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.

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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!).

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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.

Living out of your suitcase just got easier

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I am always trying to perfect the art of packing. I try not to bring too much stuff (emphasis on try), and usually just unpack my bag in a hotel room. But if you are visiting for a short while or are frequently moving from one place to another, that’s not feasible. Shelfpack may have found a solution (emphasis on may). It’s a portable closet, built into your suitcase. It helps make your belongings more visible, so you don’t have to blindly feel around your suitcase to find that shirt. Frequent flyers, would you try this?

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Business Thursday: Why every low-cost airline failed in Canada?

My first Rouge spotting. Ex AC, orig from HA.
From Air Canada Rouge Wiki page

It’s not secret that it is super expensive to fly within Canada. My Twitter feed has already been flooded with complaints from friends who say they may not be able to afford to go home for Christmas. And another friend is getting married in Mexico because it is cheaper than asking her guests fly to Newfoundland. These are CANADIAN PROBLEMS. Naturally, we get pretty jealous of our American neighbors, who have so many low-cost carriers.

In 2014, Planet Money recorded a podcast dedicated to Spirit Airlines, charmingly titled: “The fastest growing least popular airline in America.” The idea behind these low cost carriers is simple: you pack a plane full of people, break down the plane ticket price to just cover the cost of seat, and add a million fees for the extras (checked bag, seat selection, and WATER/COFFEE ON THE PLANE). There are some other things too….the seats are closer together, and get this? They don’t recline. It is by no means a luxurious experience, but hey, it works. These airlines address the core issue. Flying is expensive.

So, why have the low cost carriers taken over the Canadian market yet? The answer is GEOGRAPHY. An American flight from New York to Boston (39 minutes) could be packed full, yet a flight from Toronto to Vancouver (4 hours 40 minutes) could be half empty. Canada has a lot of land, and very few people living on it. This means flights have to go great distances with very few passengers, and you don’t have to have a business background to understand, that’s just not worth it.

There are still options for Canadian flyers though. Air Canada Rouge is a low-cost airline, focused on leisure, while Canada Jetlines aims to serve routes neglected by Canada’s major airlines, like Vancouver to Prince Rupert. Finally, travel agencies are a worth a try because they may have a contract with your preferred airline, which affords them a cheaper rate than the fare published on the websites. If you want me to price check a flight for you, you can email me at cate.ciu@flightcentre.ca. Happy flying!

Business Thursday: 5 Apps Essential for Business Travel (Part I)

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Continue reading “Business Thursday: 5 Apps Essential for Business Travel (Part I)”

Travel Tips from Frequent Flyers

Here are some tips gathered over the years from online articles, people I know, and personal experience.

  1. Write down addresses of places ahead of time – custom’s cards always require you to write down the address of your destination (e.g., hotel) and you don’t want to look for it while desperately trying to connect to the airport wifi. Write it down ahead of time in your phone/tablet or on a piece of paper, so you have it handy.
  2. Don’t check your bag – I often check my bag in order to avoid the hassle of being overly mindful of what I pack..and also because I am guilty of overpacking (pack it..just in case), and I certainly end up paying for it..literally….and figuratively. My flight got in at 2 am. I was so tired. And then the luggage carousel BROKE, making us wait for our luggage for hours. Train yourself to travel light; you won’t regret it.
  3. Buy a bottle of water on the other side of security – It is not a secret that planes are very dehydrating, which further adds to jet lag. Don’t be at mercy of those small plastic cups and drink your water!
  4. Invest in comfort – Planes get very chilly. Make sure you bring a sweatshirt and/or comfy socks. If you have trouble sleeping on the plane as is, I highly recommend a sleep mask, sleep pillow, and/or ear plugs. Someone decked out in all airplane sleep gear may look silly sometimes, but boy, will you be envious of them when you see them peacefully sleeping while you are angrily going though the in-flight entertaining menu…again (does that sound a little too specific to be a general example).
  5. Embrace the new time zone – Set your watch to the new time zone as soon as you get on plane, and eat/sleep accordingly. If you get there during the day, have a nice cup of espresso (preferably if it is 4 hours before bedtime), avoid taking a nap, get lots of sun, and go to bed at your usual time. It is also helpful to avoid/minimize alcohol and caffeine consumption while on the plane. It will certainly seem torturous at the time…especially if you have failed to sleep on the plane..but it is worth it in the long run.

Happy flying!