Travel disruptions put a damper on holiday celebrations : NPR


NPR’s Rachel Martin talks to David Slotnick, senior aviation business reporter at the travel website The Points Guy, about COVID-related staffing that has led to thousands of flight cancellations.



RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

So I was on a lot of airplanes over the holidays. And yes, it was super crowded in those airports. But my family and I actually didn’t have any issues with delays or cancellations. However, a lot of people did and still are. Thousands of flights have been canceled. Hundreds more are already on the books for today and tomorrow. Now, some of this is because of winter storms. But airlines are blaming a lot of it on staff calling out sick with COVID.

David Slotnick is with us now. He’s the senior aviation business reporter for the travel website The Points Guy. David, thanks for being here.

DAVID SLOTNICK: Thanks for having me.

MARTIN: So it’s part of your job to talk to people traveling the friendly skies. What have you been hearing from passengers as of late?

SLOTNICK: Well, so it’s really twofold. It’s pretty funny because a lot of people have had experiences like what you just described. I did, certainly, traveling over the Christmas holiday. So for some people, they’re a little confused about why there’s been so much fuss because their flights have gone without a hitch. On the other hand, I’ve been hearing from people who have had flights delayed for hours, days, even a week.

MARTIN: Oh, gosh.

SLOTNICK: People have been stranded. People have had a lot of trouble getting home. And there have been people who’ve been rescheduled by the airlines and just seen flights canceled one after another – every day just cascading. So it’s been a bad situation for sure for the people who’ve been affected.

MARTIN: Right. And for anyone who’s ever gone through this, you get a flight canceled, and they say you got to call (laughter) to get it rescheduled. That is a nightmare – trying to get an actual human who can help you on the phone.

SLOTNICK: It is definitely a challenge. The good news is that there’s a lot of this that you can do yourself these days. A lot of the times when our flight’s canceled, you’re rebooked automatically. And if it’s not a flight that you like, you can change it within the app or on the website yourself. But there are some times that you need to get through to a human. I have a coworker who called one of the airlines and cited an 11-hour wait time…

MARTIN: Oh.

SLOTNICK: …As she was trying to get home from a wedding this week.

MARTIN: Oh, my…

SLOTNICK: So…

MARTIN: That’s…

SLOTNICK: …Definitely not ideal.

MARTIN: Yeah. So, I mean, how much of your job is predictive? Like, what are you hearing from airlines about how long these disruptions will go on? I mean, they do have a follow-on effect, right? It’s hard to catch up once these cancellations start.

SLOTNICK: Yeah, absolutely. So now that we’re past the worst of the holiday week, I think that looking back, this really was more of a perfect storm than we even realized at the time. These weather storm – these winter storms just hit different hubs around the country – all pretty major hubs – Seattle, Chicago, Denver, Detroit. And it just created a mess that was on top of the people who’ve been calling out sick with COVID as the omicron cases have surged around the country. And this was all during the busiest travel week of the year.

So the situation now is a little bit different. Demand plummets. This is usually the very low season for airlines. There’s, in a perfect world, more business travel for them. That’s happening a little bit less as offices have pushed back reopenings again. So the good news there is that there’s more room for airlines to negotiate. There’s more of an ability for them to maybe combine flights or cancel flights proactively and then reschedule people just in advance. So that’s the good news. The bad news is I think this is really going to mirror the rest of the pandemic. So as it surges around the country, I think we’re going to keep seeing delays like this ebb and flow. I mean, pilots are just part of the general population. So…

MARTIN: Right.

SLOTNICK: You know, if people in one city are getting sick, then it makes sense the pilots who are there are also going to get sick.

MARTIN: I mean, we know that the industry writ large – the airline industry – has just been ransacked by the pandemic. Airline CEOs told Congress last month that they’re having trouble hiring enough employees. The flight attendants union says employees aren’t as eager to take on overtime. United and Spirit Airlines just decided to offer more pay to onboard staff. Is that kind of incentive going to help?

SLOTNICK: It definitely helps. It just may not be enough in the short term. A lot of people are – I mean, they’re tired. It’s the same as any other labor market – people who’ve been working under these conditions, which are difficult at best, for the last two years. And I think it’s just, you know, a lot of burnout, just like we’re seeing in other sectors.

MARTIN: Senior aviation business reporter David Slotnick with The Points Guy.

Hey, David, we appreciate your time and context. Thanks.

SLOTNICK: Thanks so much for having me.

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Travel: Getting a free upgrade could be quite simple – ‘have to put you in first’ | Travel News | Travel – ToysMatrix


























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Airport workers put in extra hours during record travel numbers


TAMPA, Fla. — It’s the busiest travel day of the season and airport workers are putting in overtime to make sure people can get home for the holidays.

There will be a bunch of wheelchairs, feels like I’m working by myself sometimes, and I’m like doubling back, tripling back,” said Tampa airport contractor Anthony Sanders.

Tampa International Airport (TPA) expects 65-75,000 passengers to pass through each day during this holiday season, breaking pre-pandemic travel records. That’s just thousands of the 110 million people AAA predicts will travel across the U.S.

RELATED: Tampa International Airport reports record-breaking passenger numbers amid new COVID-19 surge

In fact, the airport is seeing passenger numbers 8-9% higher than the average of other airports across the country.

But when you look around, you see a lot of staff like Sanders working during the holidays.

Airlines took a hit during the pandemic and as people began traveling again, airports in general still haven’t been able to fully re-staff.

Sanders is a Tampa resident who is contracted by a company outside of TPA to assist elderly and handicapped passengers in wheelchairs. He was laid off for three months during the pandemic and with the cost of living in Tampa, he was facing homelessness, living out of hotels.

Now that he’s been back to work, he’s working overtime for the holidays — six days a week, eight or more hours a day and his pay is $6.98 an hour, so he relies on tips.

The minimum wage in Florida is $10 an hour, so similar to a restaurant employee, tips get him to the legal minimum wage.

“When I got rehired I mean, it was still like, you know, it wasn’t as busy as it is now. It was still like I wouldn’t you know, ‘cause I rely on my tip money and I wasn’t really — I was probably making maybe $30 a day in tips, and then, you know, we have to report our tips,” Sanders explained. “We weren’t making any money. I slept in hotels. It was very hard, very hard.”

Sanders will be working Christmas Eve, Christmas, New Years, and his birthday on January 2.

We’re very short, we’re very understaffed, and we, you know, we do our best. I do my best. Every time I’m here, I do my best to assist people, I go beyond and above for the people here and they do, they do you know, they do appreciate you back,” Sanders said.

He is also part of SEIU 32BJ, a union advocating for airport workers to get higher wages and safer working conditions.

If you’re one of the millions of people flying this holiday season, remember two things: get there early and workers like Sanders, who rely on tips.





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Biden says he’s considering lifting travel ban on southern African countries put in place to limit spread of Omicron


The ban has come under increasing scrutiny as the strain is already the predominant one in new cases in the US, and has run rampant in other countries that have not seen similar travel restrictions.

“I’m considering reversing (the travel ban), I’m going to talk to my team in the next couple days,” Biden told reporters after a speech on Covid-19 at the White House.

In late November, Biden acted on advice from the nation’s top infectious diseases expert, Dr. Anthony Fauci, and the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention by restricting travel from South Africa, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Namibia, Lesotho, Eswatini, Mozambique and Malawi. The Omicron variant eventually made its way to the US and is now the dominant strain of coronavirus in the country, accounting for more than 73% of new cases, according to the CDC.

“Remember why I said we put the travel ban on — it was to see how much time we had before it hit here so we could begin to decide what we needed by looking at what was happening in other countries,” Biden said. “And we’re past that now, and so it’s something that’s being raised with me by the docs and I’ll have an answer for that soon.”

For days the White House has been giving a similar answer on the restrictions. On Monday, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said the ban was never meant to be permanent, and that the administration was “continuing to assess day to day the decision to lift that ban.”

This is a breaking story and will be updated.



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Stuck in South Africa, new travel rules put this Canadian’s trip home for the holidays at risk


UPDATE: The federal government has amended its rules for Canadians and permanent Canadian residents travelling here from South Africa. It includes a “temporary exemption” from the more strict restrictions detailed in the article below. The temporary exemption requires Canadians and permanent Canadian residents: 

  • Obtain a pre-departure negative COVID-19 molecular test from an accredited South African laboratory 48 hours before departure.
  • Fly from Johannesburg or Cape Town to Frankfurt, Germany, on a Lufthansa flight.
  • Transit through Frankfurt airport to travel on a direct Lufthansa or Air Canada flight to Canada.

Andrew Neumann’s hopes of making it home for the holidays have been cast into doubt by the emergence of the omicron coronavirus variant and the swift implementation of new pandemic border restrictions around the world.

“It’s actually a particularly sensitive time,” Neumann, a Canadian living in South Africa, said in an interview on CBC’s The House that aired Saturday. His son just started university in Toronto, his first year away from home, he explained. And there are other pressing concerns.

“My wife’s father is very ill. He’s in his 80s. He’s undergoing chemotherapy…. Likewise, my mother’s 91. She’s in sort of cognitive decline. I haven’t seen her in two years,” he told host Chris Hall.

“And there’s a question mark again in my mind: Am I going to be able to say goodbye?” Neumann said.

20:23Borders tighten again

Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino discusses new restrictions and testing measures at the border and Peel Region medical officer of health Dr. Lawrence Loh explains how his jurisdiction is dealing with concerns about omicron. 20:23

Neumann has lived in Johannesburg since 2015. He was planning to return to Canada for the holidays when new travel restrictions were put in place affecting travellers from 10 countries, mostly in southern Africa. Canadians trying to come home from those countries must now meet a series of additional testing and quarantine requirements.

Travellers must get a pre-departure molecular COVID-19 test 72 hours ahead of their departure, something Canadians are now used to, but that test must be in a third country — not any of the 10 on Canada’s list. Neumann was planning to get a test during his connection in Germany, but additional rules put in place there have made that impossible.

Canadian, German restrictions clash

A letter Neumann received from the Canadian High Commission in South Africa said German airline Lufthansa would not allow Canadians to board because of that third-country testing requirement and restrictions put in place by Germany.

Neumann’s situation closely resembles that of the Canadian junior women’s field hockey team, which has also been stuck in South Africa. The team has asked for an exemption to leave the country.

Andrew Neumann and his family have been trying to come back to Canada from South Africa. (Submitted)

Neumann said he has been struck by what he says is the “cavalier” way the government has answered the questions of would-be travellers whose plans the restrictions have thrown into limbo.

He also says the restrictions themselves make little sense given what we now know about the spread of the omicron variant.

“It just seems so disproportionate a response to southern Africa versus the rest of the world that you have to question the motivations,” he said.

In an emailed response to CBC News, Global Affairs Canada said this country’s entry requirements are meant to ensure the safety of Canadians. It said that the implementation of restrictions could disrupt travel plans but that “the decision to travel is the sole responsibility of the individual.”

“We can confirm that we are receiving reports of Canadians abroad affected by these new measures,” the statement said.

Debate over travel ban effectiveness

In a separate interview on The House, Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino said the restrictions are being implemented to give Canada the time to assess the risk of the omicron variant and “protect the progress” the country has made against the pandemic.

“I’d acknowledge that we’re at a moment where there will be some challenges, but we put in place public health measures because of the variant of concern.”

WATCH | New travel restrictions throw travel plans into chaos: 

Omicron variant renews uncertainty for travellers

The uncertainty around the omicron variant and new COVID-19 testing and isolation requirements has some wondering if international travel is about to be upended again. 2:04

There has been significant criticism of the travel measures put in place by Canada and other countries, with growing evidence that the new variant had been circulating in several nations before South African researchers first discovered it in late November and travel restrictions were imposed.

Part of the debate has centred on the efficacy of travel restrictions themselves, with some experts arguing they do little to stop the spread of a new variant. The president of South Africa called them “unscientific” and “discriminatory.”

Mendicino said the restrictions on the 10 countries were not politically motivated but instead based on science.

“We’re doing it because we want to protect Canadians. This is not their first go-around. We’ve done this drill before, and we want to make sure that we’re taking the right decision when it comes to protecting the health and safety of Canadians,” he said.

WATCH | Debate over the effectiveness of travel restrictions: 

Travel bans unfairly target country that identified omicron variant, specialist says

Dr. Samir Gupta, a respirologist and associate professor at the University of Toronto, says travel bans to prevent the omicron variant’s spread can buy time, but penalize the countries that identify new virus variants. 7:52

For one medical officer of health in Canada, the bans are of some use but should not be the focus of government.

“You know, the honest truth is that it probably would have limited impact overall, but it may help to slow the introduction of omicron,” said Dr. Lawrence Loh of Peel Region, which hosts Toronto’s Pearson International Airport.

For Neumann, it’s clear the travel bans are not justified.

“When we know now that it’s also everywhere else in the world suggests that poorer countries are at a disadvantage, certainly versus Europe and Canada and the U.S.,” he said.

Despite the challenges so far, Neumann now has a flight booked for next Friday and describes himself as “somewhat hopeful” his travel plans will work out.



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EU warns differing virus measures put free travel at risk


BRUSSELS (AP) — The European Union warned member countries Thursday that they risk undermining the 27-nation bloc’s COVID-19 travel and…

BRUSSELS (AP) — The European Union warned member countries Thursday that they risk undermining the 27-nation bloc’s COVID-19 travel and access certificate system with new restrictions that some are putting in place to try to thwart a surge in cases.

EU Justice Commissioner Didier Reynders said there is “an obvious risk that differing approaches between countries could endanger confidence in the COVID certificate system, and harm free movement in the Union,” The bloc relies on free movement of people and goods for business and travel to flourish.

The World Health Organization says coronavirus infections jumped 11% in Europe in the last week, the only region in the world where COVID-19 continues to rise. The WHO’s Europe director, Dr. Hans Kluge, warned that without urgent measures, the continent could see another 700,000 deaths by the spring.

Many countries have begun tightening rules on people who are not vaccinated to try to encourage them to get shots to better halt the spread of the virus. Austria even plans to make vaccines obligatory from next February.

As winter closes in and coronavirus restrictions are ramped up, tens of thousands of people have rallied around Europe in recent weeks in protest against the tightening of measures and against the requirement for COVID-19 certificates.

The EU’s COVID pass contains proof that the holder has either been vaccinated, has in the past recovered from the disease, or has recently tested negative.

But some German states are now demanding proof of vaccination and daily negative tests. From next month, Italy will require proof of vaccination or having recovered to access a host of free-time activities over the holiday season. Tests will no longer be enough.

“Holders of (an) EU certificate should, in principle, not be subject to additional restrictions, wherever they come from in the European Union. Restrictions such as additional tests or quarantine, for instance,” Reynders, the justice commissioner, told reporters.

The commission, the EU’s executive branch, says scientific evidence shows that vaccine immunity begins to diminish after about 6 months. But it’s recommending that certificates should continue to be accepted as valid for 9 months after the first shot.

Some countries want booster shots to be mandatory for the certificates to be valid. France, for example, wants to require them on certificates for people over 65, while neighboring Belgium does not think it’s necessary yet.

“The commission is not proposing any period of validity for boosters at the moment,” Reynders said.

___

Follow all of AP’s pandemic coverage at https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-pandemic

Copyright
© 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, written or redistributed.



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Buckle up, put phone down urged for Thanksgiving travel | News


The Kentucky Transportation Cabinet’s Office of Highway Safety is sending Thanksgiving holiday travelers this year two important lifesaving reminders: buckle up and put the phone down, even with forecasts of reduced traffic.

“The upcoming holiday is one of the busiest travel times of the year, so we’re asking Kentuckians to extend their commitment to safety and health onto our roadways,” said Gov. Andy Beshear. “We believe that if all drivers practice these two simple behaviors, buckle up and put the phone down, lives will be saved.”

According to KOHS, distracted driving results in more than 50,000 crashes in Kentucky each year, more than 15,000 injuries and approximately 200 deaths. So, they say put down the phone and refrain from distracted driving behaviors such as texting, emailing and phone chats.

“Sometimes even the most attentive drivers are involved in a crash caused by other drivers,” said Transportation Cabinet Secretary Jim Gray. “That’s why wearing a seatbelt is the best defense against serious injuries and death. It is your best protection against a speeding, distracted or drunken driver.”

According to KOHS, each year in Kentucky, more than half of those killed in motor vehicles are not wearing a seatbelt.

You may also be seeing less crowded roads during the Thanksgiving holiday weekend.

GasBuddy, a crowd-sourced fuel savings platform, reported in its 2021 Annual Thanksgiving Travel Survey that only 32% of Americans plan to travel for Thanksgiving this year. That’s down from 35% last year, and less than half of the 65% that planned to hit the road for pre-pandemic Thanksgiving 2019.

“Drivers are contending with a rise in COVID cases ahead of the Thanksgiving holiday, when many drive to celebrate with friends and family. Only this year, we’re also just cents away from the highest Thanksgiving gas prices ever recorded,” said Patrick De Haan, head of petroleum analysis at GasBuddy. “With global oil demand surging this year as the pandemic has eased, we find ourselves in unfamiliar territory, some of the highest Thanksgiving gas prices on record.”

A recent national survey commissioned by the American Hotel and Lodging Association had similar results.

The survey found that 29% of Americans are likely to travel for Thanksgiving and 33% are likely to travel for Christmas, which represents an increase from 21% and 24%, respectively, from 2020. Those who do plan to travel over the holidays expect to drive, but rising gas prices may dampen those plans. Some 52% of Americans say they plan to take fewer trips and 53% plan to take shorter trips because of rising gas prices.

“While vaccines have helped travelers feel more comfortable, rising gas prices and continued concerns about the pandemic are making many Americans hesitant to travel,” said AHLA President and CEO Chip Rogers.

He added, hotels continue facing economic fallout from the pandemic, underscoring the need for targeted federal relief, such as the Save Hotel Jobs Act, to support the industry and its workforce until travel fully returns.



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7 New England Towns That Put On The Best Christmas Celebrations


Twinkling lights reflect softly falling snow, setting the stage for a New England-style white Christmas. You will find small-town squares with pine trees festively draped in thousands of lights, fragrant boughs, wreaths adorned with velvety ribbons and trinkets, and the aroma of cinnamon, clove, and nutmeg waft through the air. New England towns’ Christmas celebrations are steeped in tradition from decades of coming together to say goodbye to the past year and prepare for the arrival of the promising New Year. These charming towns put on the best Christmas celebrations that are sure to enhance your Christmas spirit.

Whether you desire an old-fashioned celebration; a ride through a riotous collection of colorful lights; elaborately decorated historic mansions; or a scenic, family-friendly locomotive ride, you will love visiting these New England towns. These holiday season standouts are listed in no particular order.

1. Kennebunkport, Maine

The Christmas Prelude in Kennebunkport is scheduled for December 2–12. This 40th anniversary holiday celebration offers guests 10 days of fun, entertaining activities. The celebratory kickoff begins with the annual Dock Square Tree Lighting on December 3.

Other holiday happenings during the celebration include Cape Porpoise lobster trap tree lighting, a hat parade, Christmas caroling at the Franciscan monastery, Santa’s arrival by lobster boat, and Pooch Parade. The event is always a fun and festive time.

Pro Tip: A charming seafaring town, you can explore more about where to stay and what to see while you are visiting in our Best Things To Do in Kennebunkport guide.

Candle Light Stroll Under the Stars, Portsmouth, New Hampshire.
Photo Credit: David J. Murray / ClearEyePhoto.com

2. Portsmouth, New Hampshire

The Strawbery Banke Museum presents the Candlelight Stroll Under The Stars, a stunning outdoor lighting experience. Enjoy the illuminated exteriors of the museum’s historic buildings where designers have crafted a magical display in a gorgeous, twinkling wonderland. Stop by Strawbery Banke Museum on one of the first three Saturdays (5 p.m. to 9 p.m.) and Sundays (4 p.m. to 8 p.m.) in December for a delightful holiday stroll.

On Saturday, December 4, the Illuminated Holiday Parade and Tree Lighting transforms coastal Portsmouth into a twinkling winter fairyland. The tree lighting ceremony in Market Square begins at 5:25 p.m. The parade begins at 6 p.m. and runs along sections of Islington Street.

From December 1 through December 19, The Historic Theater presents The Ogunquit Playhouse’s production of Irving Berlin’s White Christmas. Enjoying a theater production of this time-honored musical is a wonderful way to savor the Christmas season.

Pro Tip: Coastal New England road trips take on a frosty appeal in the winter. When you visit Portsmouth, consider a short drive up to Bangor or down to Boston for a different perspective of the Atlantic Ocean beaches.

Billings Farm Christmas Parlor.
Photo Credit: Billings Farm & Museum

3. Woodstock, Vermont

Experience Christmas at the Billings Farm where you can explore traditional Victorian decorations and traditions with friends and family. Demonstrations at the farm include candle dipping and gingerbread ornament making served up with traditional holiday stories. 

Christmas at the Farm is Saturday, December 4, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and is fun for the whole family.

Wassail Weekend at Billings Farm in Woodstock runs from December 10 through the 12th. Festivities begin at 10 a.m. and run throughout the day until 4 p.m. On Sunday, December 12, horse-drawn wagon or sleigh rides are available (conditions permitting). Visit the Dairy Bar for a delicious cider donut and a mug of wassail, a hot mulled cider with spices. Wassailing is a charming English Yuletide tradition where neighbors gather with neighbors toasting a good cider apple harvest in the year to come.

Pro Tip: Visit our Best Things to do and see in Woodstock guide for great tips on where to stay and play in this lovely small town.

4. Sturbridge, Massachusetts

Christmas by Candlelight at Old Sturbridge Village will transport you to Christmas in colonial times. Stroll through the village and enjoy a crisp December evening as you ooh and ahh at the traditional holiday decorations adorning the village homes. Wander through the Christmas Tree Trail where you are surrounded by fragrant pines and twinkling lights. Immerse yourself in the spirit of days gone by with stories passed down from generation to generation, then hop aboard the horse-drawn carryall for a scenic winter ride around the village. Christmas by Candlelight is open beginning Friday, December 3, and running select nights through Thursday, December 30. Be sure to check the Old Sturbridge Village Calendar for specific days and times.

Pro Tip: Old Sturbridge Village is a unique living museum where you can dive deep into the early colonial life.

Patriots mascot in the tunnel of lights.
Photo Credit: Eric Adler / Kraft Sports + Entertainment

5. Foxborough, Massachusetts

Gillette Stadium in Foxborough is home to the New England Patriots. It is also home to the Magic of Lights, a drive-through lighting extravaganza. Running from November 13 through January 19, from 5 p.m. to 9:25 p.m., it is guaranteed to amp up your holiday spirit. Traverse the 200-foot-long light tunnel as it envelops you in a twinkling, wonderland environment. As you drive the 1-plus-mile course, you will encounter over 40 different scenes and tableaus of inspirational lighting displays. You will be dreaming of recreating these beauties in your own front yard … maybe next year.

Magic of Lights operates at many venues across New England.

Pro Tip: The cost for this event is per carload, so pack up all your friends and family in the SUV and head over to Foxborough for an inspirational lighting adventure.

Sparkiling lights at the Breakers.
Photo Credit: The Preservation Society of Newport

6. Newport, Rhode Island

The Gilded Age mansions in Newport are show-stopping at any time of year, but when they are decked out for Christmas, it is a holiday extravaganza. The Breakers, The Elms, and Marble House are adorned with garlands, wreaths, trees, baubles, lights, and copious amounts of silver and gold. The luxurious, jaw-dropping decorations are on display beginning November 20; please check their events calendar for specific days and times.

The Sparkling Lights at the Breakers is a spectacular outdoor walking adventure that traverses The Breakers gardens. The easily navigable pathways provide beautiful lighting displays and tableaus at every turn. With nearly half of the mansion’s 13 acres twinkling brightly, you will be surprised and delighted at the ornate displays.

The Newport area mansions are spectacularly dressed in their Christmas trappings. Check our story on the Newport Mansions At Christmas for more information and stunning photos.

Pro Tip: Newport is a lovely spot for a weekend getaway, and we have some great ideas about where to stay, dine, and play that will make your planning easier.

Christmas Ornament.
Photo Credit: Billings Farm & Museum

7. Bethlehem, Connecticut

When you are craving a charming, old-fashioned New England Christmas, the Christmas Town Festival will transport you back to a simpler, family-focused Christmas celebration. For 2 days, December 3 and 4, the town is transformed into a celebration of seasonal joy and good cheer.

The mostly free events include a tree lighting, Christmas concerts, fire truck parade, crafters, scavenger hunt, Bell Concert, and Santa arriving on a fire truck.

Each year, a specially designed, unique town ornament is crafted in pewter and is available for sale. The style of these collectible ornaments has changed over the years, but the sentiment remains the same: Christmas is a time to celebrate friends and family. You can purchase ornaments from as far back as 1982, they will give your tree an old-fashioned colonial feel.

Pro Tip: Spending a quiet weekend in this charming small town will impart a sense of the American Dream where simply enjoying life is the key to happiness.

The Breakers Morning Room
The Breakers Morning Room (Photo Credit: The Preservation Society of Newport)

New England Christmas Train Rides

Christmas train rides are a wonderful way to experience a special adventure with the youngsters in your life. Across New England, train depots are gearing up for a North Pole-inspired ride. Copious amounts of hot cocoa are steaming, cookies are baking, stationery for letters to Santa is printed, and elf casting is nearly complete.

We have compiled a list of small towns that celebrate big time when it comes to visiting the North Pole by rail. A train ride through the local scenery is a wonderful way to celebrate the arrival of the Christmas season.

The Essex Steam Train and River Boat in Essex, Connecticut, is a 90-minute train ride filled with sugar cookies, sing-a-longs, and a visit from Santa and Mrs. Claus.

Enjoy breakfast, pizza, or a sunset train ride with Santa on the Belfast and Moosehead Lake Railroad in Unity, Maine.

The Polar Express Train Ride out of Buzzards Bay, Massachusetts, brings the movie to life. Each car has entertaining, costumed conductors and wait staff creating an immersive experience. Wear your jammies and pack your camera for this exciting ride.

The Hobo and Winnipesaukee Scenic Railroad offers the Santa Express Trains in Lincoln, New Hampshire. Enjoy the beautiful Winnipesaukee scenic views while meeting with Santa and Mrs. Claus.

Another Polar Express Train Ride at the Maine Narrow Gauge Railroad Co. & Museum in Portland, Maine, whisks guests off to the North Pole where they can see Santa prepping his sleigh for his Christmas deliveries.

Whether you love a down-home, small-town Christmas; a scenic train ride through the winter landscape; a bustling festival full of high energy; or a ride through a tunnel of lights, you will find many New England towns that put on wonderful Christmas celebrations. Set a date with your friends and family, get away from all the crazy preparation, and simply enjoy each other in the spirit of the season.



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All-Inclusive Resorts Make Staying Put More Appealing


“The people who liked piecing trips together and exploring the unknown are approaching travel a little less adventurously,” said Melissa Wu, the owner of Woodlyn Travel, a travel agency in Pasadena, Calif. “Covid numbers are unpredictable; countries keep changing their entry requirements. And people are just tired: They’re worried about their health, their kids, their work; they’re burned out from the juggling.”

It’s no surprise, then, that all-inclusives are booming. September and October bookings at Sandals Resorts, which has 15 all-inclusives in the Caribbean, are up 151 percent compared to 2019. Club Med, a pioneering all-inclusive brand that has 70 resorts worldwide and is planning to debut in Canada, in the Le Massif ski area of Quebec, in December, has reported record sales this year, with several weeks this summer showing double-digit growth in bookings over 2019.

Even the uninitiated are tuning in: In the last six months, more than 80 percent of total bookings at Club Med Sandpiper Bay, in Port St. Lucie, Fla., have been made by first-time guests, who have also accounted for more than 70 percent of bookings at Club Med’s Mexico and Caribbean resorts.

“We know that many of these guests decided to book an all-inclusive vacation with us in order to avoid the hassle of coordinating a do-it-yourself vacation, especially after such a challenging year,” said Carolyne Doyon, the president and chief executive of Club Med North America and the Caribbean.

Mary Johnson, 42, has taken her children, 8 and 10, to European capitals, Caribbean beaches and on cruises in equal measure. In August, she and her family headed to Sandpiper Bay because it checked her three major criteria: all-inclusive, in the United States and chock-full of kid-friendly activities, like talent shows, trapeze lessons and outdoor movies.



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Queen’s health: Palace to put Queen’s schedule under ‘constant review’ after health scare | Royal | News


Royal commentator Roya Nikkhah reflected on the news that the Queen will not be going to the Climate Change Conference in Glasgow (Cop26) due to health reasons. This comes after the Queen was told to cancel her visit to Northern Ireland last week and rest by her medical professionals. While speaking on the Today Programme, Ms Nikkhah argued the Palace will put the Queen’s schedule on constant review now.

She said the Queen’s secretaries will now be looking at a “gear change” and considering carefully what events the Queen needs to attend.

Ms Nikkhah said: “I think there will be a reassessment and possibly a slight gear change in the kind of work the Queen does, the distances she travels.

“I don’t think we will see, all being well that she is able to continue with public duties in the way that she will be.

“I think we will still see her out and about as much as she feels and her doctors feel she can.

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“I think there will be a gear change.

“I think her private secretaries and her diary secretaries will look at her engagements coming and think what does the Queen really need to be at and what does she feel she can really do.

“I think that will be a constant review going forward now.”

The palace released a statement yesterday announcing the Queen would not be attending the climate change event. 

Daily Express royal correspondent Richard Palmer wrote: “In short, the Queen is up to light duties such as reading and signing paperwork and holding virtual meetings but she is not considered well enough to undertake external engagements at the moment.”

ITV News’ Chris Ship tweeted: “The Queen’s decision to pull out of the big UN summit on such an important issue as climate change is a blow.

“She was a big draw for the world leaders. We are told that she hopes no other leader will use her absence as a reason not to attend.”

Other members of the Royal Family including the Prince of Wales, Duchess of Cornwall, and the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge will still attend the climate conference.





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