Travel Smart

 

Americans Book the Canadian Way

Recent bookings at Canadian tour operators and travel agencies reveal a quietly emerging trend: more Americans than ever before are booking travel through Canadian sources, says Martha Chapman, Manager of Corporate Communications for Signature Vacations. "The fact that you can book travel to far-flung destinations with a Canadian company, paying in Canadian funds, is one of the best kept secrets in the travel industry.

"For several years now, Americans - notably those living in border states - figured out that they could book direct, usually non-stop, charter flights to many destinations in Mexico and the Caribbean, while saving time and money. This past winter, for example, savings were US $1600 per couple for a package that included a connecting flight from New York to Toronto, our direct flight to Grenada, and a stay at a 4 star all-inclusive resort on the island."

This summer, the travel packages to Europe offer similar saving. "Signature's new Britain and Europe a la carte program offers a huge list of options which may be booked individually or as parts of an itinerary. Components include direct flights from Vancouver, Toronto, Montreal and several other major Canadian cities to Britain and Europe. Destinations range from ever-popular cities, like London - available with dayliner flights from Toronto - to destinations, like Warsaw, Poland and Malaga, Spain. Some rates are as low as C $519 round-trip - about US $345."

As for land programs, savvy travelers are saving by booking just about everything in advance from this side of the pond (as the Brits say), with flexibility to boot. Martha Chapman notes particular items that are best booked before you go: "Rental cars; rail passes and tickets, including EuroStar through the Chunnel; and motorcoach tours." Among Signature's offerings are the City Packs, to European cities including Paris, Amsterdam, London, Edinburgh, Dublin, Belfast, 5 cities in Germany and 3 cities in southern Spain. The City Packs, which include two nights at a downtown hotel plus a city tour and airport transfers, allow travelers the options of adding on day trips to major attractions, for example: from London to Stonehenge and Bath; from Paris to Versailles. Travelers who prefer to detour on a whim may prefer the flexibility of Signature's "Go As You Please" program. It includes accommodation vouchers, prepaid in Canadian dollars, for an array of hotels from friendly Bed & Breakfasts in Britain to first-class properties in Germany to the impressive Manors & Mansions collection of 200 distinctive properties in England, Scotland and Wales, ranging from old vicarages to historic 12th century castles. The Mansions & Manors program runs about C$99. Or US $65. per night, including breakfast.

Interestingly, when it comes to destinations or cruises that are traditionally "off-limits" to Americans, motivated travelers are bypassing U.S. restrictions by booking through Canada and traveling through another "legal" city.

For example, a host of Canadian tour wholesalers - including Sunquest, Alba Tours, Signature and Air Canada Vacations - offer packages to Cuba, most often originating in Toronto. Jill Wykes, Manger of Corporate Communications for Sunquest and Alba Tours, notes, "We have many Americans booking our packages through both U.S. and Canadian travel agents because they cannot visit Cuba from the U.S."

Facilitating such accessibility seems to be the driving factor behind a new cruising program being launched by Blyth & Company, a Toronto-based travel agency. A recent press release announced that the company is "facilitating" the Cuba Cruise Corporation's four and five day cruises from Nassau to Havana, beginning November 2000. Apparently, in light of the U.S. legal requirements, unlicensed American citizens will be able to participate, without violating U.S. law, provided that they observe certain requirements, including that their Cuban expenses will be paid by a separate organization (most likely one promoting international peace and understanding through people-to-people contact).

Details:
Sunquest and Alba Tours: www.sunquest.ca
Air Canada vacations: www.aircanadavacations.com
Cuba Cruise, Blyth & Company: 800-387-1387
Cuba Cruise Website: www.cubacruising.com

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