AIR CANADA VACATIONS BLOG

As the copywriter at Air Canada Vacations, it was a joy to launch and develop a travel blog. Lists proved to be very popular content as they are easy to consume, memorable, and inspiring.

Read more of my Air Canada Vacations blog articles >

6 Places You Have to Visit in the USA

The USA is full of surprises and wonders that should be on everybody’s bucket list. Family fun in Florida. Amazing adventures in Hawaii. And colourful charm in California. Here are 6 places you have to visit.

ORLANDO_Magic-Kingdom-Fireworks

1. Orlando

The Theme-Park-Capital-of-the-World will never disappoint with world-famous Walt Disney World® Resort, SeaWorld Orlando®, and Universal Orlando® Resort and tons of others choices. Discover great shopping and golf at more than 150 local courses. And be sure to check out the new dining and entertainment options on International Drive.

Where to stay

The Liki Tiki Resort by Diamond Resorts is a beautiful resort-style hotel with amenities for the whole family including a water park. Plus, you’re only minutes from Walt Disney World® Resort, SeaWorld Orlando®, and Universal Orlando® Resort.

At the International Palms Resort, you’re right in the heart of the theme park action of Orlando. Your family will love the free shuttle service to the parks, and great deals on dining.

HONOLULU_surf

2. Honolulu

The heart of Hawaii, the city of Honolulu on the island of Oahu is bursting with island magic. Try surfing or snorkelling at Waikiki Beach. Hike Diamond Head Volcano. Or make some colourful friends at the Honolulu Zoo. Enjoy it all with a tropical breeze and the easygoing spirit of the islands of aloha.

Where to stay

The beachfront resort-style Hyatt Regency Waikiki Beach Resort & Spa has everything you need for a great vacation including restaurants, a spa, a pool and live entertainment. Plus, Waikiki Aquarium and iconic Diamond Head Volcano are close by.

The vast Hilton Hawaiian Village Waikiki Beach Resort boasts Waikiki’s best stretch of white-sand beach and 22 acres of lush tropical surroundings. Enjoy daily activities, great dining options and luxurious rooms.

3. Maui

Maui is marvelous. No island can boast the incredible diversity of this beautiful place.

Scenic Hana Highway winds through the deep pools and soaring waterfalls of Oheo Gulch. Mt. Haleakala towers above. Snorkellers discover incredible colours and diners delight in a rich and delicious food culture. It’s one adventure after another.

Where to stay

The AAA Four Diamond Hyatt Regency Maui Resort & Spa offers you 40 acres of tropical gardens just minutes from the famous Whalers Village shopping complex. Enjoy 7 restaurants and bars, a water slide and kids’ lagoon, snorkelling and kayaking.

The completely refurbished oceanfront Wailea Beach Marriott Resort & Spa delivers a stylish vacation of modern luxury and conveniences including a new restaurant, Humble Kitchen, by world-renowned chef and Hawaii native Roy Yamaguchi.

Los Angeles

4. Los Angeles

The City of Angels can make any dream come true. From the glitz and glamour of Hollywood and Rodeo Drive, to the cooling mountain air and rambling wine country, whatever you’re looking for you’ll find it. And if family comes first, you’ll find theme parks and activities for every age.

Where to stay

One of our most popular hotels in California, the Hyatt Regency Huntington Beach offers spectacular amenities and great restaurants including Watertable, one of the top 100 Best Restaurants in America. Plus, scenic Orange County is just minutes away.

The Holiday Inn Anaheim at the Park is a great, affordable choice if you’re going to Disneyland! Enjoy the hotel’s facilities or head a few minutes down the street to all the restaurants, shops and entertainment of the Downtown Disney® District.

MIAMI_BeachUmbrellas

5. Miami

Miami is alive with a vibrant art scene, great shopping and activities for everyone. Hit the beach for long lazy days in the year-round sunshine, or go cosmopolitan with gourmet dining and a jumping nightlife. Miami is golden.

Where to stay

In stylish South Beach, the Eden Roc Miami Beach is an upscale oceanfront hotel with a glamorous pool scene. You’re just a 10-minute drive from Lincoln Road’s world-famous shopping.

The ultrachic beachfront W South Beach is across the street from the sophisticated Bass Museum of Art. Discover the hotel restaurants, lively poolside grill, opulent lobby nightclub, and rooftop basketball and tennis courts.

San Francisco

6. San Francisco

The City by the Bay is as beautiful and inviting as you’ve always imagined. Lose yourself in the shops, art galleries, restaurants and theatres around Union Square. Cross the famous Golden Gate Bridge. And be sure to wander through the Victorian architecture of picture-perfect Alamo Square.

Where to stay

Centrally located near Union Square, the upscale Westin St. Francis is just a 10-minute walk from the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. Enjoy a sophisticated steakhouse, cozy cocktail bar, and a serene beauty and wellness spa.

The contemporary Parc 55 San Francisco – A Hilton Hotel is just a 2-minute walk from Westfield San Francisco Centre Mall and offers a hip Thai restaurant, a gym, and a business center with free WiFi.

Ready to book your vacation in the USA? Get started today.

7 Reasons You Should Go To Portland

Keep Portland Weird is the city’s unofficial slogan and the drive behind what makes this such an eclectic, inspiring and wonderful place to visit. Here are 7 reasons you should go. And while you’re there be sure to share, hashtag #PDXNOW.

1. Food Is A Way Of Life

Portland basically invented farm-to-table. For delicious local fare, head to Clyde Common or DOC for seasonally inspired Italian like risotto with spinach-pesto-roasted pepitas. Be sure to stop at one of the 600+ food carts conveniently grouped in “pods”. For the best Thai chicken, look for Nong’s Khao Man Gai, or head to Grilled Cheese Grill where the simple classic is taken to new heights.

2. Coffee Culture Second To None

2013 Travel Portland spring/summer shoot. by Jamie Francis jamierafe@yahoo.com 5039755174 jamiefrancis.com

For lovers of good coffee and delicious pastries, take a break at one of the many artisanal cafés serving a mix of independent roasters. Head to Heart Roasters for a lighter Scandinavian-style roast with subtle fruit flavours and pastries from Bakeshop. Coava serves up some of the best single-origin coffee in the city, while Courier mixes micro-roasting and a deep collection of vinyl.

3. World-Famous Wine, Beer and Cider

2014 Travel Portland beer. by Jamie Francis jamierafe@yahoo.com 5039755174 jamiefrancis.com

The Willamette Valley Winery Tour is a great way to discover Portland’s most famous wine region. This self-guided tour includes stops at David Hill Vineyards & Winery, whose 2012 Estate Pinot Gris earned a rating of 91 from Wine Enthusiast, and Tualatin Estate Vineyards, one of the region’s oldest winemakers. You’ll also find urban wineries offering up sophisticated tasting menus in stylish settings like Hip Chicks Do Wine, which opened way back in 1999.

If craft brews are your favourite thing, Portland boasts over 65 local breweries. Pick up The Portland Beerbook for the most essential choices.

Local orchards support a vibrant cider scene, providing a huge selection of fresh opportunities like Reverend Nat’s blend of heirloom apples, or Swift Cider’s spicy barrel-aged creations.

4. A Whole Year Of Events And Festivals

With a full schedule all year long, you’ll definitely find something to pique your interest. How about the Holiday Ale Festival or the Oregon Brewers Festival for a good brew? If music is your travel passion, don’t miss the PDX Jazz Festival or the Waterfront Blues Festival. But if food is your love, check out the Portland Farmers Market and Dining Month every March.

5. The Great Outdoors

Great Outdoors

About 30 minutes from downtown Portland, you’ll find yourself in the untouched wilds of the great north Pacific Coast. Columbia River Gorge is home to 77 warterfalls and extensive trails. Iconic Mount Hood boasts the longest ski season in North America, old growth forest and 1,000 of miles of trails. Head west to the Oregon Coast for scenic shorelines, nautical history and tasty crabbing.

6. No Sales Tax So Shop Shop Shop

The city has no sales tax! So shop as much as you like, it’s a lot more fun this way. Head to Downtown Portland for famous department stores like Nordstrom and Macy’s. Pioneer Place has major brands like Louis Vuitton and Tiffany & Co. For a bit more local whimsy, try the Pearl District and the Northwest / Nob Hill areas.

7. Urban Green

On March 13th, 2015 the cherry blossoms are in full bloom at the downtown water front along the Willamette River in Portland, OR. (NOT published)

Portland has 288 public parks ranging from the smallest park in the world, Mill End Park, to the sprawling 5,156 acre Forest Park with 113 km of trail right in the city. For a more polished green experience, head to the Lan Su Chinese Garden or the expanded Japanese Garden. For a daylong adventure, try the 4T Trail. It’s a self-guided tour that uses trails, trams, trolleys and trains for a close encounter with urban nature.

Interested in learning more about Portland? Click here to find out more or to start planning your trip today!

8 Things You Probably Don’t Know about Hungary

Hungary may not be on the tip of your tongue when you think of where to go in Europe, but it should be. For centuries, this amazing country, and especially its capital, Budapest, were the heart and soul of Europe. Here are 8 things you probably don’t know about Hungary:

1. Incredible Architecture

Hungary’s artistic heritage survives in its architecture, from Roman ruins, medieval towns, baroque churches and Art Nouveau bathhouses. One of the grandest buildings of them all is The Hungarian Parliament in Budapest. Completed in 1904, this palatial building is the largest in Hungary and the highest in Budapest. Its construction included half a million precious stones and 88 lbs of gold. Hungary also boasts the second largest synagogue in the world.

2. The Year of Gastro Adventure

Year of Gastro Adventure2

2016 is a yearlong celebration of the variety and quality of the Hungarian culinary tradition. Hungary is the host country of the Bocuse d’Or European culinary championship. There are festivals throughout the year where you can taste traditional and international dishes, meet the farmers and craftsmen, and sample world-renowned wines, like the honey-gold Tokaj. The largest of these events is the Festival of Folk Arts in Budapest in August.

3. Over 1,000 Thermal Springs

Hungary has over 1,000 thermal springs and a rich spa culture to go along with it. From the Romans through the Ottomans to the present day, these baths have been developed, celebrated and preserved. Budapest alone has over 300 thermal springs including spectacular Turkish baths. Hungary also contains Héviz, the second largest thermal lake in the world, and Miskolctapolca, Europe’s only cave bath.

4. 200 Caves Under Budapest

The labyrinth of caves and tunnels under the streets of Budapest is rumoured to be more than 120 km long. Guided tours take you to the vast, museum-like Szemlő-hegyi cave, a WWII underground hospital and parts of the subway system (the 1st on the continent). For the more adventurous, caving expeditions are available.

5. 8 World Heritage Sites

World Heritage

Historically fascinating, culturally rich and vibrant, it’s no surprise that Hungary has 9 World Heritage Sites, from caves to abbeys to the Hortobágy National Park. The Banks of the famous Danube are recognized heritage and so is the delicious Tokaj Wine Region, well worth a trip. On the list of Intangible Cultural Heritage, you’ll find the Busó festivities at Mohács in southern Hungary that mark the end of winter with fearsome masks and costumes.

6. The Danube

Immortalized by Strauss’s The Blue Danube Waltz, Europe’s second-longest river has long held a special place in our collective consciousness. From its source in Germany, it winds through 10 countries before finally reaching the Black Sea. Many river cruises, starting or ending in Budapest, trace its journey.

7. Budapest Loves the Nightlife

Szimpla Kert is the most famous of a unique kind of nightspot found only in Budapest, the “ruins pub.” These pubs all share a few main ingredients: usually in an abandoned building, a bit of thrift-shop décor, and some of the best people you could ever ask for. At the other end of the spectrum is A38. Voted the Best Bar in the World by Lonely Planet, this multi-disciplinary institute lives on a reconstructed Ukranian ship on the Danube.

8. Classical Music Adventure

Hungary has always been celebrated for its classical music. Be sure to attend a performance and the beautiful Opera House, or a fascinating piano concert at the 150-year-old Liszt Academy of Music. And if you’re travelling in the spring, be sure to check out the Budapest Spring Festival.

Interested in learning more about Hungary? Click here to find out more or to start planning your trip to Hungary today!

5 Destinations You Have to Visit at Least Once

Whether you’ve travelled a little or a lot, these five places have got to be at the top of your list. They’re fun, lively, exciting and definite essentials for all world-travellers. And if you’ve been to them before, try them again. These places are always full of surprises.

1. London

London

Everyone loves to wander the banks of the River Thames, taking in the most famous landmarks like Big Ben, Tower Bridge, Buckingham Palace and more. For a great view of the whole city, try the London Eye; it’s a 30-minute ride that takes you up 400 feet. For something different, try a pre-show drink on Carnaby Street in the busy West End, a great street market in Portobello, or the spectacular Victorian Kew Gardens.

Where to stay: 

The President Hotel is a London classic with an attractive combination of location and style right on Russell Square. Enjoy easy access to The British Museum and a live jazz pianist every Friday and Saturday night.

The Park Plaza Westminster Bridge is a beautiful, modern hotel within 10 minutes’ walk of London‘s key attractions, including Big Ben, the London Aquarium and the London Eye.

2. Paris

Paris

This city really is all about sidewalk cafés, good wine, and incredibly stylish people. The classic view from the Eiffel Tower is a definite must. The Louvre has an enormous collection of masterpieces, and when people tell you that it’s too big to do in one day, believe them. And be sure to visit Versailles. Amazingly, when it was built it was a day away by horse-drawn coach. Now, it’s half an hour by train.

Whatever you choose to do in Paris, just remember this one rule. Make time to sit back and enjoy being Parisian, if only for a little while.

Where to stay:

The Quartier Latin Hotel is right in the heart of the city giving you easy access to the Pantheon, the Sorbonne, Luxembourg Garden and Notre Dame Cathedral. This is a great choice for the traveller on the go.

The Auteuil Tour Eiffel offers a stylishly modern experience in a fantastic location, close to the Eiffel Tower. You’re right in the middle of everything with easy access to river cruises and public transport. 

3. Hawaii

Waterfall at the Blue Pools. Hana, Maui

Colourful, unforgettable and full of adventure, the islands of Hawaii are a must if you’re looking for great beaches, culture and fun. Plan a few days on each island; inter-island flights are so easy.

The Big Island is famous for its Volcanoes National Park where you can walk across lava fields and see lava boil into the Pacific. There is no end to the watersports, dining, and events in Honolulu on the island of Oahu where famous Waikiki Beach definitely lives up to its reputation. Maui, known as the Valley Isle, is often called the most beautiful island. It has an abundance of natural experiences but also offers great bars, shops and galleries. It’s a fusion of Polynesian charm and a modern vacation. 

Where to stay:

The Hilton Hawaiian Village is one of the best hotels in Hawaii. This iconic landmark offers a true island experience with fireworks every Friday, a Starlight Luau, and the longest stretch of beach along a hotel in Waikiki.

The Hyatt Regency Maui & Spa is part of the expansive Ka’anapali Resort complex giving you an unbeatable island vacation. Enjoy restaurants, lounges, free-form pools and an easy walk to the Whaler’s Village for shopping and lots more.

4. New York

NYC

It’s amazing that so much life, so much history and so much fun can fit onto the island of Manhattan, but New York manages it somehow. From Central Park to Wall Street, from the MoMA to street artists, and from a pretzel on the street corner to Michelin-star gourmet, whatever your New York looks like, you’ll find it in spades. And now that Brooklyn is enjoying a spectacular renaissance with a new authentic artisans’ movement, the sky’s the limit. Just stroll across the iconic Brooklyn Bridge for the newest New York experience.

Where to stay:

The Row NYC, just one block from Times Square, gives you a truly New York experience. The unique design is inspired by the city’s famous neighbourhoods. Plus, take advantage of Times Square’s first indoor food market, City Kitchen.

The Night Hotel Theatre District offers a truly contemporary boutique experience. Each of the 73 rooms at the Night Hotel brings the best kind of fun back into travel with trend-conscious design. 

5. Orlando

Orlando_option2

The most famous theme parks on earth are all in Orlando, like Walt Disney World® Resort, Universal Orlando® Resort, The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, SeaWorld® and Legoland® Florida. The choices are endless. For something a little more off beat, try Gatorland, or the famous Kennedy Space Centre, where you can actually see the launch pads and vehicles that have taken people into space.

Where to stay:

The Ramada Plaza Resort & Suites International Drive is perfect for a theme park vacation. Wet ‘n Wild is only two blocks away, and there’s free scheduled transportation to Walt Disney World Resort and Universal Orlando Resort.

The Liki Tiki Village is great for families. Located in Kissimmee, a quick drive from Walt Disney World Resort and Universal Orlando Resort, this Polynesian themed resort offers an extensive water play area and lots of other great family-friendly features.

Cuba’s 7 Best Beaches

The island of Cuba has some 300 beaches spread across 600 km, so choosing the best is no mean feat. How white is the sand? How soft? How turquoise and clear is the water? And what are the options if you’re looking for something a little more energetic than napping in the sun? These are our 7 favourites, but Cuba averages 330 days of sunshine a year, so you have plenty of time to explore.

1. Varadero

Varadero beach

Probably the most famous beach of all, Varadero’s soft, white sand stretches an incredible 20 km. It’s well developed so you’ll find lots of activities, watersports, and all-inclusive resorts offering stress-free vacations. Off the beach you’ll find intriguing caves and a chain of offshore islands surrounded by beautiful coral reefs. You’re also only 140 km from Havana, which means you can easily spend a few days in the historic capital. The streets and fortifications of Old Havana are a World Heritage site and well worth a visit.

2. Playa Pilar, Cayo Guillermo

Playa Pilar, Cayo Guillermo beach

Ernest Hemingway was enchanted by the towering dunes of Playa Pilar in the gorgeous Jardines del Rey archipelago. In fact, this area was the inspiration for parts of his book Islands in the Stream. Cayo Coco and Cayo Guillermo, tiny islands joined to the mainland by a causeway, have immaculate beaches with excellent diving, snorkelling and tons of watersports. Playa Pilar is well known as the most beautiful of them all for its perfect white sand, swaying palms and warm clear waters. There may not be much traditional Cuban culture here, but you will definitely enjoy the mojitos and piña coladas.

3. Playa Flamingo, Cayo Coco

Playa Flamingo, Cayo Coco beach

This undeveloped beach on Cayo Coco will feel like your own little secret of white sand, and turquoise water. Cayo Coco is Cuba’s fourth largest island and has nine beaches over 22 km. There’s rich, indigenous vegetation here and over 150 different species of bird, including the graceful flamingo, hence the name of the beach.

4. Playa Megano and Playa Ensenachos, Cayo Ensenachos

Playa Megano and Playa Ensenachos, Cayo Ensenachos

These protected crescents of soft, warm sand are located on the tiny islet of Cayo Ensenachos in La Cayería del Norte. The land here drops off very slowly allowing you to wade out to 90 m or more in crystal clear waters. As an added attraction, the sea is calm here all year round, so there are no worries about getting red flag days (no swimming). Both beaches are incredibly beautiful, but Playa Ensenachos is closer to the resorts, which is perfect if you’re in the mood for something a little more upbeat. Playa Megano is more removed and is the spot if you’re looking for relaxation.

5. Playa Periquillo, Cayo Santa Maria

Playa Periquillo, Cayo Santa Maria beach

Cayo Santa Maria is part of a vacation area of three islets (cayos): Cayo Santa Maria, Cayo Ensenachos and Cayo Las Brujas (a.k.a Los Cayos de Villa Clara), all of which are part of the UNESCO-recognized Buenavista Biosphere Reserve. There is great diving and snorkelling here as well as bird watching, especially on the south coast of Santa Maria, which is dominated by salt marshes and mangroves. Playa Periquillo is a low-lying crescent of white sand and warm water. The shallow waters are great for bonefishing and long, sun-filled walks. Further out are coral reefs and a wreck perfect for diving.

6. Guardalavaca, Holguin

Holguin is Cuba’s most attractive resort area. The beaches of white sand and clear water stretch forever, occasionally interrupted by secluded coves and some elegant resorts. The town is quite charming and history buffs will enjoy some of the island’s best pre-Columbian archeological sites. As to the name of this area, it does mean “guard the cow,” a possible malapropism of guarda la barca, “guard the ship.” This area was once a frequent target of pirates. The name, then, would be a call to arms.

7. Playa Paraíso, Cayo Largo del Sur

Playa Paraíso is the most outstanding of all the beaches on this secluded islet. There are no permanent residents on Cayo Largo, which means it’s very quiet, calm and undisturbed. There’s a thriving coral reef, lots of wildlife including iguanas, and beaches for days. On Playa Paraíso (literally paradise beach) there’s a beachside restaurant and not much else, which is really what it’s all about.

Is one of these beaches calling your name? For more information or to start planning your Cuban getaway, check out our Cuba travel page.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s