Sheila Gallant-Halloran

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

Proud to be a Virtuoso Travel Advisor

Vision 2000 Travel Group is a proud member of Virtuoso.

Virtuoso ” is a network of the world’s finest travel agencies with knowledgeable advisors who draw upon first-hand experience to craft the perfect vacation for their clients. Virtuoso affiliated travel advisors have global connections with the best hotels, cruise lines, airlines and tour companies. For you, this means access to exclusive travel offers that you can’t get on your own, along with your best value for the money. That’s theVirtuoso difference.

Virtuoso is the leading travel network made up of more than 6,000 travel advisors associated with over 300 agencies in 22 countries within North and South America, the Caribbean, Australia and New Zealand.  Because I am affiliated with Vision 2000 Travel Group, and a proud member of Virituoso, my clients have access to my Global Connections: With personal contacts at more than 1,000 airlines, cruise lines, hotels, resorts, and premier destinations worldwide, I can put these relationships to work for you.  My clients also access Unparalleled Expertise: Virtuoso affiliated travel advisors are among the most well-traveled people on the planet. We draw upon our own first-hand experiences when customizing vacations for clients. In addition, I offer Customized Travel Experiences: From weekend getaways to trips of a lifetime, my clients learn to count on my expertise to achieve their greatest Return on Life™.  And let’s not forget your peace-of-mind and Confidence: Virtuoso clients can rest easy knowing their personal preferences are reflected in every aspect of their itinerary, because I deliver the best value for their time and money.

Given my affiliation with the Vision 2000 Travel Group, and my proud membership in Virtuoso, I offer my clients insider connections and industry expertise – along with the guidance and know-how they require to make educated travel choices.

Virtuoso is the most prestigious and established travel network in the world. So when you travel, you can do so with confidence – secure in the knowledge that you’ll get more, simply by booking through me.


September 22, 2011 Posted by | Lush Life Partners, Lush Life Value - Why Use a Travel Advisor | Leave a comment

The Re-emergence of the Travel Advisor & the Power of One-to-One

I just returned from Virtuoso’s Travel Mart at the Bellagio in Las Vegas. I was one of over 3700 people from 90 countries around the globe who had gathered to learn what’s new in luxury travel. This was my first time attending Travel Mart, and I went to Vegas with many newbies on Vision 2000’s @home team with our GM, Lynda Sinclair, and our Exec VP, Stephanie Anevich. But 2011 marked the 23rd such gathering of Virtuoso advisors and suppliers, and it was the 11th straight time the luxury trade show was held at the Bellagio.

Travel Mart’s theme this year was the “Power of One-to-One.”  And I saw how that worked, up close and in person. I had my “aha” moment when I met the representative of Four Seasons San Francisco 24 hours before my client was to check into that hotel. Parul Kaushal of the FS San Francisco”vip’ed” my client, and had a special amenity waiting for her in her room.  That was the power of one-to-one. I could immediately see the value of the connections I was making in Vegas.

Obviously, the power of making those one-to-one connections will be felt by my clients, and will help them develop a strong preference for the Virtuoso brand.

At Travel Mart, I had 312 four-minute “speed dating” sessions scheduled with suppliers over the four days. (Those meetings were supplemented by a dozen or more ten-minute detailed sales meetings. I also attended various luncheons, dinners, and cocktail parties; meeting suppliers, one-to-one). And, since I had a list of whom I would meet in advance of going to Vegas, I was able to contact my important clients, and share the details with them. “Collaborative commerce” was indeed enabled – I met suppliers with my clients’ specific needs in mind. I asked questions related to my clients’ families, and their vacation needs. I often had a photo snapped with a supplier so I could send it back to the client – just to let the client know I was hard at work, planning their next dream getaway. I had a couple going to the Clift in San Francisco on their honeymoon, a mother and daughter wanting to go to the Carlyle in NYC, and another family hoping to go to the Il San Pietro di Positano in Italy. I was busy representing their interests, and had their holidays in mind, as I made connections.

Virtuoso chair, Matthew Upchurch, gave an interview about this year’s Travel Mart with Travel Press. In it, he talked about the bifurcation between the do-it-yourselfers, and those who see the value of using a travel advisor.

It’s definitely true that many consumers have a do-it-yourself mentality (the DIY’ers).  They believe they can get all the info they need to plan the perfect vacation just by spending a few hours on the internet searching. Those same people also could research how to do their own accupuncture just by spending a few hours on the internet searching, but for some reason, I bet they won’t entrust their personal well-being into their own unskilled hands. They don’t want to poke themselves with needles. Yet, they will often entrust another precious (and limited) asset into their own hands – their valuable vacation time. They will risk their family memories… and be oblivious to the pain they are inviting, but more importantly, the pleasure they are missing.

The DIY’ers do not have the resources, the experience, nor the skills to do what professional travel advisors do. They don’t have the booking engines, the tools, nor the clout to wield influence should issues ever arise. It’s hard to act as your own advocate if you’re stuck with 1000’s of other people in some airport terminal. (Talk about poking yourself with needles!)

The DIY’ers also cannot get the value-adds which my Virtuoso traveler clients can get (special amenities, such as breakfast for two daily; a complimentary room upgrade, if available at check in; early check in, and late check out; and another resort specific amenity, such as a $100 food and beverage credit).  And no matter how hard they try, and how  many hours they may spend on the internet searching, the DIY’ers simply do not have the connections that I have. They do not have the business card of the representative of the Four Seasons San Francisco in their rolladex. They have not experienced the power of one-to-one. They cannot pick up the phone to call Parul, and say, “Hey, remember we met at Travel Mart? My vip client is coming to see you tomorrow. Can you please take good care of her?” 

I was an actuary in my former life. I was a specialist in financial risk management. I ensured people were prepared for the worst possible events in their life (e.g., premature death, marriage breakdown, or debilitating personal injury).  Obviously, I still have those risk management skills, and have honed some business savvy. But I also now have the training and experience of being a Virtuoso travel advisor. And, if I can take the liberty of recycling Matthew Upchurch’s interview words, I can truly say that instead of handling people’s nightmares, now I really do orchestrate people’s dreams.

Let me be your advocate. Call me to get my help to orchestrate your dreams. I can call upon my Virtuoso connections, and the power I’ve experienced with the one-to-one, to “vip” you, and give your family the travel memories that will last a lifetime.  (And, go ahead – tell a few “DIY’ers” what they are missing. It’d be good to spare them poking themselves with needles.)

August 26, 2011 Posted by | Lush Life Partners, Lush LIfe Top Posts, Lush Life Value - Why Use a Travel Advisor | 10 Comments

On Vacay? Here are some Tips to Avoid/ Minimize Issues

A recent exchange with Kathy Buckworth got me thinking about things I tell my new clients about the benefits of booking with a travel advisor. But once the booking is done, there are still things on which I advise clients to ensure they are ready for vacation.

So, if you’re heading out on vacation, here are some tips to help you avoid/ minimize issues:

  1. Have your travel advisor’s card with you – a good travel advisor is there for you before, during, and after travel – if you run into issues at destination, your travel advisor can help you get them sorted as they are happening. (Please don’t wait until you get home. It’s too late to solve the problem that’s affecting your holiday, and trying to get some resolution/ restitution after the fact is difficult and not very satisfying for you.)
  2. Have your details on travel insurance with you – know who to call, and make sure you know what your financial responsibility is with your insurer. (Do you have to pay upfront and then get reimbursed later? If so, make sure you have ample room on your credit card. You should have already sorted issues with your travel insurance provider when your travel advisor got you to review your coverage- so you should already know whether your insurer covers you if you’re in international waters for your cruise, if your work coverage extends to your children and spouse, whether you have medical only or trip cancellation and trip interruption coverage as well.)
  3. You’ve already made sure your passport has more than 6 months remaining before it expires (your travel advisor would have made sure of that) – but also make sure your travel advisor (and family at home) has a photocopy of your passport details – just in case something gets lost or stolen.
  4. Your travel advisor would have provided itineraries with hotel/ ship/ tour details. Ensure your family at home has a copy of details.
  5. Never lug what you can’t safely carry. Know your carriers’ baggage restrictions, and charges before you go to the airport. Assume you won’t find a baggage cart somewhere, and never travel with more luggage than you can carry yourself. Put your business address on your bags (not your home address – it’s a little known fact that thieves will often hang out in airport departure areas watching for people leaving so they can get their home address from their bags before they check in.)
  6. Know your cell phone provider’s roaming policy before you leave and/or arrange an international phone (like wireless traveller)
  7. Protect your home – make sure you cancel newspapers, turn off the water, put lights on a timer, and alert your neighbours that you’ll be away. Having someone come in your home while you’re away not only protects against things like water breaks, it likely satisfies the requirements of your home owner’s policy too.  If you’re a social media junkie, be leery of saying you’re on vacation, where you are, and how long you’ll be away (unless you can also say you have a house sitter).
  8. travel smart – don’t announce your hotel room number in front of strangers (especially as you’re picking up your key at the front desk.) Use the safety deposit box at your hotel to safeguard valuables, especially your passport. Don’t leave laptops, purses, etc. out when you leave your hotel room. Another important point for travel safety is that it might also be an idea to double check your hotel’s policy concerning the storage of your credit card info on any plastic hotel keys – if in doubt, throw them out.

Any issues?  You have my number. 613-837-0699.

July 26, 2011 Posted by | Lush Life Travel TIps & Advice, Lush Life Value - Why Use a Travel Advisor | 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  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

Virtuoso Life – free apps & digital magazines

I love being a Virtuoso travel advisor. I can send my clients wonderful marketing magazines such as Virtuoso Life. Available in hard copy form, Virtuoso Life magazine is also now available at your finger tips! Download the FREE App today

In This Issue – 

From Beverly Hills to Thailand, the Virtuoso Life Hotel issue has a suite (or Villa) to suit everyone. Experience a relaxing getaway to a Mexican Hacienda, pick your favorite cabin from this year’s fleet or get away from it all at one of 15 ultimate escape resorts! 

Beverly Hills Beauties
From legendary to cutting edge, the city’s best hotels offer both service and style.

Farm to Fabulous
Haciendas, Mexico’s great plantations of yore, cultivate utterly relaxing getaways.

Away From it All
At these 15 ultimate-escape resorts, solitude is luxury number one.

Take a Shine to Thailand
Southeast Asia’s oasis is back. Check your shoes at the villa and discover that “island time” truly exists.

High Seas Society
Our favorite features of this year’s fleet, plus Virtuoso travel advisors’ highlights and tips on the best cabins to book.


May 5, 2011 Posted by | Lush Life Other Items, Lush Life Partners, Lush Life Value - Why Use a Travel Advisor | Leave a comment

Proud to be a Virtuoso Travel Advisor – Extraordinary Experiences

I’m proud to be a Virtuoso travel advisor with Vision 2000 Travel Group. Being a Virtuoso travel advisor means I’m part of the “best of the best”  – and can offer my clients the “best of the best.”

Vision 2000 is a leading member of Virtuoso, a network of the world’s finest travel agencies with knowledgeable advisors who draw upon first-hand experience to craft the perfect vacation for you. As a Virtuoso affiliated travel advisor, I have global connections with the best hotels, cruise lines, airlines and tour companies. For you, this means access to exclusive travel offers that you can’t get on your own, along with your best value for the money. That’s the Virtuoso difference.

What does being a Virtuoso travel advisor mean to me – and what I can offer my clients?

Exclusivity. Purpose. Discovery. Integrity. Creating Memories. Service Excellence. Greater Success. Professional Excellence. Unique experiences. Personal fulfillment. Creating new customers. Endless opportunity. Meaning and purpose. That’s my extraordinary vision.

Virtuoso – specialists in the art of travel. Call me to arrange your next extraordinary experience!

April 27, 2011 Posted by | Lush Life Partners, Lush Life Value - Why Use a Travel Advisor | Leave a comment

Only a spider trusts the web, but if you book online, book “my site” instead

I’m a personal travel advisor. I am a knowledgeable and resourceful consultant who can look at your family’s needs and wants, and come up with solutions to ensure you have the vacation of your dreams. I’m a memory maker, and I love it.

I specialize in made-to-measure travel – or, travel that “fits” you right! 🙂 (Pun on the “fit” – for those in the travel industry. FIT=foreign, or free, independent tour… or full individual tariff… It means something that isn’t a cookie-cutter, off the shelf product.)

But, I have clients who sometimes want the cheapie getaway package that a tour operator has put together. Sometimes you feel like a Big Mac. Of course, I still look out for those clients. I am their advocate, and the person they call when they run into issues.  I help them navigate the multitude of info out there – such as help them understand why that 4* hotel in the Mayan is still available at cheapie prices on March break, and whether it would really meet their family’s needs. 

Many people say that price is the overriding factor on getting away on a cheapie vacay, but few come back and say “I got what I paid for” – more often, folks will say what they didn’t get.

So – please, don’t book a holiday online based on what you read at an online rating agency. Consider all the info there, for sure – but please, don’t put ALL your faith in what you see there. (Do you know whether the rating was given by the hotel itself, or maybe it’s competitor? Do you know anyone who’s ever submitted ratings? Do you know that the majority of people who post are faceless, and overly negative posters?) Wouldn’t you rather have independent and objective reviews done by travel industry folks? (And ones not being paid to give positive reviews?)

Call me. Let’s talk about what is most important to your family, and what memories you want to take away from your vacation.  And if you really want to comparison shop, and find it hard to resist the “do it yourself” mentality that is so prevalent with holiday making these days, use my site – .  My site has the same inventory as “sell of vacations”, etc, the same pricing. So, have at it – comparison shop. You can use my site to narrow the range of options you want to consider, and then we can talk about what you’re seeing.  Let me check the industry reviews of the hotels you are considering, and what my personal experience (and/or the experience of my colleagues) is with that hotel.

And, if you’re really stuck, it’s 3 am in the morning, and you feel overwhelming pressure that you really have to book that getaway NOW, go ahead. You can book on my site, with confidence. 

Any booking made through my site is affiliated with me – so if you have issues while on vacation, I am the travel advisor of record. I can call the supplier, the airline, the cruiseline, or the hotel; and get you the assistance you need. 

Of course, my involvement in bookings made on my site isn’t restricted to problems you might have at destination. I still act as your advocate  before you leave. I still touch the file. Think of me as an extra set of eyes. I have various quality controls (e.g., making sure the credit card number matches the billing address), and I go through titles and legal names (e.g., making sure my client “Bill” has booked according to his passport name “William”, so he’s not turned away from boarding the plane). I can still call the supplier, and make requests for you (e.g., connecting rooms, bedding arrangements). I review the itinerary with clients, and advise them about travel documentation. I ensure their vacation insurance is in order. I still send e-advisories about the country they are visiting, and get them to check their passport details to ensure all is up-to-date.

Only a spider trusts the web. But if you really must book online, please book on “my site” instead. You still have your personal travel advisor acting as your advocate. I’m only a call away.

April 14, 2011 Posted by | Lush Life Value - Why Use a Travel Advisor | Leave a comment

“Best holiday ever”-client returns fr Noteworthy Events tour London

I just received the most wonderful of emails from a client. She’d just returned from a trip to London with her DD5, DD11, and her mom (grandma).  We had a private driver pick them up at Heathrow, drive them to their hotel, and then had a private tour guide arranged for areas of their interest. DD11 is a musical theatre junkie, so we threw in some special things for her, while balancing the energy and interests of her younger sister (a ghost story affecionado) with  mom and grandma (whose interests are of historical bend).

Want to know why I rave about working with our Virtuoso partners (like Noteworthy Events – see ) to customize the best vacation for each client? Read this client’s take.

You can’t recapture your vacation time, so your holiday has to be right the first time. Call me to arrange similar memories for your family!


Hi Sheila,

We had a fabulous time – best holiday ever.  Can’t thank you enough for your help.

The hotel was fantastic (The Haymarket – – very big room and effectively sole use to a large second floor “courtyard” .  Very cool decor.  Extremely convenient location.  Lots of interesting public space within the hotel that we used, including the pool and a library where I read DD5 a bedtime story at night.  Breakfasts were very good.  I’d recommend this to others who want small luxury boutique hotel.

 Our driver was excellent – well informed, friendly and – importantly I guess – a good driver.  As well, he has chauffeured Colin Firth, which made me feel very well-connected 🙂

 Private guide of Churchill War Rooms ( ) and Imperial War Museum ( was excellent – extremely personable, not academic but sufficiently knowledgeable for our purposes.   He has been a professional actor in his life, having played “Rooster” in Annie in London in a production for over a year – so that was a cool coincidence and was a good point of commonality for DD11.

Private tour of Tower of London was excellent – really one of the highlights (I think my favourite). A bit too complex for DD5 and since the fellow was an actual Yeoman of the Guard, so effectively one of the Queen’s soldiers and a retired RAF guy (only appointees are retirees of medal-level distinction), which meant he was very serious about the historical implications of the sight.  As such, while he indeed talked about ghost sightings etc, he didn’t camp them up in a way a five year-old would appreciate. DD11, however, loved it.   Also, he happened to be both the Ravenmaster (which is just weird – they keep 6 ravens at the Tower due to some ancient prophecy made to Charles II) and the layperson/Guard responsible for the church of St. Peter ad vinculus – which is where all the headless bodies are buried.  He took us in there, although it isn’t usually open to the public.  Best part was going down to crypt where Thomas More has actually been afforded a particular grave – one of the few in addition to Henry VIII’s wives.  Once again, no public access to that.  He says they have requests all the time, which are usually denied.  So, your group in London [sic – yeah, Noteworthy] seems very well placed.

 The West End shows were entertaining – Wicked, in particular, had very high production values and we all enjoyed it. 

Only disappointment in booked stuff, which wasn’t a problem but of which you may want to be aware re recommendations to future clients, was tea at Harrods ( ).  It wasn’t even close to being as nice as tea at the Chateau Laurier ( ) .  The room was sort of like an inferior version of the Arcadian Court at Simpson’s (now the Bay) in downtown Toronto, if you’ve been there.  If tea is on someone’s itinerary, probably better to pick an upscale hotel such as the Dorchester or Savoy or something.

Filled in the rest of the time with self-booked stuff, which was fine.  If DD5 were older, would have booked more, but figured correctly that I’d need to add in some lighter, more spontaneous stuff.

Had an excellent tour of St. Pauls’ that we just walked into – informative and okay for kids as the guide gave them stuff to look for and the Whispering Gallery in the dome was entertaining.  DD11 was old enough to engage with the history as well.  Shakespeare’s Globe is excellent for any kid who has any contact with/interest in Shakespeare (I had my doubts given that it’s a replica, but it was really quite well done and interesting).  River boat tour is boring, as is London Eye.  Madam Tussaud’s was boring as well, although it’s okay in context of “pop” entertainment as there isn’t much of that in London.

 One neat thing we didn’t do but about which I learned when I was there was that you can go horseback riding in Hyde Park.   DD5’s too little so wouldn’t have done it anyway, but it would be good for older kids.

 In summary, it was a fantastic holiday.  Everyone loved it, including my mom.  We saw the city, got out and around and the accommodations were top notch.  Even though London doesn’t seem like a family vacation destination, I’d highly recommend it if the family is interested even remotely in historical stuff.

See you soon and, again, many thanks (including for last minute medical insurance).


April 1, 2011 Posted by | Lush Life Destinations, Lush Life Partners, Lush Life Value - Why Use a Travel Advisor | 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

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

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

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