SARMAC XI Travel


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For travel-planning purposes, note that the official program for the conference will be preceded by two workshops during the day of Wednesday 24 June.  The conference itself will start around 4:30 pm that day (First People's Welcome Ceremony, opening remarks, Marcia Johnson's keynote, a poster session with no-host bar and hors d'ouevre).  The conference proper is scheduled to end around 6pm on Saturday 27 June,  followed by the conference improper aka the banquet/dance that evening.  So we expect that most serious folks will arrive on the 23rd if not before and leave on the 28th if not later.

Getting to and from Victoria from afar is slightly less easy than, say, getting to and from Vancouver or Seattle. This is a small city on an island.  But the beautiful Victoria International Airport (airport code YYJ) is well served, with more than 120 daily flights throughout North America. There are some direct flights to Victoria International Airport from major cities in Canada and the US.  For example, several airlines currently have flights from NYC to Victoria for about $400 each way.  As another example, United has a flight that leaves San Francisco at 10:55 am and arrives in Victoria about 2 hours later for $411 round trip.  But the number of direct flights to Victoria from distant places is small and it is likely that most attendees will need to change aircraft in Seattle or Vancouver.  Happily, the extra leg of the flight costs relatively little, the layover is usually mercifully brief, and the connecting flights are gorgeous because the airlines use low-flying craft that fly over island-strewn waters (about half an hour in the air from Seattle, and a mere 15 minutes from Vancouver).  

When booking airlines, consider one of the two "Official" SARMAC carriers.  Yes, that's correct, SARMAC has "official" airlines that have agreed to provide  discounted fares for folks traveling to SARMAC.  No, don't expect the flight attendant to be wearing official SARMAC colours, but if you book online at one of the following websites and enter a SARMAC promotion code, you will receive a discount, the value depending on your fare.  

The official Canadian carrier is Air Canada. To book a flight, enter the following code in the promotion-code search box that is part of the panel in which you will enter departure and arrival dates: PE7Z2HX1.  (Does not seem to work with Chrome so try another browser.) The discount applies to all tickets purchased with the code for travel between June 16 and July 05, 2015 and is good for pre- and post-tours on Air Canada etc.  

The Official U.S. Carrier is Alaska Airlines.  To book a flight, enter the following code in the discount code box: ECMV724.  You may also call the Alaska Airlines Group Desk (800-445-4435) to use the code but it will cost you $15 to do so.  Better to book online. The discount applies to all tickets purchased for travel between June 17 and July 1, 2015.   

The most simple way to get to Victoria from afar is on one of the commercial airlines that fly direct to Victoria or via connecting flights through Seattle or Vancouver (e.g., Air Canada, Alaska Airlines, United, West Jet). The Victoria airport is about a 40-minute drive north of downtown.  There is a shuttle bus from the Victoria airport to the downtown hotels (and there are also always cabs; for both of these modes of ground transport arrangements do not need to be made in advance; just walk out the doors of our beautiful small airport and you will see the shuttle bus and cabs.  The shuttle costs about $22; a cab is about $50 for one person.

 Float plane taxis on Victoria's inner harbour.

Float plane taxis on Victoria's inner harbour.

For the more adventuresome, one can fly harbour-to-harbour from downtown Vancouver or Seattle on float planes that delivers passengers within 300 m of the conference hotel (although getting from the Vancouver or Seattle airports to the harbour planes in those areas is a bit of a trek).  The main float-plane companies are Harbour Air and Kenmore Air.  The feeling as one's 16-passenger float plane settles onto the water of Victoria's inner harbour and thrums up to the dock is pure delight.  Yet another way to travel between downtown Vancouver and Victoria is Helijet, a very slick helicopter service that lands about a kilometer from the conference site; there are always cabs aplenty when the heli lands.

 Helijet departing Vancouver en route to Victoria.

Helijet departing Vancouver en route to Victoria.

For non-avian transit between Vancouver and Victoria, the BC Ferries car ferry from Vancouver (Tsawwassen, just south of the city) travels through the spectacular Active Pass with opportunities to see whales, seals, and eagles (a 90-minute ride) before docking in Swartz Bay (about 45 minutes north of downtown Victoria). If you plan to drive a car onto the ferry, you may wish to buy a reservation (so that if you arrive at least 30 minutes in advance of the sailing time you will be assured a spot on the boat).   A Pacific Coach Lines bus from downtown Vancouver or the Vancouver airport crosses on the same ferry route and passengers disembark from the bus within 150 m of the conference hotel.  If you get to the Tsawwassen ferry terminal in a cab or by some other means and want to sail as a walk-on, you can buy a Pacific Coach Lines bus ticket on board the ferry and then get on the bus shortly before the ferry docks.  

For non-avian travel from Seattle, there is a high-speed catamaran foot-passenger ferry (The Victoria Clipper) that sails from Pier 69  through the spectacular Puget Sound past the San Juan islands (and sometimes orca whales), a 2-hour ride.  The Clipper docks within 500 m of the conference hotel.  It is important to make reservations well in advance.  Yet another possibility is to travel from Port Angles, WA, USA (on the Olympic Penninsula) to Victoria as a walk-on or by car on the M. V. Coho Blackball Ferry, which takes about 90 minutes; it is recommended to get reservations well in advance.

Some delegates may wish to combine the conference with a holiday in the Pacific NorthWest (why the heck not?)  There is no shortage of beautiful spots to visit on Vancouver Island, around Vancouver, and in the US on the Olympic Peninsula and points south.  Google it!  

Anyone entering Canada from any other country must have a passport; don't leave home without it.  Visitors from many countries (e.g., Australia, Britain, France, Germany, Netherlands, New Zealand, USA) are exempt from visa requirements; for those from countries for which a visa IS required, the process is simple and costs $75 but must be set up in advance (see www.cic.gc.ca/english/visit/apply-how.asp).  Please also be aware that individuals may be denied entry to Canada on various grounds (e.g., past criminal records potentially including DUIs; please check http://www.cic.gc.ca/english/visit/tourist.asp).