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5 simple must-try summer cocktails

Nothing beats a cool drink on a patio during a hot summer day in August. Whether you are hanging out at a restaurant with friends or inviting family to show off your beautiful backyard, having a refreshing drink on hand is critical!

Wine, beer, and even sangria are staples — but what if you want to try something a bit different that won’t hurt the bank? These five cocktails are simple and easy to make at home. They don’t require too many fancy ingredients and they are sure to impress your guests on a muggy summer afternoon. Enjoy!

Gin and tonic

Gin and Tonic: This drink is great for those who may not be particularly fond of sweet mixes. It’s also really easy to make. Simply mix one to two ounces of gin (depending on preference) with a tall glass of tonic water on ice. Slice a lime and squeeze out some of the juice into the glass and mix. Add in a slice of lime and a sprig of mint or rosemary for added class. This classic drink is especially refreshing, but doesn’t have the sweetness of a juice-based cocktail.

Mai Tai: Imagine you are on a beach, watching the sun set over a calm ocean. You may not have the beach, or the ocean, but what can have is a drink that reminds you of the tropics. Shake one and a half ounces of white rum, half an ounce of lime juice, orange Curacao, and orgeat syrup (or simple syrup with orange zest). Put in a glass with some ice and then pour three quarters of an ounce of dark rum on top to create a layered look. Top with a slice of pineapple or candied cherries.

Margarita: No need for a fancy Mexican restaurant — you can make this tasty drink yourself! Simply shake two ounces of tequila, one ounce of lime juice, and one ounce of triple sec. Pour over ice if you prefer the beverage on the rocks or blend with ice for a frozen affect. Don’t forget to rim your glass with salt!

margarita

The Parrot’s Grog: This is not as well-known as a Gin and Tonic or a Margarita, but it is equally as thirst-quenching. Combine one ounce of whisky, half an ounce of rum, one ounce of fresh grapefruit juice, half an ounce of lime juice, and half an ounce of honey. Shake all these ingredients together and put it in a glass with ice. Top with some soda water and a fancy umbrella!

Long Island Iced Tea: This is another addictive classic, but be warned — drinking too much can lead to table-top dancing! This cocktail has lots of alcohol hidden behind a little sugar. Mix half an ounce of vodka, white rum, gin, triple sec, and tequila (all the good stuff). Put one ounce of lemon juice, simple syrup, and a bit of coke. Pour it in a tall glass with lots of ice and a fancy straw.

What are your favourite summer cocktails? Let us know in the comments below!

The Toronto Islands reopen to the public.

It seems the opening of the Toronto Islands on July 31 has managed to salvage some of our summer fun. Many people have been anxiously awaiting the reopening of the Toronto Islands to the public. As of April this year, the islands were severely flooded — even in mid-June 50 per cent of the land was still underwater.

While this presented a stunning and unusual visual for photographers, many Torontonians and tourists were left seeking activities elsewhere as they dealt with the frustration of the closure.

Now that the islands have reopened, many businesses are hoping to recover from the losses endured over the first few months of summer. One example is the amusement park on Centre Island. Centreville has long been a fun family favourite for parents will small kids looking to enjoy a relaxing day with celebrated rides. Earlier in July, the owner of Centreville, Bill Beasley announced the amusement park will be selling their 110-year-old carousel ride for $3 million in an effort to sell off assets to bring in some form of revenue due to the extended closure. It is estimated the company lost over $6 million due to the flooding and this is just one of many business on the island

Now that the Islands have reopened, Women’s Post has some tips and key points to remember while visiting the Toronto Island.

  • Ferry service, recreational programs and summer camps are all reopened on the islands. Ferry tickets can be purchased online to avoid the rush at toronto.ca/ferry
  • Take your time to enjoy the beaches again! Centre Island beach, Wards Island beach and Hanlan’s Point beach will all be open and only certain areas will be closed off and due to raised water levels the beaches may appear much different this year. There are also many wading pools and splash ponds to cool off in the heat.
  • Eat some delicious grub! The Toronto Islands are home to interesting and delicious restaurants such as the Carousel Café on Centre Island, The Rectory and Island Café on Wards Island and various other food stands along the way selling small treats such as popcorn, ice cream and hot dogs. The perfect summer treats.
  • Rent a bike! Earlier this year,  it was announced the long-standing Toronto Island Bike Rental on Centre Island would close its doors, but thankfully this is not the case. Help keep this fun business going and rent some tandem bikes or quadricycles as you get in some summer fitness and leisure.
  • As a reminder, some parts of the Toronto Islands are still off limits due to flooding and this includes areas such as Olympic Island. It is wise to pay attention to signs and blocked areas to ensure your safety.

So get out there and enjoy your summer Toronto! Let us know in the comments below how you feel about the reopening of (some) of the islands.

How to return to work after a holiday

Is anyone else struggling this week? It’s hard to return back to work after a holiday or vacation, which is weird since you’d think everyone would be refreshed and ready to put their heads back in their books. You’ve had time to rest, sleep in, watch movies, and binge eat cookies. Isn’t that enough?

Not really. Most people find it really difficult to return to their work responsibilities following a holiday or vacation. Our minds just aren’t ready to process the large influx of emails on our computer or the stress of completing the project left on our desks before the holidays. It’s not time yet! Don’t worry, you can get through it. The first week will be terrible, but here are some tips to help you survive it:

Take it easy: No, this does not mean shirk your responsibilities. It simply means not to set your expectations really high. Try not to plan any big meetings or deadlines for the first few days, or at least until you get to today’s emails. Set mini-goals for yourself and take two to three short breaks throughout the day so that your mind has time to adjust to this new routine.

Don’t feel bad about admitting it’s too much: Your co-workers or boss may be all gung-ho about getting back into their routines, but when they ask you to start a new project or move up a deadline, don’t be afraid to say “I’m still catching up from last week, can I get back to you on Monday?” The first week back will be hell, so be honest with yourself and others. If you take on too much, you will get overwhelmed and start to feel anxious about going to work every day.

Remember you aren’t alone: At the same time, don’t complain to your co-workers how much you hate being back at work and how wonderful your vacation was. Chances are, they don’t want to be in the office either. Don’t pile work up on their desks.

Make sure your workspace is clean: If you are organized and your desk looks fresh and clean, you will feel a bit less anxious about all the work you have to do. It also gives you something else to do in the office wen you need a bit of a brain-break.

Create a new routine: Once you are comfortable and ready, take on a new project or start a new work routine. This will make you a little more excited to be in the office, and light a fire for creativity and productivity. Start your day off slightly differently, whether that’s changing your morning coffee, adding in a few workouts, or simply reading the newspaper — the morning will set the tone for the rest of the day. You can even start having lunch with various co-workers. Think of it like starting a new job. When everything is fresh and inventive, that’s when you work the best. You just need to figure out a way to re-create that feeling.

Plan for the next week: This week was lax, but now it’s time to get back to work. Make sure you are super organized for the following week. Be on time to every meeting, present at every deadline, and on top of all your projects, new or old! Spend some time over the weekend planning your lunches, snacks, and coming up with personal deadlines for your work.

How are you feeling about being back to work? Let us know in the comments below!

Summer’s almost over? Start planning the next one!

With summer coming to an end, you may feel the need to put on some sad background music and imagine yourself walking down the street shivering in the coming winter. But before you do — stop! It isn’t necessary to succumb to the winter blues quite yet. Sure, you may have missed your chance at going south and drinking pina coladas, but there is no need to mope. Instead, begin planning for the vacation of your dreams, to come NEXT summer!

Budgeting for a summer vacation involves planning and consistency. The sooner you begin, the better! Think of what your dream vacation will look like next summer, and start that planning. To help, here are some tips:

  1. Begin a vacation savings account

A vacation savings account is a great way to begin storing extra cash away immediately. If you set up automatic monthly payments, then money will add up in the account in no time. By keeping a separate account for your dream vacation next summer, it keeps you from spending it now. Remember not to dip into it, not even in times of emergencies! If you receive any extra cash at any point in the year (promotion, tips, bonus), it can also go into the vacation savings account. When you eventually embark on your journey, the money is also in one place so you don’t overspend. Worried about extra fees? Another option is to load all of the vacation savings onto a prepaid debit card before you embark on your journey. That way, you don’t have to deal with those pesky (and sometimes expensive) banking fees.

  1. Look for good deals

Looking ahead for great deals can help save on costs for the vacation. By researching on Groupon and other discount savings websites, you may be surprised at the great deals you can find for your dream summer destination.  This is useful for accommodation costs or events that can be otherwise pricey. If you are going with a group of friends, groupons also help everyone save money.

  1. Buy tickets ahead of time

If your vacation is overseas, buying plane tickets ahead of time is essential to cutting costs. By watching the cost of plane tickets and looking for deals, it allows you to catch the best price in plenty of time before your vacation. There are websites that supply the cost of several airlines in one consolidated spot, which makes the search for the best price much easier.

  1. Cut back on draining expenses

A part of budgeting is finding out which costs are wasteful and draining to your bank account. Cutting back on expendable purchases can help make your vacation more affordable. By printing out your bank statement and highlighting every non-essential purchase, you can see which of your expenses are wasting a lot of money and can be cut out. By monitoring these draining expenses, it helps to save money and budget for more important expenses like beautiful vacations. Another way to monitor expenses is to download a an app that allows you to see what you are spending your money on and how it contributes to your overall budget.

  1. Research cheap local favourites at your destination

Since you are planning way ahead of time, there is time to plan and research fun activities and restaurants at your destination. Explore local blogs of affordable restaurants instead of eating at expensive tourist destinations. This is a good way to cut costs when you are on the vacation. By finding free or cheap activities that are commonly done in your destination, it will help to save money. It is also a more authentic way to enjoy a place rather than by taking part in the the touristy, and often very pricey, outings.

Budgeting far ahead of your vacation is the best way to ensure you can afford it. The more time you have to save, the better off you will be. Keep these tips in mind, and don’t forgot the most important thing; have fun!

5 delicious summer patio drinks

It’s finally patio season! To the disbelief of most Canadians, the sun actually peeked out from behind the clouds this long weekend— the same clouds that gave us rain and hail the weekend before. Personally, I took advantage of this beautiful summer weather and spent most of it outside.

While some of these outdoor activities included cycling, hiking, and gardening, it also involved a number of cold frothy beverages. Let’s face it — there is nothing more appealing than a cold beer on a patio on a hot summer day.

Sadly, inhaling beer on a regular basis can be a bit harsh on the digestive system. If you, like me, are getting tired of ordering whatever is on tap this summer, take a look at some of these delicious and light summer patio options:

 

white wine

White wine spritzers: This is one of my favourite things to order on a hot summer day. I’m a big fan of wine, but I find it a bit heavy with a light meal. A spritzer is a combination of white wine and carbonated tonic water. This gives the beverage a slightly sweeter taste and adds some bubbly texture. It’s very light and is half the calories of a regular glass of wine!

Ciders: If you aren’t a big beer person, a cider may be the perfect option. They are typically sweeter than the typical hoppy beer and contain hints of fruit (apple or grapefruit is my favourite). There are a number of local breweries across Canada that specializes in these beverages and each one offers their own twist. They range from being lightly sweetened to tasting a bit like juice.

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Photo by Personal Creations.

Mojito: Made of white rum, sugar, lime juice, sparkling water, and mint, mojitos are dangerous drinks. The lime cuts through the sweetness and it may seem like you are just drinking a refreshing minty lemonade. Be warned: consuming too many mojitos may impair your thinking.

Ceasar: This drink is not as light as the others, but it is refreshing on a hot day. Make it with tomato juice, vodka, hot sauce, and Worcestershire sauce to taste. I’m partial to making it with gin instead of vodka. Serve with celery — does anyone know why we serve it with celery? Either way, it’s a great drink to have with appetizers like chicken wings. You can also count it as a serving of vegetables, which is a plus!

margarita-415360_960_720

Margarita/daiquiri: I love blended drinks! There is absolutely nothing more relaxing than a cold, frosty, iced beverage. The delicious blend of tequila and lime, or mango and rum is life-changing. The unfortunate part is that it is jam-packed with sugars. If you choose to go this route, make sure you are at a restaurant or bar that makes them well. This is not a drink you want to order from a pub with cheap alcohol.

Bonus drink!

H20: Don’t forget to hydrate!!! It’s easy to get carried away with all of these delicious alcoholic options. If the weather is particularly hot, make sure to alternate between water and alcoholic beverages to ensure you don’t become dehydrated.

What’s your favourite patio beverage? Let us know in the comments below! 

Villa Arches in Sint. Maarten

St. Martin or Sint. Maarten is the smallest island in the world to have two different countries each governing one half. The north side of the island is French, while the south side is Dutch. Our villa, Villa Arches, is on the Dutch side,  just south of the French border in Dawn Beach.

The villa is perched on the east side of a mountain and has a wonderful view of dawn beach and the morning sunrise. With warm red italian tiles and wide doors open to let in the cool breezes from the ocean, it is a terrific spot to watch the large boats come in to anchor in the protected cove far below, and also take in some sun and a swim in a good-sized pool.

The villa is well stocked with pots and pans, a coffee maker, and utensils and, unlike a lot of islands, the wifi and electricity was reliable and never went out during our stay.

We had dinner at “Big Fish” a fantastic seafood restaurant in Oyster Pond right beside Dawn Beach. The restaurant is owned by Teresa and Mike Wilson, a terrific couple from Toronto – who started the Fox and Fiddle chain of restaurants. Their sushi chef was terrific, but so too was the snapper, shrimp dinner and passionfruit sorbet. It’s a must visit when in St. Martin.

We drove around the island and stopped at a couple of beaches – Friars Bay, Le Gallion – which were too crowded for our liking. We read about Happy Bay beach, which is a short hike north of Friars bay, and were delighted to find it after a wonderful walk along the coast.

We had lunch in Grand Case and ate at a beach bar with an amazing chef. The beach is narrow with restaurants built right up against it. The only drawback was that it lacked beach chairs, so it is not a great place to take elderly visitors – although the kids enjoyed it.

The butterfly farm is a great place to visit on a sunny day and the market in Marigot (French side) and Phillipsburg (Dutch)- filled with colourful wraps, bags and jewelry were filled with activity.

Photo by Sarah Thomson
Photo by Sarah Thomson

Villa Arches is conveniently located so that excursions around the island didn’t take more than 30 minutes and it was nice leave the bustle of Marigot and come home to a quiet villa with the sound of waves breaking on the shore far below.

The only negative draw back is for those who must get sun –  the villa is tucked onto the east side of the mountain so by 4 p.m. the sun is blocked by the mountain, making late afternoon sun tanning impossible. But, we found that by that time in the day we’d had enough sun that it was rarely missed and the warm breezes with a cocktail sitting out on the deck more than made up for the lack of sun.

Wherever we go, I find it is the people who make or break a vacation. We rented a car from Dollar-Thrifty SXM and unfortunately had a tire blow out on the road. They were terrific people and delivered a new car to our villa. While we waited on the side of the road for our taxi to arrive – numerous locals stopped to make sure we were okay and offer help. The locals are terrific.

The only negative attitudes we experienced during our trip came from the people representing the Westin Resort at Dawn Beach. We were flagged down by two of their sales people – they were friendly but wanted us to scratch some tickets to win a prize once we had taken a 90 minute tour of the Westin Dawn Beach and learned about their fractional ownership units. The sales people warned us that other staff might try to take their commission so we should hold on to our scratch tickets and we could win a stay at the resort, an Ipad, or a$1000. We received two sets of cards – two weren’t winners and two were. But the prize was a stay for four at the Westin Dawn beach that could not be used in the week that they are issued. They were also non-transferrable.

The Westin Resort at Dawn Beach is just down the hill from Villa Arches and I wanted to check out their beach to see if my mother could swim there. I also wanted to check out their service, thinking that if they had to sell fractional ownership it might be abysmal. Customer service is so easy, but can be completely messed up if the staff don’t feel encouraged or supported. We poked around and found the restaurant and beach practically empty. I decided to talk to a supervisor about getting a day pass to review the resort.  When I spoke to him to see if we might purchase a day pass in order to review the resort, he claimed they were completely sold out. I told him the place was practically empty, but all he did was shrug. So we decided to ignore him and use the beach facilities anyway.

The beach chairs were mostly empty and the waves were pretty rough, but we had a nice swim and left without anyone the wiser. What irked me most was that the supervisor refused us access to review the resort while, at the same time, they are paying people to go out and lure possible customers into the resort. Terrible management and customer service. If a resort like the Westin at Dawn Beach has to sell fractional ownership  then they obviously aren’t providing the highest possible service at the best possible price.

Instead of luring people to the resort with “scratch tickets,” simply try welcoming everyone who walks through the door, offering them a free drink at the beach bar, and enticing them to come back everyday and spend money at the restaurants, on beach chairs, and towels — giving them great service the entire time. It’s much more likely their next stay will be with you. Instead the Westin Dawn Beach gave the impression they were trying to be an “elite” club while behind the doors the room was empty.

I highly recommend spending $3500 and renting Villa Arches for a week – where the customer service from the owner far exceeded anything the Westin Dawn Beach can offer!

 

The Fountain residence – Anguilla

Warm breezes greet you as you exit the airport in St. Martin, add in a short 20-minute ferry ride and you will reach the white sand beachs and aqua-blue waters of Anguilla — pronounced AN-GWILL-A. We drove (on the left hand side of the road) from Blowing Point, the southern tip  of the island, up the main road to Shoal Bay on the north east side. The road was dotted with small homes, with free range goats and chickens everywhere.  The island is relatively flat, but the roads curved around small hills with beautiful ocean views visible with each turn. Once we reach the main turn off to Shoal Bay, the larger villas and hotels start to appear, followed by a beautiful view of the white sand and amazing blue water.

Fountain residences is located at the southern end of Shoal Bay Beach. There are two complexes, each with beautiful landscaping. The only difference was the view: one had an open ocean view and the other behind it was limited to a pool view. There is a hill to the west that blocks out  the sunset, but we were able to see the waves breaking on the shoal far out in the bay. It’s a short walk down a path to the white sand beach of Shoal Bay.

Our two bedroom unit was clean and furnished nicely with teak and wood trim. The appliances are new and our concierge, Whitney, was a terrific help. She purchased groceries and stocked our fridge for our arrival. Her advice on the best restaurants on the island was excellent. The villa; however, wasn’t truly big enough for six people. We found the sitting area on the deck outside a bit small for all of us, with only four chairs around the dining room table the space was limited. We had to ask the staff for chairs so that all six of us could sit around the table.

The windows lacked screens – this is a pet peeve of mine. I don’t  want to fly south and stay close to the ocean just to shut all the windows and blast the air conditioning. I’m not alone in wanting to have the windows open, but there were too many mosquito’s to do this without screens. This meant we had to leave the screendoors open all night, which made us a bit uncomfortable. It may be a small detail, but towel racks on the outside decks to hang up wet bathing suits are also needed.

The manager of the residences was extremely friendly – giving us access to the barbecue, extra dining chairs, and a free bottle of wine that we enjoyed immensely! The cleaners come everyday and were friendly and kind, providing us with extra towels and frying pans when needed. Given the location close to the beach I suggest they mop the floors daily as the sand fleas tracked in from the beach dotted our legs with bites.

Crocus Bay Beach.
Crocus Bay Beach.

Anguilla is a beach destination. Most of the beaches have restaurants with beach chairs out front. Crocus Hill Beach is by far the best for anyone wanting a calm peaceful swim in a protected bay. Da’Vida restaurant and its neighbouring beach bar occupy most of the beach and their food was exceptional. We stayed and watched the large sail boats come in during the afternoon, and rented some paddle boards to venture around the point to paddle through caves filled with birds. Small manta rays floating under the boat dock entertained the kids for hours.

Unfortunately, the Fountain Residences don’t supply beach chairs, but they suggest you hike to the other end of the beach where there are chairs to rent ($10U.S./day) at the Merriman Beach Bar. I’d recommend they invest in a few chairs and sun umbrellas, as it was impossible for my elderly mother to make the hike all the way down the beach. But, if you like playing in the waves and body surfing – Shoal Bay Beach is the place to go.

Anguilla has art galleries around every corner and a lot of very good restaurants – Cafe De Paris in the west end is a must for chocolate croissants.

We visited and swam at dozens of  perfect white sand beaches, surrounded by aqua-blue water. If it is a beach vacation you are after, Anguilla is the island for you!

Caille Blanc, St. Lucia

The birds wake you in the morning as the sun rises, a soft breeze passes through the shutters and I understand now why there isn’t any glass in the windows. This is the way to wake up in St. Lucia.

We are staying in the southern area of Soufriere, up high on a mountain overlooking the Pitons and the Caribbean. At night when the birds go to sleep you can hear the waves crashing on the rocks far below, during the day when the sun is high the bugs seem to take over the air waves but they haven’t come out of their hiding yet. Our boys are sleeping without misquito nets and haven’t had a bite yet.

The rain comes often in short, light mist and then disappears with the sun drying up everything in a few minutes.

The hummingbirds are everywhere, with gold finches, morning doves and songbirds that I can’t name.

The villa has an Italian/Spanish flare to it, and with the mountains so close it feels a little like Italy and Costa Rica rolled into one.

The gardner comes at 7 a.m. and I can hear his brooms sweeping the leaves off the front step. My son rushes out to help him feed the gold fish in the small fish pond beside the kitchen gazebo. At nine the chef comes to make us breakfast, she prepares dinner leaving it for us to cook. My husband and I like to make dinner together so it works out perfectly.

Yesterday we walked down the road to the beach, it was hot and beautiful. I dream about building a place like this with our boys in another few years…

If you are planning a vacation this is a beautiful place to relax and you can book it here: http://www.vrbo.com/289848 

South Korea’s bizarre land of love

It’s funny living in a foreign country for so long, your once narrow-minded definition of ‘normal’ starts to unravel and you lose a sense of normality to some degree. Of course, each culture has its own set of rules and standards and it’s only natural to compare one’s foreign culture with your own. However, after time you start to forget what you used to think was ‘acceptable’ or ‘unacceptable,’ ‘reasonable’ or ‘unreasonable’ and you find yourself questioning the random and mundane obstacles you face every day.

It’s hard to remember my first impressions of South Korea, but one of the first memories I can recall was stepping off the plane almost two years ago and seeing a couple dressed exactly the same head-to-toe. I tried to come up with an explanation for this bizarre sight, but my life’s experience just didn’t have one. After only a few months, I figured out this absurdity was really as absurd as I thought. Korean couples actually enjoy, and are somewhat praised for, dressing identically in public. Their uniform proves to others that they are ‘going steady’ and are taking their relationship to a whole new level. This cultural dress code is known as ‘couple sets.’ Clearly, a bit more in your face than exchanging rings or updating your Facebook status, as is the custom in certain western societies.

In Korea, relationships are praised and envied by others. Stores around the city sell these eminent ‘couple set’ matching outfits. There are also restaurant ‘couple-set menus’ where for one price, you can order a meal for two. It is evident that South Korea takes pride in catering to couples young and old and in a very obvious way.

Tying the knot at a young age is highly desirable in Korean culture. A handful Korean’s live with their parents until they marry and since a large number of people have settled in apartments rather than houses, sharing rooms with family members is very common. As a result, there are a variety of ‘love motels’ that surround the country. A love motel is a cheap stay for lovers to spend some alone time together, either by the hour or overnight. Love motels are a distinctive part of Korea’s ‘love’ culture and are also economically alluring for travelers.

Last summer, some friends and I travelled to the east coast of Korea, where we stumbled upon an outdoor museum called “Love Land.” I can’t recall a more bizarre theme park in all my travels. The grounds are decorated with large (and not so large) phallus statues, along with sculptures of humans, presented in erotic sexual positions. Although the idea of love is a prominent concept in the minds of Korean people, the park itself portrays a heavy focus on sex which is taboo in most Asian countries. I would highly recommend it for some awkward moments and a good laugh.

As a Westerner living in a foreign country, sometimes it’s just best to appreciate where you are, revel in the culture and learn from it, even though it may be far different from what you’ve ever experienced before.

A renowned Korean, martial arts philosopher, Master jin Kwon, in many ways summed it up best: “Remove the roadblocks when you see them, otherwise you will have to climb a high mountain.”

Follow Gillian on Twitter at @GillyFarb.

Follow Women’s Post on Twitter at @WomensPost.

All inclusive vs. a la carte vacations: A lesson learned

by Nicole Duquette

Corona’s advertisers got it just right. My own personal Corona commercial was what I had in mind when taking off for my last vacation. Two big chairs, warm sun, cool ocean, and a white sand beach that’s deserted except for one waitress who is conveniently there whenever the beer is running low. But, that wasn’t exactly what I got. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not complaining about a sunny week on the beach, but the all-inclusive experience simply did not fulfill my ultimate vacation fantasy.

The biggest discrepancy between my mental image of the vacation, and the real thing was that the beach and pools were anything but deserted. We were met by an astounding 3,000 fellow hotel guests. My first thought upon being confronted with the mob of sun worshippers was, “We should have gone to Europe.” At least in Europe, if there’s a mob it’s a mob observing great historical monuments, and discovering rich cultures. But, European vacations (or any non-all-inclusive vacation for that matter) are not all that relaxing.

Á la carte vacations, ones where you control the entire itinerary and pay for everything are great adventures, but they can also be hectic. Racing to catch buses, trains, boats, and planes adds stress to what was supposed to be a stress-free vacation. Not to mention, navigating language barriers, waiting in line-ups that are bigger than the attractions themselves, and finding out your hotel is really a hostel can quickly cause blood pressures to rise. When nothing goes wrong á la carte vacations are dreams of wine, cheese, and riverside strolls come true, but when does nothing go wrong?

As great as á la carte vacations can be, this time around relaxation was my main goal, so an all-inclusive southern vacation was the obvious choice. Even though there were more party people than leisure seekers, we did find what we were looking for. After a walk around the entire resort, we discovered a second pool where the music was soothing rather than blaring, and the ratio of children to adults was significantly decreased. We parked ourselves there for most of the week, and let the tensions of home melt away.

By the end of the trip, I no longer regretted not planning an á la carte European vacation – we can always do that next time (I still think they are fun – busy, and fun). But, this time I still would have preferred a smaller, adults-only resort, so lesson learned: research the size and atmosphere of the resort, not just how many swim-up bars there are. Or, maybe next time I’ll just call Corona’s advertisers and ask where their private beach is.