Thursday, March 10, 2011

Vancouver's Coast Plaza

The View From My Window in Vancouver's Coast Plaza Hotel
Downtown near the shore in Vancouver
I discovered this gem by accident really and I was very fortunate, so I wanted to pass it on to my readers. While in Vancouver on business at a conference last week I had the good fortune to stay at the Coast Plaza Hotel on Comox Street, near Denman Plaza. The prices were excellent and the variety of rooms plentiful. I understand there are some folks who live here year round inside the Coast Plaza and therefore some of the rooms are the size of small apartments. I was attending a conference at the very fancy Westin Bayshore, but rooms there sold out, and at $200 a night, the rooms at the Westin were far too much money for me anyways. Last minute a colleague who works for the board as a special education and mental health consultant mentioned the Coast Plaza.
Rooms were priced at $100 a night for the friends I travelled with to the conference. Well, on line last minute I was able to request a room for $80 a night. It was for a single occupant - myself as I was staying in a room alone on this trip. I had the option of two double beds or a queen bed. I asked for a queen bed and ended up staying in a suite that I joked was bigger than a relative's condominium. (For sure it was larger than many apartments I lived in when in university). Anyways the Coast Plaza was affordable and clean. There was literally no bad view. I could see English Bay and the ships every morning. A colleague could see the Rockies and the Bay. Her room was smaller though. Another colleague could see even more of the city, remarkable really. The rooms were quiet and clean. The wireless internet password was provided for free for the duration of my stay. I also had a large bathroom, kitchenette and living room area. There was prompt housekeeping every day, a free Globe and Mail each morning and generally just a really good experience staying here. It is not the fanciest or newest motel/hotel in Vancouver, but it was downtown, surrounded by excellent restaurants. It was a very safe area and it even opened onto a small shopping mall (Denman Plaza: with a Shoppers Drug Mart and a No Frills inside.) Everything was nearby and shopping was a short taxi or walk away. The hotel occupants also could make use of the fitness complex beside the buidling. There were two on site restaurants. Both were affordable. The Comox burger spot was a sports bar and lounge with giant burgers, salmon burgers and salads. The Brasserie was a bit fancier and breakfast could be ordered the night before and scheduled to be sent up at whatever time you wanted. The Coast Plaza was roughly 25 minutes away from the airport and a 10 minute walk to the conference centre or the shore. Service was great. Very friendly and prompt. Coast Plaza gets $$$$ out of $$$$$. Very affordable and clean. Not fancy but the price reflects that. Perfect for business travel.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Planes, Trains and Automobiles: Via Train Travel and Business Class

I am a frequent Via train traveller. For those day trips to Toronto, or the occasional trip further to Ottawa, you can't beat the comfort of travel by train. And frankly with the cost of gas, sometimes train travel ends up being almost the same amount when you do the math. Up until recently, I always selected supersaver or enconomy class travel. I figured it was the cheapest way to go, so it made sense. I have often eyed the business class with envy and wondered what extras they might get for the price. At the end of last year, I had a chance to travel to Toronto to talk at the budget consultations that were being conducted by Ontario's Liberal government and Finance Minister Dwight Duncan. It was a super opportunity for our non  profit, the Canadian Coalition of Adoptive Families ( ) to put forward ideas that we believe save money in the long run and support adoptive families as well. Anyways this time I thought that on the way back from Toronto I would give business class a try just to see what I was missing. The cost is $20 more one way and I was keen to know what kind of frills that bought me. I paid for the trip myself as we have no funding whatsoever for our no profit. So I was at liberty to test out biz class for this blog. Here is what I found:

*To start with I had access to the lounge for business class. It was overcrowded on the day that I came back - a Friday night - but nicer than sitting in the drafty public area of Toronto's Union Station.
*We boarded the train first.
*We got dinner on the way back, which was great because I would have landed in town at 8 p.m. and after a full day I would have then been on the hunt for the nearest Subway. The food wasn't thrilling, but we had a choice of salmon or chicken and the chicken really wasn't half bad. To put in perspective it was better than airplane food.
*Alcoholic beverages were served and the wine was free flowing.
*Coffee and other beverages also available at no extra cost.

So from a thrifty mama perspective was the extra $20 worth it? Ab-so-lutely! I really was pleasantly surprised and I would do this again. Not every time, but when someone else is paying for sure and when I am travelling as I did alone and on the way during a dinner hour, this business class makes sense.

I give Via train business class travel $$$$ 1/2 out of $$$$$.

Also I think there is a benefit to this travel in the middle of the winter because waiting in Union Station is extremely drafty. Once, I went to Toronto while ill to take part on a press conference and came back with pneumonia. I just wanted to sleep and had three hours to burn waiting for my train. Wish I had sprung for the business class then!

The opinions on this blog are all my own.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Last Minute Club and Saving Money While Seeing the World

So maybe you are looking to travel this year, really keen to get away from all of this dreadful snow we are having. But the budget is tight and the economy still doesn't feel that great. Well, I have a couple of thoughts on that. There are a few ways to save money while seeing the world and one of those is Last year for the first year ever I signed up for Last Minute Club. The club is a travel clearinghouse of sorts. You may have seen those old newspaper ads for Last Minute Club in the Toronto newspapers. The club has been around since 1977 ad is a well known company, especially in Canada. Well, these days the deals are faster than ever and sometimes deeper than ever when you book them on line right from the source. So what is required? Visit the site and sign up. For a fee of $29.99 you get an annual classic membership and can book your trip after selecting one of the various deals available on line. You just need that membership number. There are other premium memberships too. But really I think the basic level classic membership is all that is needed and $30 plus tax is not much if you offset that by the crazy savings you can get. Think about it. If you are two people travelling and you save $500 (modest in terms of the deals here) then the $30 fee is a really great deal. Right now if you book a package vacation by Jan. 25th and sign up for the club you get a free DVD player. (Worth about $129 US) That caught my eye. It's a nice little freebie incentive. Now truth be told, I have used the club as a comparison shopping tool. The Last Minute club posts amazing deals and there are telephone representatives available to help. But when it came right down to booking the travel deal I went in to my agent that I occasionally use at Sears Travel and I told her the property I wanted and the time frame so she could get me the same deal posted on line. I also got $60 in Sears points by booking our travel arrangements that way. There are now some incentives to booking on line and placing your package costs on the MBNA master card. I would have no qualms about booking through Last Minute Club after using them once. But I like lots of options and I love to save. Just remember if you are going to place the total on any credit card for points or rebates, make sure you can pay it off almost immediately, otherwise the interest rates will make that vacation skyrocket.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Top 5 Reasons to Rent a Timeshare: Guest Post

Top 5 Reasons to Rent a Timeshare for your Vacation
by Joann Whetstine of Redweek

The best-kept secret to affording a vacation at a luxury resort is - rent a timeshare. Timeshare rentals are perfect for families, retirees, girlfriend getaways, mancations, and even honeymoons. Here are the top 5 reasons to rent a timeshare for your vacation:

1. Budget-friendly. The amazing thing about renting a timeshare is that on a per person basis it can actually cost up to 50% less than a hotel room. When you rent a timeshare directly from the owner you can get a great deal on your vacation accommodations, allowing you to plan for a wonderful vacation within your budget.

2. Space. Who likes being cooped up in a cramped hotel room? This is especially difficult if you have children. Even a suite at a hotel doesn't give the room that an entire timeshare unit does.
When you rent a timeshare you typically get separate bedrooms, a living room, a dining area, a patio or balcony, at least a couple of bathrooms, and a fully-equipped kitchen. It's like a home-away-from-home. The extra space allows everyone to spread out and relax.

3. Amenities. Timeshares are typically attached to resorts, and the cost of the timeshare rental includes the use of the resort's amenities. You'll be saving money and having fun at the same time. Instead of the one small pool and hot tub generally provided by a hotel, at the resort you'll have the choice of many different swimming pools, often with waterpark features. You'll also find kiddie pools and children's playgrounds. There might be tennis, golf, volleyball, bocci ball, and arcade game rooms.

4. Kitchen convenience. The fully-equipped kitchen can turn out to be one of your favorite features of a timeshare rental. First of all it allows you to save money on meals. You can prepare most meals in your timeshare thus preventing the high cost of eating out at restaurants three times a day. This is also a nice touch for families with food allergies. Eating in your own kitchen away from home means you don't have the worry of communicating food allergies to people in a strange city or country. You'll also enjoy the convenience. It's nice to be able to provide breakfast without having to get every one up, showered, dressed and out the door just for a bite to eat. And it's easy to prepare nutritious and filling snacks through out the day for those constantly hungry youngsters.

5. Availability. Timeshare rentals are available all over the U.S., the Caribbean, Mexico, Canada, Europe, and around the world. When you are planning your vacation, no matter where you intend to travel, you have a good chance of finding a reasonable timeshare rental. is an online marketplace where owners list their  timeshares for rent. Anyone looking for great accommodations can get a budget-friendly deal. Take a look through the listings and see the incredible bargains that are available: