For Evaluate It by SQM Inspectors -  

Although it may have seemed like a good idea at first, traveling in large groups can be pretty exhausting. When groups fight over what to do while traveling, it can put a strain on good relationships, making it difficult to travel a continent with people you do not want to speak to. Luckily, we have gathered our own tried and tested list of the top ten ways to improve your next group travel experience. The tips may not keep you from getting annoyed with each other, but they will definitely prevent a fist fight in the streets of Venice. 

10. Look for group discounts and rates

There is always that one person in the group who doesn't want to do anything because it “costs too much”. Although it is admirable to want to save some money while traveling, that should not be the answer to every suggestion. To avoid this, try to look for trips that offer group rates or discounts. This is how you please the frugal friend on your trip!

9. Make your intentions known

Before you travel with your group, have everyone share what their intentions are for the entire trip. Do people want to go sight-seeing while others shop? Do others want to venture into the wilderness while some want to lay on the beach? Making your intentions known from the start will help squash any conflicts ahead of time.

8. Give yourselves time! 

No matter how hard you try, it's quite the challenge to do everything that every single person wants to do on the trip. To prevent disappointment (and worst of all, a fist-fight), don't try to fit everything into one rigorous schedule. Spread activities out so everyone can have the chance to do something they want. Full itineraries also stress travelers out, so be sure to include breaks!

7. Have a back-up plan

This tip speaks to both the group and individual travelers. If something is planned as a group, there should also be a back up itinerary in place in case something goes wrong. Have a plan ready for the times that you are split-up from the rest of the group.

6. Break up into smaller groups

Most of the time, breaking up into smaller groups can make traveling in larger groups much easier. The trip will be much more enjoyable when people with shared interests start exploring together. This will allow everyone to do what they want to do on the trip!

5. Compromise

If everyone in the group makes small compromises, everyone will get a chance to do something that they want to do. This will also breed confidence and camaraderie amongst the group if they see that each individual is willing to compromise for the other.  

4. Know who you are traveling with

If you know of certain people in the group that do not get along with each other, it is best that they do not travel with the group. You might be forced to make some difficult executive decisions, but forcing feuding friends to travel with each other can be met with good intentions and extremely disastrous results.

3. Be open...

This point may be easier said than done, but it is very important to be open while traveling in a group. Along with making small compromises, being open will allow for better group relations. Who knows; you may end up liking something that you didn't like before- if you are open to the suggestion.  

2. Be independent

Keep in mind that you're going on the trip for the sake of yourself- not just for the sake of the group. With that being said, if listening and compromising with others in the group does not work, then break off into your own little adventure! Although you are there with others, make sure that you're still having fun. 

1. Give each other space

Despite what you may think, giving each other space while traveling in a group is essential for travel survival. If things are getting a little heated, have everyone disperse, then meet up again at a particular time. This time in between will give each individual a chance to cool off and be reminded that they actually don't hate their best friend. 

Almost all of us are guilty of buying that sweater we didn't really need, or eating at that restaurant we really couldn't afford. Aside from our frugal friends (whom we secretly envy), making poor decisions with our money can be a difficult habit to break. Luckily, we have put together some of our own tried and tested tips to keep both you, and your pocket book happy.

One of the first things you should do is identify the type of poor spending habits you have. Are clothes your weakness? Do you always need the latest tech gadget? Realizing and understanding your own spending habits may not be easy, but it will start you on the road to better money management.

Another thing you can do to bring on some self-realization is to keep all of your receipts and tally up the total at the end of the month. We usually throw them in the garbage after we rip open the packaging, but keeping all of your receipts will give you a unfiltered look at how much you are spending per month. As you put together a savings plan, this will allow you to adjust your spending depending on where you see yourself spending money. It will also help to create small and large savings goals. By establishing a savings goal(s), (ie. a down payment on a house, a trip to Jamaica, or perhaps a new car), you will be less inclined to spend money on things you do not need since you are working to save up for something you do need. Doing this can help instill better money management techniques that are impossible to maintain with a frivolous spending habit.

There is no particular order to the tips we are giving you today but this one is definitely of importance. Whatever you do, do not put it on credit. The old adage is true, if you have to buy it on credit, then you probably can't afford it in the first place! You may think that you can pay off the purchase with your next paycheck, but that will reduce the amount you can put towards other bills and expenditures. Try setting a lower limit on your card and using it exclusively for emergency purposes. If your house requires a new roof, putting it on credit may be your only option. But if you need those new shoes, saving up or abstaining from the purchase should be your only option.

Similar to creating smaller savings goals, you should regularly put money into a savings account or RRSP. This will take “spending money” out of your pocket, and put it to good use in the future. This will help achieve your savings goals since you will have a centralized place to keep your money (and gain a little interest).

Finally, if the situation is dire, and you have the means to do so, hire a professional. There are several financial planners and counselors who will look at your income/expenditures and provide you with a detailed account of your spending habits. They will be able to reach into your credit history and access information that you may have previously been unaware of. Hopefully this “reality check” will help you break poor spending habits, while giving you the tools and resources to improve them in the future.

You may be on your way to a tropical destination for the next two weeks, but first, you have to bear a long flight in a cramped airplane seat. Sure, an in-flight movie (if it's good) can pass a couple hours of dull flight time, but what are you going to do with the rest? Depending on your interests, and the length of your flight, there are several things you can do to keep yourself busy and stimulated on an airplane. Here are some of our own tried and tested tips for keeping busy on a long flight.

Firstly, it is important to get up and walk around during your flight. Taking a break from your cramped seating position will allow blood to properly flow through your body, reducing tension and relieving pain.  You don't want to be that person who gets up every 15 minutes, constantly disturbing those sitting around you, but getting up every so often will make sitting down for long periods of time that much easier. It will also be easier to pass the time if your legs and back don't feel like they are encased in cement.

Once you have given your legs a break, try engaging your mind a bit. If you have anything outstanding for your trip, try and get it done on the plane. Not only will it pass the time, but it will give you a chance to tie up any loose ends that you may have, allowing you to kick your feet up and relax once you get to your destination. You can also bring a book and some fun puzzle games to keep you busy. You may not get through a whole book, or finish all of the puzzles, but it will definitely help keep your mind stimulated as you pass the time.   

Another important tip is to try and take breaks between whatever you are doing. If you have been reading for an hour, try and switch to something else for a short period of time. That way, you don't get sick of reading for two hours, and then stop reading altogether. Bring a variety of things to keep you busy, that way you can cycle between “activities”, which will keep your attention span going over a long flight.

Overall, the best way to kill some time on a flight is to get some sleep. With cramped seats and thin blankets, it can be hard to get some decent rest, but if you are able to catch a few zzz's, it will knock a few hours off your travel time. If you have trouble falling asleep on an airplane, try dimming your cabin lights and tiring your eyes out with a good book. This is especially helpful if your destination has a drastic time difference that you need to adjust to.

Ontario is one of Canada's most prominent provinces in several ways. Apart from housing the country's capital city, having a very diverse and multi-cultural population, and featuring Toronto- a commercial powerhouse, Ontario provides an entire plethora of travel and adventurous activities that are sure to fulfill the expectations of any eager traveler or vacation seeker. Here are our top ten picks of things to do and see in Ontario listed from west to east!

1. Driving through Lake Superior

If you're looking for a scenic drive around Thunder Bay, one of Ontario's southern-most points, then you're in luck! Thunder Bay borders Lake Superior, one of the Great Lakes, and it is sprawling with forests and wildlife. If you're in the for long haul, the you can take on this 350 mile trek and head further east!

2. Point Pelee National Park

Home to a vast species of migratory birds and various forms of flora and fauna, Point Pelee National Park is the place to go to for bird enthusiasts as well as nature lovers looking to see what Canada's ecology has to offer.

3. Royal Botanical Gardens

Interested in botany? Well, the Royal Botanical Gardens may be the right destination for you! Located in southwestern Ontario, these gardens house a multitude of flowers- covering over a field of almost 1000 hectares! It is also home to some of Canada's rarest species of plant life that grow exclusively to the Royal Botanical Gardens.

4. Niagara-on-the-Lake (Wine Region)

Niagara-on-the-Lake is a scenic route that leads to Niagara Falls. Here, you'll find historic buildings, panoramic views of the surrounding farm lands, and vineyards where you can indulge in some wine tastings. If ice wines are your poison, then be sure to try Ontario's German-style “ice wine”.

5. Niagara Falls

Niagara Falls is undoubtedly one of the most beautiful places to visit in Ontario. The falls provide an awesome sight of nature's might. The tunnel tours allow visitors to get a better look of the flow of water behind the falls. In addition to this, the Maid of the Mist cruise ride at the base of the falls completes the experience. 

6. A Trip to Toronto

Toronto has a lot to offer. It's a major city in the province of Ontario and it houses The Toronto Zoo, CN Tower, ROM Museum, The Eaton Center and the Downtown area- just to name a few. The variety of experiences that Toronto has to offer is amazing and the affordable accommodations surrounding the Downtown core make it hard not to stay the night.

7. Art Gallery of Ontario

If you're an art enthusiast, be sure to visit the Art Gallery of Ontario while you're in Toronto. The extensive collection of exhibits range from historic statues to mystical Inuit carvings.

8. Algonquin Provincial Park

Algonquin is a great place for nature lovers. Algonquin Provincial Park is home to some of Canada's most prominent wildlife symbols including bears, wolves and moose. The camping experience offered by this location is a must-try for all those interested in an adventure. If you prefer modern conveniences, there's also a resort within the park.

9. Thousand Islands

If you want to take a dip into cool waters, then you may want to visit Thousand Islands! They offer a variety of water activities including boating, fishing and scuba diving. Thousand Islands also has a bunch of guided tours that take you around the islands by ferry boat. If you want to go on the full tour, have your passport ready as they do cross into the United States!  

10. Ottawa

Ottawa is the capital city of Canada and it features many historic landmarks and buildings that would peak anyone's interest. You can choose from some of the tours that are offered- many of which include a tour of various government buildings. The city has a large variety of museums ranging from art to science to history. Interested in the city's nightlife? Ottawa has that too! Visit Byward market for a fun night out on the town.

 

Oh, Halloween- a night for kids and adults alike get to dress up in outrageous (and expensive) costumes and consume more candy than is advisable. It is also a night for homeowners to make their houses look like graveyards and haunted mansions for the eager trick-or-treaters that come to the door. If you want to make your home look spooky without breaking the bank, check out our list of the Top Ten Halloween Home Decorations you and your family can use to make your home look like its haunted.
 
10. Fake Cobwebs.
If you want to make your home look like a giant spider has crawled all over it, head to your nearest party supply store and pick up some fake cobwebs. They stick to the brick of your house, and you can even put fake spiders or skulls in it to give it an added spooky effect. If your budget it a little tight, you can always take some cotton balls and just pull them apart to look like fake cobwebs!
 
9. Tombstones
If you have some extra ply-wood and a saw around the house, you can make your own tombstones that stick into your lawn. After you have cut the wood into the shape of a tombstone, you can paint it and inscribe on it any fictionally deceased person you want! 
 
8. Broomsticks
Nothing says Halloween like a witches broomstick. If you have an old fashioned broom around the house, throw it on your front porch. If you don't have an old-fashioned broom, take a small piece of wood and tie a bunch of sticks and branches to it to give it that authentic witch feel.
 
7. Scarecrow
On Halloween, a scarecrow on your front porch will truly live up to its name. All you need are some old clothes and a few bag's of leaves to give the clothes some shape. After that, sit the scarecrow on a chair in front of your door and watch costumed children approach it with caution.
 
6. Felt Bats
This Halloween decor is both simple and affordable. Trace out the image of a bat onto a large piece of felt, then cut out the images until you have a swarm of them. Then take the swarm, and place them all over your house until it looks like a bat cave. 
 
5. Colored Light-bulbs
One of the simplest and most cost effective ways to make your house look spooky is to change the colour of your porch lights. You can make them green, blue, and even red. The change in lighting will then make all of your other decorations look much scarier than they would in regular light.
 
4. Caution Tape 
If you want to make your house look like a spooky episode of CSI, just string up some caution tape around your porch and lawn to give it that eerie crime scene effect.
 
3. Spooky Music
Although this is technically not a “decoration”, having spooky music or sounds playing out of a hidden stereo will definitely add to the overall creepiness of your house. Be sure to put the CD on repeat, so that you don't have to manually replay it throughout the night. 
 
2. Skeleton Cut Outs
Much like the felt bats, you can easily make and trace paper skeleton cutouts to be hung on your front porch. If not, you can go to any party store and pick up a glow-in-the-dark skeleton that you can hang on your front door.
 
1. Jack-o-lanterns
What's Halloween without a spooky jack-o-lantern lighting up your front porch? The best thing about it is the fact that you can carve whatever you want into the pumpkin! Use your imagination, get a few stencils off the Internet, and throw down some newspaper so you can carve your favorite image into the pumpkin.

Through the eyes of an intern...

Nestled in the quiet suburbs of Woodbridge, Ontario is the Kortright Centre for Conservation. This 325 hectare land is home to several hiking trails, a large welcome centre, and one of the best sustainable education programs in the province. It is also home to an incredible ecosystem that many animals, birds, and insects call home. With close to 135,000 annual visitors, the Kortright Center serves a variety of environmental and community needs on a daily basis. Their welcome centre and accompanying grounds even host weddings and large family functions. If tall trees seem like a  good backdrop for your special occasion, then this is definitely the place for you! What's even better is that the entrance fees are reasonably priced, and the welcome centre is host to a wide range of activities for children and the entire family. I also love how the trails engage a wide range of skill levels, allowing anyone to explore the beauty of nature at their own pace. You can pack a lunch and have a picnic, or eat at the welcome centre. At the Kortright Centre for Conversation, nature is right in your backyard!

If your would like to learn more about the Kortright Centre, feel free to check out their website: http://goo.gl/vfKW8I

Through the eyes of an intern...

If you want to see the world without putting a hole in your pocket book, there are several things you can do to save a couple bucks. We've gathered some of our own tried and true tips, so here they are!

For starters, you should look for a bunch of little deals as opposed to a couple big ones. Not only are you more likely to find smaller deals on accommodation and food, but they also add up to provide you with greater savings in the long run. You may not get a discount on that flight to Europe, but reducing your costs elsewhere will allow you to make up for the money you spent on it.

It is also important to plan and understand your itinerary. If you plan on taking part in paid excursions, be prepared to pay! Although guided tours and boat rides are a great way to see the country you are in, they also cost money. As an alternative, you can grab a map, pack a lunch with some food from the local market, and purchase a public transit day pass. This will allow you to go anywhere in the city without having to cough up money for tour guides or boat rides. You will also have the chance to experience the city on your own terms...without that cheesy tour guide.
 
It is also important to pack appropriately before you leave. If you have a general idea of the weather, pack your clothes accordingly. This will save you the hassle and money of having to buy clothes that you could have brought from home. Another great way to save money while traveling is to create a preliminary budget. By doing this, you can compare what you are actually spending to what you thought you would spend. This allows you to make adjustments to your finances while traveling. Keep in mind that you should always travel with spare cash or a credit card in case of emergencies, so by no means should you be frugal when it comes to reserved funds.

At the end of the day, the best way to save money is to do your research. Look up different hostels and hotels for the best price. Talk to a friend who may have previously traveled to the same place. He or she may know of some deals around the city! If you do your research ahead of time you will be able to save money in the long run!

Top Ten Travel Apps

When you're planning to go on an adventure, its always a good idea to make sure you have everything at your disposal to make the trip as enjoyable as possible. With many items to keep track of, why not let your phone do some of the work for you? Here's a list of top ten apps that can take a load off of your travel plans!

1. Wi-Fi Finder
This free app really comes in handy when you're trying to find a wireless Internet connection. It helps you to locate one from over 500,000 locations worldwide and it also differentiates between those that are free and those that have fees.

2. AccuWeather
Don't let the weather ruin your itinerary with this free app! It is updated by the hour with weather that is to be expected in the coming hours and days. You can also add new locations, so you can tailor your weather reports based on the place that you're currently roaming through.

3. mTrip
This free app is great for travellers who like to build their itinerary on the fly. You can makes changes to your plans as you please, view offline maps if you don't have an internet connection, and search through different points of interest. You can also send digital postcards while you're travelling, so we think it's an awesome app!

4. XE Currency Exchange
This free and very handy app allows you to keep track of local currencies. Based on the well known and reliable currency exchange website XE.com, this app offers the most recently updated rates and displays them against your chosen primary rate. It's very accurate and pulls the most recent data!

5. Orient Location Finder
This app provides a list of places relative to your current location. Simply add the places you plan on visiting and let the app do the rest. It will point you into the right direction and calculate the proximity between you and your destination. Orient Location Finder Lite is free, but it can also be upgraded for a fee.

6. Google Translate
Visiting a foreign country without having a means of translation can be a problem, but with this free app, you can translate English into a variety of languages. While the translation is not perfect, it does the job. The voice recognition feature on this app also makes for a user-friendly experience.

7. Evernote
This free app helps you take notes of everything from receipts, important documents, to foodie finds, and your typical tourist traps! This app uses OCR (optical character recognition) to arrange your notes into corresponding categories, so it's a great way to stay organized while you're on the go.

8. Airbnb
This free app allows you to find very affordable accommodation alternatives! When you're making travel plans, you might want to consider a rental property on Airbnb instead of a hotel or resort in order to save a lot of money. You can also put your humble abode up for rent while you're out travelling. It's a win win situation!

9. JetLag Genie
If you've got a couple dollars to spare, you can get JetLag Genie to avoid jet lag problems! It uses flight information and sleeping schedules to recommend instructions to follow to avoid interruptions in your sleeping patterns. All of this is yours for just $2.99!

10. Travel Alarm Clock Pro
For just $0.99, this nifty little app automatically detects your position between time zones and adjusts the time, currency, weather and alarm clock to match the current location.

Top Ten Brazilian Tourist Attractions

With rich colonial history, remarkable biodiversity, breath-taking geographical formations, and unique culture, Brazil earns its reputation as a tourist hot-spot. If you plan to visit Brazil, be sure to check out the top ten tourist attractions there that made our list. You wouldn't want to miss out on any of these!

1) Ouro Petro   
“Ouro Petro” which means “black gold”, is a colonial town from the past. Colonial architecture is a prime focus of the city's preserved heritage. This is definitely worth visiting if you're interested in 18th to 19th century world history!                                                   
2) Teatro Amazonas
This theatre has gotten its name because it's situated in the middle of the Amazon! Its unique construction resembles works of art from France, Italy, and England. Shut down for nearly a century, the opera house has once again opened its doors within the last decade.

3) Fernando de Noronha
With its untouched and alluring beaches, this natural sight can be found northeast of the Brazilian coast. The islands make a perfect destination for diving enthusiasts and nature lovers.

4) Historic Center of Olinda
Like Ouro Petro, Olinda is a colonial city that has been preserved from the 18th century. Accompanied by its authentic downtown sector lined with several bars, restaurants, crafts studios and the popular Carnival of Olinda, this piece of history earns its reputation as an intriguing tourist site.

5) Salvador Beaches
The Salvador beaches are some of the best in the world. Activities may range from swimming, diving, sailing, and surfing when  the more powerful waves make their appearance.

6) Pantanal
Located towards the Western regions of Brazil, the Pantanal has a reputation of being one of the largest wetlands on the planet. This wetland has an abundance of wildlife ranging from the Yacare Caiman to the Capybara as well as being the biggest habitat of the rare and majestic Jaguar of South America.

7) Carnival of Rio de Janeiro
As the largest carnival celebration in Brazil, the Carnoval of Rio de Janiero attracts millions each year during the Friday before every Ash Wednesday (February or March). It encompasses entire streets along with the clubs and bars. To mark its end, the Rio Samba Parade takes place. Monumental floats of exquisite design and actors and dancers in exotic costumes are a key feature of the parade.

8) Amazon River
Flowing for about 6900km, the Amazon is home to hundreds of unique species of fauna. Despite this, the true essence of the tour is based on the boat trip upriver and into the wet, animalistic atmosphere of the Amazon.

9) Iguaza Falls
Located at the border of Argentina and Brazil, the Iguaza Falls feature several falls of varying heights. The most prominent of these falls is the Devil's Throat, which stands at a staggering 82 meters and is a sight to behold.

10) Christ the Redeemer
Located in Rio de Janeiro, this towering statue of Jesus Christ stands at the top of the Corcovado mountain at 700 meters or 2300 ft. It overlooks the Guanabara Bay to the north, and Lagao Rodridgo de Freitas to the South.

Do any of these locations sound super interesting to you? Well, you're in luck because SQM can offer 50% off of your flight to Brazil with a simple mystery shop! If you want to find out how you can get started, just click here to become a shopper! http://goo.gl/QCZHwz

Through the eyes of an intern...

After it was all said and done, it took us 5 hours of paddling (one way), to canoe roughly 15 km through the winding lakes of Algonquin Park. This may seem a little daunting, but from the moment we hit the water, it felt like we were in another world. From the fresh park air, to the clear blue water that is seemingly absent from city and suburban life, the paddle seemed like a getaway in itself! When we finally found a spot to set up camp, I was amazed by the tranquillity of the lake we were on. There were no buzzing vehicles, ringing cell phones, or loud music. All you could hear were loons on the lake, canoes rubbing against the rocks, and the crackling of the nice fire we had proudly built.

 Since we are constantly inundated with the sights and sounds of our technological world, we often forget how truly important this silence can be. I had gone camping a couple times before, but I had never been portaging, and I have to say that there is a big difference! Not only is portaging a test of your physical endurance – the paddling, carrying the canoe across the “portage”, and carrying everything else that was in the canoe- it is also a test of your ability to work as a team with those you are travelling with. I spent 3 days on a small lake in Algonquin Park and I am itching to go back and travel even further! If you like nature and don't mind spending a couple days away from you cell phone and computer, I would highly recommend portaging!

 If it seems too much for you to try all at once, don't worry! You can try one of Algonquin Park's several “drive-to” camp grounds. After this, if you think your ready to go portaging, visit their website: http://goo.gl/mONTiu to learn more about: rental costs, park protocol, and canoe availability.