Sheila Gallant-Halloran

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

Guest blog:Brian Hargreaves-Destination Weddings: a Photographer’s Perspective

It’s guest blog Monday, and today I’m fortunate to have Ottawa photographer, Brian Hargreaves of BH Photography, share his wisdom (and beautiful photos) with us on photographing destination weddings.

If you’re interested in connecting with Brian and his wife Ivy, their contact details are at the end of the post.


In looking through the vast amount of advertising material available for couples planning their dream day, destination weddings seem like an elegant, easy and care free wedding experience. They are, in fact a lot more work than one would expect. When searching through options, there are a lot of resorts who offer wedding packages that are all inclusive; they provide the venue, meals, flowers, cake, hair & makeup for the bride, and even a photographer!

However, unlike having your wedding at home, you are unable to see the venue in person, meet with your florist, or photographer. Most couples have a vision in their mind of their destination wedding being on a gorgeous, private beach with the relaxing sound of the ocean in the background. The reality is that your wedding may end up right in the middle of the resort’s beach, complete with onlookers sporting bikinis and Speedos rather than something more appropriate.  On the other hand, if you decide to host your event offsite, finding out that the private beach is right beside a busy highway or airport, or that the ceremony music you spent hours deciding on comes from a boombox can really have an effect on the ambiance of your day.

Hiring a travel agent specializing in destination weddings is your best bet to have the wedding of your dreams. As each individual destination has their own customs and culture, they will help you pick the destination that best suits your style and dreams. A destination travel agent will also be able suggest options or things to consider that you may not have thought of—a growing trend lately is to take both a professional photographer and hair stylist / makeup artist with you for part or all of your trip.

Taking a photographer with you has many advantages. Most resort photographers only cover the ceremony, and provide you with roughly 30 small printed images within a day or two. Often, you won’t be able to order more, print a large photo for your home, or create an album, and most of the time there is very little editing done by the resort photographer. A destination wedding photographer will provide you with coverage of your preparations, the ceremony, formal photos, and photos of your dinner / reception. Your photographer is one of the people who are around you for most of the wedding; what if you don’t get along with the one provided by the resort, or they aren’t as professional as you had expected? Your wedding day is not the best time to find this out!

If you are having a reception upon your return for family and friends who couldn’t make the trip, you will be able to hire the same photographer for every part of your wedding. Some photographers will even include a day after, or trash the dress session to maximize the variety of your wedding photos while away. 

Ultimately, your wedding photos are the only thing you have left after the wedding is over. Investing in a quality photographer is only a fraction of the total investment you and your guests are making, and the family heirlooms created by a professional will be treasured by your children and grandchildren for years to come.


Brian J. Hargreaves
BH Photography
Ottawa: 613.282.3852
Montreal: 514.400.8495 | |


January 31, 2011 Posted by | Lush Life Guest Bloggers, Lush Life Weddings & Honeymoons | Leave a comment

Disney takes Hawaii – the Aulani resort

News from DISNEYAULANI A Disney Resort & Spa - Ko Olina, Hawai'iAloha, welcome to Hawai`i

Aulani, a Disney Resort & Spa in Ko Olina, was designed by Walt Disney Imagineers working hand in hand with Hawaiians to create a place celebrating island culture and history. Everything from the wondrous volcanic outcroppings to the breathtaking Resort architecture honors the fundamental connection between nature and humanity that the Hawaiians have cherished since the beginning of time. And because Hawaiians love to layer meaning in their words, so the name “Aulani” has more than one meaning. It is the place that speaks for the ancestors, yet it is also the place that speaks with deep messages.

Aulani is indeed a place where ancestral stories are told, built with the nobility, beauty and grandeur of Paradise.

Scheduled to Open Aug. 29, 2011
Bookings Open Now!

Discover the Difference at Aulani
Aulani, a Disney Resort & Spa in Ko Olina, is a new kind of Family Resort – your host and home on the shores of Oahu Aulani is more than a place to stay – it is a place to start. Through the magic of Disney, we open doors to the wonders of Hawai’i. And from our renowned service to the quality you come to expect from Disney, Aulani delivers the difference that makes Disney destinations some of the most sought-after vacation locations in the world!

World Famous Disney Service
Disney is known the world over for its unparalleled dedication to impeccable service and providing the ultimate level of personal attention during your stay. Be assured that the needs of you and your family are anticipated at every step. Enjoy your time together and let Disney take care of the details!

Our Imagineers have brought the stories of Hawai’i to life by layering story into every aspect of the Resort. An enormous amount of detail and surprising, hidden magic has been crafted into the Resort itself to immerse you fully in the legends of the land – from the fantastic lava rock formations that meld with the architecture to the themed recreation areas such as the whimsical waterway and menehune trails, and the stunning lobby artwork. These are just a few of the many ways that Disney makes the stories of Hawai’i a vital part of your vacation experience. And don’t miss the tales told ’round the fire pit by our incredible performers!

Local Experts
When you visit Aulani, you are not a tourist but an explorer. With the help of local experts, you’ll experience Hawaiian culture through exciting excursions that immerse you in the culture and legends of the land. Whether you are learning the hula, taking a cooking class or trying the lilting Hawaiian language for the first time, our local experts help you celebrate the people, art and history of the islands through the magic of Disney.

Disney Characters
Watch your child’s face light up with delight at the sight of new and old Disney friends during special events and meals. It’s the perfect way to create magical memories that last a lifetime!

Unique Family Recreation
From the pool of velvety sting rays to the mischievous watercourse with an exhilarating tube ride, Aulani provides plenty of fun uniquely designed with family in mind! Adults can enjoy lots of relaxing “me” time as kids of all ages play in their own special places, such as Aunty’s Beach House, an enormous kids’ club where they can have fun while discovering Hawai’i through activities created especially for them! Pool parties, lawn events, Character dining and sunset ceremonies all engage both parents and their kids so that they can connect in inspiring new ways – to the place and with each other. It’s an exciting time together for the whole family.

January 29, 2011 Posted by | Lush Life Disney | Leave a comment

Virtuoso Voyageur Club – Top Amenities for Cruisers!

The Voyageur Club program that Virtuoso offers (which my clients receive as a result of my affiliation with the Vision 2000 Travel Group) provides complimentary hosts, private cocktail parties, and special amenities with shore excursions+perks.

Watch this video- 100% of all Crystal Cruises and all Seabourn Cruises are hosted by Voyageur Club.  And, there are select sailings with Azamara, Cunard, Holland America, Paul Gaugin, Regent,+ Silversea.

Don’t you deserve the best?

How can your cruise experience become extraordinary? When you book a cruise through a Virtuoso travel advisor, you enjoy the following benefits through Voyager Club at no additional cost: * Exclusive, private shore events * A dedicated onboard host * Onboard cocktail reception * The camaraderie of f

January 28, 2011 Posted by | Lush Life Cruising, Lush Life Partners | Leave a comment

Guest blog: Client, Joanna Helmer, Gives Advice-Disney w 2 yr old

I often have had guest bloggers. This week, I got an email from one of my clients who returned from Disney World with her 2-year old son. Joanna had some great tips based on her family’s experience .  I asked her permission to share them on my blog, and she kindly agreed.

By the way, Joanna is a financial advisor with Dundee Securities. If you’d like to contact her for financial advice, please see her contact details below.


Hi, Sheila!

Thanks so much for all your help…it really made the difference.

 A couple tips for people travelling there with small children….I learned these the hard way… 🙂

 1. Bring your own headphones for the plane (not ear buds…you’ll find yourself with very tired arms since they don’t stay in the little ones’ ears on their own)

 2. There is a shocking lack of juice and milk in the parks…I prefer my guy to not drink a whole lot of coke and such, so we ended up bringing our own (line ups at the restaurants were very long, especially if you only want juice or milk)

 3. If you have restaurant reservations, ask a bus driver approximately how long it will take to get there the day before…we were late a couple times because we underestimated the size of the place…but we were accommodated both times (thankfully)

 4. If you want to go to Toy Story, get to the park early…stretch…when they drop the rope, RUN (it’s easy to find..everyone else is going there too)  You can take the cards for your whole party and get fast passes…if you’re not there within the first half hour or so, you will (hopefully) get a fast pass for suppertime.

 5. If at all possible, try to avoid having your 2-year old barf when you’re only 3 people away from the security gate…it really slows you down…but people are surprisingly sympathetic (others in line…not the security guards)

 6. Also, your fast pass is good ALL DAY…not just the times on the pass…those times are just indicating when you can get your next one (Note from Sheila: if it’s busy, Disney cast members can enforce the times on the pass – but they generally will honour usage.)

 7. If you plan to switch off with another parent (one ride, the other wait with the child til they’re done), you can each get a fast pass for 2 DIFFERENT rides (kind of cheating, but I can live with the guilt)

 8. Bring your own stroller…don’t even think about it…just do it…The ones you rent are only for use in the park…it’s quite a hike from the park gates to the buses…not to mention, you get to use yours when on the resort, the airport, shopping, whatever…and the ones you rent all look the bloody same, and can take quite a while to find (the attendants will move them to make room for more, as others are taken). They also look incredibly uncomfortable for those riding in them (molded plastic, no padding).  Bring your stroller with you to the airport, and use it there…our guy fell asleep in line 3 times (we thanked the Lord for ours several times)…then give it to the attendant as you’re getting on the plane.  It’s the best thing ever, I swear.

Just some thoughts…your advice made such a difference..we literally would have been lost without it….the reservations were great…especially Hoop De Doo…even the 2-yr old loved it.


Joanna Helmer

cell: 613 913 8575


twitter: @JoannaHelmer

January 27, 2011 Posted by | Lush Life Disney, Lush Life Guest Bloggers, Lush Life Kids | 5 Comments

Irish Experience – Escorted Tour with Trafalgar

I just booked a single lady on an escorted tour with Trafalgar.  She’s taking the “Irish Experience” tour.

tour itinerary

We’ve booked direct flights from Toronto to Dublin return with Air Canada, on a guaranteed departure.  By booking the air with Trafalgar, she is also able to take advantage of a special promo they have, and her tour price is reduced by $250.  We have a couple of nights tacked on at the end for her to do some customized touring of Dublin.

Here’s the itinerary.  It should be an awesome trip!

Irish Experience 2011

Overnight flight to Dublin.
Welcome to Dublin and Ireland! After hotel check-in there is time to relax or explore. Later, enjoy a Welcome Drink with your Tour Director and travelling companions.
Hotel: Mespil (F)
This morning your included guided sightseeing tour includes a visit to Trinity College. Here see the ancient Book of Kells which is an illuminated manuscript renowned for its extravagance and complexity. Views of St. Patrick’s Cathedral, Dublin Castle and Phoenix Park are also enjoyed. Then leave Dublin and drive to the Boyne Valley, site of the famous battle. Later arrive in Belfast the capital of Northern Ireland. (Full Breakfast / Dinner)
Hotel: Jurys Inn (F)
Your morning sightseeing tour shows you the City Hall, Queen’s University and Stormont Castle. Continue your journey on the beautiful Antrim coast road and on past the scenic Glens of Antrim to Ballycastle. Next stop to visit the UNESCO World Heritage site of Giants Causeway which is made up of huge basalt columns rising from the sea. Tonight enjoy a Highlight Dinner in a local restaurant. (Full Breakfast / Highlight Dinner)
Hotel: Everglades (SF)
After breakfast this morning your walking tour with a local expert guide takes you along the city walls, some of the best preserved in Europe. Then make your way to the 17th century St. Columb’s Cathedral with its tower. From here continue on to the quay where Irish emigrants sailed to the New World and then you will have free time to consider an excursion to the Inishowen Peninsula. (Full Breakfast)
This morning’s journey takes you via Strabane and Omagh, stopping to visit the Ulster-American Folk Park en route to Lough Erne in Ireland’s Lake District. Stop at Belleek in County Fermanagh to visit the famous pottery factory. Next continue your drive through Yeats country to your hotel in Ballina for dinner and an overnight stay. (Full Breakfast / Dinner)
Hotel: Downhill House (F)
Today travel to Connemara via the pretty town of Westport. Later see Kylemore Abbey renowned for the beauty and tranquility of both the surroundings and gardens, before driving along the shores of Lough Corrib to Galway. Here enjoy a tour of the city and scenic views of Galway Bay before arriving at your hotel. (Full Breakfast)
Hotel: Maldron (F)
Day 8 – GALWAY – KILLARNEY (2 nights)
Your first stop is Limerick where an orientation shows you St. Mary’s Cathedral, King John’s Castle and the Treaty Stone. A stop will then be made in scenic Adare which is known as one of the prettiest Irish villages complete with thatched cottages! Killarney is your final destination. (Full Breakfast)
Hotel: Eviston House (F)
Today spectacular scenery awaits you on your drive around the ‘Ring of Kerry’. Plunging cliffs, lush lakeland, granite mountains, and a jagged coastline are all part of this photographers’ delight. See Dingle Bay, the South Kerry Mountains and Ladies View before returning to your hotel. Tonight enjoy a delicious ‘Be My Guest’ dinner in an Irish farm house where you are entertained with unique story-telling! (Full Breakfast / Be My Guest dinner)
Today drive into County Cork stopping to visit Blarney Castle so that you can kiss the stone and acquire the ‘gift of the gab’! Then pass through Cork on your way to the fishing village of Youghal where Moby Dick was filmed, and along the scenic coast to reach the Waterford Crystal Showroom for an included factory tour and showroom visit. Here see beautiful displays of this sparkling crystal. (Full Breakfast / Dinner)
Hotel: Treacys Hotel (F)
Your first stop is at medieval Kilkenny, then continue to the Irish National Stud Farm where you will enjoy a walking tour and also visit the Japanese Garden. Return to Dublin before enjoying a celebratory Farewell Dinner together with your Tour Director and travelling companions. (Full Breakfast / Farewell Dinner)
Hotel: Maldron (F)
This morning it is time to bid farewell as your Irish tour comes to an end. Transfers are available. Conditions apply. (Full Breakfast)
Let me know if you’d be interested in a similar trip. It’d be my pleasure to help!

January 26, 2011 Posted by | Lush Life Destinations | Leave a comment

Anguilla – it’s the hot, hot spot this year!

Wanted to share the latest newsletter from Marie Walker at the Anguilla Tourism Board in NYC.

Most properties were at capacity on the beautiful island for December, but some openings can be had now.  As Marie notes, a number of celebrities have visited Anguilla lately. You should go check out why it’s the hot spot to see and be seen!


shhhh…..Celebrity Sightings over the Holidays

It wasn’t hard to identify the man behind his private jet. Michael Jordan jetted to Viceroy Anguilla, a destination that has attracted Sandra Bullock, Orlando Bloom and wife Miranda Kerr, and Law & Order: SVU actress Mariska Hargitay.

 Michael Jordan didn’t come to Viceroy Anguilla alone!  He was spotted riding bikes around Viceroy Anguilla with celebrity friends 50 Cent, BET founder Bob Johnson and NY Yankees Captain, Derek Jeter.   

 Not to be left out, we also had Sir Paul McCartney and his girlfriend, American heiress Nancy Shevell enjoying a New Year break with other holidaymakers at the Viceroy.

 Who can forget the timeless Lulu,  the Shout star graced our shores over the holidays also.

Rosie Huntington-Whiteley   was also on island with boyfriend Jason Statham on Tuesday (January 4) Ellen Degeneres Tweeted a couple days ago. “If you haven’t been to Anguilla, go. And you must stay at the Viceroy Hotel”. It’s amazing. Watch this video


And others are blogging about the fabulous Venus spa at the Cuisinart resort!

I’m a certified Anguilla Travel Connossieur. I’ve stayed in a villa at the Viceroy (yes it is fabulous) and toured a lot of properties on island. f I can help you plan a getaway to this magical little strip of paradise, please give me a call!  613-837-0699 or

January 25, 2011 Posted by | Lush Life Destinations | Leave a comment

Pools + Waterslides @ Disney’s monorail hotels: The Polynesian

Besides being a quick zip ride away from Magic Kingdom, one of the huge benefits of staying at a Disney monorail hotel in Orlando is that you get all the bells and whistles of staying in a top notch hotel – fine dining, kids clubs, character meals, terrific pools and recreational activities – and a waterslide on property! 


Course, you can still get the water parks fun and more upgrade on your park tickets, but if you can stay at a hotel that has its own waterslide, why catch a bus and spend a whole day going and coming when you can just cool off at “home” each and every day?

The Polynesian hotel has waterfalls throughout the property, and it has a sandy beach around the lake too – with a little kids water play area. 

There are plenty of sunning chaises, and swings.

There are a couple of pools – the quiet pool is large, and very few people visit. The big draw, of course, is the volcano pool, with the waterslide.

While the waterslide doesn’t have the high speed turns and thrills that you might find at Typhoon Lagoon or Blizzard Beach, it is a fun ride – and it covered as you go thru the volcano portion. This means the first part of the waterslide has you in the dark – no lights visible. It’s a little jarring the first time you go, but kids love it (and scaredy-cat adults like me can get used to it). 

Overall, the Polynesian is a beautiful hotel, and we spent many hours at their pools, usually swimming at least once each day. It’s great to have a waterslide right on property.

I’d recommend staying there.

January 24, 2011 Posted by | Lush Life Disney, Lush Life Hotels, Lush LIfe Top Posts | Leave a comment

The Ultimate Spa Lovers Getaway for Ottawa Folks!

Ste. Anne’s Spa in Grafton, Ontario is interested in getting Ottawa folks to come check them out!  Few people in Ottawa are aware of this treasure we have just 3 hours away – Ste. Anne’s is Canada’s #1 spa, and it is in the top 100 spas worldwide. 

So, Vision 2000 Travel Group is partnering with Ste. Anne’s to introduce more Ottawa folks to the spa.

And we’ve put together an exclusive package that will enable you to go for a day, or two, to check out the fabulous spa and its offerings.

Relaxing. Rejuvenating. Exclusive.

What’s better than exclusive train rates, exclusive room rates, exclusive shuttle from the train to Ste. Anne’s, and a future spa credit?

The fact that you also get to spend hours relaxing and rejuvenating at Canada’s Favourite Spa, and one of the Top 100 Spas of the world.

Ottawa, what are you waiting for?

So, on March 2, 2011, grab a girlfriend, grab your honey, or just grab yourself – and head to Ste. Anne’s for a day or two.  (And remember – Valentine’s Day is around the corner. This would make the perfect gift for your special someone, or for yourself!)

See the attached flyer to see what Vision 2000 has put together with Ste. Anne’s. 

Give me a call – and let’s get you booked, asap.  Believe me, you won’t regret it!


January 21, 2011 Posted by | Lush Life Destinations, Lush Life Food, WIne & Spas, Lush Life Hotels | Leave a comment

Major Expansion Planned for Fantasyland at Magic Kingdom, WDW

News from Walt Disney World Travel Company:

“Largest Expansion in Magic Kingdom Park History Will Nearly Double the Size of Fantasyland

The largest expansion in Magic Kingdom® Park history is underway, a project that will nearly double the size of Fantasyland and deliver a new home for Ariel, new ways to interact with favorite Disney princesses, an exciting new family coaster, a double dose of Dumbo and more.

Scheduled to open in phases beginning in late 2012, the new Fantasyland will immerse you in Disney stories as never before. Among the highlights planned:


  • Under the Sea: Journey of The Little Mermaid, a major, all-new attraction during which guests will travel with Ariel and her friends through their exciting adventures above and below the waves – all against a musical backdrop of songs from the classic film.
  • The castle of the Beast, standing majestically upon a hill just across an old stone bridge from Ariel’s new home. The Be Our Guest Restaurant will feature a lavish dining experience in the elegant ballroom, gallery, and mysterious “West Wing” of the castle. With seating for 550, this magnificent facility will offer “great food fast” service by day and full table service dining in the evening. Nearby in Belle’s Village, guests will find the rousing Gaston’s Tavern and Bonjour! Village Gifts.
  • Just outside the village is Belle’s cottage and Enchanted Tales with Belle. The adventure begins in Maurice’s workshop, where a magical mirror is the doorway to a captivating new kind of storytelling experience: Guests are transported to the Beast’s library to meet Belle and Lumiere, and share in a lively, interactive, re-telling of the “tale as old as time.”

But that’s just the beginning of what you will discover when the multi-phase project is completed. Here’s more of what’s in store:

  • The Seven Dwarfs Mine Train will take guests on a rollicking, musical ride into the mine “where a million diamonds shine.” The coaster will feature a first-of-its kind ride system with a train of ride vehicles that swing back and forth, responding to every twist and turn of the track. The journey will be accompanied by music from the classic Disney film and animated figures of Snow White and the Dwarfs.
  • In Princess Fairytale Hall, Aurora, Cinderella and other Disney princesses, such as Tiana and Rapunzel, will greet guests in their new home, an elegant royal court on the site where Snow White’s Scary Adventures stands today.
  • The sound of the calliope will lead guests to the brand new Storybook Circus and not one but two circling carousels of airborne pachyderms on Dumbo the Flying Elephant! Before taking to the skies on this Fantasyland favorite, guests can experience an array of fun-filled family games and interactive wonders for kids of all ages inside the Big Top.
  • Next door in Storybook Circus, the classic Barnstormer gets a bright new look as well, featuring Goofy as The Great Goofini. It’s a twisting, turning roller coaster “flight” high above the circus fun.”

Can’t wait to see it unfold!

January 20, 2011 Posted by | Lush Life Disney | Leave a comment

Are you ready for the Disney Dream? Christening today!

Today’s the day for the Disney Dream. I received the following announcement from Disney:

Disney Cruise Line is proud to welcome the Disney Dream to its fleet. And, you can be a part of the excitement by watching a webcast of the official Disney Dream christening ceremony at 10:30 a.m. EST on Wednesday, Jan.19, 2011.

Click here or to watch the official Disney Dream christening event at Port Canaveral, Florida on January 19, 2011 at 10:30 a.m. EST. It’s an event you won’t want to miss, filled with magic, enchantment and a few surprises along the way-including Honorary Godmother, Academy Award® winning performer, Jennifer Hudson, whose own dreams of stardom began back in 2003 when she was a performer on Disney Wonder®.


If you don’t know much about the Disney Dream yet, let me introduce you.

If you want to check out the Dream, Disney Cruise Line has extended a special to me to relay to my clients. Act fast, as we welcome the new Disney Dream™ ship to the fleet.

Offer Details:

  • US $200* onboard credit for new bookings on 3-night Bahamian cruises departing Feb. 3 or Feb. 10, 2011, and 4-night Bahamian cruises departing Jan. 30 or Feb. 6, 2011, on the new Disney Dream.

Call me if you have a dream of sailing on the Disney Dream!

January 19, 2011 Posted by | Lush Life Cruising, Lush Life Disney | Leave a comment