Top Travel Destinations in 2015

DSCN0504 Top Travel Destinations in 2015

Where are you going in 2015? If you haven’t figured it out yet, here’s some lists of the top travel destinations in 2015. I like lists. They bring inspiration and help me brainstorm for the next big travel adventure.

First up are the “Top Ten” lists. The “Best-Value” travel destinations are showing a definitive pattern of Africa, Asia and Europe for 2015. It was good to see Uruguay make the list. I’ll admit, I had to Google Burkina Faso – I had no idea where that was. This may be more for the intrepid traveler? I’ve heard there’s been some instability there recently.

While the “Top Ten Cities to Visit” list is dominated by European cities this year – a couple of them will be crossed off my Travel-To-Do-List this year. I’m from Western Canada and we love to hate Toronto, so imagine my surprise when I saw it on this list. I’ll keep an open mind since I’ve only been to Toronto for conferences and never had time to explore the city, the food scene, or the nightlife.

468x60 Top Travel Destinations in 2015

Top 10 Best-Value Destinations

Top 10 Cities to Visit 

1. Tunisia 1. Washington DC
2. South Africa 2. El Chalten, Argentina
3. Shanghai 3. Milan, Italy
4. Samoa 4. Zermatt, Switzerland
5. Bali 5. Valletta, Malta
6. Uruguay 6. Plovdiv, Bulgaria
7. Portugal 7. Salisbury, UK
8. Taiwan 8. Vienna, Austria
9. Romania 9. Chennai, India
10. Burkina Faso 10. Toronto, Canada

Next up; the “Most Affordable” travel destinations. Europe, Southeast Asia and South America look like the places to be for maximum travel value in 2015. There’s some great options here. You could spend the summer exploring Eastern Europe, backpacking South America or trek from Nepal down to Laos and Cambodia.

If money is no object, there’s the “Most Expensive” travel destinations list. No big surprises here – lush tropical islands and playgrounds for the rich. Although, Island hopping in the South Pacific sounds like a good time to me.

Most Affordable Destinations 

Most Expensive Destinations 

1. Bolivia 1. Maldives
2. Laos 2. Seychelles
3. Nepal 3. Aruba
4. Macedonia 4. Monaco
5. Peru 5. Mauritius
6. Serbia 6. French Polynesia
7. Cambodia 7. Bahamas
8. Slovakia 8. Cook Islands
9. Guatemala 9. Vanuatu
10. Lithuania 10. Mozambique

So, what do you think? There’s some solid travel ideas in these lists, so make 2015 your year to really get out there and travel. I hope this brings some inspiration to your travel plans.

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2015 Top Travel Destinations Lists sourced from HotelsCombined

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3 Simple Tips for Safer Travel

3 Tips for Safer Travel 3 Simple Tips for Safer Travel

We’ve been traveling together for over 10 years now. In that time, our travels to different corners of the world have been trouble-free; not so much as paper cut. However, unexpected things can and do happen while traveling.

On a recent trip to Europe, my lovely travel companion had an accident and the injury required immediate medical attention. It all happened so fast and it was quite stressful dealing with an injury while traveling in a foreign country, on the other side of the planet.

This experience made me realize that we were getting somewhat complacent when it came to our travel safety. We’re reasonably healthy, reasonably smart people and because nothing bad had ever happened in our travels, we were starting to believe that nothing bad would ever happen to us. So wrong!

To minimize the pain of unpleasant surprises while traveling , here are three simple tips we use to help us travel safe.

468x60 3 Simple Tips for Safer Travel

Be Calm

The fun of visiting new places, sampling exotic foods and experiencing new cultures; we can all agree that travel is exciting! On the other hand, travel is hard work. There’s the long hours of planning and logistics. There’s the aggravation of lost luggage, cancelled flights, getting lost in strange cities, getting robbed, or getting injured. Add some language & cultural barriers to that recipe and travel can be downright stressful at times.

Getting angry, getting emotional and acting irrationally leads to bad decision making and that can put you at risk when you’re out there seeing the world. So, take a deep breath, be cool, and when you feel a meltdown coming on, take a minute to sort out your feelings and your options, so you can make smart decisions and you can continue on your adventure with confidence.

Be Careful

Be aware of your surroundings, use a money belt, don’t take a shortcut down a dark alley late at night, don’t get too drunk and stumble into an unlicensed taxi or tuk-tuk. I know what you’re thinking; these are all common sense things, but they’re worth the review. It’s easy to forget some of this stuff when caught up in the excitement of a being in a wonderful new place.

Speaking of excitement, it’s easy to be seduced by adventure when traveling. For example, repelling down a large waterfall in Costa Rica – it looks awesome, but if you don’t repel down waterfalls in your regular life, it may not be the best time to start. Your jungle waterfall adventure could quickly turn into an airlifted-to-hospital adventure. Another important point to make here, your travel insurance company may consider these kinds of activities to be extreme sports and if you did get injured, they may refuse coverage. The fine print could expose you to potentially huge medical bills.

Be Prepared

Travel Insurance

Always buy travel insurance . . . always! Hopefully you won’t have to use it, but it’s important to be covered, just in case. Take a few minutes to read your travel insurance policy so you know what’s covered, what’s optional and what isn’t covered – like trip cancellation or extreme sports for example. It’s also good to review your credit card travel coverage or travel policies through your company benefits. They may not be as comprehensive as you think. Bottom line here, make sure you have the coverage you need before you depart.

Travel Documents

Have all your travel documents in order and ready to go like air tickets, hotel reservations, and transfers. Everyone likes to organize things their own way, like using the TripIt App as an example. I definitely use Apps, but I still keep hard copies as backup.

Other travel documents we keep easily accessible are things like our travel insurance information cards, photocopies of our passports, visa information if necessary, embassy & consulate contacts, and airline customer service numbers. It certainly saves time and stress if something does go wrong on your trip.

Travel Research

I’m a bit of a geek when it comes to research, aside from putting my boots on the ground in new places, I really enjoy the research and planning part. Do a little homework in advance and get to know the places you’re going. I usually start with city maps and transit options.

Find out more about the local culture, the language, the food, and points of interest to plan a basic itinerary.  Be flexible and don’t fall in love with your brilliant itinerary, a big part part of the travel experience is going with the flow – you’re plans will change.

These are the basics we follow to travel safer and smarter; without completely trampling on that sense discovery and excitement, when we land someplace new. I hope you find it helpful and feel free to share your most useful travel tips.

 3 Simple Tips for Safer Travel

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Cathay Pacific: Canada’s Gateway to Asia

HKG 2 Cathay Pacific: Canadas Gateway to Asia

I have a confession; I’m hooked on traveling to Asia. It’s one of my favorite escapes. I love everything about it – the people, the rich culture, the awesome food, the vibrant cities, the beautiful beaches. My first trip to Asia was Hong Kong in 2006. It was also my first time flying Cathay Pacific Airlines.

Like many Canadian travelers, I had a history of flying on North American airlines. Needless to say, I went in with low expectations, but I was very impressed with the experience and I immediately became a loyal customer. In fact, I’m convinced that the best way from Canada to Asia, is flying with Cathay Pacific.

Award Winning International Service

Skytrax WBA 2014 English Gbg Cathay Pacific: Canadas Gateway to AsiaAs a premium Asian airline, Cathay Pacific offers multiple direct flights to Hong Kong International Airport (HKG) on a daily basis, from Vancouver International Airport (YVR) and Toronto’s Pearson International Airport (YYZ).

Cathay Pacific was voted World’s Best Airline in 2014 for a record fourth time, so it goes without saying that you will experience the finest service, quality meals and a great selection of snacks & drinks to keep you well fed throughout your flight.

If you’re flying on to other major destinations in Asia, you can expect the same award winning international service on those shorter regional flights. I still have fond memories of the green tea ice cream served on a flight from Phuket to Hong Kong. To stay on the topic of dessert, on my last flight from Vancouver to Hong Kong, they served Haagen Dazs ice cream bars. Haagen Dazs in Economy Class? Well done Cathay, well done.

In-Flight Amenities 

Premium Economy Cathay Pacific: Canadas Gateway to Asia

Canada is a long way from Asia and like many of you, I need certain amenities to survive an international flight lasting up to 15 hours. Cathay does a great job with this. The seats were comfortable with sufficient leg room (I’m 6 feet tall) and when the passenger in front of me reclined their seat, there was still room to move, even with my meal tray in the open position.

To keep you entertained in-flight, there’s Studio CX, featuring a 9″ widescreen personal TV with over 100 movies, 500+ TV shows, and 888+ music CD’s. You can connect your iPhone and iPad to stream your own movies to the screen; there’s a USB port to charge your mobile devices and a 110V AC outlet to power your laptop & other electronics.

Keep in mind, I’m describing the service and amenities available in Economy Class. If it’s that good in Economy, consider the luxuries that await you in Premium Economy, Business and First Classes.

Whether your next trip to Asia is a multi-city business trip in China, a shopping spree in Hong Kong, a tour of the Angkor Wat temples in Cambodia, or some quality time on a beach in Thailand, Cathay Pacific will get you there in comfort.

To book your award winning flight to Asia, visit the Cathay Pacific Canada Website.

Bonus! Vancouver to New York City

Vancouver is my home airport and historically, flying to New York was a hassle on most domestic airlines. If it wasn’t the annoyance of mediocre service, cramped seating, extra fees, and tight connecting flights at congested airports; it was the pure disgust of paying $8 for a stale turkey sandwich.

If you want all the hassle-free benefits of a premium international flight on your next trip to “The Big Apple”, Cathay Pacific offers daily non-stop flights from Vancouver International Airport (YVR) to New York (JFK) Airport.

You’ll get the same award winning service, the same selection of complimentary meals, snacks & drinks, and the comfort of flying in a wide-body jet; with no extra fees for checked baggage*. This, in my opinion, is the best way to fly from Vancouver to New York.

To book your award winning direct flight from Vancouver to New York City, visit the Cathay Pacific Canada Website. is a member of the CX Ambassadors Advocate Program. As a proud #CXAmbassador, I’m required to disclose a relationship between our site and Cathay Pacific Canada. This could include Cathay Pacific Canada providing us w/content, product, access or other forms of payment.

*Restrictions may apply. Consult baggage allowance policy for details.
IEL7 06nSy Cathay Pacific: Canadas Gateway to Asia

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A Siesta on the Mayan Riviera

468x60 A Siesta on the Mayan Riviera

Can you think of a better way to get some much needed rest and relaxation than to stay at a luxury all-inclusive resort in Playa del Carmen, Mexico?

Given my history of budget travel, this particular luxury all-inclusive resort did wander far beyond my usual travel budget, so in the interests of full disclosure, this trip was not sponsored by the resort company.  This was a work related bonus and I’m not about to refuse an all expense paid vacation to the tropics. The best part, no other co-workers were in attendance. Don’t get me wrong, they’re good people, but they happen to be at the top of my “People I Don’t Want to See While on Vacation” list.

If you don’t know, the Mayan Riviera and Playa del Carmen is on the Yucatan Peninsula, 45 minutes south of Cancun, along the Caribbean  coast of Mexico. Okay, enough of the geography lesson, let’s get to the resort now.

DSC01017 1024x680 A Siesta on the Mayan Riviera

We stayed at the Occidental Royal Hideaway Playacar. This is an adults only, luxury all-inclusive resort where the five star service starts the moment you enter the property. We were given a warm welcome from the valets who escorted us to the reception area, where we were greeted with a glass of champagne, to make the check-in process more comfortable, of course.

At 200 rooms, the Royal Hideaway is a small resort, which affords guests more privacy and peace & quiet. Our room was spacious and very well appointed. The bed was super comfortable. I liked how the rooms were configured into villas. There were 11 villas with a small number of rooms in each – some villas were all suites, so they had even less rooms. Each villa has a “Private Villa Concierge” to assist you with restaurant reservations, excursions, etc., which was awesome (like the service wasn’t fantastic enough already).

The resort has all the amenities you’d expect from a luxury all-inclusive like a spa, fitness center, tennis courts, several different water sports, and 6 pools, just to name a few. The Royal Hideaway also has a weekly dinner theater show and live music every night at Bar Allegria.

There are 6 specialty restaurants and afternoon tea ranging from authentic Mexican to Italian cuisine – all of them were great, but we liked Azia the best. They specialized in Japanese and Thai food. Who knew you could get sushi that good on the Yucatan Peninsula?

With all of this at your disposal, they make it pretty easy not leave the property at all during your vacation. I recommend getting  outside the walls of the resort and check out Playa del Carmen. There’s great shops, restaurants, street markets and nightlife around 5th Avenue. The local beach is nice and you can catch a ferry to Cozumel at the pier.

DSC01066 1024x764 A Siesta on the Mayan Riviera

While on the Mayan Riviera, you need to go to the ancient Mayan ruins of  Chichen Itza. I like history and I’m a sucker for some good ancient ruins, so it was on the must-do list. Our “villa concierge” helped us arrange the excursion with a local tour representative who met us at the hotel. It was a full day tour that included lunch and stops at Chichen Itza and a large Cenote for swimming. If you don’t know what a Cenote is, it’s like a big sink hole full of ground water. The ancient Mayans would use them for sacrifices too.

We made it back to the hotel in time to catch the last of afternoon tea and a splash in our favorite relaxation pool before dinner.

This vacation getaway got me to rethink my travel budget. As much as I enjoy our budget travel adventures, why not set aside some extra funds for a taste of the good life? From time to time, it’s okay to be good to yourself and splurge on a nice meal or a luxury resort while traveling.

 A Siesta on the Mayan Riviera

Mayan Riviera Travel Resources:

Find Flights to Cancun
Find Playa Del Carmen Hotels
Riviera Maya Tourism

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How to Save Money and Travel More

468x60 How to Save Money and Travel More

Save Money Travel More 300x225 How to Save Money and Travel More

Before I got serious about travel, I would always find great travel deals to exciting and exotic places. The problem was, I never had the money to pay for these great deals.

As I looked at ways to get more money for traveling, I found that, things that bring comfort and convenience to our lives can empty your wallet fast.

The North American lifestyle can be materialistic and expensive; so, I’ll be focusing on easy steps you can take to save more money for your travels, by making some simple adjustments to your monthly expenses and habits, that could put thousands of dollars into your travel fund.

It’s important to know how much money you have coming in and how much going out. Most people know exactly how much their take home pay is, but when it comes to the money going out the door, that’s a different story.

Keep every receipt and track all of your spending for one month. Usually, one week of expense tracking is shocking enough. By doing this, you can see where all your hard earned cash is going and begin to recognize opportunities for savings.

Here’s seven tips to save big money on your monthly bills and expenses, so you can travel more.


Turn out the lights. If you aren’t occupying a room in your home, don’t leave the lights on. When the weather gets colder, turn down the heat a few degrees and wear an extra sweater around the house. The same goes for the summer heat, turn down the air conditioning and go commando if you have to, just remember to close the curtains for your neighbors sake.

Power down all electronics and unplug them, or turn off the surge protector when they’re not in use – they keep using electricity if you leave them plugged in. I’ve made a habit of doing this every evening, before I sleep; shut off the home theater, the computer, etc.

If you haven’t already, replace your light bulbs with energy efficient CFD’s or LED’s, they cost a bit more than conventional bulbs but they will save you money on your electric bill and last much longer.

Mobile Phone

Shop around and find a reasonable plan that fits your lifestyle, preferably with as much unlimited talk and data for a low, flat rate.  The mobile carrier I use, has a rewards program to reduce or eliminate the cost of handset upgrades.

Use apps like Whats App, Viber and Skype, to avoid roaming charges and get free international texts and long distance calls. If you live in Canada like I do, you know what I’m talking about. Mobile phone rates are incredibly high in Canada, so we need to save wherever we can.

Get rid of your land line – seriously, how often do people use land lines anymore? I haven’t had a land line for over 10 years and I don’t miss it at all.

Cable TV

Bruce Springsteen had a song in the early 1990’s called “57 Channels and Nothin’ On”. Now, it’s more like 257 channels and nothing on. Get rid of your DVR and your premium cable package, it’s chalked full of TV shows and channels you don’t watch anyway.

I cut my cable, bought Apple TV, got a Netflix subscription and it saves me about $660 a year.  That, right there could pay for a 2 week hotel stay in Thailand.


If you can get by without a car and use alternative transit, do it, cars suck serious cash from your wallet. For most of us, that’s not a realistic solution, given the fact that many North American cities were designed around the automobile. “Downsizing” your car, is another option that can save you thousands per year.

It’s easy to get caught up in the ego and status of having a nicer car than your neighbor or co-worker, but all you really need is a reliable ride that gets you where you need to go. I traded my Acura for a Mazda 3 and it saved me over $6,000 a year in car payments, insurance, gas and maintenance.


If you buy coffee at a place like Starbucks all the time, stop it. Let’s say, for example, you spend $5 a day, everyday for your caffeine fix. That adds up to about $1,800 per year. You could fly a long way for $1,800, like a round-trip flight from New York to Sydney, Australia.

Make coffee at home instead. When I say make coffee at home, I don’t mean those K-Cup things that go into Tassimo machines. You pay a huge premium for the convenience of single servings. Buy some ground coffee, or grind your own whole beans and buy a Bodum knock-off at IKEA for ten bucks and start saving.

Home Cooking

Dining out, the drive-thru, packaged foods like frozen dinners and potato chips, cost big money. Again, you’re paying a huge premium for the convenience. Spending $100 a week eating out – a conservative number for many people I know; would add up to over $5,000 in savings by cooking at home and packing a lunch for work. If you don’t know how to cook, learn. There’s an App for that. Better yet, take a trip to a place that has awesome food and take a cooking class, it will change your life.

Travel Rewards Credit Card

Accumulating travel rewards points that can be redeemed for free flights and hotel rooms should be considered a form of savings and they do help to reduce your travel expenses. Do your homework and find a card with agreeable terms – not all cards are created equally. Look for cards that offer bonus points for signing up and pay attention to the fine print; there may be restrictions and annual fees.

Now, I was hesitant with this one at first, given the rampant abuse of consumer credit in our society. Credit cards are unsecured debt, meaning they are high risk and that’s why they charge 20 – 30% interest on unpaid balances. It’s easy to get carried away and go on a spending spree for the sake of getting more points, but that will turn your travel points card in a liability very quickly. The point is to save, not get into debt.

Here’s my golden rule for using credit cards:

Always pay your bill in full every month and never, ever carry a balance or opt to pay the minimum payment. 

Charge as much of your everyday expenses on your travel rewards card as you can – like bills, groceries, gas, etc. and use the points as part of your overall travel savings strategy. Remember, only charge things you can afford to pay off completely, when the next bill arrives.

Bonus Tip: Alcohol

Ease up, or eliminate going out for drinks after work and on the weekend. Booze is expensive where I live, especially at restaurants, bars, and pubs. Enjoy an occasional store bought drink with the savory meal you just cooked at home.

Online Savings

Oh yeah, one last thing, open an online savings account and use the automatic savings feature so all the money you’re saving after applying these practical tips will actually get saved – and it will make more interest than the 0.1% you’re checking account is paying.

Don’t think of these money saving tips as a sacrifice or a budget, think of these as practical action steps to achieve your travel goals. Let other people drive expensive cars, drink over priced coffee and dine at the trendiest restaurants every day of the week; because you’ve got some serious traveling to do.

All the tips I presented in this post, I’ve done myself. If they can work for an amateur traveler like me, I know they’ll work for you too. Whether you’re saving for a dream vacation or you’re saving for a long term adventure, travel often and travel well.

 How to Save Money and Travel More

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