Monday, November 5, 2012

Dining with Character

Our first day in Orlando was our "Disney day". There would be lots of time for theme parks, but the first stop of the day was a Cape May Cafe - for a character breakfast! I don't know who was more excited - me or the kids at the table next to our group. We would be meeting Minnie Mouse, Goofy and Donald Duck at our breakfast. 
We were greeted and shown to our tables. The staff made sure to let us know about the Mickey waffles and all the yummy fixings to put on top of the waffles. We got our food, but to be honest with you, I was more excited to have the characters around than the breakfast. The breakfast was your typical breakfast buffet - but not!
Around the corner came Minnie Mouse. It was awesome! The kids near us all had autograph books (which all the children seem to have when they meet their favourite characters). After Minnie left, Goofy came and then we were almost done, but we hadn't seen Donald yet. I wasn't leaving until I saw Donald.

It was a great experience and there are many different dining options where you can meet, greet and dine with the characters - Chef Mickey's Buffet and of course dining with the Princesses at Cinderella's Royal Table - just to name a few.

The following day we were treated to another character experience - this time at the Nickelodeon hotel and suites. This experience was also fun, because we would be meeting Dora, Boots,  Spongebob Square pants and few more of the Nick characters. The breakfast again was buffet style and your typical breakfast, but they did a show while you were eating and stopped for photo ops for the kids (and the adults). 

 At Sea world because of the focus of the theme park, the dining attractions surround you with the love of the animals. There is dining with Shamu and dining at the Shark encounter, which we had the chance to do as well.

Imagine yourself sitting at a table with sharks swimming back and forth past your table. I did find it interesting that there was a steak entree and a salmon entree. I felt strange ordering a fish dish while the sharks were staring at us from the tank.

With over 5000 places to dine in the area, you can dine with a charcactor or dine "with" character, you will enjoy all your meals in the area.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Starts with the letter O

I have just returned from an amazing trip to Orlando, Florida. It was a special trip for travel agents and our amazing hosts were from Visit Orlando. We were treated to superior class accomodations at the Reunion Resort and had special VIP days planned at the Disney Parks, Universal Orlando Resort and Sea World. I am going to touch on each of these amazing experiences in separate posts, but I wanted to touch on the Orlando area for this post.

When people think about Orlando, their first thought is about Disney World. It is a fact that Disney is what drives everyone to the destination, but Orlando is so much more than the mouse.

There are amazing attractions other than the theme parks. There are over 100 ticketed attractions in and around Orlando. Besides the major parks, there is now a Legoland, Gatorland, Florida Eco-Safari, Richard Petty racing experience just to name a few. A few years ago, Visit Orlando determined that it would take you 67 - 8 hour days to complete and see all there is to do in Orlando and the surrounding area.

There are over 167 golf courses within a 20 minute drive of each other. There were three courses at the Reunion Resort alone! the theme parks as you exit every single ride, you spill into a gift shop. It is a genius marketing tool. But there are just as many shopping options that don't involve theme parks.
There is the Florida Mall, The mall at Millenia, Orlando Premium outlets (2 huge malls).

TIP: for the outlet shopping, you have to go on the website and register. once you do that, you can check back when you are going to be there, and print coupons for the stores in the mall. The coupons change regularly. 

Now, let's talk food...everyone likes to talk about food and food options...well in the area, there are over 5000 restaurant options. Did you know that the world's largest McDonald's playplace!

They have an area in Orlando called Restaurant Row - a high density area of restaurants, including some amazing chains and independants like: Chatham's Ristaurante, Timpano, Bonefish Grill, Amura Sushi, Roy's, Christinis, Seasons 52 and so much more.

The theme parks have amazing restuarant options as well:
Downtown Disney - just to name a few: Bongo's (owned by Gloria Estefan), House of Blues, Fulton's Crab House, Planet Hollyowood.
Universal City Walk - just to name a few: Emeril's, Jimmy Buffet's Margaritaville, Hard Rock Cafe (world's largest), Bubba Gump's Shrimp, Nascar Cafe, NBA cafe.

The theme parks and the hotels have amazing restaurant options to choose from as well. There are really too many to list, but you should check each theme park and make a reservation in advance (that to follow in another post).

Sharks underwater Grill @ Sea World
Mythos @ Islands of Adventure
The Brown Derby @ Hollywood Studios
Mama Della's @ Portofino bay
Emeril's Tchoup Chop @ Portofino bay
Ohana's @ the Polynesian
Coral Reef @ Epcot
La Hacienda de San Angel @ Epcot....
And the list goes on and on.

So, as you can see, there is much more to Orlando than just a mouse! Stay with me for a few more posts and I will share my experiences with you.

Thanks for reading,

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Where have you been?

Last Friday night our family was enjoying our meal together while watching the opening ceremonies of the London Olympic games. My nieces, 7 and 5 years old were watching the parade of the athletes very intently commenting their uniforms, the bright colours of some of the countries and asking "where is this country" and "where is that country". And then of course, "have you been there Auntie Lisa?"

They know that I am a travel agent and that lead into a serious discussion about all the places I have been in the world. I told them to each take a piece of paper and they could make a list of all the places I have travelled to in my years of travelling.

 I have always known how lucky I have been to be in a career for over twenty years that has allowed me many opprotunities I would not have otherwise had.

As we were watching, we started the list. Since Mexico had just walked through the stadium, we started there - and they were trying to spell all the cities - Cancun, Acapulco, Puerto Vallarta (they had been there with me), and Los Cabos.

Then they asked me if I had been to London, which I haven't but I started to tell them the places I have been in Europe:
Israel, Barcelona, Paris, Rome, Florence, Nice, Palma de Majorca, Greece (and then I started to name all the islands and my niece told me she wanted the places I had flown to, not by boat - excuse me LOL!)

The farthest plane ride I have ever taken was to go to Hong Kong. It was an interesting experience in Hong Kong (life just post SARS), and the flight was VERY LONG. I am not sure if I will ever get to Austrailia (it is farther) unless I get lucky enough to fly in a pod in first class!

We started to talk about Canada - Vancouver, Edmonton, Ottawa and Montreal - which is pretty sad since there are so many amazing places in our own country to visit. I do want to explore Eastern Canada and hopefully will someday.

The Caribbean was next - Bahamas, Jamaica, Barbados, Aruba, Cuba, St. Lucia, Curacao, Grand Cayman, Margarita Island, Grenada, just to name a few.

Then we started on the USA...which as I was rhyming them off, I realized I have been to A LOT of places.... Hawaii,  New York, Los Angeles, Las Vegas, San Diego, San Fransisco, Chicago, Miami, Orlando, New Orleans, Washington, and so much more. I was in Cape Cod as a child, but have a yearning interest in Boston...high on my list of places to see.

I am missing a lot of places, and not to mention multiple visits to some of the cities - like 18 times to Vegas - but have not been to the Grand Canyon yet.

Multiple visits to a city you enjoy (or have friends living in) gives one the chance to get the 'touristy' things out of the way in the first visit or two and the move onto to different interests, like amazing museums, botanical gardens,  observatories and more. There is so much more to see when you leave the touristy sights, areas and restaurants and "go local".

That is probably a driving force of what keeps me doing what I am doing - that there is always somewhere else to go and something else to experience - Life is short, and the list is LONG - so, I don't think I will be letting my passport expiry any time soon! 

Let me know where you have been? Where you would recommend to go if you were asked, and what you do to remember all the places you go?

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Restaurants in Maui

For those who may be going to Maui in the near future, or just for your own reference, I have links to the different restaurants I discussed in my post about the food on Maui.

Mama's Fish House -
It is recommended to make reservations in advance. The best time would be close to dusk and sunset. The restaurant is a beachfront open restaurant with the beach, ocean and palm trees as your view.
Once you are on the website, you can make your reservations from a link there to It is very easy to do.

Leilani's -
It is on the beach, open air in Whalers Village - which is next door to the Westin Maui. Easily accessible via the beach path to the other hotels on K'annapali beach area. Great view, fish sandwiches and drinks.

Joe's Simply Delicious Food -
It was a bit hard to find. It is on the grounds of a condo area, and tennis club. Once you find it, it is a really great restaurant. Great atmosphere - open air facing the tennis courts, and the food it outstanding!

Cool Cat Cafe -
We didn't get there (ran out of meal times) but they were rated in the food guides as the best burgers on Maui. Friends told me that the "Don Ho" burger with Fries is a MUST.

Hula Grill -
Is also in Whalers Village - and the group that owns them, also owns Leilani's, as well as the Duke's chain.

The Plantation house -
We had breakfast included at the Westin, but friends of mine said they ate breakfast there every day on the last trip to Maui.

Hali'imaile General Store -
Again, ran out of time, but if you go - order the crab pizza, from other friends, if they could have eaten that everyday they were there, they would have.

A couple other ones that we didn't get to, but all were recommended:
Aloha Mixed Plate -
Roy's -

As you can see, the choices are endless and plentiful. My next trip = more time in Maui!!!

If you have been to Hawaii, I would love to hear where you went to eat, for the next time!


Monday, May 7, 2012

Authentic Experiences

Last night I was at a friend's house for dinner. They, along with another family, have just recently returned from a vacation in Mexico. It was very interesting, one family is very well travelled, and the other family, this was the husband's first experience at an all inclusive resort.

After listening about their whole trip, one of the comments he made was that he wished that some of the experiences were more "authentic". He was in Mexico and he said he would have liked to hear more Mariachi music on the resort, at night, in the lobby, etc.

I can totally relate to what he was saying. It was something that we discussed after we went to the Luau in Maui. Since neither one of us had been to Hawaii before, we thought we should considering going to a Luau. We didn't really have a lot of time in Oahu, or Kona so Maui seemed like the place where we would have the most time.

I think that we both had an "idea" in our heads what the Luau would be like. I knew that there is a ceremony where they remove the ceremonial  Kalua pig (Pua'a) from the Imu (underground oven). I had imaged that the Luau would be on the beach, and the show would be there in the sand as well. Maybe there are places that have it like that, but the ones that we saw flyers on, were not like that.

We decided on the Luau at the Hyatt Regency because it was a buffet style meal with a variety of food choices.

When we arrived at the Hyatt we were seated at a long table. There were rows and rows of long tables. Our seats were on an end and not that far from the stage, which would be good for the show.

When the show was about to start, they did have the removal of the Pua'a from the Imu and then it was carried off to be shredded for the buffet dinner. The food (once we ate) was very good.

The show itself was quite good. There were traditional dances from all the different areas of Samoa, Tongo, Hawaii, and so on. There was a fire dancer which was also quite good. The male dancers that had their faces painted like the Samoan warriors were quite entertaining and then of course the hula dancers. The audience had the chance to go and learn some hula moves, which of course I jumped at the chance....when in Rome as they say....

I did a lot of research for this trip, and I think I missed out on finding the right Luau for us. The one we would have liked to see, probably existed. It is one of those activities that you say "been there, done that"..... on my next visit to Hawaii (I will go back someday), I can leave the Luau off the list.

I did come acrooss this link (since I have been home) and I would advise, if you are planning to go to Hawaii, to take a look at these tips:

I wish I had!!!

Mahalo - thanks for reading....if you have been to Hawaii and went to a Luau - leave your comments below - where did you go and what did you think???

Friday, May 4, 2012

Food Glorious Food

If you are a regular facebook user, you know that if you want to know anything about anything these days you put it in the form of a status update, right? Of course you do. Which is exactly what I did when I was looking for restaurant options in Hawaii. I received so many recommendations, and of course there were more recommendations than there were number of days I was going to be there.

Of all the suggestions provided, there were many multiple suggestions, but Mama's fish house in Maui was the ONE option that everyone said was their best meal on the island. One friend of mine told me to ensure that I made a reservation in advance from the website. I am not sure if she thought that five months in advance was a bit crazy, but I knew I wanted it for our last night there, and wanted to go there. On the website it takes to to and you make your reservation. I had never done that before, but registered, and reserved and dinner was organized.

I had decided that I was going to make this trip my Hawaii Seafood Fiesta. I wanted to choose fish as many times as I could. And I did.

Our first full day in Waikiki we were on the beach and walked right past Dukes on the beach. That was on the list of recommendations, so that is where lunch was.I had already looked at the menu on line and decided since I had never had a fish taco before, that was what I would have.

I am not sure how they are served in the US or other parts, but these was basically like a fish 'fajita', and they were REALLY good!!! What a great start to our week!

After a couple of days in Waikiki we moved to the Big Island of Hawaii. We arrived late at night so we ate our hotel the first night. The second day we went to the volcano, and it wasn't until our last night in Kona that we had an amazing meal in Kailua Kona town at a great restaurant called Fish Hoppers.

Another great idea when travelling other than speaking to your friends is to speak to the conceirge desk at the hotel, or locals that you strike up a conversation with. You will be told about local places to go where the tourists may not always know about , but the locals will tell you about. Think about your 'local' place where you live. If you love it, you would recommend it to someone. It is the same thing while you are travelling.

She recommended two places in Kailua town, Fish Hoppers and Ruggos on the beach. The first place we saw was Fish Hoppers and that was where we decided to go.

Macadamia nut crusted Mahi Mahi, Molokini sweet potato with mango papaya salsa. WOW!!!! As you can see from the pictures on the right, the potato was PURPLE! It was really good. I would say sweeter than
an orange sweet potato that we are used to eating. It was a great meal, followed up by a great dessert.

And then we arrived in Maui. What can I say about Maui. It is really a "foodie haven". There are a lot of different areas in Maui, and two of the main ones are Lahaina and Wailea. At the Westin Maui, they have two brochures available at the concerige, aptly titled - Lahaina dining and Wailea dining. When I say brochures - I do mean like a travel book. Outlining resturants, menus, etc.

I had many recommendations for Maui, but it is always nice to try your own as well. We did that when we went to Leilanis in Whalers Village beside our hotel. The Hula Grill was right beside (on my list) but we decided on Leilanis, and of course I ordered a fish sandwich was made with a local fish called Ono. Sweet potato fries (not purple) were also on my plate.

I think you get the idea that I really enjoyed the food in Hawaii. Because we ate a really great breakfast at the hotel, we didn't always eat lunch, which was a bit disappointed - only because that meant we couldn't experience MORE amazing restaurants!

Mahalo and stay tuned for more!!!

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

First Class

I have been back just over a week and finally ready to start sharing my amazing Hawaii adventure with you. If you are on Facebook, then you have probably already read some of my comments and seen the photos, but here are the words behind the stories.

Why Hawaii? Why now, you may ask. Well, because my travelling companion lives in LA and only had a limited amount of travel time, I was at the office one day last summer and picked up a brochure on Hawaii, and thought - I could fly to LA, meet up and we could go to Hawaii. Threw out the idea and it was born.

After eight months of planning, and waiting, the departure date was here! My parents dropped me off at the airport, and off I went. While checking in at the machine, I noticed that there was a first class upgrade on the portion from LAX to Honolulu - WOW - we should do this. It was only 7:30am in LA and I knew that B wouldn't be up yet, so I frantically sent him a 'whatsapp' message with the details. I told him that if wanted to do the upgrade I was in! I told him I would check my phone again in Chicago (my first connection stop).

I couldn't use my phone in Chicago (another story, another post), so I hoped that the message was conveyed and I would see him in LAX.

When I arrived in LAX my gate was in an area that I have been in before, in the American Airlines wing of the airport. I was on my way to the bathroom and B was arriving to the departure area. It was great to see him (it had been almost a year). We quickly said our hellos and then headed off to try to upgrade our seats.

We went to the American Airlines customer service area and went to the machines, and low and behold, there were still two seats available. Two credit card transactions later, and there we were - first class to Honolulu! After changing planes in Chicago and then in LAX, I was happy to be able to enjoy the third leg of my journey this way.

When our flight was called, of course we were the first to board. We arrived at our seats and there was a blanket and pillow on each seat. Once we were seated, we were greeted by name by the flight attendant, and a glass of champagne! We toasted to our adventure and sat back and relaxed and waited for the flight to depart.

Once we were in the air, we had a drink, and then were shown the dinner menu selection. Yes, the menu selection. A three course meal - which was Hawaiian inspired - and now come to think of it, my first of three macadamia nut crusted main courses - a chicken dish. Table cloths over the tray table, real cutlery, something you don't get on charter flights or in coach.

The flight was at night, so it was time to get some sleep. This was a first for me - able to lie flat, with a blanket and pillow on a flight. We both put on our Ipods and it was quiet for a couple of hours.

The staff in the first class cabin was amazing. It was clear that they are comfortable with this LAX - Honolulu route - and the personal touches in this part of the plane were not lost on me. When the attendant asked me "what would you like for dinner tonight Ms. Silver?" I liked that.

It was a great experience and I am sure that the next time I see an opportunity like that on a long journey in my future - I will consider it again!

Stay tuned for more of my Hawaiian adventure!

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

911 National Memorial - December 2011

I have written in my personal blog a few different posts about 9/11, how I feel about the day, how I felt about the day, where I was, where were you? and more.

On September 11th, 2011 I watched (as I am sure you did as well) the memorial events of that day and the opening of the 9/11 memorial at the WTC site. I knew that day that I wanted to go there.

You may or may not be aware, but you have to make reservations and because it was so new, it was very hard to find a date that was open. I also wanted to find a date that was in December so that I could go and see the Rockafeller tree. I made a reservation to go to the memorial before I even booked my airline ticket.

The day that we went to the memorial it was a very sunny brisk December day in New York City. The Church that stood amongst the horror of the day is now a museum and has historical artitfacts from that infamous day in history (

After stopping there we went to the 911 Memorial visitors centre ( which feels almost like a sales office for a condo or home developer, but that is where you pick up your tickets and make a donation if you wish (the memorial is free, but donations are accepted to keep it running).

And then you have to follow the signs to the site. It is a long walk through a maze of contruction of the new World Trade Center (Freedom Tower) and all the buildings going up around the site. The locals no longer call the site "Ground Zero", they call in the World Trade Center site. The Freedom Tower is rising up out of the downtown core - over 70 stories high and will be 1776 feet when it is complete ( The Freedom tower is actually 1 World Trade.

Once you go through the long lines, many security check points, metal dectectors and more, you are finally inside the memorial. It is hard to explain how you go from the loudness of the construction, the streets of New York and everything going on outside the fences, into the serenity of the two pools and the water. All you hear is the sound of the waterfalls in the two square pools of the footprints of tower 1 and 2 World Trade. It is quiet and somber and comforting and sad all wrapped into one emotionally filled place of memory.

The pools have all the names of the people who perished in the North Tower, the South Tower, the Pentagon, Shanksville, all the planes and those who died in the 1983 bombing of the World Trade Center, in bronze along the footprint of the building.

There are computers on the wall of the visitors centre that are for you to put in a name and it will tell you where to find the person.

The pictures do not do the the waterfalls and the footprints justice. They are HUGE! The waterfalls spoke to me in a way that I hope you can understand by reading these words.

When you see the picture here you can see the waterfall. It has a beginning and an end into the first 'pool'. Then the water falls into the black hole into the centre, and that we can't see where that ends. Because it never ends. To me it represents the 'cemetary' of this sacred place that is the 911 National Memorial.

They will be opening the second part to the memorial on this year anniversary which is an indoor permenant exhibit of artifacts collected at the site. I am not sure if that is something I would go and see personally, but I can understand the people that would. As you can see below, at the visitors site center, they had this captain's hat, shoes and other personal items in a case. It still had dust and debris on it.

I am glad that I made the trip to the site, and I think if you are in New York you should add it to the list of what not to miss.

Travelling with technology

I have to say I have come a long way in a short period of time with many things....and technology is one of them.

I remember when I first starting blogging it was March 2009. I was in the airport waiting to meet a friend in New Orleans, and I had so many thoughts in my head and not even a note pad to write anything down. I didn't have a smart phone at the time, I didn't have a laptop (still don't), or an Ipod. At that time, it was me and my old flip Nokia phone and my point and shoot digital camera.

Oh, how things have changed in three short years.

I was starting to get things organized for my trip to Hawaii and realized now, that travelling has become me and my entourage of technology!

I didn't have an IPod three years ago. I think I had a very small MP3 player. Since then I had an old generation 8GB touch, which I filled up with 1100 songs and had no more space for apps. The old one didn't have a camera. It had all the capabilities for wifi and stuff like that, but I had no idea how to use it.

Fast forward to today where I have a new generation 32GB touch. WOW - what a difference that makes - over 2000 songs, a camera and now space to add as many 'apps' as I want. I need apps for the LONG flight across the US and then to Hawaii (11 hours flying and then connecting times in airports). So, Lisa meet angry birds, simon says, words with friends, family feud, scrabble and more......

Since that trip to New Orleans I have jumped into the world of the DSLR camera. If you have one, you understand me when I say that it is an additional appendage to your body. It has a life of its own - its own camera bag (which really becomes a purse for flying) because you have your carry on and your camera bag.

The bag has lenses, battery charger, and all of that. But wait....there is also the point and shoot small mini camera that fits INTO the purse that is already in your suitcase for evening, or somewhere that you don't want to shlep the big bag. That also has its own charger, but the camera itself is small so it really isn't too intrusive to everyday life. Currently I carry tha around in my purse at all times, so I am used to that.

But WAIT....we are going to hopefully go snorkelling in Maui at Molokini crater! That means we need a waterproof camera! Well, of course you can buy disposable cameras which I have done before in Mexico and Bahamas...but WAIT again....last year I won a camera on an online travelocity contest - an Olympus digital camera - which just happens to be WATERPROOF! BUT....I have never used it before and I am not comfortable leaving my Canon powershot at home and taking this one in lieu of do I take THREE cameras on my trip....CRAZY RIGHT???!!!!!

So, now of course I have moved into the smartphone generation. On my trip to New York in December I had my blackberry but didn't have the phone on because roaming is so expensive. On the day that we were going to the 9/11 memorial we were eating pizza and they had free wi-fi so I turned the phone on and posted some pics on facebook, but that was it.

I have been told by many that you can buy a data package from Rogers or you can 'unlock' your phone and buy as pay as you go from where ever you happen to be, and that will save you from all the charges. So...last week while out with my dad I had my phone unlocked. So, I am ready for the phone challenge while travelling abroad.

Which leaves me to the last piece of technology advancement I am about to move into......the ereader/tablet generation. I love to read, and part of what I love about reading is the ACTUAL book - the paper - the feel, etc. BUT...with everything I am now carrying to travel, books are an yet another item to take along - so why not add MORE technology - a tablet size piece of equipment that can carry thousands of books, newspapers, magazines all in 7 inches. RIGHT? Well, sure why not? *LOL*

I haven't bought one yet, but will by the end of the week. I would love an Ipad, but it is out of my price range right now. I think I will end up with a playbook, but I will keep you all posted on that, as I figure out my next step in technology advancement.

I am not sure if I can live without any one of these items now while travelling. It sounds silly as I write that but, it does seem true in a way:

  • the smartphone generation makes corresponding to others instant - with BBM, Whatsapp, texting, calling and of course posting photos on facebook wherever and whenever you see something interesting.
  • the digital camera era and the advancement of photography really now allows anyone to shoot THE perfect dream shot with a wide range of cameras big and small.
  • the ability to have all your music in one place - leaves nothing left a home - you can listen to whatever genre music you want at any time, without bringing cds with you now, or before that cassette tapes.
  • and lastly, not having to carry books, magazines or newspapers with you again. Think about that, and how amazing that is. Downloading missed seasons of shows or movies to watch on long plane rides. All of that is possible now.
Think about all of that the next time you need to pack for your vacation, business trip, road trip, and maybe my thoughts here today won't seem as crazy and out of control as you think!

Leave a comment here about what you think you couldn't leave home without! I would love to know!!!

Monday, March 12, 2012

Flat Stanley goes Cruisin'

I watched "Up in the Air" last night, and in the movie the lead character's sister takes a poster size picture of her and her husband to be and send it to all their friends to take pictures of them all over the US. It made me think of Flat Stanley.

Maybe you have heard about Flat Stanley. He is a character in a book written by Jeff Brown back in 1964. The character Stanley gets flattened by a bullentin board that his father buys him and his brother.

He uses his new flattened status in very interesting ways, he can get mailed in a envelope to visit friends in far away places.

This story created a phenonmena called The Flat Stanley Project. ( It was created in 1994 to create a global literacy program where students can read Jeff Brown's book, and create their own Flat Stanley and mail it to friends and family have his story told by others through words and photographs. (

My friend's niece who lives in New York mailed her flat Stanley to her aunt here in Toronto and asked if she would take care of flat stanley and send his story and some pictures back home.

That was around the same time that my mom and were going on our cruise. Flat Stanley came with us. He had a really good time on the cruise. His passport was valid for at least six months (cruise line rules of course). He met my friend and her family for a smoothie in Miami before the cruise. He partied at Margaritaville in Grand Cayman, and at Senor Frogs in Cozumel and on deck on the cruise ship. He also got in trouble because he wanted his picture taken with a life preserver when we were waiting for the tender to go to Grand Cayman (how did we know you weren't allowed to take pictures in that area)!

People actually recognized him on the pool deck and pointed and shouted - "hey look, it's Flat Stanley"....

Overall, for the five days of vacation, my mom, Flat Stanley and I had a great time. When we got home, he had to go back to New York to be with his family, but maybe he will come on another adventure of mine someday, I think it would be so much fun!

Here are some of Stanley's photos:

Side bar to previous Passport post

There are a growing number of countries that require a passport to be valid for at least six months past your intended period of travel. So, if you are planning to travel in April of 2012 your passport needs to be valid until at least October 2012.

Every island/country is developing their own rules as it relates to how long your passport should be valid for after your period of travel. Bahamas and Jamaica for example, say that they need to be valid for six months. Costa Rica for example is 90 days. You really have to check with the consulate of the country you are travelling to, so that you can confirm what the validity needs to be.

It also means that your passport isn’t really valid for 5 years, it is valid for 4 1/2. We are not like our friends south of the border or our British cousins across the pond, that have passports valid for 10 years.  That would really be too smart for our Canadian Government.

I would assume that the costs would be relative to the number of years that a passport is valid, but I think most people would agree that they would pay more money to not have to deal with this issue every 4 1/2 years. I know I would.

I should also add to my earlier comments about the Service Ontario offices. If you take your passport there, you need to be careful, because the wait time is longer than going to the main offices. In person at a main office, the delievery time is 10 business days, at a service ontario office it is 20 business days.

Be aware...and if you have a passport that is getting ready to expire, you really should take care of it sooner rather than scrambling at the last minute.

The importance of your passport

The first thing my uncle told me after I starting working in travel was, “GET A PASSPORT”. I can still hear his voice saying to me, “if they tell you there is a deal for $49  to Cuba and it leaves tomorrow, you can’t go if you don’t have a passport”. He was (and still is) right about that.

But that was then and this is now. Now you really need a passport to travel anywhere. Who would have thought that you would need a passport to cross border shop in Buffalo? But now you do.

Everyone seems to dread going to the passport office.  The last time I was at the office at Yonge and Sheppard, I was in and out in 20 minutes, and that includes parking, and walking into the building and up to the 3rd floor.

There are also a lot of Service Ontario centres that offer passport renewal services only. I actually learned this recently through some clients of mine and on some posts on facebook. The Service ontario website doesn’t mention passorts on their site, but it has a lot of other useful information (

For all the information on passports you can visit the Passport website ( and you can get everything you need, including the forms. You can also fill them out on line and submit them.  You still have to go in person to take in your photos, forms etc, but the electronic form is supposed to speed up the process.

My advice is to just get it done. Stop procrastinating. Stop thinking about how much time it will take, and just go.

How it all began

I graduated high school in January 1990. I was starting Ryerson in Septmber 1990. What was I going to do for six months? Well, my uncle thought being a travel agent would be a great idea. His friends owned two travel agencies and said that I could get a job there. Sure, why not….

And so it began. Even during my time in school, I continued to work part time in travel.  For the first year I didn’t really travel anywhere close to exotic or tropical. I think I went to Florida. But the more I worked at it, the more interesting it became, and thus began my 21 year career as a travel consultant.
In that time I have had the most amazing travel experiences. More than I could have ever imagined in my life.

I have seen totem poles in Alaska, the Accropolis in Greece, made a wish at the Trevi Fountain, went up The Peak in Hong Kong.

I have taken a cable car from the mountain top of Santorini to the bottom, I have been at the most southern tip of the United States in Key West, and the end of the Route 66 at the Santa Monica Pier.
And through all of that, I always think about how lucky I am to have had the chance to have these experiences.

That is what The Stamps in My passport is all about. What I have seen, heard, eaten, learned about a half my life as a travel agent. I encourage you all to come along with me in this journey. I can’t wait to share with you all that I have learned along the way.