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Get outta here... while you can

Cold snap has travellers snapping up warm destinations

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Nick Perry / the associated press 
Pacific Harbour Beach in Fiji seems like a nice place to be at this time of year.

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Nick Perry / the associated press Pacific Harbour Beach in Fiji seems like a nice place to be at this time of year.

There is nothing like a prolonged cold snap to motivate people to seek out remaining options to sunny destinations.

With near record daily extreme cold warnings, those who have not chosen to pack up their belongings and leave the province permanently have tied up the phone lines of travel agents throughout the province.

Luckily, a warm fall slowed bookings in the early stages or there would likely not be much left to choose from now.

As it happened, there still are a number of excellent properties still available at many of the most popular destinations we travel to non-stop from Winnipeg. But this is a year when the super bargains we have seen in past years may not materialize at all, and those who wish to wait for the price to go down may end up waiting for the weather to warm up in May right here at home.

With the similar weather patterns that have affected most of Eastern Canada as well, even those destinations we seek through other gateways are also filling up fast.

Likewise, vast parts of the United States have experienced cold periods such as they never have before. They may be getting a taste of the medicine we have annually, and they too are looking for the nearest exit to hot weather from their home bases.

The message is if you really want to go, don't wait.

On a separate issue, the column I wrote on Jan. 4 relating to travel insurance has garnered a slew of followup emails and comments.

Some agree with my recommendations for supplemental insurance over credit card or corporate coverage, while others do not.

Some pointed out all insurance companies have statements that would cause anyone to blanch that they actually exist. For example, one writer pointed out it doesn't seem fair to have a clause that states "You must contact us before seeking medical attention and a failure to call will result in your being responsible for 30 per cent of any eligible expenses incurred."

As the writer concluded, "Great! My husband gets run over by a truck and I'm supposed to call the insurance company before calling an ambulance?"

But the reason this is done is to ensure clients work with reputable health providers the insurance company has had experience with and are confident in the care they will provide.

At the same time, I was pleased to hear how many people had achieved satisfactory conclusions with almost any form of coverage they had. There were some real horror stories I heard about, but for the most part, most people were treated well by their insurance providers.

I still stand by my first statement on the issue. Notwithstanding the people who did receive excellent service from their insurance companies when they had accidents or illness when they travelled, there is small print to be concerned about on every policy and forewarned is forearmed.

And there were more questions:

Question: I was told that if I bought alcohol at a duty free in the United States, and had to connect through Winnipeg that they would take my bottles away from me.

I worry about breakage in suitcases so I don't like to take the chance of any alcohol spilling all over my belongings and really creating a stink, so to speak.

Is it true that my liquor purchases would be taken from me? And if so why?

Answer: At most gateways, once you clear customs you are back into the main airport terminal and are required to clear security again to get on to your connecting flight.

Therefore, you will be carrying liquids that are clearly much more than the 100 ml amount you are allowed. In these instances, your alcohol will definitely be confiscated.

Since you have to pass through customs with your claimed luggage, you theoretically could put the bottles into your luggage before it is placed on the connecting carousel.

This would not solve your original fear the containers could break and cause a significant cleaning challenge.

For that, there are a number of products on the market that help protect bottles and other fragile items from breaking in packed luggage by surrounding them with blown air or foam-like packaging.

You may want to explore these options on subsequent journeys.

Question: I read somewhere that even Canadians need to purchase a Cuban visa before they can enter the country? How do I get one?

Answer: If you are flying into Cuba on any Canadian airline, your visa, or Cuban Visitor Card as it is called, is included in the cost of your ticket or vacation package.

It will be handed out to you on board before you get off, for you present to the Cuban immigration officials with your passport.

This is important. They will take half and return the other half to you. Do not lose it or it will result in extra costs and a potential delay, including preventing you from boarding your aircraft.

Keep it safe with your passport.

If you are not flying with a Canadian carrier, the visas are usually for sale near the check-in desk of the airline you will be travelling with.

Forward your travel questions to Ron Pradinuk is president of Journeys Travel & Leisure SuperCentre and can be heard Sundays at noon on CJOB. Previous columns and tips can be found on or read Ron's travel blog at

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition January 18, 2014 E2

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