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A few years back I headed down to Cuba in January for a wedding of a family member; my sister Teresa.

Props to her for suggesting it because quite honestly, it was a great time.

We stayed a the Rui in Veradero which was a brand new facility and had me with high hopes. The challenge was that they seemed to be in the process of sorting out some of their growing pains.

beautiful cuban beach at sunset

The Pros:
- Great beach
- Great coffee
- All you can eat
- Price (under $800, all-in.. it’s hard to spend less than that in a week in Canada :s)
- The unlimited beer and hard liquor – no shortage on this trip, I literally couldn’t look at another drink by the time we were ready to leave

The Cons:
- Limited food selection and many things were just gross.. particularly the shrimp I accidentally ate with both eyeballs and antennas still in tact. yuck!
- Cleanliness – Every trip to the cafeteria began with sorting through the first 10 plates on the pile to find a clean one.. be sure to check the bottom!
- Expected tips – It seems that Cuban service workers have come to expect tips on every drink sold. They stop just short of holding out their hand every time they serve a drink.
- a little bit cold (highs of 26 on the hottest day we were there)

Overall, great experience once we got passed the food issue but there are a couple things you should be aware of: Firstly, five start in Cuba does NOT mean five star. Most cubans have never left the country so their level of quality standard is naturally bound to be a bit different compared to what most Canadians would prefer. Second, Cuba is COMPLETELY safe in MY EXPERIENCE. It seems that the Cuban government has established strict penalties for harming a tourist which makes this country a natural choice for Canadians over other spots like Mexico and the Dominican. Third, there is an exit fee to leave the country which you will need Cuban Currency (CUC) to pay. My suggestion would be to take roughly $100 worth of Cuban currency down because there really isn’t much need for currency beyond that.. there just isn’t much available to buy!! :)

If I were to go again, I would simply try a different five star resort and do a bit of research beforehand. I also would not go in January if I could avoid it. I just found some great reviews on Sandals Veradero and am thinking of booking there for the next trip. I’ll keep you posted!

To summarize, it’s tough to beat the deal you get when you go to Cuba. Say what you will about the food… but the people are nice, and the beaches are beautiful!

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If you haven’t been following the news about Air Canada and West Jet’s latest policy changes you might not have been aware that you’re carry on baggage might not pass the test.

That’s right, both of the Canadian airlines have made public announcements stating that they’re cracking down on over-sized carry-on which means we travelers need to take special measures to make sure we’re able to board the plane with our luggage.

shot of airplane aisle on air canada flight

Here’s what happened: A couple weeks back West Jet announced that they would be adding a $25 fee to all of there lower priced domestic and US destination flights which was soon followed by Air Canada announcement to do the same thing.

It seems that the airlines feared that travelers would simply react by stuffing more into their carry-on luggage and also by using larger luggage containers. If you’ve ever traveled on a packed plane you can likely image how the experience might be a little less pleasant with luggage sticking out from under the seats and sitting on passengers’ laps. Consequently the announcement regarding the carry-on baggage crack down was made.

So how do I feel about the added luggage fee and the crack down on carry-on luggage?

Well it obviously represents significant profit for both airlines and certainly isn’t anything new. There are a large number of American airline companies that have done the same. The challenge is that we’re left with few alternatives when traveling between Canadian cities as legally, only Canadian based flights are allowed to charter these flights.

So while I have no problem with a company deciding to raise their prices, given the landscape of the Canadian airline industry it would be nice if the government stepped in and helped us with some alternative options (I’m pro letting American airlines into the country to run flights between Canadian cities… but that’s a topic for another day)

Is $25 really a big deal?

I suspect not for most travelers, that’s why it’s been priced the way it has been. While slightly annoying, it’s hard to consider an extra $25 as a traveling deterrent.

A few tips for the next time you fly from Toronto… pack ahead of time (I Like to start the day before… ladies, you might need more time if my girlfriend is any indication), consider traffic! In fact, I’d recommend booking an airport limo. The best Toronto airport limo I’ve found is a company called Capitol Limousines. They’re timely, affordable and will allow you to request your ride online.

Finally, just pack a bigger suitcase and only take what you need on the plane. For all the hassle and lugging around the airport is it really worth it to maybe save $25 on a checked bag? I personally avoid carry-on luggage like the plague (minus one small for computer and snacks).

Hope that was helpful!

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I know it might sounds a bit cliche… but I’ve started a travel blog!

I wanted to share tips, experiences and ideas for your future traveling plans and hopefully generate a following!

All the big bloggers out there say to blog about what you’re passionate about and for me, that’s seeing the world! So we’ll see how it goes!

Being Canadian I endure some pretty tough winters and work permitting (I’m self employed) I like to head to warmer climates on a yearly basis… and definitely enjoy having a patio Corona or two!

Here you’ll find helpful tips to get you traveling more and we might just get to know each other too!

Please enjoy

Oscar

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