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Top 10 travel ‘hacks’ for your best trip ever

- March 2nd, 2015


Take it from the experts at Travelling doesn’t have to be stressful or a lot of work if you just keep some simple ‘hacks’ in mind when planning and preparing for your trip.

Bringing along photocopies of all your important documents? Forget it! Simply snap a photo with your smartphone or tablet instead. Stressing about your airline losing your luggage? If you keep your essentials with you in a small carry-on, you can leave your worries on the ground when you take off, knowing important medication and your phone charger are at your side.

“Every frequent flier has a few travel tricks up his or her sleeve, with many learned the hard way,” editor Brittany Dietz said in a statement. “Whether you are jetting off for a quick business trip or a month-long adventure, these tried and true tips can save you time, money and headaches.”

Find the top 10 travel hacks from on the infographic below. Plus, for even more travel tips, check out this video from BuzzFeed. What are your favourite travel ‘hacks’?

Canoe Reskin 2013


Winter delights in Quebec City: Auberge Saint-Antoine perfect base for chilly getaway

- January 22nd, 2015
A view of the Petit Champlain area of Old Quebec, North America's oldest shopping district. (Nicole Feenstra/QMI Agency)

A view of the Petit Champlain area of Old Quebec, North America’s oldest shopping district. (Nicole Feenstra/QMI Agency)

Quebec City is delightful to visit in summer, but is especially charming during the cold winter months.

Twinkling lights and Christmas décor still adorned the snow-covered historic brick buildings of Old Quebec during my mid-January visit, casting a warm glow on the slushy cobblestone streets in a truly idyllic winter scene. A UNESCO World Heritage Site hugged by the oldest fortified city walls north of Mexico, this part of the capital captures the essence of a European trip without having to leave Canada.


Ski hills are just a short drive away, but the locals embrace winter within Quebec City and there is much for travellers to do once they bundle up and head outdoors. Go cross-country skiing or snowshoeing across more than 240 acres at the Plains of Abraham urban park, dare to paddle the St. Lawrence River in -30 degree temperatures on an ice canoe excursion, or, from Jan. 30 to Feb. 15, 2015, experience one of Canada’s most popular winter festivals in the 60th Quebec Winter Carnival.

Quebec City is very walkable and a guided foot tour is one of the best ways to sample more of the sites – and tastes – this 407-year-old city holds. Tours Voir Quebec runs a fantastic walking foodie tour that takes guests to some of the best craft beer brewers, maple syrup producers and local wine and cheese vendors the city has to offer, while highlighting architecture and history along the way.


After a chilly day exploring all the season holds in Quebec City, the boutique Auberge Saint-Antoine hotel, located in Old Quebec’s former port along the St. Lawrence River, is just the place to warm up and pamper yourself.

Cozy up in front of a fireplace in the lobby lounge and enjoy a plate of delectable seafood tapas while listening to live jazz or grab a DVD from the concierge desk and treat yourself to a private screening in the hotel’s 94-seat movie theatre. The Auberge Saint-Antoine will even provide the popcorn. And don’t miss the opportunity to be pampered at the hotel’s spa. Soothing massages, specialty facials and luxury manicures are all available. Be sure to relax post-treatment in your suite’s extra deep bathtub, which will be calling your name from the moment you check-in. Bathroom floors are heated, so no need to worry about catching a chill after a soak.

Fashionistas, or those who just enjoy a spot of good tea, will love the hotel’s fashion tea. Taking place on the third Saturday of every month until May, this afternoon tea service transforms the lobby lounge into a runway as models showcase fine clothing, bags and jewelry from well-known and emerging Quebec designers. Ladies and gents who lunch take in the show while sipping their Darjeeling or Earl Grey tea and nibbling on scones with jam and Chantilly cream, mini cucumber, smoked salmon and chicken sandwiches, and indulgent macaroons. It’s an afternoon treat that even draws the locals in from the cold.

These amenities add to the charm of the 95-suite Auberge Saint-Antoine, where historical décor has been married with modern design and the finest service to create an atmosphere that is at the same time luxurious and completely welcoming. During an expansion of the hotel in 2003, more than 5,000 artifacts were unearthed from the dirt of what was once North America’s largest shipping port. British merchants’ chipped cups and saucers, clay pipes and iron hardware were uncovered and are now displayed in the lobby, hallways and even within guest suites.

The approach to food at the Auberge Saint-Antoine is also very eclectic, and Panache, the hotel’s four-diamond restaurant nestled in a restored 19th century maritime warehouse, has a seasonal and sustainable focus. The kitchen uses herbs grown on the roof of the hotel and produce from the property’s own vegetable garden located just 15 minutes away. The winter menu features meats and cheeses from Quebec, as well as seasonal root vegetables: parsnips, celeriac and turnips. Panache’s wine sommelier is also always available to recommend a local Quebec wine to accompany your meal.


It’s easy to escape to Quebec City and the Auberge Saint-Antoine this winter. The hotel’s Winter Escape package includes a one or two-night stay, breakfast at Panache restaurant, hot chocolate in the lobby lounge, indoor parking and your choice of a dog-sledding excursion or ice hotel tour. Rates start at $380 per couple, per night and the package is available through March 20, 2015. For more information or to book your stay at the Auberge Saint-Antoine, visit

For information on travelling to Quebec City and the 60th Quebec Winter Carnival visit and



Scottish cocktails and recipes to celebrate Robbie Burns Day

- January 14th, 2015
(File Photo)

(File Photo)

Each January, Scotland — and those with Scottish ancestry across Canada and around the world — celebrates the life and works of its national poet, Robert Burns. Burns was born on Jan. 25, 1759 in South Ayrshire and went on to become the best known poet in the Scots language. He also wrote folk songs, most notable ‘Auld Lang Syne,’ which is still sung around the world on New Year’s Eve.

(Courtesy Innis & Gunn)

(Courtesy Innis & Gunn)

If you’re planning to hold your own Robbie Burns party at home this January 25th, Innis & Gunn, a craft brewer from Edinburgh, Scotland, has a number of cocktails and dishes perfect for any get together, influenced by the traditional tastes of the Scottish isle. Remember to celebrate responsibly!

(Courtesy Innis & Gunn)

(Courtesy Innis & Gunn)

Year in Review: Top 5 destinations of 2014

- December 15th, 2014
Reuters/ Images

Reuters/ Images

Each year, I put together a list of the top five destinations of the past year. Major sporting events, world festivals and even a visit from a royal or two can all put a destination in the spotlight.

At the start of 2014, Lonely Planet declared Brazil the destination to watch, an obvious pick in light of the 2014 FIFA World Cup tournament, followed by the less obvious choices of Antarctica, Scotland, Sweden and Malawi. TripAdvisor chose Havana, Cuba as the must-visit location of 2014, especially among Americans as rules for visiting the Caribbean country relax. And went sporting heavy, listing World Cup host Brazil, Tour de France starting point Yorkshire and Winter Olympics host Sochi as  hot destinations for 2014.


- Top five destinations of 2012
- Top five destinations of 2013
- Top 10 destinations of 2008

How did these destinations fare now that the year is coming to a close? As always, it’s easier to look back than ahead. Here are the five places I think were the most talked about in the year that was.

New Zealand: New Zealand makes a return to my list of top destinations of the past year, thanks to the release of the final ‘The Hobbit’ movie and an Easter visit from Prince William and Duchess Kate, along with Prince George on his first official royal engagement. The number of international visitors to New Zealand has increased by about 10% year-over-year thanks to ‘The Hobbit.’ Director Peter Jackson filmed the entire trilogy, as well as ‘The Lord of the Rings,’ in New Zealand and fans of the films can visit real locations across the country that feature in the film, including the original Hobbiton set in Matamata.

The springtime visit of Prince William, Duchess Kate and baby Prince George also drew a huge amount of attention to New Zealand this year. The royal couple were greeted by Maori warriors in a traditional welcome ceremony, rode a jet boat on the famed Shotover River and even met Jackson for a tour of his aviation museum. Prince George took part in his first official royal engagement during a play date at Government House in Wellington.

Rio de Janerio, Brazil: Rio had a huge year in 2014, acting as one of the host cities for Brazil’s 2014 World Cup, which saw an estimated 1 million people travel to the South American country. The city also hosted its annual Carnival celebrations in February, an uber popular event that saw an estimated CDN $952 million injected into the city’s economy from nearly 1 million tourists. Rio hardly has time to catch its breath after a busy 2014, though, as preparations for the 2016 Rio Summer Olympics are well underway.

Toronto: Ontario’s capital had a busy 2014. Toronto hosted the 2014 WorldPride festival in July, a celebration of LGBT rights that organizers expected would draw even more visitors to the city than the 1.2 million people the 2011 Pride Week celebrations did. This was also the first full year Ripley’s Aquarium of Canada was open in the city, celebrity brothers Donnie and Mark Wahlberg opened their first Wahlburgers location outside the U.S. in Toronto in the fall, and, for better or for worse, ex-mayor Rob Ford kept the entire world talking about Toronto as his 2013 crack scandal continued into his last year in office. Plus, six of Facebook’s 12 most checked-in locations in Canada in 2014 were in Toronto. Look for Toronto to stay in the spotlight in 2015 as the city prepares to host the Pan Am and ParaPan American Games next summer.

New York City:  I have yet to feature the Big Apple in my year-end roundup, but 2014 seems like a good year to do so. In addition to the never ending parade of events in New York — from literal parades, like the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade, to the lighting of the Rockefeller Christmas tree to New York Fashion Week — New York opened the National September 11 Museum in May. This poignant testament to the horrors of Sept. 11, 2001 and the city’s resounding strength in rebounding from the attacks follows the opening of the September 11 Memorial in 2011 and even attracted a visit from the young royals, Prince William and Kate — without Prince George, this time. William and Kate’s glamorous first visit to New York City came in December and attracted international attention. In addition to the September 11 Memorial, William and Kate visited other iconic sites like the Empire State Building, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and even met New York’s own royal couple, Beyonce and Jay-Z, during an NBA game at the Barclays Center.

Sochi, Russia: What would a list of the top five destinations of 2014 be without Sochi? The Russian city hosted this year’s other big sporting event in the Winter Olympics. More than 1.1 million event tickets were sold for the 2014 Olympics, which got off to a slightly rocky start, what with that fifth Olympic ring not opening during the opening ceremonies and incomplete or improperly finished lodgings. The Games ended on a stronger note, though, and Canada finished third in the medal standings. However, as seen in this photo essay from Gizmodo, Sochi had turned into a ghost town just six months after the Games as tourists left town and businesses struggled to stay open. The long-term impact on the Russian town remains to be seen, but in February 2014, all eyes were on Sochi.

Top 5 tips for buying travel insurance

- November 25th, 2014


Buying the right kind of travel insurance for your trip can be the trickiest part of planning a holiday. Do you need insurance if travelling outside of Canada? In case of an emergency, what are you covered for? Is your work insurance enough to cover any expenses?

The subject of travel insurance has been back in the news this week in a big way, all because of one Saskatchewan family’s million dollar U.S. hospital bill. Jennifer Huculak-Kimmel travelled to Hawaii while 24 weeks pregnant. She thought she had the proper travel insurance before leaving Canada, but, when she delivered her baby premature and spent weeks in a U.S. hospital, Huculak-Kimmel was shocked to learn her insurance company, Blue Cross, wouldn’t be helping her out with the $950,000 bill. While the reasons behind Blue Cross denying the claim have not been revealed, the company did say “there are more facts related to this story that prevent us from reversing our decision” in a statement.

It’s no wonder a 2013 BMO Insurance study found that just half of Canadians purchase travel insurance before going on vacation. Whether we’re shying away from insurance out of confusion over the coverage we think we already have or just don’t think insurance is all that important, the world of travel insurance can be very tricky to navigate.

So what should you look for and know before buying travel insurance? We turned to experts from Travelzoo Canada and the Travel Health Insurance Association of Canada for the top five tips.

1. Know your medical history: The Travel Health Insurance Association of Canada recommends Canadians know their medical history and consult with a health care provider before they fill out any insurance forms. They said the top reasons for denied claims are medical non-disclosure and misrepresentation about pre-existing conditions that are not stable.

“Responding accurately to medical forms is the best way to have a carefree holiday and ensure that unexpected medical expenses will be covered by insurance,” said THIA President Alex Bittner in a statement. “If there is a medical questionnaire, it needs to be taken seriously.”

It’s important to note you can still get insurance with a medical condition. Travelzoo Canada‘s travel insurance expert Michael Duchesne joined Sun Media for a chat about travel insurance last summer. He said travellers with pre-existing medical conditions can still get travel insurance and should look for policies that cater toward their conditions.

“I would encourage you to search for specialist travel insurers,” Duchesne said. “Select insurance companies cover people if their medical conditions are under control and stable for certain period. As a caveat, be advised that a minor change in someone’s prescription or medication can mean that the medical condition is not considered ‘stable.’”

2. Medical travel insurance and trip cancellation insurance are not the same thing: “Trip cancellation and travel health insurance are two distinct services,” said Duchesne. “Trip cancellation covers pre-paid and non-refundable expenses if your plans are interrupted or cancelled. The five main types of insurance are generally sold in a combo of sorts. If you only want one, then ask for it and ask whether there are incentives to upgrade to all or just some. A comprehensive package covers trip cancellation and interruption, evacuation, medical and baggage, even flight insurance.”

To read the full chat with Travelzoo Canada’s Michael Duchesne, click here.

3. Know what you are already covered for and if it’s enough: Many people have travel insurance through their work insurance plans or credit cards. Before you travel relying on this insurance alone, though, know what it covers and purchase additional coverage if necessary.

“Many people will already have some coverage through employers or credit cards and it’s important to understand existing coverage and ensure you have the necessary supplemental coverage,” said Bittner.

4. Even if you’re travelling within Canada, you may need travel insurance: You may think your provincial health insurance will cover any medical costs across Canada, but that isn’t the case.

“If you plan to travel outside of your home province, it is strongly recommended that you obtain additional private medical insurance and fully understand what your policy covers,” said Duchesne. “This comes into play with things like trip cancellation or interruption insurance, which covers pre-paid non-refundable expenses should your travel plans be interrupted or cancelled.”

5. Ask a lot of questions: How do you know if your medical condition is compliant with your insurance coverage? What level of coverage is right for your trip? Direct your questions to the insurance provider directly, said Duchesne.

“Keep in mind that travel agents recommend that you get travel insurance because they get a percentage when you buy it, and because they could be held liable for losses if insurance options aren’t explained correctly,” said Duchesne. “While they can give you information and provide direction, they are not insurance agents. It’s very important to direct specific questions to the insurance provider.”