Being a #BigWorldExplorer: Our Orlando Story

April 13, 2017

Some people visit the family cottage every weekend. Others pack their backpacks for an outdoor camping adventure. My family? Well, friends like to joke that Orlando is our home away from home.
_DSC1615They’re not incorrect! Looking back, we’ve visited Orlando 12 times over the past three years – most recently, courtesy of my friends at Expedia.ca as part of their #BigWorldExplorer program. (Were you following my tweets?) And there’s a reason – actually several – we keep going back.

Proximity. If you’re flying from Toronto, did you know that Orlando is only 2.5 hours away? Too true! It’s a great short-haul option and several airlines offer a direct flight from YYZ (or BUF, if you’ve found a less expensive flight via JetBlue or Southwest). The proximity makes it perfect for families with young children – I like to say that the flight is one-and-a-half Disney movies away!  (more…)

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Do You Want to Build the Perfect Land and Sea Vacation?

March 12, 2017

Yes, I did that on purpose. No, I don’t feel bad that you’ll be humming Do You Want To Build A Snowman? all day. I’ve been singing the catchy tune ever since I settled on the title for this post!

Here’s the thing – I’ve thought about this article for a long time. Never one to rush out of the gate like the proverbial hare, I’ve been making notes, conducting research and trying to collect my thoughts. Because it’s hard to tackle the subject of land AND sea vacations, and if you’re going to plunk down the money to do it, I want to present it in the most rewarding way possible.
16585275_1100486463412235_8796706588351004672_nNow, please take note of the words “most rewarding”. And realize that most rewarding may not equate to least expensive or least amount of planning. This post, simply put, is for my Canadian readers who have decided they are open to – or looking for more information on – booking a tandem vacation at Walt Disney World and aboard Disney Cruise Line, and want my advice on the best way to do it.

And to those, I say… read on, Disney lovers, read on.  (more…)

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150 Hidden Gems: This Is Riverwood Conservancy

March 1, 2017

In celebration of Canada’s 150th birthday, InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG) is launching a fun contest to find the top 150 hidden travel gems in our country. IHG sponsored this post and my participation in this campaign, but all opinions are my own.

It’s official: Canada tops the list of places to visit in 2017 (New York Times). Of course, Canadians have always felt fiercely proud of our beautiful country; from the rugged coastline of Gros Morne, Newfoundland to the breathtaking scenery of Haidaa Gwaii, British Columbia, our land is filled with hidden gems.
_DSC1522Know of a little place off the beaten path? To celebrate Canada’s 150th, InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG) wants you to share your best Canadian hidden gems! From March 1st to May 31st, submit your entry for a chance to win one million IHG Rewards Club points.

So, what is my favourite hidden gem? Picture it –

A steady stream of automobiles enter and exit the parking lots of Square One Shopping Centre, one of Canada’s largest and most trafficked malls. Nearby, community college students pile out onto the streets, weaving their way through retails stores, residential condominiums and municipal government buildings. A street festival has closed down a major road for the afternoon, rerouting pedestrians and motorists through the jungle of office buildings. A makeshift mobile office is erected on the only uninhabited space on the landscape, aggressively selling units to future highrise residential.

It is downtown Mississauga, the very definition of the urban experience.  (more…)

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May All Your Travels be #HealthyTravels

January 30, 2017

FACT: It is estimated that 30% to 70% of travellers who go to a tropical or subtropical region will have at least one episode of diarrhea, which may last three to five days.

Well, hello to you too! I normally don’t start my posts with such an attention-grabbing headline, unless of course I’m trying to grab your attention. So let’s try that again –

FACT: 98% of travellers will make a dietary or beverage mistake within the FIRST THREE DAYS of their vacation, increasing their risk of contracting enterotoxigenic E. coli (ETEC).

(Be smart! You should be spending your vacation on the beach, not in bed.)

If you’re thinking, “Okay Lena, you have my attention. Tell me more!” – you’re in luck! On Tuesday, January 31st, join the #HealthyTravels Twitter Chat at 8PM EST. We’ll share smart tips and information to help ensure all your travels in 2017 are healthy.
Healthy Travels GraphicTo thank you for joining us, we’ll give away 5 x $75 Shoppers Drug Mart Gift Cards – perfect for stocking up on everything you need before you head down south!

To all those travelling this March Break, wishing you #HealthyTravels!

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The Holidays are Magical at Walt Disney World and Disneyland Resort!

November 24, 2016

NOTE: The following giveaway is open to Canadians only.

A Walt Disney World or Disneyland Resort vacation at Christmas. Could there be anything more magical? (Hint: the answer is NO.)

I first visited Walt Disney World in December 2012, almost exactly four years ago to the day. At the time, the entire resort was teeming with holiday spirit, featuring whimsical Christmas decor and shopping, festive feasting and magical wintery wonder. It was, without a doubt, one of the most awe-inspiring experiences I’ve ever had the pleasure to witness.
Mickey's Once Upon a Christmastime ParadeThis season, I want you to experience the magic, too!

It’s not too late to book a Disney vacation for the holidays! The BIG news is the Canadian Resident Ticket Offer – at Walt Disney World, save 25% on 4-day or longer tickets and enjoy all four Disney Theme Parks at a whopping discount. At Disneyland Resort, save 25% on 3-Day or longer tickets.

To take advantage of this special offer, you must purchase your tickets in advance before February 28, 2017. The best part? At Walt Disney World, you can use these discounted tickets at any time during 2016, 2017 and beyond – they won’t expire! At Disneyland Resort, the tickets must first be used by December 31, 2017.  (more…)

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Treat Yourself – #NoMilesNeeded! Introducing AIR MILES Perks.

October 19, 2016

Are you Canadian? (√ Check.)
Are you an AIR MILES Collector? (√ Check.)

Did you know that you already have access to a HUGE variety of great deals, discounts and benefits – part of the AIR MILES Reward Program – with NO Miles needed?

It’s true! Prepare to be blown away, friends.

Introducing AIR MILES Perks. Perks have been hand-picked just for AIR MILES Collectors and are available to ALL Collectors, just for having an AIR MILES Card. You can find deals nationwide or ones that are tailor made for your city; simply visit the website, select your region and check out all the promos and savings!

Recently, I stopped by What She Said and shared all the details – check out my segment below!

Now I won’t spoil it for you (and I know how much you love to watch me chatting with gigantic head phones) but the gist is, some Perks are available simply by showing your AIR MILES Card (sweet!) while others have exclusive discount codes or eVouchers.  (more…)

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I Took a Vacation. And I Liked It.

September 20, 2016

After eight long years, I finally did it. I took a real, bona fide vacation.

I didn’t check my email. I didn’t rush to publish blog posts. (Did you miss me?) I didn’t tweet from the restaurant, stop what I was doing to capture the perfect Instagram photo (okay, maybe once or twice) or click on Facebook’s “Message Waiting” icon. I left my laptop in my carry-on luggage and sent all incoming phone calls to voice mail.

And I didn’t feel bad. At all. Not even a little bit.

The social media world did not fall apart without me. When I accessed my blog this morning, it was still here. No one called me out for failing to respond to a tweet; no one demanded an immediate email response. I was able to rest, relax and rejuvenate. It was glorious.
14240688_798483933587281_622348575_nThis week, I’m back to the grind. I spent the entire evening in catch-up mode and I shudder to think of all the deliverables coming up. But it’s worth it. I have newfound focus, clarification and determination. I know what I want to do and who I want to be. And I know I need to take vacations more often – especially to destinations that have palm trees and rum punch. Oh yes.

For now, it’s back to business! It’s good to be back, friends!

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A Case of the Mondays

September 12, 2016

You know those days when you just don’t want to crawl out of bed? Where you’d rather pull your covers over your face and pretend the world doesn’t exist?

I’m having one of those weeks.

I get the blues in September because I’m generally resistant to change. I’ve grown accustomed to the chill vibe of summer, and suddenly, when confronted with school routines, the re-commencement of sports leagues and lessons, and – gah! – chilly mornings and early sunsets, I curl up in a ball and attempt to block it all out.

And I’d probably be successful, if not for the little hand that pulls away the covers and says, “Good morning Mommy! Would you like to join me for breakfast?”

Alas, my day will begin – just like it always does – and soon enough, I’ll acclimate to the new routines, become a pro at chauffeuring kids, and bundle up with knit sweaters and a pumpkin spice latte.

Taking the sting out of this particular Monday? Knowing that we’ll be leaving for Orlando, Florida in just three short days.
20160714-_dsc8537-1024x683-1Photo Credit: Orlando Informer

There, we’ll experience the brand new Loews Sapphire Falls Resort at Universal Orlando, Florida. Reminiscent of a leisurely estate in the heart of the tropics, the Caribbean-inspired resort boasts cascading blue waterfalls across lush grounds with a luxuriously landscaped 16,000 square foot, resort-style pool. (more…)

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WIN with Road Trippin’!

August 5, 2016

NOTE: The following giveaway is open to Canadians only.

This summer, we’ve enjoyed a more leisurely pace. Instead of our usual press trips and summer travels, we’ve opted to stick around and enjoy our local attractions instead. Trips to the beach, picnics in the park and lazy evenings on the patio have made it a summer to remember.
13715107_180638309017025_417377905_nHowever, staycationing in the city is less about packing lists and more about surviving road trips. Especially when travelling with young ones, I find that long car rides can generally be even more stressful than plane rides for the following reasons:

1) Children have way too much stimuli. “Look! We passed a McDonalds. Can we stop for fries and a drink?” This happens a lot. “Mom! He’s touching me!” (looking at me, hitting at me, humming in my direction, etc etc.) This happens more than the requests for McD’s. “Are we there yet?” Ugh. I don’t have to tell you how often this happens.  (more…)

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Multi-Generational Travel: Airport Screening Tips for Seniors

July 27, 2016

A trip with grandma? It’s my son’s dream come true.

As multi-generational travel increases in popularity, so does the need to address the specific concerns of all members of the family – from age two to seventy-two. In the past, I’ve concentrated on screening tips for families and children. Today, with the help of the Canadian Air Transport Security Authority (CATSA), I’m sharing ways to make airport screening a breeze for seniors.

CATSA-GeneralPins-Set2-12-EN (2)1. Pack large liquid containers in checked baggage. When packing your carry-on bag, remember that only liquids, gels and aerosols of 100 mL or less in a one-litre clear, resealable plastic bag are accepted. Larger items like shampoo, toothpaste, creams, shaving cream, perfume and suntan lotion over 100 mL must be packed in your checked baggage.

2. Keep your medication with you. The 100 mL limit on liquids, gels and aerosols in your carry-on doesn’t apply to medication — whether it’s prescribed or over-the-counter. Just be ready to present them separately to the screening officers for inspection.

3. Arrive early and ask for help, if needed. The more time you have to go through security, the less stress you’ll feel. If you have difficulty lifting or carrying your bags, advise airline staff when you check in.

At the checkpoint, look for the family/special needs line if you need more time or assistance to move through security. Have your boarding pass ready to present to the screening officer and place your cell phone and other small electronic equipment, coins, keys and small metal items in your carry-on. Be sure to let screening officers know if you have any medical devices or metal implants.

For more information on how to breeze through security visit catsa.gc.ca or call 1-888-294-2202.

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A Destination for Everyone: This is Mont Tremblant

July 20, 2016

My love affair with Mont Tremblant, Quebec during the summer months is well established, and well documented. (See here and here for further inspiration.)

It’s more than the picturesque pedestrian village. It’s more than the lush greenery and peaceful surroundings. It’s more than the feeling that you’ve entered another country entirely, even though you’re only a 1-hr flight from Toronto.

It’s because Tremblant truly offers something for everyone. And this summer, if you’re looking for a break from the ordinary, here’s a Canadian destination you’ll want to place on your “must visit” list.

The Family Fun Seekers. Of course if you’re vacationing with your family, especially young ones, you’ll want to know about how to keep busy (and keep the kids entertained). Maximize your value and purchase an Activity Card; you’ll have a choice of 14 summer-themed activities for all ages (save 10% when booked in advance).
13562034_252731145098793_1417017690_nFrom Eurobungy, Climbing TowerLe Petit Géant Mini-golfAquaclub La Source and more, there’s always something to do! Bonus: many of the activities are rain or shine, so you’ll never be at the mercy of the elements. The activity card is valid 7 days per week, from May 21 to October 16, 2016. You can purchase 3, 5, 7 or 10 accesses, to be used consecutively or not, at a great rate.  (more…)

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Be the Most Prepared Mom!

July 7, 2016

It’s here, friends! The hot, hazy days of summer!

And, if you’re lucky enough to take a weekend getaway from the hustle and bustle, you’ll want to pack up the kids, pack up your troubles, and be the most prepared mom! Today, I’ll show you how to ensure you’ve got the essentials you need for safe, summer fun.
13408849_296159470723601_1877003576_nEssential #1: Sunscreen. (I am totally NOT going to tell you to pack sunscreen. It’s 2016, folks! We know the negative effects of damage caused by harmful UVA and UVB rays. And if you don’t know, look it up! Trust me on this one.)  (more…)

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You Can (Totally) Leave Home Without It

June 13, 2016

Until now, all of my “Travel Tips” and “What to Pack” posts have focused on what to take on vacation. You know, the must-haves for mom, families and children alike. However, it occurred to me this morning that often, we needlessly complicate the process. Packing cubes! Reminder notes! To-do lists! We know how to keep on top of the things we need to take, but what can we leave at home?
12783999_1566234280334864_1614171988_nToday, I’m pleased to share tips for things you can absolutely, positively, totally leave home without.

(Sounds like your kind of list? Me too!)

1. Your Life Story. Take a peek at your wallet. If you’re travelling with your Social Insurance Card, every credit card and store card you own, your membership cards, frequent customer cards and more, you’re travelling with too much damned access to your entire life story. Edit, friends! In the unfortunate event that your wallet is misplaced (or stolen), you don’t want to add identity theft to your list of troubles.  (more…)

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Who’s Afraid of the Big, Bad Yeti?

April 25, 2016

Okay, so perhaps it’s not the Yeti that has me so freaked out.

Perhaps it’s the backwards portion of the roller coaster. Or the fact that a large part of it takes place in the dark. Now that I think about it, it’s probably the ascension to the top of the mountain, the 80-foot drop, or the basic reasoning that it’s labeled a “thrill ride”.

Whatever the reason, I’m scared of Expedition Everest – Legend of the Forbidden Mountain.
Walt Disney World Photo Gallery Disc“My 7-year old rode it!” one IG follower said in encouragement. Well, the thing is – so did mine. And that gives me cold comfort, because now I realize that I’m the biggest wimp ever.

“It’s nothing – you hardly feel anything and then it’s over,” my husband assured me. However, I can’t help but remember that time I ate chips from his private stash, and he promised he’d get me back… and I can picture him saying “Ha! Ha! Gotcha!” as we barrel down the mountain. Shudder.

Alas, for all the times I’ve been to Walt Disney World, I do believe it’s time to conquer my fear. Wish me luck, friends. I’m ready for the Forbidden Mountain.

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2016 Epcot International Flower & Garden Festival

March 18, 2016

If you’re lucky enough to visit Walt Disney World from March 2 – May 30 this year, you’re in for a treat! You can experience the annual Epcot International Flower & Garden Festival, FREE to guests with valid park admission. This year, it takes place for an unprecedented 90 days!The festival authentically has something for everyone. For foodies, Outdoor Kitchens offer delectable small plates and flavorful non-alcoholic and alcoholic beverages. The kiddos will adore the brand new Harmony Gardens Musical Playground, featuring state-of-the-art net climbers. And for the nature-lovers in your travel party, feast your eyes on more than 70 world-renowned Disney-themed topiaries, vibrant gardens and wildlife habitats.  (more…)

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Disney Fantasy: Date Night at Sea

March 9, 2016

Today, I’m here to lay to rest any notion that a vacation with Disney Cruise Line is for kids, only.

Adults can unwind at Quiet Cove, an adult-exclusive pool, offering tranquil solitude, ocean breezes and spectacular views. At night, you can delight in live music, cabaret shows, dance parties, karaoke and more at venues that cater exclusively to adults when the sun sets. You can even treat yourself to rejuvenating spa therapies, get a makeover or enjoy an invigorating workout – all in scenic, modern facilities.

And, you can savor fine, elegant French-inspired cuisine at Remy.
DSC_2469aCheers, husband! You make 40 look good. Our date night on board the Disney Fantasy was everything we were hoping for: time alone to reconnect as a couple, a chance to engage in uninterrupted adult conversation, and of course, the opportunity to savour the finest French fare.

I’m not exaggerating when I say that our meal at Remy was the best of our lives.

There are several factors that led to our enjoyment. First, and most importantly, was the knowledge that our children were well looked after, well entertained, and well into forgetting we existed! At Disney’s Oceaneer Club, our boys were immersed in character-driven performances, special storytelling sessions, larger-than-life playgrounds and cool interactive activities. Is it any wonder they were more than happy to give us space for a few hours?

And, knowing that they were in the trusted hands of Disney cast members went a long way to help us relax and enjoy the moment. No fighting traffic, no checking our watches. The boys were a phone call away, and we were in seventh heaven.  (more…)

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Travelling this Spring? Avoid Five Carry-On Mistakes

March 9, 2016

Trust me, I’ve made mistakes when it comes to travel. *Many* mistakes. And if you’re vacationing with kids this season, I really don’t want you to leave your diaper bag on your porch (that’s never happened), forget about a Swiss Army knife in your purse (only one time!) or have a situation with orange soda and white jeans (which we shall never speak of again). In fact, I want your travels to be organized and relatively painless – which is why I’m sharing the Top Five Carry-On Mistakes, and tips on how you can avoid them.
carryNow we all know carry-on luggage is necessary when travelling with your family. Being trapped in an airplane with a child… for hours… is actually a special kind of torture. You’ll need everything from snacks and activities to electronics and stuffies. And the following list isn’t a packing list: you can Google “what to pack when travelling with kids”, and I encourage you to do so. The following list is simply a rundown of some of the most common mistakes parents make when it comes to getting ready for a flight. Avoid these carry-on mistakes at all costs, and it will be smooth sailing (er, flying?) for you!  (more…)

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Vacationing in Paradise? Watch Out for Unwanted Travel Companions.

February 22, 2016

The countdown is on! We’re just three weeks away from March Break, and for Canadians, that means a large percentage of us will be travelling down south to sunny destinations. If you’re one of the lucky ones who is getting away, have a fruity drink for me, mmmkay?
fruityNow, you know I want you to have the BEST vacation ever, which means that *of course* you should be prepared with the information you need for #HealthyTravels. If you missed our Twitter Party last week, fear not! I’m here to share some of the most important takeaways with you today.  (more…)

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Expect Something More: Disney Cruise Line

February 6, 2016

It’s been just about three weeks since we’ve returned from our Disney Cruise Line vacation… and I’ve only been *this close* to booking another Disney Cruise just about 20 times. It’s true! I’m officially hooked. From the stunning destinations to the superb and spacious accommodations; the unique fine dining to the live Broadway-caliber shows, I’ve found a new way to spend my vacation dollars.

And, I can’t think of a better investment.

Because that’s the crux of the matter, yes? The fact is, when planning a family vacation, your choice is bound to be based on interests, preferences and your total travel budget. And for the first two – interests and preferences – I can assure you that a Disney Cruise Line vacation will easily cover these points. There is authentically something for everyone! (No, seriously, take a look.)
overview-whats-includedBut it’s important for me to address the elephant (possibly Dumbo?) in the room: Why is a Disney Cruise worth your hard-earned vacation dollars? What makes a Disney Cruise different from another cruise line? Why should you consider paying a premium when there are so many last minute “deals” and “promos” offered by competitors?

It’s actually quite simple. With a Disney Cruise Line vacation, you can expect something more. In fact, what’s included in the price of your cruise may surprise you.  (more…)

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Escaping the Cold? Make a Winter Travel Checklist

February 5, 2016

For Canadians, escaping the winter is a thing.

And why not? Winter travel down south offers an opportunity to get away from the cold, endure one less week of slush, sleet and snow, and trade windchill values for humidex values. Okay, so it’s not just a thing… for many, it’s a necessity.
12070644_1502206640097187_1907736570_nOf course, while jetting off to a sunny vacation in the throes of winter is the epitome of awesome, it also presents its own set of challenges that requires some planning ahead. My advice? Make a winter travel checklist!  (more…)

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