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Mary Poppins who? Etihad Airways to introduce flying nannies

- September 3rd, 2013
Performers dressed as the character Mary Poppins descend to the ground during the opening ceremony of the London 2012 Olympic Games at the Olympic Stadium July 27, 2012.  REUTERS/Mike Blake

Performers dressed as the character Mary Poppins descend to the ground during the opening ceremony of the London 2012 Olympic Games at the Olympic Stadium July 27, 2012. REUTERS/Mike Blake

Hear someone say “Flying Nanny” and an image of Mary Poppins dropping down into the lives of frazzled parents with her umbrella and luggage in tow automatically comes to mind.

Etihad Airways, national airline of the United Arab Emirates, is taking a more literal approach by introducing a fleet of flying nannies onboard their airplanes to help keep young children entertained and happy during flights.

The airline has already spent two months training 300 cabin crew members to take on this specialty position and hopes to have 500 orange-apron-clad flying nannies on Etihad flights by the end of 2013.

“Flying with a young family can be a daunting task, even for the most experienced travellers, and the Flying Nanny role demonstrates our understanding of our guests’ needs and our commitment to making the journey as relaxing and comfortable as possible,” said Aubrey Tiedt, Etihad Airways’ vice president guest services, in a release. ”

The Etihad Airways' Flying Nanny will interact and engage with children on long haul flights. (Courtesy Etihad Airways)

The Etihad Airways’ Flying Nanny will interact and engage with children on long haul flights. (Courtesy Etihad Airways)

Each Flying Nanny will be able to use his or her psychological and sociological training to offer families a helping hand with little ones, will watch over unaccompanied minors and will help calm nerves by introducing kids to Etihad Airways characters who will travel alongside them — Zoe the bee, Jamool the camel, Kundai the lion and Boo the panda.

Flying Nannies will also help keep small flyers entertained by leading basic onboard arts and crafts sessions or teaching children magic tricks, while older children will be given quizzes or a tour of the galley.

“The Flying Nanny will liaise with parents and use their experience and knowledge to make the travel experience easier. This includes helping serve children’s meals early in the flight and offering activities and challenges to help entertain and occupy younger guests,” Tiedt said.

Etihad Airways will offer the service free of charge.

Last minute Mother’s Day getaways

- May 2nd, 2011

If you’d like to make this Mother’s Day special for your mom and still don’t quite know what to give her, one of these last-minute Mother’s Day travel packages is sure to wow!

Delta Grand Okanagan Resort, B.C.: Get away with mom in one of Canada’s famed wine regions at the Delta Okanagan. The Relax and Renew spa package includes one night’s accommodation, chocolate covered strawberries and either a massage, deluxe pedicure or hydrating mask at the spa. The resort will also be hosting a Mother’s Day brunch on May 8 from 10:30 – 2 p.m. Rates start at $347 per night for two. Visit deltagrandokanagan.com to book.

Biltmore, Miami, Fla.: Whether your mom loves cooking, golfing or being pampered in a spa during her down time, this grand Florida resort has something for all. Accommodation rates start from $249 a night and various workshops and specials are available, from “Mommy and Me” cooking classes to complimentary cart fees on the Biltmore’s renowned 18-hole golf course. Visit biltmorehotel.com for more details on the property.

Delta Prince Edward: The “Spahhh” Getaway at this Charlottetown property is just what any busy mom needs this Mother’s Day. Starting at $205 per night, the package includes one night’s accommodation, a $50 spa credit, underground parking and 25% off all meals (excluding alcohol). Delta Prince Edward is also hosting a Mother’s Day brunch on May 8. Reservations are available by calling 1-866-894-1203.

Marriott Fallsview Hotel & Spa, Niagara Falls: Visit Serenity Spa by the Falls at the Marriott Fallsview for the ultimate in luxurious relaxation, located just steps from one of Canada’s natural wonders: Niagara Falls. From reflexology to hot stone massage to aromatherapy, there is a range of spa services available for mom. Serenity Spa even offers couples massage rooms should dad want to join in. After, enjoy dinner at the hotel’s delicious Brasa Brazilian Steakhouse or retreat to one of Marriott Fallsview’s deluxe suites. Visit www.niagarafallsmarriottspa.com for more details.

Hockley Valley Resort, Orangeville, Ont.: This resort, located just 90 minutes north of Toronto, is bringing its mantra for organic, fresh foods to the table for a special Mother’s Day brunch. Starting at 11 a.m., treat your tastebuds to dishes ranging from cinnamon French toast to lemon basil shrimp risotto. The cost is $55 per person, $32 for children ages 5 to 12 and free for kids under 4. Visit www.hockley.com for more information.

Make mom feel special

- April 1st, 2011

I love my mom. However, like many daughters, I haven’t always shown it.

Mother’s Day falls on May 8 this year and is, of course, the perfect opportunity to stop and thank your mom for being such an inspiring woman. You could go with the standard phone call, bouquet of flowers or card … or you could completely spoil and pamper her with one of these luxury vacation packages.

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One&Only Palmilla Spa, Los Cabos.

One&Only Palmilla Spa, Los Cabos, Mexico: Reconnect with your mom with the One&Only Palmilla’s Soul-to-Soul package. You and your mom will be given two hour spa treatments at your own private spa villa, yoga or salsa  lessons, a spa lunch and complete use of outdoor daybeds and whirlpools. This package starts at $735 for two. Visit palmilla.oneandonlyresorts.com for more details.

Parador Resort & Spa, Costa Rica: The four night Mother’s Day package at Parador includes accommodations, welcome cocktails and fruit, daily breakfast, a 50 minute massage for mom and babysitting service should mom and dad want some quiet time. The package starts at $315 per night. Visit hotelparador.com to book.

Miraval Resort & Spa, Tuscon, Ariz.: This top-rated wellness spa gives moms and daughters a chance to re-connect with eachother through spa treatments, face-to-face partner sessions and pairs yoga. Miraval is offering guests a fifth night at the hotel for free when booking four nights. Visit miravalresorts.com for more details on the program.

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Hacienda Xcanatun, Mexico.

Hacienda Xcanatun, Yucatan, Mexico: Celebrate your mom for the next year with this Yucatan boutique hotel. Valid from May 8, 2011 to Mother’s Day 2012, the three night Mom & Me package includes deluxe accommodations with private terrace and outdoor tub, daily breakfast on your terrace, gourmet dinners with wine, massages and manicures, plus a full day boat excursion to an eco-biosphere. The package starts at $650 per person. Visit xcanatun.com for more information.

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Stonewater Cove Resort & Spa.

Stonewater Cove Resort & Spa, Table Rock Lake, Mo.: Get away with your mom to the quiet wilderness of Mark Twain National Park. Your stay includes accommodation at the lodge, which is adorned with local art and driftwood furniture, your own bubble tub and rainfall shower room, plus access to the lakefront swimming pool, spa and forest trails. Rates start at $329 per night. Visit stonewatercove.com for more details.

Get away with the family

- February 25th, 2011

As March or Spring Break nears, many families are looking to escape together for the first time since Christmas vacation.

A recent Transat Holidays family vacation survey conducted by Ipsos Descarie revealed that 71% of surveyed Canadians felt the ideal family vacation was one in a stress-free destination where programs were available for their children. In addition, 31% of Canadians felt a lack of child friendly activities at their destination was the biggest cause of strife on a family vacation.

Luckily, there are already countless themed packages at hotels and resorts across North America available to families who want to spend some quality time together this month. Here are some of my favourites…

Fairmont Royal York, Toronto: The Fairmont Royal York’s Royal Indulgence package will have your family feeling quite royal themselves. The package includes a one night stay, valet parking, a pizza dinner with wings, ice cream and pop, and in-room movie for a family of four. Available from March 11 to 21 and starting at $229, this close-to-home package is a great option for southern Ontario families. Visit fairmont.com/royalyork for details.

Swissotel, Chicago: Choose from one of Swissotel Chicago’s three family themed packages this March. In addition to accommodation, access to the hotel’s pool and complimentary breakfast, the different packages include trips to the Shedd Aquarium, the Field Museum or Adler Planitarium. Visit swissotelchicago.com for details and pricing on all packages.

St. Patrick’s Day in Newfoundland: Treat your family to Canada’s East Coast with a trip to Newfoundland this St. Patrick’s Day. Maxxim Vacations’ three-night St. Patrick’s package includes airfare, accommodation in a downtown St. John’s hotel, a city tour and entrance to local museum The Rooms. Rates start at $809. Visit maxximvacations.com for more details or to book.

Valentine’s packages in exotic locales

- January 25th, 2011

Love is still in the air at hotels and destinations around the globe as Valentine’s Day draws ever closer.

Last week I highlighted five Valentine’s packages meant to pamper couples, unite single friends and indulge the senses. This week, we look at Valentine’s getaways in exotic locales and feature a special package for families looking for a Valentine’s retreat.

St. Regis Bora Bora Resort: Available for the entire month of February, the “All You Need is Love” package includes deluxe accommodations in a classic Bora Bora overwater villa, daily breakfast, his and hers polo shirts, a jet-ski tour and a Beatles CD. Rates start at $930 per night. A four night stay is required. Visit stregis.com/borabora for more information.

Ceiba del Mar Beach Spa and Resort, Mayan Riviera: Experience romance with this package in the popular Mexican Mayan Riviera. Your stay includes a four nights accommodation in a luxury ocean-view suite, a gourmet, candlelight dinner for two and a couples massage at the hotel spa. Prices for the package start at US$180 per person, per night. Visit ceibadelmar.com to book.

Great Wolf Lodge, Niagara Falls: From Feb. 11 to 14, families can celebrate Valentine’s together at this premiere family resort in Niagara Falls. The “Sweet Family Fun” package includes one night stay, “heart” Bingo, a family dance and chocolate pudding eating contest. Visit greatwolf.com for more information.

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The Farm at Cape Kidnappers. (Photo courtesy The Farm at Cape Kidnappers)

The Farm at Cape Kidnappers, New Zealand: Available from Feb. 13 to 20, this special Valentine’s package provides a true escape for you and your other half in quiet Hawke’s Bay. For NZ$1,780 for two per night, guests will stay in a luxury hilltop suite, be given a bottle of champagne upon arrival, dine on a five-course meal and be served a full breakfast. Visit capekidnappers.com to book.

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A room at the Boutique Cotton Tree. (Photo courtesy Cotton Tree)

Boutique Cotton Tree, Grand Cayman: This Grand Cayman property is inviting lovebirds to escape with one of four Valentine’s Day themed packages. Each package includes three nights accommodation in a luxury one-bedroom beach cottage, meals and massages. Depending on your interests, you can choose a package that features horseback riding, deep sea fishing, a bioluminescent kayaking tour or a helicopter tour and professional photoshoot. Rates for the packages start at $2,400. Visit caymancottontree.com for more details on all available Valentine’s packages.