Bereavement Rates on Westjet

I posted quite a while back on the strategy we used to ensure our pre-2 year old was left with a full seat during those two years when he was able to travel as a lap infant.

This post is one for those unforunate times when you might have to travel due to the loss of a family member. We recently found ourselves flying across Canada more than once in a short period of time due to illness, and unfortunately, ultimately the death of a close family member. Under the stress of the time we didn’t think to look into the options available to reduce the cost of this travel under such a circumstance. Westjet does offer bereavement fares and I wanted to call out a couple notes to share our experience.

1. Westjet bereavement fares don’t necessarily translate to a reduced fare price. If you have enough advanced notice to benefit from the lowest, or middle fare tranche you’re unlikely to get a discount on the price of the ticket. That said, by contacting Westjet and arranging for a bereavement ticket you will be provided with additional flexibility than you would have with a standard ticket. It was my experience that the bereavement fare ticket was priced at the same pricepoint as the middle tier tickets.

2. If you’re booking last minute and find yourself with only the most costly fare option available to you then calling Westjet for a bereavement fare ticket is definitely worthwhile. Not only will you gain the flexibility that goes along with the bereavement ticket, but you’ll find that Westjet will provide a discount on the ticket price itself.

3. If you forget to book a bereavement ticket, or weren’t aware at the time of booking you can contact Westjet and they will apply the benefit after the fact. For example, my wife and son joined me as I’d flown earlier to our destination. They booked day before and so paid the full fare price. We called Westjet several hours later and explained that our travel was due to a death in the family and they graciously revised their ticket to a bereavement fare, with the only cost being that they were reseated from their priority seats to positions further back in the plane. Definitely worth it so save almost $500 across two tickets.

I hope someone out there finds this helpful, because worrying about cost is the last thing you need when dealing with the death of a loved one.

Traveling With A Toddler. Crazy Seat Prices Over 2 Years Old

Ok, so our toddler is over 2 years old and we’ve benefited several times from the ‘lap infant’ policy of most airlines in the past. What’s got me is that this holiday two things have changed.

1. Our little guys, as stated above, is now over 2 years old and so no longer qualifies to be a lap infant. This despite the fact that I doubt he’ll sit in his seat for more than take-off and landing.
2. This year airfares in Canada are CRAZY!!! 3 people (2 adults, one toddler) flying from the west coast to Toronto totals almost $3,000. THREE THOUSAND DOLLARS.

This year we’re lucky and I was able to book our flights on points, but it wasn’t easy. The number of points required was higher than normal, and our program’s ‘partner airlines’ had conveniently blacked out the entire holiday season such that we weren’t able to get a direct flight and have to ping-pong through Chicago of all places (praying for no holiday snowstorms).

All this despite having booked a couple months in advance. Good times.

What makes it all the more frustrating is that a couple weeks ago I booked a work flight 5 days in advance that saw me bounce from Western Canada, to Salt Lake City, then to Silicon Valley then back to Canada and the entire trip cost less than $700. 5 days in advance.

Dear airlines. Please note that unless fares change this is likely to be the last holiday flight east for us for a long while. Further, it might help to ease the irritation if you didn’t have a UI that suggested that there would be some discount for children when there’s not. It’s very irritating to specify the number of adults, then the number of children and then be prompted what what age (greater than 2) the child is when there’s no change in fee. Might as well just ask how many passengers over 2 and be done with it, then allow the purchaser to confirm that there are adults with the group.

So irritated.

Vacationing With a Toddler – Maui, Hawaii Version. Maui Activities.

See also

Part 1. Vacationing With a Toddler, Maui Version. Choosing a Location.

Part 2. Vacationing With a Toddler, Maui Version. Shopping and Restaurants.

Places We Chose to Visit

Beaches and Snorkeling

We tried a number of beaches during our stay from Big Beach to the south to the hotel beaches at Ka’anapali and they were broadly excellent. General comments:
– If you’re taking your cameras make sure you have a sand-proof, water proof bag or container to hold it. When the winds pick up sand gets in EVERYTHING. Additionally, while we didn’t experience it we heard tell of rogue waves rushing up on the beach and surprising people and their belongings. Better safe than sorry.
– Ask around about the trade winds. Maui beaches with low wind are wonderful. Maui beaches when the winds arrive are hard to bear.
– We didn’t bring any children’s toys at the recommendation of friends. We’d recommend you do the same. Save the luggage space as the condo you rent will almost certainly have all the toys you need from prior families.
– Snorkeling gear. We rented our snorkeling gear from Boss Frogs for ~$30.00/week for each of us. Totally worth it so you have gear with you where ever you find yourself. Boss Frogs is located all over the place and you can rent from one location and return to which ever is most convenient at the time (we rented in Ka-anapali and returned in Kihei). My only issue with them is the attempts to upsell on tourist packages when all you want to do is rent a snorkel, mask and fins.

You can search for Maui rentals at VacationHomeRentals.com
Vacation Home Rentals

 

Ka’anapali
Ka’anapali beaches were nice in that they were accessible to people not staying at the various hotels, were very clean and offered easy, pleasant swimming. The one issue we had while visiting was that we arrived at roughly the same time as the trade winds, and with the absence of any kind of wind break we were sand-whipped to the point that we had to leave the beach.

Kamaole Beach I, II and III

Big Beach
We drove south to Big Beach early in our vacation and on one of the hottest days of our stay. I suggest that you arrive early in order to secure a parking spot, and that you bring sandals as you won’t want to walk across the sand or the asphalt later in the day. The heat is remarkable.

The beach itself is long and ‘deep’ with a great deal of space between tide and vegetation. Shortly after we arrived the lifeguards got on the horn and made sure that everyone was aware that a) the waves were up that day and were easily strong enough to knock an adult down, b) there was a strong undertow and c) unless you were very comfortable in such waters you should probably stay out… Their warnings were quickly justified as a group of teens jogged into the surf and were quickly taught a lesson before eventually struggling beyond the break to calmer waters.

Finally, we observed our first ‘rogue wave’ while at Big Beach and several families who were many, many feet from the high water mark found themselves scrambling to grab their belongings when the tide quickly surrounded them and then quickly backed off again.

In short, this is a great beach for time on the sand, but probably not the ideal place for a toddler who enjoys playing in the water.

See also

Part 1. Vacationing With a Toddler, Maui Version. Choosing a Location.

Part 2. Vacationing With a Toddler, Maui Version. Shopping and Restaurants.

You can search for Maui rentals at VacationHomeRentals.com
Vacation Home Rentals

 

Vacationing With a Toddler – Maui, Hawaii Version. Shopping & Restaurants.

See also

Part 1. Vacationing With a Toddler, Maui Version. Choosing a Location.

Part 3. Vacationing With a Toddler, Maui Version. Maui Activities.

Shopping While in Kihei and Beyond

We did very little actually ‘shopping’ while on this vacation. Shopping in Kihei for us consisted of meals and food shopping to prepare back at Kamaole Sands. That said, here are a few items worth sharing for folks planning on visiting Kihei.

First, food (actually, pretty much everything) is more expensive in Hawaii. We did our food shopping in one of two places during our stay. Foodland, located on South Kihei wasn’t walking distance, but it was an easy drive from our condo. If you shop at Foodland be sure to ‘register’ for discounts. Like Safeway and many other grocers Foodland has a members program that provides discounts off the posted price. Registration is easy as you just give them a phone number which becomes your account ID. On subsequent visits just give them that number and you’ll be provided with the discount. It’ll save you a bunch over the course of a week or two. If you prefer Safeway, its found just a few blocks from Foodland and we found the prices to be a bit better, but not enough to say that one should be chosen over another.

We cooked most of our meals in the condo, which was much easier than restaurants with the little guy. That said, we did visit a number of spots during our stay. Some of them I’ll outline here.

You can search for Maui rentals at VacationHomeRentals.com
Vacation Home Rentals

 

Star Noodle, Lahaina. I can safely say that Star Noodle was the best restaurant we visited while in Maui. I expect the menu changes frequently, but we found the following items particularly tasty. Star Noodle’s take on Pork Buns (almost like a pork wrap with the pork being single large pieces of what I believe was pork belly). Brussels sprouts (halved brussels sprouts seared in what we guessed was bacon fat -yum- and tossed with smokey bacon pieces). Ahi Tuna special (market price) that was easily large enough to feed two people. There were numerous tables with children while we were there, but we went solo that evening so I can’t really comment in detail on how child-friendly the location and service would be. Much of the food would be challenging for a young child.

Paia Fish Market, Paia We stumbled across this place while walking through tiny Paia and enjoyed some excellent fish tacos, quesadilla and salads all at (for Maui) a pretty reasonable price. They had a couple high chairs, but I don’t think there were more than 2 so get there at a low time if you want to ensure appropriate seating. The spot’s noisy and located on a street corner with its large doors open which turned out to be a blessing for us as our little guy will happily watch traffic while we talk.

Sansei Sushi, Kihei Sansei came recommended by some friends and was well-reviewed on Yelp. I would recommend it as an option for dinner as the sushi is pretty good, though no where near the best I’ve had. I’m a sushi purist, so when I see things like panko-breaded ahi tuna rolls I tend to take issue. Note that this was ordered and the first couple pieces were good, but I can’t imagine eating a full roll, same with the broiled scallop nigiri that was recommended by the server. Don’t order this unless you like broiled processed cheese more than you like scallop.

Their sunemono was different from what I’m used to as it didn’t include rice noodles, but had an ample portion of sliced cucumber. Different from the norm, but a pleasant change. I chose octopus, which was fresh, but small-portioned. The unagi roll was delicious and Sansei’s agedashi tofu was nicely prepared with a very light, crispy batter.

Maui Tacos, Kihei
You’ll soon notice that Maui Tacos is EVERYWHERE including walking distance from Kamaole Sands. We tried them on a couple of occasions when we just wanted something quick and easily portable to the beach for example. The food was fine, but nothing to strongly recommend. On one occasion the fish tacos we ordered were way too salty. Would I recommend it? No. Would I warn against it? No. Maui Tacos is convenient and available where and when you need it.

Fred’s Mexican Cafe, Kihei
Casual ‘Mexican’ fare from this restaurant, which is an easy walk from Kamaole Sands. Show up in your bathing suit, eat and cross the street back to the beach. The portions are absolutely enormous, making this an easy way to fill up through the day. Drinks too are sizeable and well-priced and the servers are friendly and fun. Again, not haute cuisine by any stretch, but worth a visit for the large portions and fun atmosphere. There’s also a bar area upstairs that I think serves as a rallying point on the weekends.

Three’s Bar and Grill, Kihei
We stumbled on this place on our own. Three’s Bar is just off South Kihei Road and we weren’t sure what to expect. When we arrived half of the inside space was occupied by a children’s birthday party which had me skeptical at best. Fortunately there was a clear distinction between the different eating areas and we were able to enjoy our lunch with little disruption. The food was excellent and I’d recommend this spot for lunch to anyone visiting the area. The garlic fries in particular are worth a try :)

Mother’s Day Buffet, Sheraton, Ka’anapali
Holy crap was this ever a waste of money. Ka’anapali itself is worth a visit and will take about 45-50 minutes driving from Kihei. The area is where you’ll find the higher-end, name brand hotels (Westin, Sheraton, Four Seasons etc) vs. the condo resorts and independents that comprise Kihei, along with the shopping one comes to expect with these brands and price points. For Mother’s day we made the drive and had reservations at the Sheraton. Now, I don’t expect much from these kinds of buffets, but this one was very disappointing. The price for 3 adults came to roughly $55 per head for a brunch that was notable for nothing in particular. Avoid, your money is better spent elsewhere (unless of course money isn’t a consideration for you and you’re already near, or staying at the Sheraton in which case the only concern will be quality).

See also

Part 1. Vacationing With a Toddler, Maui Version. Choosing a Location.

Part 3. Vacationing With a Toddler, Maui Version. Maui Activities.

You can search for Maui rentals at VacationHomeRentals.com
Vacation Home Rentals

 

Vacationing With a Toddler – Maui, Hawaii Version

See also

Part 2. Vacationing With a Toddler, Maui Version. Shopping and Restaurants.

Part 3. Vacationing With a Toddler, Maui Version. Maui Activities.

The Choice of Location. Kihei, Maui, Hawaii

We decided on Hawaii given that a) we live on the west coast and b) recent trip to the Caribbean was an ordeal taking 3 days to get from home to our selected island. Admittedly it would normally take 2 days to make the trip, but we were delayed in Antigua adding an additional 12 hours and some serious GI issues from the dinner provided by LIAT.

We decided on Maui given that a number of friends with children seemed to settle on Maui over the other Hawaiian islands. No need to break from what seems to work for others. In fairness, in absence of the little one we’d likely have selected Kauai given the available activities, but those freedoms are gone.

We decided on Kihei similarly, as for our circle of friends visiting Maui few have the means to stay in the Napili / Kaanapali area for any length of time.

We decided on Kamaole Sands because a close friend had stayed there with their children and had good things to stay.

You can search for Maui rentals at VacationHomeRentals.com
Vacation Home Rentals

 

The Choice of Accommodation. Kamaole Sands, Kihei, Maui, Hawaii

Located across the road from Kamaole Beach III and park, Kamaole Sands is a complex comprised of ~10 discrete buildings, each 4 stories tall with each floor having a number of condo units. Units range from 1 through 3 bedroom (so far as I’m aware) and may span a single, or two levels. In our case we had a 2 bedroom, 2 bath unit that was well-appointed with a queen bed in the master and 2 twins in the second bedroom, open kitchen, 60″ wall-mounted cable TV, hi-speed internet with wifi, safe, washer / dryer, linens etc. We were located on the second floor with a small balcony large enough for a table and 4 chairs.

The size of the unit and amenities were great, but if we were to do it again (and I’m quite certain we will) we would rent for a specific building as they are arranged around a central green space which also houses the pool and other amenities. There are two rows of buildings arranged in this pattern with the buildings around the pool enjoying better views (green space, pool, sunsets etc) and those on the outside having a very small green space to the outside of the complex, bounded by road / lanes. A ground floor suite in the first ring would allow children to run directly from the condo to the open area.

The complex itself offers a number of barbecue areas on a first-come first-served basis that are very well maintained and cleaned on a daily basis. The grounds offer ample green space for kids to run, some water features, tennis courts, a pool area with a children’s pool (2′ depth) and 2 hot tubs, small fitness room, table tennis, foosball and a lending library.

Oh, there’s also a sizeable mango tree across from building 8 that gifted us with several mangos during our stay and a mature papaya tree near the pool that wasn’t so generous. By the time we’d left we’d enjoyed 9 mangos, free and without having to climb. It seemed as though they tended to fall in the early evening, or when the trade winds arrived around noon, blowing strongly between the buildings. No better way to welcome the day than with a mango / banana shake fresh from the tree!

See also

Part 2. Vacationing With a Toddler, Maui Version. Shopping and Restaurants.

Part 3. Vacationing With a Toddler, Maui Version. Maui Activities.

You can search for Maui rentals at VacationHomeRentals.com
Vacation Home Rentals

 

Update on our Experience with the Babysmart Cooshee Changer

Quite a while ago I posted about Babysmart’s Cooshee changing table. We bought this item after quite a bit of research and at the time were quite happy with it. It served its purpose as a changing table very well, and given frequent trips to visit relatives the fact that it was easily portable was a huge plus. Additionally the raised edges and relatively narrow width made it a perfect co-sleeper while on those trips… a great multi-functional baby tool.

After over a year with the BabySmart Cooshee Changer I can say that nothing has changed. We still use it to change our little guy though it no longer accompanies us on trips (we’ve turned to the Baby Bjorn Travel Crib which is awesome in its own right). The surface remains clean and wipeable. Initially I was a bit concerned that the foam might start to come apart, especially as our little guy became more curious, but there isn’t so much as a scratch on it.

But, remember to buy the lime green version since some of the others are rumoured to stain over time.

After almost 15 months with the BabySmart Cooshee Changer I can confidently say that it’s been one of the best purchases since the arrival of our baby.

Swimming lessons for infants and babies

This one’s thrown me for a bit of a loop. Our son LOVES bathtime and looks forward to it every night. For the longest time he would scream as soon as we took him out, wanting desperately to return to his tub and water toys. This seemed to carry over to a trip we took when he was about 8 months old. The weather cooperated and we were able to go swimming in the complex’s swimming pool pretty much every day. Our son’s reaction was similar to his daily baths. He loved the pool. He was happy to splash about for as long as we’d let him, kicking his legs and attempting to mimic his mother as she blew bubbles and motored him around in the warm water.

Fast forward to his first birthday. We’ve registered our son in weekly swimming classes geared specifically for infants his age. Either my wife or I join him in the pool throughout the session and play the primary role in moving him about in the water, following the instructor’s guidance. Here’s the thing, despite being surrounded by other children his age who seem to enjoy their baby swimming lessons, and despite the pool water being quite warm, he appears not at all pleased to be there. Week after week his face shows concern while in the pool and in cases where he’s temporarily given over to the instructor before being returns (via the water) to one of us he lets loose completely.

I’m hoping this is just a temporary thing and that he’ll warm up to both the instructors and the public pool because at this point he gets upset enough that it disrupts the session for the other families involved.

Any suggestions are eagerly welcomed.

Baby and infant life jackets and PFDs revisited

A while back I wrote a short post about our purchase of a baby PFD / life jacket (what is the difference between a PFD and a life jacket anyway… I can never remember) and my frustation at finding an appropriate size. Let it be known that the sizing, being based on weight is misleading. Our son ‘fit’ his life jacket, but I would be hard pressed to say that he was comfortable in it. Understand however that the Mustang Survival jacket we purchased was the only one we could find that would fit someone of his weight at the time. The jacket in my opinion was meant for a child of the quoted weight, but someone of greater age. The combination of heavy / chubby baby and small life jacket was a questionable one. The one forgiving factor that allowed it to work? Apparently the rocking and white noise of the boat was enough to rock him to sleep on each of his first 5 trips on the water… allowing him to forgive the discomfort of the life jacket.

To recall, the jacket we landed on was the Mustang Survival Lil’ Legends Child’s Life jacket

My takeaway? If you’re looking for the safety of a PFD or life jacket for a baby well under a year you may end up trading comfort for that security. Further, few jackets appear to be specifically made for an infant of that age, so you’ll have to make due with what you can find , and what your son or daughter will tolerate when on the boat.

Finally, welcome the noise of the engines and the motion of the ocean. If you’re as lucky as we were the two combined will have your child asleep in no time and the questionable fit will be a non issue.

Now, once they hit 8 months or so, at least in my experience their willingness to give in to sleep decreases markedly. Gone are the days of quiet sleep while the boats makes the 45 minute trip from dock to dock. Instead fidgiting is the name of the game.

I’m Starting To Feel Like A Baby Bjorn Fanboy

So thus far we have the Baby Bjorn carrier which was a no brainer as it was given to us by friends who’s children have outgrown it, and once you’ve settled on the sizing its a joy! Note the callout of ‘once you’ve settled on the sizing’ since those times that I’ve tried to put it on myself in order to go for a a long walk I’ve returned home with a couple pretty good tweaks in the shoulder blades. My recommendation to anyone owning this is to have someone help you put it on so that its comfortable when baby is first added as well as at the end of your walk. Once you’ve settled on those settings, use something to mark the straps for YOUR settings so that if you’re alone you can adjust it first and then put it on without needing to trying and find the sweet spot with 20 lbs of baby strapped to you.

Click to Browse the Baby Bjorn Carrier on Amazon

Next up was the Baby Bjorn Babysitter Bouncer. Again, another hit. We started with the Fisher Price Rainforest bouncer and it didn’t take long for our little one’s mass to basically keep him near horizontal which was frustrating for him and threatened to bottom him out when he really got it moving. The Baby Bjorn Babysitter not only folds flat (GREAT for travelling) but also has 3 settings to specify incline. At 20 lbs we have him at the most severe incline and even then he’s to the point that he can get it going so furiously that we need to be careful that nothing rolls under the chair. It took him no time at all to figure out how to get the bouncer moving and once he gets up to speed… look out! Particularly great when he’s in front of the television watching his favorite programe, Electric Company!

Click to Browse the Baby Bjorn Babysitter Bouncer on Amazon

Our most recent purchase from Baby Bjorn was their travel crib (or play yard depending where you make the purchase). I was on the fence for a while with this one, but over the Holidays we visited the inlaws and the travel needs demanded a) a comfortable and safe sleeping area for our son since he’s beyond the size that he can sleep in his Cooshee changer and b) something that was compact enough to travel with easily. The Baby Bjorn travel crib seemed a bit pricey, but now that we’ve had a chance to use it I can say that it’s worth every penny. Here’s why.

  • From what I can tell it is well-made as we’ve seen with our other Baby Bjorn products.

  • It’s compact. The crib folds up into a reasonably flat, easy to manage dimension and slips easily into a provided carry-case.
  • It’s easy to assemble. By assemble I mean unfold because there aren’t any nuts and bolts to fiddle with when putting up the crib. Sides, base and legs are all attached and once you unfold the collapsed sides you need only extend each leg and it will snap into place. Extend all four legs and your travel crib is ready to stand on its own. The only thing to ‘put together’ involves the insertion of the crib’s mattress into the crib itself. 2 seconds work.
  • Takedown is as easy as assembly. Again, extend each leg and fold them to the middle of the crib. Once all four legs are folded in, fold the crib in 2 and return it to its travel case. Done.

Click to Browse the Baby Bjorn Travel Crib on Amazon

Anyway, if you’re considering any of the above and have questions feel free to ask them here. They’re not the cheapest options on the market, but they work, they’re well designed and thus far our son hasn’t voiced any objections :)

Baby clothes sizes continue to confound me (in this case baby life jackets and baby PFDs)

Click here to review some Children’s Life Jackets as well as Children’s PFDs.
We ultimately purchased a Mustang Survival Child’s Life jacket, though being in Canada we purchased from a local retailer since Amazon doesn’t offer to ship this product to Vancouver.

This weekend we left for a few days at the cabin which involves a short drive to a local harbor followed by a not-so-short water taxi ride from the mainland to the cabin. The Kidlet is presently about 3 months old and a robust 16-17 lbs based on last visit to the doctor. Now, prior to the trip I did a bit of research to find out where I could find a baby life jacket and guess what? All the information I could track down pointed to life jackets not being certified for children under 20 lbs (or was it 30? It’s too much work to find the page again on the crappy Canadian Government maze of websites) which suggested we shouldn’t worry about it. That seemed like a bad idea, so we went ahead and purchased the smallest approved PFD we could find (and yes it was a PFD and not a life jacket, and yes I did read that life jackets do a better job or keeping the wearer oriented upright).

PFD and life jackets / life preservers for babies and infants are available to purchase Anyhow, we got to the boat, got aboard with the Kidlet in his Baby Bjorn and then proceeded to remove him from the Bjorn and put on the PFD. I’ll say this again, the Kidlet is no more than 20 lbs and the jacket we purchased is for children between 20 and 30 lbs. It was ridiculous. He looked like he was going to tear that thing apart. When we zipped it up to the top it looked like his jowls were going to spill over the neckline.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. Baby sizing is ridiculous. At best it represents a near estimate of whether or not your baby will be able to wear the clothing. Why don’t they include dimensions as many adult clothing makers do as well in order to address the wide range of baby sizes out there? The PFD we purchased was for children up to 30 lbs or, apparently, chubby babies up to 17 lbs.

I would love to know how many tons of baby clothes are purchased and never worn each year simply because parents have no way other than ages ‘sizing’ and in some cases weight ‘sizing’ on which to base their purchase decision?