Q&A: Ask about your holiday travel plans and flying during the pandemic


In 2020, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention asked Americans to stay home for the holidays as we awaited the arrival of coronavirus vaccines. But this year, travelers can expect full flights, busy airports and packed roads. And with that comes the risk of delays and the need for extra coronavirus precautions, such as booster shots and pre-travel testing.



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WA border opening delay disrupts travel plans for thousands as medically vulnerable back decision


Molly Richter was all set for her new life with her fiance in Western Australia.

Now, an 11th-hour decision by Western Australia to keep its border closed has left her stranded in Sydney with just a suitcase and no home.

The decision has created chaos for tens of thousands of people who were expected to arrive in WA from February 5 onwards.

American woman Ms Richter, 43, fell in love with her fiance Paul Woolerton six years ago.



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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’
ALK,
-1.11%

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
AAL,
-3.30%
,
Delta Air Lines
DAL,
-1.82%

and United Airlines
UAL,
-2.65%
.

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
JBLU,
-2.17%
,
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.

Program

Value (cents)

Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan

1.1

American Airlines AAdvantage

1.2

Delta Air Lines SkyMiles

1.3

Frontier Miles

0.7

Hawaiian Airlines HawaiianMiles

1

JetBlue TrueBlue

1.5

Southwest Airlines
LUV,
-2.20%

Rapid Rewards

1.4

Spirit Airlines Free Spirit

1.1

United Airlines MileagePlus

1

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: [email protected] Twitter: @samsambutdif.



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UAE: Residents cancel travel plans despite accumulating annual leaves amid Covid – News


Most people are opting to spend their vacations locally



Published: Sat 15 Jan 2022, 10:55 AM

Last updated: Sat 15 Jan 2022, 11:03 AM

Some UAE employees are avoiding taking a long annual leave to travel abroad and opting instead for a shorter vacation to spend locally, fearing that they might get stranded overseas due to constantly-changing travel restrictions.

The recruitment and HR industry say that employees are increasingly opting to spend their annual leaves locally since some companies have asked their employees to exhaust their annual leaves. But some employees have still accumulated a good number of annual leaves, as they were not able to travel abroad during the past two pandemic years.

“With new regulations to curb the spread of Covid-19 in the UAE and many countries imposing strict restrictions and lockdowns, employees are now rethinking their leave plans to avoid being stranded,” said Mayank Patel, country head of Adecco Middle East.

He pointed out that there might not be any change in annual leave policies of employees for now, as the spike in cases is also pushing back to the previous days of ensuring colleagues’ safety and work from home. However, in the best interest of the organisation and to ensure employees have a work-life balance, this may result in accommodating a part of their leaves to be adjusted.

Waleed Anwar, managing director of Upfront HR, suggested that it is wise for most people at the moment to stay in the UAE to avoid being stranded overseas. “This is the general opinion we are hearing from our clients in the UAE. Travelling will come with the risk of being stranded. In most cases, unless you are in a customer-facing role, most companies will offer employees the flexibility to work remotely to allow for continuous flow of work, wherever they are.”

Vijay Gandhi, regional director for Europe, the Middle East and Africa at Korn Ferry, believes that if the past 18 months have brought a huge change to the way many people work, then the coming years will bring an even greater revolution in working practices in the UAE.

“Location neutral jobs will lead to more flexibility. More offices will change in design to allow for this flexibility based on job and team demand. We will continue to see creative and different working ideas emerge and fit the new working environment,” he added.

The change in the working week in UAE, according to Gandhi, will also bring in a positive spin to the work from home culture. “Individuals are not rewarded by 9-5 or Monday-Friday parameters, but pegged to outcomes they are achieving on a regular basis. In general, the work environment will undergo a significant change, with remote working being part of the norm.”

Spending annual leave locally

Waleed Anwar added that now more than ever, UAE employees are spending more leaves locally due to restrictions on travel globally. “Because they’re afraid of being stranded overseas and not being able to return, so the leaves are definitely shorter and changing from the traditional long summer leaves we are used to taking in this country.”

Over the last two years of the pandemic, some employees have accumulated annual leave for not being able to travel due to Covid-19 restrictions while some employees have no annual leftover at all because employers encouraged them to take leave during the lockdowns, he added.

Starting January 1, 2022, the UAE government shifted its weekend from Friday-Saturday to mid-Friday until Sunday to help local businesses and also improve residents’ work-life balance.

ALSO READ:

“Change in weekends should not change how many leave days people are entitled to, because as per the UAE labour law, employees are entitled to 30 days’ leave after completing one year of employment, out of which 22 days are working days – which will still remain the same with the change in the weekend,” said Anwar.

People-intensive firms may change annual leaves

Recruitment and HR industry say that firms operating in the people-intensive industries, such as tourism, retail and hospitality, are likely to recruit more people with the change in the weekend. Such firms may also alter employees’ annual leave due to the Covid-19 pandemic and structure it in a way that would help them meet their targets and also benefits the employees.

“This new working week will definitely stir changes in many industries, such as F&B and hospitality business, to make arrangements in brunch and dining offers, Friday special offers, etc. They could also consider hiring additional staffing during the new weekend leading to new revenue opportunities in this sector,” said Patel.





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Omicron dashes international travel plans for the holidays


This year, she was more hopeful. She booked another flight, looking forward to the visit after two long years that included the death of her mother, her only relative near her home in central Kansas. But in a matter of weeks, as the spread of the omicron variant triggered new travel restrictions worldwide, she has become resigned to a disappointing winter. For Webb and plenty of other international travelers, ramped-up precautions by governments at home and abroad have cast uncertainty over their holiday reunions.



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Omicron Defers Early Q1 Corporate Event Plans


Free testing, vaccines, boosters and prominent health
policies may quell some of the anxiety around corporate meetings and events,
but an early 2022 surge looks like a dream deferred for companies counting on a
strong first quarter return to in-person events. 

A 2022 Global Business Travel Association survey conducted in
early December showed that even before the Covid-19 omicron variant had taken a
firm hold in the United States, only about half (53 percent) of U.S.-based respondents
said their companies would continue unchanged their in-person event plans—both
hosting them and clearing employees to attend them—in spite of the variant’s global
transmission. For Europe-based respondents—already dealing with the fallout of omicron
at the time—only 36 percent said their meeting and event plans would return
unabated. 

As the calendar turned to 2022, BTN reached out to corporate
travel buyers and providers to gauge companies’ willingness to move forward
with meeting and event programming. 

Buyers and suppliers connecting with BTN agreed that Covid
policies created in 2021 remained robust in the new year. Global Head of CWT
Meetings & Events Ian Cummings told BTN, “CWT Meetings & Events won’t
be laying on any additional safety requirements specifically for omicron as we
are already prepared.”

That said, many buyers said January meetings were already—or
were likely to be—shifted to later in Q1. “We’re consistently ready to pivot as
the data comes to light,” said one buyer. Citing the “fluid” situation, a few buyers
said they would move meetings into Q2. 

“I think everyone was hopeful in Q2 and Q3 of last year that
this was going to be in our rearview mirror,” said San Diego-based consultant,
Betsy Bondurant. “And it is not.” If policies had been relaxed, she added, they
have now been reimplemented.

Host Organizations Taking Lead in Health & Safety
Protocols

A report released by Destination Counsellors International in
January noted a marked change in health and safety responsibility for meetings
going into 2022. Based on a survey of 339 corporate and association meeting
organizers, the report “Winning Strategies in Destination Marketing”
is geared toward destination marketing organizations and how they should
strategize to win meetings and events business in coming year. 

The report noted the growing prevalence of host organizations
taking full responsibility for the health and safety of attendees, and not
relying on localized collaboration to plan or deliver on precautions. Prior to Covid-19,
only 4 percent of survey respondents felt that safety precautions should be
shouldered by the host organization alone. These days, 35 percent want sole
responsibility for attendee health and safety. According to DCI, the shift marks
a growing distrust in the local destination to have health precautions that are
aligned with client organization; it also shows that organizations have come to
expect volatility in local regulations and crave consistency for their events
and for their own reputations. 

“Planners don’t fully trust destinations
to adhere to acceptable safety and health standards,” according to DCI. “They
prefer to set their own rules and protect their guests on their own terms,
especially as so many domestic and international destinations vary on their
local mandates and access to healthcare.”

Cisco Systems is one company that has leveraged
its meetings management protocols and taken full responsibility for meetings
health and safety. As the company weathers the Covid-19 epidemic, it’s
12,000-strong event calendar for 2019 scaled back drastically. But in the
meantime, the company trained more than 30 internal employees globally as
Covid-officer certified advisors. Every meeting organizer has access to those
advisors through Cisco’s managed meetings program and cannot access their
required meeting identification number until they have a consultation with the
health advisory team. That team may take on the health and safety planning and
onsite services for larger events or simply act as an advisory for very small
gatherings. 

“There are some countries that are back
to events, and some regions and countries that are still completely closed
down,” said Cisco Systems global leader of strategic meetings management
and digital events Carolyn Pund, who BTN named a 2021 Best Practitioner for her
ownership of Covid-19 meetings safety protocols. “We have a regular
cadence of communicating when the regions will open up. That decision is made
by Cisco’s security and global medical teams.”

Most companies likely will look for partners
to continue health and safety support. Meetings agencies like CWT M&E and
American Express Meetings & Events have buttoned up their client services
to include turnkey platforms for health screening, testing and health and
safety protocols. 


If 2020 and 2021 taught us anything, it was to expect the unexpected, be adaptable, be thorough and have traveler and attendee safety at the heart of everything we do.”

CWT M&E’s Ian Cummings


Amex M&E VP
of the Americas Linda McNairy pointed to a unique partnership with CLEAR to collect
and communicate vaccination status for events that require vaccination. “In addition, we are
assisting with connecting [clients with] testing suppliers for daily
attestation or testing where required,” she said in an emailed statement
to BTN.

Commenting on the layers of health and safety precautions CWT
M&E has introduced since the start of the pandemic, Cummings emphasized
preparedness for any scenario. “If 2020 and 2021 taught us anything, it
was to expect the unexpected, be adaptable, be thorough and have traveler and
attendee safety at the heart of everything we do.”

As events do get underway, corporate hosts will expect
attendees to own their part of the health precautions. Said one buyer, “We
expect our travelers to use common sense and follow national/local government
health agency guidelines when traveling [or] meeting during an active
pandemic.” Cummings echoed the idea of individual responsibility among
attendees, but added that “corporates need, more than ever, to step up
communications to employees, customers and business partners” and
encouraged strategies that combined face to face, hybrid and virtual event
platforms to safeguard their meeting objectives.”

The “Force” May Not Be with You

When health and safety protocols could not save a meeting
from being cancelled or postponed, many event hosts sought to invoke the force
majeure clauses in their meetings contracts in 2020 and 2021. According to DCI,
73 percent of event hosts are most concerned with cancellation terms in 2022,
and not whether the destination or venues will collaborate with them on safety.
DCI said hosts will be looking for leniency in these clauses in 2022.

To attract business, the DCI report advises destination
marketing organizations that cancellation policies must be more flexible. 

“As the data
suggest, handling Covid-19 is just a part of the job
now. Planners will feel more comfortable
booking a major event or conference in a destination
that acknowledges the pandemic’s uncertainty.
Strict cancellation policies that amount to possible financial loss, even during new surges in COVID-19 cases,
will simply discourage decision-makers from choosing
a destination,” according to the report.


When the airport’s open, and the hotels are open, and the convention center’s open, and everything’s open, there is no force majeure. Just because your CEO or your president doesn’t want it, or HR [or] legal—that’s not force majeure.”

Visit Orlando’s Mike Waterhouse


Suppliers at the Convening Leaders Conference currently being
held in Las Vegas weren’t totally on board with that recommendation. Panelists in
a session called “The Future of the Force Majeure: Negotiating Contracts Amid
Uncertainty” were eager to point out that force majeure is not the
get-out-of-contract-free clause that some organizations presumed it was. 

Visit Orlando chief strategy officer Mike Waterhouse said, “For
every group that tried to cancel, almost every group tried to invoke force
majeure. The reality is, force majeure is an impossibility clause. And when the
airport’s open, and the hotels are open, and the convention center’s open, and
everything’s open, there is no force majeure. Just because your CEO or your
president doesn’t want it, or HR [or] legal—that’s not force majeure.”

If organizations are considering moving or even canceling
meetings, panelists advised including specific conditional wording into
contracts. McNairy in an email to BTN said Amex M&E clients already have
engaged in this type of contractual precaution and indicated the process can become
an intricate negotiation.

“Early
on in the pandemic suppliers were incredibly flexible with changes. Now,
however, we’ve noticed a need to get creative with our contractual language to
protect the integrity of our client’s meetings,” said McNairy. The issue
has become increasingly important as some companies have pushed judgment decisions
to the meeting owners to decide whether an event should take place, rather than
enforcing companywide rules. 

CL22 panelists suggested an investment in pandemic insurance,
particularly for larger meetings. “Those who bought pandemic insurance are the
clients who won in the end,” observed John Hawley, executive director for association
group sales at Hilton Worldwide.



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Security pros sound off on business and travel plans for 2022


YARMOUTH, Maine—It was yet another challenging year on a national and global scale as the COVID-19 pandemic continued to impact businesses through the U.S. and around the world, including those in the security industry. As the pandemic enters year three, this month’s news poll gauged security professionals’ outlook in regard to the office, travel and business focus in 2022.

One thing we can all agree on is the pandemic has changed – for good or bad – the office dynamic and the way companies look at doing business.  When asked, “Does your company plan to return to the office full-time or continue to offer remote and hybrid options?” nearly half of respondents (46 percent) said they are offering a hybrid option, with another 23 percent saying their company is continuing to allow employees to work remotely. The remaining 31 percent said they plan for their company to “return to the office full-time” in 2022.

Looking at travel, there is optimism, as 54 percent said they will be attending more in-person trade shows in 2022, with another 24 saying undecided and only 22 percent saying no.

Not surprisingly, “finding and hiring more qualified workers” is the main business focus for 38 percent of respondents, with supply chain management (32 percent) and leveraging new or emerging technologies (30 percent) rounding out the top three.

“Both supply chain and difficulty in hiring are expected to continue into 2022,” said one respondent. “Resources will be dedicated to using efficient systems to overcome personnel challenges – dispatching, electronic documents, virtual assistance for customers.”

In Security Systems News’ last News Poll on supply chain issues, 91 percent of readers said their business has been impacted by supply chain issues, with 69 percent saying their company was impacted “greatly” and another 21 percent saying “somewhat.” Another 85 percent said they have had to pivot their operations due to supply chain issues, showing the kind of ripple effect the pandemic is causing globally.

“As a small dealer it is disappointing that the large manufacturers haven’t been able to rebuild their production and put more inventory into the system,” said one reader. “This has kept them behind the demand curve from the beginning of the pandemic. I understand why product managers missed their initial forecasts, but given their financial resources, they should have been able to put more slack in the supply chain. It will take a long time to get things back in balance.”

Another respondent agreed, noting, “Manufacturers need to do a better job of communicating as we are looking at alternatives because we get very little response from them. We would like to know a little more besides a product is on back order.”



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Winter weather shakes holiday travel plans


NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – Sunday created the perfect storm for travel headaches across Nashville between winter weather, COVID-19 staffing shortages, and a busy commute the day after New Year’s.

According to Flight Aware, Nashville International Airport had just under 48 flight cancelations on top of the more than 2,500 cancellations nationwide. 

Commercial Airline Captain Chris Hardee said although Nashville is equipped to clear runways during winter weather, it can be more difficult to deal with accumulation in the South. Northern airports see and handle snow accumulation more often. He said lengthy winter events can especially take a toll.  

He explained the ripple effect weather not only here, but across the country, could have over the next several days. 

“Sometimes that means preemptively canceling or delaying flights to avoid the bad weather. Because sometimes you have an airplane that has a complex schedule for the day. You know, an airplane might fly to seven or eight cities in a day. If that airplane were to get stuck in one of those cities due to bad weather at the destination or it couldn’t leave where the airplane’s at because of bad weather there, that just throws a huge wrench into the works,” Hardee said.  

Recent staffing shortages have also been exacerbated by airline workers who took off during the pandemic and must meet certain training requirements before returning to work.  

Between staffing difficulties and bad weather, his best advice is to arrive to the airport at least two hours before your flight. He also said patience is key.  

“All the workers you’re going to run into face-to-face are really, really trying their best to make sure you get to where you want to go,” Hardee said. “This is our job, we get you to your family, to your vacation. So we really are trying our best. Sometimes other things intercede and that makes our jobs that much more difficult. But be patient and definitely get to the airport early.” 

Whether you plan on traveling in the skies or by car, make sure you give yourself plenty of time. Tennessee Highway Patrol recommended drivers give themselves at least double their normal commute time on Monday morning.



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Winter storm could impact travel plans for New Year’s weekend – Akron News-Reporter


The Colorado Department of Transportation is warning of travel impacts from a winter storm that was expected to move into Colorado Thursday night.

While the northeast corner of the state is forecast to receive 3-4 inches of total accumulation from the storm, the high country could see as much as a foot of snow by early Saturday morning.

“Motorists should plan to avoid holiday travel Thursday night into early Saturday morning, as the brunt of the storm and heavy snowfall impacts areas of the state. CDOT reminds motorists to check COtrip.org for road conditions and weather forecasts before traveling,” CDOT said in a release.

The National Weather Service has issued a winter weather advisory for northeast Colorado effective from 11 a.m. Friday to 11 a.m. Saturday. It warns that snow could be heavy at times, and slippery road conditions should be expected, impacting the Friday evening commute.

The storm is also expected to result in “dangerously low temperatures” that “could pose a threat to life if adequate precautions are not taken while outdoors.”

CDOT also warned of strong, gusting winds that will be particularly hazardous for high-profile vehicles on the Eastern Plains.

Winter may have had a delayed start this season, but there have been several waves of snow impacting mountain travel throughout the holidays, with the first wave hitting the Western Slope on Dec. 23. While travelers on the Front Range and Eastern Plains saw little to no impact from the storm, motorists traveling the western half of the state encountered high-intensity snowfall rates and strong winds. These conditions led to natural avalanches and mitigation efforts with multiple mountain pass closures throughout the state.

“This week’s storms have brought significant accumulations across the mountains,” CDOT Executive Director Shoshana Lew said. “As travelers plan to enjoy a holiday weekend in Colorado’s beautiful places, please be mindful of the times when driving will be more challenging — especially as the storm picks up throughout the day on Thursday and is most intense on Friday. Visitors should ensure that rental vehicles are equipped for snow with all-wheel or four-wheel drive and ensure compliance with traction law requirements and safety best practices.”

CDOT anticipates heavy traffic in the High Country as winter recreational enthusiasts take advantage of the fresh snowfall, along with New Year’s holiday traffic. CDOT warns of potential road closures if avalanche mitigation is needed along mountain passes. With significant amounts of snowfall expected, this important winter maintenance work will be likely. Check avalanche conditions at the Colorado Avalanche Information Center: www.avalanche.state.co.us

John Lorme, CDOT’s director of maintenance and operations, implored drivers to never pass a snowplow. “Plows have large blind spots where the plow driver cannot see you, so never pass a snowplow,” Lorme said. “Additionally, snowplows often move at much slower speeds than surrounding traffic and may stop as they approach traffic hazards ahead. So please be patient, and give our plow drivers the space they need to clear the roads effectively and efficiently.”



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Perspective | Travelers face more uncertainty in 2022. Here's how to make plans. – The Washington Post



Perspective | Travelers face more uncertainty in 2022. Here’s how to make plans.  The Washington Post



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