march break

March Break: Finding Tips on Getting the Best Out of Your Vacation

In our previous features, we’ve focused on how to find the best getaway deals; as well as tips when vacation-shopping online.  You’ve booked your hotel and flight, and now you’re looking for things to see, places to visit, and food to eat.

There are many websites online with reviews from real and unbiased past-vacationers.  Keeping in mind that this is just the tip of the iceberg, here are some of my personal favourites:

1) SeatGuru –

Most of us have experienced those times when our feet were too cramped in our airplane seats, or the seat didn’t recline down.  The key to being comfortable, is selecting the perfect seat on the aircraft.

For those who don’t travel often, SeatGuru is the ideal website to get you in the know about the best and worst seats aboard the flight.  On their website, you simply plug in the airline as well as your flight number; and just like that, an interactive seat plan is displayed with a variety of helpful information.  You can see the in-flight amenities including the power plugs, Internet access, and other helpful information; and the map also displays a seat’s notorious proximity to a washroom, an emergency exit, and even loud noises.  To top it all off, you will find helpful travel tips including explanations about bulkheads, frequent flyer tips, and a comprehensive list of the TSA’s “Permitted and Prohibited Items List.”

2)    TripAdvisor –

TripAdvisor is the ultimate website for reviews and advice on hotels, resorts, restaurant, flights, vacation rentals, and travel packages.  Real vacationers rate and review the different restaurants, hotels, and tourist attractions; so you can rely on getting honest user reviews.   They are described as the world’s largest travel site, enabling travelers to plan and have the perfect trip.

3)    VirtualTourist –

VirtualTourist is described as a worldwide travel community where real travelers and locals are able to share their advice and experiences.  They pride themselves as being one of the largest sources of unbiased, user-generated travel reviews; a resource travelers can use when seeking for their next vacation with photos from people who have been there, and done that.

BT Toronto’s Segment Producer April Kalloo recommended this website to me for my upcoming trip to Europe.  She told me, “I love VirtualTourist.”  Kalloo continues to tell me that “VirtualTourist has the best pictures – not ‘Photoshopped’ – and from real people who have been there!”  You’ll fall in love with the extensive images users have uploaded firsthand, along with their reviews and commentary.

If you have a vacation question, you can post it in their forums, and it is said that over 90% of their forum questions are answered.  VirtualTourist is described as a friendly and tight-knit network willing to help each other out.

VirtualTourist by the Numbers
– 1.2 million registered members from more than 220 countries and territories,
– 1.8 million travel tips on more than 72,977 locations worldwide,
– 3.7 million photos,
– 90% of forum questions are answered.

Finding interesting things to do is the key to making the best of your vacation.  Be sure to take a look at these websites and let us know what you think!  If you have any favourites of your own, please feel free to let us know in the comments below.

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March Break: The Deal About ‘Group Deals’

When it comes to planning your next vacation, there are many online options to help you out along the way.  Websites like Groupon,, and have made it much easier for people to plan last-minute getaways, while getting the biggest bang for the buck.

Group buying allows merchants to sell large quantities products or services at a highly discounted rate to the consumer – similar to going to a bulk food store.  Many websites feature the “deal-of-the-day,” often including last-minute vacation deals.  It’s important to know that most deals have conditions – some only let you use it on certain days of the week; others only let you use it between certain times; or even limiting the number of people.  Always check the fine print before clicking on the “Confirm Purchase” button as most deals are non-refundable.

If you’re new to group buying, and want to start hunting down your first deal-vacation, take a look at these three great websites.

1)    Groupon –


This service first became popular with the introduction of their iPhone app.  You simply add your credit card number – and just like that – you’re ready to shop your heart away.  Groupon has partnered up with Expedia to bring you last-minute vacation deals for many locations – from the Yosemite to Alaska – from 40 percent off all the way up to the 70-percentile range.  Imagining staying at a Las Vegas hotel for $59 a night, a 65% discount compared to $169 a night.


2)    Hotwire –

This website runs around unsold airfare, hotel, rental cars, and vacation packages.  When the packages are unsold, Hotwire sells them to last-minute vacations at highly-discounted rates.  Hotwire works with Expedia – so you know that they are a trusted brand – offering quality destinations at a fraction of the cost.


3)    RDeals –, launched back in November, is a daily deals site that brings local and national finds to Canadians for up to 90 per cent off the original price – many of which include door-crashing vacation deals.   A great example; for $19, you can go on a snow shoe tour in Collingwood, Ontario – over 65% off the original price of $55.

“Canadians are increasingly looking to engage with their favourite brands through multiple digital platforms and channels.  With RDeals, we are offering savings on top, quality brands and seamlessly connecting customers, wherever they are, to merchants across the country,” said Jason Tafler, Chief Digital Officer, Rogers Media Inc.

You can find a wide-selection and deal-worthy rates while shopping online.  It’s important that you take the time to do your research, so you can make sure you’re getting the best worth for your hard-earned money.

Full Disclosure: is a division of Rogers Communications Inc., the parent company of Citytv and CityLine.

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March Break: Planning Your Vacation Online

Planning and purchasing your next vacation online has been a very popular trend over the past few years.  Websites like Groupon,, and have made it much easier for people to plan last-minute getaways, while getting the biggest bang for the buck.

Along with the fabulous price cuts, comes safety.  There are predators seeking to phish your personal information; and while security and encryption has tightened up, there are several tips that you should keep in mind when booking your next getaway.

1) Look for signs of the website’s security.

Web browsers have made it much easier for you to look out for signs of secure browsing when you are surfing the web.  There are several levels of security to keep in mind when you are surfing online – In your address bar, notice the difference between “http://”, and “httpS://”.  When you see the “s” or a small lock in the URL bar, the information you are sending is sent securely and “encrypted.”  Encrypted means that the information sent is illegible, and can only be read (or “decrypted”) by the party that you intended for in the first place.  Browsing without encryption means that the savviest of criminals can record everything that you send, including your personal and credit card information.

2) Use your credit card instead of debit.

Credit cards typically provide more protection from identity theft that debit cards don’t.  Many credit cards from the main national banks offer a credit card with travel rewards and insurance – similar to the ones that reward you with annual cash back.  That means if you pay with the travel credit card, you are covered to a set amount by the credit company – most debit cards don’t offer that protection.   As always, it is best to check with the credit card company to see what is and isn’t covered specifically when you are travelling abroad.

3) Find out what other vacationers have said.

You can find many excellent websites online with user reviews from other – nice and potentially brutally honest – vacationers.  Past visitors are typically up front with opinions; both opinions good and bad.  Microsoft has said that “sites like or BizRate have customer evaluations which can help you determine a company’s legitimacy.”, for example, is a great way to get unbiased reviews from everyday consumers.

Shopping online for your vacation gives you a wide-selection, as well as deal-worthy rates.  If you take the time to make sure you’re booking securely with the tips above in mind, you’ll be able to travel more worry-free and relaxed.

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