It’s not too late to pack those bags…

It’s Friday heading into the March break and you’ve booked some time off work to spend with the kids but the idea of winter in Toronto isn’t exactly what you had in mind. You want sun, sand, heat and hey let’s throw a beach on the list. But where can you go without breaking the bank and that the whole family will love?

Lucky for you, I know just the place…it’s a secret little gem tucked away that offers all of that and MORE! I’m talking about Melbourne! Not Melbourne, Australia…Melbourne, Florida and it has everything for a quick escape whether it be for a few days or even something longer like a week or two.

Let me fill you in! Melbourne, Florida (near Orlando) is the perfect little place with so much to see and do and now with Porter Airlines offering non-stop flights there for incredible prices its makes for the perfect trip. Picture this…flying out of Toronto’s Billy Bishop airport and not having to deal with the craziness and delays of the bigger airports. You can relax in the porter lounge as you wait to board your flight with access to free newspapers, wifi and snacks because being a parent means you know how important those snacks are haha. Once you board your flight, get settled in, grab a book, give the kids an activity or throw on a movie and maybe indulge in a free glass of wine or beer (yup, free wine and beer is offered on the flight). Before you know it, you’ll be landing at the beautiful and newly renovated $20 million dollar Orlando Melbourne International Airport (MLB). When I had the chance to visit back in October I just could not believe how amazing the staff was and now efficient, quick and smooth the process was. We had our bags and were outside under the sun and palm trees in no time. I have to say that the best part was that once we got in the car we were at the beach and ready to surf in about 20 minutes time, now that’s awesome if you ask me.

Melbourne beach is absolutely stunning and with so many great beach front hotels you can’t go wrong or if you’re looking for more of a relaxed feel for a longer stay the beach home rentals are a pretty sweet option. With the Kennedy Space Centre near by you can head over to the visitor complex where you can have lunch with an astronaut, maybe even catch a rocket launch, if shopping is your thing then Ron Jon Surf Shop is a must visit (one of my personal faves and its open 24 hours), or go check out Exploration Tower, do some paddle boarding, surfing, kayaking, fishing, going on the zip line roller coaster…let’s just say you won’t be hearing your kids say “I’M BORED!”.

Another biggy for me just because I am a huge Disney fan is that Disney World is about an hour away so you can do beach by day and fireworks at Disney by night. I got the chance to do this while I was there and it was just magical. I don’t think I will ever get old of walking through those gates. Or if you’re all about Harry Potter like I am, maybe a visit to Universal Studios might be more your style. Head on over Ollivanders in Hogsmeade to pick yourself up a wand, grab a butter beer and enjoy some time before heading back beach.

Now if maybe you’re a parent reading this who isn’t off next week for March break but are thinking about a trip down the road you’re going to want to put Melbourne on the top of your list. It’s also a fantastic place for a 2 in 1 trip, so if you’re heading out on a cruise leaving from Port Canaveral then head out to Melbourne a few days prior for some fun beach time before you set sail or spend a few days when you get back as the port is just minutes away.

To recap, if you’re looking for a great sunny destination perfect for the family or even if you want a little adult getaway which I highly suggest doing there (ummm hello Disney without the kids is pretty awesome I won’t lie) Melbourne, Florida is the place to be. It’s a trip you can do on a budget, just a few short hours away and with soooooo much to do it’s really a no brainer!

Here’s a little video of how I spent some of my time in Melbourne! It was so good and now all this talk about Melbourne now has me wanting to pack my bags. Who wants to meet me at the Porter lounge?

Disclosure: This post is in partnership with Porter Airlines and Orlando Melbourne International Airport. As always the opinions expressed are my own.

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Frequently Asked Questions about Walt Disney World

Guest Blog Written By: Clara Power of Clara Power TPI

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Travelling to Walt Disney World is such a wonderful and exciting experience!  There is so much to see and do there and such a wonderful way to create long lasting memories with your family.  As a travel agent that focuses on All Things Disney, I have many clients who come to me completely confused and overwhelmed with the whole planning process – and I don’t blame them – IT’S COMPLICATED. Here are a few FAQ that can help make the whole planning process a whole lot easier!

1. When is the best time of year to go in terms of: A) getting the best deal B) not having the worst crowds?

This is such a big question that every client asks and I always answer the same way – the least busy times to go is outside of any school or national holiday. Christmas, New Years, March Break, Easter, July & August etc. are peak times, so if you are looking for times that are not as busy, plan to visit outside of those times. The best rates are usually outside of the peak times as well.

2. How many days should I plan to spend at the park?

What many people don’t know is the Disney World in Orlando Florida consists of 4 separate theme parks: Magic KingdomHollywood StudiosEpcot and Animal Kingdom. I believe all first time visitors should visit all 4 parks at least once, as they all have so much to offer. If time permits, I also encourage clients to visit Magic Kingdom twice, since it is such a large park and there is so much to see and do there. If time is limited and only 1 park is possible, definitely Magic Kingdom. 


3. What time of day should I get there? Is morning better before the crowds or will I be missing out if I am not there for the evening parade/fireworks?

The earlier the better! If you can get to the theme park as soon as it opens, you will have the opportunity to go on many of the busiest attractions before the lines become too long. It’s also one of my favourite times to be there, as you can see the park without the throngs of people. I recommend you get to the park right at rope drop time and get some of the most phenomenal pictures as there will be no one blocking your view. When traveling with young children, I encourage my clients to head back to their resort after lunch for a rest or some pool time and then return to one of the parks in the evening that is having fireworks or parades. This way you get refreshed and ready to take it all in again. As the children get older, spending the full day at the park ensures that you don’t miss any of the action.


4. Can I use these passes at other theme parks or do I have to purchase each park separately?

Disney offers a ‘More you stay, the less you pay’  Disney has a number of different theme park tickets ranging from 1 day to 10+ days, and with each additional day purchased, the per-day price does decrease. You can either purchase a base ticket which allows you to visit 1 park per day or a park hopper ticket that allows you to visit as many parks per day as you wish. The Waterpark add on also allows visits to the 2 Disney waterparks – Disney’s Blizzard Beach and Disney’s Typhoon Lagoon.

5. How do Fast Passes work? Is there a charge?

Fast Passes are FREE and they are so worth using. When staying onsite these can be booked 60 days in advance and those staying off property they can booked 30 days in advance. All guests are entitled to 3 Fast Pass selections per day and they allow you to by-pass the queue for the ride or attraction you have selected. Once you have used your 3 Fast Passes, you can retrieve additional Fast Passes while in the Disney Park using the Disney App. Definitely a great time saver.


6. Is it worth it to stay on site? What are the benefits?  

Without question! Staying on site offers so many benefits including extra magic hours, complimentary transportation throughout WDW, magic bands, early Fast Pass reservations etc. Staying onsite ensures that you get the full Disney experience and you never have to leave the magic! For more details on this, ready my post about the all the benefits of staying at a Disney Resort Hotel.

7. Are there any secrets that I should know about to book ahead (like the Bippity Bobbity Boutique or meals with the characters for example). 

Best piece of advice is to book early! For the best prices and the best options, booking early is always the way to go. Dining Reservations open 180 days prior, and some of the hottest and most popular restaurants book up very early. Does your daughter want to have breakfast in Cinderella’s Castle with some of her favourite princesses? This is one of the most difficult reservations to secure if not booked at the 180-day mark. Other popular restaurants include Be Our Guest and Chef Mickey which are also some of my personal favourites. When booking a resort stay, Disney only requires a $200USD deposit with final payment due 30 days before arrival. If the price drops from the day you booked until final payment day, the booking can be adjusted making booking early a win-win situation.


8. Can I bring my own food and drinks to the park? 

Guests are permitted to bring food items such as snacks or foods that do not require heating into Disney theme parks. Inform a Security Cast Member of any food items when you enter the park. Foldable, soft sider coolers are also permitted, but be sure that any items package are in plastic not glass containers, as those will be confiscated. If bringing food, it’s beneficial to have a stroller to carry it in, but remember wagons are not permitted either.


9. A family of 4: 2 kids 2 adults, with airfare and a healthy amount of park time, what’s the average budget you recommend (CAD or USD).

When staying at a Disney property, the prices can vary significantly depending on the time of year and the type of Disney accommodations selected. I have sent clients to a Value Resort for 7 days including the meal plan and a 5 days base ticket for as low at $2800 USD. When staying at a Deluxe property, prices will increase depending on the resort, type of room, view (theme park views are most expensive) and there are special room categories including club level or overwater bungalows. Flights to Orlando can also vary and from Toronto – anywhere under $500 per person round-trip is good. With extra planning and good advice, Disney can be affordable for everyone.


10. Are there any big ‘don’ts’ for going to Disney? What should you avoid, what are expectations that are most often disappointing?

What I always like to remind my clients is that going to Walt Disney World is a vacation – you are supposed to enjoy it! Planning is key, but over-scheduling is not going to benefit anyone. Plan based on your children and what they can or can’t handle. If they are easily stimulated, plan lots of down time as a meltdown isn’t going to make a memorable experience.

Include your children in the planning process. Get them excited about what’s to come so they can be mentally prepared and if possible try to enjoy a resort day with no parks to rest your feet. Use the services of a professional who can help navigate and make sure you get the most value for your dollar by planning special VIP tours, specialty dining and unique experiences.

For those who are interested in visiting, right now Disney is having a great promotion –  get a FREE dining plan. Click below for more info.

For more from Clara Power TPI be sure to check her out online
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Top 11 things to do with kids in Italy

Guest Blog Written By: Clara Power of Clara Power TPI


So you are going to Italy with the kids….what a wonderful decision! There is so much to see and do in Italia – the country is so so full of culture, great food, history and AMORE. After multiple visits with my kids, there are a few things that we always try to squeeze in.

Here is my top 11 list of what to do with kids in Italy:

1. Go to the Beach – smack right in the middle of the Mediterranean, the majority of Italy offers stunning shore line and breathtaking vistas. Whether its just for a few days or a few hours, visiting the beaches is a familiar pastime for the locales and is definitely something you will not want to miss. The kids will love frolicking in the waves, making sand castles and catching some rays.

2. Visit an Archaeological site
 – from the Colosseum to Pompeii to Agrigento – the country is filled with archaeological sites that are fascinating. The history, the culture and the technology that the Romans had over 2000 years ago is something to marvel at. Even if the kids aren’t history buffs, they will enjoy just being in the center of it all and maybe be inspired to become an archaeologist one day.

3. Take a Cooking Class – Italy is known for its phenomenal food. Whether you are a pasta lover or if pizza is your thing, nothing beats rolling up your sleeves and getting your hands dirty. Learning food appreciation and getting some hands on experience is not only fun, but a life long skill. It’s a great time for the family to bond and once done cooking, enjoy the fruits of their labour

4. Visit a Farm – agriculture is still a very large part of the Italian culture. Whether it’s growing grapes for wine, tomatoes for sauce or foraging for truffles in the mountains, visiting a farm is not only fun but educational. I am a strong believer that all children should learn where our food comes and what it takes to make its way to our bellies – and what better place to learn this!

5. Rent a Boat – nothing beats getting out into the ocean, feeling the wind in your hair and smelling the ocean air. Sailing is a popular pastime in Italy and there are so many wonderful places to stop and enjoy the panoramic seaside. Kids especially like to get in the water and perhaps do some snorkeling. If lucky enough, you might get to see a fish or 2. If a rental isn’t possible, maybe a ferry in the Cinque Terre area or along the Amalfi Coast?

6. Take a High Speed Train – there is no better way to see the Italian countryside than by traveling by train. Kids love to hop from city to city while enjoying their time using this a very popular form of transportation. For some north American children, this may be the first time on a train and traveling at a speed of almost 400 km/hour is beyond exhilarating.

7. Climb a Mountain (or a Volcano) – much of the Italian landscape is full of mountains and volcanoes. Whether you are skiing in the Italian Alps or climbing Mount Vesuvius, they are marvelous sites that should not be missed. The majestic beauty is something that needs to be experienced to be appreciated it. Not to mention, going back to school and telling your classmates you climbed a Volcano definitely gives you some street cred.

8. Visit a Botanical Garden – I’m not sure about your kids, but my kids love flowers and botanical gardens. No matter how large the city or how crazy the hustle and bustle is, there is something so peaceful and calming about visiting a garden.  It’s such a great experience to slow down and learn about some of the flowers that you may not find at home.  “Stop to smell the flowers” is a lesson that I try to teach my kids especially while on vacation.

9. See a Museum – museums are everywhere! Whether it’s the most popular choices of the Vatican Museum in Rome or seeing David in the Academia in Florence to that obscure one found in the smallest of towns, museums are a great place to learn about the country you are visiting. Many museums these days offer maps and recorded tours just for kids that point out the highlights that they find most interesting.

10. Sample Gelato
 – Italian gelato can be found in every town, on every corner of every street, and if you don’t stop to sample you are just missing out. The various flavours from Nutella to Pistachios to Tiramisu will have you salivating. Do not forget to try Lemon Granite in a Brioche (Italian bun) for a delightful treat. The kids will love comparing flavours and deciding at the end of the trip which one was their favorite.

11. Visit Sicily
 – call me biased as my family originated in Sicily, but I think Sicily is one of the most beautiful provinces in all of Italy. So many travellers visit Italy and often forget about this small island right at the tip of the Italian boot but doing that is definitely a mistake. Sicily is full of small medieval towns, majestic churches, Greek and African Influences, mountains, agriculture, and some of the kindest and welcoming people you will ever encounter. I always say that if you want to truly experience Italy, you must visit Sicily! The province feels a little like going back in time as everything moves slowly there and the people enjoy every day with such a zest for life.

Thinking about going to Italy? Vendor Clara Power TPI can help. Planning Family vacations is what I do best. I work hard to ensure that your travel itinerary works best for you and your family. With my connections with some of the top tour operators in the world, including luxury consortium Virtuoso we can work together to make sure that you have the time of your life. Do not hesitate to connect with me and we can start planning. Arrivederci!

For more from Clara Power TPI be sure to check her out online
“LIKE” her on facebook and “FOLLOW” her on her blog, instagram, and twitter!

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Travel Tips You Can’t Live Without…

Guest Blog Written By: Clara Power of Clara Power TPI


As a Family travel Specialist I am often asked by my clients to provide them with some travel tips. Over the years, I’ve started to collect some of the important lessons that I’ve learned both from traveling myself and from some of the mishaps some of my clients have had.   When traveling, I find it’s always best to be prepared so here are a few tried and true tips to get you where you are going without any added stress.

Packing Tips:

  • Remember nothing sharp and only very limited liquids in your carry on bags
  • What is your luggage allowance and how much do your bags weigh? Don’t get caught with overweight luggage and excess charges at check in. If you are connecting with a different airline confirm the allowance on both airlines. Discount carriers often allow less luggage
  • Tie a ribbon, bandana or something unique to your bags so they stand out at the luggage carousel. It will make your bags easier to find and less likely that someone will take your bag by accident
  • When traveling with kids, always pack double the diapers you think you will need in your carry on. You never know when you can be unexpectedly delayed.
  • Keep all medications in their original containers and pack them in your carry-on bag
  • Roll your clothes to avoid wrinkles and pack any liquids in a double zip lock bag in case they leak
  • Pack an extra pair of glasses or contact lenses and for long durations trips bring your prescription with you
  • Do you need adapters or converters for any electrical items you are bringing?
  • Leave the expensive jewellery and valuables at home if they are not needed. Don’t walk around a foreign country looking like a flashy target to be robbed
  • Pack your MITs — Money, Identification and Tickets
  • Bring a pen with you to complete customs forms

Trip Preparation:

  • Leave a copy of all important documents with someone at home. If you are travelling with your smart phone, you can also scan them and save them so you have a copy available at any time.
  • Documents to copy include – passport, travel insurance, credit & debit card details, tickets and travel documents, important prescriptions etc.
  • Learn as much as you can about a country’s history, culture, traditions, flora and fauna. The more you know, the more you will enjoy your vacation
  • Familiarize yourself with any local customs or laws so you don’t offend anyone or get into legal trouble (Did you know it is illegal to wear camouflage clothing in Barbados?)
  • Do you have a current passport? When does it expire and how many pages are remaining in it? Is it in good condition? Many countries require a passport to be valid for 6 months after you arrive in their country and some need a minimum of 2 or 3 blank pages in your passport.
  • Do you need any vaccinations before you go? Speak to your family doctor or paediatrician.
  • If you have an early morning flight to a warm destination, pack a change of clothes in your carry-on bag as your room may not be ready when you arrive
  • Keep your luggage fresh by tossing in one or two Bounce sheets – great for storing your suit cases after you have travelled too!

While Away:

  • Lock up any valuables in your in room safe or the hotel safe
  • Watch what you buy and bring back. Are you allowed to bring the items back to Canada and have you exceeded your allowances?
  • Carry your out of country medical and travel insurance company, emergency phone number and policy number with you at all times. Make sure your travel companions also know where you have this information
  • Don’t leave your bags unattended and never carry anything for someone else across a border crossing. Watch your children’s toys and backpacks too so nothing is placed in them and you act as an unsuspecting ‘taxi’ 

Most of all, have a safe, fun and enjoyable trip!

For more information on Clara Power TPI be sure to visit her online,
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