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Travel

Mexico or Bust!

I recently returned from a fantastic vacation to Puerto Vallarta with my wonderful wife, brother-in-law and sister-in-law. Back in October I had been looking online for somewhere tropical with a well reviewed 4 or 5 star hotel. We wanted to go for more than a week but not two weeks so that made using the pre-packaged vacation online difficult. With the US and Canadian dollars at par and prices often lower from American departure points, I did consider a flight leaving from Bellingham or Seattle  given our proximity to both but in the end decided that with all the snow expected I didn’t want to take a chance of having to drive the I-5 in a snowstorm.

For me, the hunt for a great deal always begins on the internet. The number of websites that are available seems to be endless these days. Travelocity.ca, Itravel2000.com, expedia.ca, Bookit.com, Travelbestbests.com, Cheapflights.ca, Selloffvacations.com, Priceline.com, Westjetvacations.com, Flightcentre.ca, Searstravel.ca and the list goes on! I literally spent hours on each of them comparing prices, reading hotel reviews and watching for price drops. I tend to spend ridiculous amounts of time online doing my research before any large purchase. My house, My car, my TV everything! Every single time it has paid off.

Based on reviews that I had read on www.tripadvisor.com I got my heart set on The Riu Palace Pacifico in Nuevo Vallarta but it was at the high end of what we wanted to spend so I continued to shop around. At the time it was rated the #3 “Best places to stay in Nuevo Vallarta”. It is listed as a 4 star hotel on TripAdvisor but based on the traveler reviews it was a 4.5-5 based on over 500+ contributions . This is always something I look for in reviews; a hotel that scores a higher traveler rating than it has listed as on the host website.  – To date there is no globally recognized star rating system, so many hotels and sites that sell packages will rate their hotels higher than they should be, thus making sites that review websites with no affiliation a more accurate assessment.

I did some research and learned that West Jet flew direct out of Vancouver to Puerto Vallarta  a couple days a week. I figured I would decide on the days that I wanted to fly, build my own vacation package and then change the flights to Westjet. Day after day I popped on to check prices at the various sites and on Hallowe’en night I remembered seeing that many of the web prices were “valid though October 31st” so I stayed up late and had a peak for changes at midnight. I was on the Travelocity website looking at the Riu prior to midnight and refreshed it at 12:01am. I was shocked at what happened when I did that. I watched the price of our 10 day, 9 night package drop by just shy of $1000! I couldn’t believe my eyes. I immediately booked it for all 4 of us without even conferring with my brother and sister-in-law. It was that good! When I woke up the next morning I checked back on the price on Travelocity and it had been changed back to roughly what it had been for months before. I had just lucked out big time!

The hotel itself was amazing and everything we had dreamed it would be. If you are ever considering a trip to Puerto Vallarta without your kids I highly recommend staying here but shop around the price! After speaking with a number of people there, I really did get a great deal. I did my own hotel review on Tripadvisor for the Riu Palace Pacifico and you can read it here.

Using the Tripadvisor site for “Things to do”, I also found a couple great excursions as well. We went zip lining with Vallarta Adventures and spent a day ATVing with Unique ATV which I also reviewed here.

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Review Blue – Make $5 just by writing a review

I have become a big fan of reading reviews for everything online before I make a purchase. There are so many websites out there that you can share your opinion on. I use www.tripadvisor.com a lot when I travel for hotel reviews and to find good restaurants and activities in the destination I am headed to. I have written reviews for them in the past. I also use www.cnet.com for all the gadgets I am looking to buy and for anything else, a quick search on Google will always direct you to a forum where you can read reviews on everything from socks, to fitness equipment to cookware. Anyone can log in and share their thoughts. But you don’t often get paid for doing so.

www.reviewblue.com is a website that actually pays you to write reviews. All you need to do is open an account, fill in where you want your payments made and start reviewing. I have written 10 reviews so far and made $50! Simply keep your receipt from either a hotel overnight stay or a meal out at a restaurant where you at least had an entrée, write your review scan in your receipt and submit. Once you have 5 reviews they will deposit $25 into your account. The crazy part is that the review itself only needs to be “more than one sentence in length” You can only review a particular restaurant once unless it is the same brand but a different location.

So when you go out for dinner tuck away the receipt after jotting down a couple of points from your experience. Then when you get 5, sit down and write them up. I did 5 reviews in an hour and got $25 for it. Not bad for sharing your opinion.