Solo Road-Tripping the ‘Highway Thru Hell’

Photo: Bridge Wisdom

In Canada, we have a relatively popular docu-series TV show called ‘Highway Thru Hell’. The show, chronicling treacherous heavy rescue on wintery British Columbia highways is definitely one that’s struck a cord with people of my dad’s generation. It’s been on the air since 2012, and frequently showcases roads that I travel and have spent my life travelling.

The past few days I’ve driven about 1,500 miles up and down the ‘Highway Thru Hell’ chasing scenery, the feeling of calm and every tourist attraction I could possibly find. (Sounds familiar, right? Once you get a taste of the road trip buzz, you just need more of it)

Most major highways in British Columbia are mountain passes. With the Rocky Mountains, the Coast Mountains and the Cascade Mountains all in one province, it’s safe to say if you’re driving anywhere, it’s going to be through, or over the mountains. In spring, summer and fall, these highways are much easier to travel than what’s showcased on the television show. These roads can showcase some of the most breathtaking scenery you ever did see. Even on a cloudy/rainy day. The ‘Highway Thru Hell’ is S-T-U-N-N-I-N-G.

One of the best things about driving a mountain pass is that cell phone reception is sparse. It’s a matter of going for long periods of time, hours on end, without having being able to see any notifications on your phone or have anyone call you. It really is just you, the road and the stunning scenery around you. And I love that feeling.

Nature is amazing. The way the mountains poke up out of the earth like gifts from the heavens. The way that trees grow right out the side of mountains and thrive, on the edge of a cliff, sturdy and comfortable as though nothing can harm it. The way that rivers carve out landscapes from the sky to the sea, flowing with such power it can destroy rock face and anything in its wake. British Columbia is incredible.

Along the way I got a little fed-up with road construction. Have you ever heard the phrase ‘In Canada we have nine months of winter and three months of road repair’? Oh boy, British Columbia for July-September is RIDICULOUS. Tired of sitting in a lineup of traffic due road construction, I stopped on the side of the highway and went for a bit of a hike.

I wound up finding an old, abandoned bridge. The sign on the bridge said it was built in 1927. Which, I thought was pretty cool. Imagine all the history this bridge has scene over the past (nearly) 100 years.

There were locks with initials along the bridge (reminiscent of the love-lock bridge in Paris) and initials and names carved all the way across it. I can’t help but wonder if Abby and Brad ever worked out. If they ever came back to that bridge after carving their names into it. If there was a happy ending… These are just the types of thoughts that can run through my mind when I have no cell service to distract me.

One of my favourite messages carved into the bridge (photo at top of post) was ‘Love is Stronger’. Because I agree. Love is stronger.

The actual highway can be seen in this photo below, it’s that orange bridge up in the distance. There was some construction happening on the bridge and traffic was pretty heavily backed up leading to the bridge, which was why I decided to stop in the first place. And I’m pretty glad that I did.

The abandoned bridge had a lot of ghosts and a lot of history to it. The feeling of walking across it, I couldn’t help but wonder about those who travelled it and how incredible of infrastructure they must’ve found it to be in 1927 when it was first built.

All in all, it was a pretty incredible trip. I love British Columbia. I’m grew up here and I’m still finding new places each and every day that I’ve never seen before. There’s so much to see, so many places to go and so many things to do. Honestly, I think you could spend your lifetime exploring this province and never see it all.

I love solo-road trips because you get to do as you please. It’s peaceful. It’s solitude. It’s anything that you want it to be and you don’t have to deal with, or please, anyone else in the process.

And it doesn’t hurt that British Columbia is absolutely breathtakingly beautiful… even on the cloudiest/rainiest of days.

Solo Road-Tripping up the Gold Rush Trail

In 1858 word got out of the discovery of gold in the upper Fraser and people began flocking to British Columbia in droves with hopes of striking it rich. After the gold count began declining, prospectors made their way further north into British Columbia’s interior in search of the rich-gold bearing creeks of the Cariboo.

Though I can’t even begin to imagine how vastly the route has expanded in the past 170 years, The Gold Rush trail remains to this day. Now, it’s a highway through the heart of British Columbia’s broad landscapes (that my pictures can’t even remotely do justice) and heartland. It’s a route to remind people just how vast and breathtaking this part of the world truly is.

I’ve been on the road the past few days. I’ve driven more than 1,500 miles up and down British Columbia’s ‘Gold Rush Trail’ chasing the scenery, the feeling of calm and every tourist attraction that I could possibly find.

Why? Because when you’re road-tripping alone, YOU and only you get to decide what you want to do and where you want to go. It’s a powerful feeling, not needing to check with someone before you stop somewhere or do something. I loved it.

I spent some time with my best friend and her family. Time with them always grounds me. She inspires me and her children cant help but make me feel happier. They’re adorable, they say silly things and everything is exciting to them at this point in life. What’s not to love about that?

I spent a lot of time on the road. Truthfully, I love driving alone. I love taking a stop to appreciate the view. I love feeling the sun beat down on my face as I hear the river rushing beneath me. I love finding new ‘tourist traps’ to wander into. I, most importantly, love driving the highways with no cell service. When your phone just doesn’t work – it’s the universe’s way of telling you to let go and be one with the world. And that, that I have done.

The Fraser Canyon, home to the famous ‘Jackass Mountain’, is a several hundred kilometer long highway that was literally built by blasting out the sides of mountains to make enough room for roadway. The road can often get crowded with herds of Big Horn Sheep that make for the most darling of Canadian ‘traffic jams. Also on the highway you can find a string of seven tunnels, and some original bridges from the 1800’s Gold Rush that have been turned into Provincial Parks for people to hike/picnic.

I love nature. I love being out in the world, seeing how the mountains have peaked up over thousands of years, how the river has curved it’s way through the landscapes, how the trees have grown in some places and not in other. And I love finding homes in the middle of nowhere. I find myself imagining what these people do for work, how they can live so far away from towns… how long their morning commute must be, without traffic. A morning commute without traffic, how’s that for irony that’s not really irony?

The Fraser River, one of the largest (if not the largest) in the province, winds along the side of the highway, providing scenic sights throughout the drive for you to be able to stop, take a breath of the freshest, cleanest, thin mountain air, feel the sun beating down on your skin and realize how truly incredible nature is.

I found a farm, and a mini-orchard along the way. This might have been my favourite stop of today. Not for the overpriced baked goods and delectable goodies that I am not able to eat. But more because of the fact that it’s a tiny little farm outside a tiny little town (population 200) and so many people know about this tiny little farm outside of the tiny little town that when I drove up the place was packed.

I came, I saw, I picked some apples, posed for some photos and was transplanted to a simpler time and place in which life’s little things (such an apple orchard) can really be the biggest and most important piece of so very many people’s day. And I mean, can you get fresher apples than from straight off the tree?

Today was a reminder to not take life so seriously all the time. Sometimes, the best thing I can do for myself is stop at a little roadside pullout, have solo-picnic and dip my toes in the lake. It’s the little things that can bring brightness to your day. And when you’re driving 1,500 kms on your own, you need to get out and stretch your legs.

In one highway you can go from the Pacific Ocean to densely pack coniferous forests, into the Coast Mountains, along the Fraser River/Canyon, into the BC desert (complete with rattlesnakes and all) and then back into the densely packed temperate forests that are Northern British Columbia.

This province is S-T-U-N-N-I-N-G. Every piece of it is breathtaking. And it’s so hard to explain in just a few words and a few photos.

Solo road-tripping is peaceful, calming and everything that I needed to reset and recharge to face the world again.

If you’ve ever been thinking about going on a road trip on your own, do it. You don’t have to travel across the world in order to travel. Sometimes you can get in your car to travel in ‘your own back yard’ and find places, sights, tourist stops you’ve never seen or heard of before.

And if you’ve ever been thinking about doing a Canadian road trip, do it. I highly, highly, highly recommend British Columbia. Any highway that you drive in this province you’re going to be hit with incredible scenery, vast landscapes, beautiful wildlife and a reminder of what a small space you take in this universe. Which, in my mind, are all incredibly valuable experiences.

*Point of Note – The ‘Gold Rush Trail’ is also the road that you need to take to get to Alaska if you’re interested in road-tripping that far north.

Flights are booked.

I know, I know, I know. Save your money. Be responsible. Do the right thing. Don’t be frivolous. I hear it, I hear you and I understand. I don’t care though.

I’m going.

I haven’t told anyone. I don’t think that I will until a day or two before the trip. Honestly, it’s my business and not theirs.

I’m a firm believer that if human beings were meant to stay in one place, we’d have roots instead of feet.

The largest Ancient Inland Rainforest on Earth

Nestled in the heart of the British Columbia interior is the largest ancient inland temperate rainforest on earth. The watershed of the upper Fraser River has given rise to a unique inland wet-temperate rainforest; a forest ecosystem that combines attributes of both the coastal wet-temperate rainforests of British Columbia and adjacent boreal forests of Alberta and the far north.

Though forests are plentiful in British Columbia (close to 25% of the earth’s temperate rainforests are in BC), this particular region of the province is something special. Showcasing trees that span five meters in diameter at their base, reaching hundreds of feet towards the sky, densely packed to canopy vegetation and plant life found nowhere else on earth, it’s estimated the trees in this forest range between 1,000 – 2,000 years old.

Though this land has been protected as provincial park for several decades, in 2016 a portion of the park was turned into a hiking/walking trail to teach people the importance of rainforests in our ecosystem. What a perfect place for Auntie Vee to take the little chickens for an adventure! Their dad works 5-5 on Friday’s and mom had to be in court, so I had my niece and nephew and we went for a day hike.

Without further adieu, here are some unfiltered photos from the largest ancient inland temperate rainforest on earth.

It was quite a rainy day for an adveture. But hey, there’s something poetic about finding rain in the rainforest. The kids loved it, and me, I’m always happy to experience just how vast this planet truly is and remind myself what a beautiful corner of this world I come from.

FYI: Flying standby is incredibly convenient.

11:00 pm, Northern Sunsets.

I’ve been away on a sneaky holiday in a sneaky location for the past week. It was exactly what I needed – to get away from reality, just for a few days. Though it rained the entire time, though everything didn’t go according to plan, though there’s always a ‘what could have been’ floating around the back of my mind, it was an incredibly calming, much needed week away.

For the first time ever, I flew standby for this trip. I’d always wanted to try flying standby before but have never really had the opportunity. It’s a luxury awarded to employees of airlines and their friends/family. Luckily, on of my connections decided to use his standby pass for me.

After five days, four standby flights, three airports and two time zones here is one list of things to know about flying standby:

  • It’s cheap. Hella cheap! For a trip that regularly costs roughly $1,000 Canadian, the entire trip’s fees were just airport taxes. I’d travel every trip this way, if I could.
  • It’s convenient. If you’re not needing to be anywhere at any given time, flying standby means you can show up at the airport whenever you want to and hop on any flight that happens to have an extra seat.
  • If the plane isn’t full, you have the opportunity to sit in your own row without paying an extra fee. One of the planes I boarded was only half booked. Not only did the airport gate attendant assign my seat to my own row, she assigned my seat to a row that didn’t have anyone around (four rows in front and four rows behind). You can always ask. It never hurts to ask!
  • If the plane is full, they will put you in whatever seat remains – which can include premium and plus seating. The second flight I got on was full. I was the last person to get a seat on the plane and the last seat available was premium seating… a seat/ticket that those sitting in paid an extra $500 for. I got it for free! Premium seating included having free drinks and a flight attendant waiting on us the entire flight… a perk I’ve never had before in my life as I’ve never booked a premium fare.
  • If the plane is full, you’re waiting for the next one. If you’re in a large airport, this might not a big deal. Another flight could be leaving for your destination in an hour, in which case I recommend grabbing some Starbucks and relaxing. But, if you’re in a small airport in a smaller city, this could mean several hours to a half day of waiting. This could be kind of a pain in the butt. It all depends on what type of traveller you are.
  • You can’t really check a bag. If you don’t know that you’re for sure getting on a flight, checking a bag would be rather stupid. Your bag will get to the destination and you just might not. For that reason, I highly recommend only bringing a carry-on bag and not paying for a checked-bag.
  • If you have connecting flights, you won’t know if you’re getting on them until you get there. You won’t know if you can get on flight two until you get off of flight one. If you’re a nervous/anxious traveller, this might not be an ideal scenario for you.

All-in-all, if you’re a laid back or easy going traveller and you have the opportunity to fly standby, I highly recommend it. The benefits far outweigh the negatives, and packing in a carry-on promotes the minimalist lifestyle we all dream of finding on holiday.

On the other hand, if you get nervous about flying, anxious about connections, fearful of lost baggage or any of the other worries travellers experience, I would say that flying standby might not be an ideal option for you. Some people really don’t want to have to worry about anything so booking flights 5+ weeks in advance is ideal for them.

If you know someone who works for an airline, or you just have the opportunity and want to try it, go for it! Sneak away for the weekend, or for a longer holiday. Everybody needs a little more adventure in their lives.

Airport Etiquette

There’s an unwritten code of commandments you’re supposed to follow when you travel by plane. Why? Because airports are busy places with people passing through from all over the world and they shouldn’t have to be subjected to things like your facetime breakup call or your stinky feet. Sadly though, it seems less and less people are getting the memo about how to behave in airports. Honestly, sometimes it feels as though airports are the place where manners go to die.

Turn off the ringer on your phone. I can’t tell you how annoying it is to hear the exact same iphone ringtone on the highest volume over and over and over in the various nooks and crannys of the airport. Every phone has a vibrate function in 2019. You need not have your phone volume to it’s loudest in order to be able to answer it.

If you’re going to have a loud phone conversation, move away from crowded areas. I think that it’s part of the human condition to feel a need to speak louder into your phone when you’re in a crowded area. I’m not exactly sure why humans do this, but I wish they’d learn that they could just stand up and walk twenty or thirty feet away and not need to yell into their phone anymore. Furthermore, moving twenty or thirty feet away means that those around you need not hear your conversation breaking up with your girlfriend. Because… why do you need to subject strangers to that?

DO NOT take off your shoes. I’m not quite sure what it is about airport lobbies and lounges that makes people think it’s a great place to take off their shoes but this is gross. It really is. Firstly, the majority of time people have been travelling already that day and thus, they have smelly feet. Subjecting other travellers to your stinky feet is downright cruel. Furthermore, it’s not your living room and the furniture does not belong to you. Why are you smothering the chairs in your stinky foot sweat? The next person who has to sit there is not thankful, trust me.

Remember that you’re a parent. Yes, you may be on vacation, but the airport is no place to be taking a break from being a parent. People aren’t paying hundreds of dollars to listen to your children scream incessantly… just because. As much as I understand that kids are kids, I am also aware of what is a child screaming because of an issue and what is a child screaming because they want your attention. Pay attention to your kids. If they do something wrong, kick a stranger, throw their food on the floor, steal someone’s food, don’t just let them get away with this behaviour because you’re on a trip. The rest of us aren’t in a place where we can say much of anything about it, so with them being your kids, you damn well better.

Don’t jump the line. There’s no bonus to being the first person on the plane. It’s not as if they hand out medals to those who get on first. Honestly, we’re all just trying to squish into a sky-tin with you, so please wait your turn. You need not shove in front, you need not load out of the order the flight crew is asking for. You need not stand so close to me in line you’re breathing down my neck. We’ll all get on. I promise you! They’re not going to fill half a plane and then leave with you still standing at the gate.

Do not leave your suitcase in the middle of the hall, the aisle, the escalatator, etc… Also, do not stop with your crowd to converse in the middle of the hall, the aisle, the escalator, etc… Why? As I’m sure you’re all aware, airports are busy places. People from all over the world need to get through the airport, some in a massive hurry and the last thing they want is your complete lack of self-awareness slowing them down. Sometimes, the difference from two minutes means making or missing a flight. And if you’re stopping in the middle of ANYWHERE, you’re running the possibility of slowing someone down.

Don’t yell at the gate attendant. Firstly, the person working your gate at the airport is not responsible for your flight, they’re only responsible for ensuring that you get on it. So blaming them for any frustrations that you have is useless and quite rude. Secondly, holding up the boarding process so you can let out your grievances pisses off everyone else who’s trying to board behind you. There’s nothing you’re yelling at the gate attendant that cannot be explained calmly and professionally in a finely worded email to customer service after you get off the flight. And if you don’t want to wait that long to write the email… your problems really aren’t that bad.

Whatever adventure you’re on, wherever you’re headed next, I hope that you have an incredible time. And for everyone’s sake, I really hope that travellers around you are aware of airport etiquette. When they are, let me speak from experience, it makes travelling so much easier.

Bon voyage!

Tips for finding cheap flights.

Screenshot from video “How to draw an airplane” on youtube.

Have you ever noticed that paying for flights can, quite often, be the most expensive part of the trip? Thought flying is exceptionally convenient, it can also be exceptionally expensive.

Finding cheap flights, or at the very least, the best deal you can get on the day you’re purchasing, is important. So, here are some tips to finding the cheapest ticket possible.

Search prices using travel booking websites. Websites like Expedia, Travelocity, Kayak, Momondo, Cheap-O-Air, etc… all have the ability to provide you quotes of tickets from multiple different airlines. If you don’t have flexibility as to when you book, at least check prices across different websites before you book to find which might be cheapest. My favourite website for searching plane ticket fares is momondo.com because I find it provides the option for the most airlines.

If you’re going to be making stopovers, consider the option of flying with more than one airline. One of the things I most appreciate about momondo.com is that the quotes it provides you can often include more than one airline. This is how you know you’re finding the cheapest tickets. Momondo might include a flight from Calgary, Canada to London, England on Air Canada and then a flight from London, England to Copenhagen, Denmark on Lufthansa. This is important to deal hunting because, if you live in Canada you know how expensive our flights are! Booking London to Copenhagen with AirCanada rather than Momondo could mean that you pay for AirCanada fees, rather than Lufthansa fees for your Copenhagen flight. And Lufthansa fees are A LOT cheaper.

Be flexible with your dates! If you know you want your holiday to be during a specific time of year, but don’t have specific dates you need to travel for, be open to all dates during that season. IE – If you want to go to Mexico in Winter, flights in January might be extremely expensive, while flights in February might be several hundred dollars cheaper.

Fly on weekdays, where possible. I’m not sure if this is the case internationally but I’ve noticed that , when purchasing flights in Canada and the USA, it’s more expensive to fly on Friday, Saturday and Sunday then it is Monday-Thursday. This is especially helpful when you’re leaving for quick trips, or weekend trips. Leaving on a Thursday as opposed to Friday could save you a lot of money on flights.

Airlines biggest ‘sales’ are offered on the biggest holidays. Boxing Day and Black Friday/Thanksgiving will always have considerably reasonable seat sales. Other holidays where seat sales often occur are Mother’s and Father’s Day, Canada Day and 4th of July, and Family Day (if it’s celebrated where you are).

Always book in advance. Gone are the days when airlines would put up last minute offers. These days, the longer you wait to purchase, the higher the prices are going to be, with very few exceptions. I’ve noticed that if you’re flying within Canada or the United States, five weeks in advance seems to be the ‘sweet spot’ for purchasing tickets.

Fly into smaller airports, where possible. If budget is important to you, consider this, airlines pay heavy gate fees to be able to fly into major airports (especially if they’re international airports) and that gate fee they pay is passed on to customers through ticket prices. This is why flying into smaller airports can often be much cheaper. Example: Flying into Abbotsford Airport, 1 hour from Vancouver BC can be anywhere from 50 to 200 dollars cheaper (depending on where you’re coming from) than flying into Vancouver Airport.

Use a credit card that collects airline points. This is SOOOOOOO important. While you’re buying your groceries, paying for your hair cut, paying your bills, or doing anything that you spend money on, use that credit card. Even if you use the credit card for a purchase and pay it off 15 minutes later, you will be collecting Airline rewards points for those purchases. Do some research about what card will get you the best rewards for your lifestyle. I took this leap in 2014 and, since then, have earned anywhere from $200-$600 off flights per year depending on how frequently I’ve used the credit card.

Wanderlusting for a world I’ve not yet met.

I want to see the whole world. THE WHOLE WORLD.

People call me crazy, but I can’t help it. I want to see everything, go everywhere and meet everyone.

For my tenth birthday I was gifted a globe and this, it was probably the best present that I was ever given. From then on I can remember feeling this overwhelming urge of needing to see all of it, the whole globe, I needed to conquer it.

Slowly, but surely, I’ve been crossing places off of my ‘bucket list’. The thing about social media, though, is that the more of the world that I read about, the more places I add to my bucket list.

Full disclosure: I am more of an ‘off the beaten path’ kind of traveller. I’m absolutely certain the Eiffel Tower is breathtaking and that I will get there one day, but, as soon as I make my first million, here’s a few of the top places that I want to go:

Torres Del Pain, Chile

Photo Credit: detourdestinations.com

Torres Del Pain is a national park encompassing mountains, glaciers, lakes and rivers in Southern Chilean Patagonia. The region, breathtaking in any and all photos that I’ve seen online, seems to me to be the South American equivalent to the Canadian Rocky Mountains.

This area of South America is high on my bucket list. It just seems as though the possibilities are endless. The mountains are breathtaking, the turquoise waters appear to be the picture of purity and the remoteness of the area makes it so much more appealing.

Bhutan

Photo Credit: abcnews.com

The tiny kingdom of Bhutan, located in the eastern Himalayas, is a modern and economically forward country. While there are some things about Bhutan that I’m not necessarily in agreeance with, the country puts a focus on the prospects of sustainability and ethical living. Bhutan has become known worldwide for pioneering the concept of ‘Gross National Happiness’.

The scenery is stunning, the people are cultured and the country is diverse, in every sense of the term. When I think of Bhutan, I think of the saying ‘seeing how the other half lives’. To me, taking a piece of the happiness pie, learning how to meditate in a Bhutanese monestary, it seems like the trip of a lifetime.

South Africa

Photo Credit: akdmc.com

South Africa has been high on my bucket list since I was in sixth grade. A girl named Kelly, transferred to my class at school, and came with incredible stories and photos of what her life was like in Durban, South Africa. My desire to see South Africa only grew when I started watching Trevor Noah on the Daily Show and reading/learning about him and his life growing up.

There’s so much history of love and heartache, legal struggles and inequality in South Africa, and even so much happening now. It’s a world that I’ve never experienced, a world that I think could teach me so much. Plus, the prospect of being able to go on a safari and see incredible animals that I’ve only ever dreamed of seeing (giraffes, lions, etc…) is a pretty big bonus as well. I’ve seen some people visiting penguins in South Africa, too. And I really want to see Penguins.

Petra, Jordan

The Treasury, Petra, Jordan

Petra is a historical and archaeological city named for its pink sandstone cliffs that have been carved into tombs and temples.

My brother and I had made plans to meet here a few years back, but inevitably life got in the way. That being said, the caves, temples and tombs of Petra showcase an impressive civilization that dates back as far as 300 B.C. and it’s a culture and civilization that I would love to learn the history of firsthand.

The Seychelles

Photo Credit: Raymond Sahuquet

The Seychelles is an archipelago of 115 islands in the Indian Ocean, off the east coast of Africa, north of Madagascar. The country is home to an array of beaches, coral reefs and nature reserves, as well as rare animals such as giant Aldabra tortoises.

Seychelles is one of only a handful of countries in Africa with a high Human Development Index. Despite the country’s newfound economic prosperity, poverty remains widespread due to a high level of economic inequality, one of the highest in the world, and unequal wealth distribution among the populace which vastly favors the upper and ruling class

The Islands, which were actually formed following a the seismic event that led to the demise of dinosaurs, are sinking due to the effects of global warming. Nothing would make me happier than getting my butt to this remote location and experiencing its natural beauty and all the magic it possesses.

Honourable Mentions (places near the top of my list that I’ll have to hit when I make my second million):

Switzerland

Photo Credit: ebenalp.ch

Faroe Islands

Photo Credit: handluggageonly.co.uk

Kjeragbolten, Norway

Photo Credit: amazingplaces.com

Kakslauttanen Arctic Resort, Northern Finland

Photo Credit: kakslauttanen.fi

What $83 a night gets you in Calgary, Alberta.

I recently found myself in Calgary, Alberta for some job interviews and a need for somewhere to stay. Over the years, I’ve stayed in a few dozen hotels in Calgary and never been fully satisfied with the stay that I’ve had, so, knowing that I was going to need to book a hotel room, I decided to try something different.

Though my job interviews were right downtown, I decided to look outwards. In all honesty, the hotels in downtown Calgary seem to all be heavily overpriced for what you get.

Within just a two minute drive of the Calgary International Airport is a group of hotels, really nice hotels, with really reasonable prices per night. After doing my research on Expedia (always read hotel reviews before booking!), I settled on the Park Inn by Radisson, Calgary Airport North.

*FYI – All photos were taking with my Iphone. The mismatch of quality between photos does not escape me.

Cost: $83 per night.

Amenities: Indoor gym for guests, laundry room, kitchenette in each room (with dishes included for your use), a ‘Pantry’ stocked with any foods you could possibly need for a hotel stay at VERY reasonable prices, a beautiful lobby with plenty of couch space to meet/interact with people, a computer station for guests (for if you don’t have a computer or need to print anything off) and a full kitchenette in every room.

The Hotel Gym. (You can see in the mirror reflection on the right that there is cardio equipment just out of view. As far as hotel gym’s go, I was impressed with this one)

I was impressed with the fact that everything was so readily available and so well thought out. I really didn’t need to even leave the hotel if I didn’t want to. This provided a great sense of relief as all I wanted to do was ‘hold-up’ in my hotel room and prep for my job interviews.

Having the gym just down the hall was appreciated. I found I was more inclined to get up in the morning and hit the treadmill knowing it was just a few steps away from me.

The hotel’s ‘Pantry’ cupboard, stocked with junk food as well as food that could be cooked in your room’s kitchenette.

The room itself was perfect. Upon walking into mine, I was pleased to see that the photos online provided an accurate representation of what each room is actually like.

My room’s kitchenette (which included a dishwasher).

Each room has a kitchenette included, making it convenient for travellers who might be staying for longer than a few days. There were dishes in the cupboards and cleaning supplies under the sink. The appliances included: a toaster, a coffee maker, a dishwasher, a microwave, a fridge and a stove-top. Shy of being able to roast a turkey, anything you could possibly need to make could be cooked in this kitchen.

Ample closet space for any storage you might need.

The room was equipped with a massive closet that I could actually walk into. Something that I really appreciated about this hotel was that the small details were thought of, including the providing of guests with a laundry hamper for storing dirty clothes. Small details like that make me appreciate a hotel just a little bit more because I know they’ve thought of how they can most help their guests.

Ample desk space with built-in storage.

My room, being a very accurate representation of the photos the hotel shows online, had a ton of desk spaces so that I could lay out all of my work, set up my computer and still have plenty of space for making a mess. Honestly, a desk like this is something I could only dream of having in my own home. And, the TV was conveniently located up in the corner of the desk so that it was out of the way, but still in view from both the bed and the bathtub.

A clean, pristine, all white bathroom with plenty of storage that I quickly cluttered with all of my things! lol

As mentioned in the last paragraph, something that I really appreciated was the fact that I could lay in a bubble bath and watch tv while doing so. When it comes to staying in a hotel, it’s really the small details that seem to make all the difference. Being able to watch Frasier from the tub felt like one of life’s simple luxuries.

Clearly, making the bed is not my strong suit!

I booked a room with a single queen bed. Room’s are available with two queen beds for just $87 per night (a five dollar increase) or one king bed for $95 per night (a twelve dollar increase). The bed was exceptionally comfortable. The pillows were dreamy to sleep on, and I bet if he could attest to it, Knight would agree with me.

The room also came equipped with a lazy-boy style chair next to the bed, which was probably the only downside. It was not a comfortable chair. I’d probably rather sit on a slab of cement than that chair. That being said, that is the only negative I found to the room.

Worth noting: Though it was next to the airport, I did not hear one single plane landing or departing during my stay. The hotel was completely sound-proof. Noise is not a factor you need to worry about when staying near the airport if you choose this hotel.

Verdict: If you’re ever in Calgary, Alberta, I highly recommend the Park Inn by Radisson, Calgary Airport North. Whether you’re flying in, flying out, or not using the airport at all, staying next to the airport can provide you all of the amenities you need with an impeccable price tag. The staff were friendly, the convenience was appreciated and the reviews online were 100% an accurate representation of the hotel and the staff who run it.

I’ll definitely be back there the next time I’m in Calgary.

Tips for booking your next hotel stay.

A heavily photoshopped photo of the Tower Hotel, Niagara Falls from the hotel’s posting on Kayak.

Having spent a few hundred nights in hotels over the past few years, I’ve got a lot of opinions about them. In the past 3 weeks alone I’ve been in four different hotels, only one of which I deemed to be worth the value I had to pay for my stay.

When you’re booking a hotel stay, there’s a lot to keep in mind to ensure you don’t wind up having a terrible night in a shitty hotel. After all, if you’re spending your money to stay in a hotel, you want to make sure you’re not wasting your money. Right?

*Note – I mention Expedia a lot in this post because I use Expedia a lot. There are plenty of different good options to use for hotel research beyond Expedia. Just google it and you’ll see what I mean!

Tips for booking your next hotel stay:

  1. Determine what’s most important to you. Are you looking for the cheapest room? Are you looking for the best location? Start with a list ahead of looking at any hotels. That way, you can narrow down your search right away and weed-out the hotels you don’t need/want.
  2. Think outside of the box. If you don’t need to be right downtown in a city, there are plenty of available hotels for a lot cheaper that are just a five – ten minute drive from downtown.
  3. Read Reviews. Read all of the reviews! Trivago, Expedia, Hotels.com, all of these websites allow people to post real reviews about said hotels that you’re looking at. Whereas a hotel’s own website might be able to hide the negative reviews, any negative reviews that exist will definitely be on a place like Trivago or Expedia. Personally, I’m partial to Expedia.
  4. Don’t necessarily trust the pictures. Honestly, if it looks too good to be true, it probably is. This is another suggestion that ties directly to the tip I have to read reviews. Websites like Expedia allow users to post pictures of their hotel rooms they’re staying in. So, whereas the photos the hotel posts might be heavily photoshopped, professional photographer taken photos – in the reviews you can see real photos from people who’ve stayed there, showcasing the state of the rooms as they are.
  5. Check if there are extra amenities. Some hotels have gyms for guests to use. Some hotels have free laundry services. Some hotels have pools. Some hotels have kitchenettes in them, for the same prices as a room that doesn’t have a kitchenette. Some hotels have no amenities. Knowing the amenities can help you to know if you’re getting more value for your dollar when you’re booking!
  6. PRICE CHECK. Price check on several different websites if you have the time. One hotel can have a different price listed on it’s company website, on Expedia, on Trivago, etc… Checking the prices before you book can help you to ensure that you’re booking your hotel room for the best available price.
  7. Check Groupon. This one came at the suggestion of a friend of mine, quite recently. If you’re headed to a tourist destination, there might be some options on Groupon that allow you to purchase heavily discounted packages that included your hotel stay, restaurant vouchers and activities to take part in all in one purchase. If you’re headed to somewhere that’s touristy in nature, there might be a Groupon package available!
  8. Collect Rewards. Most (I cannot speak to all as I have not researched all) hotels that have rewards programs are rewards programs that are completely free. Yes, it is an extra card for your collection, but if you know that you need to stay at a hotel then you might as well earn points for it.
  9. Book ahead of time, where you can. When you walk up to the front desk of a hotel and ask them if they have a room available for you to book for the night, they are going to charge you the highest possible price EVERY TIME. There’s no competition, there’s no need to advertise, you’re standing right in front of them asking them for a room. You, as a customer, as a guest, lose your purchasing power in booking your stay and they can charge you as much as they want for your stay. Even if it’s so simple as you viewing the price from the parking lot five minutes before you walk to the front desk, book ahead of time. I have, in the past, experienced a hotel quote me that rooms were $159 per night. I then told them I was thinking it over, walked out to the parking lot and booked a room at that hotel on Expedia for $101. When I returned to the front desk they had to honour that booking, knowing that I wasn’t going to be paying the $159 they had just quoted me five minutes earlier. ALWAYS BOOK AHEAD. Even if it’s just five minutes ahead!
  10. Pay ahead of time, where you can. Websites like Expedia allow you to pay for your stay when booking. To me, this is a convenience factor. Paying ahead of time means I need not give the hotel my credit card when I get there. It also means that I earn reward points for booking on Expedia.

If you have the time to research and plan ahead for booking hotel rooms, it can provide so much added value to the trip you’re taking. But, even if you don’t have time to plan ahead, I still strongly encourage everyone to book ahead of walking up to the front desk of a hotel.

PERSONAL STORY TIME:

Last week while in Calgary, I stayed at a hotel called ‘Park Inn by Radisson, Calgary Airport’ that was just a ten minute drive from downtown. This hotel, brand new on the inside, had full kitchenettes in each room, a gym, a laundry room for guests, a computer station for people to do business, a pantry stocked with food guests had access too and it cost me $83 per night. This hotel I chose based on believing it would provide me the best value for my money.

Two weeks ago, I stayed in a hotel called ‘Super 8 by Wyndham, Hamilton Airport’ that was old, run down, had paper thin walls allowing me to hear the conversations of those in the room next door, a bath tub that didn’t drain, cracked foundation in the walls and zero amenities. This hotel was $159 for the night. This hotel I chose solely because it was closest to the Airport that I needed to fly out of.

Both hotels had beautiful photos listed on their websites and promised comforting stays in memorable rooms that would make me feel at home while I was travelling. One succeeded with their promises, one did not. One hotel blocked my Expedia account from being able to book rooms via Expedia for their hotel, after they read my review. But, the important thing is that my review of their hotel is still there. Always read the reviews!