There has been a lot of talk over the last little while about the new skinny cable packages that the CRTC made the cable companies implement. I was interested in what the plans would be because it would have been simple to go from the rather large SaskTel MaxTV subscription we had to a smaller one, but the reality is, as we have all found out, the new skinny packages are all, to be blunt, crap. The extra fees for a PVR and extra channels really make the new plans useless or in some cases more expensive.
While we didn’t pay hundreds of dollars a month for our MaxTV subscription, the reality is we don’t watch a lot of what we were paying for. The kids tend to watch a lot of Netflix and YouTube and a very small amount of cable or broadcast TV. In fact the shows we watch are all on CTV these days anyway. At one time the kids watched a lot of DisneyXD and Family Channel but it has been awhile since they even switched the TV over to MaxTV. After talking about it a little bit and looking at what we watch we realized we only really watch a few shows on TV and all of them are on CTV. That made the decision to cancel our MaxTV subscription easy.
The switch had been really easy actually and I don’t see is going back to MaxTV or to Access cable any time soon. I asked around a little bit and after some research ordered a Winegard FL-5000 FlatWave HDTV Indoor antenna and a Mediasonic HW-150PVR HomeWorx ATSC Digital TV Converter Box from Amazon.ca. After doing some testing with the antenna it quickly became obvious I was not going to have much luck getting CTV to come in over the air in the basement, where our main TV is. I then proceeded upstairs and hooked the antenna up to the small TV we had upstairs. After a few adjustments to the antenna position I easily had a crystal clear picture of both CTV and CBC. This was not totally unexpected, since I had read to get a decent signal for CTV in Regina would require getting the antenna up around 10 feet off the ground. Looking at where I finally settled on the antenna placement it is roughly 10 get off the ground.
Now I just had to find a way to get the signal from the antenna into the basement where the main TV was. Luckily the previous owners of our house had run cable into every room on the main level and after a little exploring and checking it appeared all those lines were still intact. I hooked the antenna up to the cable line and hooked the corresponding out up to the Homeworx PVR in the basement.
We now get both CTV and CBC in full HD on our main TV and with the addition of an external hard drive I was not using we can record or favorite shows in full HD. While the Homeworx PVR is not as user friendly as the previous MaxTV PVR we do get several advantages. First the shoes we record are in full HD and the subscription and PVR we had previously was only standard definition. Second, I can easily disconnect the external hard drive, sneaker net it into my office and copy the recorded shows onto my computer so we can stream them easily using our Chromecast to any TV in the house. Third, I am not paying an extra $9.99/month for a PVR.
I had hoped that we would also be able to pick up GlobalTV over the air, and occasionally we do get a beautiful signal for Global, but it seems to be hit and miss. I could spend more time adjusting the antenna to pick up GlobalTV since the signal is so close to being clear, but after looking at the shows available on GlobalTV I decided to not bother. Perhaps that will change of they get a show we really want to watch.
Overall, I have been very pleased with our cord cutting experience in Regina. The quality of the signal of CTV and CBC over the air is exceptional in our area and i really can’t see a reason to going back to cable. Perhaps if any of us were huge sports fans my feelings would be different since there are little too no live sports on over the air stations in Saskatchewan. The next project is to install a Plex Media server so we can easily stream or recorded shows to the TVs in the house.
As many of you know, who follow me on Facebook, my family and I went to Disneyland and southern California in February. We were gone for 12 days including our traveling days and I have to honestly say it was the BEST family vacation we have been on. This post is more for me than anything else, so I can remember what we liked and enjoyed and perhaps what we would do different if or when we go again.
We had 5 day park hopper passes and enjoyed ourselves immensely in the parks. It was certainly worth having the park hopper passes so we could go back and forth between the two parks. While we did not park hop everyday it sure came in handy so we could go back and forth.
I won’t go over every ride and attraction we went on, but these were the ones we enjoyed the most:
Radiator Springs Racers – The ride was great and the whole Cars Land section is amazing. Just make sure you get there early enough to get a fast pass otherwise you could be looking at over an hour long wait.
Midway Mania – This was a favorite from our trip to Disney World and it is just a fun ride to go on together.
California Screamin’ – My daughter got me on this and I enjoyed it so much her and I went on it a total of 4 times.
Star Tours – This might have been the favorite ride for the whole family. Think we went on it close to 8 times. Different every time.
Indiana Jones – Fun ride to go on, but the line is almost as much fun. Just one of those great overall experiences of taking you into a story and immersing you.
Big Thunder Mountain Railroad – Just a fun coaster that all of us enjoyed.
Pirates of the Caribbean – We went on this several times and the kids enjoyed it.
Space Mountain – Have to love Space Mountain, just fun.
Other than the rides we also made sure we took in the parades in both parks, Mickey’s Magical Map, Aladdin, the fireworks and Fantasmic! All excellent and worth the time to see. We also made sure we stayed past dark one one night to see Cars Land with all the neon lights.
There is no doubt the Disney parks are a great place to spend your holiday. The staff were always friendly and the place is so clean. The only complaint I have about the Disney parks at all is the price of snacks. While I understand they can charge what they want it seems extreme sometimes when you can buy 4 ice cream snacks at 7-Eleven for around $5.00 and in the parks it will cost you $20.00 or more. It would seem Disney could perhaps not seem greedy here and perhaps get away with only raising the prices double instead of 4 times. At least they let you bring your own snacks and food into the park so you can not have to spend a small fortune all day just to eat.
If the cost of snacks and food is all I can complain about though it was a fantastic time a Disneyland and California Adventure and I would go back anytime.
We went on several day trips with Southern California Gray Line. The first was a trip to Sea World in San Diego. It was nice to just get on a bus and ride down to San Diego and not have to worry about driving. We did Sea World in a day and took in many of the live shows and online rode the Riptide Rapids ride.
The highlight of Sea World was the Penguins Up Close tour, that I booked for us even before we left. We had a chance to pet a penguin, go into the penguin exhibit and learn more about them. It was an extra cost to do but was such a great experience for all of us.
Another day trip was to Legoland, and I was pleasantly surprised how much I enjoyed it. While it is not Disney it has its good points. My kids are perhaps on the edge of being to old for some of the park there were enough things that they enjoyed still.
Overall the rides at Legoland are not as well done as the rides at Disney, and perhaps it is not fair to compare them to Disney but it is hard not too. While the rides themselves are ok they lack that ability to draw you in and immerse you in them. The ones we did enjoy that stand out was the Dragon Coaster, Bionicle Blaster and the Lost Kingdom Adventure. We also went on Sky Cruiser, which seemed to get great reviews, but honestly I don’t see what is so great about it. In fact it would say don’t bother unless your kids are under 7.
The Lego creations are impressive and worth going to see. It would be interesting to see the new Star Wars Death Star display but it was still being built when we were there. There were some other very interesting Star Wars displays though. The Lego Movie display was interesting and worth the time to see.
This was our last day trip and perhaps the one that was the worst timed on our part. We ended up going on a Saturday and the place was packed. It made for a tiring day. Not to say it was a bad day just not as fun as I had hoped.
Some of the highlights from Universal Studios included:
WaterWorld Show – Considering how bad of a movie this was the stunt show was enjoyable.
Special Effects Show – This was really interesting and was a great chance for us to have a snack.
Minon Mayhem – By far the best ride we went on. We all enjoyed it. Went twice even with a long wait.
Studio Tour – You need to do this when you go to Universal and it is worth the wait.
Animal Actors Show – This was fun to watch and the kids seemed to get a real kick out of seeing the animals perform.
Shrek 4d – This was ok but the theater has seen better days. Turned out my seat did not work very well and I missed most of the effects.
We did not go on some of the other bigger rides here like The Simpsons Ride, The Mummy Ride or the Transformers Ride. We don’t watch The Simpsons, the kids have never seen The Mummy movies or any of the Transformer movies plus looking at the information for the rides the kids were not really interested. If Legoland seemed more for younger kids, Universal seems more for older kids and adults.
Overall the day at Universal Studios was fun but it was a very different experience. The place seemed really dirty, the bathrooms even more so, and the people were just not as friendly. Perhaps it was due to the park being so crowded that day.
We had a family suite at the Castle Inn and Suites in Anaheim, and while it is not a new hotel or a big fancy resort it was enough. We were at the parks or day trips most days and the days we did stick around the hotel we had enough to do. The pool was fun enough to go swimming in for the kids and the hot tub, well was hot.
The staff were friendly and helpful if we needed anything. The only problem we had was a problem with our shower leaking to the room below. Not a huge problem for us, but I am sure the people below us were not pleased. The hotel fixed as soon as they could and it was not a bother for us since we were gone to the park the day they fixed it.
It is only a 15 minute walk to Disneyland from Castle Inn and if you are just planning on playing at the parks all day long it is a decent enough hotel. If you want a resort to play at then you might want to look elsewhere. I would stay there again, especially since it was considerably less expensive than some newer places that were further away.
Considering the parks are so expensive to eat at we choose to only have lunches at the parks and ate dinners at other nearby restaurants. Some of our favorites were iHop, Denny’s, Cheesecake Factory and the Subway and California Pizza. All were within walking distance of the Castle Inn and all were decently priced.
We also had some special meals at Downtown Disney and in Disneyland. They were good but if you want to keep the cost of meals down eat out of the parks. We also took plenty of snacks and drank lots of water in the parks. It all helped to keep the cost of meals down some.
It was a fabulous holiday to Southern California. If we have a chance to go again I would. Nothing like just playing with the family to make life a little easier and fun. If you are planning a trip perhaps some of this will help you. Like I said it is more for me so I can remember what we did in the event we do get to go back.
I don’t travel down to the United States very often but when I do get down there it is always nice to be able to stay connected. Unfortunately the mobile companies here in Canada like to charge fairly exorbitant prices for their roaming into the US. The last trip we took as a family I ordered some T-Mobile Pre Paid SIM cards and used them for less than what the Canadian mobile company would have charged. This latest trip to Disneyland I was thinking of doing the same thing but then I heard of a company called Roam Mobility. It was a bit of a hassle getting T-Mobile SIM cards the last trip so I decided to give Roam Mobility a try this trip and I was very pleased.
First off the prices for Roam Mobility were decent. I wanted to be able to make calls back to Canada, in the US, text and wanted data to be able to share photos and updates with friends and family. Not a huge amount of data, but being self-employed there was always the possibility that I might need to do some work while away as well so not having to worry about eating through data caps too quickly is always a concern. We were going to be gone for 12 days. My current Canadian service company, Koodo, has roaming packages for 10 days for $40, but with a data cap of 250MB (seriously only 250MB) and overage fees on data at $5/50MB. The next roaming package is 30 days for $75 with 750MB of data.
Roam Mobility lets you purchase a plan for the number of days you are going to be gone. So in our case for 12 days I would get 4.8GB of 4G LTE data plus unlimited texting and calls back to Canada for only $47.40 plus the cost of the SIM card ($15). Now I had to get that for two phones but it worked out to be a better deal for the Roam Mobility SIM cards than it was to use the Koodo roaming packages. Not to mention the Koodo packages offered unlimited talk in the US but we had to make several calls back to Canada due to a family emergency and the Roam Mobility plans let us do that and not worry about the cost. Price wise I felt it was worth using Roam Mobility over the Koodo roaming packages. Roam Mobility made it easy to order and easy to see what you price was going to be.
A good price of course is one thing but if you don’t have coverage where you are going it doesn’t matter how good the price is. Checking the Roam Mobility coverage map it looked like we would have great coverage in Anaheim. We were going to Disneyland and California Adventure mostly with some day trips to San Diego and Hollywood. For the most part we had great coverage everywhere we were, except one. For some reason in Disneyland in the Tomorrowland section I had no coverage at all. My signal would drop by the time we got to Star Tours. My son thought it was pretty funny that I could not connect in Tomorrowland.
My wife’s phone, a Moto G, had no problem connecting everywhere we went, even in Tomorrowland, so I don’t know if it was something about my Nexus 5 that was having problems or what the problem was. My phone would say I had a connection but I could not send or receive texts, data or calls anywhere in the Tomorrowland area of Disneyland. Other than that one area I did not notice many other problems with coverage.
I ordered our SIM cards online, and got a deal when I ordered. Two SIM cards for $15 with free shipping. Apparently you can buy the SIM cards at a few places like Staples and even 7-Eleven but I never did find see them when I was at those places. I had enough time to order the SIM cards online plus you need to create an account to activate them and purchase you plan anyway so if you know you are going to the US (and Mexico now as well it looks like) you might was well just order the SIM cards online, setup your account so you can activate the cards when you get them.
It was easy to setup the account, order the cards and purchase the plans. You can even tell them when the plans should start and stop in advance so all you have to do when you get to the US is put the SIM card in and perhaps add a new APN and you are ready to go. Roam Mobility will even send you a text with some instructions when you insert the SIM card in the US to help you along. It was all pretty easy.
The only problem I could see some people having is not having an unlocked phone. I have always made sure to buy unlocked phones, but many people that just get their phones at a discount from the Canadian mobile companies are almost always locked. Just something to be aware of if you are planning on using Roam Mobility, to make sure your phone is unlocked.
I am not a mobile review expert but overall I was very pleased with Roam Mobility on our trip. I plan on keeping the SIM cards active for our next trip south and it sounds like that will be a fairly inexpensive option than having to order new SIM cards every time. I would recommend Roam Mobility if you are planning a trip to the US. It could end up saving you from some of those insane $1000’s of dollars cell phone horror stories you hear about on the news.
If you have used Roam Mobility what was your experience?