It’s Almost Too Late To Book Holiday Travel. Here’s Where One Expert Recommends Going


You’re vaccinated, Delta’s on the downswing, and you’re finally contemplating that holiday trip with friends. You launch Kayak and search five-star hotels in Cabo San Lucas only to turn up wildly priced leftovers. Oops.

According to travel expert Cynika Drake, many key destinations for American travelers booked up weeks and even months ago. Drake, president of Lavish Lifestyles Concierge, a global travel and event planning company based in NYC, suggests booking your hotel or villa for the “festive season,” the period covering Christmas and New Year’s Eve, immediately.

Offering an example, Drake recently helped a client search for a villa in Turks & Caicos. “It’s 99% booked” she says. “I even checked with 4-star and 5-star hotels. There was one 3-star hotel left and that would not work for my clients” she said. Ultimately, Drake found two villas due to last minute cancellations since Turks & Caicos changed its entry-requirements to allow only fully vaccinated visitors.

“Those went fast. Turks & Caicos is currently one of the hottest markets and there are only so many villas and hotels on the island” she said.

The holiday period has long been notoriously difficult and expensive to book, even when planning a year in advance. Some consumers assumed, wrongly, that the pandemic would have dampened travel, but it’s having the opposite effect.

“This year, we’ve seen festive season travel practically double compared to last year. People are eager to travel after been stuck inside and many people rescheduled their vacations for this winter. So, you have people that don’t typically travel choosing to travel this holiday season combined with those rolling over their vacations to this winter. Now, time is of the essence, especially in popular markets such as the Caribbean and Mexico.”

Drake recommends four places, ranked by price, for those without plans to consider.

  1. St. Barths 
  2. Antigua 
  3. Sint Maarten 
  4. Mexico 

Saint Barthélemy or St. Barts, has a certain je ne sais quoi, says Drake, which is why it remains one of her favorite vacation destinations. She highlights the islands abundant beaches, including remote Saline beach which allows for social distancing. “Often, you’ll be the only person there” she says. For clients who love to explore, she recommends renting a car to drive around the 11-mile island and stop at beachfront restaurants. “You can literally drive the entire island in 30 mins” she says.

St. Barths is a popular winter destination, but Drake believes the slew of last-minute cancellations she’s witnessed, will allow the persistent traveler to nab a villa or hotel room. Keeping track of cancellations is a service professional travel agents like Drake will handle.

Drake’s tip: “be prepared to put down 50%, which in many cases will be $30k or more for St. Bart’s during festive season. During this timeframe, villa rentals typically have a 14-night minimum though some allow 10 nights.”

Antigua is next on Drake’s list, notably because of its selection of boutique all-inclusive 5-star hotels. She recommends this Leeward island with remnants of its British colonial past, to clients who are looking for a luxurious experience and want to be around other people, not just their travel partner or family. Antigua boasts some of the nicest beachfront villas she’s toured; plus, visitors can spend a day visiting nearby Barbuda.

Drake’s tip: You need a car or daily drive on Antigua, unless you stay on property. Book that car the minute you book your lodging.”

St Maarten offers more budget-friendly villas and hotels. Depending on where you stay on the island, walking to various places is possible, especially on Dawn Beach. Drake appreciates that island has both a Dutch and French to explore. That means French wines, cheeses, and foie gras can be found in the shops and cafes in the north of Saint Martin.

Drake’s tip: “the water is calmer on Dutch side, whereas the French side is great for kite surfers. 

Mexico is one of Drake’s favorite destinations because Mexico lends itself to many different vibes, from all-inclusive luxury to bohemian chic. Drake’s favorite places in Mexico include Playa Del Carmen & Puerto Aventuras for beachfront villas. Tulum for bohemian chic resorts. Cabo San Lucas or Puerto Vallarta for those on the west coast seeking high-end accommodations and a short flight. For those appreciative of beautiful Spanish architecture and an arts scene, San Miguel de Allende and Mexico City are top choices.

Drake’s tip: “Your best bet for accommodations over the holidays is Mexico. It’s a larger market than the Caribbean and has far more hotels and villas.”

Given the challenges of booking during the festive season, one should consider managing their trip through a travel agent or adviser. For example, when last minute cancellations occur, the management company contacts to those on the waitlist, and it can become a bidding war. In other words, whomever can wire the money the fastest gets to book the villa. An adviser will stay on such situations for their clients.

As Drake explains, agents have relationships with villas and hotels, and as a result, receive insider information as to what’s available or what will be coming on the market from villas to hotel suites.

An agent also stays abreast of the evolving travel requirements during the pandemic.

Additionally, as Drake puts it, “who wants to spend hours researching hotels and villas? Negotiating rates and thinking of itineraries? We do! As travel advisors, we live for that!”

“Save yourself time, money and the headache of traveling planning and let a professional do the job for you. Let figuring out what to pack, be your hardest challenge of the day” she says.

Contact Drake through her website Lavishlifestylesla.com; follow her journeys on Instagram at Lavishlifestyleconcierge.





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European Union travel restrictions: E.U. recommends new rules for unvaccinated Americans


Airlines for Europe, the largest E.U. airline association, urged policymakers to rethink the decision, arguing that the rampant community spread on both sides of the Atlantic shows that air travel is not fueling new virus cases. The restrictions, the group said in a Monday statement, are “extremely disappointing for Europe’s airlines and our ailing tourism sector.”



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Spring break starts Monday. The Oregon Health Authority recommends avoiding non-essential travel


Spring break is coming up this week. The week after, students and staff are expected to return to school buildings, if they haven’t already — under Gov. Kate Brown’s executive order issued earlier this month.

In travel guidance effective March 12, the Oregon Health Authority recommends staying home or in your region, and avoiding non-essential travel to other states or countries.

While COVID-19 cases and deaths have generally been declining over the last few months, the pandemic is still happening, and it could take longer for Oregon to reach herd immunity. At the same time, COVID-19 has had a disproportionate impact on communities of color. And OHA has reported 18 cases of COVID-19 “variants of concern.”

Traveling to and from other states or counties could increase the spread of COVID-19, according to OHA.

“In addition, travel itself can be a risk for exposure to COVID-19, particularly travel through public transportation such as airplanes, buses or trains,” according to the recommendations. “Avoiding travel can reduce the risk of both virus transmission and bringing the virus back to Oregon.”

Some school districts and universities are issuing advice to students and families, as well.

The West Linn-Wilsonville School District recommends staff and families follow OHA’s travel advisory.

The Lake Oswego School District is asking people to “consider quarantining” if they travel during spring break. “If students choose to quarantine, instructional materials will be provided while out of school,” according to LOSD’s newsletter.

The University of Oregon is encouraging students to “stay home and stay safe” with a list of things to do on campus and throughout Eugene. Oregon State University shared OHA’s travel recommendation, but if students do travel, OSU asked students to follow precautions from the local public health authority to get tested and stay home.

OHA suggested several “staycations” in a recent newsletter. They include going for a hike or bike ride, trying out a new craft or TV show, exploring a new area near home and spending time planning a trip for when it’s safer to travel.

“Though many of us may be getting the travel bug, across the country and around the world COVID-19 is still spreading,” OHA said in its daily update on March 8. “By avoiding travel and staying home, we can protect ourselves and others from COVID-19.”

If Oregonians choose to leave the state or country for non-essential travel, OHA recommends quarantining for 14 days upon returning. OHA also suggests possibly ending quarantine early, after 10 days, if a person has not had any symptoms, or after 7 days if they receive a negative result from a test conducted within 48 hours of the end of those 7 days.

For individuals returning to Oregon from non-essential travel, OHA also recommends “limiting their interactions to their immediate household.”

But with about 195,000 Oregon students doing some in-person learning according to state officials, and more of Oregon’s youngest students set to begin schooling in-person over the next two weeks, that may be more difficult to do.

Schools are required to follow the Oregon Department of Education’s “Ready Schools, Safe learners” guidance to provide safety and health protocols aimed at reducing the risk of COVID-19. That includes mask requirements and screening students (often visually) for symptoms, as well as providing a space for students and staff to isolate if they report or develop symptoms once at school.



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Speak Up: Biden heads to Delaware, as CDC recommends avoiding travel – Delaware State News


President Joe Biden is heading back to his home in Delaware on Friday to spend the weekend with his wife and family, even as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that Americans forgo travel because of the coronavirus pandemic. The White House officials said the trip by Biden, his first aboard Air Force One as president, is far less risky than the sort of commercial travel that Americans are being urged to avoid.

• Rules for thee but not for me! — Daniel Korup

• Keep him. Don’t send him here! — Jennifer Reed Hill

• Such hate. — Leslie Hilyard Ruth

• Flying from D.C. to Delaware. Talk about a waste of resources and money! — Joanna Campbell

• It only takes an hour by car. — Jane Malaby Bailey

• So close, but with all the interstates and disrupted traffic and people throughout the entire route, which would take local resources for police the entire way to handle. — Karen Gasper

• The short trip from the airport to his home is different than the entire trip from D.C. to Delaware. Didn’t require multiple different agencies to be involved. Where was all your outrage when Trump was traveling regularly to Mar-a-Lago, costing the county of Palm Beach millions and hurting businesses in the area that were affected? Not to mention that they had to guard the coastline in the area, as well, which was in the millions to do. — Karen Gasper

• I’m sure he would rather take the train. — Sheryl Pizzadili

• Yeah, a plane with all the logistics and staff necessary to run a country. What’s he supposed to do? Put that stuff in the glove box? Check back in one year and compare his personal travel to Trump. — Luke Naylor

• So he should shut down I-95 for a presidential motorcade? If he did, then you’d be on here whining about that. — Christina Lutz

• Yes, but reducing carbon emissions was not a big policy for Trump. — Tom Small

• Give it a rest, people. He’s just flying home. It’s not like he’s ignoring a virus that’s killed 460,000 people, advocated injecting bleach or disinfectants, failed to act on Russian hacking or bounties on American soldiers or incited a riot and attempted overthrow of the government. — Barry Dickerson





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Biden Back in Delaware as CDC Recommends Avoiding Travel | Delaware News


By AAMER MADHANI, ZEKE MILLER and DARLENE SUPERVILLE, Associated Press

WILMINGTON, Del. (AP) — President Joe Biden flew home to Delaware on Friday to spend the weekend with his wife and family, even as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that Americans forgo travel because of the coronavirus pandemic.

The White House officials said the trip by Biden, his first aboard Air Force One as president, is far less risky than the sort of commercial travel that Americans are being urged to avoid.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki said the key was “ensuring that people don’t take steps to make others vulnerable.” She said Biden planned to watch the Super Bowl during his weekend at home but didn’t offer further details about how he would spend his time in Delaware. The trip also comes a day after his son Hunter Biden marked his 51st birthday.

“Any president of the United States, Democrat or Republican, obviously takes Air Force One, a private plane, when they travel,” Psaki said hours before Biden flew to Delaware.

Biden, who has a home outside Wilmington, Delaware, has made getting the pandemic under control the central focus of the early weeks of his presidency. His team has repeatedly emphasized that the president will model safe behavior for the nation.

Any time the president travels, an entourage of support and security personnel and media travel with him.

The CDC’s guidance notes that “travel increases your chance of spreading and getting COVID-19″ and that the agency “recommends that you do not travel at this time.”

Biden avoided many of the risks of travel associated with commercial flights or traveling by bus or train. He also got his second dose of the coronavirus vaccine more than three weeks ago.

The CDC recommends that individuals who must travel first complete their vaccinations — if they’re eligible to receive them — and then wait two weeks after the second dose before departing.

Biden and his aides have been meticulous about how they go about their business as they try to reduce the chances of infection among White House staffers. Mask wearing is mandatory throughout the White House complex, much of the administration is working remotely and the duration and size of meetings has been limited.

Biden also has made few appearances outside the White House complex during the first weeks of his presidency — all for official business or to attend church.

The trip for Biden, who spent decades in the Senate and eight years as vice president, marks his first time on Air Force One in more than 20 years. He flew to Colombia with President Bill Clinton in 2000 as the president announced $1.3 billion in aid to help the South American country battle narcotics traffickers.

For his roughly 25-minute flight to New Castle Air National Guard Base, Biden flew on the smaller C-32 model from the Air Force’s fleet. The aircraft is a specially configured version of the Boeing 757-200 commercial intercontinental airliner, compared to the iconic VC-25A, which is a modified Boeing 747.

For security reasons, the vice president is not allowed to travel with the president and instead relies on the more modest Air Force Two for out-of-town travel.

Biden’s predecessor, former President Donald Trump, didn’t hide his affection for Air Force One, perhaps the greatest perk that comes with the job.

But Trump was not a fan of the Kennedy-era blue and white color scheme that is known the world over. Trump viewed the design as dated, too muted and insufficiently patriotic, and announced plans in 2019 to overhaul the color scheme using the colors of the American flag. He kept a model of his planned overhaul on display in the Oval Office.

Psaki said days into the new Biden administration that overhauling the iconic plane’s color scheme wasn’t on Biden’s priority list.

“I can confirm for you here that the president has not spent a moment thinking about the color scheme of Air Force One,” she said.

Madhani reported from Chicago.

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



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Biden to head to Delaware as CDC recommends avoiding travel


President Joe Biden is scheduled to travel to Delaware over the weekend, his first out-of-town trip since taking office. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that Americans forgo travel as the coronavirus pandemic rages.

Biden, who has a home outside Wilmington, Delaware, has made getting the pandemic under control the central focus of the early weeks of his presidency, with much of his administration’s attention centered on improving the rollout of vaccines.

The White House, which announced Biden’s plans for travel Thursday evening, did not immediately respond to a request for comment about why the president planned to travel. Any time the president travels, an entourage of support and security personnel and media travel with him.

The CDC’s guidance notes that “travel increases your chance of spreading and getting COVID-19” and the agency “recommends that you do not travel at this time.”

Biden, who flies aboard Air Force One, will avoid many of the risks of travel associated with commercial flights or traveling by bus or train. He also got his second dose of the coronavirus vaccine more than three weeks ago.

The CDC recommends that individuals who must travel first complete their vaccinations — if they’re eligible to receive them — and then wait two weeks after the second dose before departing.

Biden and his aides have been meticulous about how they go about their business as they try to reduce chances of infection among White House staffers. Mask wearing is mandatory throughout the White House complex, much of the administration is working remotely, and the duration and size of meetings has been limited.

Biden also has made few appearances outside the White House complex during the first weeks of his presidency — all for official business or to attend church.



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Biden to Head to Delaware as CDC Recommends Avoiding Travel | Delaware News


By AAMER MADHANI, Associated Press

President Joe Biden is scheduled to travel to Delaware over the weekend, his first out-of-town trip since taking office. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that Americans forgo travel as the coronavirus pandemic rages.

Biden, who has a home outside Wilmington, Delaware, has made getting the pandemic under control the central focus of the early weeks of his presidency, with much of his administration’s attention centered on improving the rollout of vaccines.

The White House, which announced Biden’s plans for travel Thursday evening, did not immediately respond to a request for comment about why the president planned to travel. Any time the president travels, an entourage of support and security personnel and media travel with him.

The CDC’s guidance notes that “travel increases your chance of spreading and getting COVID-19″ and the agency “recommends that you do not travel at this time.”

Biden, who flies aboard Air Force One, will avoid many of the risks of travel associated with commercial flights or traveling by bus or train. He also got his second dose of the coronavirus vaccine more than three weeks ago.

The CDC recommends that individuals who must travel first complete their vaccinations — if they’re eligible to receive them — and then wait two weeks after the second dose before departing.

Biden and his aides have been meticulous about how they go about their business as they try to reduce chances of infection among White House staffers. Mask wearing is mandatory throughout the White House complex, much of the administration is working remotely, and the duration and size of meetings has been limited.

Biden also has made few appearances outside the White House complex during the first weeks of his presidency — all for official business or to attend church.

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



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Library recommends books to travel the globe this winter | Entertainment


It’s a well-documented fact that in times of economic downturn, readership at libraries goes up, Scott County Library Director Jake Grussing said. 

And the COVID-19 pandemic is no exception. 

“Amid so much bad news and difficulty and real pain for people, there’s a hunger for some basic lifelines, and simple, more traditional ways,” Grussing said. “Visiting a library, cracking open a book or downloading a book. People need connections.”

Grussing said the Scott County Library System, which has locations sprinkled throughout the county, has certainly seen an uptick in items being borrowed and it’s a reminder that while “yes, the library is a building with books and computers, it’s a lot more than that.” 

It’s a place for job seeking, for dialogue, for refuge and a place to see a familiar face, he said. Throughout a tumultuous year, libraries have offered up a place to find connection. 

Travel the globe

Staff within the Scott County Library System have compiled a list of five books for adults and five for young adults that follow a travel theme as traveling options are currently limited. The recommendations cover a variety of genres and most have traveling as a theme in the plot and offer opportunities to explore perspective and locales outside of Minnesota, staff said. 

Readers can look up the titles by visiting the library’s website at www.scottlib.org or by downloading the library’s app “Scott Lib MN” from their app store. Need a library card? The library now offers quick and convenient online registration.

As for a book that has helped Grussing through the last year, a collection of poems by Mary Oliver, titled “Devotions” has done the trick. 

“They’re reflections on nature and connection,” he said. “I’ve found a lot of comfort in the piece and her words.”

For adults






"Beach Read" by Emily Henry

“Beach Read” by Emily Henry. 




Augustus (Gus) Everett and January Andrews have been rival writers since college. Gus is a literary fiction writer struggling to pen his next opus. January is a romance writer who no longer believes in love. They retreat to a beach community and are dismayed to find themselves neighbors. After a series of snarky interactions, they throw down a bet: they will swap genres to combat writer’s block and see who can sell a book first. Of course, that means a lot of time helping each other. Readers will fall in love with the hilarious tit-for-tat dialogue and complex characters in “Beach Read.”






"The Guest List" by Lucy Foley

“The Guest List” by Lucy Foley.




Guests gather on a remote island off the coast of Ireland to celebrate the nuptials of a glamorous couple. It was supposed to be the perfect wedding, and then someone ends up dead. If you love remote thrillers, you will stay enraptured to the very end.






"Pasta Grannies: the Secrets of Italy's Best Home Cooks" by Vicky Bennison

“Pasta Grannies: the Secrets of Italy’s Best Home Cooks” by Vicky Bennison. 




Inspired by the popular YouTube channel, “Pasta Grannies” compiles over 70 recipes from Italian grandmothers who have spent a lifetime perfecting the art of pasta-making. We basked in the full-color photos of picturesque Italian villages and delicious pastas. Readers will love meeting the grannies. It will inspire you to call your grandma and write down her recipes for safekeeping.






"Searching for Sylvie Lee" by Jean Kwok

“Searching for Sylvie Lee” by Jean Kwok. 




When brilliant and successful Sylvie Lee disappears on a trip to the Netherlands to visit relatives, her Chinese American family is distraught. Her adoring younger sister Amy flies to the Netherlands to retrace her steps and question her relatives. Along the way, Amy discovers that her extended family has been hiding secrets she never could have imagined.

Literary fiction, 2018. 






"There There" by Tammy Orange

“There There” by Tammy Orange




Told from different perspectives, “There There” follows 12 Native Americans as they travel to a powwow in Oakland, California. Some are eager to find connections through the festivities and others have darker intentions. Their stories all collide in an explosive ending. This isn’t an easy read, but it’s important and engrossing. Each voice reveals untold or buried stories of Native Americans throughout history. “There There” will stay with you for a long time.

For young adults






"Almost American Girl: An Illustrated Memoir" by Robin Ha

“Almost American Girl: An Illustrated Memoir” by Robin Ha.

 




Growing up in 1990s Korea is tough for Chuna and her single mother, who make the best of things together through travel. On a “vacation” to Huntsville, Alabama, Chuna’s mother reveals they are permanently relocating so her mother can get married. Shocked, Chuna is forced to become “Robin” and rapidly assimilate to American customs despite language barriers and racist mistreatment from her peers. This touching memoir, made more vivid as a graphic novel, will speak to any teen who feels stuck. The story is relatable and offers an honest perspective on what it’s like to grow up in two drastically different cultures.






"Clap When You Land" by Elizabeth Acevedo

“Clap When You Land” by Elizabeth Acevedo. 

 




Camino Rios lives in the Dominican Republic and Yahaira Rios lives in New York City. Camino and Yahaira have never met, but on a fateful day they are both devastated by the same tragedy: the American Airlines Flight 587 plane crash of November 2001. In the aftermath, the two girls learn they are sisters and their father was kept secrets from both their families. This is a great opportunity to try a novel in verse, or a story told through poems. The format allows each character’s voice to shine through.

Historical fiction, 2019. 






"The Fountains of Silence" by Ruta Sepetys

“The Fountains of Silence” by Ruta Sepetys.

 

 




Madrid, 1957. Eighteen-year-old Daniel Matheson arrives in Spain with his oil tycoon parents, hoping to enjoy a luxury experience in his mother’s homeland with his camera. Daniel connects with Ana Moreno through photography and fate. As Daniel’s relationship with Ana deepens, he begins to see how she and others are oppressed under General Francisco Franco’s rule. Rich with detail and unforgettable characters, Ruta Sepetys makes history come alive.






"Mexican Gothic" by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

“Mexican Gothic” by Silvia Moreno-Garcia.




After receiving a mysterious letter from her recently married cousin Catalina, Noemí Taboada heads to High Place, a mansion in the remote Mexican countryside. Noemí immediately senses something deeply wrong with Catalina, High Place, and its inhabitants. “Mexican Gothic” infuses Mexican folklore into a familiar atmospheric gothic story, in an utterly fascinating way. It is being adapted into an upcoming Hulu series, so now is a great chance to read before watching.






"When Stars Are Scattered" by Victoria Jamieson & Omar Mohamed

“When Stars Are Scattered” by Victoria Jamieson & Omar Mohamed.

 




Omar Mohamed lives in Dadaab, a Somali refugee camp in Kenya. Omar spends most of his time in caring for his nonverbal younger brother Hassan, his last remaining family member. When Omar is offered an opportunity to attend school, he struggles with his desire to change their future and his brother’s immediate needs. Who will care for Hassan? This tender true story will move readers in both middle school and high school.



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