A handful of Canadian companies want to help take your summer vacation to the next level. Looking for an off-the-beaten-path adventure? Professional pics? Knowledge from a local? These companies will take the work out of your holiday.
Erin Reynel was on a flight back from Italy when she realized she had forgotten her essentials: a sleep mask, socks, ear plugs and lip balm. That’s when she had the idea for Aria Kit (the name comes from the Italian word for “air”), which the Vancouver-based entrepreneur launched in 2017. “I figured I was not the only person who would want something like this when they’re travelling,” she says.
The kit, which costs US$79, includes ear plugs, a face and body moisturizer, lip balm, deodorant, toothpaste, wet wipes, a biodegradable bamboo toothbrush, silk sleeping eye mask, fluffy microfibre socks, noise-cancelling ear buds and a pen. “I always would get stuck without a pen when I was filling out customs forms on a flight,” Reynel says.
Her typical customer is women between the ages of 40 and 55 who are frequent travellers. “They fly economy because they fly often, but they want something nice that they can bring with them,” she says, before adding, “There are quite a few men who use it, too.”
The idea is to make the journey simpler. “Packing is so complicated. It’s one item you just throw in and know it’s got everything all ready for you.”
The worst part of coming home from vacation is realizing the pictures you took don’t come anywhere close to capturing the magic of the trip. Flytographer aims to solve that problem by setting customers up with professional photographers in dozens of destinations across six continents.
“Our customer base is everyone from millennials to grandparents, and our largest cohort is families,” says Nicole Smith, who founded the Victoria-based company in 2013.
Be warned: It’s not cheap. The cost varies from US$250 to US$650 depending on how much time you book with a shooter. “Most people book an hour,” Smith says. That one hour includes 30 photos at one to two locations at a cost of $350.
Why shell out that much for a pro? “People will say, ‘Well I can just use my camera,’” Smith says. “You can always prepare a meal at home, too. But sometimes you want to get a chef who really knows what they’re doing [so you can] sit back and enjoy the meal.”
Tours By Locals
Paul Melhus and Dave Vincent were on the tail end of a trip to China when they decided to see the Great Wall. A group of Chinese women introduced themselves as they walked the Wall. “They were all excited that we were from Canada,” Melhus says. “They proceeded to give us a tour. It was fun to meet them.”
From that chance encounter, Tours By Locals was born in 2008. “People are really looking for customized experiences, personalized experiences, really getting behind the scenes, off the beaten track and just making more of a connection with the places that they’re travelling,” says Sara Cooke, the company’s director of communications.
Tours By Locals now connects travellers with guides in 153 countries around the world. Guides determine the price and the company holds the funds until the tour is successfully completed. The average price is around $600, Melhus says.
Unlike your standard tour, guests are able to e-mail with their guides beforehand to discuss what to do and what to see. “Everything is customizable,” Melhus says.
Wild Women Expeditions
“Adventures can bring us back to life,” says Jennifer Haddow, owner of Wild Women Expeditions.
When the company was founded in 1991, it only operated tours in Canada. But when Haddow bought it 2010, she decided to take the company global. Now operating in 25 countries, Wild Women Expeditions offers everything from kayaking to horse riding, sailing to surfing expeditions, all for a female-only clientele. Most of the customers are 45-years-old and up, Haddow says. Generally, a group is six to 12 people, and the expeditions are led by local women.
“It’s women in their renaissance, I like to say. We really emphasize that adventure can be accessible,” Haddow says. “We’re not anti-men at all, but there is something very special that emerges when you have a group of women doing it for themselves. They take on different leadership roles, they naturally will let loose and express things in an all-women space that can be very liberating.”