In praise of the mini-break

0

Fancy a few days’ getaway? Sometimes a full-on vacation of a week or two is just too much time away from routine, friends, family and volunteer obligations. But a three or four-night jaunt can be just the ticket for the many seniors who look forward to a change of scenery and socializing as much as the end location. In fact, it’s very often about the journey, and not the destination when it comes to these mini-breaks, according to seniors and travel experts alike.

Noel Constantin , 81, and his wife, 79-year-old Rose Marie, started travelling about 35 years ago, once they were retired and their five kids were long gone from the family home. While they’ve done the long road trips through the years and stay regularly with their daughter and grandkids at a vacation home in Puerto Vallarta, it’s the short-stay trips that are a favourite, says Noel.

“We like the casino tours – to Moose Jaw, Regina and newer ones to Idaho and Montana,” says Noel while en route to a three-night stay in Polson, Montana with wife Rose Marie. “We’ve been doing the bus tours for several years and they’re great. It doesn’t cost a lot, and the tour company treats us well. Plus, we get to meet people.”

On a recent inaugural casino tour to the Kwataqnuk resort casino in Polson, Montana, St. Albert-based Promotion Tours has a full busload of nearly 50 souls, almost all seniors, and many who hardly gamble at all. For so many, it’s about that camaraderie, sharing a coffee at one of the many stops in the 10-hour trip down, or playing bus bingo with a seat mate. The casino is a side benefit, they say.

“We budget a small amount each for gambling per day, but that’s not the focus,” says Rose Marie. “We like to look out the window at the scenery: just look at this place. It’s a beautiful spot on the lake near Glacier National Park. We can have a nice meal, and take a walk in town or near the lake. So, the price is definitely right for all that.”

Indeed, the bus passes several similarly small casinos en route to Polson, so with one slot machine pretty much like the next, it does suggest that there’s something more to the casino tours than the free gambling credits and free meal vouchers casinos pass along to tour guests. At this locale, Flathead Lake is a definite draw: crystal clear and cool blue, with the snow-capped mountains of Glacier National Park looming in the distance. Each room has a balcony facing the lake, making the stay even more serene.

“We don’t have to do the driving, and someone else plans the itinerary, so it’s totally worry-free,” adds Noel.

With a side day trip to Grey Wolf casino in neighbouring Evaro, Montana and another optional stop at the Miracle of America Museum (with a huge collection of antique military vehicles and more), there’s enough to satisfy those who’ve had enough of the slots, or swimming pool and hot tub at the resort. In Polson, there’s even free Gouda cheese tastings at Flathead Lake Cheese – an artisan cheese shop right next to the resort, and featuring the local tastes of Montana and its Indian culture – tastes of bison and huckleberries and the culture of the Salish people of the Kootenai and Flathead Indian reservation.

While Promotion Tours promises that it’s the first of many trips to this new destination, the company already does a booming business with near-monthly trips to the casino/spa in Moose Jaw, and is hosting a summer getaway to the casinos of Regina and Winnipeg too.

Robin Hutnan, vacation advisor at Vision Travel Solutions in St. Albert, agrees that there’s something about casino trips that keeps them coming back for more. “It’s the getaway factor, I’m sure, the social aspect of getting to know others – companionship,” says Hutnan, who books plenty of short trips for senior-aged clients, including fly-away short trips to Vegas and, for those who want to stay in Canada, to Yellowknife and Victoria.

“Some of these are higher-end trips, but they appeal for other reasons: Vegas is a year-round destination for entertainment too, and to Yellowknife, visitors want to see the northern lights during the winter months,” she says. “Victoria is a popular spot because it’s a short flight, mild weather and a city with plenty to do.”

Wherever the final stop, short trips will continue to draw those who want just a quick break, whether that’s for a chance at a jackpot, or just a chance to visit with friends.

Share.

About Author

Lucy Haines

Lucy Haines has been a freelancer writer for the St. Albert Gazette since 2012. She writes features on travel, food, seniors, homes and gardens.