Monday, 29 December 2014

The Gentlemen's Expo in Toronto

The Gentlemen's Expo in Toronto was November 14-16 at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre and I teamed up with the guys at Real Man Travels to take it in. I've compiled a short list (there was so much more) that highlights my favourite things at this year's expo. In no order whatsoever, here's the list:

1. WINE. Lots and lots of wine. Ladies, we already know that if there is wine, it's a good time. There were plenty of wineries representing at the expo and I had the pleasure of trying a few. I also found a new favourite! Sledgehammer Cab Sauv. Who cares if they say it's wine for men! It's a great wine to enjoy with a nice steak. 

2. FOOD. Some of Toronto's greatest chefs were there with samples of their fantastic dishes! Live demonstrations at the cooking stage definitely got our mouths watering.

3. BEER. As I have stated before, I heart beer. What better way to wash down some delicious eats than with an ice cold sample of the latest and greatest craft brew? Exactly, I couldn't think of anything else either. A particular favourite of mine from this show was from the Highlander Brew Co. Scottish Ale.

4. TEQUILA! Ra chacha! Why wouldn't you try a Canadian tequila? Exactly. It would be unpatriotic not to. The lovely people from Tromba were one of the first tasting booths I stopped at. They fed me margaritas and I didn't want to leave, but I knew there was so much more a head of me!

5. VINTAGE ARCADE. I feel that vintage isn't the right word. I mean, Super Mario Brothers 3 on Nintendo isn't really vintage, right? Right? Dammit, I'm old. But I totally killed it on level 1 of MB3. Totally would have made it to Level 2 if there wasn't so much more to see.

6. TODD SHAPIRO. Just kidding, but he was there too.

7. EDGE 102 SOUND STAGE. Performances ran all weekend long and featured artists such as Hollerado, Dear Rouge, Wildlife and many more Canadian bands.

As I've mentioned a few times, there was so much to take in and experience, a list just doesn't do it justice. As per usual I have compiled a few pictures of my travels through the Gentlemen's Expo 2014. Until next time ladies, keep it real, and I look forward to sharing my next adventure with you!

Tuesday, 16 December 2014

The First Annual Real Man Travels Gift Guide

The Gift Guide for Men

"Tis better to give than receive," unless you're standing in a packed mall trying to decide what to buy the man who answered "I don't know," or worse, "Surprise me!" Getting a man the perfect gift is almost impossible. It's not because you suck at buying gifts, and it's not because we're jerks either. Like me, most men feel that we need very little to be satisfied, or, feel that we have everything that we could ask for.

To help solve this Christmas conundrum, we've made a list, and you just know we checked it twice. So here's 50 GREAT gift ideas for the men in your life, naughty or nice.

Chris' Picks:

1.Steamwhistle Retro Wall Mounted Bottle Opener

On the first day of Christmas my true love gave to me... a beer in a tree. The perfect gift for any beer lover now comes with a six pack and can be found at the LCBO or at the Steamwhistle Roundhouse in the heart of Toronto.

2. Nikon D3200 

I bought a waterproof Nikon Coolpix about two years ago and have since grown a passion for photography and would like to have a better camera to take the ultimate picture. It also comes in a sweet red colour.

3. Department 56 Christmas Vacation "Shitter was Full" combo set 

Make the ultimate Christmas village with cousin Eddie with a beer in his hand along with the infamous RV.

4. American Eagle underwear

AE's boxer briefs are not only comfortable but they are also comical!

5. 2015 Honda Odyssey

I had the luxury of driving this beautiful van in the summer. This manliest van ever built comes with all the bells and whistles, including a cooler and built in vaccum system.

6.Sexy Christmas Lingerie 

What better way to get your man into a festive mood.

7. Under Armour "Macho Man" Compression shirt

Oh yeah! Part of the Alter Ego collection you are bound to find the perfect match for your man.

8. A Man Scarf 

Yes, a man scarf! They are so hot right now (editors note: we keep telling him they aren't. Sorry you guys)!

9. Loafers 

Loafers scream comfort zone and sometimes that's okay!

10. Plan a Date - 

Plan a night out as a couple or as a group, either way he will appreciate the effort.

Scott's Picks:

1.Retro Duo Portable NES/SNES Game System 

For that special, nostalgic geek you love, consider the gift of endless hours of throw-back gaming on the run! Because Super Mario is better than Flappy Bird any day!

2.10 Gallon Mash Tun 

If you’ve got a homebrewer on your list who aspires to go all-grain, a mash tun is the way to go!

3.Black Board Tap Handles 

Customizable tap handles for the home kegerator. Perfect for the kegging homebrewer in your life.

4.4-Piece High End Shaving Set from King’s Crown 

Give your man his own little slice of the bathroom counter (if he’s clever, he’ll name it “Man Island”) with this super stylish shaving set complete with slate platform.

5.Teva Raith Event Light Hiking Shoes 

For the outdoorsmen/backpacker, a sturdy, lightweight pair of hiking shoes.

6.MEC Trackback Waterproof Breathable Jacket 

Stay dry and look awesome; that’s every outdoorsmen’s wheelhouse.

7.Power Bank Charger

Charge your devices on the go; key for professionals who can’t help working dawn until dusk.

8.Nice cigar lighter

A nice, refillable cigar lighter; something I could pass down to my son one day (and would still be working at that point!).

9.Time with friends and family 

I take time off at Christmas every year to spend with family and friends, some of whom return home on at the holidays. This is all the more true as a new father. I suggest you do the same.

10.Batman Snuggie 

Yes, it’s as awesome as it sounds.

Justin's Picks:

1. Weather Tech Digital Fit Floor Liners

These bad boys make sure your whip's floor stays nice and clean. They preserve your carpet and ensure that moisture doesn't get trapped in the carpet causing rusty floor boards.

2. Nice pair of leather driving gloves 

Leather gloves make gripping the cold Canadian steering wheel in the dead of winter a little more bearable.

3. Home beer brewing kit 

I’m really chomping at the bit to try my hand at homebrewing, but you can’t get started without the supplies!

4.New putter 

My putting is atrocious, just ask the boys. I’m secretly hoping that a new putter would go a long way in helping me establish a solid short game.

5.New Fishing Rod

Since relocating to the great white north, I haven’t done as much fishing as I’d like. A new rod would go a long in getting me back out on the water.

6.Super Smash Brothers – Wii U 

Cause let’s face it… we all know there isn’t a better party video game than this. Plus, how else would I be able to use the new Wii U my son asked for ;)

7. A night on the town with Wifey

Admittedly, with my wife and I living far away from family, and having a pretty (read: very) hectic life, we don’t get out much.

8. Remote Car Starter 

Because running outside in your sleep shorts and flip flops in -40 is never fun.

9. Set of craft beer glasses 

Several different shapes/sizes for different styles. For the craft beer drinker on your Christmas list, these glasses complete the experience.

10. A pint (or eight) of good beer with my good friends/family

A common sentiment among the Real Man Travels team. My family and I usually trek the 1500km back to southern Ontario to see our families twice a year. Once in the summer and once at Christmas, and we’re always sure to put time aside for the friends and family that matter most.

Ed's Picks

1. Canon Rebel T3i - $599.99

Let’s face it, smartphone cameras have come a long way, but still really miss the detail and lighting solutions of a proper DSLR. Along comes the Canon Rebel T3i, an entry level DSLR camera with a lot of functionality and bells and whistles. Perfect for the man who is looking to up their photography game.

2. Boto Swimwear - $69 CAD

It’s time men stopped wearing board shorts. Plain and simple. They are baggy, non-functional and give off the “trying to be young” vibe. Get your man a nice pair of stylish Boto Swimwear shorts to go with the ticket you bought to a warm tropical destination this Christmas. If your man is more reserved stick with the St. Lucia line, but he if he is ok showing more thigh then the Aruba line will do the trick.

3. Over-Ear Headphones with a Mic - $25+

This one may seem strange, but as a Torontonian I walk almost everywhere, during every season, in all kinds of crazy weather. I have a large noodle and toques and beanies don’t seem to cover my head well, so a good pair of over ear headphones would keep my ears warm on all my winter walks. The built in mic feature means I could keep my hands in my pockets while on any calls I receive.

4. Clothing – $5+

I hate shopping for clothes so why not let someone else do it for me? Don’t try to dress your man the way you want him to dress, (it is a gift for his pleasure, not yours) otherwise your gift will remain in the closet with the tags firmly attached to it. Instead stay on the same track of what he already has in his closet and you’ll be golden. And as much as we may complain about receiving socks and underwear, it is a necessity and will be greatly but secretly appreciated.

5. Ray-Ban Wayfarers - $165-225
These are just the classic cool shades that are often cheaply mimicked and duplicated. While those duplicates are great for beating up on a vacation, a proper pair of Ray-Ban’s will give a man that extra style in his day to day life. Just a note, I’d recommend getting your man to try some on as there are different lens/frame sizes and styles to get the perfect fit.

6. Framing Favourite Vinyl Albums - $50+ per album and frame

To complement the manliness of my office or living room (which isn’t very manly right now…) I’d love to have some of my favourite vinyl albums framed to hang on the wall in a classy manner. I did this as a gift for my father a few Christmas’ ago with Frank Sinatra albums and it turned out great. Bonus points if you do this with Zeppelin I through IV.

7. Outdoor Sports Store Gift Card - $25+

I know, I know, gift card? Really? Yes, really. If your man is anything like me, he is picky about what outdoor gear he desires, and you probably have no idea what he actually wants. Unless of course you have scoured over his browser history and saw an item he has checked for multiple reviews and they turn up positive (I don’t recommend this tactic, you’ll stumble upon other things you don’t want to see). An outdoor sports store gift card of any denomination is a great compliment to any other gift you may have already purchased.

8. Thompson Class Money Clip Wallet – $42 CAD

Less is more, especially when it comes to the bulge in your pocket. Enter Thompson Class, the company you’ve never heard of with the product you will want. Their slim minimalist wallets hold up to 9 cards and a small stack of cash, all while keeping your pockets streamlined and slim. A must have for all men.

9. Solid Cologne – $35+

Solid cologne in my opinion is a game changer. It doesn’t have that alcohol smell that burns the nose if you apply too much, but instead has a fresh pleasant aroma. I had the opportunity to have a quick chat with a Canadian company, Walton Wood Farms, about their line of “Men Don’t Stink” solid colognes. After some scent sampling I would love to receive one of their solid colognes for Christmas, specifically The Adventurer scent.

10. Mittens/Gloves - $10+

Again with the winter and being an active walker in Toronto I could use a nice pair of wool knit mittens and nicer gloves for the days I dress up or do drive. These would make an excellent stocking stuffer and a relatively cheap addition to the comfort of your man during the winter.

Sam's Picks

1. Sequoia Pendant, Vitaly Designs

After an appearance on Dragon’s Den the Toronto based Vitaly Designs has been steadily churning out unisex accessories with a very high cool factor. While jewellery might not be for every guy the Sequoia just might be the exception. For $60 this little axe will always keep a reminder of the outdoors close by.

2. Google Chromecast 

Make your TV a heck of a lot smarter by plugging in this little tech gem. Surf the net, watch Netflix, or cast apps from your Android device to your TV. All for $39

3. Darwin 30L Daypack 

For the traveler with an arsenal of technology with the added bonus of being from MEC – basically the same as sewing a Canadian flag on your bag. $69

4. Dopp Kit/Toiletry bag 

Keep it classy - either traveling or at home. A stylish leather shaving kit keeps your collection of sharp objects and shave creams together and tidy. $30+

5. Buy Me Brunch Tee’s

It may be December but when summer hits you’ll want to be ready to crank the party all the way to 11. So why not set the tone with a comfortable tee that says “Adios Pantalones” starting at $28.

6. 1 Gallon All Grain Brewing kit, The Noble Hop 

For the brewing novice its everything you need to brew an all grain beer for $39.99. We were introduced to Toronto based Noble Hop at this year’s Gentlemen’s Expo and quickly bonded out our love of homebrew and his awesome beer names. This Christmas put a Badass IPA under your tree!

7. Custom Engraved Paddle

Perhaps you’ve seen a photo or two of the infamous Man of The Year trophy. The full sized paddle has always been carefully crafted by our friends at PRECISIONMARK. While the men on your Christmas list might not make the voyage into the wilderness with us, you can still have a custom oar made for them. Perhaps for the man cave? $60+

8. Stylish Pocket Sized Notebook

You never know when inspiration will strike, so why not keep a slick little notebook handy to jot down your idea for the next big thing. $5+

9. Saxx Underwear 

I’ve been a fan of Saxx since the first time I wore them. They are designed with an ergonomic pouch to cradle your manhood, and come in a wide variety of styles and designs that will prevent chafe and keep you feeling free. A lot of people laugh at this one, but the struggle is real. Starting at $26.95

10. Ultimate Fixed Blade Survival Knife, Gerber Bear Grylls Collection

Owned by nearly every member of Real Man Travels this knife is our “go to” in the wilderness. It can build a fire or be used to saw tree limbs and fits nicely under your pillow when you’re deep in bear country. $62

There you have it! Fifty gift ideas from five different men with different styles and tastes.

You're welcome, internet!

If you have any other home run gift ideas, or just want to chirp ours relentlessly, use the comments section below.

Thursday, 11 December 2014

The Anatomy of a Great Shave

A post by Scott F

It’s not every day you get to talk with a thirteenth generation sword maker about blades… let alone essential oils, ginger root and “lubricity.” We were introduced to Randy Weyersberg at the Gentlemen’s Expo in Toronto a few weeks ago, where he wasn’t shy when asked to unsheathe one of his family’s handmade sabers for us to admire.

Randy was representing King’s Crown, who have used 500 years of Wyersberg family sword making experience to move into the domain of hand crafted cut throat razors, which they’ve been making for over 100 years. “These are real shaving instruments,” Randy remarked when I talk to him again following the expo. “You cannot make quality cut throat razors with a machine. A craftsman has to grind it by hand and hone it by hand, then you have to strop it by hand every time you use it. It’s an instrument that hasn’t changed in 200 years.”

At the expo, along with showing off their infamous straight blades, King’s Crown launched their line of men's skin care products, stylish safety blade handles and accessories. The handles are really what brought us in. Made of resin, wood, nickel, and even ox horn and antler, these handles, which actually work with standard Gillette Mach III and Fusion cartridges, add all kinds of style to the regular monotony of retail shaving products. Marianne, partner and co-founder of King’s Crown, explained that these stylish razors, along with their other accessories, allow men to carve out their own place on the bathroom counter.

Shaving, razor, shave cream, after shave, cleanser

Man Island on the bathroom counter
Randy and Marianne agreed to send one of these fancy razor handles along with their three step facial care line for me to try. For a guy who’s only ever used bar soap and shaving gel, the Enriched Papaya Enzyme Facial Cleanser, Ultra-Rich Shaving Cream and Enriched Vitamin C Moisturizer were a tad daunting. So I decided to chat with the expert, Randy, about what it takes to achieve a great shave, and this is what he told me:

Make it a ritual

Many men consider shaving a chore, something to be “gotten through.” Randy explains, “The marketplace has made shaving all about the convenience, get it done fast. The reality is, people have lost touch with what is the most important aspect of achieving a great shave, that it’s actually step-oriented. It’s a ritual. Three steps, pre-shave, shave and post shave.”

It’s all about lubricity, which means shave cream, not foam or gel

Having only ever used foam or gel, I was surprised to receive a shaving cream in my package. “Foam and gel are predominantly convenience products,” Randy explained. “They are made with a lot of air, which creates bulk. Just like how Coke created the vision of Santa Clause, marketing has created this belief that you need this enormous lather on your face. We worked with formulation experts and found that lubricity is the key to a great shaving experience. Lubricity is slide, the thin barrier between the sharp edge of the blade and your face and it is best achieved when your minimize water and air. When you talk cream, you talk extract and essential oils that not only achieve the optimal lubricity through ingredients like glycerine and cocoa butter, but also add conditioning properties that help avoid irritation.”

Avoid irritation and discomfort

All of the King’s Crown products are infused with ingredients like eucalyptus, menthol and ginger root to help avoid discomfort and actually treat your skin. “The reason why so many men say they don’t like shaving," explained Randy, "is largely because of discomfort. It can hurt! Particularly for those who have sensitive skin, or who are prone to ingrown hairs or razor burn, it can be very uncomfortable.  That’s why it’s great to get all the feedback we’ve been getting – ‘love the shave, not only was it close but it was irritation free, no razor burn!’ That’s why we make our ultra-rich shaving cream.”

Choose products that are made for you

How many of us guys have used our partners silky, lavender-scented, pink packaged moisturizer or body wash in a pinch? “Our products are a reflection on what men have had to do to have a positive grooming experience. They’ve had to compromise. We want to design the experience for men and give them options. Why do I have to rely on women’s products when I’m trying to look after myself? That why our mission is to create an unforgettable grooming experience for men, only.”  

And Randy explained that it’s not just about products that are for men, but for specific men. “We aim to meet the needs of different men. One of our lines is called oil defense which is for individuals prone to blemishes. We also have the ageless line, which is designed for more mature skin; primarily for age 40 plus, when skin typically has less moisture.”

I followed Randy’s advice in shaving off my Movember mustache with my new razor. Having shaved my whole life, I didn’t have high expectations that following the steps would make a huge difference. I was wrong. The cream made the shave so much smoother and the cleanser and moisturizer made my skin instantly softer. Having now shaved with the products for over a week, the irritation that used to appear on my neck has disappeared. In fact, the discomfort I used to think was just part of the process, is gone. Amazing what a little self-care can do!
Movember, razor, shave, shaving
Near the end of our conversation I asked Randy what the market was like for high-end shaving products. He explained: “In a world that is less tactile, less touch-oriented because of digital technology, there is almost a resurgence of what was old, things from our grandparents generation, things that were more tactile. Our parents wanted value (i.e. lower price) and convenience; quality and performance seemed to have skipped a generation, but now are coming back.”

Check our King's Crown at: Share your tips for a great shave in the comments section below. 

Thursday, 4 December 2014

Real Man Tested: Boto Swimwear

Tis the season to book an all-inclusive vacation (get tips on that from Scott), and the much dreaded chore of finding a bathing suit for that vacation. We here at Real Man Travels understand your struggle and want to make things easier for you. Just three weeks before I ventured off to Varadero, Cuba in October I was contacted by Boto Swimwear, a company based in Montreal to test out their line of swim shorts for the modern man.

They kindly sent me two pairs of swim shorts to use and abuse from the St. Lucia collection in the colors of sky blue and coral red. I put these swim shorts through the Real Man Tested criteria to help you make a purchasing decision for you next vacation.

1. What you get.
Because this is an article for clothing there are no extras or accessories necessary or included.

Boto Swimwear in their packages

2. Look and Feel.
The Sky Blue shorts looked much better in person than I anticipated and I quickly knew they would be my go-to pair during my trip. The Coral Red shorts also look great but are softer in colour than the Boto website would lead you to believe.

The shorts, when dry, feel light and have a bit of a swishy sound when you rub them between your fingers, but for some reason that sound is non-existent when walking. That’s a good thing. No one wants swishy swim shorts. To my surprise when the shorts are wet they do not get darker or lighter as most clothing materials do.

The shorts have a white mesh liner on the inside to protect your precious manhood from whatever may be lurking in the waters. The shorts have a zipper, a snap button and a drawstring to keep them firmly attached to your waist. The draw string is on the inside of the shorts to keep it hidden. This was probably my favourite feature as I was the only one on the beach (next to the liberal speedo wearers) without a draw string dangling by my unmentionables. The shorts are fitted with two side pockets and one zippered pocket on the rear.

Model in Sky Blue Boto Swin Shorts

3. Ease of Use
As long as you can dress yourself these are simple to put on. The hidden draw string will throw you a curve ball though as you try to decide which to do first, the drawstring, the zipper or the snap button. I went the route of zipper, draw string then button.

4.  Advertised vs. Actual
The shorts are advertised to be for the modern man because of their tailored fit, comfort and bold colour choices. And they were just that. These works of art sat snug on my body and were cut just inches above my knee. The colours really popped when I wore them and I never once felt that discomfort that wet shorts can give you. Overall I would say they really hit the mark with their claims for these shorts.
Coral Red Boto Swim Shorts
5. Value
These won’t be for the budget conscience who prefer to just grab a pair to beat up from Wal-Mart, as these shorts retail for $69.00 CAD. For the quality and style the price isn’t too bad considering those flashy board shorts from skate and snowboard companies retail for $50-70 CAD.

6. Practicality
You will definitely use these swim shorts on any given trip to a tropical destination or even to the beach. I can also guarantee you'd be one of the few not drowning in your swim short material (like board shorts) or tucking your junk inside your body (like speedos). 

These shorts are meant to be transitional swim shorts where you could wear them in the water or up to the beach bar or even to a restaurant close to the beach. They deliver just that with the side pockets allowing for money or other small purchases when not in the water.With that being said I don’t see these being the first choice for water sports even though they would hold up if you were to water ski, wake board or tube with them.

7. Overall
A solid pair of swim shorts goes a long way on vacation as I personally spend over 50% of the day in them. So I was happy to have a pair that functioned both in and out of water. These shorts are stylish and I got complimented on the sky blue ones (and asked where I got them). They held up well in the ocean, in the pool and in my initial shower test. The hidden drawstring, side pockets and zippered back pocket are all great features that help with the design elements and functionality. And they just look good, plain and simple (even though I do not have a 0% body fat model body). I give the Boto St Lucia line of swimwear a four out of five.
4 out of 5 rating
Want to grab a pair for yourself? You can currently order these from the Boto Swimwear website or wait until December when they will be launching in Bikini Village at most locations. Be sure to give them a follow on twitter or facebook if you decide to buy a pair and let them know what you think.

Have a suggestion for a product you would like us to put through the paces? Let us know on Twitter, Facebook or in the comments below!

Tuesday, 2 December 2014

Acura ILX and Acura RLX Put to the Test

Our editor and chief Chris is so used to driving his big, American made, gas guzzling pick up truck that he had forgotten what it was like to drive a four cylinder gas friendly vehicle. This past summer he was given a peek at just how awesome new car technology really is. Thanks to Honda Canada and Acura Canada Real Man Travels had the luxury of driving five different models from their line ups, along with participating in some amazing events (such as the Honda Indy, kart racing with James Hinchcliffe and a few other good ones). If you are in the market for a new car, take a look at Chris' and Ed's thoughts on the Acura ILX and RLX.

Chris was impressed when he hopped into the brand new Acura ILX - performance meets fuel economy in this beauty. The ILX's leather interior, six speed transmission and sunroof made him smile every time he drove it. He told the guys that the sound of the engine made the hairs on the back of his neck stand up. The ILX's sleek look and amazing stereo caught the eyes of many senoritas. 

If you ask Ed about his trip to Montreal he'll likely talk more about driving the Acura RLX Elite for over 1500km than he will about the trip. He fell in love with the styling and handling, fuel economy (half a tank of gas lasted 500km!) and the little details the car provided. He has been secretly wishing some long lost relative would buy him one so he could be happy driving every day.  

Needless to say we were very pleased with both cars and they should be on your "must test drive" list.

Monday, 24 November 2014

Tree Hunting at Drysdale's

Post by Chris

My Guest Post For Ontario Travel

Christmas is my favorite time of year. You might wonder why. For me it seems that families for the most part are happier around Christmas. They spend more time together and they carry out traditions such as the annual tree hunt or family get-togethers. 

Last year I shared my tips and experiences from one of my longstanding traditions with Ontario Travel,  and this year I have decided to share it with our wonderful readers.

So please take a few moments to view the link below for a small glimpse into my Christmas joys. 

Wednesday, 19 November 2014

6 Things that Make an Exceptional All Inclusive Resort

A post by Scott F

“I got my toes in the water, ass in the sand.

Not a worry in the world, a cold beer in my hand.

Life is good today.”  

- Zac Brown Band, Toes

Well said, Zac Brown Band! 

As Ed stated in a previous post: sometimes you just need to party and relax. For my wife and I, a pair of new parents, working professionals and active volunteers, the statement couldn't have been more true. That's why we picked up a few weeks ago and flew to the Riviera Maya in Mexico to do, well, nothing at all but relax and enjoy.    

While we don’t do the all inclusive thing for every vacation, we do tend to go every couple of years to enjoy a period of relaxation and indulgence. We've come to know what we like in a resort and what we don’t; and yes, we’re a tad on the snobbish side when it comes to this stuff!

Naturally you look for good food, nice surroundings, a well-kept beach and facilities, comfortable rooms, fun activities, name-brand drinks, good entertainment, quality service etc., but the list below features a few special preferences we have that take a resort from great to exceptional, in our eyes. We experienced all these during our most recent stay at the Valentin Imperial Maya, a highly recommended hotel which exemplifies what we look for in an ideal sun holiday.

No reservation à la carte

Dining at diverse restaurants is part of the allure of all inclusive resorts. That said, most resorts require you to make reservations in advance. We've been to resorts that allowed you to reserve three days in advance, and those that require daily reservations. We thoroughly dislike having to take time every day to make our way to the front lobby, stand in line and reserve. At resorts offering no reservation à la carte, such as the Valentin, you just head straight to restaurant. If it’s full, you usually get a beeper to notify you of when there is an open table. This allows you to take a walk, grab a drink or do whatever you like while you wait.

Adequate pool services – chairs and towels

Oh the dreaded towel card. Some resorts require a card to take out a towel which you get back when you return it. Lose your card or towel, and you have to pay for a new one. At one resort we checked out I had a towel taken from a chair while in the pool. Several other guests reported having the same thing happen. I’d rather not stress having this happen and instead search out resorts that offer restriction-free towel exchange. Similarly, finding resorts that have adequate chairs at both the pool and beach is key.

No wrist bands

Resort wrist bands are basically the nicer version of a caste system. “Oh you have a blue wrist band, yeah, sorry you only have access to bottom shelf liquor, certain restaurants and bars, certain areas of the pool/beach...” I don’t mind having certain extravagances available to those who are willing to pay more, but some resorts have restricted so much that it no longer feels truly all inclusive.

Minimal up selling/timeshare pitching

I don’t mind being asked if I’m interested in upgrades or timeshares, but some resorts have come to rely so heavily on the income from these offerings that they inundate guests with pitches. You should, in general, beware of any “30 minute presentations,” “free upgrades” and “free excursions” you are offered, but it’s best to avoid them all together by choosing a resort that keeps them to an absolute minimum.   

No cost perks/extras/bonuses

It’s great to be surprised by something extra. At the Valentin we were continually surprised by little perks. We loved the live music, both daily in the piano bar and the addition of a live cellist one evening. We enjoyed high tea each afternoon complete with quality espresso drinks. Outdoor themed nights which incorporated food and entertainment were a hit with guests. Turn down service with small gifts like gourmet chocolates. Great!

The Mayan-themed night at the Valentin Imperial Maya

What YOU want

Take some time to think about what you would put on a list similar to the one above and search out resorts that meet your needs. Even little things like having canned beer available, drinks served in only non-disposable cups, lots of available of shade, close proximity to the airport (all true of the Valentin, by the way - have we mentioned we love this resort). This is your vacation, so try to mitigate anything that may cause you stress. Take a second to let us know what's on your list in the comments box below.

Many of the items above aren't listed on resort websites. Read reviews on Trip Advisor and use their Question and Answer feature to ask very specific questions and have them answered by the resort and other guests.  

Safe travels!

Monday, 3 November 2014

Contest Update: The Gentlemen's Expo

We gave away two weekend passes to the Gentlemen’s Expo on our Facebook page, and the winner is: Sari Colt! Congrats Sari!

The Gentlemen’s Expo runs November 14-16 at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre. Real Man Travels readers receive 10% off admissions by using the code: REALTGE. Go to to get your tickets.

See you there!

Thursday, 23 October 2014

Win Tickets to The Gentlemen's Expo in Toronto

The Gentlemen’s Expo is back for 2014 and is giving you the chance to win two weekend passes, including drink tokens! Our readers also receive discounted admissions. The expo is November 14-16 at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre.

The lads from Real Man Travels checked out the expo last year and were thoroughly impressed. It truly is a celebration of the finer things men love, like food, fashion, drinks, cigars, tech, sports, cars… etc.! Learn all about the event on the TGE website.

Highlights of this year’s expo include Canadian Tire’s Ultimate Garage; sport simulators, a vintage arcade and a casino; 102.1 The Edge Soundstage with bands like Hollerado and Born Ruffians; beer, wine and spirit sampling from 25 purveyors of potent potables; a KPMG business start-up spotlight; a rock climbing wall; cooking demonstrations and so much more. You can even grab a free straight shave from Dove Men+Care (manly factor x10!). All that plus loads of shopping, food and gadgets.

Enough talk! What this about free and discounted tickets? It’s true! We’re giving away two weekend passes to the expo that include five drink tokens per day – that’s 30 drink samples! The tickets are valued at $130 for the pair. Here’s how you can win:
  1. If you haven’t already (really?), like Real Man Travels on Facebook.
  2. Find one of the Gentlemen’s Expo posts and like or share it.
That’s it, you’re entered to win! We’ll announce the winner on November 1.

The Gentlemen’s Expo has also kindly extended discounted tickets to Real Man Travels readers. Enter the code REALTGE when purchasing your tickets and receive a 10% discount.

We’ll be checking out the event again this year along with some of the contributors from (yes, we’re told there’s plenty to love at the expo for ladies as well) and hope to see you there.

Remember, enter before November 1 for your chance to win!