Tag Archives: Review

Picture of the mantle in the main lobby of the Great Escape Lodge, Queensbury, NY

Six Flags Great Escape Lodge Waterpark

In February we went to the Six Flags Great Escape Lodge and Indoor Waterpark in Queensbury, NY. Again. This is the second time we’ve gone to the Six Flags Great Escape Lodge in as many years because it’s the second time we managed to find a major discount code online! We will probably go back again next year if we find another discount code.

As mentioned in the previous post, this time we stayed for two nights instead of only one and the experience was much less hectic. We weren’t in as much of a rush to get to the waterpark to take advantage of the early entry for hotel guests this time.  This allowed us to enjoy the wonderful drive through the Adirondacks. Ironically, for February, there was more snow back home than there was in the mountains!

Once we arrived at Six Flags Great Escape Lodge, we were able to check in early. As February appears to be a bit of a low season and we were checking in on a Sunday, it seems they had time to have our room ready for us. Posted check in time is 4PM but we were into our room just after 2PM.

One thing we tried to catch this time was the 8PM bedtime stories by the fireplace. This is a neat little thing where one of the characters comes along with a companion and the companion reads a couple books for the kids. Well, stress that we tried to catch the bedtime stories.  The first night we missed them completely as we got there at about 8:12PM and the girls caught the last pages of the last book and woosh, off went the character and companion. The second night we made sure we were there early and that worked much better but still, the whole thing doesn’t last very long. There was a decent crowd of people there both nights so coming sort of early makes getting a seat easier.

The waterpark itself was good again this year. We convinced friends of ours to join us this year and our kids were all old enough to do many of the attractions on their own. Lots of fun.

Picture of the indoor water park at the Great Escape Lodge, Queensbury, NY

One big difference this time was the water temperature was much better this year. I don’t think we ever found out why but last year when we were at the waterpark, the water was really cold and made things like the lazy river not enjoyable. This time the lazy river was much better as you could actually stay in the water without shivering.

Spending two nights really made for a much more enjoyable time. The downside was the discount only applied for Sunday-Thursdays when we booked so we stayed Sunday and Monday night. Not a huge problem as this also had the advantage of the waterpark being less crowded most of the time. As mentioned in the previous post, the logistics of checkout time are a little tricky. This time we skipped getting a locker and I just didn’t go swimming on the checkout morning. This is much easier as one parent can manage two older kids without too much difficulty and the second can manage getting the clothes, etc. from your car when you’re done swimming. Of course, we also had an infant this time that one of us had to look after so he and I enjoyed the, uh, scenery.

For a quick winter break only a few hours from Ottawa, ON, we will likely go back to the Six Flags Great Escape Lodge again next year. It’s well worth it to watch for the discount codes from the travel sites as long as you have a flexible schedule because they are rather short notice (like 3-4 weeks in advance for us and we booked the last possible dates at that time).

Direct Energy Rental Terms Change

It was recently announced that Direct Energy was changing the rental terms on their hot water tanks. While this isn’t normally a cause for concern for existing customers, Direct Energy decided that they were going to try to move all existing rental customers onto the new contract, without their consent. A form letter was mailed out to all existing customers (basically, anyone who started renting before September 2010 which is when the current rental terms came into effect). This includes some customers who have had the same rental hot water heater for 15+ years!

The biggest problem with this whole fiasco is that they were planning on moving customers without their consent. Basically, a form letter was sent to customers (I don’t seem to have received one yet) that could easily be confused as “addressed junk mail”. Apparently, buried somewhere in this letter is wording that states you will automatically be moved to the new contract unless you call and state you want to remain on the old contract. Well shit! Most people have already tossed the letter as it seems to be about new terms. If you are already on a contract, why would you expect the terms to change on you – it’s a damn contract!

OK, so aside from the shady contract change, what’s different in the new contract? It’s going to be a whole lot more expensive to get out of your rental contract.

The minimum to get out under the new contract is $274. On the old contract it was $75.

But that all depends on the actual water heater you have and it’s age.

User Belfour on the RedFlagDeals.com forum posted the Direct Energy 2012 Buyout Schedule. According to that and using my ~8 year old Polaris 34G as an example, it would cost me $3153 to buy out my tank. That’s insane! I can buy and install a brand new Polaris for not much more than that. On top of that, the buyout prices are going to increase each year.

Ellen Roseman (From The Star) wrote a post Direct Energy curbs competition with new contracts and the first comment from Dave indicates that according to the 2009 Direct Energy buyout schedule (which is no longer available online) to buyout a 15+ year old Polaris 34G tank it was only $100. Under the new 2012 Direct Energy buyout schedule it is $1092! WTF? What was a 15 year old tank in 2009 is an 18 year old tank now and it’s suddenly almost $900 more to buy it out?

UPDATED: I found my local copy of the 2009 Direct Energy buyout schedule [PDF].

And now it seems Direct Energy has realized that they may have just derailed their gravy train with this idiotic attempt to grab more money. According to CTV Toronto, Direct Energy backs down on water tank contract changes.

“We have not communicated this initiative as well as we could have.” - Rob Comstock, senior vice president of Canadian services for Direct Energy

Well, frankly Rob, NO SHIT SHERLOCK!

There’s one big problem with trying to fleece consumers this way – they tend to not forget. I know I won’t forget. I am going to be exploring my options soon to see what I can do about my rented Polaris 34G water heater. While it has been nice having the “included insurance” due to the number of issues we had with the tank, I’m confident now that if a competent installer had been involved (and not Direct Energy installers) I would never had so many problems. Direct Energy has already collected almost $3500 from me in rental fees since we bought this house and you can be damn sure I’m done renting tanks. As long as the “old” contract terms remain in effect, they may get some more rental money while I look but the replacement tank will NOT be rented from Direct Energy.

Goodbye Zip! Hello Zip!

Yesterday I cancelled our Zip.ca account. Why? Because Zip.ca now has competition in town – itself!

We’ve been with Zip.ca for well over a year now on the 1 DVD unlimited plan and it worked out quite nicely. We’d (typically) get a new DVD from our ZipList to watch every weekend. All for the low price of ~$13/month. That’s much better than the ~$6 the local rental place charged for a night. Things went smashingly for a year and then Zip.ca changed their plans…

Due to rising costs (understandable), they increased the monthly charge for the 1 DVD plan so now it was just over $14/month. That’s a reasonable amount considering we were getting 4-5 DVDs a month. Again, much less than the ~$6 the local rental place was charging. BUT, the biggest change that screws up the whole thing for us is that they no longer allow DVDs to “cross in the mail” on the 1 DVD plan. Bummer.

When DVDs can “cross in the mail”, you’d mark the DVD as returned the day you toss it in the mailbox. Usually at the end of that same day (sometimes the next day), Zip.ca would send you a new DVD. This way if I tossed a DVD in the mailbox on Monday morning, a new one would be sent out Monday or Tuesday. That means we’d actually get it on Thursday or Friday (for some reason, mail takes a long time to get into our PO Box at the Post Office in our town, but that’s a rant for another time).

The Zip.ca red envelopes that DVDs are mailed out in

The Zip.ca red mailer envelopes that are used to send DVDs to customers.

Without the ability for DVDs to “cross in the mail”, Zip now won’t send a new DVD until they receive our old one. That means if I drop it in the mail on Monday, they get it Tuesday or Wednesday, send us a new one Wednesday or Thursday and we might get it the next Monday, most likely Tuesday. Well, that just doesn’t work very well for us as we typically want the DVD for the weekend. Bam, now we’re basically down to only getting a DVD every two weeks. That ~$14/month is no longer a good deal if that’s how we use the Zip.ca account.

Well, we had a slight problem (was actually a mistake on my part – Ooops!) in December and I contacted Zip.ca. They were kind enough to help me see what I had done wrong but they also pointed out something we didn’t know – there was now a Zip rental kiosk in one of the local grocery stores. I’m sure you’re saying “so what?” right about now so I’m, going to tell you.

The Zip Kiosk rents DVDs for $1/day, or Blu Ray and new release DVDs for $2/day. DAMN! Not only is that a better deal than the local rental place, it’s a better deal than Zip.ca itself!

On our Zip.ca plan, we can only get DVDs and new release DVDs are nearly impossible to get. With the Zip Kiosk, we can drop in Friday or Saturday and grab a DVD <angelic choir>or even a Blu Ray!</angelic choir> for $2! Then we just take it back the next day. Some would consider this inconvenient but given that we don’t have home mail delivery, we always had to go out to get our Zip DVD anyways and after you watched it, you have to find a mailbox ASAP to toss it in so you could get the next DVD sent out.

Yeah, so Goodbye Zip! Hello Zip!

Yes, we might not be able to get the exact movie we want but that’s no different than Zip.ca right now. If there’s nothing we want to watch, we save ourselves $2. And this way we always get something that The Boss (or the Princesses)  is in the “mood” to watch.

At the moment you can also go to the Zip website and request a free rental code via email. Yeah, it’s only worth up to $2 but it’s a free rental!

Click to go to the Zip Kiosk locator tool

Six Flags Great Escape Lodge and Indoor Waterpark

We recently went to the Six Flags Great Escape Lodge & Indoor Waterpark in Queensbury, NY and had a fantastic time. This indoor water park is only about 4.5 hours from the Ottawa, ON area so it’s quite reasonable to go for a weekend or a few days during the week.

On this trip, we only went for one night and looking back, that was a mistake on our part. Next time we will go for two nights to get more “bang for the buck”. More on this later.

The way it is setup, you book a room at the Great Escape Lodge and it includes passes for the White Water Bay water park (which is attached directly to the hotel). The base rate is about $200/night – seems steep until you see that a day pass to the waterpark is $39/person. So, with the 4 included passes ($156 total), the hotel is only $44/night! They also have a set of deals on their website that are worth checking out.

It’s even better when you stumble across a coupon code for 50% off like I did! More later on this.

I don’t think it would be worth staying at a different hotel and buying the day passes unless you were getting a really good deal somewhere else or you were dropping the (older) kids off for the day while you go somewhere else.

So why more than one night next time? Logistics. You are allowed to use the water park from noon on the day you check-in until 2PM on the day you check out. That’s fantastic except that the complication is that you can’t check-in until 4PM and checkout is at 11am. They have lockers you can rent (for $10/day) so you can stash your valuables but that means someone has to leave the water park to go check-in and haul the rest of the stuff to the room. For check-out day, you really need to haul everything out of the room before 10am (when the waterpark opens) and probably get another locker to store valuables (or at least your car keys) while using the water park after you check out. Having a second night would just make the logistics headache a little more bearable. As it was, it felt like we were rushing to get into the hotel and rushing to get out of the hotel all in the span of ~18 hours (we only arrived mid-afternoon due to travel delays coming from our other destination on this trip).

The discount code! I nearly forgot! I stumbled on that completely. The day we booked the hotel, I did a quick google search and found a code that was expiring that day. Pure luck to get the room (and 4 passes) for $99. It does appear that they have similar offers from time to time as I saw some other codes for the same deal with different dates but they all appeared to be short notice. The one I used was posted on March 2 and expired March 9.

I’m pretty sure we will be going again in the future. It’s close, has a fair bit for our young kids to do and even without the discount code, it’s reasonably priced.

Blundstone Boots

I finally got around to getting a new pair of shoes last week – a pair of Blundstone boots. My old crappy shoes with the cracked sole and holes gave me wet feet one last time and that was then end of my misery. ;)

I wasn’t initially sure if I really wanted the Blundstone boots for two reasons:

  1. They are boots.
  2. They aren’t cheap.

The first problem was quickly addressed when I pulled a pair on. I used to wear boots all the time back when I was a slightly rebelling teenager. I had a couple pairs of Doc Martens that lasted me many years. It’s sort of strange how much more comfortable boots can be. I like them because I don’t have any rubbing in my heel/ankle from the top of a shoe.

Blundstone 510 boots "The Original in black"

Anyways, back to the Blundstones – they aren’t cheap. My last pair of shoes cost me at least $50 and the Blundstones were almost 4 times that. Now, what I’m banking on is that the Blundstone boots will last at least 4 times longer than the shoes did. The shoes only really lasted a year but I squeezed 6 months more out of them (such a bad idea!).

Buying the Blundstone boots was an interesting adventure. First, I wanted to buy them locally in Kemptville but the one shop that has them doesn’t have very good hours. Tough luck for them.

I ended up searching on the Blundstone website for Ottawa and found a store at Bayshore than had them. After trying some on and getting what I thought was the right size, I bought them and drove home. At home I wore them around the house for the evening and it became painfully obvious that they were too small.  What had happened is that particular store did something funny with their inventory. The Blundstone boots are in UK sizes which are about 1 size smaller than US sizes. No problem normally. What was a problem is the store had the UK size 10 listed as a size 10 but the UK size 8.5 they listed as a size 9.5.  They didn’t actually have any UK 9.5 or UK 9 at all, even in the computer. Anyhoo, I had to return the UK 8.5 boots I bought.  Just too small.

Going back to the Blundstone website, I discovered that they still have Ottawa broken down into Ottawa, Kanata, Nepean and Orleans – with different stores listed for each search option! Turns out there was a second store in Bayshore that also carried  Blundstone. Back I went a second time and success! I got my UK 9.5 Blundstone boots. Interestingly enough, they were actually cheaper at that store. ;)