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!