GUEST POST: Hotel Stays Filled with Delightful Surprises

Intercontinental Hotel

I asked Michelle Dias what she had to say about travelling for work, and here’s what she had to say:

Before working in the hotel business, I thought that the “big-box” branded hotels were all the same: cookie-cutter versions of the same formula, like your neighborhood Best Buy or Target. Boy, was I wrong! I am now one year into my role as Marketing Manager, PR and Communications, with the InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG) and I have seen my fair share of hotels. From hotels in Vancouver to Atlanta to Nisku (5 minutes outside of Edmonton’s airport), the 13 brands we represent all have similar standards, but each hotel comes with a unique surprise waiting to be discovered. Typically when I go on a business trip, I have the pleasure of getting a hotel tour. It’s a great way for me to get to know the staff and the property. Although friendly smiles and great hospitality come standard, there have been surprise “WOWS” that I won’t soon forget. After a year of jet setting, here my favourite delightful surprises that I have stumbled upon during my hotel stays:

1. A bowling alley, arcade, and huge fitness facility at the Crowne Plaza Kitchener-Waterloo

Crowne Plazas are known and enjoyed for their upscale facilities (restaurants, meeting spaces etc.) and cool décor. When touring the newly renovated Crowne Plaza Kitchener-Waterloo, I was shocked to see their underground bowling alley and arcade – which was formerly a parking garage. This space looked like a gamers-dream, and a perfect space for business and leisure guests to unwind. LPGA Golf Professional and Canadian-favourite Brookie Henderson recently took a swing and got a hole-in-one (surprise, surprise!) while playing on the mini-putt course in this cool underground space.

 

2. Piece of the Berlin Wall at the InterContinental Hotel Montreal InterContinental Hotel

I kid you not! This section of the Berlin Wall was given by Germany to Montreal for the city’s 350th birthday. I’ve been to Berlin, Germany and have to say that the piece of the wall inside the InterContinental is so lively – it really brings that part of history to life. The graffiti looks freshly painted and the markers at the base give you an informative lesson into this grime piece of Germany’s history.

 

 

3. This amazing view!

One of my most memorable trips this year was to Vancouver. I was lucky enough to be there for Canada Day and was awestruck by the nature, the number of fit people (seriously, everyone hikes and jogs), and also the vast amount of green space. Coming from Toronto – I feel as though Vancouver has a certain Euro-style: everything is modern, the buildings are glass, and it’s so clean. After hosting an SEO workshop at the Holiday Inn Vancouver-Centre, I was given a tour of the property and stopped for 5 minutes to play tourist while on the building’s highest level overlooking the Pacific ocean.

holiday-inn-vancouver, Intercontinental

 

I know most hotels are just a stopping ground for travellers – folks are more concerned with seeing the outdoor sites and neighborhoods, but I would encourage you to learn about your hotel on your next trip. Some hotels are historical buildings or conversions from old factories, while some house priceless art or have entertaining game rooms.

 

InterContinental HotelAUTHOR BIO:

Michelle Dias is an energetic, A-type traveler who doesn’t travel without a detailed itinerary. She is a known over-packer who enjoys taking photos and over-sharing on social media. In her role with IHG, Michelle is responsible for Marketing and Public Relations for all Canadian hotels.

Follow me as I travel @MichelleHotelLife

Photo Credit: [Hotel], [InterContinental Photos]


Panama Hotel Review: Bocas del Toro

Panama Hotel Review: Bocas del Toro

Island Plantation is a hidden gem that sits on the outskirts of the otherwise tourist-saturated island of Bocas del Toro. Island Plantation isn’t just a hotel, but more of a sanctuary where everything is focused on the experience.

Island Plantation Bocas del Toro Read more

Working Holidays: Finding Work in Australia

Working Holidays: Finding Work in Australia

Finding Work in Aus

Finding Work in Australia for a Working Holiday can be difficult.

 

Imagine quitting your job, packing up your belongings and moving halfway across the world to work and travel for a year. Now imagine yourself embarking on said life-changing journey, without an inkling of how to find work or a place to live – that pretty much sums up what most working holidays are like! Read more

My Working Holiday in Australia: If I Knew then What I Know Now

My Working Holiday in Australia: If I Knew then What I Know Now

 

Three years ago, I returned from my working holiday in Australia, and although I’ve told many tales of my other adventures abroad since then, I’ve never actually opened up about my time in Australia until now.

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Spain: Falling in Love with Tapas

For the love of food: Aside from the history, architectural beauty, and culture – the tapas are really what keeps me coming back to Spain. Now tallying three visits, I don’t intend to stop anytime soon, for the pursuit of delicious tapas and good wine are too tempting to turn down!

Preparing for Machu Picchu: 6 Helpful Tips

Preparing for Machu Picchu: 6 Helpful Tips

machu picchuMacchu Picchu was at the top of my travel bucket list for years, yet I was always making excuses as to why it was never the right time to go, often blaming factors such as weather, vacation time, or money. It was only nine months ago that I was able to tick Machu Picchu off my travel bucket list with a big, emphatic check mark. I decided to ditch the excuses and go for it – something that usually comes second nature to me, however I was a bit apprehensive this time around because I had placed the destination up on a pedestal for so many years. Read more

How to Travel on a Low Canadian Dollar

travel on canadian dollar

Canadian Dollar Getting You Down?

Yes, the Canadian Dollar is down in the dumps, but don’t let it put a damper on your 2016 travel plans! Here are some options that won’t break the bank this year:

Stay Domestic

  • Kiss the exchange rate worry goodbye and explore Canada by taking advantage of local deals created to entice American travellers to visit Canada. If you can’t find a good deal on flights, don’t fret – gas prices are ideal for road trips, which are often the best way to see this beautiful country!

travel to canada _ map

South of the Border: There’s Still Hope!

  • Local businesses and hotels in Myrtle Beach teamed up to offer Canadians up to 60% off on accommodation, dining, and entertainment as an incentive to come down south and overcome the hardship of the exchange rate. See Visit Myrtle Beach for more information.
  • If Myrtle Beach isn’t your cup of tea, several airlines have launched major seat sales to the U.S., and many major attractions have also publicized great deals and reduced rates.

travel deals

 

International Travel:

  • Do your research. Airlines are currently offering awesome sales, such as WOW Airline’s deals to Iceland. Other major seat sales include round trip airfares to China from Toronto/Vancouver. Aside from flights, it goes without saying that key destinations to consider are those whose currency values can make the Canadian Dollar stretch, such as South American nations like Brazil, Argentina, and Colombia. Any of the few European countries who do not use the Euro are other great options, with the exception of the UK, of course! For example, Poland has been topping the lists of top international destinations for Canadians.
  • Here are some resources to help with your research:

 

 

Photo Credit: [loonie][map][travel deals]

 

 

Why You Should Travel Solo

worried monkey - you're doing whatConfusion, shock, pity, disbelief and worry are just a few of the reactions that I’ve witnessed in response to an announcement of one of my many solo travel adventures. Most commonly, I get “but won’t you be bored?” or “aren’t you scared?”. Though very valid concerns, I can never find an adequate explanation because I can’t imagine feeling that way – only after having done it a few times, of course. In all honesty, I think I’ve spoiled myself: travelling solo has been such a life-changing experience that I’m afraid that travelling with a companion or a group will pale by comparison.

 

Why do I love solo travel? Here’s 5 reasons:

1. Full control of your schedule

Undoubtedly a no-brainer. Not having to consult or compromise your itinerary with anyone, and most importantly, not having to apologize when a seemingly good idea turns sour. The ability to travel freely – quickly or slowly, with a rigid or loose schedule, to any destination of your choice without fuss, is truly liberating.

2. The invaluable ability it affords you to befriend perfect strangers

Thanks to my first solo trip way back when, I’ve had several years to perfect the art of making friends with locals, fellow travellers, or anyone willing to give me the time of day. So, my answer to those who ask me if I’ll get bored or be lonely will always be a resounding no. The ability to communicate with strangers, especially with those who don’t speak your native language, is an important skill that stays with you forever and helps you in ways unimaginable. Meeting people on the road expands your horizons to different cultures, lifestyles, and beliefs, and it also provides great company, to boot! The best part about befriending perfect strangers is that there is absolutely no obligation to spend time with them if you don’t want to – because after all, they are just strangers! It can be whatever you want it to be – some of my encounters have led to long-lasting friendships, and others have amounted to nothing more than a 5 minute conversation.

Santorini
Santorini

3. Being able to fully engulf yourself in a foreign culture

I hold this one at a particularly high value, yet I find it a bit difficult to explain. To me, being able to absorb and authentically immerse myself into local culture is the essence of travel. The seeing of sights is important, but if I can’t experience the crux of local life and truly understand what it’s like to live there, then I haven’t gained much. Don’t get me wrong – this can certainly be achieved in group or companion travel, but I find it so much easier to ditch my inhibitions and immerse myself in local customs when I’m on my own.

4. The life-changing confidence and empowerment that remains with you forever

Yet another item on my list that I hold at a particularly high value, mainly because it is an enriching quality that will change one’s everyday life. When you arrive in a foreign country alone, you are forced to step out of your comfort zone into the unknown and somehow find your way. No matter how much research you’ve done, or how many guide books you’ve consulted, it’s never like the book – and that’s a good thing! The ability to learn about customs and local etiquette through trial and error can develop into a unique confidence – a confidence that will endure anything, even the things that you once found impossible.

5. Being able to get lost, in both the figurative and literal sense.

I think it’s nearly impossible to travel to any destination for the first time and not get lost. When you’re alone and you are forced to find your way using only a map and a few locals who don’t speak a lick of English, it can be so satisfying to find your way! For those who are somewhat lost in life, remember that “taking a year off to find yourself” isn’t just a silly cliche – it actually has some merit to it. As described above, solo travel can help you discover things about yourself that you never thought existed!

 

 

Photo Credit: [monkey]

Heading South this Winter? Tobago is Calling!

Heading South this Winter? Tobago is Calling!

Tobago Island

As the temperatures outside drop, our minds naturally wander to warmer climates. Before the jackets and boots have come out of storage, many of us will have already hopped online to book a vacation down south. This year, why not try something different, like Tobago!

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Tight on Time? How to See Machu Picchu in Two Days

Tight on Time? How to See Machu Picchu in Two Days

machu picchuMachu Picchu has been at the top of my travel bucket list for years, but ironically, a long list of trips have preceded my recent visit to Peru. The idea behind my procrastination was actually a very poor attempt at convincing myself that I was saving Peru for a “better time” when I could be aptly prepared. Truthfully, there never was a better time because I’m a last minute traveller in nature. And for that very reason, the task of booking the infamous trek to Machu Picchu seemed so daunting. The problem was that treks from Cusco to Aguas Calientes (Machu Picchu Town) get booked up months in advance because admittance to both the ancient trails and Machu Picchu itself is limited in order to preserve precious Incan infrastructure. I wanted to do the trek to Machu Picchu so badly, but the thought of booking any sort of travel more than two weeks in advance gave me serious anxiety – it was just not my style. To boot, tour companies recommend that trekkers arrive in Cusco approximately two days prior to the trek in order to acclimatize to the altitude. Unfortunately, I did not have the luxury of time, and simply couldn’t afford to spend seven days in one place, so I had no choice but to find another way to get to Machu Picchu. After going on a whim and booking everything myself, I realized that it is possible to experience quite a bit of adventure in Machu Picchu doing the trek. Read more