Publisher Wants to Give Away Newspaper, Travel to Ukraine | Minnesota News

LAFAYETTE, Minn. (AP) — The owner of a rural weekly newspaper in southern Minnesota is looking to give his publication away so he can travel to Ukraine.

Minnesota Public Radio reported Thursday that Lafayette-Nicollet Ledger owner and publisher Lee Zion is willing to dig trenches, teach school or fight in Ukraine. Before he leaves, he wants to give the newspaper away for free.

Zion produces the newspaper by himself, reporting, editing and laying out pages for about 500 subscribers and wants to make sure a person committed to local journalism takes over. He says the towns he covers would suffer if the newspaper disappeared.

“The biggest piece of advice is the only way to do this job is to commit to local news,” Zion said. “People can find out what’s happening in the Ukraine instantly by clicking a button, but they can’t find out what’s happening here. People want to know what’s happening here.”

Zion says several people have reached out to him and expressed interest in owning the weekly.

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Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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Lehigh Valley International Airport officials give tips for summer travel |PHOTOS – The Morning Call

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Baymont Hotels Will Give Pet Parents a Weekend Away in Exchange for Their Best Pup-Friendly Travel Tips

According to a survey by the ASPCA, more than 23 million American households acquired a pet during the pandemic.1 Now, many first-time pet owners are figuring out how to travel with their furry friends on their next vacation. Lucky for them, Baymont is here to help make their travel planning experience a little less “ruff.”

“When planning a trip, there are number of things to consider. Add a pet to the mix, especially for the first time, and it may feel a little overwhelming—but it doesn’t have to be,” said David Unger, brand leader and vice president of Operations, Baymont by Wyndham. “At Baymont, we want to make travel easy, especially when our furry friends are involved. It’s why we offer no-cost perks like dog treats and water bowls at our front desks. This initiative builds on those efforts, helping ensure our guests – the two or four-legged kind – have a great trip, even before they arrive.”

Amongst all the tips received, Baymont by Wyndham will select the 10 best and feature them in its upcoming pet-friendly travel planner, debuting later this year, alongside a corresponding photo of each winning pup. In exchange for their help, each proud pup’s parent(s) will receive two free nights at the Wyndham Rewards hotel of their choosing, along with a complimentary one-year upgrade to Wyndham Rewards Diamond membership which includes perks like free WiFi, early check-in, late checkout, suite upgrades, rental car upgrades and more.

Think you’ve got what it takes to lead the pack? Parents are invited to submit their best pup-friendly travel tip in 100 words or less, as well as two high-resolution photos of their pup—one headshot and one travel-themed photo—to [email protected]. Submissions will be accepted up until 11:59 PM ET on May 11, 2022. The winning candidates will be selected on or about June 7, 2022.

Baymont is committed to making travel easy for the entire family. Pet-friendly hotels, along with their policies, are easily searchable on while the brand’s Baymont Buddy program—available at more than 300 locations—lets guests request a complementary water bowl and dog treats upon arrival.

For more information about Baymont’s latest pup-centric program, including official rules, visit

About Baymont by Wyndham
Good, old-fashioned service never goes out of style, and it’s a stand-out staple at Baymont by Wyndham’s more than 500 midscale hotels throughout North America. Baymont’s signature “hometown hospitality,” which offers guest-centric comforts like friendly service with a smile, fresh chocolate chip cookies at check-in, and free breakfast at every Baymont Breakfast Corner,® is a driving force behind the brand’s ability to triple its system size since being acquired in 2006.  Additionally, Wyndham Rewards’ overall share of occupancy for Baymont has grown to nearly one out of every two guests.For more information, visit Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter. For development opportunities, visit

About Wyndham Rewards
Named the number one hotel rewards program by readers of USA TODAY, Wyndham Rewards® is the world’s most generous rewards program with more than 50,000 hotels, vacation club resorts and vacation rentals worldwide. Designed for the everyday traveler, members earn a guaranteed 1,000 points with every qualified stay and may redeem points for a wide-range of rewards, including free nights at any of approximately 9,000 hotels or tens of thousands of vacation club resorts and vacation rentals globally through affiliation with Wyndham Destinations and others. Wyndham Rewards has over 92 million enrolled members around the globe. Join for free today at You’ve earned this.®

Stefanie Petropoulos
Wyndham Hotels & Resorts
+1 (973) 753-6590
[email protected] 


SOURCE Wyndham Hotels & Resorts

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Chicago’s Top Doc to Give COVID Update, Announce Changes to Travel Advisory – NBC Chicago

NOTE: Arwady’s address can be streamed live at 1 p.m. in the player above.

Chicago Department of Public Health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady is expected to deliver a COVID-19 update Tuesday afternoon.

Speaking at 1 p.m., Arwady and CDPH Medical Director Dr. Geraldine Luna and Chicago Public Schools CEO Pedro Martinez, are expected to address COVID case counts, vaccination data and “provide an update on Chicago’s Travel Advisory, including a transition of the advisory to align with new CDC county-level COVID risk data.”

The announcement comes nearly one month from the date the city and state lifted masking requirements and Chicago removed its indoor vaccination mandate. Despite relaxed mitigations, the TSA’s mask mandate remains in place, however.

The address also comes as city health officials say they are closely monitoring a rise in other parts of the world due in part to a subvariant known as BA.2 or “stealth omicron.”

“We’re on heightened alert with the increase in cases of BA.2, increase in hospitalizations in the UK as an early warning signal for what could potentially occur here in the United States,” said Dr. Gregory Huhn, an infectious disease physician and the COVID-19 vaccine coordinator for Cook County Health. 

U.S. health experts are warning BA.2 could soon lead to another uptick in domestic coronavirus cases and many are watching what happens over the next few weeks.

“I’m going to be honest, I am concerned about what’s happening in Europe because I think there is not a full understanding of it,” Arwady said during a Facebook Live Thursday.

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Travel plans VS. 2022: Experts give tips ahead of Spring Break

Whether you’re changing your travel plans may depend on whether you’re flying or driving.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla — When it finally felt like a good time to travel more worry-free, gas prices spiked and Russia invaded Ukraine.

First Coast News is on your side with what experts advise for your Spring Break and summer travel plans. Whether you’re changing them may depend on whether you’re flying or driving.

“Gas prices going up was part of you cutting your trip shorter?” First Coast News asked Branden Sweeper.

“Yes,” he replied. “Yes.”

First Coast News caught up with Sweeper under one of those signs that now make you cringe: a gas station price per gallon sign. He still had hours to drive back to South Carolina. He won’t be hitting the road as much this summer.

“It was supposed to be a longer trip, but I’m kind of gauging my activities to kind of make sure I’m not spending more money on gas than I need to be spending,” he said.

In an office in Downtown Jacksonville, stories above the road, owner and CEO of TripVax Corporation Kamen Blackwell says, so far gas prices aren’t keeping people out of the sky.

“A lot of places in the Caribbean, like Jamaica, are actually pretty much sold out all the way through about July,” Blackwell said.

Blackwell’s company’s gone from booking plans for travel nurses during pandemic surges to getting clients’ families out of Ukraine.

“We’re using Google Maps to see, ‘Okay, what road is that person on? Okay, tell them to head this way, and get to Warsaw’ and things like that,” he said.

When it comes to the opposite of this with a summer vacation, Blackwell says travel insurance may be required depending on where you go.

“Things are super busy,” said Blackwell. “So if you have any plans on traveling for this year, book it now.”

Here’s are some tips from Blackwell:

  •  Determine your budget before booking your trip
  • Use a travel agent to avoid stress over requirements for different countries
  • Get travel insurance
  • Book your trip now

You may want to check this out, this list of travel advisories from the state department.

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Travel secrets only the reps know: Holiday insiders give THEIR tips for enjoying the perfect holiday

When it comes to your holiday, you want to make the most of every moment and ensure it is unforgettable.

That might mean insider tips on the best restaurants and where to enjoy amazing sunset views. Or maybe you want to know how to snap the best sunny selfie, or how to get through airport check-in and security without any stresses.

We spoke to the Jet2holidays experts for their top tips for every stage of your trip, so you can enjoy a memorable holiday for all the right reasons.

Bet you've never looked forward to a holiday more! And these clever tips from experienced colleagues at Jet2holidays can make it even better! Pictured: Phaselis Cove in Turkey

Bet you’ve never looked forward to a holiday more! And these clever tips from experienced colleagues at Jet2holidays can make it even better! Pictured: Phaselis Cove in Turkey

Take your pick from thousands of hotels across 55 sun-kissed destinations. And choose from 10 UK airports, meaning travel will always be easy and convenient.

Add in these top tips and you can make sure it’s the trip of a lifetime.

How to plan the perfect family holiday

Did you know that Jet2holidays offers more than a million holidays with free child places*?

Aimee Smithers, Colleague Experience and Communications Lead, says: ‘Book in advance and use the Free Child Place finder on the Jet2holidays website! My daughter, Bella is six, we go abroad at least once every year and I haven’t paid for her once yet!’

How to get ready for your trip

Lesley Goldring, who helps Jet2holidays customers at London Stansted, has a clever way of making the most of the generous hold baggage allowance

Lesley Goldring, who helps Jet2holidays customers at London Stansted, has a clever way of making the most of the generous hold baggage allowance

It’s been a while since many of us took a trip, so the Jet2holidays experts have a few tips to get you started.

Daniel Broadhurst, Customer Services Advisor, says: ‘Click on the ‘travel requirements’ section at the top of our website for an easy breakdown of what you need to do before travelling, in resort, and coming back home.’

Lesley Goldring, Customer Helper, London Stansted, says: ‘When packing for your next Jet2holidays trip, try rolling your clothes. 

‘You’ll be surprised at how much more you can fit in—it also means less ironing! 

‘Remember that Jet2holidays has a 22kg hold baggage allowance—which is much more than most!’

How to make the airport a breeze

Endless paperwork and negotiating the airport don’t always make for a relaxed start to a holiday, but with these tips you can ensure everything goes smoothly.

Courtney Nuckley, Special Assistance Advisor, says: ‘My top tip is to download the Jet2holidays app. Having everything about my booking at my fingertips makes it so easy, no more shuffling through papers. I can add all my extras, check in, store documents and find all the latest travel requirements.’

Chloe Marshall, Contact Centre Advisor, says: ‘For a quick and easy check-in, I advise to do it online so when you get to the airport all you need to do is drop your cases off. If you’re ever unsure about anything, we’re always happy to help. You’ll find us dressed in our famous red uniform—you can’t miss us!’

How to make your holiday extra special

With a few little extras you can turn a great holiday into an unforgettable one, and these experienced Jet2holidays colleagues have a few clever tips up their sleeves.

Making your holiday even better: Joanne Shaw recommends pre-booking seats and meals onboard the aircraft – she also recommends the cheese and ham toastie!

Making your holiday even better: Joanne Shaw recommends pre-booking seats and meals onboard the aircraft – she also recommends the cheese and ham toastie!

Joanne Shaw, Pre Travel Operations Advisor, says: ‘I always pre-book seats and meals onboard the flight – it means I can get seated near the front and receive my favourite cheese and ham toastie!’

Hannah Jones, Resort Team Leader, Ibiza, says: ‘See your Jet2holidays Resort Customer Helper at your hotel. Whether you want to know the way to the best beaches, best restaurants or top places to visit, our team in red will be there to answer all of your questions.’

Marie Smith, Social Media Executive, says: ‘When it comes to taking the perfect holiday selfie, time of day is key. For the perfect lighting, wait for the sun to begin setting so you get that golden hour glow! You’ll also need a backdrop that stands out, Rhodes is my favourite Jet2holidays destination so far for this reason.’

Here’s what Jet2holidays guests think!

We’ll be back!

Steve and Jeannette Butt, Stafford

Hotel Villa Flamenca in Spain is in an excellent location and we enjoyed a daily stroll into the lovely town of Nerja with its many eateries, individual shops and wonderful tourist attractions nearby. The stunning Balcon De Europa was another favourite haunt.

One day, Jeannette even had a surprise bottle of sparkling wine when they saw her birthday cards in our room. A lovely gesture.

Excellent location: Hotel Villa Flamenca is near the beach in the historic town of Nerja

Excellent location: Hotel Villa Flamenca is near the beach in the historic town of Nerja

Jeannette Butt was thrilled to find a bottle of sparkling wine in her room on her birthday

Jeannette Butt was thrilled to find a bottle of sparkling wine in her room on her birthday

The last day of our holiday coincided with the lockdown in Spain due to Covid. Our Jet2holidays Resort Customer Helpers kept us well informed on procedures, reassured us, sorted our homeward flights and answered all our concerns in an efficient way.

We felt that our Jet2holidays trip offered excellent value for money and have booked a similar holiday following such a positive experience last time.

Six years and counting!

Amy and Danny Buck, Manchester

The highlight of our year is our Indulgent Escapes at the Four Seasons in Limassol, Cyprus. We’ve been six times now and every trip is incredible from start to finish.

We love the experience of travelling with Indulgent Escapes – you get the friendly Jet2 service as standard, alongside luxury extras like 25kg baggage and complimentary drinks on the flight which help us relax into the holiday spirit straight away.

We love the luxury private transfer included as part of the Indulgent Escapes package – it’s such a special way to start the holiday.  And when we arrive at the hotel, the service is always so faultless and so friendly. 

The restaurant choice and quality are the best we’ve ever experienced, too. 

We already can’t wait to return for our seventh visit – we are truly made to feel at home thanks to Indulgent Escapes and the Four Seasons. 

'We've been six times now and every trip is incredible from start to finish': The Bucks

‘We’ve been six times now and every trip is incredible from start to finish’: The Bucks

'It's the highlight of our year': The Four Seasons Hotel in Limassol, Cyprus

‘It’s the highlight of our year’: The Four Seasons Hotel in Limassol, Cyprus 

Our perfect family-moon!

The Finan family, Essex

We’ve used Jet2holidays previously and it’s been easy, they always get good reviews, plus we can fly from London Stansted which great as it’s local to us. 

I’m 5ft 2in so have never worried about leg room on a flight, but my husband but Dan is 6ft 4in, so legroom to him is very important—Jet2holidays passes the legroom test easily! 

We loved the Jet2holidays package holiday at Radisson Blu Resort Arguineguin in Gran Canaria—everything was so smooth and easy and the reps were all lovely! 

We made lots of memories on this holiday. The things that stand out are of us spending time together—having fun messing about in the pool, relaxing in the sun—and enjoying cocktails (ice cream for the kids) after a day poolside! 

'Everything was easy from start to finish and we had the best time': The Finan family

‘Everything was easy from start to finish and we had the best time’: The Finan family

As a couple, relaxing on the balcony once the boys were in bed, a glass of wine and listening to the waves—it was so quiet, just the sound of the sea! 

After a crazy few weeks of wedding build-up, it was perfect to just relax. We’d absolutely recommend Jet2holidays—everything from start to finish was easy. We had the best time on our family-moon and we’ll be booking again soon.

* 1 free child place per 2 paying adults, selected hotels only. Limited availability. 

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Foreign students wait for Japan to lift entry ban, some give up

Singaporean Adeline Leng expected to start studying at a language school in Japan last April but is still not able to travel to the country due to its strict COVID-19 border controls.

Leng, 26, began the process of applying 16 months ago and since then it has been one long, increasingly fraught, wait.

Screenshot shows Adeline Leng talking from her home in Singapore during an online interview on Jan. 14, 2022. (Kyodo)

“When the timeline passed, and we got to about August, after the (Tokyo) Olympics, and September, October, that is when the stress of not being able to enter Japan started to get to me,” Leng told Kyodo News in an online interview.

Japan has banned entries by nonresident foreigners since Nov. 30 last year, days after the World Health Organization designated the highly contagious coronavirus Omicron strain “a variant of concern.”

The policy, which will be in place at least until the end of February, has left up to 140,000 people who had hoped to begin studying in Japan unable to take up their places.

Amid international criticism that the country’s strict border controls are unreasonable and amount to discrimination against foreigners, some students continue to wait for approval to enter while others have already given up. Some have changed their destinations to other countries such as South Korea.

Born in Singapore, Leng moved to Australia at the age of 10. But long before that, Leng, who has a Japanese grandmother, had wanted to live in Japan. She recalls finally speaking out about her desire to her parents when she was 13 or 14, but being told she would face language and cultural barriers as someone who is “not 100 percent Japanese.”

Nevertheless, her desire someday to move to the country remained, and she started studying the language in high school.

Photo shows Adeline Leng posing for a photo during her trip to the western Japan city of Osaka in September 2016. (Photo courtesy of Adeline Leng)(Kyodo)

Leng holds a master’s degree in architecture and urban design but switched careers to digital design after the start of the pandemic, feeling “the building industry is not doing very well.” Around the same time, she entered a relationship with an Australian partner who lives and does business in Japan.

Finally, she had a good chance “to achieve my dream of going to Japan to study, to work, and to live,” she said, explaining that her goal is to one day work for a Japanese tech company.

Adeline believes Japan’s entry restrictions on foreigners have been too strict, resulting in high “emotional costs.”

She has been “stuck in a limbo,” she says. “There is no way for me to go back to my old life.”

In October last year, she returned to Singapore due to the worsening COVID-19 situation in Australia and still awaits the day when she can live her dream in Japan.

Some like-minded friends have already switched to European countries that accept international students.

Meanwhile, for Brazilian Anais Cordeiro de Medeiros, plans to study in Japan have all but gone up in smoke.

The 29-year-old was scheduled to go to a graduate school in Tokyo for two years from April, the beginning of Japan’s fiscal year, in 2020. She had already packed her suitcases at home in the western Brazil city of Rio Branco, when the pandemic situation took a turn for the worse.

Photo shows Anais Cordeiro de Medeiros (L) posing for a photo with her godmother after packing her suitcase at her home in the western Brazil city of Rio Branco in February 2020, for her study in Japan. (Photo courtesy of Anais Cordeiro de Medeiros)(Kyodo)

“I quit my job, sold my car, and did everything I could to help raise money” to live in Japan, she said. “Despite trying to adapt to the reality that was imposed on me, I never gave up on Japan.”

Even though there is a 14-hour time difference, she decided to take classes from the graduate school in Tokyo online and stay prepared to depart at a moment’s notice.

“My biological clock is a mess,” she said, adding, “If I could go to Japan, of course, it’ll be amazing to study in a healthier way.”

The “discriminatory” travel ban will undoubtedly have “very negative social effects, not only for those who are unable to travel to Japan, but for Japan too,” she said with tears streaming down her face. “I’m not a threat. I’m just a student.”

After finishing her master’s thesis by studying remotely for nearly two years and booking flights to Japan “over 10 times” to no avail, graduation is quickly approaching. If it is any consolation, she might be able to attend the commencement ceremony in Tokyo in mid-March.

Under Japan’s current border policy, nonresident foreigners cannot enter Japan unless they fall under “special exceptional circumstances.”

Davide Rossi, who runs a Tokyo-based company to help foreign students study in Japan, condemns Japan’s “double-standard” policies as “absolutely unfair” and “pretty much meaningless.”

Screenshot shows Davide Rossi talking from his home in Tokyo during an online interview on Jan. 19, 2022. (Kyodo)

“When the government explains about this, the ban on new entries of foreigners is to keep the Omicron out, like only foreign people can bring the Omicron in, which is, of course, not the case,” said Rossi, 39, adding that students he knows are all willing to be quarantined as long as required.

Rossi, who came to Tokyo as a language student from Italy in 2008, set up a Japan association called “Open the borders to safe study” last spring to support foreign students affected by Japan’s border controls and share information with them.

“I cannot change things by myself, this is too big…but I decided to, you know, do something for students,” said Rossi.

According to Rossi, more and more students who once loved Japan “changed completely to haters,” saying “enough is enough.” “We see a lot of people going to South Korea instead of Japan,” he added.

Among them is a French woman who decided last fall to start living in Seoul in December and attends a university there. She had received a working holiday visa in August 2019 to stay in Japan for one or two years beginning the following year, but her trip never came to pass.

“I put my life on hold for two years without any information on when this wait will come to an end. I’m 33, and I can’t waste my time forever,” the woman, who asked to remain anonymous, said.

Japan’s education ministry says that up to 147,000 people are estimated to have been waiting for entry to Japan, but that a “considerable number” of them are believed to be no longer willing to come.

Japan’s entry ban has received international criticism, including from the WHO, which urged member nations to lift or ease international travel bans in mid-January, saying that they do not provide “added value.”

There has also been criticism from domestic businesses lobbies, which fear such steps could negatively affect the economy in the long run by reducing the intake of foreign workers and talented researchers. That could accelerate the country’s chronic labor shortage and precipitate a decline in national strength.

The “foolish” border control steps “remind me of the isolation policy in the Edo Era” from the early 17th century to mid-19th century, Hiroshi Mikitani, chairman and CEO of Japanese e-commerce giant Rakuten Inc., said in Twitter posts in early January.

Nonetheless, polls by Japanese media have shown that over 80 percent of Japanese people support the current tight border policies.

Backed by public opinion, Prime Minister Fumio Kishida has repeatedly boasted that “We are taking the strictest measures” among the Group of Seven industrialized nations.

Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida speaks during a parliamentary session in Tokyo on Feb. 2, 2022. (Kyodo)

The government has, however, made some exceptions to the ban. It has allowed around 400 international students, including 87 government-sponsored students, into the country, with Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno saying the decision was made “in terms of public interest and urgency.”

Matsuno also said that the government will “maintain the framework” of its border controls “until the end of February.”

Rossi said the government should show a “clear criteria and timeline” on how and when it will allow foreign entries so that overseas students can prepare accordingly.

“Like me, even though we are not (government-sponsored students), I think we have a lot of potential within us and we are also very highly skilled,” Leng said. “In this era of globalization, it is not beneficial for the Japanese people, for Japan and the world, to keep a travel ban.”

Related coverage:

Japan’s entry ban hurting foreign students’ mental health: survey

Japan’s COVID-19 foreign entry ban spurs global demonstrations

Foreign visitors to Japan in 2021 fell to record low 245,900 amid pandemic

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travel agents give advice on what to do if you get COVID while on vacation

INDIANAPOLIS – Local travel agents claim they’re seeing more and more people wanting to book trips. 

“People have pent up desires to travel,” Victoria Fricke, from Vic’s Vacations, told CBS4. “Everyone wants to travel.” 

But many have said they aren’t sure it’s safe to book a trip yet. Others question whether it’s financially responsible, not knowing what’s ahead in the pandemic. 

What to consider before you book a flight

Hire a travel agent!

“A travel agent is going to make sure you don’t have the pit falls of unfortunately showing up to the ticket counter at the Indy airport and not having the right documentation or right test, et cetera,” Fricke said. 

Fricke said often, agents have relationships with each of the resorts they work with. They know, in detail, what their travel requirements and restrictions are.

“Every resort has a different policy, so you need to understand the policy,” Fricke explained. “Some are offering your quarantine; it’s covered free you don’t have to pay for it. Others, you have to pay for it. You need to know what you’re getting into as far as what the resorts offer should something go south.”

Some cities and resorts require their visitors to be vaccinated. Others request tourists show proof of a negative COVID test prior to their stay.

What happens if I test positive or have to quarantine last minute prior to or during my trip?

If you were to test positive or have to quarantine prior to your flight, an adviser could rearrange your flights for you.

“We just put it off,” Alex Kutin with Travel Leaders Indy, said. “We help with the changing of the flights and notify the resort that the client is going to be a couple days late.”

Kutin said often, travelers do not face financial penalties as a result.

Some airlines offer more flexibility than others. Delta, for example, requires you to pay extra for a refundable ticket. Southwest boasts “no cancel fees, no change fees” as long as its more than 10 minutes prior to a flight. United offers a 24-hour “flexible booking policy,” which allows customers to change their reservation or cancel it and still, in most cases, get their money back.

“I would suggest testing prior even if you don’t have to just to make sure were not bringing a little friend on this flight with us,” Fricke said.

What if I test positive while on vacation?

If abroad, tourists will have to take a COVID test prior to returning to the United States. If a person tests positive while on their vacation, agents have seen it go a couple of ways. Fricke, for example, said the individual would retest that same day and then again three to five days later. Kutin has seen people test every day until they were negative.

“What will happen is that the resorts themselves help with extending the airfare,” he explained. “They test the clients each and every day until they test negative so they can come on back.”

In some cases, but not all, tourists may have to pay about $100 extra per person and per night to stay longer and quarantine. That includes the room and board and room service.

“But it’s not laying on the beach, either. You’re confined to your room,” Kutin said.

Fricke has had two such instances. She said she and her clients were able to figure things out quickly. Her advice? Take any necessary medications, just in case, and take your computer and charger so you can work remotely.

Should I purchase travel insurance?

Every agent we spoke with answered with a resounding, “yes.”

“If someone is going to a destination and misses a flight and they have to go to a hotel, who is going to pay for that? If you have travel insurance, travel insurance pays for that,” Kutin said. “Lost luggage or if you’re in destination somewhere and you get hurt, injured or ill, travel insurance covers that too.”

“Travel insurance is always worth it,” Fricke agreed. “It’s always going to cost so much less.”

According to the Department of Financial Services, whether a travel insurance plan covers the cost of COVID related issues depends on the policy. Now that we’re two years into the pandemic, many companies have started offering such coverage. Often, travelers will need a doctor’s note confirming an illness in order to make a claim.

Regardless of what kind of illness a person has, the DFS encourages customers to read the fine print and shop for policies that include a “cancel for any reason” protection. It suggests you look out for policies that specifically exclude pandemics, COVID and any related variants.

Data shows insurance plans can cost up to 10 percent of the person’s pre-paid, nonrefundable trip cost. For example, if a family were to book a trip that cost $5,000, their travel insurance would likely cost between $250 and $500. Travel insurance companies typically weigh the age of those traveling, the number of people going on the trip and the length of travel before providing a quote.

Book early!

Travel agents confirm they are getting busy. Since so many places are operating at a restricted capacity, a lot of cruises, hotels and resorts are filling up quicker than usual. They suggest people book vacations at least ten months in advance.

“We’re seeing things book out because if I cancelled my spring break when the world shut down, I have pushed it to next spring break and now maybe next spring break,” Fricke pointed out. “The supply and demand is only going to hurt consumer pricing, so you want to get in before it’s too high.”

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Airline rewards plans that give you the most bang for your buck

Airline rewards programs are complicated. It might seem like you need a Ph.D. in complex systems (or at least fine-print reading) to understand them. But underneath the complex gobbledygook lies a simple pair of questions:

  • How many points or miles do you earn per dollar spent on flights?

  • How much are those points or miles worth?

At the end of the day, that’s what an airline loyalty program is about: Rewarding frequent flyers with value (in this case, points or miles) that they can use for future trips.

With this in mind, we can set about determining which airlines deliver on this simple promise and which fall short.

To do this, our team at NerdWallet compared U.S. airlines’ rewards programs across these two factors to arrive at a single “rewards rate” for each. This rewards rate shows which airlines offer the best bang for your travel buck. For example, a rewards rate of 10% means that for every dollar you spend with the airline, you can expect about 10 cents back in the form of rewards (redeemable points or miles).

This particular analysis doesn’t take into account every aspect of an airline — such as in-flight entertainment or elite status programs — but it does boil down the most critical value proposition for frequent travelers. It also gives us a new way to think about which airline provides the best loyalty program in 2022.

Which airline offers the best rewards rate?

To determine these rankings, we collected hundreds of data points from real-world airline routes to determine the value of points or miles for each airline. Then, we combined these results with the number of miles earned per dollar spent.

Also see: Fly direct, skip the first restroom, and 7 other insider travel tips from a retired airline pilot

Our analysis is based on main cabin flights. If you’re a business or first-class traveler who sits at the front of the plane, the rewards rates will likely differ.

Enough math. The point is that Alaska Airlines’

Mileage Plan is easily the most rewarding domestic airline program. You can expect to get about 9 cents in value for every dollar spent with Alaska, far above the 4 to 5 cents per dollar spent you can expect from the big three: American Airlines
Delta Air Lines

and United Airlines

This is hardly surprising for travel rewards aficionados, as Alaska’s Mileage Plan has a good reputation for customer-first policies. What could surprise some (it certainly did us) is how well Frontier Airlines performed.

What’s the common thread? Both Alaska and Frontier still grant reward miles based on the actual number of miles flown rather than how much the flights cost. This made a big difference in our analysis.

Don’t miss: How to be resilient when traveling during COVID-19

What does this mean for you?

If you’re an infrequent traveler who takes a couple trips a year and doesn’t bother much with earning airline miles, you can mostly ignore these rankings. They’re called frequent flyer programs for a reason.

If you travel a lot for work, or are a leisure traveler who maximizes travel rewards, these rankings should make a big impact on where you put your loyalty. If you or your company spends $5,000 a year on flights, you could earn back $455 worth of miles from Alaska versus only $185 from JetBlue
for example.

Choosing the right airline loyalty program for you will certainly involve other factors, such as the number of flights from your home airport. But the rewards rate can help tip the scales.

What about the value of points and miles themselves?

Half of this analysis involved determining the value of redeemable airline points and miles. To do this, we compared hundreds of flights using either cash or miles, and determined an average value per mile for each airline. Basically: We ran the numbers so you don’t have to.


Value (cents)

Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan


American Airlines AAdvantage


Delta Air Lines SkyMiles


Frontier Miles


Hawaiian Airlines HawaiianMiles


JetBlue TrueBlue


Southwest Airlines

Rapid Rewards


Spirit Airlines Free Spirit


United Airlines MileagePlus


You’ll notice less variation among these mile values than among the rewards rates above.

JetBlue Airways offers the most valuable points at 1.5 cents each, despite lagging in rewards rate. This is because JetBlue awards points based on the dollar amount spent rather than miles flown, and it only offers 3 points per dollar. Think of it this way: JetBlue points are like British pounds. They’re worth more than most other currencies, but you’ll earn fewer of them overall.

That said, if you have the choice to earn either 10,000 United miles or 10,000 JetBlue points as part of a credit card or other promotion, the choice is clear. The United miles are worth about $100 compared to $150 for JetBlue. Go with the more valuable currency when dealing with raw numbers.

You might like: Why get cash back when you can get wine? Some new credit cards are going beyond typical rewards.

Key takeaways

Imagine if you had the choice between two cash-back credit cards: One offered to refund 9% of every purchase, while the other offered only 1.7% back. That, in a nutshell, is the difference between the best (Alaska) and worst (Spirit) airline rewards program.

It’s important to keep in mind that miles are not cash, and the hypothetical return on spending you can get with any of these programs depends on one crucial variable: whether you actually use the miles. Still, the differences are stark.

If you’re choosing whether to become loyal to one of the “big three” domestic airlines, the good news is that they all offer similar, middling rewards rates. In terms of the pure financials of redeemable miles, you’re not meaningfully better off with Delta than you are with United or American.

These rankings are a good indication of which airlines are dedicated to offering value to their most frequent customers and which are throwing up smoke and mirrors. The fact that it took us weeks of data collection and analysis to determine these figures demonstrates how opaque the travel rewards game can be. Hopefully, this offers some clarity.

More From NerdWallet

Sam Kemmis writes for NerdWallet. Email: Twitter: @samsambutdif.

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Pritzker to Give COVID Update, Omicron Travel Woes Continue – NBC Chicago

Holiday travel frustrations grew over the weekend and into Monday as omicron caused staffing shortages for a number of airlines, sparking hundreds of flight cancellations.

Meanwhile, Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker is expected to discuss the new variant while delivering a COVID-19 update for Illinois.

Here’s what you need to know about the coronavirus pandemic across Illinois today:

Watch Live: Gov. Pritzker to Give COVID-19 Update, Discuss Omicron Variant in Illinois

Gov. J.B. Pritzker is scheduled to give a COVID-19 update Monday, addressing the omicron variant that has been spreading across Illinois and the U.S. in recent weeks.

The governor is slated to speak at noon from the James R. Thompson Center in Chicago where he will address the omicron variant as well as expanding vaccination clinics in Illinois. (Watch live here and in the player above)

More Than 80 Flights Canceled in Chicago Monday as Omicron Leads to Flying Frustrations

Chicago airports reported dozens of canceled flights once again Monday as the omicron variant caused airline staffing issues in the midst of one of the busiest holiday travel periods.

Chicago airports reported dozens of canceled flights once again Monday as the omicron variant caused airline staffing issues in the midst of one of the busiest holiday travel periods.

As of Monday morning, more than 80 flights were reported canceled at both Midway and O’Hare airports in the city.

As of 5:30 a.m., 54 cancellations were reported at O’Hare Airport, along with more than 86 delays in the last 24 hours. Midway International Airport reported 30 flight cancellations and 14 delays in the most recent 24-hour time period.

A total of 1,233 U.S. flights had been canceled as of 6 p.m. Sunday, and another 5,118 flights were delayed, according to the flight tracking website By early Monday, more than 700 flights were canceled.

Read more here.

NHL Postpones Blackhawks-Blue Jackets Game

The Chicago Blackhawks season will be on pause a little bit longer.

The NHL announced the Blackhawks game against the Columbus Blue Jackets on Tuesday night will be postponed for COVID-related reasons.

The NHL also suspended two other games on Wednesday, Dec. 29.

Read more here.

‘Can’t Stop COVID Without You:’ Advocate Aurora Health Issues Call to Action in Newspapers

With the pandemic nearing two years and the U.S. facing another surge in COVID-19 cases, the chief nursing officer at Downers Grove-based Advocate Aurora Health admits health care workers are tired, saying they’re experiencing fatigue and an “emotional drain.”

As a result, the health system placed a call to action in Sunday newspapers across Illinois and Wisconsin, pleading with residents to get vaccinated.

The advertisement begins with “We can’t stop COVID without you,” in a large font, taking up nearly half a page of the one-page ad.

“Beds are full. Wait times are long,” the ad continues. “And the strain on our health care team, undeniable. The doctors, nurses and countless others who have so skillfully and compassionately cared for our communities are hurting…”

Read more here.

Southern Illinois University Will Require COVID Tests, Rather Than Online Learning, After Break

Southern Illinois University officials will rely on testing rather than a period of remote classes to prevent the spread of the coronavirus following the holiday break.

Classes are set to begin Jan. 10 and SIU Carbondale officials have told students, faculty and staff that they must complete a COVID-19 test within 48 hours of returning to the campus.

Those fully vaccinated against the coronavirus also must be tested, The Southern Illinoisan reported. People who have not been vaccinated will have to be tested weekly.

Other universities in Illinois have opted to begin the spring semester remotely amid concerns that the holidays and omicron’s arrival in the state will cause widespread cases.

Read more here.

What Should You Do If You Test Positive for COVID or Were Exposed During the Holidays?

What should you do if you or someone with whom you have been in close contact tests positive for coronavirus during the holidays?

As families and friends gather to celebrate Christmas, New Years and other holidays, many are looking for information on how long to quarantine, if at all and how long they might be contagious.

Here’s a look at the guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on what to do if you test positive or believe you were exposed to someone who has.

How to Add Your COVID Vaccine Card to Apple Wallet Before Chicago’s Requirement Starts

Starting in 2022, Chicagoans will have to provide proof of COVID-19 vaccination to get into indoor public places, and Apple has an easy way to access the record on the iPhone.

Beginning Jan. 3, anyone age 5 and older will be required to show proof of full vaccination to dine inside or visit gyms or entertainment venues where food and drinks are being served, joining other big cities like New York and Los Angeles in adding the requirement.

Apple’s new iOS 15.1 operating system allows users to add “verifiable” COVID vaccination information in the Wallet app, making it easier to provide proof of vaccination as opposed to carrying a physical card.

Here’s how to do it.

Here’s Where Vaccine Proof Will Be Required in Chicago Next Year

Beginning Jan. 3, Chicago will require proof of vaccination for many indoor public spaces as the city works to combat what officials are calling “the biggest COVID surge that we have seen since before vaccines were available.”

Here are the places where vaccine proof will be required – and where it won’t.

Swollen Lymph Nodes After COVID Booster Shot? Here’s What Experts Say That Means

Have you experienced a swollen lymph node in the arm where you received your COVID vaccine or booster shot?

You’re not alone.

In fact, while you may not have experienced it with your initial doses of the vaccine, there’s still a chance you could see it following a booster shot.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the vaccine side effect is actually more common with booster shots or additional doses than it is with initial doses of the COVID vaccines.

But the CDC said it is not a side effect to worry about.

Here’s why.

Booster Shots and Omicron: Is Moderna or Pfizer Performing Better? Here’s the Data So Far

Both Moderna and Pfizer have released early data showing the effectiveness of their vaccines and booster doses as the new omicron variant begins to take hold and as COVID cases rise across the U.S.

But is one performing better than the other?

Here’s what we know so far.

Omicron Severity, Symptoms, Risk of Breakthrough Cases: What We Know So Far

Experts had been saying that more information on the omicron variant was expected in the weeks following its detection.

Now, about a month since the new COVID variant was identified in South Africa and two weeks since it was first recorded in the U.S., what do we know?

Chicago’s top doctor said that while we are still learning about the variant and research continues to develop, an early look at the latest data has led to some findings so far.

Here’s a breakdown of what we know.

Chicago Department of Public Health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady on Tuesday gave a breakdown on which COVID-19 variant is currently leading the surge in the Midwest. While 99.9% of the COVID cases are of delta variant as of now, she predicted that the omicron variant will soon spread quickly based on the studies from other countries.

CDC Guidelines for COVID Exposure: Timeline, Quarantine, Contagious Period

What should you do if you or someone you have been in close contact with tests positive for coronavirus? How long are you contagious, what are the quarantine guidelines and when can you see people again?

Here’s a look at the guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on what to do if you test positive or believe you were exposed to someone who has.

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