The Sun is Shining in Mexico

If the winter doldrums are starting to take their toll, a trip to Mexico may be in order. Mexico offers everything from beautiful sandy beaches to exotic tropical rain forests. It is a popular tourist destination and a fantastic winter getaway. The most popular destinations are Cancun, Cozumel, Puerto Vallarta, Mazatlan, Acapulco and Cabo San Lucas.

If you are planning on visiting one of these sunny destinations, here’s some info on some Mexican events and festivals going on for 2013.

Cancun

Besides the many fishing competitions along the enviable coastline, other notable regional festivals include the Cancun-Riviera Maya Wine & Food Festival which runs March 14-17, 2013. There are 30 exciting events over 4 days with a line-up of Celebrity Chefs, Star Wineries & Spirits. The Summer Solstice  festival is in late June at the world-famous Chichen Itza ruins. The Cancun International Film Festival (CIFF) runs in mid-November with screenings of both Latin American and international films at various cinemas throughout the city.

Cozumel

Some of the Cozumel’s  largest festivals are the February Cozumel Carnival where you’ll likely be overwhelmed with the free entertainment on offer, the International Billfish Tournament in early March which is one of Cozumel’s most popular fishing competitions, and Cinco de Mayo (May 5th) where this national holiday includes many celebrations, street parties and impressive fireworks displays.

Puerto Vallarta

There are always things to do in Puerto Vallarta and among them are the Vallarta Bird Festival from March 7-10, 2013,  the May Day Parade (May 1st) where the Malecon area offers the main festivities, and Fiesta del Mar (Sea Fest) throughout November with various events held along the Marina Boardwalk including jet ski racing, art exhibitions, beach games and a large boat show. Whale watching season starts mid-December to March where huge humpback whales can often be seen off Banderas Bay.

Mazatlan

Mazatlan’s International Carnival (Feb 7-12th) is a spectacular event where local, national and international participants take part in a 24/7 fiesta. Activities include a parade, live music, folklore, dance and entertainment.

Acapulco

Some events worth enjoying are the Holy Week (Semana Santa) celebrations in early April, the Acapulco Music Festival (Festivales de Acapulco) in mid-May, and the spectacular cliff diving shows (La Quebrada) where brave and foolhardy locals jump from the top of high cliffs, diving some 30 meters / 100 feet into the waters below.

Cabo San Lucas

Filled with exceptional nightlife and endless beach fun during the day, Cabo San Lucas is a perfect sun-filled getaway destination. One of the most significant local celebrations is Dia de San Lucas (Oct 18th) where street parades, open-air concerts, food and street vendors all gather around downtown. The Easter Festival in early April is centered at various venues around the city and includes music, dancing, eggs stuffed with confetti and a religious parade.

Ski Season is Here!

Enjoy it in a Ski Condo….

Now is a great time to book a ski vacation! The resorts are opening and there is lots of snow in the forecast for this winter. A variety of rental accommodations are available for you to enjoy after a day of skiing, tubing, skating or tobogganing. Take your family or friends, and enjoy relaxing in front of a cozy fire or soaking your muscles in a hot tub. Owner Direct can help you find the right cabin or condo for your needs. Here are some tips for some of our favourite resorts.

Big White Resort

Big White, famous for its ‘snow ghosts‘ and light fluffy powder, offers plenty of lodging options on the mountain but you can also choose to stay in Kelowna to enjoy the city amenities.  To get the most value out of your ski holiday at Big White:

  • Purchase multi-day tickets and save $10/day. Prices also include night skiing.
  • Redeem your Air Miles for a lift ticket (with no blackout dates) 525 air miles get you one full day lift ticket. Pretty sweet deal!

The Okanagan is famous for its delicious wines so why not plan your ski holiday around one of two wine tastings events at Big White: Big Reds takes place December 7th and 8th, while Big Whites takes place March 23rd. Both events offer a selection of locally inspired appetizers.

Whistler-Blackcomb Ski Resort

Rated one of the top ski resorts in North America, Whistler-Blackcomb should be on every skier’s list to experience at least once. Vacations can be expensive and we all like a deal so here are few tips on how to save:

  • Purchase an Edge Card (available only to Canadians and residents of Washington State). These are preloaded passes available for 1, 3, 5 or 10 days of skiing during the 2012-13 season (with no blackout periods) at discounted prices.
  • Alternatively pre-purchase your ski passes and save. Savings depend on the length of the ski pass and when you are skiing. For instance, purchase an 8 day ski pass good until December 14th and you would save 27% off the regular price.
  • Kids under 6 ski free!

Park City

Park City, Utah is famous for its epic snow and first class service. When planning your Park City ski holiday, there is a variety of rental lodging mountainside as well as in nearby Salt Lake City. Park City Mountain offers a variety of ways to save. One of the most original allows you to convert your boarding pass into a same-day lift ticket. This applies to Park City Mountain as well as Deer Valley Resort and the Canyons Resort.

There are a number of prestigious events held throughout the season, which you may want to consider when planning your trip:

  • SkiFest, where you can enjoy skiing with Olympians, TV & film stars,  takes place Dec 8-9th.
  • For more celebrity spotting visit during the Sundance Film Festival, January 17th – 27th.
  • Freestyle World Cup, a premier ski event including aerial and mogul competitions, will be held January 30 to February 2, 2013.

Mont Tremblant

Enjoy some of the best skiing east of the Rockies at Mont Tremblant, about  90 minutes from Montreal, Quebec. There are a variety of ways to save. If you won’t be a frequent visitor to the mountain consider the following offers:

  • The Latitude Card requires you to purchase your tickets at least 48 hours in advance but you can save up to 34%.
  • School break offer where kids (6 to 17 yrs) ski for 5 days for $99.

Sun Valley

Sun Valley offers some stunning and challenging terrain and is known for its perfect pitch mountain slope. Ticket prices are based on the time of year with peak periods being the most expensive. Ticket prices can be cheaper when purchasing multi-day passes, and there are also discounts for military and local residents.

Sun Valley features a variety of events held throughout the year. Consider planning your ski holiday to enjoy one of these:

  • USSA Freestyle Spectacular featuring a mogul competition on Bald Mountain, and slope style and half-pipe on Dollar Mountain on January 10th to 13th, 2013.
  • Transworld Snow Conference, March 11th to 15th, 2013.
  • Rev Tour (March 17th to 22nd) which attracts international competitors for skier-x, half-pipe and slope style events.

Panorama

Panorama Mountain is featuring one of the best deals this season, the “Snowcard”, open to all skiers and boarders. The Snowcard is good for 4 days of skiing or riding (although there are some blackout periods). An adult card is $149, which works out to $37.25 for a full day of fun! What a deal!

There are also several family events held at Panorama that you may want to consider when planning:

  • Snowflake Festival, January 19-20th, with fun activities for the entire family including a torchlight parade.
  • Mardi Gras, February 8-9th, with some fabulous food and activities for kids including mask making.
  • Stampede, March 9-10th, complete with cowboy cookouts and rodeo events for the whole family.

Where is your favourite mountain to ski or board? Do you have any deals to share with other readers?

Enjoy a Wine Festival during your Fall Holiday

Autumn is one of the busiest times of the year for wineries in the Northern Hemisphere. Harvesting of the grapes (also known as “Crush“) takes place from late August until November. During this busy season, a lot of events are happening to celebrate the grapes and the foods they complement.

Planning an autumn escape? Whether it’s a week at Disney or a long weekend in the sunny Okanagan, consider taking advantage of the Fall Wine Festivals happening all over the US and Canada.

Visiting the Okanagan Valley in beautiful British Columbia is delightful any time of the year. Autumn brings warm, sunny days and cool evenings, perfect to enjoy the valley and all it has to offer. The Fall Okanagan Wine Festival runs for 10 days from September 28th until October 7th. There are over 165 events happening throughout the Okanagan Valley including Gala wine tastings, seminars as well as local events at individual wineries. Some are even family oriented. Delight in the sensations as grapes burst under your feet while taking part in a grape stomping at the House of Rose Winery. Enjoy all things garlic for the Garlic Festival at Hester Creek. Day events are celebrating the benefits of organic growing with seminars, live music and activities for the entire family. Whether it’s day or evening, please remember to enjoy these events responsibly.

Other Fall Wine Festivals to consider are the Rocky Mountain Wine and Food Festival held in Calgary, AB the weekend of October 12th and 13th. This festival features an array of world-class wines as well as premium spirits and micro-brews. The Cornucopie Extravaganza in Whistler, BC also celebrates the delights of wine and food from November 7th to 11th. Events include elegant dinners prepared with local ingredients paired with wines, seminars and other tasting events to celebrate and enhance your appreciation of the grape.

Planning a trip to Disney in the next couple of months? Consider planning your visit around the Epcot International Food and Wine Festival held September 28th until November 12th. This event promises to be a feast for your senses with delicious food prepared by celebrated chefs paired with world-class wines. Choose from cooking demonstrations, wine and cocktail seminars and don’t forget the parties! Most notable is the Party for the Senses, complete with amazing live music and Cirque du Soleil performances.  All event prices are in addition to park admission. Plan ahead to make the most of your Disney adventure.

Looking for accommodations for any of these events? Whether it’s a romantic weekend for just the two of you, a girls’ weekend away or a family vacation, Owner Direct offers a variety of rental accommodations to suit your needs and budget. Vacation rentals are often cheaper than staying in a hotel and provide more amenities and privacy than hotels. To help familiarize yourself with these locations, Owner Direct also offers Travel Guides with detailed information and maps. Check out the Okanagan Valley Travel Guide, Disney Travel Guide and Whistler Travel Guide.

Do you have any plans to travel during the Fall? Have you ever been to a wine festival? If so, what did you think of it? Any tips for others?

 

40 Years of Disney World Ticket Prices – A Cost Comparison

Children dream of experiencing the magic of Disney. A visit to Disney will ensure smiles all round, enjoying interactions with live Disney characters, thrilling rides, live entertainment, fireworks and so much more. The amount of fun is endless, as this is the place is where dreams come true. But as adults we all know taking a family to Disney is an expensive proposition. Has that always been the case? Over the past 40 years the price of everything has increased but are things really more expensive? We thought it would be an interesting exercise to review how the cost of prices for Disney tickets has changed over the years compared with the price of gas. As well, we will also take into account inflation so we can accurately compare year over year to see if things really are more expensive now than 40 years ago.

Comparison of Disney World Ticket Prices and Gas Prices
Adjusted for Inflation

The magic all started in 1971 with the opening of one theme park, Magic Kingdom. Disney  quickly became a worldwide sensation drawing visitors from around the world. These were the days of books of tickets, day passes had not yet been introduced. The cost of a 7 ride book was $4.75 and an 8 ride book was $5.40 or $.68 a ride. The average price of gas was $.36 a gallon. Those were the good old days. What a deal! Or was it? Taking into account inflation, current day prices for the same 7 ride book would be $28.20, an 8 ride book would be $32.06 and gas $2.13/gallon. Considering a 2012 one day pass is $85 and gas is $3.63 a gallon, yes it seems those were the good old days. Things really did cost less!

The 80′s were about growth and investment in the Park. The additions included the opening of Epcot, Walt Disney World Village, MGM Studios (presently known as Hollywood Studios), Pleasure Island and Typhoon Lagoon Water Park. Over 100 million visitors passed through the gates of Walt Disney World. In 1981 a one day pass was introduced for $13.25 and increased in priced over the decade to a high of $29 in 1989. Average gas prices were $1.25 in 1981 and $1.02 in 1989. Remember the recession of the early 80′s that sent gas prices soaring? Adjusted for inflation the current value for a one day pass would be $27.43 (1981 ticket) and $47.90 (1989 ticket). Effectively the price of a one-day ticket almost doubled in less than 10 years. While the price of gas decreased over that time from $3.61 to $1.69 a gallon.

The 90′s was known as theDisney Decade” and by the mid 90s’ over 500 million guests had visited the Park. Disney invested heavily into the development of the Brand with the addition of Animal Kingdom, a variety of new and exciting rides at all of the theme parks, golf courses, the Disney Institute, Disney Cruise Line and Blizzard Beach Water Park. A one day pass to Disney in 1991 was $33 and had increased to $44 by 1999. While the average price of gas stayed pretty consistent at $1.14 in 1991 and $1.16 in 1999. Taking into account inflation, current day prices for  a one-day pass would be $48.80 for a 1991 ticket and $58.20 for a 1999 ticket while gas would cost $1.69 and $1.53.

The new Millennium was celebrated with a year-long Millennium Celebration as well as the addition of several new rides and resorts. 2001 marked the 100th anniversary of Walt Disney’s birth and featured events throughout the Park. In 2001 a one-day pass was $48 and by 2009 the same pass was $79. Average gas prices were $1.43 in 2001 and jumped to $2.48 in 2009. Factoring inflation the current value for the same one-day pass would be $59.98 for a 2001 pass and $84.76 for a 2009 pass and gas would be $1.79 and $2.66 respectively. In less than 10 years Disney’s one-day pass increased almost $25, a 41% increase, while gas increased $.87 a gallon, a 49% increase.

Based on our analysis it does appear that Disney is getting more expensive. Disney prices have increased from $5.40 in 1971 to $79 in 2009. Adjusted for inflation, the current values would be $28.20 for an 8 ride 1971 ticket and $84 for a 2009 day pass. Granted Disney has grown substantially in those years offering much more than just the Magic Kingdom. The good news is that Disney prices have stabilized over the past 3 years as a 2012 one-day pass is $85. But based on historical trends we can expect the cost of Disney to continue to rise and these increases will not always be in line with inflation. Are you considering a family holiday in the next 5 years? You may want to hedge the cost of your holiday and consider purchasing your tickets now, locking into a known price and pay the extra premium for tickets with no expiration.

What is the future of Disney? With such amazing advancements in technology, the future of Disney seems limitless. In fact, Walt Disney is joining forces with James Cameron and Fox Films to bring the magic of Avatar to life at Disney. Walt’s vision of combining the fantastical to real life experiences is only going to get better. Avatar is one example of this. Disney really is the place where dreams come true.

Planning a trip to Disney World? Check out Owner Direct’s Disney World Travel Guide to assist with all things Disney. Consider staying near the park and rent your own condo rental or vacation home. Owner Direct offers a variety of rental accommodations to suit a multitude of budgets and sizes. Check out Owner Direct Vacation Rentals in  Kissimmee, Orlando, Clermont or Davenport. Vacation rentals provide all of the comforts of home and can often be more cost effective than staying in a hotel.

4 West Coast Lakeside Vacation Rental Retreats

When you think of summer, what do you think of? Myself, I picture hot summer days playing at the beach, swimming, boating, kayaking. It’s also nice to spend the day hiking or cycling and cooling off,  taking a refreshing dip in my local watering hole. If you are planning a summer holiday consider one of these lakeside destinations. Enjoy all of the comforts of home as well as stunning lake-views renting your own vacation home rental or cabin rental. Many of our vacation rentals are pet friendly, so feel free to bring the entire family!

Lake Tahoe

Enjoy swimming, canoeing or boating in the crystal clear waters of Lake Tahoe with equally stunning panoramic views of the Sierra Nevada mountains. For a bit more adventure spend a day whitewater rafting on the Truckee or Carson Rivers. Lake Tahoe also boasts some fabulous scuba opportunities with amazing visibility. This 5 star terrain naturally attracts a variety of entertainers and festivals, so there is plenty to do and experience. Plan ahead and check out Lake Tahoe events to make the most out of your summer holiday.

North Cascades, WA

Experience Mother Nature at her best, with jagged mountain peaks, deep valleys, pristine lakes and over 300 glaciers in the North Cascades region of Washington. Bring your camera to try and capture the beauty of this magical area. Enjoy a multitude of activities from hiking and rock climbing to birding and fishing for trout, kokanee and cod. Or spend the afternoon white water rafting down the Skagit or Stehikin Rivers. For a more leisurely pace, rent a kayak, canoe and enjoy the serenity on Ross Lake or Lake Chelan. No matter your choice, you will be sure to feel rejuvenated after spending time in the North Cascades.

Mammoth Lakes, CA

Mammoth Lakes is much more than picturesque lakes surrounded by breath-taking mountains. This is a highly volcanic area with 1,000 year old rhyolite rock, natural hot springs and cascading waterfalls. Mammoth sits at an elevation of 7,880 ft. and while the summer days are warm with incredible bluebird skies, the evenings are cooler than in the city. Off the lake activities include rock climbing, hiking and golfing. Spend the day seeing the local sights, Devils Postpile, a geological marvel with basalt columns over 60 ft high. From there pack a lunch and enjoy an easy hike to Rainbow Falls where you can cool off by the mist of these powerful 100ft. falls.

Cowichan Lake, BC

Vancouver Island offers more than just endless ocean coastline to explore. There are also plenty of freshwater lakes on the island including Cowichan Lake, about 20 minutes from Duncan. The Cowichan River flows through town and empties into this picturesque lake. There are plenty of opportunities to  swim, picnic and beachcomb with several nearby beaches. Check out Lakeview Park which features a floating boardwalk or Mason’s Beach at nearby Shawnigan Lake. Dry land activities including cycling along the Cowichan Valley Trail which forms part of the Trans Canada Trail. Or learn more about the history of the area with free guided walking tours through Duncan.

Where was your favourite summer lakeside vacation rental?

 

Featured Destination: Spring in Whistler BC

A trip to Whistler BC offers fun and excitement for the whole family with exhilarating outdoor activities and adventures offered year-round. As the host of the 2010 Winter Olympics, Whistler has an international flair and is filled with a large assortment of activities to keep everyone happy.

This spring (April 13-22, 2012) the Telus World Ski & Snowboard Festival is showcasing 10 fun-filled days of jaw-dropping sports, music and art. This legendary spring festival offers sports competitions, free daily outdoor concerts, fashion shows, after parties with internationally acclaimed DJs, photography and art exhibits, film screenings, theatre and of course, the best skiing and riding in the world. Come out for a visit and watch the action.

There is also the Whistler Cup from April 6-8, 2012 which has grown to become on of the largest and most important ski races internationally for athletes aged 11-14 years. There are hundreds of young athletes from 23 countries participating. More information can be found at www.whistlercup.com.

The Fire and Ice Show is a legendary outdoor show held every Sunday at 7:30pm at the base of the mountains and is completely free! Dress warm, grab a cup of hot chocolate and prepare to be amazed by the live entertainment including big air, fire spinners, live DJ and fireworks display. Guaranteed fun for the entire family.

Besides the shows and concerts, get active with fabulous spring skiing and boarding, a ride on the PEAK 2 PEAK gondola, cross country skiing, Olympic legacy tours, après-ski relaxing, shopping in the walk-through village, swimming and skating at the Meadow Park Sports Centre, or climbing and fitness classes at The Core. There are so many fun things to do in Whistler BC; a vacation here will not have a moment wasted. Here is a handy overview map of Whistler that might be useful.

It’s about 2 hours and 15 minutes drive to Whistler when leaving Vancouver International Airport or you can get there by train with the Rocky Mountaineer Sea to Sky Climb service from Vancouver to Whistler.

Don’t forget about Owner Direct’s great last minute deals in Whistler if you’re looking for accommodations for a quick getaway. Spring skiing anyone? What are your favourite things to do in Whistler in the Spring?

Tips to Utah Ski Resorts

Salt Lake City is a unique destination. Where else can you travel in North America and be within a couple of hour’s drive of so many world-class ski resorts? With so many choices how do you decide where to spend your time? No matter your decision, you will be sure to enjoy breathtaking scenery, some of the best snow on earth and plenty of thrills and challenges for all ability levels.

Vacations are expensive, especially if you have a family. We have provided some tips to help you save some money as well as get the most out of your Utah ski and boarding holiday.

  1. Discounted tickets … Everyone likes a discount but you cannot buy discounted lift tickets at the mountain. Only 2 ski shops (AJ Motion Sports and Canyon Sports) in Salt Lake City have an agreement with Utah’s Ski Resorts and offer a range of tickets at discounted prices.  With discounted tickets you can ski for as little as $47 (an adult all day pass at Sundance) and $56 (an adult all day pass at Brighton).
  2. Alta offers $10 tickets after 3pm which is perfect for beginners or those who just want to do a couple of runs.
  3. Kids ski free… Families will be interested to know that kids under 7 ski for free at Park City and Brighton.
  4. “Quick Start Program”…Ski your first day free in Salt Lake City…3 resorts (Park City, The Canyons and Deer Valley) offer the “free day of flight skiing”, after arriving in the morning, ski for free in the afternoon. Just present your same-day boarding pass and convert it into a same-day lift ticket. The Quick Start Program does have some rules and regulations and requires you to register online but what better way to start your ski and boarding holiday?
  5. Spend more time on the mountain less time on the lift…at Brighton where 100% of its terrain is accessed by high speed quads.
  6. Are you looking for more than thrills? Consider Sundance , an award winning resort offering a multitude of specialized services and a resort that is actively dedicated to the preservation and appreciation of nature.
  7. Night time fun?Wolf Mountain  has been voted the best resort for night skiing in the Valley.
  8. Skiing in April?Snowbird might be a good choice offering the longest ski season in Utah ending sometime in May depending on conditions.
  9. Uncrowded atmosphere and great terrain? … Check out Eagle Point , Utah’s newest ski resort and is a great option for those looking for some serious adventure offering some of the best backcountry skiing in southern Utah.
  10. Highest base elevation and more…Brian Head boasts Utah’s highest base elevation with really affordable lift tickets. An adult all-day lift pass is $49. Children under 5 ski free. Brian Head is also the only resort to offer 6 lanes of tubing serviced by a lift. Now that is some serious fun!

For a more comprehensive comparison of Utah’s ski resorts check out our ski guides including comparative ski statistics for  Salt Lake City and Utah.

Care to share your experiences skiing and boarding in Utah? What’s your favorite mountain? Any tips for people planning their next ski vacation?

Winter Vacations: Sun or Snow?

As the days get shorter and the temperature drops do you embrace the cold & head for the hills or do you prefer to seek a warmer climate?

Winter Vacation: Would you like to be somewhere ...

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Winter Sun Vacations

Escape scraping ice from your windows and snow from your driveway. Take off and get a dose of sun during the winter months to any of these fantastic destinations.

Winter Ski & Snow Vacations

You know when it’s raining down low it’s snowing up on the mountains. If you can’t ski, board or snowshoe where you live, plan a winter break to the hills.