Thursday, November 27, 2014

I Finally Used up Some of those AirMiles I've been Saving up and my Next Adventure is just Around the Corner!

I try to travel somewhere new every year and I haven’t gone anywhere outside of Canada since my trip to Costa Rica in April 2013. This past few weeks, the travel bug has been biting hard. My life currently meets all the criteria needed for an overdue international adventure; I’m laid off from my job and have some free time until at least January, I have more than enough Airmiles saved up to fly me almost anywhere in the world and the weather is starting to get cold here. Without hesitation, I started researching various destinations and for the deals to get me there as cheaply as possible.

I’ve been collecting Airmiles for more than a decade and, until recently, miles had no expiration date. When the company decided that miles would start coming with an expiration date, I knew I had to use them at the first opportunity I got or risk losing them.

Back in October, I won a blogging competition that saw me win a stay at a resort called La Francesca in Italy. Europe has been near the top of my travel bucket list for some time and I always thought if I went there, I would do a multi-country backpacking trip. However, since I had a free stay at that resort and all those Airmiles to cover my return flight, I was open to traveling to Italy and exploring that region for a week. I logged into my Airmiles account, searched for a flight into Florence (which was the closest airport to that resort) and discovered I had more than enough miles to go there. I promptly emailed the owner of La Francesca and told her of my plans. I even knew what day I would arrive and how long I would stay. Within a few hours, she sent an email with some information about the resort and surrounding area. In that email, she mentioned that many of the resorts services and the town’s attractions were closed for the season. That’s when it dawned on me; it’s the off-season (aka winter) in Italy. Why on earth would I spend those hard-earned miles to escape cold and snowy Canada only to arrive in cold and snowy Italy? I quickly shot that plan down and informed her that, perhaps, I would go there in the summer or fall of next year instead. And so the search for a warmer destination continued.

Don’t get me wrong, I love the Caribbean but, after already being there several times, I thought I was done with that region for a while. However, two islands always stuck out to me as potential destinations to eventually travel to; St. Lucia and Barbados. I started with St. Lucia first. I had enough miles to get there and back but the prices for accommodations were outrages! I put St. Lucia on the backburner and researched Barbados so I could compare the two. I also did some research on other Caribbean destinations while I was at it. Turks and Caicos, The Cayman Islands, Antigua and Trinidad and Tobago all looked appealing but, in the end I narrowed it down to my first two choices. Barbados looked the most promising. There was a deal on how many Airmiles were needed to travel to the island and the prices for accommodations were much lower than in St. Lucia. Without giving it much more thought, I decided I would go to Barbados and got to work finalizing my trip.

Although it was a bit hard getting through to someone at the Airmiles booking center, the process was easy once I did get through. While my booking agent was finalizing my trip, he informed me that the promotion for Barbados that was allowing me to go there for so little miles was set to end in only a few hours. That just goes to show how quickly airfare prices can change.

With my flights booked and travel insurance secured, I got to work researching affordable accommodations in a nice area near a beach pretty. The island is not very big so I wasn’t concerned about which area I stayed in because it would be easy to get around to other areas. I searched all the usual sites like Expedia and Hotwire. I perused Trip Advisor for hotels with good reviews. I even searched for hostels and it was through a site called HostelBookers that I found the place I would call home for that week. I searched for accommodations in my price range for the days I was to be in Barbados and four options popped up. I researched all of them like I did on the other sites but one, in particular, stuck out from the rest. Angler Apartments, located in the Parish of Jamestown, is located very close to a beach, is in my price range, is close to various services and attractions and got mostly good reviews from previous travelers. I dug a little deeper and when I was satisfied that I had found the right place to stay, I booked it.

The next step was finding a comprehensive tour that would introduce me to some of the top sights around Barbados. I am not one to stay in all-inclusive resorts and remain on-site all week and I am not really one for guided tours either but, from time to time, I like to embark on tours to get a better feel for a place. I found the perfect tour while browsing Expedia. A local company called Glory Tours had a tour available on the day I wanted and at a price that seemed very reasonable considering what is included. I am to be picked up at my hotel to embark on an adventurous day filled with various activities including swimming and snorkeling with turtles, exploring caves, viewing local wildlife and seeing some of the scenic areas along the way.

So now I find myself spending my days leading up to my departure researching my destination and tying up loose ends. You know, stuff like alerting credit card companies that I will be out of the country, catching up on any work that needs to be done before I go, packing, printing off necessary documents and other typical things that need to be done before a trip. And I think I am going at just the right time; five centimeters of fresh snow just blanketed my neighborhood and the temperatures have taken quite a dip in the last week. The white sandy beaches of Barbados are starting to look more and more appealing with each passing day!

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