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Family travel Archives - Air Canada Vacations

22 Jan

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Big White Ski Resort Family Vacation

January 22, 2019 | By |

Before kids, I was the kind of person who loved the occasional spontaneous travel experience—booking a flight, maybe a hotel at the destination and figuring out the rest on the fly.

But with demands on my time at a premium and four people to book, pack and get on their way, I revel in the simplicity of one-stop travel shopping.

When Air Canada Vacations launched its 2019 Canada Collection featuring ski vacation packages to resorts such as Mont-Tremblant, Fernie, Whistler and more, I all but begged to get on board to find out what kind of value these almost-all-inclusive trips could offer families.

So Miss Q and I packed our gear and set out on a ski trip to Big White, just outside of Kelowna. Our package included round-trip airfare from Toronto to Kelowna on Air Canada Rouge—and don’t forget that if you’re travelling with kids 12 and under, you can call the airline after you book to ensure you’re seated with your kids at no extra charge—lodging at the Inn at Big White, lift tickets for both of us and round-trip shuttles to get us to and from the resort.

Family Ski Vacation

Why Big White?

First of all, Big White is less than an hour from the airport. You can take a morning flight and catch a couple hours’ worth of runs not long after touching ground.

The resort’s tag line is “It’s The Snow” and ain’t that the truth. Big White’s snow is the best I’ve experienced so far in Canada and rivals the champagne powder in Utah. (Yet you get to stay in Canada. Score.)

It’s the kind of snow that expert skier Powder Matt called “buttery” during our shared visit to the resort. No ice anywhere—not even little granular bits broken up by a groomer—and that’s a gift to those of us from the east where skiing over icy patches is common place!

Skiing at Big White

Better still, Big White caters to families. It’s family-owned and being family-centric is as much a part of the resort’s identity as having killer snow.

Miss Q had no trouble getting on and off chairlifts on her own here, and the on-site Kids’ Centre was outstanding, with small-group lessons tailored to each child’s ability and daily written progress reports by way of a checklist attached to the kids’ ski jackets.

The ski lessons had instructor consistency and my kid was pretty thrilled about having snack-time built into her morning session. Oh, and a half-day (9:15 to 11:45 a.m., with two hours of lessons) is only $74. You can spend your morning in your own ski lesson, shopping or enjoying some me-time in the spa! I may have done all three…

One of the coolest things about Big White is that it feels like two resorts in one thanks to upper and lower areas connected by a free gondola ride. While all of the skiing is done in the upper section, the lower one houses the Happy Valley Day Lodge, skating rink, ice-climbing tower, horse-drawn sleigh rides, tubing and more.

Big White Ski Resort

Our favourite evening activity was tubing. SO FUN, and dare I say the best tubing we’ve ever tried. There are two long channels that run alongside a massive magic carpet, which means you can lazily ride back up to the top with your kid and your tube(s) rather than hoisting them with elbow grease. Single or double tubes await and the guys at the top will gladly give you an extra spin before they push you over the edge. Warning: they don’t mess around.

Tubing at Big White Skit resort

There’s a huge outdoor skating rink, and if you have your own skates, it’s free to use; skate and helmet rentals are available, too. You can hit up ice skating any time of day, but we loved it at night with a bonfire and free hot chocolate on the sidelines.

There are daily and weekly activities built for families, from crafting to live music, with a kid-friendly après-ski event every afternoon. And we simply ran out of time before we could get to the ice tower, dog-sledding, mini-snowmobiling, yoga, snowshoeing, Nordic skiing and so, so much more.

Ski at Big White Ski Resort

And even though meals weren’t part of our package, I have to note how impressed I was with the food at Big White. We made it to the Blarney Stone (have the Irish stew), Kettle Valley Steakhouse (have the wagyu steak), Black Diamond Bar & Grill (have the stuffed French toast), Clocktower Coffee Co. (have the mocha), Globe Café & Tapas Bar (have the quinoa breakfast bowl), Gunbarrel Grill (have the burger and Gunbarrel coffee), Moose Lounge (have the gargantuan nacho board), The Bullwheel (have the lobster chowder) and The Woods (have the short rib)—phew!

There is clearly a strong emphasis on food at Big White, because there wasn’t a bad meal to be had across the entire resort. That said, there are still nine or 10 other eateries we didn’t get to in the time we had.

Is a ski vacation package worth it?

All Air Canada Vacations ski packages come with round-trip flights from various Canadian cities operated by Air Canada or Air Canada Rouge, as well as hotel accommodations, lift tickets and airport shuttles.

If you think about all-inclusive travel, the only thing missing here is food. The convenience of having everything planned together—especially when you’ve got a million and one other things going on at the same time—cannot be understated. It’s brilliant.

Look at it this way: if you booked everything separately, and you have a flight delay, your shuttle driver might be completely unaware and you’ll risk having no one waiting for you when you arrive. Lift ticket deals are usually priced better in a package deal, too. And having ONE bill for everything with an itemized list and one set of taxes is a lot easier for a busy brain to manage, in my opinion.

Air Canada Vacations travelers can also benefit from free seat selection, a $100 future travel credit and 2,000 bonus Aeroplan® Miles per couple. Canadians can book on aircanadavacations.com, by calling 1-866-529-2079, or through your local travel agent.

How much is a ski vacation to Big White?

That’s a tough one because prices change all the time and depend on where you’re travelling from, how many people are in your party, how long you stay and a whole whack of other factors.

However, to give you an idea, I priced out the Inn at Big White in a superior room for five nights with four days of lift tickets. Again, this also includes return transfers from the Kelowna Airport to Big White and airfare (flying from Toronto direct to Kelowna). As of January 4 (when I wrote this), departing on March 15, 2019, it’s priced at $1,179 per adult including all taxes (and around $810 for kids).

That means a 5-night ski vacation, for a family of four with two kids around the 6-11 age range, comes to $3,969 all in. That’s a very, very good price. By comparison, we have done ski trips by car that cost about the same.

Bottom line: I’m already saving for an Air Canada Vacations ski trip for all four of us next season!

This blog post was written by Andrea Traynor, Blogger from Mommy Gearest. To see what Andrea has been up to recently, visit her website.

26 Nov

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7 Resorts for an Unforgettable New Year’s

November 26, 2015 | By |

Tired of the same-old, blasé New Year’s plans? We know the feeling – that’s why we’ve compiled a list of the best places to ring in 2016. Exciting, luxurious, and boasting sand over snow, here are our top picks to kick-start your year.

1. Grand Bahia Principe Coba

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The Grand Bahia Principe Coba in Riviera Maya offers great value for the whole family. There’s a waterpark and shows for kids, a golf course and casino for adults, and a beautiful beach for all only a short distance away (and yes, transportation to the beach is included!). It’s also part of our PLAY collection, which means everyone gets an exclusive flight experience and kids stay and eat for free. If that’s not impressive, then try this: stay in exclusive rooms with prime locations, thanks to our Privileges program.

2. Luxury Bahia Principe Sian Ka’an

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Say hello to 2016 in style at the adults-only Luxury Bahia Principe Sian Ka’an in Riviera Maya, Mexico. This resort exudes elegance with its minimalist, modern décor and supremely outfitted rooms. And what’s a romantic getaway without 24-hour room service, waiter service at the beach, or “After Golf” treatments at the on-site spa? We especially love the spa’s Vitamin Bar, where you can enjoy exotic natural fruit juices.

3. Grand Bahia Principe Jamaica

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The Grand Bahia Principe Jamaica is another excellent option for a family vacation. Situated right on the beach in Runaway Bay, there are 3 interconnected lake-style pools with 2 areas specially reserved for children. We’re also quite taken with the green spaces, tropical gardens and abundance of wildlife (keep your eyes peeled to spot long-tailed hummingbirds and green turtles). Bonus: Air Canada Vacations guests enjoy all the PLAY perks and access to an exclusive room section near the ocean.

4. Luxury Bahia Principe Runaway Bay

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The Luxury Bahia Principe Runaway Bay is an adults-only paradise and a definite contender for New Year’s. Since early this year, the resort has undergone extensive upgrades and by December 2015, there will be many new additions to experience firsthand. These include a new swimming pool, a swim-up bar, a lounge and “chill out” areas.

5. Meliá Jardines del Rey

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Treat your family to ultimate comfort at Meliá Jardines del Rey in Cayo Coco, Cuba. This 5-star beachfront resort has nightly entertainment, 3 swimming pools (don’t miss their pool parties with bubbles!) and designated activities and facilities for kids, including a playground and paddling pool.

6. Playa Costa Verde

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Another family favourite is Playa Costa Verde in Holguin, Cuba – and not just because it’s part of our PLAY program. Located directly on the beach, we particularly love the availability of snacks 24/7 (you never know when you’re going to get the munchies, right?), salsa dance classes, and introductory scuba lessons in the pool. Be sure to take advantage of the morning room service, which means continental breakfast delivered to your door!

7. Sol Pelicano

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The Sol Pelicano in Cayo Largo, Cuba, is a nature lover’s dream. Bring the whole family and check out their renowned turtle observation program, which includes egg-laying and the release of baby turtles. Combined with ecological excursions, this resort has everything to make your next family vacation an adventure!

With the holidays around the corner, there’s no better time than now to start making plans for New Year’s. Get started today!

29 Jun

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3 Sunny Summer Escapes

June 29, 2015 | By |

Envisioning a summer escape that involves sun and sand? All you need are your sunglasses, sunscreen and swimsuit and you’re ready for a vacation down south (and the perfect tan). Here are 3 sunny escapes to consider for your summer vacation.

1) Diving Escape at Cozumel Palace – Mexico

Cozumel Palace Mexico

The island of Cozumel, just off the coast of Playa del Carmen, is an excellent place for a fun and relaxing getaway. The Cozumel Palace has the facilities, setting and staff to offer an unforgettable stay. Begin your escape with a spa treatment – we recommend the Pul Yah Ceremony, which will put your mind and body at ease for the remainder of your vacation. Next, get ready to explore the fascinating coral reefs surrounding the resort. You have 2 options: snorkelling for beginners or scuba diving for more seasoned divers.

The ecosystem on the coast of Cozumel is particularly beautiful, thanks to the mild Gulf Stream that allows for ideal diving conditions. The hardest part is choosing which reef to explore, because they are all different and stunning. Another advantage to staying at the Cozumel Palace is that you have access to all hotels in the hotel chain (6 to be exact)! You stay at one, but can enjoy the restaurants and amenities of all hotels within the resort. That’s excellent news if you’re planning a few leisurely strolls around the grounds.

2) Family Escape at IBEROSTAR Rose Hall Beach – Jamaica

Iberostar Rose Hall Beach Montego Bay

In addition to its superb setting overlooking a sandy beach in Montego Bay, the IBEROSTAR Rose Hall Beach offers lots of opportunities for family fun with its wide-ranging facilities for all ages. The little ones can play at the kids club, a hub for adventure. Meanwhile, parents can have peace of mind knowing that activities are supervised by certified animators. Relaxing at the spa or on a lounge chair by the pool or beach are all the more reason to unwind.

For those who prefer to maximize their time with the little ones, there is no shortage of activities to be had as a family: among options are catamaran cruises, tennis, kayaking and dance classes for those who have rhythm (and even for those who don’t). The best part about this resort? Kids stay and eat free.

3) Warm Escape at Breezes Varadero – Cuba

Breezes Varadero

Cuba is largely known for its friendly locals and joie de vivre. And Varadero is no exception, especially at the Breezes Varadero. From the reception staff and animators, to the waiters and management, the staff is excellent. Helpful and friendly, hotel employees flash you a smile at any time of day. Speaking of smiles, we bet you’ll also have one ear to ear when you savour a dish at El Mojito, one of the hotel’s restaurants. Named after the iconic Cuban cocktail, this restaurant showcases typical Cuban flavours.

One of the highlights of this hotel is the beach. Though all beaches in Cuba are breathtaking, this one is particularly stunning with its pristine, white sand and clear water with hints of turquoise and deep blue fading into the horizon. And the wooden huts only add to the charm of the beach. For those who would rather take a nap in the shade, there are several hammocks around the property – now, that’s what we call a proper escape.

 

Tempting, isn’t it? You can probably already picture yourself on the beach, cocktail in hand. What are you waiting for? Escape to sun and sand! Make sure to also check out our last-minute deals – you won’t want to miss these!

 

05 Jun

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5 Must-Have Family Adventures in the Caribbean

June 5, 2015 | By |

Looking for your next family adventure? The Caribbean is more than just pretty beaches – it is full of stunning natural surroundings that set the stage for exhilarating adventures. From bobsledding to swimming with dolphins, here are 5 family adventures you must have in the Caribbean.

1) Paradise Island – Nassau, Bahamas

Swimming with dolphins

Paradise Island, located just off Nassau, is an adventure in itself. At Dolphin Cay, enjoy an entire day of play. Begin with a 30-minute in-water interaction session or a deep water swim that will immerse you in the underwater world of the Atlantic bottlenose dolphin. Once you become more acquainted with their environment, sign up for the “Trainer for a Day” program, which gives you a glimpse into the exciting lives of dolphin and sea lion trainers. Other family-friendly activities in Paradise Island include the Pirates of Nassau interactive museum, Aquaventure (141 acres of water slides) and Lego Fantasy Camp.

2) Bávaro Adventure Park – Punta Cana, Dominican Republic

Ziplining

With its white-sand beaches, multitude of all-inclusive resorts and accessibility to activities like snorkelling and sailing, Punta Cana is quickly becoming the Caribbean destination for families. However, there is even more adventure awaiting you outside the resort area. Bávaro Adventure Park is the ultimate playground. Like heights? Embark on a zip line adventure (complete with 2 hanging bridges, 7 cable lines and a total of 8 different challenges), or the flight simulator (fly to a height of 20 metres above ground while admiring a 360-degree view of Bávaro). Additional park activities include Segway tours, a trampoline, mountain biking and climbing opportunities aboard a Caribbean pirate ship.

3) Eco-adventure parks – Riviera Maya, Mexico

Snorkelling

What better way to experience Riviera Maya’s ecological surroundings than to explore one of its elaborate eco-adventure parks? Xcaret offers a plethora of wildlife viewing opportunities: flamingos, jaguars, turtles, butterflies, you name it. You can also swim with dolphins, explore underground rivers and watch Mexican folkloric shows. At Xel-ha, you can snorkel in a natural cove that is home to hundreds of tropical fish, hike the various jungle trails and later relax in the designated hammock area. Xplor, one of the newest eco-parks in Riviera Maya, features 3 km of zip lines, underground rivers and the opportunity to drive through tunnels and caverns aboard an amphibious vehicle.

4) Mystic Mountain – Ocho Rios, Jamaica

Mystic Mountain in Ocho Rios definitely delivers on magical experiences. To begin your adventure, you must access the mountain via chair lift, from which you can take in breathtaking views of Ocho Rios. Once at the mountain, choose from a variety of activities. Bobsledding, inspired by the Jamaican Olympic bobsled team, is probably the most popular activity: once strapped into the sled, you’ll slide down the mountain on a 1000-metre-long track! Additional attractions at Mystic Mountain include the Mystic waterslide and infinity edge pool, zip lining, a butterfly garden and a hummingbird garden.

5) Wildlife and marine life exploration – Barbados

Marine life

If you have children too young for scuba diving or snorkelling, an excellent alternative is the Atlantis Submarine Adventures in Barbados. Once underwater, you can spot an array of marine life, which may include sharks, stingrays and sea turtles. Want to observe wildlife above ground instead? Take a day trip to the Barbados Wildlife Reserve, where you can stroll freely on the grounds while observing wildlife such as the Barbados Green Monkeys, an array of colourful birds such as flamingos and peacocks, and a variety of reptiles including iguanas, turtles and snakes.

 

Want to start planning your family adventure today? Check out our list of family-friendly resorts in Mexico and the Caribbean to begin planning your stay. (Tip: Choose from one of the many resorts where kids stay and eat free!)

 

25 Aug

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Top 10 Things for Families to Do in Jamaica

August 25, 2014 | By |

With its postcard-perfect beaches, lush jungles, and vibrant culture, it’s easy to see why so many vacationers crave the laid-back “Island Vibe” of Jamaican paradise. Jamaica offers many unique experiences for both seasoned adventurers and first-time travellers. Choose from exciting activities like zip-lining down mountainsides or rafting down jungle rivers. Alternatively, relax on the beach, find a local treasure at a street market with friends, and take advantage of the luxuries offered at your all-inclusive resort! With so many things to do and see, Jamaica has become one of the most visited vacation destinations in the world. But what does Jamaica have to offer for families looking for the ultimate vacation experience?

The answer: A lot!

At resorts such as the Beaches Negril Resort and Spa, families can enjoy fun kids clubs, adventure excursions, and beautiful beaches. Parents, why not leave the kids in the hands of a capable babysitter while you take some time to relax at the spa or check out a nightclub? Jamaica also offers multiple family-friendly cultural tours and historical sights. Best of all, all of them are doable as a day trip, no matter which Jamaican city your resort is located in.

If you have a limited amount of time to spend sightseeing, it can be a bit tricky to pick just a few excursions out of the many available. To make your selection easier, here are our top 10 family adventures to have in Jamaica.

1 – Take a Canopy Tour 

Fly through the jungle like a tropical bird with Ocho Rios’ Canopy Tour.

Canopy-tour-ocho-rios

See the sights and sounds of the canopy as your tour guide introduces you to the various species of flora and fauna unique to Jamaica and the Caribbean. Both kids and adults are sure to come away having had the time of their lives with this exhilarating and educational adventure.

2 – Try Jamaican Bobsledding

Ever heard of bobsledding in a country where temperatures rarely dip below 23 degrees? Since the movie Cool Runnings, bobsledding has become the ultimate Jamaican experience.

Bobsledding-Jamaica

If your family is ready to race down the mountain track through the jungle, head to Ocho Rios’ famous Mystic Mountain Rain Forest Adventures – a kid’s dream come true. In the meantime, why not get a preview to see what all the fuss is about?

3 – Take the Family Dog-Sledding… Without the Snow

Jamaica is full of surprises, like Chukka Caribbean Adventures. Another Ocho Rios adventure, this dog-sledding outfit is perfect for the animal lover in every kid. All of the dogs at Chukka Caribbean Adventures are rescue dogs, and are eager to lavish affection on every visitor to walk in. Families can choose from either the “Encounter” or “Experience” options. Spend time playing with the sled dogs and watching them run a course or two, or hop in a buggy and experience full-scale Jamaican dog-sledding for a few minutes. Due to the heat, expect to spend much less time in the buggy than you would in a colder climate. 

4 – Don’t Miss Dunn’s River Falls

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Without a doubt Jamaica’s most popular sight, Dunn’s River Falls in Ocho Rios attracts thousands of visitors a year. Take a tour up to see the river! There are multiple fun ways for a family to make their way up the river depending on the ages of their children. Excursions to Dunn’s River are most easily done with kids aged 6+, as most tours consist of hikes, buggy rides, or ATV adventures. Families with very young children might enjoy taking a bus tour.

5 – Raft the Jungle Rapids

Best suited for families with kids aged 9+, river rafting has always been a fantastic family adventure. Suit up in your life vests, grab a paddle, and hit the rapids! Braco Adventure Tours in Falmouth offers multiple river adventure tours, from the original fun of river rafting, to other experiences such as river boarding and kayaking. What better way to get up close and personal with Jamaica’s natural beauty?

6 – Join the Adrenaline Junkies at Rick’s Cafe

If you can’t decide between relaxing with a cold drink and hitting some adrenaline-inducing adventure sports, why not head over to Rick’s Cafe, near Negril? This popular restaurant on the coast is known world-wide for the cliff-jumping that takes place there. Perched on the edge of a 30-40 ft cliff, Rick’s draws in adrenaline junkies from around the globe. Sip an ice-cold drink and watch locals and foreigners alike leap from incredible heights to plunge into the turquoise waters below, or try your own hand at it. Teens are sure to enjoy spending an hour or three at Rick’s Cafe.

7 – Go for a Family Ride Along the Beach

The Montego Bay Shore Excursion is a dream come true for young equestrians in the making. Saddle up and take an afternoon or evening ride along the beach, enjoying the sights along the way. Watch the sun set on the ocean as your guide takes you on a tour across the bleached white sands. Could anything be more perfect?

8 – Explore the Local Culture with John Hall’s Adventure Tour

John Hall’s Adventure Tour is well known for being extremely family-friendly. Babies are more than welcome on this tour. Your guide will take you out of Montego Bay and into smaller, less-visited towns and villages around Jamaica. You’ll experience local dance, foods, and customs. Kids will enjoy playing games, learning interesting facts, and meeting local children. If your family wants to get away from the crowds and see Jamaica from a new perspective, the John Hall’s Adventure Tour is perfect for you.

9 – Swim with Dolphins and More at Dolphin Cove

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Dolphin Cove is not to be missed, especially if there’s a marine life fan in your family! Swimming with dolphins is a bucket-list item for many travellers, and where better to finally tick it off the list than in beautiful Jamaica? Dolphins aren’t the only marine life at Ocho Rios’ Dolphin Cove. Visitors can also meet the local stingrays, feed wild sharks, snorkel with colourful tropical fish, and take a kid-friendly walk through a portion of the jungle.

10 – Rusty’s X-Cellent Adventures

Recommended primarily for teens, Rusty’s X-Cellent Adventures in Negril is an adrenaline-packed mountain bike tour that leads participants over rocky, muddy, and wild terrain for a unique look at Jamaica’s wild side. Teens are sure to have a blast. Expect to return to your resort muddy and exhilarated!

Jamaica has a lot to offer, whether you’re into adventure sports or simply want to finally take the time to relax. With so many options to choose from, you’re sure to find a tour which perfectly suits your needs!

30 Oct

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Disney Cruise Line

October 30, 2012 | By |

Created with all the imagination of Disney dream makers, Disney’s newest ships feature spectacular innovations that will make magic happen in brand-new ways.

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