Leaving on a Jet Plane

“Travel is the only thing you buy that makes you richer” – Unknown

Many moons ago British Airways asked its followers on LinkedIn for their favourite travel tips. The post got me thinking about what travel tips I live by to make my own journey smoother. I began to craft my thoughts into a blog post, only to have it go missing and I needed to start from scratch. A lesson in the importance of being prepared for your journey.

My family holiday rule growing up was always “If you could carry it yourself, you could bring it.” I learned at a young age to carry a lot. With March, Spring and Easter Breaks as well as Summer holidays on the horizon, I thought this would be a timely post to share the tips I have learned over the years to hopefully streamline someone else’s future travels.

Before your Journey

• Before booking any travel, check to see if your passport is valid for a minimum of six months. Every country has different travel rules regarding passport expiry so do your research. This is not something you want to be stressing about right before you are embarking on your holiday. Also double check you have packed your passport when you are leaving for the airport. Be prepared.

• Sign up for e-mails to keep informed of seat sales and airline promotions for airlines you like to travel. On my last holiday, I lucked out with a World Traveller Plus (Premium Economy) seat for less than World Traveller (Economy) on a long-haul flight when booking during a British Airways seat sale. Much to my surprise upon boarding at London Heathrow that I found myself with an upgrade to Club World for my homeward journey. Thank you BA for the lovely experience.

• Enrol in a frequent flyer program and always book through that airline even if the flight is operated through one of their code share partners. By committing to one or two airlines, it may help you build flight status quicker. Depending on the destination, I book my flights with British Airways and Air Canada – both members of different airline alliances. The One World Alliance includes British Airways as well as American Airlines, Cathay Pacific, Finnair, Iberia, Japan Airlines, LATAM Airlines, Malaysia Airlines, Qantas, Qatar Airways, Royal Jordanian, S7 Airlines and SriLankan Airlines. Star Alliance includes Air Canada, Air China, Air India, Asiana, Austrian, Lufthansa, SAS, Singapore Airlines, SWISS and United among others. Traveling via one alliance helps with a smooth transition for both passenger and their baggage during flight connections and the entire journey.

• Find a carry-on and suitcase perfect for you. This sometimes takes time. I know many people love the mini suitcases. All great when you are going from home to car to terminal to car to final destination. After years of trying various bags, I finally found my perfect carry-on – the LeSportSac Avery bag. This bag has a back sleeve that unzips to go over a suitcase handle and makes my life easier when navigating the terminal, train or tube. My suitcase also has the ability to expand at the end of my voyage if additional room may be required.

• Print all travel documents, confirmations, medical insurance and photocopies of your passport. Sometimes technology may fail at an important time. Always be prepared. I place all these documents in a waterproof file folder where I can safely find everything I need. It is also a great place to add receipts of purchases made on your holiday including meals and hotels so you can easily find them.

• If you don’t have health insurance already in place, make sure to buy it before your travel. Even travelling outside of your own province in Canada requires different health insurance. Don’t ever take the risk and travel without it. One mini fall could end being a very costly adventure.

• Email your family and/or in case of emergency contact all your flight and hotel details, important telephone numbers and your known iteniary. I also leave my family with a copy of my passport page with my photograph and details just in case it goes missing.

• Charge your mobile, tablet and laptop computer before leaving for the airport to ensure all are fully charged for inspection. I also travel daily with a portable charger by Mophie to ensure I am never without a charged mobile.

• If you want to use your mobile or smart phone away from home, check with your mobile plan provider about data usages prior to leaving on your travels. There is nothing worse than coming home to a shocking bill. Thankfully more affordable plans have been introduced in Canada and with the new laws to unlock mobile phones, one can purchase a SIM card at their destination.

• Pack all technology power cords as well as adapters in your carry-on luggage. I place mine in a little pouch so they are all in one place. Make sure to buy your adapters in your home country so they fit the prongs for your appliances. If you are planning to travel with a hair dryer or flat iron, ensure they are dual voltage appliances so you don’t fry them or set your hotel room on fire. I almost once learned this the hard way. If they don’t have dual voltage appliance, save the space and just leave it at home.

• Pack a ball point pen to fill out any customs and immigration documentation. Avoid flying with fountain pens which can cause a major ink catasphrole in flight or beyond. This happened to me when I opened my pen while attending a speaker event at the British parliament. Nothing prim, proper and graceful when your ink pen explodes navy blue all over your hands days after arriving. Even if you love fountain pens like I do, a simple old ballpoint is your safest travel friend.

• Pack all your prescription and non-prescription medication together in a Ziploc® sealed bag in your carry-on luggage. Always a good idea to get a summary of your prescription medications from your pharmacist and keep the list with them in case anyone has questions.

• Pre-pack your carry-on liquids at home in a clear medium Ziploc® bag to ensure you can fit everything you need for the plane. I always pack a few extra medium and large bags in case I need them for the journey home. I also take an step extra and pack my liquid products going into my suitcase in Ziploc® bags within my cosmetic case and then wrap it in another big plastic bag with ties. Yes this may be a bit extreme but it ensures no surprises of finding my clothes covered in shampoo, conditioner, moisturizer or nail polish.

• On the topic of skincare and makeup, this is one time to pare down your routine and/or decant your products into smaller travel size containers. I keep ones from makeup gift with purchase events, purchase small clear bottles at the drug store or re-fill purchased minis. Just remember to label them if they are in a different and/or unmarked container. If you wish to paint your nails, a neutral colour is best so you don’t see any chips that easily. Depending on your final destination and plans while you are there, your beauty haul may be pretty minimal. If you are travelling for an event like a wedding, you may need more. Regardless of destination and the time of year, don’t forget to pack SPF. It is an everyday essential.

• For clothing, stick with basics. My neutral wardrobe is mainly black and navy and I add colour through accessories such as scarves. Look at your holiday plans – will you visit cities, the country, mountains or the beach and plan ahead to find clothing that is multi-purpose and makes different outfits. I always take at least one skirt and/or dress in case I want to dress up for an evening out on the town. Always pack something for an unexpected weather change. I generally travel to cities and the countryside where jeans and layers on top work best. I wrap clothes in the clear dry cleaning bags to minimize wrinkles. Pick a few pairs of shoes and/or boots that work with many outfits. Always leave yourself some room in case you may wish to shop for yourself or bring special gifts home for someone special.

• When preparing for my voyage, I always refer to my packing list for my outbound journey to ensure I don’t forget anything at home.

Airport and In-Flight Tips

• Since I was a child I have always loved the ritual of going to the airport even when I am not travelling. I will often go to the airport early so I can pass through security and enjoy a coffee and/or glass of wine, a pre-flight snack and for people watching. I love the hellos, goodbyes and personal interactions of the airport so enjoy the time to just be and take in the entire travel experience. Since I do not get to travel as much as I would like, I still find the experience somewhat glamorous and luxurious and likely always will.

• Check-in before you go to the airport. Generally you are able to do so 24-hours in advance of your departure. I prefer aisle seats on long-haul and overnight flights but love a window seat on a shorter flight. Airline configurations can be found on their website so you can pinpoint where you wish to sit based on the aircraft for flying. I am still fond of the Queen of the Skies – the Boeing 747 – and the newer Boeing 777 and 787 Dreamliner.

• Download your selected airline’s app to your smart phone so you can easily check your flight status and for any updates when you are on the go.

• While I love to look stylish, when I am flying overnight comfort is key. I always dress in layers. A t-shirt, sweater or long sleeved top, yoga pants or leggings, slip-on sneakers and a scarf or shawl to keep me warm during the flight or when one has an unexpected de-planning on the Tarmac. A t-shirt is a must as one can often get hot rushing through the airport. I may place a pair of jeans in my carry-on for a quick outfit change when I arrive at my destination if I am not wearing them already. Comfortable shoes are essential as it can be a very long walk to the gate, between gates for travel connections and in case of emergency. I also apply minimal makeup before the flight so I can I easily freshen my skin before I land and apply some makeup to get me on my way.

• If you require corrective vision, opt for eye glasses vs. contact lenses as flying can be very drying for your eyes. Eye drops may be something you wish to add into your Ziploc® bag. Moisturizer and Lip Balm are other great items to include in your bag as they may be helpful throughout the flight. Limit your alcohol intake and make sure to drink plenty of water to keep yourself hydrated.

• Try to get up and move as much as possible to keep your blood flow moving. At the very least move your legs and feet while seated especially if you are prone to swelling in your feet, ankles and legs after a flight. Legs up the wall and elevating your feet and legs once at your hotel destination may also be helpful too. If you have experienced this before and the symptoms are worrisome, you may wish to consult with your physician.

• Plan enough time between layovers especially if you are flying from a winter destination, need to make a terminal change, pick-up luggage, clear customs and/or security, need help physically between gates or are not the fastest walker/runner. Running for your flight and missing it is no fun.

• Always put your name and contact details inside your suitcase – either in the front slot or inside or both. My luggage tags once broke off my suitcase so when it got to my layover they didn’t know where to send it. It took two days and many telephone calls to the airline desk to figure out where my bag was and they only found it because I had a novel in the front pocket.

• I am a pretty confident flyer and throughly enjoy the wonders of air travel but sometimes turbulence can make me anxious. I find closing my eyes and taking deep meditative breaths helps a lot.

• This should go without saying but always wear your seatbelt when seated. Safety first.

• Remember to treat the pilots, flight attendants and airport staff as well as fellow travellers with respect and kindness. Commit to being a better passenger. While the airlines and airport staff aim to make your journey a comfortable and enjoyable one, their number one responsibility is the safety of all passengers. Having previously been on an Air Canada flight that had a medical emergency halfway over the Atlantic Ocean, I definitely have a better appreciation for their role as our care providers in the sky.

Far and Away

• If you use a DSLR or point and shoot camera, make sure to take two camera batteries so when you are out exploring, your camera does not die. An extra memory card may be helpful too. While I may a lot take iPhone photos at home, I love vacation photos taken with a real camera as it takes them to the next level. Thanks to digital technology one can take too many photos to produce the perfect shot.

• On the occasions I have travelled on my own, I have always done a lot of research to determine where to stay, to get to know the city in advance and will often get up early to explore and retire early to my hotel to ensure I am safe after dark. For a little bit of extra security, I lean a chair underneath the door handle behind my hotel room door. Just remember to be cautious, alert and aware of your surroundings even if you have visited your destination before.

• While they can be expensive, I love hotels with a hot breakfast included. They say breakfast is the most important meal of the day and on holidays this is definitely true. I find if I have a big breakfast, it takes me all the way to dinner with a coffee and sweet treat break mid-day.

• Check various websites including the actual hotels sites to find the best deal. Sometimes hotels will offer incentives for longer stays. Also worth enrolling in preferred hotel programs. While I have not used it personally, I have a lot of friends who have had great success with Air BNB.

• If you travel overnight, try to stay up during the day as long as possible to adjust to the new time zone. If your flight involves travelling over multiple time zones, adjust your watch when you embark on your journey to help. When I fly across the pond, I generally leave Canada at night to arrive in the morning and make sure to get outside and walk once I drop my luggage off and try to stay awake until 8 – 9 pm. This helps me get on track quickly and limits my jet-lag. For me, jet-lag is always worse travelling home and can often last an entire week.

• Many times you can purchase tickets in advance for tourist attractions through a city pass or buy exercusions as part of a bus tour. Definitely do some research before you leave, make a plan for things you may want to see and explore but be open when something new and amazing presents itself.

• My favourite way to remember my travels is to purchase a Christmas ornament in the places I visit. They are small and don’t take up a lot of space. I love how every December I am reminded of all the amazing travel memories.

Whether you travel by train, plane or automobile, near or far, try and enjoy the journey. Travelling for many can be stressful. Don’t let the little things get to you. Embrace these little bumps in the road as part of your adventure. Be kind. Enjoy the opportunity to explore new places and cultures, try foreign cuisines as well as connect and engage in conversations with locals and other travellers. Most importantly create as many memories as possible that you get to hold close in your heart and bring home sweet home. 💗

Wishing you safe journeys no matter where your travels take you.

Remembering Princess Diana 

Carry out a random act of kindness, with no expectation of reward, safe in the knowledge that one day someone might do the same for you.” – Princess Diana 

It is hard to believe twenty years have passed since the news of Princess Diana’s death. I grew up with Princess Diana from the moment the press found out she was dating Prince Charles. I still remember waking in the wee hours of July 29, 1981 on summer holidays in Sudbury to watch the Royal Wedding and essentially fell in love with everything British and Royal. How incredibly lucky I would be that I was in Ottawa on a school trip when Charles and Diana would make their first trip to Canada in 1983. I waited on a hot and humid June day with a few public school friends and likely a teacher given our young age to just get a glimpse of Princess Diana from her car as it entered the Rideau Hall Gates. It was a dream come true. I followed Princess Diana in the newspapers, magazines and television. I loved her style and elegance but more importantly I was inspired about how she made it her mission to help others, advocate and shed light to causes that were not considered glamorous. Diana had this warmth which was evident in her interactions with others.

In June 1997, my university friend and a fellow Princess Diana fan and I planned a trip to London. The trip was originally planned for around the time of Princess Diana’s death but at some point we decided to moved it up to June. What a different trip it would have been from the one we experienced. I was up north in cottage country when I heard the news of Princess Diana with one fuzzy television channel and a radio. As the days passed, I would watch the coverage from London and once again woke in the wee hours of September 6, 1997 to say goodbye to the People’s Princess. 

Since the world lost Princess Diana, I have been lucky to see her dresses twice in Toronto, travel to her resting place Althorp with my mother on her birthday in 2002 and then onto Paris to where she lost her life that fateful day. I hope to travel to London to see the Diana: Her Fashion Story at Kensington Palace before it closes in early 2018. 

In a world that celebrates and worships all things celebrity, it is Princess Diana who continues to inspire me. Princess Diana embodied love, kindness, compassion and inclusion. I aim to embrace these values as I go about my own travels on this earth. I love seeing her boys William and Harry along with Catherine carry on her legacy and continue to champion causes that were important to her while also charting their own course of what is important to them. Diana would be so incredibly proud. As a life-long volunteer, they all inspire me to continue to contribute to my own community and helping others. 

“I think the biggest disease the world suffers from in this day and age is the disease of people feeling unloved. I know that I can give love for a minute, for half an hour, for a day, for a month, but I can give. I am very happy to do that, I want to do that.” – Princess Diana

Diana – forever remembered and missed. 💗

Memories of an afternoon with Bobbi Brown UK Senior Pro Artist Hannah Martin 

Life is all about experiences and thanks to Instagram and a wee bit of good timing, I got to spend a fun afternoon at Harrods two years ago today with Bobbi Brown UK Senior Pro Artist Hannah Martin (@BBPRO_HannahMartin). Imagine an afternoon chatting all things makeup, learning new techniques and getting a bit glam for my evening out in London. Incredibly awesome experience! 

My mother loved makeup and never left home without it especially her pink lipstick. As they say, the apple does not fall from the tree. I have adored makeup for as long as I can remember, always love a chance to have my makeup done and the opportunity to learn new things. With London calling, a telephone call across the pond to Harrods secured an appointment for Friday afternoon before meeting my friends for an evening of drinks, dinner and dancing. I was very excited for the chance to meet and learn from Hannah after following her for many months on Instagram. I also love how I had absolutely no idea she was on hand at the 2011 Royal Wedding until after my holiday but no less exciting to find out after the fact. I have loved all things British since childhood including the Royal family so this was icing on the cake to this experience. 

Having your makeup done by Hannah is like hanging out with your BFF. Reflecting back, I share a few of the awesome tips I learned that day. 

* Lip Balm – nourish your lips when you start to apply your makeup and then apply lipstick or lip gloss once you have finished your makeup. Always the final step. 

* After applying foundation, smoosh your face with your hands. The warmth will help melt your makeup into your skin. A simple tip that Bobbi Brown taught her.

* Bronzer and Blusher – Place bronzer high on the checks, the temple and don’t forget to warm your neck. Think of drawing a figure eight on both sides of your face with a pop of blush on the cheeks. Hannah’s favourite is blue pink called pale pink which she often uses on brides – maybe even one famous one. Finish up with a bit of Shimmer Brick to highlight on the upper cheekbones. Remember to smile during these steps.  

* Brows – I never filled mine in until Hannah introduced me to Perfectly Defined Long-Wear Brow Pencil in Wheat. 

* Eyes – Hannah created an evening smokey eye look for my night out with friends. I normally wear brown, navy or purple eyeliner (or eye shadow as liner) but she promised me a Long-Wear Gel Eyeliner in Blank Ink would make my green eyes pop without being too harsh for my fair complexion and blonde hair. It definitely did. Gel Eyeliner can take a bit of getting used to it but I love it. I use the Ultra Precise Eyeliner brush to apply it close to the lash line and will carefully dot below the lid. For a smokey eye look, I will smudge it with the Smokey Eye Liner Brush. Another fun addition was sparkle to my eyelids with Sparkle Eye Shadow in Mica. It has become a staple for my evening eye look. Finish with Mascara. 

I loved that Hannah made me look like a more glamorous version of me. To this day, she continues to inspire me through her Instagram feed, YouTube videos and many articles. If you love everything makeup, definitely subscribe to Hannah Martin’s YouTube Chanel. 

Hannah – I consider myself so lucky to have had the opportunity to learn from you. Hope our paths will cross again soon in London or Canada. Thank you for your beautiful spirit and teaching women everywhere to be who they are. xx 

Dear London | A love letter

Dear London,

Happy Anniversary! Twenty-one years ago today we met for the first time. It was definitely love at first sight. 

Growing up in Canada, we had many British influences from food, music, fashion and traditions. I will always remember waking in the wee of hours of July 29th to see Prince Charles marry Lady Diana. A few years later, I was lucky to catch a glimpse of Princess Diana outside Rideau Hall when my class trip to Ottawa just happened to correspond with their Canada visit. Likely the beginning of my love and fascination with all things British. 

After my first year of full time employment, I embarked on a holiday to Marbella, Spain to meet a dear friend for a mini break. With no direct flights to Malaga, I flew to London Heathrow with an eight-hour layover where I decided to take full advantage of my opportunity to see the city. I hopped a bus to Central London to take a Big Bus Tour where I was immediately memorized by the charm, history and architecture. I promised to return again soon. Little did I know a week later, an unexpected airline strike would find me travelling to London a day early so I did not miss my flight home. My dad arranged for me to stay with our cousins who lived in Wembley Park. My less than 24-hour visit included being collected at Victoria Railway Station only knowing each other from printed photographs, finally meeting and getting to know my family, enjoying a lovely whirlwind underground adventure the next morning and a homemade lunch before I made the long journey home. I absolutely love everything Christmas so was dazzled by Selfridges and Oxford Street all decorated for the Christmas season. I have returned twice in December and it is truly my favourite time of year to visit. 

This anniversary is also a reminder that things in life don’t always go as planned but this bump in my travels led to the beginning of a beautiful friendship with my family across the pond and a lifetime love of this beautiful city. London is definitely my home away from home. 

London – It was definitely love at first sight that October day. No matter how many days between our visits, you are always in my heart. A true love like ours last forever. 

Till we meet again.


M xx