Thursday, 17 April 2014

Eight Tips for a Killer NHL Playoff Trip




Travel and sports are two things that make life awesome. Therefore, it's good math that combining them will equal even more awesome (love math). As a hockey fan, I consider the NHL playoffs a prime season for travel; this may be because my home team is largely ‘playoff-deficient,’ or because, on the off chance they do make the playoffs, I’d need to sell a useful appendage to afford a ticket. Beyond the game itself, sport-related travel allows you to experience the culture of sport in other hotbeds both in your own country and others. You quickly realize that fandom is not one thing, but specific to city, sport and culture.

Here are a few tips for planning a killer NHL playoff trip:

1. Don’t worry, you’ll find tickets.
Getting tickets is less of a concern than many people think with safe and effective services like StubHub. Planning ahead can be tough, with who will play who when only being sorted out a week or two in advance. Be flexible.

2. Follow the fans.
Make an effort to meet other fans while you’re in the city. They will lead you to the best pre and post game activities (likely with cheaper drinks and food). If all else fails, follow the crowd, at least you know they’re of the same mind as you.

3. Festivities.
Research what is happening in the city related to the playoff game you are seeing. Tailgate parties and other pre-game events are a great way to meet other fans.

4. City before team.
Playoff hockey is usually good hockey. If you are a fan of the game you will enjoy almost any tilt you take in. Figure out what cities you want to visit and sync one with a playoff game.

5. Contain.
Good sports trips can be done in a weekend (or long weekend), but you need to keep your ambitions contained. Don’t try and visit far-off attractions; just enjoy the city and the game. Plan a centrally located hotel to reduce travel time.

6. Make it a road trip.
Chances are you’re doing this trip with your buddies. Some of the best memories I have come from the journey, not just the destination. If you’ve got the time, hit the road.

7. Pre-plan... a little.
If you want to do things that will take time (brewery tours, museums, etc.) plan them ahead, but leave room for spontaneity.

8. Fancy hotel: optional.
If you’re going for a weekend chances are you’re not spending a lot of time on your room. Save your coin for the $10 arena beers.

Here’s a quick synopsis of three recent NHL playoff trips I’ve taken, based on three key components of a good sports trip: the fans, the arena and the city itself:


The fans: Detroit is home to some of the most knowledgeable fans I’ve met. We were regaled on team history and politics by two middle aged women who knew more about hockey than we likely ever will.

The arena: Joe Louis Arena (The Joe) is situated right downtown within walking distance of most major hotels and attractions. There are sightline issues in the nosebleeds but they are normally stated when purchasing the ticket.

The city: As detailed in an earlier post, the embattled city of Detroit finds a bright light in their Red Wings. There is plenty to see and do in Detroit, check out the post for details.


The fans: Chicago supports seven major league sports teams and has a sports culture equal to its number of teams. In baseball, you’re either a Cubs or White Sox fan, never both. Luckily the whole town comes together in support of the Blackhawks and the love for the storied franchise is palpable. We found this out in a hurry when we walked into the arena wearing Calgary Flames jerseys and were met with the joking back-and-forth ribbing that one would expect, along with some interactions that were far less joking, bordering on violent. Gotta respect passion.

The arena: The United Centre is located in a more industrial part of the city. Transit can be difficult so stick with cabs to-and-from the arena. A loud arena with a great energy and solid layout.

The city: Chicago is a beautiful, modern, high-end feeling city. While in town, don’t miss Navy Pier on the shores of Lake Michigan full of vendors and restaurants. You’ll also want to see Wrigley Field and check out a Cubs game while you’re there (or U.S. Cellular Field for a White Sox match, if you swing that way).


The fans: Boston is another sport-crazed city and home to some very no-nonsense hockey fans. Two guys from Rhode Island sitting next to us got so frustrated at the Bruins play during the game we attended that one of them got up and left, while the other gave an educated breakdown of all the ways his beloved and actually quite exceptional team clearly sucked. Great conversation.

The arena: TD Garden is an great venue for sports events. Easy to access by cab or transit and surrounded by attractions, bars (perfect for partying after the game) and restaurants.

The city: Take the time to explore Boston (on foot, if possible). The city’s many neighbourhoods are incredibly unique. A walk across Boylston Street will take you through high-end Copley Square, past the ivy-covered building of Berklee College of Music all the way to the boisterous neighbourhood that surrounds Fenway Park. Don’t miss the history in the city’s college districts including MIT and Harvard which also provide some solid nightlife. Check out Samuel Adams Brewery for a great tour and tasting while you’re there.

It’s playoff time. Grow that beard, sharpen your blades and book a trip.

Real men love sports, check out these posts about our other sports adventures:

Real Man Travels University: Minnesota Golden Gophers
50 Year-Old (NASCAR) Virgin
Monday Night Bachelor Party '04 - Green Bay
Minnesota Vikings Won My Heart 2010
Green Bay vs. Philadelphia November 2003
The Return to Detroit- On Stranger Tides
Our First WIN!

Monday, 14 April 2014

Travel Tech: 5 Cross Platform Travel Apps You Will Actually Use

A post by Ed Arsenault

Travelling has become much simpler ever since the introduction of smart phones and the apps that run on them. Finding apps that suit your travel needs can be a huge pain because there are a lot of them out there. Some are pure junk that just repeat a website while others are gems and simply a must have. Below are 5 apps that I believe to be of great value to any traveler. These featured apps are cross platform for iPhone, Android and Blackberry (some side loading required) and can be found in their respective app stores. 

       Duolingo Free language education for the world
Cost: Free

Duolingo is an app that you would use in the weeks prior to going on a trip. It is a language learning app that teaches the user by making it seem like a game. You can’t move forward until you pass your current level and obtain certain milestones. Whenever you get a section of the lesson wrong you lose a heart. Lose too many and it's game over! You also gain XP  and gems as you learn more to put towards purchases for in app features. What makes this app so engaging is that it applies many learning techniques in each lesson. You will write words, select words, listen to words and speak words multiple times in each lesson. There is no magic to this app though, it will take effort and time on the end users part to actually learn a language.

Languages offered: Spanish, French, Italian, German, Portuguese

MapsWithMe Pro
Cost: $5.99

MapsWithMe is in my opinion is a great navigation app for any traveler. I know what you are thinking as you read this, “why not Google maps?” Well truth be told I chose this map app because it is completely offline. Being offline means that you do not need a data connection or Wi-Fi. You simply download the map(s) of your country of choice before travelling (I recommend doing this on your home network as the maps are large) and then when you arrive at your destination, open the app and you will have a full map of your current area. The app uses the built in GPS found on most mobile devices to locate where you are, no data needed. Why I chose MapsWithMe Pro compared to free versions of similar apps is that it has that clean Google Maps look and plots restaurants, diners, gas stations, metro stations etc without the use of data.

There are some down sides to the app though, for example there is no directions feature. It would be nice to be able to plot point A and then B and get directions. Hopefully that will be an update in the near future. In the meantime though not having to hunt down Wi-Fi hotspots or use any data whatsoever is a huge money saver when traveling. Especially for the small price of $5.99.

TripAdvisorReviews of Hotels, Flights, Restaurants
Cost: Free

TripAdvisor is my go to website for conducting any research on a hotel that I may consider booking. Lately it has also turned into my tool for scoping out restaurants. The app repeats what the website offers but tailors it to where you currently are in the world. Using your phones GPS and data, the app gives you information on nearby hotels and restaurants. This eases up the decision making process on where to eat when visiting a foreign place. The app isn't just limited to your current location though, you can still search globally, similarly to the way you would on the actual website. You can also access the forums and post your own reviews. Overall it is a great information source with real reviews from real people.

XE Currency Converter
Cost: Free

Managing how much you spend when traveling is important. If you only budgeted x amount a day, you need to make sure you aren't going over that limit. XE Currency Converter is the perfect tool for monitoring just that. With its simplistic interface, you drag your home currency to the top of the list, then you select the currencies you wish to see your home dollar get converted to. Afterwards you simply input a value for your home currency and the app displays the converted rates. A simple and effective app to make sure you don’t go over your budget while adventuring around the globe. 

BlackBerry Messenger (BBM)
Cost: Free

Blackberry Messenger (BBM) has always been a money saver for me when I travel. I've spent a few afternoons in Starbucks catching up with people at home via my Blackberry devices over the years. Now that the app is cross platform, Android and iOS users can benefit as well.
Communicating instantly to your loved ones or friends while you travel can be expensive, especially if you text message or make a phone call. Roaming rates around the globe are astronomical. This is where BBM shines and saves you money. By being able to be used with just a Wi-Fi connection, you can send and receive messages that show if they have been delivered and read. As well you can initiate a BBM voice chat (similar to a phone call) or you can have a BBM video chat (currently limited to Blackberry devices only) which is similar to Skype or Face Time but you have the option to share your screen. Perfect if you are a business traveler and need to go over any presentations. You can also send pictures, documents, voice notes, contact cards and more! Don't pay roaming fees ever again when travelling. Find a Wi-Fi connection and all of your communicating can be done for FREE.

There we go, 5 travel apps that you will actually use. I hope that you all find value in these apps like I have and benefit from their features. Do you think I missed an important app that travelers must have? Feel free to let me know in the comment section below, on twitter or facebook. Happy travels!

Tuesday, 8 April 2014

Where Do You Want To Go?

Where Do You Want To Go?

That is something I often ask myself. I have day and night dreams about all the places I want to go. I can smell the ocean breeze, feel the sand and hear the waves. I know that my dreams are not the same as the dreams of others. Some people aspire to much different things, but still have a dream of going somewhere, someday. That is why one of my favourite questions to ask people is: "Where do you want to go?". There are two common ways people answer: a quick, decisive pronouncement; or a long, drawn-out bucket list.

No matter how people answer, the answers are always fascinating - as is the seemingly innate desire most seem to have to see and experience this magnificent world in which we live.

Over the past year people have started asking me this and other questions. "Where are you off to next?" "Any travel plans coming up?". So for those fine people who care, here is what I hope to do this year:
the summer will be full of camping. Several trips, both planned and impromptu, will be spent with family. I'll also be doing the requisite outdoor adventures with friends which will surely include as much fishing as possible. Then, in the mid-fall, I will be taking off to check out Europe - exploring Rome, Italy and Athens, Greece.
Trevi Fountain Rome, Italy - Photo From Travelling Editor

Athens, Greece
So now you know. And now it's your turn. I want to know where you want to go. Would it be tasting fresh bread in Paris and taking a selfie in front of the Eiffel Tower? Or will that selfie be at the top of Empire State Building in New York City with a slice of pizza in hand? Perhaps your plans don't include selfies. Perhaps it's just the sound of the ocean that you are after? Or a drive down the winding scenic roads of Ireland's Wild Atlantic Way? Maybe free drinks and cute cabana boys? Please, leave a comment below letting us know where you plan to go, or just where you want to go in the coming months. We really want to know.
Insert Selfie Here
Or Here
Here at Real Man Travels, we want to share our travel experiences and share in yours. After all, it's a great big world full of endless opportunities.


Thursday, 3 April 2014

This Week in Beer - Ale-Induced Anecdotals

A post by Scott F 

Beer is awesome, but you knew that. But did you know that beer could get... awesomer (not a real word)? Some very cool stories of people doing awesome things with beer have crept up in the last couple of weeks that we thought our readers would find interesting. Enjoy!

Beer brewed from prehistoric whale fossils

What? It’s true. These folks found yeast in the bones of some long dead whale and said: “Hey, yeast makes beer, let’s use this prehistoric whale bone yeast to make beer.” To be fair that is exactly what I would be thinking. The Lost Rhino Brewing Company is behind the new Bone Dusters Paleo Ale (get it, paleo, har har). They teamed up with a non-profit called Paleo Quest to pull of this feat of brewing magic. Finally, a practical use for old bones. Check out the story.

On the topic of odd beer ingredients, how about smoked goat brains?

The newest in a long line of TV promo beers (including the Ommegang Brewery Game of Thrones-inspired brews), the AMC’s The Walking Dead now has a beer of its own. If you’re going to make a beer for zombie fanatics you don’t go half way, so these guys threw in some brains, you know, for authenticity sake. Story here.

Beer fasting.

Most people give up trifles for lent like watch Ellen or their daily Oreo indulgence. Chris Schryer, like few others before him, is giving up food. Yes, food. He’s subsiding of only beer during his observance. Follow his exploration on his blog (great reads).

Baseball and beer. Enough said. took it upon themselves to match every Major League Baseball team with a beer that they felt fit best. I’ll say nothing about them matching up the Toronto Blue Jays with Labatt’s Blue, other than it’s a lazy travesty. Still a good read. 

Beer your meat, if you know what’s good for you.

Scientists have found that marinating your meat in beer can prevent the formation of crazy compounds from the grill that can cause cancer. That’s right, beer beats cancer. 

Rob Ford announces the Ford Nation Brewing Company.

Seriously! Okay, not seriously. A well-played April Fools’ Day article by Mom ‘n’ Hops declared that Toronto’s embattled mayor was setting out to create the best beer the city’s ever had. They noted that a gravy-flavoured beer was also on the way. Nicely done, Mom 'n' Hops.