assuming you’re not spending thousands on bottle service in which case you can wear whatever you want. Expect to pay anywhere from $14 to $20 per drink (excluding tip).
2. Along with the above, ladies get preferential treatment at the clubs. Many even offer free cover and free drinks until a specified time. In many cases, guys can get in faster/cheaper if the ratio of the group is 1:1 guy to girl.
3. Try to book a hotel close to a McDonald’s and Walgreens. As you will quickly learn, food gets very expensive in Vegas and purchasing food at McDonald’s and Walgreens can help keep your wallet in check. Planet Hollywood is great for this as it’s practically attached to Walgreens, McDonald’s, Subway, and a mall with many other options.
4. Pools parties are a great place to meet people. Most of the hotels have daily pool parties, so be sure to check these out (you will have to pay cover if you aren’t staying at the hotel).
5. Fremont Street is a great alternative to the main strip with its own flavour of restaurants, bars, and casinos.
6. Drinking on the street is 100% legal.
7. There are two outlet malls. One at the south, and one at the north. Both offer great discounts on brand name merchandise.
8. It is almost impossible to hail a taxi on the main strip (too busy). Taxis are available at all valet areas of the main casinos/resorts. For the most part, you will never have to wait for a taxi as the valet is where they all line up to pickup passengers.
Safe Travels Everyone!
For those considering seeing the U.S. with Contiki, below is a summary and review of their Western Highlights tour starting from L.A. and ending in Las Vegas. Note that this tour is part of a longer tour called Wild Western which ends back in L.A.
Your tour starts at Miyako Hotel in Little Tokyo in Los Angeles at 7am. There is some paperwork needed from everyone so be sure have your passport and emergency contacts ready. If you’re looking to tour L.A. before the tour starts, be sure to book a couple extra days in before the start of the tour. Contiki will offer you a good rate at Miyako Hotel, but be sure to check other sites like Expedia and Hotels.com. Also, before you board the coach be sure to have everything you need in your day bag as you won’t have access to your suitcase until hotel check-in in the evening.
From L.A. you head to San Diego for a couple nights. The first planned activity (which is optional) is a speed boating experience where you get to drive a 2-seat speed boat ($60USD). The whole experience is guided where the group follows the lead instructor and is meant more for beginners. On occasion you might get splashed, but the chances of getting soaked is pretty slim (see below video). All other time (including those who opt-out of the speed boating) is free time to explore the hip city.
After speed boating, you are off to your hotel to check-in and freshen up for dinner. This first dinner is included in the price of the tour and is an authentic Mexican experience where you will have a choice of steak+shrimp burrito, taco salad, or other Mexican staples. Be sure not to overeat as it’s off to a bar crawl after, including a country bar with a mechanical bull! Be sure to check out Vin de Syrah for another very unique sensory experience (hidden door to get in?).
This day offers various options, including Sea World, San Diego Zoo, and Surfing. Around 2pm, there is a shuttle to Mission Beach for some relaxing beach time and carnival type rides. Dinner, although not included, is spent at a local hangout (walking distance from the hotel) called Kristy’s MVP Sports Bar where if you ask Kristy nicely she might give you a light paddling. For the remainder of the night there’s karaoke, beer pong, flip cup, and whatever other drinking game you can come up with. Don’t go too crazy as the next morning is an early start.
Say goodbye to the beach and head to Arizona where it’s HOT HOT HOT! On the way to Scottsdale, you will stop at a Wal-Mart to experience the shopping giant first hand (gun in a box anyone?). Be sure to stock-up on some non-perishable foods, snacks and ‘beverages’. You will arrive in Scottsdale in the mid-afternoon in time to take in some sun by the hotel pool with your new friends. If all goes well, dinner will also be pool-side as well. Once the sun goes down, it’s off to hit-up the great nigh-life of Scottsdale!
WARNING! For those that opt-in for the hot-air balloon ride ($170USD) the next morning, you are required to be ready at 4:45am, which will likely limit your time out at the bars. Obviously, this comes down to priorities (see below for review and video of the balloon ride experience to see if it’s worthwhile for you).
For those that opted-in for the hot air balloon ride, it’s a 4:45am start. This experience is recommended for first-time ballooners, but probably isn’t worthwhile for those that have done it before. See below video and be a judge for yourself.
For those that opt-out of the ballon ride, you will need to be ready for 8am. Once you link-up with the ballooning crew, it’s off to Sedona. In Sedona, there’s a mix of free time and also an optional Jeep Tour ($50USD). For those that don’t do the deep tour, be sure to have your swim gear ready as there’s a local river that’s only known to the locals 5 minutes from the dropoff point (see below video). Jump-in to be refreshed! Once you meet back up with everyone, it’s off to the Grand Canyon.
Arrival to the Grand Canyon is in the late afternoon and will give you a chance to settle into the cabins, shop at the local grocery story (which has reasonable pricing and options given that it’s inside the park) and grab some dinner (you will receive one breakfast voucher and one dinner voucher to be used anytime during your stay). After dinner, consider a low-key night outdoors with your fellow travellers enjoying some beverages. Be sure to pack a head-lamp and flashlight. NOTE: It gets cool at night in the Grand Canyon.
Full day at the Grand Canyon with optional helicopter ride ($275USD) in the morning and bike ride ($57USD) in the afternoon (see video of the hidden ledges you get to see on the bike ride). Otherwise, it’s free time to hike and enjoy the park. WARNING: Be sure to pack lots of water and follow all warnings. Dozens of people die each year in the park from underestimating the trails and ledges.
At sundown, head to Mohave Point with the crew to see the sunset. After the sunset, expect another low-key night of hanging out with your fellow travellers.
Day 6 &7:
Vegas!!!! There will another stop at a Wal-Mart on the way. Things are expensive in Vegas so get what you can here, including a lot of sunscreen, and be sure to plan ahead. The Hotel that you will be staying at is Harrah’s, which is right on the strip, but if you decide to stay longer it may be worthwhile to check out other hotels just to change it up. As always check other sites like Expedia and Hotels.com for best pricing.
Vegas is full of surprises. As the saying goes, “What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas,” so you’ll just have to take the trip to find out what happens there. Couple of tips: Be sure to bring dress shirts and dress shoes to get into the clubs. They have strict dress code policies. Also, there’s an optional (but not optional) ‘surprise’ that’s organized by Contiki for $10USD. Don’t complain and just pay it. It’s well worthwhile! Need extra tips to survive vegas? Go to my Vegas specific post here.
Safe Travels Everyone!
*This post contains affiliate links.
*Apologies for the lack of pictures… I seemed to have misplaced most of them.
You’ve all heard of the great skiing/snowboarding you can do in Whistler (it did host an Olympics after all). If you’re coming this far you might as well go all out and stay at one of the finest places in the main village area.
You have to fly to Vancouver (YVR) first and either rent a car or take a shuttle/buss. By car it’s roughly 1.5 hours each way.
Where I Stayed:
I had the privilege of staying at the Four Seasons in both Vancouver and Whistler. The Vancouver location is surprisingly affordable, central, and very well run. Facilities were top-notch and the restaurant YEW (which is led by Ned Bell) is a must visit for seafood lovers.
The Whistler location on the other hand does a great job of giving guests the posh that they pay for, while providing a winter cabin feeling in each room. Even the standard rooms are quite roomy with a fireplace and jacuzzi.
If you end up staying with any Four Seasons location, be sure to Tweet them ahead of time. There might just be a treat waiting for you when you get there.
Getting There (from Toronto, Ontario, Canada):
Sommet Des Neiges
Two people at $625/each
+ lift tickets ($80/day) bought online
Things to note
Snowboard/Ski equipment transport is included with Porter above and beyond your one checked-baggage allowance.
Airport transfer AND $35 departure fee (from Mont Tremblant) is included in your Porter Escapes package.
If you have extra luggage room and a kitchen in your lodging room, bring some food/snacks as the restaurants in the main area are expensive, including the local grocery store.
Eastern Canada is known to offer icier conditions than Banff or Whistler. There are a good variety of runs ranging from beginner to competition level. Some section of the circle (easy) runs get a little flat so watch out if you’re a snowboarder as you might have to unbuckle and walk.
The main village has only pricey (but good) restaurants. No real ‘fast food’ like places if you’re looking to bootstrap it. Some good places to check out: La Fourchette du Diable, Pizzateria, and Le Shack.
There’s two main bars there: Le P’Tit Caribou and Cafe d’Epoque. Cafe d’Epoque is definitely a younger crowd (drinking age is 18 y/o in Quebec).
Mont Tremblant’s Official Website: