Sheila Gallant-Halloran

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

Disney’s Magical “Wishes” Brings Happy Tears

No visit to Magic Kingdom is complete without watching the Wishes fireworks. It’ll make the most hardened person cry. Jiminy Cricket’s words, Tinkerbell shooting across the night sky, and then the little kids angelic choir voices gets me every time.

I’m not a good enough photographer to capture the magic, although I always try.

Fortunately, there are some good videos on youtube that will help me relive it.

Who doesn’t want to believe in the magic, and the lyrics of the song?

“Wishes”

Star light, star bright, First star I see tonight. I wish I may, I wish I might, Have the wish, I wish tonight. Ohh, a world of wishes, A world where dreams come true. So make a wish, see it through. Dare to do what dreamers do.

Wishes… Dream a dream. Wishes… Set it free. Wishes… Trust your heart. Just believe. We’re all just children, Reaching for our dreams. They’re shining high above us, And even though it seems so far (so far) We put our faith and hope on a shooting star. Ohh…

Star light, star bright, First star I see tonight. I wish I may, I wish I might, Have the wish, I wish tonight. We’ll make a wish and do as dreamers do. And all our wishes, (All our wishes) All our wishes, Will come, True… Wishes, wishes.

Let me know if you’d like me to arrange a trip for your family to see Wishes in person!

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June 30, 2011 Posted by | Lush Life Disney | Leave a comment

Flyin’ with only Carry On Luggage

We returned at 2 am this morning from Disney, our first ever trip where we didn’t check luggage…. carried all onboard.

Ordinarily, I plan my Disney vacations completely at least 180 days out (to get all character and other dining we want). This time, the trip was only arranged the day before we left… so we were really flyin’ by the seat of our pants. Not my normal modus operandi, but it worked well.

First up, had to ensure we had the Magical Express reservations with Disney – a quick phone call took care of that. Gotta love Mickey’s free shuttle from the airport to our hotel (and back again). But there certainly wouldn’t be time for us to get Magical Express luggage tags to ensure our baggage was delivered to the hotel. Course, we knew we could pick up the bags ourselves; and/or give the Magical Express desk our airline luggage tags, and they could still pick up the bags, and deliver (Disney’s always prepared for last minute guests). But I thought, no – why not try travelling without checked bags for once?

I double-checked the airlines’ carry on policies. Both US Air (who we flew down with), and United (who we flew home with) allowed one piece of carry on, with one personal item. So, each of the four of us had a rolling carry on, and a small bag (for me, my laptop and files; for hubby, our camera bag; for the girls, toys/ DS/ etc.)

We had to be selective about what we brought, but it worked really well. I always find you take too much clothing anyway, so this time, we had to be very careful about what we  brought. One pair of long pants, one long sleeved shirt, one sweater, hats and rain ponchos, bathing suits and cover ups, slip on shoes and sneakers, personal items, sleepware, and shorts/tshirts/resort wear for the 6 nights/ 7 days. It was tight (especially after a few Mickey souvenirs we’re added in for the return trip) but we did it!

What was great for me, as a parent, was that each child was responsible for lugging their own suitcase – which meant that they didn’t bring a whack of toys to travel with (loading me down). What wasn’t great for me, as a parent, was that DD5 was exhausted on the return trip, and the excitement of dragging her own bag had long ago worn thin…. which meant I was dragging two on the return trip (which was already longer than anticipated, due to a delay in Chicago because of  heavy thunderstorms in US)!

The only real downside of not planning in advance was that we didn’t think about getting carryon sizes for shaving cream (hubby’s was convisgated at the Ottawa airport) or sun screen (which we purchased at Disney – so you can imagine how expensive that was). But otherwise, the carry on experiment worked pretty well… although, I’m not sure I’d do it if we were going for longer than 6 nights.

Have you ever flown with only carry on luggage? How did it work for you?

June 29, 2011 Posted by | Lush Life Travel TIps & Advice | 4 Comments

Stay Onsite for Disney’s Extra Magic Hours

Why would anyone go to Disney and not stay at an onsite hotel? Staying at an onsite Disney hotel has many advantages. It gives you the ability to take the Disney’s Magical Express shuttle, the option to purchase the dining plan, the thrill of being surrounded by the Disney magic 24 hours a day, the choice to purchase things throughout the parks and hotels and charge back to your room key (and even have items delivered back to your room) – but the greatest advantage of all that you get by staying at an onsite Disney hotel: extra magic hours!

The extra magic hours are the primo perk of staying at an onsite hotel. The perk alternates between the 4 major parks of Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Hollywood Studios, and Animal Kingdom. Extra magic hours give you either early admission mornings, or late evenings. One day, you might be able to enter Magic Kingdom early (an hour earlier than regular guests who aren’t staying at a Disney onsite hotel), and the next day, you might be able to stay at Epcot late (up to 3 hours later than regular guests).  During peak volume times, there will be both early admission and late evenings on the same day.

This past Friday night, Magic Kingdom had extra magic hours in the evening. Magic Kingdom closed to regular guests (not staying at an onsite Disney hotel) at midnight. Giving you plenty of time to play at the park, one would think. But, if you were staying at an onsite Disney hotel, there were late evening extra magic hours- which meant that onsite hotel guests could stay until 3 am in the morning.

Yup – I said 3 am!  And no, I don’t need to have my head examined (although my mom may disagree with you on that – she’s not so big into the Disney magic…)

Before becoming Disney regulars, I would never have dreamed about keeping kids out until 3 am to go around a theme park. That was before I was a Disney regular. Coincidentally, it was also before I had kids.

When Disney adrenalin kicks it, kids (and adults) will go until they drop. And there’s nothing like being able to walk onto rides to get everyone hyped up more. Plus, you’re surrounded by other families (and wee kiddies) doing the same thing – so you don’t feel out of place at all. Extra magic hours work like a charm!

We went to Magic Kingdom from 11 pm-3 am (closing) and had a blast.  (We had a late start because we’d spent the day lounging at the pool before hitting Hollywood Studios for a couple of rides before that park’s closing. Then we hit Ohana’s for supper at the Polynesian.) 

Arriving at 11 pm, we saw the tail end of the Electrical Magic Parade, and then rode many more rides in 4 hours than would have been possible in a 2 day period at peak time – even with strategic planning and multiple use of fast passes. You just can’t do what we did in those 4 hours.

With 2 kids who are 6 years apart, we sometimes now have to separate – one parent with each child. DD11 will still ride the kiddie rides with her sis, but she’s a roller coaster junkie, and DD5 is too small for the big roller coasters.

Friday night, DD11 rode space mountain 3x, DD5 rode Peter Pan 3x (and we all rode another time together), the family of 4 all rode Speed Track Raceway 4x, DD11 rode Big Thunder 2x (1x with all of us), all 4 of us rode Carousel (my favourite ride – a classic!) several times – plus we rode Pirates of the Caribbean, Aladdin, Dumbo, Winnie-the-Pooh, It’s a Small World and more.  (If you’ve ever been to Disney, you know that all of these rides are fast pass rides, save Small World and Carousel, and all usually have wait times of >1 hr each).

The characters (Goofy, Pluto, Chip and Dale, Donald, etc) all came to the Sorcerer’s sword for closing at 3am, and the girls got to play with several of them.(Chip and Dale had a great time with DD5’s lais from dinner at Ohana’s.)

We stayed until the bitter end at 3 am, and had a great time. (Although we slept mighty late the next morning.)

Stay at an onsite Disney hotel. The extra magic hours alone are worth it!  You’re getting extra access, and during the busy summer months, that is like gold. Why wait 90 minutes in the 106 degree sun to ride one ride, when you can go after dark, and ride as many (and as often) as you want?

Call me – I just returned from visit #19 to Disney. I know the ins and outs of converting your family’s dream vacation into your favourite memory!

Sheila

613-837-0699

sheila.gh@vision2000.ca

June 28, 2011 Posted by | Lush Life Disney, Lush LIfe Top Posts, Lush Life Travel TIps & Advice | Leave a comment

Campfire at the Grand Floridian

After a long day at the parks, there’s nothing better than a swim in the Canyon-themed waterslide pool at the Grand Floridian,

and maybe a water game with a beach ball….

except maybe a marshmellow roast right on the beach.

The Grand Floridian has a nightly campfire (usually ~7:30 pm), followed by a movie (usually ~9:00 pm) being shown right on their beach.

There are activity directors on hand to provide lots of fun, and music playing to add to the party atmosphere.

The Grand Floridian offers a mighty grand Floridian holiday – before, during, and after your park hopping. Try their beach campfire!

June 26, 2011 Posted by | Lush Life Destinations, Lush Life Disney, Lush Life Hotels | Leave a comment

Mickey asks – Can You Eat a Kitchen Sink?

My family thought we were up to the challenge. En route to Hollywood Studios, we got off the boat from Epcot, and popped into the Beach Club resort, with eyes on Beaches and Cream.

The “kitchen sink” is actually served in a dish that resembles a kitchen sink. And it comes with 8 scoops of ice cream (different flavours – we know there was chocolate, mint, strawberry, and more) , every topping you could imagine (stawberries, bananas, cherries, big servings of brownies, cut up chocolate bars, pieces of sponge cake, full size oreos, chocolate+strawberry+ peanut butter+ caramel toppings), plus a whole can of whipped cream.

Yes – a whole can!

The message gets underlined when the dish is delivered to you. The lights are dimmed, the waitress announces your delivery to all, saying what’s in it, and everyone in the restaurant answers back “not a whole can!”

We started off with great anticipation…. sure we could do the deed and eat the whole thing.

But, despite giving it a valiant effort, we didn’t come close to finishing all.  Apparently, they just had a food eating contest, and one guy finished the whole thing himself in 9 minutes – and then polished off a cheeseburger. 

Guess we’re not cut out for food eating contests!  How about you?

June 25, 2011 Posted by | Lush Life Disney, Lush Life Food, WIne & Spas | Leave a comment

Mickey Cooks Up A Mexican Feast at San Angel Inn

Whenever we spend the day at Epcot in Walt Disney World, we try to ensure there’s a meal planned for the San Angel Inn in the Mexico pavilion. It’s a Disney dining experience that is always a terrific treat.

The San Angel Inn restaurant is inside, but has been built to make you feel like you’re dining under the stars in Mexico. You can see the pyramids, and enjoy the Mexican music while you snack on tortilla chips and peruse the menu.  The three caballeros are throughout the pavilion, and add the Disney flavour to the restaurant and shops.

Speaking of flavour, there is plenty.   DD11 enjoyed the beef tacos. Despite being in Mexico, DD5 still wanted chicken tenders.   DH had rib eye tacos. While I had pollo a las rajas.  Very tasty.  The meal, with a couple of draft beers, came to $84.67 before tip.

June 23, 2011 Posted by | Lush Life Disney, Lush Life Food, WIne & Spas | Leave a comment

Pools + Waterslides @ Disney’s monorail hotels: The Grand Floridian

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 Grand Floridian hotel is a stunning property, with a terrific Victorian feel. It has a sandy beach around the lake too – with a little kids water play area. 

There are plenty of sunning chaises, and hammocks. And there are lots of activities around the pool to keep everyone happy and having fun.

There are a couple of pools. The big draw, of course, is the canyon pool, with the waterslide.

Stay at the Grand Floridian. You won’t be disappointed.

June 21, 2011 Posted by | Lush Life Disney, Lush Life Hotels, Lush LIfe Top Posts | Leave a comment

What to Do if You’re Stuck in an Airport Terminal

What do you do if your flight is delayed and/or cancelled, and you find yourself stuck in an airport terminal? 

I’ve had clients stuck in various places – including London with the Icelandic ash cloud situation, Mexico City and Marseille with severe windstorms, and Charlotte with the east coast snowpocalypse.  Obviously, I welcome all calls from clients before, during, and after their travel (and I always make sure they have my business card with them). It’s always challenging for me to help if I haven’t booked the clients’ flights, and/or they haven’t booked online with my website (www.vision2000.ca/sheilagh) because I can’t easily access their files as the travel agent of record. However, I always do my best to help, especially if someone is stranded.

Here are my suggestions if you find yourself stuck.

1. First of all, please take a deep breath. Do NOT lose your patience with the airline gate agents. They are likely overworked, and under pressure, with whatever change has you in front of them. Everyone affected is going to be upset, and likely short-tempered, with their itinerary change. The gate agents are the people you are relying on to help you out. Treat them with respect because they didn’t create the problem you are asking them to solve. Remember – you can always catch more flies with honey than with vinegar!

2. Contact your travel agent. See what assistance you can get from your advocate.  Not only is that person out of the pressure cooker, but they likely have broader information than you, and can assess the seriousness of the situation, and offer some assistance. (Perhaps they can get/ buy you a day pass to the airport lounge. Perhaps they can reroute you on another airline, or via another city. And if rerouting is not possible, or is too costly, they can help you book hotel rooms.)

3. If you absolutely, positively have to use your laptop/electronics, set yourself up near an outlet/plug in in the terminal early – and stay there.

4. For prolonged delays, try to remove yourself from the stressful environment if you can. Go grab a coffee or a beer. Find a quiet corner. If you’re travelling with children, find an activity to keep them occupied (and have/ buy extra diapers and milk right away… just in case…).  If the stay will be lengthy, check with the gate agent/ security to see if you can leave the terminal to get some fresh air.  (You’ll have to go through security again, but the restorative break may be worth it!)

No one wants to live in a terminal, but there are news stories that the Tom Hanks movie “The Terminal” was based on and/or has been mirrored in reality. http://www.snopes.com/travel/airline/airport.asp and http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/africa/4097939.stm

But the reality of airline travel these days is that delays and cancellations can be part of your adventure. As the traveller, you are responsable for your reaction – you are response-able! Choose wisely for yourself and your family, and find a way to deal with the stressful situation as best you can.

And creativity always wins. These two sports photographers were stranded overnight in Dallas Fort Worth recently, when their flights were cancelled. I’m not sure how it’s possible they were alone as much as they were, but you gotta take your hat off to them, and the clever youtube video they posted.  Now that’s finding a way to deal with the stress in a creative way!

June 20, 2011 Posted by | Lush Life Travel TIps & Advice | Leave a comment

Virtuoso Amenities for Clients Deserving the “Best of the Best”

I’m thrilled that as a result of my affiliation with Vision 2000, I’m a member of Virtuoso – a consortium of the world’s leading hotels, cruise lines, onsite destination partners, and travel agencies. It’s simply a collection of the “best of the best.”

Virtuoso produces an annual “best of the best” coffee book.  You can see a digital version of the 2011 version here http://www.virtuoso.com/thecompany/bob2011/.  Think of it as a Sears’ Wish Book for adults – all the spots you want to visit around the world, and the very best of the best hotels!

For any of my clients wanting to stay at a “best of the best” hotel, I can negotiate special amenities on their behalf. That’s the joy of working with a Virtuoso travel advisor – we’re the best, we work with the best, and we want our clients to be treated the best. (And remember – you can’t VIP yourself!)

Have a look at the sort of amenities I can negotiate on your behalf.   Don’t you deserve the best of the best?

June 17, 2011 Posted by | Lush Life Hotels, Lush Life Partners, Lush Life Travel TIps & Advice, Lush Life Value - Why Use a Travel Advisor | Leave a comment

Fallin’ for Niagara

My family visited Toronto for the May long weekend, and we made sure to spend a day at Niagara Falls.

And, as no visit to Niagara would be complete without a ride on the Maid of the Mist, we happily obliged (or, at least I did… eventually).

Looking down on the Maid from the lookout overhead, the voyage looks a wee bit scary. Lots of spray, froth, and rough seas… almost enough to stop me (but not my girls, or their cousins, who we met for the day).

But, I eventually gathered my courage, and we made our way to the boat for the tour. Everyone was given blue rain ponchos, and we trekked down to board the ferry. 

It was a lot of fun, and not nearly as rough as it had looked from above.  But it was a surprise how bitingly cold it was (go figure, water spraying in your face isn’t room temp…). The ponchos were terrific in keeping most of the water off us. But what they didn’t cover, got soaked.

It’s safe to say, we were fallin’ for Niagara.

June 15, 2011 Posted by | Lush Life Destinations | 4 Comments