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Come unwind with me!

Welcome to my site!

Through personal experience and a passion for travelling, I help couples, families and groups plan memorable vacations with unforgettable experiences.  My favourite destinations offer a wide variety of activities such as golf, spa, adventure, cuisine and culture.   My goal is to have you return from your vacation happier and more relaxed than when you left.

I specialize in family & multi-generational vacations and luxury cruising.

I’m about more than just travel.  Here you will also find reviews and feature posts on spa, food and other activities that might help enrich your life, bring inner peace or put a smile on your face.

Book a free vacation planning session with me and see where your dreams will take you.  If you have any questions or suggestions, shoot me an email at unwindwithsteph@gmail.com.

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Forest Bathing: Mindfulness in Nature

While I enjoy going for walks in nature, I didn’t realize that I was participating in a Japanese wellness tradition called Shrinrin Roku (forest bathing).

The process is simple. Find a forest, walk through the forest, and experience the forest with all of your senses.  Breathing deeply, staying in the moment and allowing your senses to guide you.  This is not about a strenuous hike, but rather a wander through nature to connect deeper within yourself and release the stress of our everyday lives.

Many of us stay active by walking because we know that it is good for our health, but forest bathing has many more ways to help your body than you may realize. It can:

  • Reduce Stress
  • Improve Sleep
  • Lower blood pressure
  • Increase your immune system
  • Accelerate recovery from injury
  • Increase energy
  • Overall increase in happiness

One study published in 2011 compared the effects of walking in the city and in the forest.  For each activity, the physical exertion was the same, but researchers found that the forest atmosphere led to more significant reductions in blood pressure and certain stress hormones.

I recently went on an amazing wander with my family to Sundew Bog, a beautiful location near the Strathcona Park Lodge in Campbell River BC. This excerpt from their website beautifully describes this incredible place.

The Sundew Bog

When the glaciers retreated thousands of years ago they left behind huge depressions, which filled with water. Over the years, sediment and plants grew and a “floating forest” with a unique ecosystem of parasitic plants, anaerobic waters and varied wildlife was created. Jump up and down to see the trees move, hunt for the meat eating sundew plants and listen to the frogs croak. The bog is an easy and flat 25 minute hike, one way, from the Lodge.

https://strathconaparklodge.com/escape/day-activities/daily-adventure/

You don’t have to travel far to experience the benefits of forest bathing, any natural setting will do. I challenge you to do this once a week and see the changes in your body and your mind.

“You didn’t come into this world. You came out of it, like a wave from the ocean. You are not a stranger here.”  Alan Watts

Why you need a Travel Advisor – Seriously!

Not everyone enjoys spending hours planning vacations like I do.  Researching the hotels, restaurants, local attractions and checking out all the airlines for the best price and flight times. There are so many choices and sometimes, you just want to take a great vacation without all the hassle of planning it.  This is where a Travel Advisor can become your best friend.  Here are some of the reasons why you should consider using one:

  1. Time:  Rather than spending hours booking your own vacation, your Travel Advisor will do that legwork for you.  And because they have the experience, they can likely do it faster than you would.
  2. Money:  With their knowledge, you could find yourself saving a lot of money.  They know a good deal when they see one; though sometimes cheaper doesn’t always mean better.  Travel Advisors know what extra fees are charged, understand the fine print surrounding cancellation fees and might be able to get  you some free perks such as a room upgrade or free Wi-Fi.  (With multi night stays, this can really add up).  Additionally, there is typically no cost to you as advisors are often paid via commission only.
  3. Consumer Protection:  Rather than being all alone if something goes wrong, your Travel Advisor can go to bat for you and help solve any unforeseen issues that might arise.  They can also assist with setting up travel insurance for you if you need it.
  4. Recommendations:  Because they have first-hand experience in many of the destinations you are looking to visit, they can provide unique perspectives and suggestions on where to eat and what to see.
  5. Personalized and Tailored:  Your vacation won’t be some pre-planned, one-size fits all type of holiday.  Your Travel Advisor will get to know you and by doing this, they can tailor your vacation to meet your specific needs.
  6. Group Travel:  Travelling with a group can be stressful.  Everyone has different budgets, tastes and physical abilities.  When booking with a Travel Advisor, they can take all of that into consideration and find a happy medium for the whole group. They can often get group discounts depending on the size and destination.

NOTE:  A cruise is a great option for large groups.  The ships have such a large variety of food and activities that everyone can be satisfied. (See my post here for more info on why you should cruise)

You don’t always need to book with an advisor.  For those cheap 3-star weekend vacations to Vegas, you can probably do that on your own.  But if you are looking for something luxurious, tailored or expert advice to ensure the trip of a lifetime, the first thing to do is to call your Travel Advisor.

For all of these reasons, and with my personal love of travel, I am now a Travel Advisor with Expedia Cruise Ship Centers (not just for cruising!)  I have had the opportunity to travel my whole life and wish to pass on that knowledge and experience to you.  If you are planning a trip, let’s chat and see what I can do for you! I am also happy to let you know when booking yourself is the best option.  Let’s explore the world together!!

spoole@cruiseshipcenters.com

http://www.cruiseshipcenters.com/stephaniepoole

A Holiday on Water

Have you ever thought about taking a cruise vacation but worried that you might feel claustrophobic on board, or that there won’t be enough to do or that it is simply too expensive?  Here are some great reasons to consider a cruise for your next holiday.

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1.  Value: Despite the belief that cruising is expensive, you can find great deals that may end up cheaper than a land vacation.  Even the more basic cruises tend to include your dining and on-board activities.  Many cruise lines are now including things like off-shore excursions, alcohol and gratuities.  If you are travelling with your family, kids might even sail free with 2-paying adults.

2. Never Bored: Ships offer a one-stop shop for everything you could want.  Casinos, Lounges, Shows, Kids Clubs, Spas and Pools. and even Movie Theatres!  While every ship is different, they all offer multiple choices for your entertainment on-board.

3. Multiple Destinations:  Avoid the hassle of planning a multi-city trip and let the boat whisk you away.  No need to run for a bus or train or worry about flight delays.  You can go to sleep and wake up somewhere new.  Another benefit is that you only need to unpack once!  Your belongings stay securely stowed on the ship while you are exploring new destinations and experiences.

4. Tailored Experience for Everyone:  Cruises are a fantastic option for multi-generational vacations.  For the kids, there are kids clubs, pools, waterslides and dance studios.  Parents can enjoy a spa treatment or a private romantic dinner.  Grandparents may like the casino or the nightly entertainment.  Whether your family wants to do something together or enjoy some alone time, there is something for everyone.

5. Easy to Plan:  Because you don’t have to worry about deciding on the hotel, researching what restaurant to choose or what activities to do and how to get there, a cruise is very easy to plan.

Booking with a travel agent can make this process even simpler.  For starters, you get to talk with a real person rather than trying to navigate through all the websites online, hoping you are getting the best deal, saving you a ton of time.  A good travel agent  will listen to the things that are important to you and utilize their resources to find your that perfect vacation.  They will be able to analyze the fine print and clarify things such as cancellation policies or restrictions.  Many are commission-based and this is a benefit because not only do you get their experience at no cost, but their top priority is to make you happy.  If they don’t, there is no sale.  Finally, they are your advocate.  In the event that something goes wrong, they will work for you to get it resolved as quickly and effectively as possible.

While I am a travel agent, these are my own personal opinions on why cruising can be a great choice for a vacation.  When I was younger, my parents took me on a cruise and it was one of the fondest vacations I can remember.  We met so many wonderful people, enjoyed amazing food with my family and got to visit some interesting ports.  I can’t wait to give my daughter a similar experience.

If you have any questions, or are looking for advice, drop me a line. I would love to assist you in planning your next vacation!

spoole@cruiseshipcenters.com

*photo courtesy of http://www.cruiseshipcenters.com/stephaniepoole  (Princess Cruise Lines)

Heaven the Spa on the Rock

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Heaven Spa on the Rock is tucked away on a little side street in Victoria, BC. It offers an amazing array of treatments, an ultra-relaxing experience and some of the best trained staff on Vancouver Island!

I have been a frequent visitor to Heaven Spa on the Rock for over 10 years and some of my favourite treatments include:

  • Elements Facial Experience – $150, 120 min:  The experience begins with a foot soak and scrub. While you are receiving your facial, your lower legs are wrapped in a mud mask. When the mud mask is removed, your legs receive a relaxing and hydrating massage. This is a fantastic way to spend two hours at the spa.
  • Laser Hair Removal – Price Varies:  Hands down, one of the best investments I have ever made and the most competitive pricing I have seen so far in the industry. I had my legs done over 6-years ago and haven’t shaved since!
  • Aromassage – $85, 60 min:  Incredible pricing, extremely relaxing. I usually book the Refresher package ($150, 90 min) which includes a mini facial as well.

Heaven Spa on the Rock features Eminence products which have done wonders for my skin. I suffer from mild rosacea and I recently booked a consultation with Barry to discuss options available to help reduce the redness.  Barry performed a photo analysis on my skin and spoke to me about some options available.

Option 1 – Skin Care Products:

Barry suggested I use the Eminence calm skin cleanser and moisturizer along with the Elizabeth Arden Pro Perfection Facial Serum.  He also suggested that I switch from chemical based sunscreen to the Eminence Mineral Powder.  I love this stuff!  Not only does it provide SPF 30 protection, but it acts like a foundation as well.  I have more time in the morning for coffee now!

Option 2 – Laser Treatment:

The Candela Gmax Laser not only gives your skin a more youthful and toned appearance, but it can also help to reduce redness.  Now that I have started a regular skin care routine, I am excited to go back to do the laser treatments.

Barry also discussed with me certain foods and topical ointments that might worsen my condition. He was a wealth of information.  Stay tuned for my before and after results from the Gmax Laser!

Additionally, Heaven Spa is one of the first spas in BC to be able to offer the new Venus Freeze Plus Laser service. It’s an exciting new technology that tightens skin, reduces cellulite and can melt fat cells!

Elizabeth Parsons started the spa in 2001 and through hard work and an unwavering dedication to the industry and her clients, she has created a blissful oasis that keeps people coming back again and again.

Watch their Facebook page for special offers:

www.facebook.com/HeavenTheSpaOnTheRock

www.heavenspa.ca

High-Rollin’ in Vegas

Photos courtesy of Aria Hotel and Casino
aria hotel
Well…for me it was as close to a high roller experience I have had so far. I love Vegas though and every time I visit, it’s a new experience. This trip, I was lucky enough to stay at the Aria Hotel and Casino, and it didn’t disappoint!

One of the key things I noticed the moment we walked into Aria, was that there was no musty cigarette aroma that you get in some of the older hotels. Like most places, smoking is permitted in the casino, which is adjacent to the lobby, but it was well ventilated.

ACCOMMODATIONS:

delux room

From the expansive entrance, the spacious bathroom, and the lavish bedroom, I felt I was embraced by luxury when I entered our room. Everything is controlled by a tablet provided by the hotel. Lights, curtains, music and more. WiFi is included with the resort fee and the signal was always strong. There were only two minor disappointments:

  1. There was no coffee machine in the room, so I had to go get coffee every morning from Jean Philippe Patisserie on the main floor (Sorry to those people awake that had to see me in my jammies.  The morning doesn’t start without coffee!)
  2. The bathroom has a frosted glass door, and while the toilet is separated from the bathroom as well, you can hear everything.   (Not a big deal, just turn on the tap)

AMENITIES:

poker room

Once we were settled, it was time to check out the hotel.  There is something here for everyone.  If you like to gamble, the slots are ample and the poker room offers daily tournaments which are well run.  For those that prefer to spend money elsewhere, the spa offers many treatments and even the $50 charge for the daily facility pass will include the:

  •  Outdoor Therapy Pool
  •  Fitness Center
  •  Wet Areas
  •  Ganbanyoku Heated Stone Beds
  •  Shio Salt Room

FOOD:
Ready for something to eat?  I always am; and there is an array of delicious options to choose from.

  • Steakhouse
  • Mexican
  • Tapas
  • Pizza
  • Thai
  • Japanese
  • French
  • American
  • Chinese
  • Buffet
  • ….and more!

With 21 dining options you will never go hungry!

TIP: if you are looking for more frugal choices, Aria is center strip and has access to numerous amazing restaurants and convenience stores.  (Watch for my post on the $5 breakfast at PBR!)

This is one of my favourite places to visit, so while this might be my first review of Vegas, it won’t be my last!  Stay tuned as there will be more hotels, food and travel tips for the infamous Sin City!

Best Hollandaise Sauce in Victoria

benntWhen it comes to breakfast, I have two weaknesses: Bacon & Hollandaise Sauce. I had been on the hunt for the perfect hollandaise sauce for a while and had been disappointed to say the least.  One morning, we popped into 1550’s and with my fingers crossed, I ordered their Traditional Eggs Benedict.  When my meal arrived, it was perfectly presented, the eggs were cooked to perfection and upon my first taste I was calling our waitress back for an extra side of hollandaise.  She laughed and said that happens often; I can taste why!  Their hollandaise is made from scratch by the chef.  Perfectly seasoned and my taste buds were delighted with every bite.  It’s rich and creamy with a perfect lemony hue.  While the traditional Eggs Benedict is my favourite, 1550’s has an array of equally delicious selections.  The 1550’s Breakfast Feast is guaranteed to fill you up (and adding a side of the hollandaise makes it even better)!  I have also really enjoyed the Huevos Rancheros.

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It’s not just a great breakfast that they serve either. I highly recommend the Cajun Chicken Caesar Wrap with the in-house Caesar dressing.

Innovative and talented kitchen staff, combined with friendly and efficient servers, 1550’s is a great go-to local in Victoria!  A must try!

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