Wednesday, January 5, 2011

The Background - Vacation Planning & Booking - Part 1

So... turns out our usual plans of spending Christmas with BF's family and my family got switched around, and we headed out to see his brood the weekend before Christmas (hence, my joy of air travel musings).

This meant that it might be possible for the majority of our families to potentially vacation away together for Christmas, which seemed like an awesome idea to me. Not so awesome for my sister and fam, who declined, mostly due to a 3-day hockey tournament in town. I can't deny I was disappointed, but not surprised. (And in hindsight, they won the tournament! Yay kids!).

That left me and BF, his parents, and my parents. I made a spreadsheet up with what was desirable for everyone. I spent hours and hours and hours and hours (and... get the picture? Obsessively researched this mofo) looking for suitable locales.

  1. It had to have a nice beach (first and foremost, or else why bother going away?!?!)
  2. It had to be a reasonable flight for all parties involved (yeah - our party chose poorly, I'll get to that later).
  3. It had to be NICE accommodations, because some of our parents wouldn't be happy with the giant-spider-filled places in Cuba and the like that I have become accustomed to. Fair enough. (Plus, in the end, Christmas travel prices were so inflated EVERYWHERE, that the difference between 3 and 5 star was not that severe.)
  4. I wanted mainly non-smoking.
  5. A bunch of other things that you don't really care about so I will stop writing. (Or maybe that was it. Who knows for sure? I deleted the spreadsheet by accident.)
So, armed with all this info, and nothing particularly fitting the bill, I scoured Jamaica for a good price, because BF and I went there before I got sick, and we absolutely loved the place. Neither of our folks had been there, so it would be a new experience for them. We reviewed weather stats and saw averages around 26 to 28 degrees C. And, there were lots of nice (READ: Expensive) resorts that we could try to find a decent price on.

I reviewed all the sites,,,,, and, surprisingly, ended up on the Air Canada Vacations website.

BF picked the place. It was a 5 star in Ocho Rios, Jamaica. Website made it look all purdy and white sand and crystal waters and *drooooool*. We asked everyone what they thought. It seemed to be a winner (If I do recall, despite the barrage of links, reviews and photos of the place I sent to my parents, their response was "just book whatever everyone wants" or something like that).

Now, in terms of Canadian airlines, I believe that Air Canada has a general reputation of being less-than-helpful in most instances. Westjet has a better general public perception in my books. But you know what? The package was cheaper on Air Canada Vacations (which floored me). And we all know, if it comes down to quality/service over price with me.... well....

So I called them to make sure there was availability for all 6 of us, before we made the dire mistake of booking one and finding out there wasn't anything left. (The original place I wanted to go sold out before we could book).

ME: *dialing Air Canada Vacations toll free number*
ME: *waiting*
ME: *waiting for 10 minutes on hold with their annoying ads on loop*
ME: *waiting another 20 minutes and getting antsy*
BF: *calling father on cell phone to see if he was able to book/did book/ensure availability*
ME: *waiting another 30 minutes then starting to book two packages online - one in Firefox, one in explorer to ensure availability*
ME: *still waiting after 72 minutes! Finally clicked submit payment in both windows. About to hang up.*

AIR CANADA VACATIONS CALL CENTRE REP:  "Hello, bonjour, how can I assist you today?"

ME: "Uh... I was hoping to find out if there is availability at a resort, but I was able to book online."

So yeah, I can recite Air Canada Vacations advertisements on loop now. It's a great party trick. Not really.

We had to still make sure that BF's parents could fly in from their location, and back to another location. Air Canada Vacations won't allow that, so in the end, they booked their flight separately through Westjet, and the hotel direct.

Oh... did I mention? We saved just over $500 per person if we took a flight that wasn't direct. Now, I know I may not be a great flier. I may HATE flying. And making a vacation start and end with two flights might not be the best idea for a cranky whiny bitchy girl like me.

But we were paying waaaaaay  more than BF wanted to spend, certainly more than I could reasonably afford, but people - WE WERE HAVING A FAMILY VACATION!! The last one of those I had was in 1992, if I do recall.

So our party of 4 agreed the savings was the way to go. Toronto - Ottawa - Montego Bay. Coming home just reverse that. Oh.... and add a 6 hour layover overnight in the Ottawa airport.With a closed lounge. What? Did I say something there? Nope, nothing.. move along now...

NEXT UP: What you see is NOT what you get... in Part 2... stay tuned (assuming you hung in this long).

** Notice the stress font has not yet ended.
___________________________ Pin It Now!


  1. Sounds good so far, how can this end up being bad?

  2. if i had to wait 72 minutes on hold i would have just made up questions. just to make myself feel better. "yes, um... how many centimeters long are your planes? uh-uh, uh-hu and how many peanuts are in each bag? okay, and is there an upgrade for a section where kids who cry and kick the seat aren't allowed? because i will totally pay extra for that shit." :P

  3. You're cute kid!
    Please go easy on us in Part
    Just kidding...go ahead and tell it like it is....I mean was.... ;-)

  4. I just booked a trip to the Dominican through a travel agent, and I'm kind of glad we did (even though our agent is way old-school.. smokes in his office and has called me 'sweetie' or 'sweets' on two occasions now :-/) because he's been able to come up with contingency plans that we wouldn't have thought of if we were booking online (long story short.. I had to book my flights a day early to get home in time for a friends' wedding)

  5. It sucks when you try your hardest and things go wrong. I hope the family didn't blame you for the travel issues.


  6. *George - i am assuming you were using the sarcasm font there... since you know me and my luck. Trust me, turns out to be good blog fodder.

    *jess - Air Canada Vacations sucks so much you don't even get peanuts. And I LOOOOVE that you said centimeters in place of inches. lol. I know, I should have thought of something good to ask. Like, oh, by the way, is the property under CONSTRUCTION?? The phone agents are so rude anyway...

    *BettyBo - that depends... answer Tom-V and we'll see how it goes, I make no guarantees in the blog-o-sphere. Ha!

    *Yandie, Goddess of Pickles - "sweets" would have had me out the door faster than a pat on the ass. But hey, glad it worked out for you. I hope you are going to Punta Cana - the beaches are to DIIIIE for there. Who are you flying with?

    *V-Tom - indeed, does it ever my friend, does it ever. DO they blame me? The general, hidden, deep-down passive-aggressiveness I've learned in my years as a part of my family says that yes, there is some blame. But generally they recognize that I can't control the weather (I HOPE, anyway).

  7. We're going to Puerto Plata. Looked at Punta Cana, but Puerto Plata was about 300 bucks cheaper for the all-inclusive thing. We're booked through Nolitours and flying Transat, which I thought was kind of cool since one of my college friends works for them now.

  8. 72 MINUTES, fucking aye. i would have hung up and tried calling back at least 18 times. i hate wasting my time. -and getting face grease all over my phone.

  9. o_O"

    You are certainly a trooper for planning vacations...

    -Barb the French Bean

  10. Apparently you didn't hear us all those
    umpteen times we said we didn't blame you for anything regarding this vacation....

  11. Blogger Sarcasm Font! I think I may need to borrow (read steal) that from you!
    Layover in Ottawa, eh. Good times.


I get far too excited when new comments come in here...