Sheila Gallant-Halloran

Made-to-measure travel; please, go away! :-)

Us Four have Poly Rapport (our stay at Disney’s Polynesian)

My family’s been to Disney 18 times.  Problem is (if there is a problem) we have favourite hotels that we return to again and again. We don’t venture much afar – cause we love being on the monorail.

For example: my daughters and husband LOVE the Contemporary – they love being able to walk to Magic Kingdom (8 minute walk, but first monorail stop going home), DDs love the noise and music of Chef Mickey’s, and love the monorail going through the hotel.  I LOVE the Grand Floridian – I love the Victorian feel, the white pastels and elegance, and the fact that it’s the closest hotel to Magic Kingdom when you’re catching the monorail to go there.

So – our problem is that when we return to Disney, we often stay at the Contemporary or the Grand Floridian.  We overlook the Polynesian – the 3rd hotel on the monorail line. Sure we’ve eaten there oodles of times (at Ohana’s in particular), but I’d always been struck by how dark the hotel is inside. (I love the white pastels, after all.)  So, I was never drawn to stay at a “dark” spot. But this past trip, we decided to give it a “go.”  And it was definitely a success.

The interior of the buildings are still dark, but when you stay there, you realize that this helps contribute to the “cool” and breezy feeling of the tropics.  

Having been lucky enough to have been to Hawaii several times, I didn’t need to get my fix of the polynesian islands at Disney.  The juxtaposition of Mickey and luaus always struck me as a little odd… but having experienced it first hand, I must say that it works. (Course, I’ll be willing to go check out Disney’s new Aulani on Hawaii to compare too! :-)…)

The rooms at the Poly are decorated in a batik-style, with lots of prints. and bamboo.

You can’t easily walk to the Magic Kingdom, but you can walk to the Transportation & Ticket centre from the Poly – so very quick access to Epcot. (And, still have the monorail to MK.)

But of course, the big draw is the volcano pool – which has a fantastic waterslide (in the dark).  We spent many hot afternoons getting refreshed, and having fun here.

So, us four definitely had Poly rapport. We’ll be returning.






October 30, 2010 Posted by | Lush Life Disney, Lush Life Hotels | Leave a comment

Little CTO (Caribbean Tourism Organization), You’re Really Lookin’ Fine…

Last night, I attended the Caribbean Tourism Organization’s (or CTO’s) “Rum and Rhythm” event in Toronto, organized by the fabulous Lynda Sinclair. 

It was a night of rum, music, food, and fun!  And even though I only had my crappy cellphone camera with me, I did my best to capture some snaps.

For some reason, the initials “CTO” (for Caribbean Tourism Organization) made the song “Little GTO” run through my head all night… so – I thought I’d play with the classic lyrics a little in writing about the evening (with apologies to Ronny and the Daytonas…  you know the song…)

Little CTO (Caribbean Tourism Organization), you’re really lookin’ fine
Three B’s (Bahamas, Barbados, Bermuda) and four-saints (St. Lucia, St. Vincent, St. Kitts,  St. Maarten) and the US Virgins too (Sts Thomas, John, & Croix) 

Listen to her rhythm pop now, listen to her rum why-ee-eye-ine
C’mon and turn it on, wind it up, blow it out GTA (greater Toronto area)…

Wa-wa, (“Yeah, yeah, little CTO”) wa, wa, wa, wa, wa, wa (“Yeah, yeah, little CTO”)
Wa-wa, (“Yeah, yeah, little CTO”) wa, wa, wa, wa, wa, wa (“Yeah, yeah, little CTO”)
Wa-wa (“Ahhh, little CTO”) wa, wa, wa, wa, wa, wa

You oughta see her Caymans – go diving for a quarter mile
And little Miss Anguilla has got plenty of style
Antigua, Cuba, and Grenada really drives ’em why-ee-eye-ild
Don’t forget DR (Dominican Republic), PR (Puerto Rico), and the T&C (Turks and Caicos)-turn it up, wind it up, blow it out GTA

Wa-wa, (“Yeah, yeah, little CTO”) wa, wa, wa, wa, wa, wa (“Yeah, yeah, little CTO”)
Wa-wa, (“Yeah, yeah, little CTO”) wa, wa, wa, wa, wa, wa (“Yeah, yeah, little CTO”)
Wa-wa (“Ahhh, little CTO”) wa, wa, wa, wa, wa, wa

Gonna save all my money (turnin’ it on, blowin’ it out) and check out CTO 
Get some shorts and some sunscreen (turnin’ it on, blowin’ it out) and I’ll be ready to go
Maybe take in some destination weddings (turnin’ it on, blowin’ it out) or some incentive groups – you never know (turnin’ it on,blowin’ it out), yeah, yeah

Now that I know how to make jerk chicken (thanks, Selwyn Richards), I’m the coolest thing around

Cause of little CTO, ain’t gonna be no cookin’ clown

When I turn it on, wind it up, blow it out GTA

Wa-wa, (“Yeah, yeah, little CTO”) wa, wa, wa, wa, wa, wa (“Yeah, yeah, little CTO”)
Wa-wa, (“Yeah, yeah, little CTO”) wa, wa, wa, wa, wa, wa (“Yeah, yeah, little CTO”)
Wa-wa (“Ahhh, little CTO”) wa, wa, wa, wa, wa, wa

October 29, 2010 Posted by | Lush Life Destinations, Lush Life Other Items | Leave a comment

Be a Bespoke Traveller over a Travel Mooch (another quiz!)

Yesterday’s quiz was a good one – had numbers to back it up, and seemed to really get to the heart of what was important to people in their vacation planning. (Check out yesterday’s post if you missed it.

Today I have another that is a little easier – 10 questions, instead of 3 pages of questions – and it’s a little more off the cuff.  But, it’s interesting nonetheless.

CTV’s travel expert, Loren Christie, has put together his own quiz.  Watch the video and/or just do the 10 question quiz that Loren gave Seamus and Jennifer on a CTV morning show last month.

Loren’s categories were: Bespoke Traveller, Experience-Hungry Traveller, Repeat Offender Traveller, or Travel Mooch.

Which one are you?

October 28, 2010 Posted by | Lush Life Other Items, Lush LIfe Top Posts | Leave a comment

Quiz: What is your “explorer quotient”?

I interview my new clients. I ask them a lot of questions about the kind of holiday they want, the kind of experience they are looking for, and the kind of memories they want to take away from their vacation.  Recently, a new friend (Amanda Farris) contacted me about a holiday, and she ended up putting some of those questions on paper. She designed a questionnaire to help the client who wants to getaway, but doesn’t know what they really want. The idea being that for the client that is a “blank slate” (in terms of having defined needs), the process of reading questions, and having specific choices stare them in the face helps add a bit of colour, and frame their vacation experience.

That input (thanks, Amanda) got me thinking about the kind of questions I currently ask, and the ones I should be asking.

I started thinking about how to really get to the heart of each clients’ needs and wants. 

You never get to recapture your personal time. We have to make sure we get it right the first time. And, extraordinary travel experiences don’t just happen – they require collaborative effort.

So, I started researching questionnaires and quizzes to help focus a client in on their needs and wants. Obviously, the personal interview will remain a crucial part of my process, but I’ve come across some pretty neat quizzes that are already out there on the internet.

Have a look at this one. 

It’s designed by the Canadian Tourism Commission, so its suggestions are Canadian-centric.  Obviously, we live in an awesome country, and we do not explore it as much as we should. So, this quiz is a great starting point in looking at how to frame needs and wants – both for Canadian vacations, and we can then use it as a stepping stone for vacations around the globe.

Do the quiz.  Let me know what your “explorer quotient” is.  Tell me what you think of the questionnaire.  Would it help you in defining your next vacation needs and wants?

Enquiring minds want to know!

October 27, 2010 Posted by | Lush Life Other Items, Lush LIfe Top Posts | Leave a comment

Disney World – FAQs

My new clients ask a lot of the same Disney questions. Here is a FAQ section to help.

1. What is Walt Disney World (WDW)?

Vacation resort/ theme park in Orlando, Florida (not Anaheim, California – that is Disneyland) that is spread out over 47 square miles – there are 4 major theme parks: Magic Kingdom, Animal Kingdom, Hollywood Studios, and Epcot. There are 2 water parks (Blizzard Beach and Typhoon Lagoon). And there are 22 onsite resort hotels, plus shopping and 100+ restaurants (in the Downtown Disney resort area, throughout the parks, throughout the various resort hotels, etc.), as well as various recreational and sports activities (ESPN, plus water sports, golfing, horseback riding, Richard Petty drivealong, Cirque du Soleil shows, etc.). There is something for everyone.

2. What is an onsite Disney hotel?

The “official” Disney hotels include 22 properties that range from campgrounds to cabins, to value hotels, to moderate hotels, to deluxe hotels, to Disney Vacation Club properties (think condos that rent out as a hotel room).  Staying at an onsite hotel accords you special perks. (Note: Walt Disney World Dolphin and Swan are not “official” Disney properties. Neither are the oodles of hotels in the Disney resort strip.)

3. What is the difference between a base ticket and a park hopper ticket?

A base ticket lets you enter one park a day, and only one park a day. A park hopper ticket costs ~$50 USD more per person (you pay once, for your entire stay), and allows you to enter multiple parks on the same day. This is particularly helpful to take advantage of extra magic hours, when staying at an onsite resort. (Note: you cannot use extra day counts on a base ticket to enter a second park on one day. You will be escorted to the guest services area to upgrade your ticket to a park hopper ticket.)

4.     What are “extra magic hours”? 

This is a special perk that Disney accords its onsite guests (i.e., staying at one of the official 22 onsite Disney resorts) only.  This perk alternates through the 4 major parks, and depending on the season/ volume at the parks, there can be more than one per day.  Generally, the early magic hours let you enter the designated park one hour earlier than the general public.  The evening extra magic hours let you stay up to three hours after normal park closing.

5.   What is the Magical Express?

This is another special perk that Disney accords its onsite guests. You have a free shuttle to transport you from the Orlando International airport to your Disney resort, and back again.

6. Isn’t it better to stay offsite?

Not really. Offsite may give you extra space, if your family is large and you’re particularly budget conscious, but staying onsite gives you the free transportation to and from the airport, access to the free transportation in and around the parks (so you don’t have to rent a car and/or pay to park it), ability to buy the Disney dining plan, access to “extra magic hours” , and also allows you to be surrounded by the magic 24 hours a day.

7. Is there a bad time to go to the parks?

Any visit to Disney is a magical time. You can always work around time schedules and crowds, and plan accordingly. However, the parks generally are more crowded when kids are out of school. Easter, Christmas, July 4th are particularly busy, so if you have to go then, make sure you stay at an onsite hotel to take advantage of extra magic hours, and plan your meals! (there’s never Really a bad time to go to Disney)

  8.  What is the Disney dining plan?

There are several versions of the dining plan, which, again, is a perk that Disney only allows its onsite guest to purchase.  You can purchase a quick service meal (think of it as Disney’s equivalent to MacDonalds), a regular dining plan (one quick service, one table service, and one snack per person per night), or a deluxe dining plan.  You can also purchase a wine add on.  Disney dining plans offer tremendous value (particularly during promos where it is offered for free.) Disney has 100+ restaurants that participate in its dining plans in and around the parks, and resort hotels.

9. What is a “fastpass“?

Think of this as Disney’s virtual ride queuing system. You’ll find an atm-like kiosk next to the ride, and you have to insert your park pass in the “atm. ” You’ll get your park pass back, along with a “fastpass” that gives you an hour window to return for a ride.  This allows you to wait in a different queue than the standby line, thus shortcutting the wait time considerably. (There are limits to how often you can get a fastpass. See my separate blog post on point.)

10. Do you have to plan your Disney vacation?

No – you’ll always have a good time at Disney, but with some advance planning (especially if you get me to plan your vacation), you can have a fantastic time at Disney. A little planning will make your experience so much better – particularly if you schedule character and/or restuarant meals in advance. (No one wants to queue up for 2 hours when you’re hungry.)

Give me a call, and let’s get planning your next trip to see Mickey!

October 26, 2010 Posted by | Lush Life Disney, Lush LIfe Top Posts, Lush Life Travel TIps & Advice | Leave a comment

Finding $ for your dream vacay: Guest blogger, Jacquie Bushell

Today, I have a special guest blogger, Jacquie Bushell, AMP, of My Ottawa Mortgage. Jacquie is a residential mortgage specialist, with particular expertise in arranging mortgages for self-employed professionals. Jacquie is sharing her knowledge with this guest blog: “Finding $ for your dream vacay.”  Thanks, Jacquie! 

(Please contact Jacquie for all your mortgage needs. Her contact details are at the end of the post. Jacquie is a member of my business networking group, and I have every confidence in her professional abilities and her discretion.)


What interests you?

Beautiful beaches? Architecture? Taste buds all a tingle? 

Where will the money come from? 

We all want for a day when we can do what we want, when we want.

Maybe you’ve wanted to travel the world in sailboat spending time feeling the roll of the waves, the wind in your hair and the smell of sea air filling your nostrils?

Or spend months backpacking through Europe?

Or maybe not so much backpacking, but staying in luxurious boutique hotels over looking the sea,  touring the ancient cities and taking in the sights and smells? 

Where will the money come from? 

Tap into your home equity! 

You may have enough equity in your home that would allow for you to take out a secure line of credit that could facilitate the financing for your dream trip. A secure line of credit is easily obtained and working with a mortgage broker can make the process that much more convenient.

How do you find out if you have enough equity in your home? What will it cost?  Where do you start?

Just give me a call or an email, I am happy to answer your questions, go over scenarios, but most importantly, get you started with financing, and get you ON that dream vacay. 

Why a Mortgage Broker? Knowledge, Convenience and Choice!

Jacquie Bushell AMP 

Residential Mortgage Specialist

613 882 3201

October 25, 2010 Posted by | Lush Life Guest Bloggers, Lush Life Travel TIps & Advice | Leave a comment

Disney’s Hair Wrap Rap

Hangin’ at the Poly with my two l’il girls.

They need to sit a sec, and leave the “volcano pool” whirl.

They see a lady at a stand that’s doing a flip.

With bright colours swinging all around, her peeps look quite hip.

“Oh Mom, we must”, they cry. “We just need to look cool.”

“This won’t wash out right away. And we can keep it at school.”

I’m a sucker for my babes. That is no lie.

They know just how to work it, and they will til I die.

They take turns on the seat, on the throne that’s a stool.

And pick their favourite colours from the plentiful spool.

The lady takes a section of their fine golden hair

And wraps colourful floss around it, til you’re not sure it’s still there

$2 an inch, but the beads aren’t free.

20 minutes of your time, for some fine embroidery.

The results are pretty rad, as I’m sure you’ll agree.

So do the Disney hair rap. Just forgive bad rapster, me.

October 24, 2010 Posted by | Lush Life Disney | 2 Comments

Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique at Disney

If you’ve seen the movie “Cinderella,” you know that the Fairy Godmother waves her wand, and as she’s transforming Cindy from a cinder gal into an Ella for the ball, Fairy Godmother utters the words “Bibbidi Bobbidi Boo.”

Magic, right?

Of course, when the princess craze took hold, it didn’t take long for Disney to take hold of their own kind of marketing magic and create “Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique” for young girls. 

(Hard to believe when DD11 was 3, I couldn’t find princess stuff anywhere. By the time she was 5, the Disney stores were full of the stuff. A couple of years more, and stores like Walmart and Zellers had the merchandising. With DD4, there’s no dearth of princess stuff anywhere on the planet, I’m sure.)

“Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique” is definitely a cash cow for Disney. Smart folks, there. What little girl wouldn’t want to be feted like a princess? What initially started at a downtown Disney location has blossomed into a full on revenue stream with a second location at Cinderella’s castle in Magic Kingdom. Both locations are always blocked solid, with a dozen or so “beauty stations” at each. Make sure you have an appointment.

The girls are given a menu of packages they can select from – Coach (hairstyling and shimmering makeup for $49.95), Crown (which is Coach + nails for $54.95), and Castle (which is Crown + costume & accessories + photo package for $189.95) See for info.

It’s interesting to watch the dynamics unfold in the beauty salon.  Sometimes, I’m not sure who is more excited to be getting made up  – the little girls, or their moms and dads who are excitedly taking photos.

The process begins with the little girls getting a protective cape, and then two ladies in waiting start the transformation process. (My normal cries of ‘you’re beautiful without makeup’ falls particularly flat at Disney. The Mouse has me beat. Hair, light makeup, and nails are arranged for both.)

Both of my girls selected “Pop Diva Princess” for their selections.

Each girl has one lady pinning up their hair in a bun…

while another does light makeup, and nails.

And with a sprinkling of pixie dust….  we’re done!

October 23, 2010 Posted by | Lush Life Disney | 6 Comments

Wishes Dessert Party at Disney – Death by Chocolate

I just read that Johns Hopkins has done a study to determine that dark chocolate doesn’t only taste good, it’s good for the brain.  Ok. Check.  Needed a reason to like it. (Yeah, right!)

I like to indulge in the dark chocolate every now and then (uumm, yeah… any chocolate nearby right now?). And for anyone who likes chocolate, I’d heartily recommend taking in Disney’s Wishes Dessert Party at Magic Kingdom.

My family took in the dessert fest last year when we attended the Mickey”s Not So Scary Hallowe’en Party (MNSSHP). The “Wishes Dessert Party” event isn’t run every night, so you have to call and check if it’s on during your Disney visit (or call your friendly neighbourhood travel advisor – ahem), and right now is scheduled only up to the end of December. The event is often on during special ticketed events (e.g., MNSSHP or Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party), but is also offered on non-ticketed events.

You have to head to the Tomorrowland Terrace for the chocolate smorgasbord, so the added benefit is that you get primo seating to watch the Wishes fireworks display. (Not a bad seat in the place.)

It was certainly fun to go the night of the MNSSHP. The self-serve buffet is full of every chocolate dessert you could imagine (and some other bits and pieces for those weird folks that don’t like chocolate… things like fruit, cheese and crackers, and rice crispie squares.)

The cost is currently $23.42 USD/ adult and $12.77 USD/ child. You have to make an advance reservation, and prepay for the feast. (And, no, it’s not on the dining plan.)

I didn’t snap many pictures at the party (too busy eating), but I can tell you that there’s nothing like an all-you-can-eat dessert buffet trough, especially after trick-or-treating through Magic Kingdom park, to tire a kid out (or at least make her annoyed at mom for snapping pictures when she’s trying to eat).

Check out the party. Chocolate lovers will be glad they did – oh, and you can say Johns Hopkins sent you.

October 22, 2010 Posted by | Lush Life Disney, Lush Life Food, WIne & Spas | Leave a comment

“Boo, Happy Hallowe’en” – Mickey’s Not So Scary Hallowe’en Party

I love Hallowe’en.  Save Christmas, it’s my favourite holiday of the year. On October 1st each year, the kids dig out the “RIP” signs, ghosts, plastic skeleton bones, etc., and we get our yard ready for the fun.  We fill big pumpkin plastic bags with leaves, and really get into the “spirit” of things.  And, of course, the decorating continues inside.

We’ve still decorated outside and in this year, but one of our traditions is missing.  And that’s attending the “Mickey’s Not So Scary Hallowe’en Party” (MNNSHP) at Walt Disney World.

We’d done the MNSSHP three years in a row, and I didn’t think we’d miss it this year if we backed up our annual jaunt to WDW to the end of August, beginning of September.  Don’t get me wrong – we had an awesome time at the parks this year, and really took advantage of the smaller crowds and terrific weather. (We visited when the Florida kids had already returned to school, so the queues were shorter.) At the time, we congratulated ourselves on being so wise to go earlier … but…

now the leaves are turning their splendid yellow, gold, and orange; and they’re even starting to waft down from the trees. The burning bush in my yard is a brilliant red. And the weather has that crisp apple fall tartiness to it.  Gosh darn it, why aren’t we at Disney?

And just how am I going to get this year’s MNSSHP tshirt, and add to my collection?

Hhmm, have to go back again real soon! (Trip #19 can’t come soon enough!)

The MNSSHP is an awesome event for those of you who haven’t taken it in yet.  Sure, it’s a separate ticket party – those who don’t purchase the MNSSHP will have a shortened day at Magic Kingdom. It usually closes by 7pm.  But those with their MNSSHP will usually start to show up around 4pm, and join in the festive fun. The party continues until midnight.

The parks look lovely decorated in the autumnal splendour. And everyone dons a costume for the MNSSHP – adults, kids, characters alike.  It’s a blast. 

But, be forewarned, it’s called the Not So Scary party for a reason – no gore, blood, guts, violent costumes are allowed.  Save those for your definitely adult parties.  The Magic Kingdom party is meant for kids of all ages.

There are all kinds of special things at the MNSSHP – such as “free” face painting, which my girls love to take in.

Of course, Cinderella’s pumpkin ride is on display, transformed into a regal carriage, so all may be photographed next to it.

There are special parades, and fireworks just for Hallowe’en, and the “headless horseman” begins the festivities off right. 

And, of course, there are balloons, and trick-or-treating throughout the park.  What silly fun!

So, if you like Hallowe’en, check out Mickey’s Not So Scary Hallowe’en Party at WDW. There’s still a few dates for this year, but if you can’t quite squeeze it in, plan on it for next year.  I know I will be!

October 21, 2010 Posted by | Lush Life Disney | Leave a comment