Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Getting the Best Price for your Destination Wedding in the Caribbean or Mexico

Written By: Jaime Valdes-Riench, owner of Travel & Events with Style

As more couples look for that dream destination wedding in a location such as the Caribbean or Mexico they often do not know where to begin or how to make their dollar stretch. No one wants to sacrifice quality, but everyone wants to get the best value for what they pay for. Being in a departure city such as Winnipeg gives less options for departure dates if their wish is to have direct flights to their destination.
Where to begin: It is ideal to start planning a year in advance, but taking a few extra steps in the planning process will aid in getting the most ideal price. Here are some tips on how to get the value for your up and coming nuptials in paradise:

  1. Start looking at areas that you can see yourselves going to and look at what type of resorts might interest you. Are you looking for adults only, adventure, family orientated resorts, closer to larger city centers for more tour options, or smaller city centers for more privacy?
  2. What would be your potential dates? If you are planning on leaving from Winnipeg, you may want to consider leaving between January and the end of March if you dislike connecting to different flights. Our prime winter vacation season starts just before the December holidays and usually ends at the end of March.
  3. Once you have an idea what you might like, start collecting travel brochures or looking at them online at larger vacation companies. Remember, prices will change for the new year, but familiarizing yourself will give you an idea where to start your budgeting.
  4. Be realistic about your budget. What are you willing to pay to go to the resort? What are you whiling to pay for your wedding? As the bride and groom, there are more costs involved. Consider your guests and their budget. What are they whiling to pay to attend your wedding? How many do you think will attend as guests?
  5. Sit down with your destination wedding travel professional and discuss your likes and dislikes. The areas you are interested in and not interested in. Where do you envision yourselves, and what would the wedding look like. If they are experienced in destination weddings, they can start making suggestions. Often times, if a resort has under gone a lot of renovations, or a new resort has just opened, there may be additional sales you can take advantage of. One thing to remember is that if the resort is new, it may come with challenges. Some areas of the resort may not be fully developed or they may be understaffed until they know what their true needs are to function smoothly. If this is not a concern and you are aware of the risks, these resort options may be something worth looking at.
  6. Send out save the date cards a year to 9 months in advance to get your group ready prior to June. Often times the bride and groom will assure that at least 30-40+ people will be booking the group rate, but when the time comes to put down the deposit , they barely are able to get 10 people to commit by the deadline. The month of June is an excellent time to secure your space with the vacation company for your destination wedding as they are just trying to project what their new travel season will bring sales wise. Usually there are large early booking bonuses, and final payment dates are often within 2 months. The vacation companies utilize this information when they contract the flight carriers to give them an idea of how many seats they may need to request for that particular destination.
  7. As destination weddings increase in this area of the world, vacation companies are increasing their competiveness. Ask your travel professional what vacation companies offer specials such as ”bride flies free”, “guarantee one time reprice”, “no hassle cancellation wavers”, “book ten, hold ten seats”, etc. Signature Vacations is an excellent example of these group promotions. Some of your potential guests are often leery of booking early in case the price drops at the last minute. Some larger vacation companies are offering new options that are opening repricing doors so the unsettled feeling is put to rest. It is refreshing that we are now experiencing wedding groups that where able to have their entire wedding group repriced a few months in advance to departure and received additional savings to what was initially quoted. Also, new “no hassle cancellation wavers” are being offered where a person can cancel for any reason and receive all funds back minus deposits and insurance costs. If too close to departure, they can receive a credit for future travel. Depending on dates you choose, last minute may not always be available nor is it always the most inexpensive anymore. Most February and March dates fill up with popular destinations because of spring break and prime travel season. Booking early has now proved large savings and insurance that guests will be able to attend.
  8. Now once you have decided on the basics such as approximately when and where, ask your travel provider to get group quotes and be flexible once you receive the quotes. Remember you will often pay more on the second week of February because of university “reading week” and Valentine’s Day. If you are interested in hearing optional dates such as the end of January, or the beginning of February you may be able to save a few hundred a couple!
  9. Once you have your options, look to see what resorts offer pre-established wedding packages and look at their costs and what is truly included. Remember, a “free” wedding is often not totally free. Consider items such as extra guests, flowers, linens, music, etc. when you want to make the best decision of which resorts will take care of your needs and the needs of your guests. Some resorts will not just charge a surcharge for the extra guests, but may charge a surcharge premium for all the guests in attendance just because you went over the total permitted for that package.

Instinctively, we are often motivated by highly advertised low priced holidays. Remember, this is your wedding. You will want to find a balance between low cost and high quality. Even though you want to shop around for the best price, try to find out at the beginning if you think you will have a good relationship with your destination wedding travel professional. You are planning a wedding, you will want to work together as team to make your day unbelievable!

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Okanagan Spring Wine Festival – 2010 – Apr 30-May 9

Written By: Jaime Valdes-Riench, owner of Travel & Events with Style
Information Credit to:

It is the time of year again. The spring air kisses the gorgeous Okanagan Valley and the dewy mornings start with fresh crisp air and by mid afternoon the land fills with warm sunshine. Tourist flood to the Okanagan Valley to enjoy the region’s "fruit of their labour". There are millions of opportunities to enjoy amazing wines and culinary works of art.

Being one who has enjoyed this festival for ourselves, we can say the entire Okanagan Valley is filled with amazing scenery,and the city of Kelowna is somewhere near and dear in ours hearts personally. So much so, I must return at least once a year. It breaks my heart not to be there again during their spring wine festival! I have seen a lot of places in my life and this is one I am compelled to return to on a regular basis!

Here is a direct quote from the Okanagan Wine festival website:
" The Okanagan Spring Wine Festival is a perfect marriage of wine and culinary tourism. For the first ten days in May each year, it offers a tantalizing experience for anyone who loves fabulous wine accompanied by fine cuisine. And what better way to announce the grape growing season than to hold a Festival during bud break!.
Guests can choose an incredible 100 plus events throughout Okanagan Wine Country at a time of year when it is absolutely delightful to savour Spring in the warm sunshine. The Okanagan Spring Wine Festival has been described as "one of Canada's best small festivals" and it is no wonder that its success continues to grow.
Experience a wide range of culinary treats from light lunches to gourmet dinners served at many fabulous locations, what better way to visit Okanagan Wine Country during the first weekend in May.
A great way to enjoy the spring air by exploring Okanagan Wine Country, tasting the fabulous new wine releases, enjoying fine cuisine and tasting the wines famed around the globe. There are over 100 events to enjoy over the weekend.”

There are many tours to enjoy all the sites and go to various wineries. I highly recommend taking at least one or making a reservation at one of the wineries dinners and wine tastings.

We have had the pleasure of enjoying an amazing multi-course meal and wine parings at the Gray Monk Estate Winery and their gourmet restaurant “The Grapevine”. It was beyond fabulous! The ambiance on their terrace was like being in the Mediterranean Riviera. The evening was blissful while we sipped their Latitude 50 wine, which is excellent for cocktail hour. Once we where guided into the dinner, each course was served to us and with it was an unbelievable pairing of their finest wines. I could not even begin to describe the meal. The chiefs are award winning and their culinary skills show their every talent. Dessert was no exception and was also paired with their ice wine! There was entertainment and we had the pleasure of being seated with one of the owner’s sons who is now taking over a portion of this family business . The winery is one of the longest family owned wineries in the region, and are owned by the Heiss family. Their dedication to quality is seen and tasted in everything we have had the pleasure of experiencing. It is definitely an experience everyone should take the time to enjoy as well!

Future Spring Wine Festivals:
2010 – Apr 30-May 9
2011 – Apr 29-May 8
2012 – May 4-13
2013 – May 3-12
2014 – May 2-11
2015 – May 1-10

Additional information:
Gray Monk Estate Winery
1055 Camp Rd.
Okanagan Centre, B.C. Jul 1-Aug 31: 9am-9pm daily
Sept 1-Jun 30: 10am- 5pm daily
Jan 1-Marc 1 Closed Sundays
Grapevine Restaurant open Apr-Oct www.graymonk.com
ph: 250-766-3168