Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Time to firm up those winter travel plans

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The Twin Pitons of St. Lucia are one of the enduring landmarks.

RON PRADINUK / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS Enlarge Image

The Twin Pitons of St. Lucia are one of the enduring landmarks. Photo Store

There is still many days of great summer weather to follow before the cold winds of September and October signal an end to our great Manitoba summer. But that does not mean sunspot travel is out of the picture during this time.

Those destination wedding couples have already been busy informing their guest list of their plans, asking them to hold holiday dates for the week of their nuptials at the resort they have selected.

Those who want to be away during the Christmas holiday period have started to take actions to secure the accommodations and dates of travel most important to them.

And smaller family units are taking advantage of the group fares that are available to groups with as few as 10 travellers.

So our questions this week, in spite of the season, take on the hue of the winter travel period.

QUESTION: Over the past couple of years, we have taken to driving south for a couple of months each winter.

We don't mind the extra time it takes as we travel different routes to experience different scenery as we move through the various states.

However, I find the service-station experience to be frustrating since the pumps will not take our credit cards because a zip code is required. As a result, we have to go into the station, specify an amount of gasoline we wish to buy, fill up, and then go back into the station again to make sure we get a receipt and are charged the appropriate amount.

I was told you have a method that allows Canadians to gas up using some modification of our own postal codes. Is that correct?

ANSWER: Indeed it is. This solution came to me from a regular reader of this column. At first I was skeptical and even undertook an informal research study of my own via readers who travel south by automobile asking them to test the method given to me.

While not universal in every state, it works in most places every time. I have tried it myself since and can verify its authenticity.

What you need to do is to ignore the letters of your postal code and input only the three numerals and then add two zeros at the end.

For example, the Journeys postal code is R3L 0L6.

If that was the billing address for your own credit card, you would input the numbers 30600.

I have had conversations with the Snowbird Association and, while they say it won't work everywhere, their feedback from members has been that it works much more often than it doesn't.

I would again invite readers to try it on their next automobile trip to the United States and let me know your results by email.

QUESTION: We are planning a Mexican vacation this winter with our baby daughter.

We are aware children under two years of age fly free, but we are in an unusual situation. My daughter is one year old now and will be on the day of our scheduled departure. But she will turn two during our time away, thereby returning as a two-year-old.

Will we be able to still take this vacation as the last one in which she can fly free, or will we have to buy a seat for her because of the change in her age during the time we are in Mexico?

ANSWER: This was a really good question and was shocked to find out you will have to pay for a seat for your child because she turns two during your time away.

While I personally think this is unfair, it is the policy of the tour operators we checked with.

You also inquired about whether there are resorts where you will be able to have some child care during the day or around the dinner hour so you and your husband can spend some of your own time.

The magic age for resort children's programs at those facilities that target families is two years old. Even though your daughter will be one when you arrive, you should have no problem in having her involved in their early-childhood programs, but you should have your travel agent contact your selected resort ahead of time to be sure.

For evenings out, you may have to make separate arrangements and pay for a babysitting service through them during the hours you wish to be dining and enjoying yourselves without her for a while.

QUESTION: We are considering going to St. Lucia this winter. Can you suggest some of the best options for getting there and staying there?

ANSWER: St. Lucia is a beautiful island to visit. Great beaches and wonderful scenery are just a couple of its highlights.

The famous Twin Piton peaks are the landmarks of the island.

You will have to travel via another gateway such as Toronto, but if you go with Air Canada Vacations or WestJet Vacations, you will not have to face separate flight expenses to get to Toronto.

There are not many all-inclusive properties in St. Lucia and those that offer optional packages can be quite expensive.

However it is worth experiencing the restaurants and nightlife of the region and you will enjoy the different cultural experience you will find there.

Over the decades, Canada has invested heavily in St. Lucia and the tourist infrastructure appears to be one of the major economic benefactors.

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 at www.journeystravelgear.com or read Ron's travel blog at www.thartravelguy.ca.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition August 10, 2013 E9

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