Sheila Gallant-Halloran

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

A visit to Napa – Auberge du Soleil

I’ve just booked a client’s vacation at the Auberge du Soleil in Napa, California. What a beautiful hotel!

http://www.aubergedusoleil.com/

I’ve checked into their rental of bikes while visiting – so they can ride the http://www.silveradotrail.com/ . They can visit the vineyards that way… and/or maybe have a driver/ tour guide for the vineyards as well as private tastings. I’ve also checked into making dining reservations for them at the nearby 3* Michelin restaurant The French Laundry… http://www.frenchlaundry.com/

…that’s if they want to leave the Auberge at all.

The hotel is absolutely gorgeous. As a recent press release notes:

RUTHERFORD, Calif. (February 8, 2011)
 – 

Auberge du Soleil, the iconic Michelin-starred restaurant and premier luxury resort opened as Napa Valley’s first fine-dining venue in 1981 and for the next 30 years, helped transform Napa Valley into the must-see destination it is today for food, wine, and the beauty of wine country. 

http://www.aubergedusoleil.com/press/media-kit 

 

 

Read through the list of some of their recent awards: http://www.aubergedusoleil.com/press/awards-and-accolades

 

 If you find the need to go check it out yourself, give me a call! I can certainly help get you sorted!

 

 

 

Condé Nast Traveler – The Best of the Best – November 2010

# 5 – Top 100 U.S. Hotels

Andrew Harper’s Hideaway Report – September 2010

#5 – Top 20 Hideaways

Travel + Leisure – T+L World’s Best Awards – August 2010

# 10 – Top 100 Hotels, Continental U.S. and Canada

Condé Nast Traveler – April 2010

# 14 – Hotel Spas, North America

Travel + Leisure – T+L World’s Best Hotels – January 2010

#1 – Hotel Napa/Sonoma

Condé Nast Traveler – Gold List – Best Places to Stay – January 2010

 

Condé Nast Traveler UK – January 2010

#1 – Hotel for Service – Americas and the Caribbean

Condé Nast Traveler – The Best of the Best – November 2009

#8 – Top 100 U.S. Hotels
#81 – Top 100 in the World

Travel + Leisure – World’s Best Spas – October 2009

#16 – Top 25 U.S. Hotel Spas

Andrew Harper’s Hideaway Report – September 2009

#2 – Top 20 U.S. Resorts
#3 – Top Food & Wine Resorts

Travel + Leisure – July 2009

#7 – World’s Best Awards – Top 50 U.S. Hotels

Travel + Leisure – June 2009

#10 – Top United States Hotels for Service

Wine Spectator – June 2009

Napa Valley Getaways – Cover Feature

Travel + Leisure – T+L 500 World’s best Hotels – January 2009

#1 Napa/Sonoma

Condé Nast Traveler – The Best of the Best – November 2008

#7 – Top 100 in the United States
#63 – Top 100 in the World

Travel & Leisure – July 2008

#7 – Top 100 Hotels Continental U.S.
#37 – Top 100 World Hotels
#7 – Top 100 World Spas

The Restaurant

Michelin 1 Star
Mobil ✭✭✭✭

The ROBB Report – May 2008

Top 100 U.S. Resorts

Travel + Leisure – January 2008

500 World’s Best Hotels

Condé Nast Traveler – January 2008

Gold List World’s Best Places to Stay

Michelin Guide – 2008

1 Star – Auberge du Soleil Restaurant

Travel & Leisure – January 2008

500 Worlds Best Hotels

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March 31, 2011 Posted by | Lush Life Destinations, Lush Life Food, WIne & Spas | Leave a comment

My turn to guest blog – @iWatchLife

Danny Starr of @iWatchLife invited me to guest blog. See his blog (link below) for the article.

How to protect your investment in travel – guest post by @sheila_gh http://ow.ly/4p75U

March 30, 2011 Posted by | Lush Life Guest Bloggers, Lush Life Travel TIps & Advice, Lush Life Value - Why Use a Travel Advisor | Leave a comment

Disney Announces “Fast Pass” to Meet Mickey

Town Square Theatre in Magic Kingdom, Walt Disney World, will be the new permanent home of Mickey Mouse.  Those familiar with MK will know this as the current Exposition Hall area just inside the park’s entrance. Disney has decided to expand it’s “fast pass” virtual queuing system for the rides to character interaction. This is the first time the technology will be used for character meet and greets – and whom better to do it with then THE MOUSE, himself.

According to Disney Park Blogs, the princesses may occassionally visit Mickey while Fantasyland is under its renovations/ constructions.

Will it work? Worth a shot, for sure. Anything that cuts wait times is good, and the fast passes certainly work well with the rides.

I have braved long queues to meet characters before… I’ve waited to meet Mickey and the princesses earlier in my young kids’ experiences, and have waited again recently to meet characters I couldn’t find elsewhere (e.g. the Pixie Hollow fairies). But I find it a much more enjoyable experience to meet characters at the character meal locations. I’d rather have a break from the sun, rest my tired feet, have a wonderful meal, and have the characters come to my table than stand in a long queue for an autograph.

But… it certainly can’t hurt to give more options, and to make it easier to meet characters.

Here are the full details of the announcement posted on the Disney Travel Agent website:

Get a Disney’s FASTPASS to Meet Mickey Mouse

Later this spring, face-to-face meetings with Mickey Mouse will move into a permanent new location at Town Square Theater, located inside the current Exposition Hall area at the entrance of Magic Kingdom® Park.

Your Clients will be able to obtain a Disney’s FASTPASS® ticket specifying a one-hour window when they can return to see the popular character for hugs, photos and autographs — without waiting in the standby queue. This marks the first time the complimentary, computerized service has been utilized for a character meet-and-greet at any Disney Park.

Inspired by animated shorts such as The Nifty Nineties and Mickey’s Grand Opera, this building befits Mickey’s stardom — with a grand-Victorian-theater elevation, including a marquee that glistens with gold-leaf trim and sparkles with lights. Inside, there’s a mosaic floor, lush curtains with gold rope tie-backs and polished-brass chandeliers.

Imagineers are creating new elements and surprises for your Clients, including an interactive queue — with an extra touch of Disney magic — and highly themed retail shops.

 

 
 

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

Guest Blogger Terry Larke’s The Pearl of Asia – My Malaysia Tour

It’s guest blog Monday, and today my Vision 2000 colleague, Terry Larke, is writing about her upcoming tour of Malaysia.  Enjoy!

Here’s the link to the tour

http://library.constantcontact.com/download/get/file/1104745248948-5/Visions+of+Malaysia+2011.pdf

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The Pearl Of Asia-My Malaysia/Mainland

My husband and I have been very fortunate to have spent more than 6 weeks in this true paradise. Malaysia is truly dynamic! She is a land of ready smiles and incredible contrasts which beckons you with her rich diversity of colors and flavours. There is so much to see and do, that one simply cannot cover it all here with enough justice. The country is beautiful, the exchange rate is extremely favourable and English is very commonly spoken! Many places, customs, festivals, art, rainforests, diving sites, marine parks and jungle life all are unique to Malaysia.

To give you just a taste of what I mean, I have listed off my first 5 of the must see’s in My Malaysia!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

1. The Petronas Towers – Boasting a height of more than 421m, the twin towers dominate the skies of Kuala Lumpur, capital city of Malaysia. These stainless steel towers glisten as they pierce the sky over the city. An essential experience is visiting the sky bridge of the towers, which overlook the city.  Seeing this view at dawn is an amazing sight!  The shopping centre, found at the base of the towers, offers normal to high-end boutiques, designer clothing shops, and jewellery establishments. This complex is perfect for dining, and also contains a Science galleria and an amazing Aquarium! The LRT station, found in the subbasement, provides a convenient and a low-cost alternative to reach other places in Kuala Lumpur.

 2. China town – Also found in Kuala Lumpur, this street is a true mecca for bargain shopping! Hawkers selling all types of wares and the scents of fresh fruit and vegetables as well as the smells of exotic freshly-cooked food permeate the air. You might wish to beware of a local fruit with an unusual reputation as a stinky fruit, the Durian. This very popular fruit is grown locally in the jungles. You can literally smell these before you see them, however I have to say, try it !!  One thing I was shocked to find here was a Bob Marley Bar!!! Yes, Jamaica, right in the heart of Kuala Lumpur! And, by the writings all around the walls, people have visited this bar from every part of our world! Truly a popular spot to stop for a drink at night.

 3. Batu Caves – is just 13km from downtown KL. These limestone caves are a popular tourist attraction for the annual Thaipusam festival. There are 272 steep steps straight up into the caves. The main temple cave is full of Hindu shrines and is over 100m high. And yes, my husband and I actually climbed all the way up!

 4 Cameron Highlands – is 1820m above sea level and was settled by tea planters looking for a cool retreat from the heat.   This area is still rich in agriculture to this day. In between the areas of jungle, tea plantations spread as far as the eye can see. It is an amazing drive up through the mountains, though it is mostly one lane with sheer cliffs up on one side and down the other. I found it most amusing to watch how buses and other vehicles had to manoeuvre around each other. This drive will also afford you the chance to see native villages and dwellings whilst watching out for chickens running on the road.  Cameron Highlands is a place where I say you can smell and see the color green in all of its shades!!!

 5 Fishing – Fishing takes on a whole new flavour in Malaysia. From soft green seas full of fish you usually see in your aquarium to the giant snakehead in the inland waters. There is fishing opportunities for everyone. You can go fishing like the locals or go fly-fishing or deep sea fishing and diving.  The choices and options are endless.

 6 Penang Hill – has one of the world’s oldest funicular railway systems. At 830 metres above sea level, it provides a panoramic view of the island and a beautiful view of Georgetown below. The ride up is slow as it meanders up the hill, past monkeys carrying their babies, pitcher plants and the amazing views of the bungalows and clearings throughout the jungle.

 7. You cannot mention Malaysia without mentioning the temples. One of our favourites is the Kek Lok Si Temple , Air Itam. This complex is the largest in Southeast Asia and is continually expanding for over 20 years. It stands majestically on the top of the hill while the Golden Goddess of Mercy (Kuan Yin) glistens overlooking the city of Georgetown. This culminates with the beautifully crafted “Pagoda of Ten Thousand Buddhas”

 8.  Langkawi – One of the things we loved most about Langkawi Island was the cable car which takes you up to the second highest peak of Mount Mat Cincang.  To say it more simply, it takes you up, way way up!  It takes about an hour to get to the top, with small stops in between. You seem to ride straight up the side of the mountain; as the jungle canopy becomes smaller as you ascend into the heavens above the jungle.   Animals, birds and waterfalls get smaller beneath you as you drift into another world.  It is said that on a clear day, you can even see parts of Thailand Indonesia as well as a large part of the island, from the top of the Mountain. It is the most amazing experience. We did it, and will do it again!

 9. Night Markets – Found throughout all of Malaysia, you can’t go to Malaysia without a few evenings at the night markets (Pasar Malam)! In the evening, streets and sidewalks turn into eating areas and night markets. It is a magic transformation! The food in these stalls is freshly prepared while you wait, which makes it all the more delicious.  From regional specialties like satay to fish and chips, you can get it all! It is the cheapest way to eat but also the most enjoyable as you sit out in the open-air or under large tents and soak in the sounds of Malaysia at night. The shopping is amazing, and bartering is a must! Pasar Malam always makes the night seem all too short!

 10. Culture  – Speaking of leaving the best, and arguably, the most important for last.  You are immersed in this remarkable culture from the moment you arrive in this amazing country. It is seamless blend of Chinese, Indian and Malay cultures, with a bit of British, Thai, and Indonesian thrown in for good measure! Despite being half a world away, we didn’t feel like a foreigner in this country.  The people are friendly and the blend of different cultures is fascinating.   Malaysia has something for everyone, the historian, the businessman, the backpacker, the eco-tourist, city-hopper, beachcomber, the bargain shopper and YOU!

(Mrs) Terry A Larke CTC

Travel Advisor

Vision 2000 Travel Group

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G0uH0pIZiHs

 T 902-843-5638

M 902-986-3934

E terry.larke@vision2000.ca

E travelbyterry@vision2000.ca

March 28, 2011 Posted by | Lush Life Destinations, Lush Life Guest Bloggers | Leave a comment

Playing Tourist in Montreal

 It’s a pretty easy drive from Ottawa to Montreal. Depending which end of Ottawa you’re in (and traffic), you can usually be there in 2 hours. But for some reason, we don’t often hop in the car unless we’re driving to Dorval airport.

This week, my nephew from Newfoundland was playing in a hockey tournament in Montreal, so we wanted to watch him play – and we took in the opportunity to play tourist in Montreal. We had a great time.

We made sure we visited Mount Royal Park Lookout to see the terrific views of the city. The girls got a kick out of Mont Royal being the city’s namesake, and of course they ran around the park and burned off some energy.

We saw Old Montreal, Olympic Stadium, and Montreal Harbour.  And, of course, caught a few hockey games (and met Gilles Gilbert).

 

And we visited some terrific Montreal restaurants, and caught up with family.

Of course, my daughters squeezed in some shopping. I think DD11 lost her brain (or maybe found her nirvana) somewhere between the 8 story Hudson Bay, the shops at Complexe les Ailes, and the Eaton Centre.

I think we’ll be heading back again soon for a more easy-paced visit.

March 24, 2011 Posted by | Lush Life Destinations | Leave a comment

Luggage Tips

I was reading some travel tips for #traveltuesday on twitter, when I saw this from @MyMelange Travel Tip Tuesday : How to Avoid Surprise Bag Fees  http://bit.ly/fmeEgt . Great tips!

And reading them reminded me to write up a couple of things I tell my clients:

*the old adage is still true: bring half the clothes, and twice the money. 

*know airline baggage policies and fees – as well as restrictions for size, weight, liquids, sports equipment  

*weigh your bags empty. Most rolling suitcases weigh 20-25 lbs before you start to pack.  (duffel bags weigh ~nothing)

*carry on essentials – have medicine, a toothbrush, a bathing suit, and a change of clothes

*think about the # of black suitcases on every luggage carousel- how will yours stand out?

*know whether you can carry everything you’re packing by yourself. If you can’t, leave it.

*be leary of putting your home address on the outside of your suitcase – some prey at airport queues, use biz addy

*have your contact info on the inside of your bag

*always have some empty ziplock bags, extra bandages, and electrical tape with you when you travel – varied uses

*think of the carpenter’s credo “measure twice, cut once” ==> list twice, pack once

March 22, 2011 Posted by | Lush Life Travel TIps & Advice | 2 Comments

Finding your “42”- a chat with Journeywoman, Evelyn Hannon

If you punch “the answer to life, the universe and everything” into Google, you’ll get the answer 42!

I sat down with with the venerated Evelyn Hannon, of www.journeywoman.com fame, and learned how she found her “42.”  And while the phrase from Douglas Adams’ Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy might not have been at the forefront of our discussion, it certainly was resonating with me.

Evelyn was 42 when her marriage dissolved, and she first decided to travel solo. (And, I was 42 when I had my second child, and decided to change careers.) We’d both stumbled (me blindly perhaps) upon our “answer to life, the universe and everything” being 42.

Course, Miss Evelyn’s solo travels had her leaving her comfortable nest (and adult children), donning a backpack,and hitting Europe solo for 5 weeks in 1982. Low on plans. Little money. Zero contacts. (How many of us would do that?) Her adventures led her to first start “Journey Woman” as a print magazine, which evolved into a webzine in 1997, and has now become THE online resource for women travellers. By the time I’d first met her on twitter, and had become one the 65,000 women in over 100 countries who’d signed up for her ezine/ newsletter list, she was already a travel world superstar.  

She is known as the  “grandmother of women’s travel”…. but I’m not sure that handle fits. Evelyn is certainly a grandmother. We first met in person at the Yummy Mummy Club’s Winterlude trip to Ottawa in February, where she was thoroughly enjoying the role of Bubby to her grandkids (children of her daughter, Erica Ehm, who’d started www.yummymummyclub.ca after her days at Much Music). Evelyn was also busily snapping pictures of other kids (including mine), and prompting fits of laughter from all.

She invited me to sit down with her on a return visit for the Travel Media Association’s annual general meeting in March at the Chateau Laurier. And her nuturing, grandmotherly nature was evident. But the “grandmother” label suggests a doddering old person, which Evelyn certainly is not. She embraces “aging disgracefully” – which works for me. (See her blog http://www.yummymummyclub.ca/seventy_is_different .)

Besides, not many grandmothers start tweeting at age 70. Evelyn quickly built a following of 11,000+ in a short time, and very few know about her pedigree (Time magazine had named one of the top 100 influential thinkers in 2000, she’s been featured in “People” magazine and the New York Times, and has appeared on “Good Morning America.” She also writes Bon Voyage’s “Her Only” for the Canadian government.).  But all tweeps know the kindly soul in the red frames.

I took away some Evelyn-isms from our meeting. Snippets that I know I’ll find enormously helpful as I grow my second career, and, more importantly, grow my two children! See if they might be helpful to you too!

– Be lonely. It’s a fact of life. Don’t ever NOT do something because you’re worried about being lonely. Starting a business is lonely, as is travelling solo. You can be lonely in your office job, or lonely on your apartment couch. So, why not be lonely on an adventure? 

-Be brave.  Go off the beaten path. You’ll learn more about a yourself, and any city, if you stray off the tourist path.  (We happily share the credo: without fear, there is no courage.)

-Befriend. Travel folks are enormously friendly, especially tweeps. Hotel staff will be enormously helpful about reasonably priced and safe places to eat and visit. Other tourists too. Don’t be afraid to open yourself up.

-Be cautious. Always safeguard your person. Never put yourself in a situation you can’t get out of.

-Be prepared. You never know what’s around the corner. Business can morph into new possibilities. A scarf can dress up black jeans and top. And hand sanitizers come in travel sizes.

-Be solid. Focus on what matters. Don’t worry about building bells and whistles. Build something you believe in that has substance, in business and in life. (Evelyn has never bowed to pressure to “jazz up” www.journeywoman.com, focussing on content rather than worrying about being perceived as a dinosaur to those who want her to add flashes and zings – folks come for the info. And, despite all the accolades she’s earned in her life, her greatest joy comes from being introduced as “mother of Erica and Leslie”. )

-Be yourself. If you don’t, who will? (Save the assistance of a webmistress, www.journeywoman.com is run solely by Evelyn. She controls all info and content, even font size – and ensures everything is in her voice, and matches her vision of being a resource to women.)

-Believe. Quiet the naysayers. Do what’s right for you.

Thank you, Evelyn, for finding your “42” – and for inspiring the rest of us to keep learning, and keep travelling.

You can contact Evelyn Hannon at
www.journeywoman.com, twitter @journeywoman , E-mail: editor@journeywoman.com

March 16, 2011 Posted by | Lush Life Guest Bloggers, Lush Life Other Items | Leave a comment

A Trip to Tanzania: Guest blog by Christine Lanthier

 

It’s guest blog Monday, and today we’re in for a treat. My clients Christine Lanthier and Sue Irvine have just returned from their safari to Tanzania. I’d arranged their February safari with my virtuoso partners, Big Five.

Christine has graciously agreed to share her thoughts on the trip, and her beautiful photos.

Enjoy!

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We arrived in Tanzania, Kilimanjaro Airport on February 2011. We stayed that night in a lodge beside the airport. We were a little nervous because the first thing we saw was a spider on the mosquito curtain (we saw very few mosquitos) and we bravely had to dispose of it.

Our guide met us with a safari truck and we drove about 2 hours to Ndarakwai Ranch, a private conservation ranch. We drove over the roughest roads (sometimes a field) we had ever been on and then found out we were lost and our driver had to get instructions.

We are greeted with warm facecloths most times when arriving at a camp. The food was very good at all places and always set up for fine dining even though we did have money and bird visitors at times.

 

We did a walking safari with 2 guides, one with a gun. It was really great having the zebras gallop by us.

We also went on a night safari on this ranch that we could not do in a National Park. The guide shone a large light into the darkness and we saw many sets of eyes and our guide could identify all of them.

Then we saw a large snake sleeping high in a tree and realized we just walked under that tree in the daytime. This is when it all became real for me. The next day the monkeys gave us a show for several hours while we relaxed in the dining area.

We then went on to Lake Manyara – our guide was a Masai so he explained a lot about the people and houses we saw.

We stayed at Kirumuru Tented Lodge on top of the Rift Valley and looked down on Lake Manyara.

We did 3 half day safaris in this National Park. We saw many families of elephants, giraffes, baboons – we were surprised that they really just ignored the trucks. Lake Manyara is quite green with trees – more jungle like (this is the dry season) but any streams/rivers were dried up. Lake Manyara had flamingos and hippos and again the shore area was quite dry.

We then spent 2 days in the Ngorongoro Crater that was quite a different experience. The sides of the crater were very steep and jungle like but the basin was flat (like a field) that surprised me. Here we experienced the migration of wildebeest, buffalo, zebra and finally saw some lions that again just casually walked beside our truck.

 

We saw different birds of course along our journey – many storks and cranes. We stayed at a coffee lodge that night that was a bit more luxurious complete with a pool and entertainment. We then drove to the Serengeti and stayed in a mobile tented camp. The tent actually had a safari shower, a chemical toilet, a sink, solar lighting and a generator for some hours during the day.

A safari shower was an experience – they fill up leather like buckets outside your tent and the water runs down through a shower head by gravity. This means washing your hair quickly. You do get very dusty on safari. We thought we would be nervous in a tent like this but it had better closures than any of the permanent tents we stayed in. If you want internet, don’t expect it in too many places – we had access twice. We were impressed that the Big Five rep from Narobi called us twice to see how we were and they sent emails back to our families.

We did the balloon ride in the Serengeti. It was a bit of a disappointment because everyone said it was the highlight of the trip and not to miss it. We did not see much but flat land and herds of animals and there was little thrill for either of us. It is worth going up but not worth the price we had to pay. Now eating a full breakfast in the middle of no where was exciting.

We enjoyed all of our trip (except for the long plane rides), the weather was wonderful, our guide was wonderful and taught us some Swahili – hakuna matata!

Christine

March 14, 2011 Posted by | Lush Life Destinations, Lush Life Guest Bloggers | Leave a comment

Only a spider trusts the web, trust your travel advisor instead!

For my business networking breakfast this morning, I was asked to speak to “why use a travel advisor”…. a topic that’s near and dear to my heart.  And the first thing I tell all my new clients (especially those who are social media junkies, and who are used to booking their own travel on the internet) – “only a spider trusts the web, trust your travel advisor instead!”

You can sell your own home, take your own wedding photos, or do your own accupuncture. Least that’s what you might believe… you can certainly research how to do all of that on the internet. You can amass info, ask your Aunt Martha, maybe consult Trip Advisor – you can start to feel that you can do it all by yourself. But unless it’s your trade, doing any of these things on your own requires a lot of luck, investment of your valuable time, and your reliance on the advice of amateurs (see my post about the dangers of relying on consumer rating agencies https://sheila0gh.wordpress.com/category/consumer-rating-sites/).

Let’s not forget that you risk getting the job done wrong. 

Not many people want to stick themselves with needles and do their own accupuncture … but it’s amazing how many feel they can, and should, plan their own holiday.

I am a travel ADVISOR. It is my chosen career. It is not a hobby.  I am passionate about what I do. And the simple truth is that I have knowledge, experience, and resources that you do not.

You can book online with an internet booking engine  – but by doing so, you lose out on having an advocate who is looking out for your best interest.  With catastrophic incidents like today’s earthquake in Japan, folks travelling (or having family in affected areas) will find very little information if they’d booked their holiday online; and very unlikely to find someone acting in their best interests.  You’ll be queuing in the phone systems to talk to someone.

An online booking engine is a virtual travel agent, and like any travel agent, it takes orders only. A travel agent focuses on a quick transaction – indicate you want  ‘abc’ out of a warehouse of cookie-cutter and pre-assembled merchendise, and they’ll deliver a basket of goods to you at price ‘x’.  Now an online booking engine or regular travel agent may work very well. If their automated processes are efficient and effective, you may even get someone who does their job with care and expertise in delivering your order. But don’t expect much individualization, time, or attention – the online booking engines and the normal travel agents are process experts. The relationship is price-based, and there is very little value-added to either the client or the travel agent. It’s a “take’em in, churn’em out” kinda factory with no care to whether the products or services delivered actually met the needs of the client – kinda like MacDonald’s.

Don’t get me wrong – MacDonald’s is very good at what they do. They sell a lot of hamburgers. They have very efficient processes, they transact a lot of business, and the money flows.  But, there isn’t a lot of individualization in their Big Mac’s.  You’re not getting a carefully crafted burger that is made to your specifications. You’re getting a mass-produced, pre-cooked, and somewhat unhealthy, product delivered fast and cheap.

I like to draw parallels between MacDonald’s and the online booking engines and travel agents.  If you want a Big Mac, go to MacDonald’s. If you want the lowest-possible price for a holiday, go to an online booking engine. If you want to savour your meal,  and get something prepared for you, you don’t go to MacDonald’s (and hopefully you’d never go there on a family member’s birthday) – you’d go to a mom-and-pop burger place, or a fine dining establishment. And if you want a holiday that is created with you in mind, working with someone who will act as your advocate in delivering memories you can cherish, you don’t book online or with a travel “agent” – you go to travel advisor. Call me – I’ll be your travel ADVISOR.

Remember – only a spider trusts the web. Trust your travel advisor instead!

March 11, 2011 Posted by | Lush LIfe Top Posts, Lush Life Travel TIps & Advice, Lush Life Value - Why Use a Travel Advisor | 2 Comments

Guest blog:new bride Charlene Simms shares destination wedding stories

I’m honoured today to have my client, Charlene Simms, share her experiences about her destination wedding. As you can see from the photos, Charlene and her new husband, Rob Fanning, had an awesome wedding in Punta Cana late last year.

I asked Charlene if she’d be so kind to share some tips with me so I could pass on to newly engaged couples who are considering a destination wedding – asking her to focus on the things that surprised her, and that she wished she’d known about in advance.  Charlene shared the following.

Sit back, savour the beautiful photos of their Punta Cana wedding, and heed her words of advice – particularly the mantra.

Thank you kindly, Charlene and Rob, for being so willing to share your experiences with others! I really appreciate it.

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On November 17, 2010 Rob & I shared our wedding vows at Dreams Resort & Spa in Punta Cana, DR. Our families and friends were thrilled that we decided to do a destination wedding .

Our families would  have had to travel by air anyways and travelling somewhere warmer than Ottawa seemed a better option.

When we were researching our destination wedding travel package, we had several criteria. The price of travel package for our guests and us, wedding itself and the resort amenities. Also, we had to decide that no matter what, we were going to go through with  the destination wedding idea.

For example, some people dear to us were unable to attend because we chose this option. It was disappointing, nonetheless we decided that since our immediate families were on board we would be okay.

Then the real work began. Sheila helped us plow through the endless books. It was harder for us since we had 3 departure airports to consider when choosing a destination. 

Once that was done, it got easier. Now, the fun begins.

Looking through the resort’s website and deciding which wedding package to choose. We chose the most expensive because we wanted everything. Plus, if we had to pay for all these items in Canada we would have paid dearly. It was the best decision for us, since we wanted a wedding to remember. The only troubling thing was the resort didn’t explain that the $500 deposit would not be charged to our credit card…it was for holding of the wedding day.

Finally we saw the resort in real life. It was beautiful! Everyone immediately said we made a great choice! That made us feel better and less nervous!

Our bridal consultation with Jennifer had a few surprises. She had sent us pictures of the beach ceremonial area and cake pictures. Our package did not include exactly as in pictures. They were considered upgrades from packages. She accomodated us when she realized I was disappointed. What she offered was not exactly as was shown in pictues but I  accepted it. I realized that I was not in Canada so things are run differently here. I had go with the flow. I realized quickly this had to be our mantra.

The wedding day had a few glitches, (what wedding doesn’t) but it all worked out in the end . Our goal was to make  this wedding a wonderful memorable experience for all our guests. The day was perfect in weather, in flowers (they were the most beautiful flower arrangements I had ever seen-I wanted to bring them home) and reception.  Everyone said we met this goal! 

Would I suggest a destination wedding! Yes, but make sure you and your fiancée discuss who is on the required guest list, budget and have a “go with the flow” mantra!

March 7, 2011 Posted by | Lush Life Guest Bloggers, Lush Life Weddings & Honeymoons | 3 Comments