The ins and outs of great travel deals

It’s September, and I’m off to Beijing to take advantage of the great travel deal I found recently (you can read about it here). So my next post may be from China. Or not — I’m still not certain how easy or hard it will be to post from the shadows of the Forbidden City. But with great travel deals still available for China, it might be a good time to offer some advice on how to proceed when you see Continue Reading ››

Ever wondered how to get a blurred background in your photos?

Most of us who travel take a lot of pictures, and over time we like to increase our photography skills. One of those skills is taking photos with those soft, blurry backgrounds that make the subject stand out in bold contrast. Maarten Heilbron, owner of the Maarten website, and I have tackled that problem with a simple how-to video that makes it easy to get a blurry background without being an expert. It’s called Blurry Backgrounds in Six Easy Steps, and Continue Reading ››

Want to enrich your travels? Learn the language

You spend a lot of time and money on your travels, so it makes sense to get the most out of the experience. One way is to read books about your destinations, as I wrote about here. But an even better way is to learn at least a little of the language they speak in the places you’re going. It seems like a lot of work, especially if you’re taking a short trip. But if you’re going to be in a country Continue Reading ››

Why booking with the hotel still makes sense

Booking a hotel room in the internet age is pretty simple: go to an online booking site, look through a list of hotels in the area, find the best one at the best price and click. It’s easy, and not only that, you get the best price — or do you? I’ve always thought so, but an increasing amount of evidence is leading me to believe that booking directly with the hotel may be the best way to get the best price — as Continue Reading ››

Lost cities, floating towns and little reed horses: Peru!

When they hear the word “Peru”, most people think of one thing: Machu Picchu, the familiar landmark in the photo above. But like Panama, Peru is a country that has a wealth of sights and experiences most people have never dreamed of. If you like history, it has the legacy of the Incas, with their amazing cities and incredible architecture. If you like scenery, it has river valleys, lakes, giant canyons and the majestic Andes. If  you like colonial cities, it has classic examples. Continue Reading ››

What’s a UNESCO World Heritage Site? Here’s the lowdown

If you travel, you’ve probably come across some historic site or national park with a sign indicating it’s a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It always makes you feel like you’re seeing something special. But what does it actually mean? The question has always nagged me, so I decided to find out. And here’s the lowdown. A UNESCO World Heritage Site is a cultural, historic or natural site that the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization deems to be of Continue Reading ››

September brings bargains for cruise lovers

It’s September, and suddenly my inbox has been filled with announcements of “big Labour Day sales” from a half-dozen cruise agencies. There’s a reason for that: September is a good time to look for cruise bargains. Generally, there are two seasons that are great for finding cruise bargains. One is the “wave season”, from January to March, when the cruise lines try to pre-sell their cruises for the summer and fall. The second is September and October, when they try Continue Reading ››

Sunshine, bacon and Whac-a-Mole: the Canadian National Exhibition

In every town and city across the world, there are little rituals that mark the passing of the seasons. Here in Toronto, one of our yearly rituals is the Canadian National Exhibition, also known as the CNE – or to those of us who live here, the Ex. When I was a kid, the Ex was bittersweet pleasure. You looked forward to it all summer, with a mixture of anticipation and dread. For one or maybe two golden days, you could delight Continue Reading ››

Livin’ like a rock star at the Hard Rock Hotel

Most of us who travel spend a lot of time in decent, affordable three-star hotels and resorts, sampling the delights of luxury living only on big occasions — like when our lottery tickets come in. But every once in a while, even budget travellers get to live like a rock star. That’s what happened to me last year on a travel assignment in Panama. My trip was partly sponsored, and Decameron Hotels agreed to provide accommodation once I got to Panama. We agreed to four nights Continue Reading ››

Literary trips: five books that brought travel to life

Seeing new places is always fun, but let’s face it, just looking at the monuments and cathedrals of yet another city can be a shallow experience if you don’t have a real understanding of what you’re seeing. The  best way to get that understanding is by doing some reading before you go, and not just blogs and guidebooks — reading novels set in the country you’re headed for. Blogs and guidebooks can give you lots of good information on what to Continue Reading ››