Sheila Gallant-Halloran

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

Chasing 17th Century Pirate, Peter Easton, thru Newfoundland

Studying Newfoundland history in grade school, I heard rumblings about pirates. And growing up in Corner Brook, with a dad that loved everything to do with the water, and who studied the lore of Captain Cook and the various island shipwrecks, I knew the name Peter Easton. Funny how it surprised me to learn of W5’s recent underwater chase for “The Pirate Admiral.” Was it possible that people in different parts of Canada didn’t know the story of Easton?

Apparently so….

Go figure.

Newfoundlanders certainly know the stories of the early 1600’s pirate. Blackbeard and Jack Sparrow begone. To heck with the Caribbean. Peter Easton was a British naval officer turned pirate, and he made his base in Conception Bay, Newfoundland.  He lived in Harbour Grace and Ferryland. And Peter Easton was the most successful pirate of his time – he plundered ships, amassed a fortune, and retired a rich man living in the lap of luxury in France.

And as Jason Crummey, author of Pirates of Newfoundland was interviewed in the W5 piece says, Peter Easton’s greatest coup was probably the capture of  “three Spanish treasure ships off the Strait of Gibraltar in about 1615. It was the largest pirate heist in world history at that time,” said Crummey, worth the equivalent of $50 million today. ”

So, go chase some real pirates off the coast of Newfoundland. You might just find some sunken pirate guns and anchors, if you go scuba diving like W5’s folks did – but at the very least, you’ll discover the treasure that is Newfoundland.


November 30, 2010 Posted by | Lush Life Destinations | Leave a comment

Get a Will before Vacay- Guest post by Leslie J. Kirk

It’s guest blog Monday, and today I’m fortunate to have Leslie J. Kirk, a lawyer with Michael J. Farrell & Associate, write about the reasons you should have your family’s will in order before you take a vacay.

Leslie is a member of my business networking group, and I know her to be an honest and capable young professional who is sincerely looking to help those in need of wills, or those looking to buy or sell a home. As her tagline says, she’s looking for clients, not deals.   So, if you need some legal assistance, give Leslie a call. Her contact details are at the end of the post.


Why a will?

Before you take your next vacation it might be a good idea to review your will (or, to have one made if you don’t already have a will).

Reasons for having an up-to-date will include:

Tax Planning/Savings

The only sure things in life are death and taxes.  When you die, your estate will be responsible for paying final income taxes and, if necessary, estate administration taxes. By creating a will in consultation with a lawyer, you can arrange the ownership of your assets and beneficiary designations to minimize income and estate administration taxes payable as a result of your death.

Appropriate distribution of your estate

Having a will will ensure that your assets are distributed according to your wishes – not the government’s.  If you to die intestate (meaning without a will) your assets will be distributed according to provincial legislation.  While the government’s rules might match your wishes, it is possible that the government’s distribution scheme might not reflect your intentions. By creating a will, you will be able to gift your estate to who you wish.

Custody of your children

Who would you like to raise your children if something were to happen to both you and your spouse?  Your will is the place where you can make your wish known.  Appointing a guardian/custodian for any minor children you have in your will makes it more likely that the person or persons whom who wish will be given guardianship of your children upon your death.

Leslie J. Kirk, Associate at Michael J. Farrell & Associate

34 Hawthorne Avenue, Ottawa, Ontario K1S 0B1



November 29, 2010 Posted by | Lush Life Guest Bloggers, Lush Life Travel TIps & Advice | Leave a comment

Airport Security – Humour & Outrage in the Pat Downs

With the US thanksgiving holiday, increased security measures at US airports got a lot of attention, and criticism from passengers. 

Facebook has a swell of activity from US passengers with its “national opt out” day, and news stories have covered everything from John Tyner’s “don’t touch my junk” to SNL’s parody skit about TSA’s “it’s our business to touch yours.”

It’s certainly a story that looks at privacy issues and security risks. How will it unfold, especially now that Canada is increasing its security measures? 

What do you think? Do you see humour – or- outrage?

security pat downs in Canada

Canada’s Michael Ignatieff  says privates pat downs necessary

John Tyner says “don’t touch my junk”

TSA shuts down some scanners on National Opt Out

passengers beating TSA to strip search by stripping first

snl parody tsa 

November 28, 2010 Posted by | Lush Life Other Items, Lush Life Travel TIps & Advice | Leave a comment

Food Allergies? Beaches will treat you right!

Earlier this week, I wrote a post about Disney being able to handle food allergies right, and take away the cares of parents who have to contend with allergies.  Having specialized in Disney vacations for years, my clients’ concerns have ranged from lactose intolerance to severe milk allergies (yes, it exists) to gluten to kiwi to peanut and every other kind of allergy. I have always taken comfort sending people to Disney because I know and trust their system for dealing with allergies. This week, I was pleasantly surprised to learn that the Beaches chain is similarly equipped to deal with food allergies.

As a new specialist with the Beaches brand, I’m growing my knowledge of how they can respond to situations. And I got to see how they treated food allergies up close this week. I was thrilled with the response. (And families who must constantly guard against these issues will be thrilled to know that their vacation options are widening.)

My clients have a young family, and their youngest is anaphylaxic to Sesame and Tree Nuts. They have never vacationed as a family because of their need to be vigilant, and to be constantly monitoring their daughter’s exposure. When we were choosing a vacation spot for them, Disney certainly made the short list, but they were intrigued more by Beaches Turks and Caicos. The thought of a luxurious Caribbean vacation with fun, sun, surf, and a multitude of  family activities just spoke to them. I’ve sold Beaches with confidence to many families, but I’d never had to enquire about their treatment of allergies before. And, in this client’s case, the allergy was severe – there couldn’t be any margin for error.

I got some initial assurances from the Beaches Special Services team that they indeed could handle such situations. That offered some comfort, for sure, but I wanted to get additional info for the family.

You can imagine how much worry was alleviated by the following email sent from the Beaches T&C executive chef to my clients.

It will be my pleasure to be of assistance, firstly we will do our very best to ensure you guys have a fantastic vacation and enjoy all your food all over the resort,

We run a very successful food programme where I ask you to let me know your chosen restaurant one meal period in advance with the order for [xxx]’s chosen dietary restricted food, we simply remove the restriction and prepare and cook the food to suit her requirements, time is very important to me as I require the necessary time to prepare and cook safely and avoid any form of cross contamination,

Dietary restrictions are very common on property we are dealing with sometimes 20 families per day asking for special requests and food restrictions, this morning I have 14 families on the food programme, some are personal preference, some medically diagnosed and some are life threatening and some very severe like [xxx],

I fully understand your case and understand your daughter has very severe allergies to sesame seeds and tree nuts, I will in fact include all nuts to be 100% safe, we will do our very very best to ensure you are all very well looked after, I would like to be able to safely offer your daughter as much choice and selection as possible so if you are fine with this proposal let’s meet when you guys arrive and we will very carefully go over your daughters food requests and requirements, I feel very comfortable dealing with your request and I am sure we can do many many happy meals for [xxx] and the whole family all over the resort,

We are looking forward to your arrival, should you have any more question please feel free to drop me an email and I will reply as soon as possible…

Warmest Regards Chef.

Think my clients are going to Beaches Turks and Caicos with a clear heart?  You betcha!

Food allergies?  Beaches will treat you right!

November 27, 2010 Posted by | Lush Life Food, WIne & Spas, Lush Life Hotels, Lush Life Kids | 5 Comments

Passports – ya gotta have ’em

If you’re Canadian, and you’re travelling outside of Canada, please get your passport. And please, make sure it has at least 6 months remaining before its expiry date.  Believe me, you don’t need a panicked trip to the passport office, getting copies of all travel documents, paying for an expedited renewal, standing in lines just before a big tirp, and praying that expedited processing times are expedited enough for you.

Problems can definitely arise if you’re not attentive. Expiry dates matter. Don’t risk being turned away from reboarding your cruise ship because there’s only five months remaining on your child’s passport instead of six. Don’t risk being turned away from the airport at the check in desk because of document issues. This kinda stuff is so avoidable.

Besides turning to your friendly travel advisor, there are lots of resources online to help address questions.

There are details about Canadians needing passports to get into the US (and vice versa) and more generally about travelling in North America

And you should also check travel reports about where you’re travelling

Know the requirements of Passport Canada

There’s lots of info for adults and children . And details about the new simplified renewal process,, processing times , and passport fees

There are special conerns about travelling with children  particularly if your child is travelling with only one parent (and/or that parent has a different surname than the child). Custodial issues are paramount. Obviously, check with your lawyer if separations/ divorces have created some acrimony. Make sure you have  proper consent letters . Here is a sample consent letter to consider.

Passports – ya gotta have ’em. Make sure you do.

November 26, 2010 Posted by | Lush Life Travel TIps & Advice | Leave a comment

My turn to guest blog – with Cristie Vito at Stellar Events.

Thrilled to be guest blogging today at Cristie’s site.  Check out Stellar Events, and Cristie Vito’s blog at

November 25, 2010 Posted by | Lush Life Guest Bloggers, Lush Life Weddings & Honeymoons | Leave a comment

I’m dreamin’ of the Disney Dream

The third ship of the Disney Cruise Line begins to sail in January 2011.

We have the Disney Magic and the Disney Wonder – now comes the: Disney Dream!

The first sailing will be on January 26, 2011. The maiden voyage is popular, and nearly sold out, but the second sailing on January 30th still has some space.

The Dream will sail 3,4, and 5 night Bahamian cruises.

There are 1,250 cabins on the Disney Dream – room enough for 4000 passengers. The Dream is in the same style as the Magic and Wonder, but quite a bit bigger – ~40% larger (and 2 decks taller) than its sister ships. And there are over 1,900 more beds than the Magic or Wonder as well.

Of course, it was designed with families in mind – there’s even a water coaster on board (AquaDuck).
Aren’t you dreamin’ of the Disney Dream?


November 25, 2010 Posted by | Lush Life Cruising, Lush Life Disney | Leave a comment

Wills & Kate : April 29.11 – Wanna go to London to see the Queen?

I’m no giddy romantic. But on July 29th, 1981, I rose very early to watch Diana marry Charles at St. Paul’s Cathedral in London. The pomp and circumstance was so intriguing to watch. Course, that stuff of fairytales unravelled to be a bit of a dark murder mystery kinda nightmare, but then again – I like those too! 🙂

But, this time is different, right?

Wills & Kate have known each other for years, they were friends first, they’ve done the trial separation thing, and Kate is no 20-year old shrinking violet who is walking into the Royal Firm totally unprepared.

This time’s for keeps….Right?

Well, right or wrong, and all jadedness to the side, both the media and the public are already lapping up the engagement announcement. And today comes the news that the wedding will take place on April 29, 2011 at Westminster Abbey.

Right or wrong, I think folks are hungry for something to cheer for. It’s almost like we need an event to replace Diana’s funeral. 

Wanna go to London to see the Queen?

You can catch the current, and future, in one shot.

Me thinks London tourism has just taken off, big time!

November 23, 2010 Posted by | Lush Life Destinations | Leave a comment

Guest Blog: Some Q&As with Event Planner Cristie Vito

It’s Monday, so it’s guest blogger day. Today, I’m lucky to have Cristie Vito of Stellar Events with me for a little Q&A about what event planners do, and how they can help with destination weddings. 

Cristie and I keep meeting at various networking events around Ottawa, and have realized we both have the same attention to detail and service philosophy, and we both love what we do. And, Cristie was just awarded the young business person of the year for the 2010 TD Canada Trust Peoples Choice Awards for the Orleans Chamber of Commerce.  If you need an event or wedding planner, give Cristie a call. Her contact details are at the end of the post.


Why are you in event planning?

I worked in PR for years, and enjoyed media-related events. When I thought about starting my own business, adding weddings to event coordination seemed a natural fit.

 How do you become an event planner? Do you have any specialities and/or certifications?

I graduated in Communications from the University of Ottawa, and did a Post-Graduate Certificate in Public Relations at Humber College in Toronto. After working in PR in Toronto, I decided to move home to Ottawa and start my business.  I was certified as a wedding planner through the Wedding Planners Institute of Canada (WPIC).

 How long have you been doing this?

I am going into my third year of business, but I have been involved in event coordination for almost 10 years (in one capacity or another)!!

 What’s your favourite memory of working with a client?

It is hard to narrow it down because there are so many amazing couples. Working with wedding couples is always rewarding because it is such a milestone in anyone’s life.  The fact that I work with a couple to create the wedding that truly reflects their relationship and personality is always such a privilege. My favourite moment with any couple, though, is when everything comes together on the actual wedding day, and I get to see how happy they are!

What’s been the biggest obstacle you’ve had to overcome with an event, just by your own sheer will and determination?

The most challenging event I have ever coordinated was a wedding this past summer.  The ceremony, dinner and reception all took place on a cruise boat. We had to transform all three levels into their Las Vegas theme in less than four hours!  As you can imagine, it was a huge challenge.  We had limited time to pull it off on the actual day, I worked very closely with the couple leading up to their wedding,  and assigned people to specific tasks.  I had two assistants, as well as 10 volunteers, and we worked tirelessly to get the job done. We had organized everything so well leading up to the event, it was just a matter of me directing what needed to get done in what order.  It is crazy to think that we pulled it off, but we did! We had so many compliments, especially from the crew that they had never seen their boat look so great!

What’s the biggest stumbling block in working with a new client?

The most important thing for me is to get a clear understanding of their style and vision, so I am recommending vendors with their unique wedding in mind.  It is really important to know my clients so I can help them come up with unique and special details. On the actual wedding day, I sometimes make decisions on their behalf, so I need to know them well to make choices with them in mind.

What’s the biggest misconception you wish you could correct for new clients?

There are two when it comes to wedding planners:

1. That people can’t afford to have a planner and

2. The wedding planner will take over. 

When it comes to hiring a wedding planner, it really isn’t that expensive if you have someone for the day of the wedding.  Most couples I have worked with say it was the best money they spent on their entire wedding. It relieved so much stress, and they were actually able to relax and enjoy their wedding day.  And, wedding planners can actually help save money.  Vendors see me as a returning client, so I often have access to better rates for my clients.  Because this isn’t my “first wedding”, I also have creative suggestions to save money. 

And, my role is to help guide couples through the planning process, not to plan the wedding for them.  This is not my wedding, it is theirs!  I am here to help bring their vision to life.  For example, rather than spending hours online searching for a photographer, I can narrow options (of vendors I know and trust) based on the clients’ style and budget.   On average, couples without a planner spend about 250 hours planning their wedding.  By hiring me, that time goes down to a fraction!

Can you do day-of-event in addition to full wedding planning?

All full wedding coordination packages include day of coordination.  Not only do I help plan the entire wedding, I am there on the day to ensure everything goes off without a hitch!  For day of coordination services, it is actually more like the few weeks leading up to the wedding.  I take care of the last minute details, and am there on the day of the event to ensure it goes well.

Obviously, you work with travel agents to do destination wedding planning. Can you travel with the bride-and-groom to assist at destination?

I can definitely travel with destination couples to assist them on location.  Some resorts have coordinators on site, and I work hand in hand with them to ensure all details are as the couple envisioned.  The benefit to having a planner travel with a destination-wedding client ensures everything is the way they had planned.  The job of resort coordinators is to make sure everything goes well from the location’s perspective (which may not always be in the best interest of the couple).  My number one priority is to ensure the bride and groom get what they want.  If something isn’t quite right, I work with the resort coordinator to ensure details are changed to suit my clients.  Depending on the size of the group, and gateways, sometimes tour operators offer incentives that may cover my travel expenses. Definitely a question to ask your travel agent if you are considering a destination wedding!  Resort coordinators are great, but it is always good to have someone with your best interests at destination to make sure your day is exactly how you imagined!

Cristie Vito, WPICC
Creative Director
Stellar Events
Tel: 613-302-3700                                                                                                                    Web:                                                                                                                                                                                                

November 22, 2010 Posted by | Lush Life Guest Bloggers, Lush Life Weddings & Honeymoons | Leave a comment

Food Allergies? Disney will treat you right!

Today’s families have to contend with issues that I don’t remember from my school days. Growing up, I didn’t know anyone with peanut allergies, and despite oodles of my mom’s homecooked options, one of my brothers lived on a steady diet of peanut butter sandwiches. He would’ve starved if he couldn’t have taken pb&j to school.

Today, food allergies are almost the norm.  But they are also quite lethal. Last year, both my daughters’ schools had children with severe allergies to peanuts, tree nuts, kiwi, shrimp, and other foods. Photos of children are pasted to the wall with extra epipens attached, and parents are sent notices not to bring any of the restricted items to school. One of my daughter’s had a classmate who was severely allergic to milk – not lactose intolerant, but allergic. (Once, his soy milk was refilled in his sister’s milk cup, and her milk refilled in his soy milk cup – just touching his lips to the cup caused them to swell.)  This is scary stuff.

My sister-in-law who teaches in Toronto was just telling me about Sabrina’s law and the rules that teachers and schools have concerning food at school.

Obviously, no one wants to put a child at risk.

Parents who live with these allergies have to be vigilant about monitoring the risks to their children. I’m fortunate to not have to live with the day-in and day-out worries with my own kids, but I’ve worked with many clients that have this as their reality. So, finding a vacation spot that can help them deal with these issues is sometimes tough.

But – Disney does it up right!

I often make advance dining reservations for my clients at WDW restuarants. Before I do, I always ask about allergies. Disney dining has the systems set up to deal with all allergies.  Dining reservation systems (whether on the phone, or online) are structured to handle info about allergies.  Each allergy and/or concern is noted on each reservation.

At destination in a Disney restaurant, the chef will also come out to speak to the parents, and instruct them as to which items can be eaten from a buffet, or which cannot. Also, special items can be prepared. 

In addition, I can get parents the phone number to the restaurant, and we can speak to the executive chef or Food and Beverage manager to address all concerns. 

I’ve dealt with oodles of client food allergies, and Disney really knows how to respect the concerns, and address the allergy issue with the parents. 

Everyone wants to relax when they’re on vacation. If your family has to contend with food allergies, rest assured that a Disney vacation will work for you.

November 21, 2010 Posted by | Lush Life Disney, Lush Life Food, WIne & Spas, Lush Life Kids | Leave a comment