Secrets for Last Minute Vacations

It’s been exactly 15 hours since I booked our latest vacation.

I am almost fully packed and ready – at least mentally and on paper (well, actually, Trello).

We leave in exactly 11 days, 22 hours and 15 minutes from the time I’m writing this. For me, this may almost be considered a planned-ahead vacation.

I’ve said it before and I’m not sure this will ever change, but last-minute vacations are just how I roll.

I was actually looking at a cruise in December – this is my favourite time to cruise because it’s the tail-end of hurricane season, so you can get amazing deals.

Somehow, in our search, a 7-day cruise popped up for under $200 per person. Then $60 flights coincided.

So, naturally, this means we are rearranging our lives, dropping everything and going on vacation.

Even if it means we will miss my favourite holiday, Canadian Thanksgiving.

But, honestly.

I can be thankful in the Caribbean, that’s not a problem.

If there’s one thing I’ve learned over the last 16 years of last-minute travel, it’s how to be completely prepared to travel last-minute.

After I have secured the vacation deal of a lifetime, these are the things I do next so I can be ready to go within just a few days.

Transportation Details

You already know I love a good deal, so it wouldn’t come as a shock to hear that I check and double-check flights, costs, etc. If it’s considerably less than flying immediately, I will book my flights a few days before or after the cruise. This time around, I want to see my sister, so I found a $20 bus ticket from Miami to Orlando on the day we disembark. I’m able to spend some time with her because flights were a lot less leaving from Orlando on the Tuesday.

Explore

I get overly excited when it comes to cruises, so I want to know everything about everything, and then more regarding our vacation. If you log into the cruise website, you can explore the boat, stateroom, boat amenities, spa, excursions, dining and pretty well anything else you want. The thing I love about this is that I don’t have to waste time getting lost on the ship – I already have become familiar with the layout.

Trello

If you haven’t heard of Trello, you are missing out. Trello basically takes all the stress of getting things done out of the picture by keeping everything organized and in order. I have all of these things already set-up in Trello, so once I’ve booked my vacation, I just need to update my Lists. Things I have on my Trello Vacation Board are:

  • To Do List
  • Our Travel Itinerary
  • Packing Lists
  • Excursions/Activities Plan
  • Kid’s Itinerary/Notes (for the sitter)

(If you want to learn more about Trello, Jessica Stansberry made me excited to put it to use)

Cruise/Vacation App

Most cruise lines have their own apps that you can access all the information you want regarding your cruise, excursions, etc. You can even use them to text back and forth with other guests on the ship (although rates may apply). They even have a countdown, in case you’re not excited enough as it is.

Gym Time

I hate feeling frumpy on vacation, so I like to hit the workouts a little harder before I leave for any vacation. The last thing I want is to be self-conscious about summer clothing.

Buy Bathing Suits

Ok, this is probably more of a fun thing I like to do, not necessarily a requirement. Although, this time around, my bathing suit wardrobe is seriously wanting. The great thing right now is that you can find lots of clearance suits. You know I’m all about that.

Pack

Hours after I’ve booked a vacation, my Trello board has my entire packing list all ready to go – only minor tweaks are necessary. So, this makes packing a breeze! I log into Trello, check off items as I throw them together and voila! I’m ready to go!

Now to just sit back and wait for a whole 11 days, 21 hours and 40 minutes.

And this, my friends, is how I keep my sanity when planning for a last-minute vacation. Would you feel stressed out if you had less than 2 weeks to get ready for vacation?

10 Reasons Why You Should Visit Grand Cayman

7 Mile Beach
Photo by Marc Babin on Unsplash

If I ever go missing, you’ll know where to find me.

Imagine trying to wave for a taxi, exhausted after an afternoon in the sun. You’re standing on the wrong side of the road. The taxi is heading away from the port, but the driver says he can bring you back before you need to board your cruise ship.
You get in.
There are 2 people in the van already. They begin talking about life on the island, pointing out their favourite places. The taxi stops and picks up an elderly lady. She climbs in the front and joins the conversation, adding some history and memories. At the next stop, the couple leaves the taxi. On and on, dropping off and picking up people on the journey, each person adds a story or personal touch to the ongoing conversation about the island.
When you get back to the ship, the driver charges you the amount of money it would have cost you if you went directly back to the port. Then you find out that all those people, all those stories were his family and friends and you realize that he brought you into a glimpse of his home and gave you a part of his heritage – just because you were standing on the wrong side of the road.

That was the day I fell in love with Grand Cayman.

If that story doesn’t capture your heart, here are 10 more reasons why you should visit Grand Cayman.

  1. 7 Mile Beach
    Imagine a pristine beach that goes on as far as your eyes can see. 7 Mile Beach does not disappoint. If you ever go to Grand Cayman, this is the place to be!
  2. Stingray City
    This place is a large sandbar area sitting within the barrier reef that surrounds the island. It’s where the stingrays come to get fed. Apparently the fishermen of old used to go to this place to clean their fish. The stingrays thrived on what was thrown overboard and began associating the boats with food. It soon became a tourist attraction. The beauty is in the extremely friendly nature of the stingrays.
  3. Crystal Caves
    Brush up on your stalagmites and stalactites, because you’ll be seeing them here. The beauty of the natural caves are unique and fascinating.
  4. Hell
    Have you ever been to Hell and back again? Well, this is the Hell you would love to go to! It is full of limestone formations. It is quite small – about half of a football field. Although you won’t be able to walk among the formations, you will be able to see them and take photos from platforms.
  5. Dive Sites
    There are over 200 dive sites on Grand Cayman. If diving is your thing, take some time to check out some of the options here.
  6. Botanical Park
    This 65-acre park has beautiful tropical landscapes and trails. There are 5 themed gardens that you can explore on your own or with a tour. The Queen Elizabeth II Botanic Park is famous for its Blue Iguana Recovery Programme. You can see the ‘blue dragons’ roaming around the park.
  7. Wreck of the Ten Sail
    If you’re a history buff, or love a good shipwreck story, the Wreck of the Ten Sail is for you. It is a historic shipwreck that happened near Grand Cayman way back in 1794.
  8. Starfish Point
    At Starfish Point you will find a breath-taking, remote beach with crystal clear water. Come see starfish, or sea stars naturally in their habitat.
  9. Coral Garden
    This is a great place for shallow snorkeling. It is located inside the barrier reef and you will find beautiful fish, corals and sea creatures.
  10. Turtle Centre
    A beautiful place to encounter Sea Turtles. They even have an annual turtle release that takes place during Pirate’s Week in November.

Obviously, my personal favourite and what won my heart was the beauty and heart of the locals. Nothing will ever top that. Theodore Roosevelt once said, ‘Nobody cares how much you know, until they know how much you care.’

I must say that I agree.

Have you ever been to the Cayman Islands? There are so many more things to do! What is your favourite thing in Grand Cayman? Let me know in the comments below!

Cruises vs Resorts

I was 21, just married and had never been on an actual vacation before. I knew so little about travel, that I didn’t even know I needed a passport.

I had no clue.

I literally got my passport less than 48 hours before we left for our honeymoon.

We cruised the Caribbean for 7 days on Princess Cruise Lines. It was heavenly. From that moment I was sold on cruises.

Until.

We went to an all-inclusive resort.

I’ve been to 2 resorts and have cruised 7 times. I’m still deciding whether it’s better to cruise or go to a resort. Here are some of my thoughts on cruises and resorts.

Cruises

Internet
Internet hasn’t always been available on cruises. You can now get internet packages on cruises, but they do cost some dollars. I personally like being disconnected from the stresses, but I usually find a café with internet when we get to each port.

Food
There is always an amazing array of food when you cruise. There are always plenty of options and you will never go hungry! My favourite cruise line is Norwegian and it’s partly because of the food.

Excursions
With cruises, you are at different ports throughout your vacation. This gives you opportunity to book the best excursions at the best places. Brian & I like to live life on the edge, so there are some ports that we find locals to bring us on excursions. When we went on our honeymoon, we chartered our own boat (with some locals), went snorkeling and deep-sea fishing for the day for a fraction of the cruise price.

Entertainment
Cruise lines put a great emphasis on entertainment. They have jazz clubs, comedy clubs, nightly shows, movies, games, bingo, etc. There is always something happening somewhere on the ship.

Swimming
I’m not going to lie. I don’t love swimming on cruises. The pools are usually packed and it’s hard to find a chair near the pool. Except the water slides – waiting in line is worth it. There’s also options such as The Haven. They have their own pools, sun decks, etc.
Maybe one day I’ll splurge for the sake of a review. You know, for you.

Spa
The spa is usually my downfall on a cruise. I was introduced to the spa on the cruise we took from New York in the winter. Not only was it freezing most of the time, but I also tore my meniscus right before we boarded the cruise. My hubby offered to get me the spa package to make me feel better. Little did he know that it would be my new expectation for every cruise.
There are only a certain amount of thermal spa packages available. The thermal spa usually includes a variety of whirlpools, heated ceramic loungers, salt rooms, saunas, steam rooms, ice fountains, etc.

Gym
The gym is almost always packed out the first day or two on a cruise – and it’s usually the treadmills. The area with the weights and benches usually only attract the hard-core gym-goers. One cruise, this intoxicated peanut of a man tried to take some weights from another bodybuilder.
Bold move.
I was sure I was going to witness some sort of crime. Just as Mr. Bodybuilder was about to pummel the kid, a sweet, little lady walked between them and softly, but sternly told them to grow up. I kid you not, it was as if it was straight out of a movie!

 

Resorts

Internet
At a resort, you can choose how (dis)connected you want to be. Some resorts have free wi-fi in the lobby for an hour, some have free wi-fi throughout the resort. The thing I love about this is that I can still talk to my kids when I’m away.

Food
I haven’t been to a lot of resorts, but my experience so far hasn’t been amazing. At the resorts I have been to, I usually only eat to live, not live to eat. The last resort that I was at I found a sandwich and fries from the sports bar that was decent. I literally ate that every day for the whole trip. Food is not my favourite part of resorts.

Excursions
Resorts do offer excursions. I haven’t taken one yet, because I’m not entirely confident in them. Plus, there’s only so many excursions you can do when you’re stationed in one place the whole week.

Entertainment
I have split reviews on resort entertainment. Poolside entertainment looked fun, but didn’t pull at my attention. As for the nightly entertainment, it really depends on the resort. One resort had a show one night, but the rest of the week everything closed and everyone went to their rooms by 8pm. Another resort we went to had breathtaking shows every night and they even transformed the courtyard into a local market one night. Amazing.

Swimming
See that line where the sky meets the sea, it calls me. When we went to Puerto Vallarta, you could find us boogie boarding in the ocean non-stop. It wasn’t until the day we were leaving when we found out that the red flag had been up the whole week and the beach had technically been closed. Oops. But the waves were amazing! Although the ocean did steal my favourite pair of Fendi sunglasses. Just be sure to check the resort beach ahead of time as some beaches supersede others.
Now for the poolside. We went into the pool once. We were together. Then Matt came. Who is Matt? I don’t know, but he was single and available. Me? I was taken and happily married (while pointing to Brian). We tend to skip the poolside now at resorts.

Spa
When I’m at a resort, I won’t use the spa unless the weather is horrible. The last resort we went to we booked the thermal spa for 2 days because it rained for 5 out of the 7 days of our vacation. It did not even compare to the thermal suite on a cruise.

Gym
Ok, I’m split on this too. I’m guessing that each resort has different gym qualities. One had only 3 machines in it, one was a full gym. It’s never going to be my home gym, but it’s enough to get by.

In conclusion, I like both. I can’t decide which is better. Maybe you can help me. What do you like better – resorts or cruises? Comment below.

Stress Free Travel

I LOVE traveling.

Ok, I don’t LOVE the travel part of it, but I do love being on vacation. I mean, who doesn’t, right?

When I was a kid, I would get so excited to go anywhere, that my trip started weeks (or sometimes months) before the day we were scheduled to leave.

Shout out to all my planners out there!

When my kids were little, I would make sure that I had every detail of every little thing worked out for the sitter (usually my parents!). Then, as they got older, I didn’t do any different! As a matter of fact, I’ve probably become more and more meticulous with organizing their lives before I leave. I have checklists and lists and notes and files and everything else you can possibly imagine.

Yes, probably a little over the top, but I want to make sure that life doesn’t skip a beat for them (or the sitter) just because the hubs and I are gallivanting across the universe (or lazing on a beach somewhere tropical).

Tropical

Let’s get into how to make travel easy peasy.

Lemon. Squeazy.

Well, Looky Here…
A typical vacation for us is when I find a deal online, quickly check coinciding flights, book the vacation and then usually leave within 5 days of booking.

How?

I’m ALWAYS looking.

I mean, usually the day I get back from vacation, I’m already hitting up my fav travel booking sites. You know, just to see what’s out there.

Regardless, I have tried and true favourites that I lean towards.

  • Favourite Cruise Lines
  • Favourite All Inclusive Resorts
  • Favourite Airlines
  • Favourite Deal Finders

I watch for sales and deals, freebies and incentives. This not only gets me great deals but it keeps me excited about our next travel adventure.

Plan on Planning
I have basic travel planners, spreadsheets and lists ready to go at any given time.

Sounds a bit crazy, but if you have a base plan, it will take the unnecessary stress away from the travel process.

Some of my lists include

  • Packing List
  • To Do For Vacation
  • To Do Before Vacation
  • Schedules (for kids and pups)
  • Schedules (for vacation)

Be Flexible
Last minute vacations usually get you the best deals. However, it’s difficult to plan last-minute vacations if you are not flexible.

If you can, try to be flexible with things such as

  • Vacation time with your employer
  • Where you are willing to vacation
  • When you are willing to vacation

Be Prepared
There is seriously nothing like being prepared for something. I usually keep a pre-packed travel bag that has everything but clothes so I’m ready on the fly.

You never know when the most amazing deal is going to strike and if you’re prepared, you could be vacationing sooner than later.

Rock Glen

I’ll leave you with one of my favourite travel stories.

The hubs wanted to go away on vacation.

I didn’t.

To appease him, I looked and looked for a deal, but was not finding anything that fit in our budget.

Grateful, I finally told my hubs that it wasn’t going to work out and asked if he could maybe switch his vacation time so I could find something at a more convenient time (not so close to Christmas).

Before he did, I thought I’d give it one last go. I found a 7 day cruise from Houston for only a few hundred dollars. I laughed and told him that I would go if we found cheap flights (under $100).

I did.

Ugh! I found $50 flights from Detroit to Houston and on top of it, the cruise line offered an on board credit of a few hundred dollars.

In the end, the trip only cost us peanuts and it was one of the greatest times we had.

Do you find travel planning stressful or do you thrive in the wake of lists and schedules? Comment below!