In Honor of USA Sun Vacation Sale!

Flight Centre currently has an amazing offer for packages to USA Sun destinations, like California, Nevada, Arizona, Hawaii, Florida, AND Puerto Rico! We are offering $200 OFF PER ADULT for custom packages which include flights from Canada, accommodation (3 nights minimum), and an activity. You can email me any time for more information: cate.ciu@flightcentre.ca  . In honor of this sale, I wanted to include a couple of my own highlights from some of the places on the list!

  1. Dole Pineapple Plantation in Hawaii
    Oahu is breath taking. The Hawaiian culture just inspires the ultimate sense of CHILL. The pineapple…ahem CHERRY … on top of the trip, was the my visit to the Dole Planation, where I tried delicious pineapple ice cream and looked my very best in a bikini (haha get it? because I am a pineapple in the pic below)
  2. Grand Canyon just outside Las Vegas
    I did Grand Canyon independently the first time, and with a tour the second. I highly recommend the latter. There is so much to see, and it is pretty difficult not to get lost in the “awe” of it all during your visit. Also, the tour company packed an amazing snack box and provided comfy, festive blankies for when it gets nice and chilly at the Canyon.

  3. Disneyland in LA
    My first visit to Disney was as an adult, and I cried from accidental joy. Also, try the churros.
  4. Do everything in Phoenix!
    I love Phoenix, AZ. Like truly love it. The long highways and the tall palm trees are music to my soul. It’s home to the BEST BBQ joint in the universe (no exaggerations here) and huevos rancheros that will make your mouth taste like heaven. If you want to go to Phoenix, we need to CHAT.

PicMonkey Collage.jpg

Advertisements

Advice to an anxious traveller

I am about to take off for a trip, and in spite of being a travel agent, I have pre-travel jitters. Have I packed everything? Are my pets going to be okay? What if my bag gets lost? What if I get lost?

Well, in times like this, I just have to remember Mr Roger’s advice (below). Flight Centre has a 24/7 customer care line, and I have a great travel insurance policy, but the bottom line is – with all my heart I believe that people are kind, whether it’s a local giving you directions in spite of a language barrier or a British Airways stewardess that sneaks you extra snacks on the plane..and this thought gives me immense comfort.

tumblr_mlbelb9RM71qbh26io1_500

London in 8 Hotels

I recently went on a work trip to London. Hard knock life, right? During my stay, I did a couple of hotel tours to better be able assist my clients with their future trips to London. I included some pictures and summaries below. Enjoy!

No. 1 The Mansions

This hotel is London location, with Texas space! Minutes from shopping and Earl’s court tube station, The Mansions is positioned in a charming neighborhood. If you stay here, you don’t have to sacrifice a fantastic location for privacy. The rooms in this hotel are apartment style, and come with a kitchenette, as well as a washer and a dryer. Although there are a couple of room options available, like a studio (with a murphy bed) or a double, the room category most worth talking about is the multi-bedroom suite. If you are travelling with a group or a large family, these suites can accommodate up to 7 people. Moreover, the rooms are so spacious. Each one of those rooms was bigger than my entire Vancouver apartment.

The highlight: The bed. During my trip, I stayed in this hotel with fellow travel agents. Although I haven’t slept in a twin bed since the day I wrote my final university exam, it was the best sleep I had in awhile.

Grange Hotel Tower Bridge

The Grange is modern and slick. The hotel is lit in purple. All the rooms have wood wall furnishings and purple undertones. This hotel has fantastic amenities, including a pool, a spa, a gym, and hot buffet breakfast. It’s has a fantastic location, close to the tube and beautiful London sights. Grange would be a great accommodation option for business travellers.

The highlight: The elevator ride! The glass elevator has views only parallel to the London eye. While going up to your room, you can enjoy looking at the Shard, the Gherkin, and other marvels of London architecture.

ME London

This hotel can only be described with a Kanye West lyric. The ME is Vegas on acid…but in London. Once you enter the lobby, you instantly forget everything you know about London. Tea and Georgian housing? Nah. The ME is about champagne service and trippy lighting. The location is fantastic, and the hotel is relatively new (only 2 years!). It’s perfect for anyone who came into a ton of money at a very young age (I am looking at you, Silicone Valley CEOs), or for anyone who ever thought London is just not his or her speed (buckle up!).

IMG_6279

The highlight: I don’t want to favor this hotel, but there were two. The first was the view from the open roof patio. It was genuinely one of the favorite moments of my entire life. The manager had to practically pry me off it. The second was drinking champagne in the reception area in the shape of a pyramid, which played beautiful movie projections on the walls. This must be what drugs feel like.

Rubens

In Rubens, you are royalty for the duration of your stay. This hotel faces the back entrance to the Buckingham Palace, and some people have even seen the Queen walking her CORGIS in the area (I am more excited about the corgis). This hotel houses many of queen’s guests, so can someone please tell Lorde that she can be a royal if she stays at Ruben’s? There’s really an infinite amount of things to say about this hotel. Each room is unique, with a color theme and luxury fabric on the wall. The owner is a chef by trade, so the buffet breakfast and snacks at the Leopard champagne bar are exquisite. This hotel is steps away from all the major attractions, including Big Ben, Piccadilly Circus, and Downton abbey. Most importantly, 70% of Rubens guests are repeat clients because their service and attention to guests is unparalleled.

The highlight: Champagne bar! I like champagne, I like leopards, I like starring at the back entrance of the Buckingham palace. This is obviously the reason why Rubens Leopard champagne bar is both popular with the locals and the tourists.

Hotel 41

This hotel is right next door to Rubens and has the same owners. It’s a super luxury hotel, with highly personalized service. The rooms are classic black and white, with luxury sheets and stylish décor. Your every wish is a reality at this hotel. For example, we were told a story about a hotel guest who forgot his tickets to Wicked in the room and called the hotel devastated about potentially missing the show. The hotel sent a concierge to meet the guest with their tickets, a mini bottle of champagne, and chocolate covered strawberries. When the guests returned to their room Wicked themed cupcakes topped with a pastry witch has awaited them. Also, this hotel invented gin and tonic ice cream!

The highlight: Hotel 41 warms up your slippers and pajamas for you during turn down service!

The Royal Horseguards

Royal Horseguard has left me speechless. It is the perfect combination of the past and the future. It houses a wine cellar, which has a sealed tunnel to the parliament built by Winston Churchill himself! It also features one of the oldest marble staircases in the world, which was hit by a bomb during World War II, but luckily left almost undamaged. Located a couple of floors up from the Royal Hordeguards is the Secret Intelligence Service, so you could be sharing your space with the next James Bonde. The rooms are beautiful. Some with close up views of the London eye. The sheets are the same brand as the Queen’s! How often could you say that you sleep on the same sheets as the Queen of England?

The highlight: The division bell! As many government officials go to the Royal Horseguards for lunch, the hotel has a division bell rung during division, calling for an immediate vote.

Citadines Trafalgar Square

Citadines rooms look like an Ikea catalogue, which is a good thing! The rooms come with a kitchenette, which is perfect for longer stays. It’s also 2 minutes from Trafalgar Square. This hotel is great for younger people or small families looking for a cozy stay and a central location, without breaking a budget. The rooms include a dry breakfast.

The highlight: Comfortable, modern furniture inside the rooms.

Strand Palace Hotel

The location of this hotel is fantastic. It’s close to Covent Gardens, Trafalgar Square, and Oxford Street. There are huge department stores and unique shops all around the hotel. There are a ton of amenities, including a business center, an Indian restaurant, a breakfast café, dry cleaning, and a gym. The rooms are quiet small, but who cares when the whole London is your oyster (get it? Oyster cards)

The highlight: The Strand has a bar, which specialized in gin drinks. They even invented a gin tea. How English is that?

Go Native Kensington

This is another apartment style hotel. It’s perfect for long stays because many rooms have washers/dryers, hot plates, as well as dishwashers (no one should be washing dishes on vacation). The location is very quaint and quiet.

The highlight: All the hidden room compartments. The room design is very clean, but the room is like a Rubik’s cube! Many shelves house important apartment appliances, such as laundry.

HEADS UP for deals, giveaways and more!

dcf9348ccf6eca560956b43d41c6fce4

As you may have guessed…I am a travel consultant, and as my blog is growing, I want to thank those who read it. I will be hosting giveaways and posting any travel deals that come my way from this day forward! If you are interested, please follow me so you don’t miss a thing!

If you want me to take a look at something specific, leave me a comment or send me an email (cate.ciu@flightcentre.ca; you don’t have to be from Canada).

In the meantime, hello and thank you to all of YOU from my grumpy, grumpy fur baby and I. Enjoy your week! ❤ ❤ ❤Photo on 7-16-15 at 2.37 PM

Why I left a promising academic career to be a travel agent. Part 2: Not all those who wander…

IMG_5656

First order of business, you can read Part 1 here.

Like Lewis Carrol once wrote,”If you don’t know where you are going, any road will get you there.” So, here I was.

I think the biggest problem is that we sometimes don’t ask ourselves what we want, and that’s what happened to me. When I started my Master’s degree, I knew I wanted to do a good job, but I had no clue what I wanted to do afterward. My life was a Chopped ingredient basket: aimless, and somewhat ghastly. [Sidenote: I am speaking to the Canadian version of Chopped, which is particularly merciless to its contestants. Turducken? Are you kidding me?]

Back on track.

It seemed as though I had no one to turn to. “My life has been about studying others for so long, it’s as though I have neglected myself. If only there was school for THAT,” I thought to myself. But there was…..OPRAH’S LIFECLASS. Only she could put me back together.

Screen Shot 2015-09-27 at 1.15.38 PM

I knew I had to have a tough conversation with myself. I had to ask myself what I wanted. Not what other people want for me, not what I have been told I am good at, but what I am truly all about. Since the Hamburglar role was already taken, I had to think of a plan B (joke).

My truest, greatest passion in life is people. I wish nothing more for myself than to have a positive impact on people’s lives. This is why I have studied Psychology, Social work, and Education. But often, those disciplines just teach people to live in their own heads. And I can personally attest to the fact that when you open yourself up to the world, your life can be transformed. For example, experiencing Cuban culture showed me how much we over-rely on material things, and visiting the Alhambra taught me that present day architecture has nothing on the Nasrid dynasty. Traveling enriches our minds and our hearts by showing us how insignificant we really are…and it makes us kinder, braver, and wiser. And this is what I want to do for others…to open up the world for those who want to see (trademarked by Flight Centre, but I can relate to the sentiment).

Image courtesy of PBS
Havana. Image courtesy of PBS.

If I may with another quote: “If you don’t know where you are going, you’ll end up someplace else.” I suppose, I’ve arrived now. From the ivory tower of academia to a simple desk at my travel shop, and I couldn’t be happier.

So, hey you, what do you really want? Whether you are day-dreaming of experiencing magic at Disneyland or are gathering the courage to take on the highest peak of Bolivia, I want to help you get there.

cate.ciu@flightcentre.ca

Why I left a promising academic career to be a travel agent. Part 1: The Lizzie McGuire Effect

IMG_5656

I have been trying to write this post for 2 weeks now, but just can’t seem to get it started. Thinking of how I got here makes me both laugh and cry, but as the great Kurt Vonnegut once said “I myself prefer to laugh, since there is less cleaning up to do afterward.” So, here we go.

Continue reading “Why I left a promising academic career to be a travel agent. Part 1: The Lizzie McGuire Effect”

Photo Set: My recent vacation to Mexico (part 1: beach, pool, room)

A couple of weeks ago, I spent 5 magical days in Riviera Maya at the Royal Suites Yucatan resort. Here are some pictures from my time there.

View from the room

Continue reading “Photo Set: My recent vacation to Mexico (part 1: beach, pool, room)”