How's winter been treating you?
There’s a hardware store near our house in Ottawa with a unique feature - a huge greenhouse. When Ryan and I are out doing our weekend errands, we often drop in there. We don’t have to make any purchases or pick up supplies for our house plants. No, we’re there just to soak up a bit of the warm, humid air and enjoy the beautiful blossoms. Sad, isn't it?
This is winter for Canadians. We do our absolute best to embrace it and make the most of it – and I would encourage anyone to visit Canada, no matter the season. But when you live here full time, the winter is a challenging season to survive with your sanity intact. It’s no surprise that everyone I know is always on the lookout for a deal to go down to the sunny south. We're happy to collaborate with Falcon to show you how we do it and how we save.
Finding a bargain flight
Here in Ottawa, we often find the prices for cheap holidays are better in nearby Toronto and Montreal (even when we factor in the cost of getting there). No matter where you’re going or how you’re getting there, it’s always a good idea to compare prices both for your own hometown and also neighbouring cities as well. Sometimes there are superb bargains just a few hours away.
It helps to be flexible with your timing as well. In particular, the March Break period seems to fluctuate between offering incredible bargains and being overbooked and overpriced. Don’t immediately eliminate that time period from your travel plans.
Look at all your options
There are so many alternatives and options when creating a great package to the Caribbean. Accommodation choices include self-catering, B&B, half board, full board, and all-inclusive options. There is something for everyone and every budget. And while there are many all-inclusive resort plans, you can just as easily dine out to experience local cuisine.
You may just have the most delectable, freshest seafood of your life ridiculously well priced. The fruit is absolutely incredible as well. And then there are the spices and flavors! A flight attendant friend of mine reports that she LOVES Jamaica’s famously spicy jerk chicken and she'll often skip the beach in favor of visiting her favourite chicken stands when she has a short layover. Eating locally is a great way to channel money directly back into the local economy and make some wonderful travel memories.
Move beyond the beach
I know that every Canadian friend of mine who is reading this is thinking “yeah, right!” What is a trip to the Caribbean without soaking up the sand, sun, and surf? I hear you, but I’m also going to make a plea to take a step back from the beach and do a little exploring.
One of the best reasons to leave the beach is to soak in some local culture and attend festivals. In Jamaica, for example, there’s a jazz and blues festival, a Reggae Sumfest, and many more. There are events honoring sports heroes, celebrating local food, and marking historical occasions. If that’s not enough to convince you to leave the beach for a day, consider this. Most festivals are free or offer value priced admission (which often goes towards supporting the community). They are huge bargains in more ways than one.
Buy souvenirs that make a difference.
I rarely shop when I travel. I say it’s so my pack won’t be weighed down but that’s only part of the truth. I’m also afraid that once I start, I just won’t stop! To help keep my spending under control, I try to focus on only buying souvenirs that make a difference – and it’s a strategy that works!
It keeps me from buying every trinket in sight, and seeking out locally made products that give back to the community helps me gain a better appreciation for the region I’m traveling in. Jewellery made by women’s groups, books by local authors, safe-for-export food items like coffee (Jamaican Blue Mountain!), hot sauces, and items from the gift shops at national parks are among some of my favourite purchases.
This is the winter to make your escape
With a bit of flexibility with your travel dates and departure locations, a trip down south can be immensely affordable – even less expensive than a ‘staycation’ week at home. As the snow piles up around us, I’m eyeing my calendar and planning some ways to warm up – something a little more sophisticated than a trip to my local hardware store. Who’s going to join me?
What's your favourite Caribbean destination?
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