4 Savvy Travel Deals: Europe, Central America & Cruising the Caribbean

Cinque Terre by night, featured on Trafalgar's tour of Italy

Pretty much everyone I know that loves to travel also loves to feel like they’re a savvy traveller. Finding the best bang for your buck in destinations can be like a badge of honour – but sometimes you need a little help from your friends, or in our case, insiders such as Trafalgar Tours, Disney Cruiselines, Globus Journeys and Booking.com.


Take, for example, a recent trip to London. I discovered a fabulous 5-star property, The Arch London, above, in the leafy Marylebone neighbourhood (Madonna lives just across the street!), using booking.com’s search engine, and it was listed at anywhere between 10% and 25% the hotel’s posted rates, even with free cancellation policies in place. And the rates come up in Canadian dollars, so no fumbling with exchange rates. You know what you’re paying right off the bat.

Bigger bang for the Canadian Buck #1: Once I booked, the bonus discounts got better. I was sent a special Booking.com QR code in the Booking.com app that gave me discounts and deals on 44 attractions in the city.

Turns out Booking.com launched a new initiative last year called Booking Experience, “a first-of-its-kind service, that leverages Artificial Intelligence technology and powerful machine-learning to predict individual traveller intent,” according to the company. It creates a personalized list of local events and attractions, and lets you get front-of-the-line access and purchase tickets directly within Booking.com’s mobile app. In addition to London, Paris, Dubai and New York City travellers who book with the search engine will also receive the code and access to the mobile app.

How it works: Show your code to staff at any attraction (note that some attractions require ticket collection in another location). Staff will scan your code so you can enter. The family and friends you’re with can enjoy all the same offers, too. Shortly after your check-out date, Booking.com will send you an email with an overview of your ticket transactions. Then you can arrange secure, online payment, no third-party needed. The QR code is automatically linked to your credit card of choice.

Booking.com has leveraged insights from its millions of travellers about what they liked (and didn’t like) about various destinations and the experiences they had there. “With Booking Experiences, our passion for data-driven insights, our deep knowledge of travel and our ambition to smartly infuse Artificial Intelligence technology into our product are all coming together to create a new, uniquely mobile travel experience that’s curated, seamless and personal,” said David Vismans, Chief Product Officer at Booking.com. “Our ultimate goal is to keep you inspired, regardless of whether it’s your first – or fifth time visiting a particular location.”

NEXT: Bigger bang for the Canadian Buck #2 …

Bigger bang for the Canadian Buck #2: Trafalgar’s Preview: 2018 Europe, including Spain, above, and Britain Vacations at 2017 prices.

If you’re a fan of guided coach tours, then this one’s for you: Trafalgar, a leader in guided vacations for more than 70 years, is offering Canadian travellers the travel deal of 2018, with trips to Europe and Britain held at 2017 prices (pricing is available on select itineraries featured on the Trafalgar website and identified as “Preview 2018” only), if booked by September 24, 2017 for travel in 2018.

“For Canadian travellers who missed out on their dream vacation in 2017, Preview is the perfect opportunity to secure a spot on some of Trafalgar’s most popular European guided vacations with unrivaled value,” says Wolf Paunic, president of Trafalgar Canada. “We are sensitive to the fluctuating Canadian dollar and Preview is the best value of the year for savvy travellers who book early, which guarantees their places on our unforgettable trips to enjoy immersive experiences.”

Guests can also save an additional 10 per cent on select departures with an Early Payment Discount if paid by January 11, 2018 (Note: Full payment is due by 11 January 2018. Please note all itineraries, hotels and prices are subject to change and will be finalized when our 2018 Europe brochures are released). And if you’re a frequent Trafalgar traveller, it gets better: Past Trafalgar guests save 5 per cent off their 2018 land price, and when booking two or more trips of 7 days or longer they will save an additional 2.5 per cent.

The hottest 2018 Preview sellers that travellers need to be quick not to miss include:

  • Italy – All roads lead to Rome and beyond with a choice of 17 different ways to enjoy bella Italia.
  • Britain and Ireland – With 21 itineraries, delve deeper to uncover the local legends, lochs, lakes and laughter in Britain and experience the warmth of welcome in Ireland.
  • France, Spain, Portugal and Morocco – From the melting pot of Morocco to the Moorish architecture of Spain (above), the fado of Portugal and the food of France.
  • Central and Eastern Europe – The magnificence of Central Europe on any of the 15 itineraries on offer.
  • Northern Europe, Scandinavia and Russia – Across four Preview trips, journey beyond the deep fjords, glaciers and islands of the north, and re-live your childhood with a visit to the hometown of Santa Claus in Rovaniemi.
  • European Discoveries – Travel seamlessly across Europe, from one iconic destination to another. With 13 discovery trips on Preview, lasting between 7-29 days, cross over multiple countries and immerse yourself completely within a range of local cultures. See it all!

For those of us that are looking for even more wallet-friendly ideas, try Trafalgar’s CostSaver trips from Preview, available online, and look for the launch of Trafalgar and Cost Saver’s North America program coming this week. For more information, terms and conditions and to book, contact your local travel agent, or visit http://www.trafalgar.com/can/offers/preview-2018.

Next: Bigger bang for the Canadian Buck #3 

Disney’s private island in the Bahamas, Castaway Cay. (David Roark, photographer)

Bigger bang for the Canadian Buck #3: Canadian Residents Save 25% on Disney Cruise Line Fall Cruises from New York City

Cast off on a holiday-themed cruise to the Bahamas aboard the Disney Magic, for either a Halloween or Christmastime fun.

The Deal: Canadian residents save 25% off prevailing rates on Disneycruise.com for Verandah, Oceanview, and Inside Staterooms on select 7- or 8-night cruises departing New York City on October 14 and November 18, 2017. Both sailings include festive decor, themed activities and a bonus treat ­for your little super heroes in the making: Marvel Day at Sea, a day-long event packed with Marvel Super Heroes (and villains).

You’ll also visit Castaway Cay (above), Disney’s private Bahamian island and Florida, where you can take in more of the magic at Walt Disney World Resort – one-day tickets with Park Hopper Option and round-trip transportation is included for everyone in your party!

Explore two cruise itineraries eligible for 25% off prevailing rates as quoted on Disneycruise.com with this offer:

  1. 7-Night Halloween on the High Seas Bahamian Cruise (4 days at sea), from New York with Marvel Day at Sea on October 14, 2017 – Set sail on a ghoulish cruise to Castaway Cay in the Bahamas and Port Canaveral, Florida, and the Walt Disney World Resort. During your, you’ll have the chance to soak up your ship’s onboard fun.
  1. 8-Night Very Merrytime Bahamian Cruise (4 days at sea) from New York with Marvel Day at Sea on November 18, 2017 – Glide over to Nassau in the Bahamas and Castaway Cay, Disney’s private-island paradise for yuletide celebrations. Then, call upon Port Canaveral, where you’ll travel to nearby Walt Disney World Resort.


NEXT: Bigger bang for the Canadian Buck #4

Bigger bang for the Canadian Buck #4: Book now and save up to 10% on Costa Rica tours with Globus Journeys.

If you’re a fan of Eco-Tourism, this is the destination for you. Smoking volcanoes, languid sloths, hot springs and beaches, playful butterflies, plantations and rainforests… Costa Rica packs an enormous array of vacation experiences under its welcoming skies.

“There’s no denying that Costa Rica is a wonderful destination for an immersive vacation,” say Stéphanie Bishop of the Globus family of brands which features three carefully crafted tours of the Central American country. “Our tours are all about interaction and adventure, from horseback riding to kayaking to birdwatching.” Even better, when you travel on one of their escorted tours you’ll be in the company of people from around the English-speaking world and accompanied by an expert, experienced guide who will take care of all the details.

Experience the diverse Caribbean and Pacific sides of the country, from Tortuguero National Park to Guanacaste and Manuel Antonio National Park. On Globus’ 9-day Natural Wonders of Costa Rica vacation, travellers even spend the night in the shadow of an active volcano at Arenal National Park

But it’s not just Costa Rica the experts at Globus have got in mind. Reserve a Globus Latin America vacation for 2018 up until September 12, 2017 and save 10%, plus you’ll score a $200 per person air credit.

“Costa Rica is home to an astonishing five per cent of the world’s bio-diversity and with Canadians’ growing interest in the environment and preservation it’s a great choice for a back-to-nature tour,” says Bishop.

For more information about the Globus family’s 2018 offerings to Costa Rica – and other destinations in Latin America – visit www.globusjourneys.ca; www.cosmosvacations.ca; www.monogramstravel.ca; or www.avalonwaterways.ca. For reservations, call 1-800-268-2626 or see your travel agent.