DESTINATION WEDDING PLANNING PART 6 – THE WEDDING!

Hi everyone!  It’s been a while.

It’s me, Uniglobe Carefree’s Marketing Coordinator and I’m so happy to share with you the remainder of our destination wedding planning process and how the big day went!

Let’s start where we left off, if you think that Karen was done solving problems and talking me off of a ledge you are so very wrong.  I swear, if you’re thinking of planning a destination wedding you NEED an expert travel agent.  This woman saved my sanity repeatedly during the final months approaching our wedding.  Between the Saskatoon airport receiving international status back just days before our final payment date, our flight mysteriously vanishing from the booking system, nearly half of our guests cancelling, the flight finally re-appearing but with the addition of a stop in Regina which extended our travel day by what felt like a lifetime, Canada changing travel restrictions moments after we left and more she just stayed strong and calm and kept most of my tears and fears at bay.   I’m not saying this because she is my friend or because I work for Uniglobe.  I’m saying this because she literally saved our wedding again and again.  A professional travel agent is priceless!

Alright, now that that is out of the way lets move on to the trip!  On December 15, 2021 we finally arrived at the airport. Our wedding package with the Majestic Colonial Punta Cana included a welcome dinner in the main buffet. (Essentially a reserved area at the buffet for the group) Initially I had made arrangements with our wedding coordinator, Andreina, for our welcome dinner to be at 6:00pm.   After we received the schedule change, we needed to push it to 8:00pm.  Unfortunately, because our flight was delayed in Regina, we didn’t make it to the welcome dinner until 9:00pm.  I have to say that the staff at the main buffet were super accommodating despite us being late.  Unfortunately, because it was so late and we were all so tired my plans of having the members of the group who mostly did not know each other get to know each other went out the window.  I do believe this impacted the feeling of “togetherness” that we had hoped for when planning the wedding vacation.

Meeting with Andreina – photo from our paparazzi

The next morning Kyle and I met with Andreina in person.  It was so nice to finally meet this person I had been communicating with for almost 2 years.  We went over last minute wedding details and discussed how the day would go.  She was super thorough and answered any questions that we had.  There were a few things that we hadn’t quite decided yet and she was super easy going about it. She made us feel relaxed about the entire process.  I cannot say enough good things about Andreina. She was easy to communicate with throughout the wedding day and week via WhatsApp as well.

Just some of the included snacks

Our wedding was the following day.  We had a 5pm ceremony so it was a nice slow start to the day with a relaxed breakfast.  I also appreciated that I had time to shower multiple times before putting on my dress because it was humid and I was sweaty!  Hair and make-up at the salon was great – they did a wonderful job.   When we arrived back to the room there were appetizers and treats along with a few bottles of sparkling wine.  The perfect way to ensure that we actually did eat something on the wedding day – what a great inclusion from the hotel. I actually ate more before our wedding than I have before many other weddings I’ve been a part of.  Junior was there and it was time for our getting ready photos.  Then the first look and then off to the ceremony in a whirlwind afternoon.  

Every moment of our wedding day was perfect.   Majestic’s wedding coordination team is so amazing and it seemed that everything came together without any hiccups at all.  From our ceremony to our reception everything flowed, our guests were well taken care of and we all had an amazing time. 

A silver lining of most of my family dropping out of the trip was that our group was now small enough for us to justify the “classy buffet” meal upgrade for our day.  This was by far the best meal our group had during our vacation and it was just an immense amount of delicious, well prepared food. 

A few hours of drinks and dancing and our wedding was over.  However, we kept the party going by moving on to the courtyard of the resort for more drinks and dancing and finally to McJestic for some late night snacks.

The remainder of our week was spent hanging by the pool and on the beach with our friends and family – creating memories together just like we had wanted. 

Majestic’s wedding package also includes a romantic dinner on the beach, breakfast in bed the day after the wedding and a spa relaxation massage for the bride & groom. These were nice moments for us to spend time together just the two of us while still on vacation with our friends and family. A very nice touch that wasn’t included in a lot of wedding packages we looked at for sure!

Romantic Dinner on The Beach

While we’re talking about the vacation I just want to mention that upgrading to the Club (adults only) section of the Majestic Colonial and having a butler is amazing. Our butler went above and beyond making restaurant reservations for our entire group to dine together, answered my random questions like “why aren’t there more beach chairs” and handled minor room maintenance issues efficiently. It was so nice to just be able to text someone and have something taken care of instead of standing in line and speaking to someone at the front desk or concierge. He even had a new room key made and delivered to me when I lost mine the day of the wedding.

Destination Wedding Tips, Tricks & Final Thoughts

  • It’s important to let go of the details.  You chose to get married on vacation and the perk of that is that you have an entire team there to prepare your wedding for you – let them do their job and accept that it will turn out beautiful.  We provided minimal instructions and preferences to our wedding coordinator and everything turned out perfectly.
  • Delegate!  Give your mom, your aunt, your friend … whoever… some jobs.  We had some guests in charge of tying chair sashes and others in charge of centre pieces (two things that we brought with us and didn’t want to pay the resort to handle because they were quite simple).   They took care of everything perfectly.
  • You will forget to delegate things – for us it was music (person to hit play) and a reception MC.  Luckily it was easily taken care of easily by our guests.   In the end, don’t stress about it and someone will help out and take care of things. 
  • GO WITH THE FLOW on the morning of our wedding we were greeted by rain.  We had to decide if we would stick with our original outdoor plans or switch to plan B.  In our case we trusted that the rain would clear but we knew that if it didn’t we would be moving or we would be celebrating in the rain.
  • Be prepared to be disappointed.   This is probably good advice for any wedding not just a destination wedding. No matter how much you tell yourself that it will be “ok” if someone cannot attend, you’re likely going to have someone who does not join you that makes you feel a deep sadness.  Not everything will go as planned.  
  • Choose your destination and resort based on YOUR preferences as a couple.   If you look back to my first wedding planning blog I talk about what our criteria was to choose our resort.  We were considering our guests a LOT.  In the end, many of the people we were trying to accommodate for did not attend.  We still may have chosen the Majestic Colonial but we should have been looking at criteria that mattered to US as a couple instead of accommodating for our family and friends as much as we did.
  • You WILL blow your budget. This one hurt a little but it’s not a surprise – it’s a wedding after all. In the end our day cost us more than we planned but it was worth it.
  • A Destination Wedding costs less than a typical wedding at home. Although our wedding cost us more than we planned, we know that we still saved thousands by choosing to celebrate this way.
  • Plan early!  Not only should you choose your travel agent, destination and resort as early as possible but you should let your guests know as early as possible.  You should work out the details of the actual wedding day early as well.   Because our wedding felt like it was being pushed back again and again we procrastinated a lot of the plans that should have been handled much earlier – this added a lot of stress during the weeks leading up to our wedding that we didn’t really need if we had just worked it out earlier.
  • Don’t be too formal. Destination weddings happen in hot places. Don’t expect your bridal party or guests to wear what they would at home. To my surprise when we looked back at our pictures some of our guests were super casual at our reception. Guess what? We had no idea. We danced and celebrated with them but never once noticed what they were wearing. I’m so glad they were comfortable.
  • Take time for you. Time by yourself and time just the two of you. A destination wedding week goes by in the blink of an eye and it’s important to take a few moments and just relax, have a conversation with your partner about how their doing and decompress. FOMO will make you want to be everywhere with everyone all of the time but it’s not possible and you will burn out.
  • HAVE FUN!  Not only on your wedding day but throughout your wedding vacation make sure to have fun.   No one will remember the decorations or the name of the signature drink but they will remember dancing with you, they will remember playing crazy games by the pool, they will remember the look on your face when your partner says their vows. 

There were many bumps along the way but in the end our wedding day and week were wonderful.  We’re forever grateful to everyone who made it possible and joined us there.  Now to plan the honeymoon! 👀

All professional photos by Junior Cruz Weddings

If you are considering a destination wedding please feel free to reach out to our team of experienced travel agents at 1-800-565-6562 or by visiting https://www.uniglobecarefreetravel.com/contact. They can help you find the perfect destination and resort for you and your partner.

Returning to Canada Over The Holiday Season – A Pandemic Tale

Hi Everyone, it’s Heather – Uniglobe Carefree’s Marketing Coordinator.  If you follow our blog and various other social media you are likely aware that my husband and I finally had our dream wedding in Punta Cana this December.  It was a long and bumpy road to get there but the day was perfect (more on that in another blog) and the vacation was SO needed for us and our guests.  Many of us finally slept through the night or truly relaxed for the first time in a very long time. 

Beautiful Bavaro Beach

I wanted to share with you our experience with travelling during the pandemic and current protocols and restrictions along the way. 

Skyxe Saskatoon Airport – Our airport has made sure to have sanitizer available throughout and has social distancing markers in place.  There are plexiglass walls in the queue when you go through security and of course masks are required in all areas of the airport.

Sunwing – Sunwing’s in flight announcements remind travellers of Transport Canada’s rules on masking, service on the plane was limited to reduce contact (less drink service than some of the travellers on our flight may have liked for example) and travellers are encouraged to remain seated until the lavatory is available before getting up to use it.   Sunwing does not hand out kits with wipes, sanitizer and masks like other airlines have been so make sure you have extras of your own.

Punta Cana Airport – The Punta Cana airport had physical distancing markers and signs mentioning that there were temperature monitoring cameras watching for fevers.  On the return I noticed that seats in the waiting area were marked for distancing.  Masks were required throughout and worn by all staff.  There were still a lot of moments where we were corralled or crowded more than many may be comfortable with – for example the transfer busses from the plane to the building. 

Majestic Colonial Punta Cana – the hotel has many cleaning and sanitizing protocols in place which you can read about here https://www.majestic-resorts.com/en/majestic-mission.   For the most part I feel like these were well executed and that the hotel staff did a good job of trying to enforce.   However, they can only request that guests wear masks, use sanitizer or keep their distance and this wasn’t always followed by everyone. 

PCR Test Prior to Return – The process to set up our PCR Test prior to returning to Canada was easy and handled by the resort’s guest services.  We were given an assigned time to be tested at the hotel’s theatre on the 20th of December.  The medical team performing the tests were quick and efficient – we were in and out with ease.  Our results were back on the 21st of December via email.  One member of our group did not receive hers within a number of hours of the rest of us.   She was able to reach out to the hotel for assistance and they tracked it down for her. 

Return to Canada – Federally Mandated Testing

Upon our return to Canada on the night of the 22nd (we landed around 2:30am on the 23rd) we found out that the Saskatoon Airport was doing random testing at this point.  The take home PCR kits were handed out to a select number of people.  In our group of 23 travellers, 6 of us were selected – I was one of them. 

The way the kit’s work is you take them home and register for a Microsoft teams call with a LifeLabs medical professional.  My call was set for 12:30pm.  They monitor you and guide you through the process of self-testing and packaging up the test to be shipped.  The whole process probably took less than 10 minutes and was quite simple.  My biggest concern was doing it wrong as I didn’t have a backup test if I needed to redo something.   Then you need to drop off your test at one of their designated locations (most Shoppers Drug Marts or a few FedEx locations within the city).   Then your results should be in your inbox within 72 hours. 

It all seemed so simple.  My test was dropped off at Shoppers on the afternoon of the 23rd.  

Some members of our group received their results at 12:30am on the 25th!  Then another on the 26th.   I started to wonder where my results were.  I called LifeLabs and learned that the tests are shipped to the lab in British Columbia instead of processed here in Saskatchewan – that was the first surprise.  Over the course of 4 calls on 4 different days with LifeLabs (and 3 long hold times) I learned the following things:

  • FedEx does not deliver PCR tests to LifeLabs on Saturdays or Sundays.
  • FedEx did not work from December 24 – 28.
  • After some concern about the validity of my test as more time passed I asked if my test would be compromised from waiting so long and if I would need to do another (in that case I would have wanted them to ship it to me asap to get this process restarted).  They informed me that the tests can be valid for up to 14 days so no need to worry about that. 

On my 4th call to LifeLabs the automated message did not give me the option to speak with anyone and simply said that my call would be disconnected and to make an appointment on their website.   It was difficult to find much information on who to call or email for guidance of what to do in this scenario.  The Lifelabs website’s Q&A was not prepared for this scenario, neither was the Government of Canada’s.

I was one of three out of 23 still waiting in the dark.   One of three who could not physically go into work.  One of three who missed all holiday celebrations with their families and friends.  If three out of 23 went through this, imagine how many others on our flight and various others around the same time also did.  We knew when we left Canada that there was a likelihood that we would be tested upon return and that we would have to wait up to 72 hrs for the results.  We understood the risks of leaving our homes and that if we contracted Covid while there we would have to quarantine in destination.  If we tested positive at home we would have to quarantine at home.  However, we trusted that the system put in place for return travellers would be logical and efficient so that travellers who test negative can move on and return to life – it’s time to return to life.

On December 31st, around 168hrs after my test was dropped off at Shoppers Drug Mart I received my negative PCR test results.   The other two in my group received theirs a number of hours after me.

I want to temper the information above by saying that I believe part of the additional disruption and time for processing was due to slow downs or closures of the courier companies and labs over the Christmas holidays.  The fact that some of our group received their results within 2-3 days, show the process CAN work efficiently.  I’m not sharing this story to scare anyone from travelling.  In my personal opinion it’s an essential part of maintaining a healthy mind and soul.   If you are ready to travel, you should!  Knowing what I know now, I still would have gotten on that plane. I wanted to share the full logistics of what we experienced, as everyone needs to be prepared for these “worst case scenarios” when travelling these days.  There is some disruption with flights and testing and everyone needs to comfortable with the risk factors involved with Pandemic Travel.  Surely a lot of the challenges and delays here in Canada were related to the holiday season.  Most likely travellers not returning close to a holiday will get their results back quickly.   However, it’s always a good idea to have a backup plan, in case the unexpected happens.  

Travel Well!

The Importance of Wellness and Self Care

I had the pleasure of attending the AMR Collection Amazing Agent Awards event at Dreams Vista Cancun this weekend.  The event included a mix of educational sessions, networking events, gala dinners and a bit of down time thrown in to experience the resort.  I was particularly impressed with one session I attended on Wellness and Self Care.

Let’s be honest – Wellness and Self Care aren’t always at the forefront of a businesses list of priorities, but kudos to AMR Collection and Apple Leisure Group for putting the resources into ensuring that your team is healthy and for extending some of those resources to your Travel Agency partners.  As David Pritchard reminded us during this session, mental well being is just as important as physical well being and that has been a very difficult thing to attain over the past 18-24 months of Covid – particularly for those in the travel industry.  As we faced increasing work loads, upset travellers, ever changing restrictions and regulations and a roller coaster of emotional highs and lows – that continue even today – we needed to try to find ways to cope, adapt and stay healthy.  I have made it a priority over the past year to try to maintain physical health and well being with regular at home yoga sessions, but I have struggled to find the balance and mental well being with responsibilities increasing both at work and at home.  Finding a way to be present in each of those situations and fully focused on the task at hand is my goal for the next 12 months – thanks to David.  He identified the need and the tools and a desire to help us find the way to being the best that we can be.  To AMR Collection and to David Pritchard – thank you for the reminder that health is the foundation to building our business.

AMR Collection and Dreams Vista has truly taken it upon themselves to pamper all the attendees and have given us the opportunity to have time to relax, to eat good food and as a special surprise to have a complimentary hydro therapy and tension relief massage at the Dreams Vista Spa – Wow!   After a few days of travelling, networking, overindulging and not enough sleep, I took advantage of some free time today to visit the Spa.  I was warmly welcomed into their bright, sunny space with water elements throughout and taken to the hydro therapy area.  After 10 minutes in the dry sauna, I felt my mind begin to relax.  15 minutes later, I had been through the steam room (wow!), the (very) cold plunge pool and was in their warm jacuzzi with a tension relieving therapeutic waterfall feature pummelling the last of the tension from my shoulders.  After relaxing further in their indoor and outdoor hot tubs and hydrating with a green (mint infused?) water, I was led to my massage therapy room.  Ingrid made sure that for the next 50 minutes, all I could think about was how amazing this massage was.  I left the spa with my shoulders no longer up around my ears and my mind no longer running in a million directions thinking about the to do list that is a mile long.  It was a lovely way to end my stay at Dreams Vista and a reminder to take the time to take care of ourselves as we head into this busy holiday season. 

Travel Well,

Jamie

Puerto Vallarta – the Dreams and Secrets Bahia Mita Experience

Having just travelled to Puerto Vallarta for the first time in almost 2 years, I was very excited and nervous to see what the experience would be like.  Would Mexico still be the same?  My answer is a resounding YES!  Mexico is still the same destination you know and love.  I have included some points on what the resort experience is currently like:

The experience on resort:

  • Masks were required indoors, for example, while checking in, when ordering coffee at the coffee shop, while waiting to be seated at a restaurant, or in the gift shops. 
  • Masks are not required to be worn outdoors and since all the main area, several dining areas and hallways are open air, we did not have to wear masks a lot while on resort.
  • When we checked in at Dreams Bahia Mita, the front desk person advised us what time our PCR test was scheduled for.  Dreams has a doctor at the hotel every day starting at 730am and they would conduct the PCR and Antigen tests there (depending what you required for you home country).  If you need the PCR test, you would have the test done (they need your passport to make sure the information on your PCR certificate matches your passport info).  They emailed us the test results about 48 hours later.  Please make sure that you can access your email and make sure that you print your email address legibly on the PCR test form to ensure there is no delay in getting the results.  Once we had the results emailed, I just took a screen shot so it would be handy.
  • The staff were exceptionally friendly and very happy to be back at work and have the hotels busier again.  They were very welcoming.  The hotels are currently operating at up to 70% occupancy in Puerto Vallarta.
  • One of the concerns for Canadians has been “what happens if I test positive for Covid while at the resort”.  Most resorts are offering complimentary or very inexpensive quarantine accommodations, if it becomes necessary (please check your hotel website or with your travel advisor to confirm for your specific hotel).  There is also some Covid and quarantine insurance our advisors can offer through Manulife.  However, my mind was very much put to ease when I asked the manager of Secrets/Dreams Bahia Mita how many guests had tested positive since they opened in July.  The answer was 2.  It is a very large hotel, so even at 70% occupancy, this is a very, very low number.  The odds are very much in the travellers favour in this regard.
  • The restaurants were operating normally for a la cartes.  The Buffet was slightly changed where all hot items were behind glass and you let an attendant know which items you wanted and they dished them up and handed you the plate.  It worked very well.
  • AMR Collection resorts (Dreams/Secrets/Zoetry/Sunscape) have a very good Clean Complete program and the resort was spotless.  There was constant cleaning of public areas and bathrooms.  I was very impressed with the cleanliness and protocols in place.  All staff were wearing masks at all times.

My quick thoughts on the Secrets and Dreams Bahia Mita as a new resort would be:

  • It is a brand new hotel, still undergoing a few last minute finishing touch ups. 
  • It is very modern and clean.   You can see my full room tour here
  • The hotel rooms are beautiful and large. 
  • There are many unique event spaces with gorgeous views and outdoor areas.  There was a swimup pool/bar that is beachfront on the secrets side that was hopping and seemed very entertaining. 
  • On the family side the kids club was very quiet – not many kids, but a beautiful area with a playground, indoor areas and nice kids splashpark/waterslide area. 
  • The spa at this hotel is the biggest one in Puerto Vallarta.  I had a massage and it was incredible.  They also have a really nice hydrotherapy area with steam rooms/saunas, hydrotherapy pools, hot stone beds, etc – the hydrotherapy circuit takes about an hour. 
  • The service was very good – the drink service by the pools was quick, all the staff would speak to you as they passed and do their best to help with anything you needed. 
  • The restaurants were plentiful and food was good – I love that with AMR resorts you don’t need to make reservations at any of the restaurants and they have 24 hour room service.  The room service order I made one night came within a half hour, which is very quick for room service and the food was hot and great. 
  • As with all AMR resorts, the WIFI was included.
  • The main downside for me was the beach.  It was small and a bit rocky with rougher water.  It is known for surfing in this area and they offer surf lessons at the resort.  If you are a pool person, or looking for surfing – this smaller beach won’t be a concern. 
  • The hotel is a bit more remote, and 1 – ½ hours from downtown/Malecon area and 45 minutes from the airport.  However, it is close to Punta de Mita and Sayulita – two charming Mexican towns.  I personally really liked the area and proximity to some different towns, but if you want to be closer to old town or the Malecon or if you want a nicer/longer beach, then the Secrets/Dreams Vallarta Bay would be a better selection. 
  • I think this hotel would be great for events/weddings/incentive or business groups due to the wonderful event spaces.

In summary, I have loved Mexico in the past and this quick trip to Puerto Vallarta was like putting on my favourite sweatshirt – comfortable, familiar, happy and safe feeling.  It felt like coming home and I can’t wait to return to Mexico again.  I have no reservations after my recent experience.

Want to experience this resort for yourself? We have some great pricing for the Secrets (adults only) section available on our website https://www.uniglobecarefreetravel.com/leisure/exclusive-offer-all-inclusive-romantic-escape or feel free to reach out to our team at 1-800-565-6562 for a quote based on your preferences.

Puerto Vallarta November 2021 – What is travel to Mexico really like these days?

I know many of you are wondering what it’s really like to travel to Mexico right now.  I know I was!  Pre-Pandemic, I used to travel to Mexico at least 3-4 times a year.  I loved Mexico and our easy all inclusive vacations.  My last trip to Mexico was to Ixtapa in January, 2020, but this past week I was given the opportunity by AMR Collection (Dreams/Secrets resorts) to visit one of their newest hotel properties – the Dreams Bahia Mita (family friendly), which has a sister hotel on site, the Secrets Bahia Mita (Adults only).  I have put together some easy point form information to let you know what is required and what you can expect on a trip to Mexico right now.  Please keep in mind, this is current at time of publishing, but restrictions are subject to change – please, please, please book your trip with a travel advisor who is an expert and who will guide you through every step of your vacation from booking until you return home.

Step 1)  What is currently required for travel to Puerto Vallarta and what was the travel experience like?

  • If you are Canadian, you will require a valid passport
  • You will need to fill in a Mexican Immigration form – given to you on the airplane, or it can be filled out online ahead of time (it will need to be printed if you fill it in ahead).  They keep the main section when you arrive, you need to keep the smaller section for collection when you depart Mexico. https://www.mexicotouristcard.com/
  • All visitors must now fill in a health questionnaire https://www.vuelaseguro.com/home .  Please note that this can only be filled in within 12 hours of your arrival time in Mexico.  It can be filled in online and then you can take a screen shot of the QR code on your phone.  You can also fill it in while waiting in the immigration line in Mexico, but you will need phone data to do so.  Please note, this same health questionnaire must be filled in to depart Mexico.  In all honesty, they never checked for the QR code when we arrived in Puerto Vallarta, although there were signs that said they would.  They were checking for the QR code/health questionnaire for everyone leaving as you went through security.
  • The flight from Calgary to Puerto Vallarta was 100% sold out with Westjet. The arrivals/immigration hall was as busy as I have ever seen it in Puerto Vallarta.  There were a lot of snowbirds heading down to their winter homes and lots of couples.  Very few families at this time – from what I understand, most hotels aren’t seeing a lot of families booking yet as families are waiting for kids to be able to be vaccinated to ease travel for them.
  • You will need to be fully vaccinated to board an aircraft in Canada (with the option to provide a negative PCR test until November 30, 2021).
  • The entire process went very smoothly – a bit of a wait due to the volume of people going through immigration and the extra health questionnaire which took about 3 minutes to complete, but otherwise, a very similar experience.
  • Once you arrive in Puerto Vallarta, you will go through immigration, collect your bags, play the red light/green light game which determines if they check your bag, make your way past the time share sellers in the arrivals area and find your transfer company or taxi – they will all be located at the exit to the airport – either just inside or just outside the doors.
  • Masks are required in all airports (Canadian and Mexican) and for the duration of your flight, except when you are eating or drinking.  Westjet was enforcing the masking and food service in their economy section was limited to chocolate bars, pringles or hummus/crackers.  If you want to eat on the flight, I suggest you grab a sandwich at the airport to bring on board or pack a lunch/snacks.
  • You will need to wear a mask during your car/bus transfer to the hotel

Step 2)  What is currently required to travel back to Canada and what was the travel experience like?

  • Currently, you will need to have a negative PCR test (please, please, please make sure they give you the PCR test not the Antigen test as you will be denied boarding!).  This PCR test must be within 72 hours of your return flight to Canada.  The cost at Mexican hotels for this test tends to be around $150 USD per person (varies slightly by hotel – some hotels are subsidizing the cost down as low as $50 USD per person).  This information should be listed on your hotels website, or check with your travel advisor.
  • If you need the PCR test, you would have the test done – likely at your hotel (your travel advisor can help you figure out if your hotel offers it or if you will need to find a testing location somewhere nearby).  They need your passport to make sure the information on your PCR certificate matches your passport info.  They emailed us the test results about 48 hours later.  Please make sure that you can access your email and make sure that you print your email address legibly on the PCR test form to ensure there is no delay in getting the results.  Once we had the results emailed, I just took a screen shot so it would be handy.
  • You will need to complete the Heath questionnaire again for Mexico (same as step one).  We filled this in just before we left for the airport and took a screen shot of the QR code.
  • You will need to have your ArriveCan App filled in.  You cannot fill in this app until you have your PCR test results.  The App will ask you to upload your passport, upload your vaccination status and go through a list of questions regarding your test results, contact information, etc.  Once you have completed this information, it produces a QR code – again best practice would be to take a screen shot of the QR code so it’s handy at the airport.
  • The Puerto Vallarta Airport check in process was very fast and easy.  There was virtually no lineup at Westjet – I was checked in online, so just needed to check my bag and have them print my boarding pass.  When I checked in, they checked my passport and I had to show my negative PCR test certificate.
  • At the security check point, they checked for your Health Questionnaire QR code and you went through the normal security check of your bags.  The entire process of check in and security only took us about 20 minutes – normally it’s a bit longer, but our timing must have been good (about 2 hours prior to flight time) as there were no lineups.
  • All the duty free and restaurants were open, so we had lunch before our flight (knowing we wouldn’t have food options on Westjet).
  • When you arrive in Calgary, you fill in your arrivals immigration form on a kiosk and it prints out your form.  You will have to show that form and your ArriveCan QR code before going through Customs.  Connecting through Calgary to Saskatoon from Mexico I did not have to collect my luggage – it was checked all the way through.  The check in agent in Puerto Vallarta told me that and the customs people also reconfirmed – the communication was very good.
  • The short cut for connections was closed (I assume due to less flights, they aren’t staffing it now).  That meant going out of the secure area, walking down to C gates security which was the only one open at that time of night and then walking to my departure gate in D area.  It was a big of walking, but no lineups at security and relatively easy. 
  • At 9pm when I arrived at my gate in D area, all the fast food options were closed (Starbucks, Subway, etc), but Chilies was still open and quite busy – the food was good and fast.

The moral of the story is this:  Travel Advisors have been knees deep in the pandemic travel experience for 18 months.  They live this day and night.  They understand the requirements for your destination and stay on top of changes.  They will guide you through the entire experience and make sure you have crossed all your I’s and dotted all your t’s and that you are prepared.  They will also provide you the proper insurance options and the peace of mind of knowing someone has your back.  They are absolutely worth an extra $40 or $50 per person fee for the value they provide.

If you do not have a personal travel advisor we encourage you to reach out to reach out to our team at 1-800-565-6562 or contact us via our website when you are ready to start planning your next trip!

KAREN & HEATHER’S MAGICAL GETAWAY – PART 3

by Karen Katelnikoff – Travel Agent

Karen with her First Visit button – did you know that these are one of the FREE souvenirs you can get at Disney parks?

Anyone that knows me would be shocked to hear that I had never been to Disneyland. I have been to other Disney parks but never in California. I was so very excited to discover a new park. There were so many differences between Disneyland and the other parks I have been to and I was pleasantly surprised.

One of the best things that is different from Disney World is the distance between Disneyland and Disney California Adventure Park. You definitely need a park hopper pass for these parks as it’s so easy to just go from one to the other. On our last night we returned to California Adventure after supper to ride our favourite ride – Guardian’s of the Galaxy – Mission: BREAKOUT! a few more times.  We then walked across and into Disneyland in less then 7 minutes to be right on time for our last fireworks with Mickey’s Mix Magic. This is a fairly new show with fireworks, projections all the way down Main Street, and lots of music to dance to. On our first night In Disneyland we had made it back to our hotel and watched the fireworks from our balcony. What we didn’t know is that we were missing the party happening on Main Street. We made the time to go on the second night and we went every night after that because it was SO GOOD. It was just what I needed after being stuck at home for so long. When the song let it go came on, Elsa appeared on the walls of Main Street and the sky opened up with magical snow, I may have cried! Disney really knows how to take you away from all of your daily stresses.

Fireworks from the balcony of the Best Western Stovall’s Inn

Some of the changes that could be found in and around the park were for safety protocols during the Covid pandemic. Most of them in my opinion were for the better and hope they can stay in place. First up are the hand sanitizing stations.  These are located at the start and end of every ride and sometimes even in the middle of the queues. You can find them outside and inside of every restaurant, beside garbage cans and inside and outside of the stores. It is very well designed that when you are feeling the need to sanitize you can just turn around and one appears.

Another change is the boarding pass system for rides that Disney anticipates will have extra long rides (like Rise of the Resistance, the amazing Star Wars ride and the new Spider-Man ride).  It requires you to have a smart phone and the Disneyland app and your alarm set so that you are ready to try to get a boarding pass at 7am (and then again at noon).   It’s a little nerve wracking but in the end it means you’re given a time to arrive at the ride and will have a much shorter line to wait in than if this system did not exist.  It means that people can ride other rides, enjoy some food or simply chill out until it’s their turn and it’s a great way to keep the crowd numbers lower around these very popular rides. 

The best change is the character meet and greets. Being a pro at other Disney parks I know how character meet and greets usually work. I have been in many of these lines with my own children. And I know which of the characters usually will only come out during a special event. Now you can be just walking by and have a character interaction with Cruella or witness Alice serving Eeyore tea.  You then can just walk over to the fence and take a picture with any of them with no lines and away you go on with your day. There were also Character cavalcades, these mini parades were not schedule either as it helps to keep the crowds down. A pointer would be if you here music or a band playing try to find where it is coming from as there usually are characters there. We were lucky enough to see the characters from Pinocchio, the fab five and a few of the princesses. These also included characters that you would not normally be able to meet on a regular day.  One particular cavalcade was Heather’s turn to cry! It’s all just so magical.

Disneyland is a great option when you have less time or a smaller budget. There are plenty of hotels within walking distance whether you want a budget friendly hotel or you want a touch of luxury you can find it all. The walk back after doing a full day in the parks is a hard walk no matter where you stay but I preferred the walk back compared to waiting for transportation and then walking through a big resort hotel to get to my room.

If you are interested in visiting Disneyland (or any other Disney park around the world) I would love to help you out.  Please feel free to contact me at karenk@uniglobecarefree.ca or 1-800-565-6562.

It was truly a magical trip and exactly what I needed to lift my spirits up.

KAREN & HEATHER’S MAGICAL GETAWAY – PART 2

Disneyland was amazing! I’ll let Karen get into the details but I can genuinely say that we had a good, good, good time.

I’m here to update you on the rest of our pandemic travel details.

After a very full day in the parks on Friday we started Saturday slow and ventured to the outlets for a little shopping. ($10ish Uber drive from the Best Western Stovalls where we stayed each way). We had pre-arranged for our PCR Covid-19 test to be this afternoon so we decided not to bother going into the parks until after that. The cost of this test was $150 USD.

Karen had taken care of the research and found the nearest testing location that offered walk up testing. (Drive through locations were closer but would have required us to rent a car which we didn’t really feel we would use otherwise). This clinic was in Stanton which was another $10 Uber from our Anaheim hotel. It was a little tricky to find because we didn’t expect it to be a blue box in a park but there happened to be some people providing vaccines nearby who were able to point us in the right direction.

After a few questions to confirm our identity they had our nasal swabs ready and we were on to calling our next Uber back to our hotel and into the parks. They advised us that we would have our results by midnight the next day. We actually had them before we were in the parks Sunday morning which was amazing. We could fully relax and enjoy knowing that we were clear to come home.

For anyone wondering, I’m pleased to share that hand sanitizer was easily accessible throughout the Disney parks and Downtown Disney. It was found at the entrance and exit of each attraction, restaurant and store and used by many travellers. It was also randomly throughout anywhere that there was a pathway.

Masks were required indoors and this was well enforced by cast members if someone forgot. Of course there is always someone trying to bend the rules / get away with slipping them off but for the most past people were good about following the rules.

Overall I’m so happy to report that there were very few times that we felt like it was too crowded or like people were not following the rules. We felt safe and were so very happy to be travelling again.

Stay tuned for more on our in park experiences from Karen in the near future.

Karen & Heather’s Magical Getaway – Part 1

Travelling outside of Canada.  It sounds like a daunting task these days doesn’t it?  Well, for the sake of research (okay maybe also for the sake of a much-needed girls getaway) Karen and I decided it was time to dust off our passports.   We’re on our way to Disneyland!  It’s a trip we’ve been dreaming about and planning for years and this year the right things fell into place to make us feel like now was the time.   We earned this!

Here are a few of the things we did to ensure our trip was Carefree:

  • When we finally decided to book, we added Manulife’s Premium Protection insurance.  Although it does not cover for Covid19 related items, it still offered us comprehensive protection for everything else we would need including the ‘Cancel For Any Reason’ clause.
  • We also purchased Manulife’s COVID-19 Pandemic Travel Plan which provides us with coverage just in case we do contract Covid-19 (we’re both fully vaccinated but you never know)
  • We booked a hotel with good sanitation and safety policies in place
  • We booked flights with long connecting times in Vancouver – although we have already obtained our negative Covid-19 test to enter the United States and have our appointment to get tested in Anaheim before returning home we know that we could run into unexpected delays and challenges so more time gives us the peace of mind on our travel days

On Tuesday night we visited the Haztech Health Centre in Saskatoon.  We had already pre-booked and prepaid for our tests last week.  We were met by a friendly nurse who took some passport information from us and led us to the testing area.  It was a quick 5 second swab in each nostril and we were on our way out the door.  It takes 15 minutes for the Antigen test results to come back so we had emails with our certificates stating that we were negative for Covid-19 by the time we walked back into our homes.   

The cost of this test was $99.75 CAD.  Haztech also offers a mobile service where they will literally drive to you to do the test if that is more convenient for you. 

On Wednesday evening just as we both finished up our day of work we received a notification that our flight from Saskatoon to Vancouver had been cancelled for the next morning. After a few hours on the phone with Air Canada and Manulife we were back in business with a new, less carefree but still totally manageable, flight schedule for Thursday.

All 3 of our flights today went smoothly, even if our flight from Vancouver was delayed due to the slow process of collecting the Covid declaration forms. For my first day of flying in 18 months I just want to say that we felt very welcomed and by all of the airline and airport staff we encountered today. They are clearly happy to be back to working more and engaging with travellers.

I also feel like it’s important to note that everything, everywhere felt really clean. Lots of safety and sanitization procedures were in place throughout.

We are now checked into our hotel here in Anaheim and excited to spend tomorrow at Disneyland.

Not a bad view

Be sure to follow Uniglobe’s Instagram for updates on our trip throughout.

Every Vacation Needs A Playlist

They say that music is directly linked to memories.   We have to agree!   When it comes to music that makes us think of being on vacation, our team has created a pretty varied playlist with a strong “island” vibe.   We think this is a great playlist to play on the beach, by the pool, while you’re packing or simply when you wish you were on a vacation. 

Here are some of the comments sent in by our staff on why certain songs really bring back those vacay vibes:

Don’t worry be Happy  by Bobby McFerrin   – you’re on vacation so just be HAPPY

Shelley Toomer


All Night Long or Dancing on the Ceiling by Lionel Ritchie – Without fail, whenever we are in Mexico or the Caribbean, these songs are heard a few times.  If we ever hear these songs played at home we instantly think of being on vacation and the beach!

Marcy Melnyk


Bob Marley – One Love – There is nothing better than being in Jamaica – one of my favourite islands – and listening to Bob Marley.  It is the epitome of “vacation” jams.

Jamie Milton


Leaving on a Jet plane – John Denver I  don’t think I have ever gone on a holiday without singing this song 😊

Karen Katelnikoff


A Double Bill of “Sail Away” tunes that bring me back to my times on ships both as a crew member and a passenger:

  1. Styx – Come Sail Away
  2. Enya – Orinoco Flow

Rob Stover


Mimosas on the Beach – Annette

Bruno Mars  – Uptown Funk is another one great for beach drinking.

Annette Frey


State of Mind – Mad Caddies

This was our “Day Song” on my Contiki tour of Europe.  It was the only song that was consistently played every single day (usually the beginning of the day and then maybe again at the end) making it the theme song of the trip.  I love that Contiki did this!  Every time I hear the song my heart fills with happy memories of exploring Europe with 40 best friends I didn’t know before.

Heather Peters


Macarena –Los Del Rio   Who doesn’t do the Macarena while sitting poolside?

Shelley Toomer


Blue Hawaii by Elvis Presley – just because it is such fun!

Janice Whaley


Baha Men – Who Let the Dog’s Out?

I can’t resist putting down this song as I heard it many MANY times when it was a staple of virtually all the steel drum bands who performed on the pool deck.  I believe the song was recorded and became a hit on radio in 2000 but I had been hearing this as a ship tune a few years prior.  Good times, good times…

Rob Stover


Peanut Butter Jelly by Galantis – We were introduced to this wacky gem in Paris 2017

Marcy Melnyk


Jamie’s Twins in Hawaii

John Cruz – “Island Style” – This song brings Hawaii into my soul.  Hawaii is one of my favourite places and this song reminds me of sailing down the Wailua river to the Fern Grotto while a lovely gentleman sang this song and my kids danced in the sunshine. 

Jamie Milton


How Far I’ll Go – Boy Hero

If you know me, you know I’m a Disnerd.  If you really know me you know I’m that millennial skater punk emo music lover.   This is the PERFECT combination of the two and an excellent song about going on a journey.  You can’t help but sing along.

Heather Peters


Karen in Hawaii

Riptide – originally Vance joy but I LOVE the Jasmine Thompson

We were driving in a Mustang, with the top down around the windy coast of Oahu. This takes me into vacation mood instantly.

Karen Katelnikoff


Fireball – Pitbull

We heard it every day on the beach in Playa Del Carmen at the Sandos resort.

It is so up beat and made us sing even louder each day.

Annette Frey


Photograph Def Leppard…just because they are my favourite band in the World.

Cheryl Gray


You can find our full Vacation Jams playlist here on Spotify.  We hope you enjoy it!

Now that you’re in the vacation mood, please feel free to reach out to our team to start planning your next getaway or check out the current vacation deals available on our website.  We are travel experts and are here to help!

Uniglobe Carefree Travel’s Road Trip Radio

Nothing beats a summer road trip.   We all know that every good road trip needs a great road trip playlist!  That’s why we asked our team for their top road trip songs.  Whether they were songs about driving or songs that are simply a blast to sing along to they definitely gave us quite the list. 

Here are some of the highlights.  (including a few doubled up – but don’t worry we didn’t double them up on the playlist)


Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers – Runnin’ Down a Dream

The perfect song to play as you hit the pavement.  The opening lyrics say it all!

It was a beautiful day, the sun beat down

I had the radio on, I was drivin’

And now you are singing the song…  😊

Rob Stover


I don’t remember exactly when or how it started but  “I Want It That Way” by Backstreet Boys has become THE family sing-a-long favourite on road trips.  All 3 of us sing with reckless abandon complete with late 90’s style in-seat dancing and facial/hand gestures.  It’s absolutely ridiculous………… and so much fun!!
Marcy Melnyk


Life is a Highway – Tom Cochrane – Reminds me of road trips in my teenage years – rocking down the highway on our way to volleyball tournaments without a care in the world.

Jamie Milton


Road trip music is for singing at the top of your lungs to pass the time and have some fun. These are classic songs that everyone knows in my house.
I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles) – Proclaimers
Don’t Stop Believin – Journey
Karen Katelnikoff


Born to be wild- Steppenwolf  – just gets you reved up with the wind in your hair…
Shelley Toomer


On the Road Again – Willie Nelson  –  Can’t help myself.   When my kids were little this was one of their favourite road songs. 

Marva


Dr. Jones – Aqua – Honestly, almost anything by Aqua is a “road trip” song for me. When my fiance’s friend ended up with his Aqua CD in his truck for over a year we were quite upset. We just got it back and it has been on full blast for about 3 months.

Heather Peters


I’ve Been Everywhere – Johnny Cash – such a fun song.  Many artists have also done it with more of a Canadian slant.  I think it was originally Hank Snow who wrote this.  Stopping Tom also had his version.
Janice Whaley


Running Down a Dream – Tom Petty – just the intro makes you want to drive.  Maybe a little to fast
Colleen Lorenzen


The song that immediately came to mind is “On The Road Again” by Willie Nelson.  It reminds me of all the road trip for fun family times we once took – When it plays , many happy memories come back!

Janice Whaley


Roger Miller – King of the Road – ALWAYS on the playlist when Road-Trippin with my Dad!

Jamie Milton


Other family sing-a-long favourites are, Boys of Summer by The Ataris, Perfect Day by Hoku, Peaches by the Presidents of the United States of America and Don’t you Forget About Me by Simple Minds.
Marcy Melnyk


Tragically Hip – Bobcaygeon

I could include any number of tunes from the Hip but I always love hearing this one if I’m driving late at night.  The one lyric is particularly romantic and sets the tone with such a short phrase:

It was in Bobcaygeon, I saw the constellations

Reveal themselves one star at a time

Poetry from the late, great Gord
Rob Stover


You can find our full road trip playlist here on Spotify.  We hope you enjoy it. And if you’re planning a road trip please remember that your local travel agents can help with hotel & other accommodation bookings, car rentals, attraction passes and a whole lot more. Please reach out to our team for any assistance you might need!

What songs are on your road trip playlist? We would love to know!