CDC Holiday Safety 2021 – COVID-19 Indoor Party Tips for Vaccinated Individuals

  • Federal health officials have released new COVID-19 safety guidelines for holiday celebrations and events later this year.
  • Guidelines call for guests to be fully vaccinated if possible, as this will greatly reduce risk among those who are traveling to visit your home; after earlier guidance was revised, CDC officials also advise heading outside if at all possible.
  • Some Americans will also need to wear masks at holiday parties, regardless of vaccination status.
  • Unvaccinated guests and those who are immunocompromised will need to wear masks, and others around them may need to mask up as well — even if they’re fully vaccinated.

    Hosting a holiday party in 2020 was considered extremely risky for those that had hoped to invite family and friends living outside of their homes. While around 57% of eligible Americans are now fully vaccinated against COVID-19, top health officials at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) are stressing that more will need to sign up for a full vaccine in order to keep certain loved ones as safe as possible during the holiday season.

    Risks associated with parties and events aren’t new per se, but they’re driven in large part by the viral Delta strain of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that leads to a COVID-19 diagnosis. While mostly mild in nature, the risk of breakthrough cases is higher than ever, as CDC officials indicate that a current case count of nearly 25,000 nationwide is largely underreported. Plus, other variants could pose a greater threat during the cold winter season.

    After initially posting a set of guidelines that included using a window fan to increase ventilation, CDC officials have released updated holiday guidance that stresses the need for vaccines and mask-wearing for those who cannot receive a shot. Holiday events — including Halloween costume parties, Thanksgiving dinners, Hanukkah celebrations and Christmas gift exchanges, plus all the travel around these traditions — are still risky because they’re multi-generational in nature and adding unvaccinated guests into the mix can complicate the issue, experts say.

    Older loved ones may be immunocompromised or face pre-existing conditions, whereas younger children may not receive full vaccinations in time for the holiday season. And while mask mandates are largely discontinued in many states, those who are unvaccinated must wear a well-fitted mask while indoors to reduce risk among the youngest and oldest in your family. If you’re in a city, town or neighborhood where local COVID-19 transmission is high, even those who are fully vaccinated are being asked to mask up, as experts have established that asymptomatic spread (or those who are sick without any symptoms) is still a major concern.

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    If you can guarantee that everyone on your holiday guest list is vaccinated (and have received a new booster or third dose if advised to) then COVID-19 risk factor is largely reduced, especially if you’re able to host family outside, where risks are considerably lower.

    Stay outdoors and keep masks optional in private settings

    In general, outdoor activities are safer for those who are inviting family, friends and other guests who live outside of their home over for the holidays. This may already feel normal for Halloween events, where the CDC recommends smaller groups head outside to interact with the neighborhood. For Thanksgiving, though, enjoying a shared meal outside (and any social activities like a cocktail hour or parade viewing!) will allow you to largely avoid masks altogether.

    New CDC guidelines indicate that masks can be skipped while meeting outside in uncrowded spaces. If you’re participating in a public event where crowds may congregate, or if the COVID-19 infection rate is high in your area, both vaccinated and unvaccinated individuals can greatly reduce the mild uptick in risk while outside by masking up.

    Inside, masks may be necessary for all guests

    While new CDC guidance doesn’t include an official tip regarding window fans, the reason that news outlets covered earlier advice is that experts have long established that poor airflow can greatly increase COVID-19 risk. Since SARS-CoV-2 is airborne, airflow that is stale or non-moving can prove dangerous for any crowd in your home. It’s why outside events are safer and why opening your windows or working on ventilation inside is a smart idea for any holiday event.

    Even with optimal indoor ventilation, masks may still need to be part of your holiday traditions this year, depending on your guest list. CDC officials indicate that masks are still required for vaccinated individuals with pre-existing conditions taking medications that may weaken their immune system; it stands to reason that your other guests and family members will also need to mask up to protect such a guest. Officials made a special note about the need for masks in this case:

    You might choose to wear a mask regardless of the level of transmission if a member of your household has a weakened immune system, is at increased risk for severe disease or is unvaccinated.

    Consider a new way of traveling

    While masks are required on all forms of public transportation, those who are ineligible to receive a vaccine at this time — particularly children under 12 — should do their best to stay off planes, trains, buses and ferries. Your family should consider embarking on a potentially longer road trip if all members can’t be fully vaccinated ahead of time, especially if you’ll be visiting another household that houses at-risk individuals.

    At this time, CDC guidance for the holiday season indicated that frequent COVID-19 testing can help reduce the risk of becoming infected, even if testing mandates are not largely required by many states. You’ll find a full list of COVID-19 testing requirements by state published by AARP here.

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    CDC officers maintain an official checklist for unvaccinated individuals for both domestic travel as well as international travel, which includes multiple rounds of testing prior to and after arriving at your destination.

    Regardless of vaccination status, the final piece of planning holiday celebrations this year largely revolves around testing — and creating plans for quarantines in the event that you do test positive for COVID-19. You’ll find a full list of travel criteria (as well as info for certain international destinations) via the CDC’s travel guide here.

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A Digital Nomad’s Favorite Tips for Managing Travel Safely with MS

It may take some extra effort but traveling with MS is possible — and rewarding.

As a digital nomad living with multiple sclerosis (MS), I’m perpetually exhausted. Planning, packing, airports, reservations — it’s a lot even for a person without a chronic condition. And then there’s the fear of a flare-up to deal with during vacation.

What if I get an exacerbation while traveling abroad or on a cruise overseas? Without immediate access to my doctor, how do people with MS travel safely?

As a veteran traveler with a debilitating disease, I own these worries. Travel could be a source of stress and exposure to infection that can lead to faulty bodily reactions like fatigue, numbness, foot drop, and mobility and vision problems.

The reality is that a person with MS often cannot depend on a seamless adventure without support. These are the steps I take to ensure I can travel safely to keep my MS in check.

Keep up with guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and practice physical distancing to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

If you plan to travel, consider more remote destinations to enjoy activities like hiking or camping.

Having fewer people around you means you’re less likely to be exposed to the coronavirus that causes COVID-19, which is key for everyone, not just those of us with MS.

If you’re itching for a more fast-paced experience, explore larger cities on days that are less busy to avoid crowds, like on weekday afternoons.

Whether staying at a resort or in an Airbnb, I always consider having an accessible pool a priority.

Besides being a fun activity, exercising in pools is great for strength building, and also keeps you cool to avoid that dreaded MS temperature sensitivity.

But beware of Jacuzzis and hot tubs. They can feel good for a bit, but long-term dips often result in hours of post-Jacuzzi fatigue.

Pro tip: Get your hair wet. Cool water on your scalp feels so refreshing. I can feel my internal temps drop when I dive into the water.

Infections can make you more prone to having an MS relapse. That means the risk of a stomach illness is real.

You don’t want to grapple with stomach issues from chicken sizzling on the outdoor grill for hours festering in the sun.

If you absolutely need to try the local street cuisine, make sure there’s a busy line in front of the stand so you know the food is fresh.

Request a fridge in your room for snacks and for your temperature-controlled medications. If your meds are the kind that must be refrigerated, this really comes in handy.

Try regional goodies and local snacks for quick, clean meals to keep in your minifridge.

Even if you only have a sink in your room, slicing open a mango and downing it over the sink is bound to be one of your most precious memories.

Having a routine is a critical part of my travel health management.

In the midst of an exciting vacation, it’s easy to break plans to exercise or to forget to take your vitamins.

To plan ahead, I create a morning and evening checklist to set the beginning of my day as productive and the end of my day as restful. Having a checklist of desired goals and daily practices — like a 10-minute meditation, stretching, or starting the day with a glass of water — helps me relieve anxiety from stressful travel.

When you’ve got wonders to explore, it’s easy to get worn out.

Schedule in sleep by setting a Cinderella-style curfew if you have an early morning tour. Don’t feel guilty about snoozing if you stayed up late adventuring.

Before you set off traveling, plan how you’ll handle recovery at the end of a tiring day. After a long day, it’s nice to know how to get back to homeostasis, like a night soak, a mindful stretch, or a cooling compress.

During an ill-timed, mid-vacation relapse, it’s good to have a contingency plan on how best to handle nursing it.

While planning your daily excursions, note what nearby hospitals are readily available.

Once, I had a relapse in Thailand and I was so uncomfortable until my heavy numbness (a combination of MS corset and foot drop) went away by itself toward the end of the trip. If your doc approves, having emergency medication on hand may help through a rough relapse.

In addition, pack any supplements and medications you normally take. I like to bring an extra week’s worth with me in a pill case.

Your preferred over-the-counter medicines will support you through aches from all the walking on tours and excursions.

Also, consider if you might run into motion sickness or altitude sickness, and talk with your doctor about writing a prescription for appropriate medications as you prep for travel. Don’t skip this. It’s the worst to be the only one puking on the cruise or horribly sick in the mountains.

If you take disease-modifying therapy in shot or pill form, consider bringing extra along on your trip in case your travel plans change.

Most insurance providers allow a 3-month supply of medication for travel per year, but you’ll likely be on the phone a long time coordinating this bulk supply of meds. Get your doctor on board and email everyone.

Pro tip: Reach out to your insurance provider’s Facebook page for support. My insurance provider’s support through Facebook Messenger helped expedite the process of getting an extra supply of vacation medication quickly.

If you’re going abroad, I really recommend looking into traveler’s insurance.

Some providers do not cover preexisting conditions, so be careful while shopping around. In addition, some plans require that you purchase insurance within 15 days of traveling in order to lock in preexisting coverage.

Remember that the primary purpose of traveler’s insurance is not for preexisting conditions, but instead for those moments when you twist an ankle, break an arm, or get food poisoning. Accidents like this are of greater risk for those who are immunocompromised.

Still, it’s good to be covered. Expect to pay $50 to $70 per month to cover yourself with a decent plan.

If a place is on your bucket list, don’t assume it’s out of reach for you because you have MS. Traveling safely with MS may take some additional effort and planning, but I find it’s always worth it in the end.

As a digital nomad with multiple sclerosis, Monica Lynne travels the world managing her condition and working remotely as a copywriter and language interpreter. She focuses on social media management and influencer marketing with Miami-based boutique PR agency, JLPR. With degrees in theater, dance, and communication studies from Nova Southeastern University, she has a presence in South Florida’s arts & culture community as an actor and content creator.

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What Causes Hair Static + 9 Hairstylist Tips To Get Rid Of It

Let’s time-travel back to physics class: Static electricity happens when a surface receives extra electrons, which are negatively charged. So when certain materials rub against each other (like a knit hat against your hair), these negative charges hop onto the hair and start to build up. Objects with the same charge repel each other (think of magnets), which is the reason why your hair stands on end—each strand is negatively charged, so they want to get as far away from each other as possible. 

It tends to happen during colder months, since dry, wintry conditions can exacerbate the static. “Electric charges don’t flow through water, so atmospheres without any humidity will result in much more hair static,” says hairstylist Miko Branch, co-founder of hair care brand Miss Jessie’s. “Dry, damaged hair is more prone to static, as it lacks the moisture to repel electric charges.”

Add some friction to an already dry environment (hats and scarves, vigorous brushing, towel-drying, etc.), and you can easily find yourself in a hair-raising situation. 

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10 Tips For a Trip To Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando, FL

Are you planning a trip to Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando, FL? This October, Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando, Florida, will begin an 18-month long celebration of its 50th Anniversary, providing generations of kids (and kids at heart) with lifelong memories. 

“The World’s Most Magical Celebration,” Walt Disney World’s 50th Anniversary Celebration, will last from October 1, 2021, until April 1, 2023. That means there’s still time to save up for and plan your family trip to the most magical place on earth! 

Kidding Around Contributor and former Florida resident, Melanie, shared some of her secrets to getting the most out of a trip to Walt Disney World Resort. So grab those Mickey Ears, and let’s get busy planning a trip to visit him in sunny Orlando, Florida. 

Disney World fireworks

Planning A Trip To Walt Disney Resort in Orlando, Florida 

Whether this is your family’s first trip or you’re a seasoned Disneyphile, planning a trip to “The Happiest Place On Earth” can be a stressful, confusing undertaking. Constantly changing health protocols and planning deadlines, make a trip to the Walt Disney World Resort more work in advance than most domestic vacations. 

But it’s ok. You can do this, and you have a seasoned Disney visitor who’s been through the “Disney College of Knowledge” training that travel reps go through on your team! So let’s get started with those tips! 

1. Do Your Research 

If you’re a fan of podcasts, then I highly recommend Shannon Albert’s WDW Prep School! She has all the info you’ll need to stay up-to-date with policies and changes at the park. She’s an excellent free resource, and with everything surrounding COVID-19 changing things continuously, it’s good to have the latest info. 

If podcasts aren’t your thing, or you don’t have the time to do homework for a vacation; then I encourage you to at least keep these links handy: 

  • WDW COVID-19 Response
  • WDW Face Covering Guidelines
    The Resort has specific requirements for what they will accept as a face mask, so unless you want to get stuck at the gate paying $2 for a disposable mask – make sure you have the proper masks for your trip if they are currently required within the resort. 
  • WDW Crowd Calendar on WDW Prep School
    Most families have a restricted window for when they can visit due to school schedules. If that’s the case, this information won’t be as helpful. However, if your schedule allows for some flexibility, use this crowd estimator calendar to help you plan your trip around busier days in the parks. 

It’s also worth looking at the changes planned in the coming months: 

  • The new WDW Annual Pass options will begin September 8th, 2021. The price increase, and restructured benefits now exclude some popular perks for pass holders. 
  • FastPass and FastPass+ will be retired and replaced with Lightning Lane. This new fee based option ($15 a day) will allow guests to schedule a ride time, one at a time, for popular attractions. 
  • The addition of a personal concierge type service on the My Disney Experience app – Disney Genie will assist guests with planning out their day. 
Wyndam Disney Springs Resort lobby
The Wyndham Disney Springs Resort

2. Stay At A Walt Disney Resort Partner Hotel 

This section contains Stay22 Affiliate links.

While I used to advocate staying on property and in a Disney-owned hotel, several things have changed my thoughts on that. First, I now recommend people select a Disney Springs Resort Area Hotel. There are six hotels to choose from, and while Disney doesn’t own them, there are still WDW perks included! 

My kids and I discovered Wyndham Lake Buena Vista/ Disney Springs Resort Area last year. We loved it so much this past fall; we visited again in the spring! The value, location, and amenities at this hotel make it a perfect choice. Depending on the location your room window faces, you’ll be able to enjoy the Epcot fireworks from the comfort of bed like we did!

Disney Springs Resort Area Hotels all provide transportation to the parks, a discount booklet for use at Disney Springs, and the use of “Early Magic Hours” daily. The only *benefit given at an on-property resort location that isn’t at these is the “complimentary” magic bands. But, that’s ok, with the money saved, you can purchase your own from the Disney Online Shop. *The perk of free Magic Bands with a stay at a Disney Resort is being phased out in the fall of 2021.

The Wyndham has Mickey waffles for breakfast and one of the only Character meals outside the park! The pool area has a splash area for kids, a lap pool, a hot tub, and a snack bar. If you do stay at the Wyndham, and I can’t stress this enough – DO NOT leave without getting one of the massive donuts from the lobby Jeoffrey’s coffee shop. Trust Me.

donut collage

3. Pay For Your Trip With Disney Gift Cards

Take the money you will use for park tickets, food, and other Disney Purchases and use it to buy gift cards. No, this isn’t some crazy scheme. 

Ok, maybe it is. 

But, as expensive as it is to take a trip to WDW, saving at every possible opportunity is ideal. Wholesale stores like Costco and Sam’s sell multipacks of Disney Gift Cards to reduce the face value. It’s not much, only about 3%, but if you spend several days at the parks with your family – the savings add up. 

Disney palm trees

4. Don’t Opt-In For The Park Hopper Ticket Option 

Before I get angry emails from people, let me just preface this by saying: every family is different, and what doesn’t work for me might be perfect for yours if you use Park Hopper religiously; great. 

Depending on the age of your children, I would say skip the Park Hopper Tickets. Travel agents will push them, but you should consider the inflated ticket price carefully first. In my experience with young children, it’s just not worth the extra cost for the privilege to come and go from parks throughout the day. During a week-long stay – we used it twice. The hundreds of additional dollars to our trip for that luxury could have been spent on something else. 

Having said that, if you are traveling with teens, and your itinerary includes split days where half the day the family is together, and the other half teens and parents go their separate ways, it would not be a terrible idea. That way, the family can spend the afternoon in one park and then explore other parks on their own at night. But, of course, I still would only recommend this if you have the money to check off all the other boxes on your WDW bucket list. 

Disney pins
This is one of my most cherished memories of that trip to Disney! 

5. Pin Trading At Walt Disney World Is A Must Do For Young Kids

Pin trading is the solution if you are looking for a clever way to get your child distracted from all the shiny expensive souvenirs in the parks. 

Disney fans take pin trading very seriously, but it can also be a fun distraction in the parks and a way for your child to interact with cast members that aren’t in character costumes. 

You can start by purchasing a bulk set of trading pins off of Amazon or eBay. It doesn’t matter what pins you get because trading them is more challenging if you start with ones you like. You just need to ensure the pins are backed with the authentic black, rubber Mickey head backing. Cast members can only trade for those. 

My kids and I try to collect a theme. We’ve collected Alice in Wonderland theme (Cheshire Cat), The Muppets, The Little Mermaid, Character Cupcakes, Star Wars, and others. Cast members all wear lanyards, and each gift shop has at least one pin trading board to pick from. 

The distraction of seeking out pins, cast members, and pin trading boards helps distract kids from the souvenir onslaught coming from every direction. Plus, it makes for some incredible memories. 

Speaking of souvenirs. 

Disney souvenir secrets
My secret souvenir spot is a great place to get matching family shirts! 

6. Head Here To Buy All The Disney Souvenirs 

I have a secret spot where you can find authentic Disney brand souvenirs at a fraction of the cost. 

  • The ponchos you’ll need when it starts to downpour in the park
  • Mickeys ears 
  • Disney shirts 
  • Stuffed animals
  • Key chains 
  • Tote bags
  • Beach towels 
  • Disney hats 
  • Anything you can think of to purchase! Even Disney pins, with the year, stamped on them. We like to get them every time we go to mark the occasion. 

So, where is this magical place? This well-guarded secret of mine? 

Walmart, but not just any location. It needs to be the one at this Kissimmee, FL Walmart location. The Disney souvenir section is half the size of a Walmart neighborhood market. It’s massive and worth a stop when you get into town. 

Disney Springs

7. Get A GPS locator tag for your stroller 

If you don’t have young children, you can skip right over this and head to the next tip. 

However, if you have stroller-age children and plan to utilize a stroller in the park, invest in a GPS tag to zip tie to the bottom of it. One of the most problematic things that occur within the Disney parks is the moving of strollers. Depending on when it happens, it can chew through an excessive amount of time while you search for it or completely ruin the day if it’s raining. 

It took us an hour in the rain to find our stroller after lunch when it happened to us. That was the end of our day. The $30 apple tag investment will pay for itself multiple times over in the time not wasted within the park if it happens to you. 

Disney at Walmart

8. Pack Young Children’s Lunches 

The kids’ meals in the parks mainly consist of chicken fingers or Uncrustable brand sandwiches. However, the parks allow you to bring in soft-sided coolers, so we took full advantage of that. 

I found a cute Mickey-themed soft-sided lunch bag in the dollar bin at Target and used that each day to create a “Happy Mickey Meal” for my son. It included the same Uncrustable food the other kids in the park were eating, and a Good 2 Grow brand juice sipper with a Disney character topper, a snack, and a little piece of Mickey candy. Packing a kid’s lunch allowed him to start eating as soon as he became hungry without waiting in a line to order and receive food. 

Meeting Mickey at Disney World

9. Choose Your Sit Down Dining Reservations Wisely 

Keep in mind that even with reservations at some in-park restaurants, you’ll need to wait. This is problematic in that: a) you’ve already paid handsomely to be there, b) now you are paying to wait so that you can pay some more. 

For this reason, if you’re visiting the parks during peak time, I would skip the in-park meals that are hard to book. Instead, there are opportunities to do meet and greet character meals outside of the park. 

The only in-park meal that I highly recommend is the Tusker House character meal at Animal Kingdom. It’s easily one of the most under-appreciated character meals within the resort. Tusker House Restaurant serves a buffet of African, Middle Eastern, and American cuisine. Guests are guaranteed to meet some of their favorite characters, including Donald, Goofy, Minnie, and Pluto, dressed in their Animal Kingdom safari outfits.

Outside of the parks, I would attend this Disney Resort meal every day if time, money, and distance were different – the Luau at the Polynesian. The dinner is served family-style, and it’s worth every penny. If the Luau isn’t in the budget, you can also visit the Polynesian to grab a dole whip and admire the view. Every year, my kids and I snap a family photo in the unique “Great Ceremonial House,” which serves as the hotel lobby. 

Dole Whip at the Polynesian
Dole Whip at the Polynesian Walt Disney World Resort 

10. Enjoy The 50th Anniversary of the Walt Disney World Resort

Beginning October 1st, 2021, the Happiest Place on earth will begin its 18-month, 50th-anniversary celebration! 

If you want to visit the park during the celebration, you need to book your trip as soon as possible. Within minutes of the anniversary announcement, days at the park started selling out at the current reduced capacity. That was months ago when the information about the anniversary was made public. 

Changes made in celebration of the 50th Anniversary of Walt Disney World include: 

  • Mickey and Minnie will dress for the occasion in outfits fit for a celebration as big as this!
  • Cinderella’s Castle will be decorated for the occasion in Gold bunting and a 50th-anniversary plaque. 
  • Spaceship Earth at Epcot will have new reflective lights added to the surface permanently. 
  • Magical fireflies will surround the Tree of Life at Animal Kingdom Park.
  • The Hollywood Tower Hotel at Disney’s Hollywood Studios will have new unique features for the celebration.

More information about the 50th Anniversary Celebration at Walt Disney World Resorts can be found online. 

Disney character autographs

Bonus Tips! 

  • Skip the autograph books and opt instead to bring a photo mat for characters to autograph! Then frame your vacation photos with them! 
  • Check out the event schedule at the WDW resort locations. For example, Fort Wilderness offers a campfire moonlight movie that features Chip ‘n Dale, which is free to attend. Fort Wilderness also has horse stables that offer pony rides for a minimal fee. (Check the status of events – they are currently suspended due to COVID-19)
  • Unless the promotion you book includes the meal plan for free, or you have ravenous teenagers to feed, do the math before paying for the meal plan. People often struggle to eat all of the food included, and eating ala carte is usually less expensive than the meal plan. 
  • Venture outside of the Walt Disney Resort Property. Lake Eola Park in downtown Orlando is gorgeous and includes a Disney Amphitheatre! 
  • If you travel the east coast often, invest in a UNI pass.
    It’s a universal car toll transponder that covers systems in 18 different states on the eastern seaboard. For example, the toll roads in Orlando sneak up on you, and having this pass on your car is a great stress reducer for when you are stuck in Orlando traffic and get pushed into a toll road (it happens); you can just zip through stress free. It also makes travel into Atlanta easier if you frequently do that. It also discounts the toll rate, so if you travel frequently, it will pay for itself quickly.

Do you have a great hack for a trip to Walt Disney World?

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11 expert tips on how to experience a country like a local

For many of us, travel is not just about seeing a place. It’s about the physical experience of being there. Getting under its skin and understanding what it’s like to live there or grow up there. When we try to move around a place like a local we broaden our horizons and open our minds to other ways of living.

But you have to make a conscious effort to avoid the crowds and explore a place as if you aren’t a tourist. There are things you need to do in advance of your travels, as well as when you’re on the ground, so get prepared. After all, many find planning an exciting part of the adventure.

So if you normally rush from one monument, museum and park to the next, why not challenge yourself to leave your watch and schedule behind and read on.

Before you go

1. Learn the language

You don’t need to be fluent in the local language but a few everyday words go a long way. “Hello” and “thank you” are always helpful, and “toilet” can definitely be useful. There are many free and paid apps that can help with this, such as Babbel, Duolingo, or Memrise.

Having some basics will not only help you in getting around, it will also make it much easier to break the ice with locals. Most people love knowing a foreigner has made the effort. You might feel silly trying out new words or phrases, but travelling is all about leaving your comfort zone.

You could also take a language holiday if you’re planning on staying somewhere for a while. Then you can use your new skills and use it in shops and markets and immerse yourself in the local culture. ‘Not in the Guidebook’ also offer language holidays in France, Spain, Italy and Germany.

2. Fly into a regional airport

Start your trip as you mean to go on by landing in a city that’s not the capital.

Airports in smaller cities are often less stressful and cheaper to fly into, whilst giving you the chance to explore some places you may not have thought about visiting. Consider flying out of a different city to expand your route.

3. Avoid hostels

Hostels are very appealing if you’re on a budget but, apart from local staff, they tend to be full of other foreign travellers. They don’t give you many chances to experience a place and its culture. Instead, organise independent or local accommodation. They may be more expensive but you’ll go home with lots more anecdotes and memories than a run-of-the-mill hostel can offer. When searching for accommodation, look up the areas where people live day-to-day and opt for one of these local neighbourhoods. This will also help to keep costs down as they are likely to be outside of the city centre.

4. Stay with a local family

Homestays are another great option. Staying with a local family is a great way to meet people and experience how they live. You’ll get to eat local food, be introduced to the most popular sitcoms in that country and it’s the perfect way to improve your language skills. AirBnB, or often have hosts who are open to meeting their guests.

5. Ditch the bus tour and use local guides

Local guides can show you how locals live, eat, socialise, and what’s special to them. They’re always full of fascinating anecdotes and insights that big bus tours won’t have time for. Book a trip with ‘Not in the Guidebook’.

They offer immersive, off the beaten track trips with guides who know their destination intimately and can show you how to dodge the crowds and see a side missed by many. They can also give valuable advice on how to stay safe, and maybe which areas to avoid.

During your trip

6.Take a free walking tour

One of the best things to do when you arrive in a new city or town is look up free walking tours. They’re a great way to get your bearings in a new place. They’ll often make stops at popular attractions or neighbourhoods, allowing you to decide if they’re worth going back to another day.

The guides are always locals who often grew up in the town or city so they’re full of stories and local gossip that you won’t find in any guidebook. They’re also a found of knowledge about transport, what you should be paying for food and souvenirs and they’ll be happy to let you know the best, and worst, local restaurants.

Walking tours usually last two or three hours and you usually only need to book via their website a day or two in advance. There’s no charge, but it’s customary to tip your guide at the end.

7. Get really lost

Rather than eating at a place recommended by the guidebook, ditch it and get lost in a place and see what you stumble upon.

Choose a restaurant away from touristy areas or near famous attractions. Look for places offering authentic local food that doesn’t burn a hole in your pocket, then ask for some tips from bar and waiting staff. You’ll have a much more local experience and go home with a list of dishes to create in your kitchen.

8. Dine with a local

Social dining apps like Bon Appertour allow you to book a meal sharing experience hosted by a local. They might also give you handy tips on where to visit.

9. Scour the markets and the streets

Local markets, not those aimed at tourists, are the best place to really see locals at their best. The shouting, bartering and joking will tell you a lot about a nationality, not to mention teaching you some ‘colourful’ language.

Try to buy local foods that are grown in the country. Not only is this a more eco-friendly way to eat but you’ll get to experience the local version of familiar foods, or a Coke that doesn’t taste like Coke.

Don’t shy away from street food either. If you see queues of locals lining up for a street cart it’s a good sign that the food is popular, hygienic and tasty.

10. Use public transport

Be it bike, scooter, rickshaw, or subway, using public transport is a great window into a new culture. Even if you don’t understand the local language, you will see familiar sights, like people on the bus getting annoyed with the boy playing video games, or the crying child. A local metro card is also a good way to get around a city and cheaper than renting a car or taking a taxi.

11. Watch the world go by

Enjoy a cappuccino in a local café, sit back and enjoy some people watching. You may end up spotting people heading to the best places to visit or eat. Try to start conversations and you may come away with some useful tips- and maybe new friends to keep in touch with. If you can, read the local newspapers to find out what’s going on locally or nationally and get some ideas of events to attend.

What do you do when you travel to have a local experience? Share your tips with us on Instagram.

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Readers share travel tips from their trips

The pandemic has taken a toll on travel during the past 19 months, but many people are starting to venture to destinations that they only dreamed of visiting last year.

Or if you are staying a bit closer to home for your adventures, that’s great, too! Hello, Columbus would love to have a photo of you and your family or friends at your travel destinations.

Regardless of whether you are sending us a photo from near or far, choose a vacation photo showing you, your companions and the Travel page, and send it to The Dispatch. Make sure to include the names and hometowns of the people pictured, from left to right; where the photo was taken; a tip to help other travelers; and contact information for you in case we have questions. But please, no submissions from previous years.

Submissions can be emailed to Becky Kover, [email protected]

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Head start: Here are winter safety tips to get ahead of an expected snowier season

With a 70% to 80% chance of a La Niña winter in Spokane, this next season is expected to bring more snowy weather. That’s incentive in the next several weeks of fall to prepare with safety measures both for you and your home.

The long-range forecast for the remainder of the year predicts a strong chance for above-normal precipitation for much of Washington and Oregon. A La Niña occurs when winds are stronger than usual and push warm ocean water toward Asia, causing cold, nutrient-rich water to come to the surface along the West Coast of North America.

But you can get ready now for any blows of winter a few steps at a time. There are handy tip sheets offered by several insurance companies, health care centers and AARP for what to do ahead of frigid temperatures.

Here are some ideas:

Prevent pipe ruptures. PEMCO Insurance offers several steps to take now. Start by disconnecting your garden hoses and protecting the faucets with a foam cover. If it has an indoor valve, turn it off and open the faucet to drain any trapped water so it can’t freeze and potentially rupture the pipe. Wrap pipes in unheated spaces such as garages and workshops.

Clean gutters. Removing leaves and other debris will help prevent ice damming. During fast snowmelt, clogged gutters could cause water to seep back into the roof or overflow near the foundation, causing leaks and settling. If you’re unsure about safely using a ladder, consider hiring a pro to do the job and perhaps also look for loose gutters.

Check smoke detectors. AARP suggests when you change the clocks to “fall back” an hour Nov. 7, also change the batteries in your smoke detectors. However, any time your alarm chirps, it’s a sign the battery is low, and you should replace it no matter the time of year. Once you’ve replaced the batteries, test that the smoke detector works. It’s often just a push of a button to make sure the alarm goes off.

Do furnace maintenance. This can be another time to call in a pro to ensure that your furnace runs at peak efficiency. Without semiannual maintenance in the spring and fall, airborne allergens may get trapped in the filters and result in poor indoor air quality, AARP said. It’s likely a good time to change filters.

Prevent winter slips and falls. Check that your best winter shoes are in shape, or consider buying new ones. You should have flat footwear with slip-resistant soles or snow boots that provide traction, said a blog by MultiCare Indigo Urgent Care. Even a quick jaunt outside to grab a newspaper or mail can lead to a nasty fall if you wear floppy slippers.

Use a headlamp and reflective gear. Buy or check the status of a headlamp – does it still work – for short ventures outside, on dark winter afternoons or evenings, such as to take the dog on a quick walk. More clothing options these days come with reflective stripes so drivers can see you easier when you’re walking roadside.

Stock firewood, nonperishable food, prescriptions. These preparations will keep you home safely in case of a power outage or when a snowstorm hampers travel. Consider keeping your prescription medications refilled as soon as allowed so you have a few extra days of medication, suggests a PEMCO blog.

Car safety. Things to take care of ahead of winter include antifreeze, the car’s battery, winter-ready tires, washer fluid and wiper blades. PEMCO said now also is a good time to pack an emergency kit for the trunk with gloves, a water-resistant blanket, ice scraper, flashlight, jumper cables, extra warm clothes, nonperishable food and water and sand or old-fashioned cat litter for traction if you get stuck.

Until spring, live by the “half tank” rule, which means never allowing your gas gauge to dip below that so you won’t have to worry about running out of gas if a weather-snarled commute leaves you stuck on the freeway for hours.

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How To Find Local Movers And Other Local Moving Tips – Forbes Advisor

Editorial Note: Forbes Advisor may earn a commission on sales made from partner links on this page, but that doesn’t affect our editors’ opinions or evaluations.

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On paper, local moves are supposed to be faster and more affordable than cross-country moves. However, that’s only true when you make the right decisions before moving. A local move is one that generally stays within a radius of 50 miles—a move that extends beyond that distance would be considered a long-distance move, even if it’s still within the same state.

Here are some moving tips and factors to consider before hiring local movers.

1. Deciding Between Hiring Local Movers vs. Doing It Yourself

Even local moves can be stressful experiences that involve many moving parts. Hiring local movers to protect, lift and carry all of your heavy household items is a great option. Of course, this is also the most expensive option. For a local move, companies generally charge by the hour along with travel time and gas fees. Hiring local movers can cost from $300 to $1,500, depending on the size of the move. That’s about $25 to $50 per mover per hour.

However, moving locally also allows you to do it yourself. Instead of hiring local movers, you can take charge of the move yourself and save some money. But, before you choose the do-it-yourself route, ask yourself these questions:

  • Do you have any friends or family members who can help with the move?
  • Do you have a truck? Or have a friend who can lend you their truck for the move?
  • Will you need help to move heavy furniture and appliances?
  • Are you moving any valuables or fragile pieces?
  • Do you require any special moving services (i.e., pool table, piano, gym equipment)?

The answers to these questions will help you decide whether you need to hire a local mover or if this is something you can handle on your own.

2. How to Find Local Movers

Hiring local movers involves doing some research to ensure you work with a professional moving company. Ideally, you want to work with a trustworthy local moving company that’s well-known in the area. Here are some tips for finding reliable local movers that you can trust with your home possessions:

  • Ask friends, relatives or neighbors for recommendations. Word-of-mouth recommendations can save you plenty of time in research.
  • Read the company’s reviews and testimonials before contacting them. A reliable moving company will have an online presence with reviews on sites like the Better Business Bureau (BBB), Yelp and MyMovingReviews.
  • Single out local moving companies by requesting moving cost estimates. Consider low-ball estimates as a red flag of moving fraud. Make sure they can provide you with a written quote before you agree to sign any contract with them.

3. Cost To Hire Local Movers

When hiring local movers, you’ll need to familiarize yourself with the average cost so that you can recognize some red flags of moving fraud. Unlike cross-country moving companies, local movers will charge by the hour instead of shipment weight. Depending on your location, season, and distance, you can be looking at $40 per hour, per worker.

The ultimate cost of hiring local movers will depend on the size and number of items they’ll move. This is why many local moving companies will ask for the number of boxes and furniture pieces you expect to have before giving you an accurate quote. Make sure you calculate how much space you need for your move, as well. On average:

  • Studio Apartment: two movers, three hours, for $240.
  • 2-Bedroom Apartment: three movers, five hours, for $600.
  • 3-Bedroom Apartment: four movers, seven hours, for $1,120.

This gives you a good basis to compare rates and prices of moving companies. However, you still need to add in gas prices, time to and from the location, and other special charges. With the cost of moves going up, it’s important to know exactly how much to budget for.

4. How to Save Money Moving Locally

Even though local moves are cheaper than long-distance moves, you can still find ways to save money when moving locally. Remember that local move prices are based on how much time it takes movers to complete the job, rather than on weight and distance. So, to help you save money when working with local movers, try to:

  • Reduce the number of items you’re moving. Declutter as much as you can to only bring what’s necessary.
  • Pack up things by yourself, or at least try to have most boxes packaged, labeled and ready to go when the movers arrive.
  • Leave clothes, shoes, books and other small items to move by yourself. Bring these over in your car instead of having the movers carry them out.

5. How Much to Tip Local Movers

Simply put, tipping local movers isn’t something you are required or obliged to do. First, double-check your contract to verify whether or not they’re already including gratuity in the total cost for the services. If they aren’t, tipping should be the consequence of your satisfaction with the job. If you had an unprofessional or bad experience with your moving company, you might as well forgo the tip.

On the flip side, if they did a great job, you might consider tipping them.

Generally, tipping $4 to $5 per hour per worker is considered a good tip. Another option is to tip 5% to 10% of the total move cost. Depending on the size of your move, you can expect to tip between $30 and $140 divided evenly among workers.

6. Know How to Protect Yourself From Moving Scams

One of the downfalls of working with local moving companies is the risk of getting scammed. In most states, moving companies are required to register with a state department. Verifying their registration and insurance can help protect you from fraudulent moving companies.
When reaching out to local moving companies, ask some of these questions:

  • How long has the company been in business?
  • What type of protection, if any, do they offer against loss or damage?
  • How do they handle claim disputes?
  • Can they provide an estimate and contract in writing?

These questions will help you filter out potentially unreliable or fraudulent moving companies. The more research you do on a company, the fewer chances you’ll have of being scammed by local movers.

Whether you’re moving a fewblocks away or almost 50 miles away, it’s critical to hire a moving company that you can trust with your precious valuables. Spend all the time you need researching different companies and comparing quotes until you find a team of local movers that can help you with your moving needs.

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With theme parks set to rebound, travel advisors share trip tips

Social media personalities Dixie D’Amelio and Noah Beck at Disney California Adventure Park at the Disneyland Resort on May 2, 2021 in Anaheim, California.

Handout | Getty Images Entertainment | Getty Images

The Covid pandemic made the past 14 months a literal roller coaster of a ride for both theme parks and their fans.

Parks shut down or didn’t open at all last spring, and although some did reopen by summer, it was with strict capacity limits and stringent health and safety measures that put off some customers and definitely dented the fun factor for others.

Here’s a look at how things are shaping up in 2021 for this part of the travel and tourism sector, and how prospective visitors can make the most out a theme park vacation as the pandemic winds down.

Pre-pandemic, things had been going well for the sector. The top 20 North American theme parks drew 159,108,000 visitors in 2019, 1% more than the year before, according to the 2019 TEA/AECOM Theme Index and Museum Index.

To draw even more visitors, park operators were rolling profits back into much-hyped, big-budget new attractions like the Jurassic World Velocicoaster at Universal Orlando Resort’s Islands of Adventure in Florida and the Marvel-themed Avengers Campus at Disney California Adventure Park in Anaheim.

More from Personal Finance:
What visiting a theme park was like amid the pandemic
How travelers could benefit from hotel industry struggles
What to expect as live music events take to the stage again

People haven’t forgotten those debuts were in the pipeline.

“A lot of families are opting into going to theme parks this year,” said Trish Smith, a Kansas City, Missouri-based travel advisor affiliated with the InteleTravel network of home-based agents. “I’ve actually had more bookings at this point this year than I did in 2019.

“There are so many new attractions coming that a lot of people are like, ‘Yeah, I don’t want to miss out on that, and I want to be the first,'” she added.

Demand is especially pent-up in California, where parks didn’t reopen until this April.

In fact, Michael Erstad, senior analyst, consumer for research firm M Science, said theme parks could see a return to former attendance levels as soon as next year. “I certainly think it’s a possibility,” he said. “It will all depend how things go with the virus for the rest of the year.

“I wouldn’t count [a rebound] out.”

Consumer data insights firm Cardify has found, unsurprisingly, that theme parks saw a big drop in consumer spending last year but “were able to recover a bit” by last summer by reopening with capacity restrictions. Now that cities and states are relaxing pandemic restrictions, parks are seeing what Cardify terms the “silver lining” for park operators — a new “sharp increase” in spending.

Cardify also found in a survey of 1,044 consumers that 72% are excited to return to amusement parks after the pandemic, more so than movie theaters (68%) or bars and clubs (67%). Only in-person concerts (79%) and sporting events (74%) are more eagerly awaited.

Theme parks “are in a much better spot” relative to cinemas, cruises, air travel, hotels and other entertainment options, said Erstad at M Science.

As at ski resorts, at theme parks “a lot of the experience is outdoors,” he said, and therefore less risky in terms of exposure. “You do queue up for rides, but over the last year they’ve made enhancements to improve the purchasing decisions for food and beverage so you do a lot of things electronically.”

So, where are thrill-seekers headed?

There are essentially two theme park markets in the U.S., although there is some crossover between them. Large destination parks — such as Walt Disney World, Universal Orlando Resort and SeaWorld Orlando, clustered together in central Florida — draw both domestic and international visitors for longer vacations, while regional parks, sometimes smaller and less heavily themed, attract more of a drive-in, day tripper demographic from nearby areas.

Examples of the latter type of park would include the 27 theme and water park properties operated in North America by Grand Prairie, Texas-based Six Flags Entertainment Corp. Some smaller yet highly themed parks, such as Dollywood in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee, straddle the line between the two categories.

(Interestingly, Disneyland boasts a global destination park profile but effectively operates as a regional park, drawing most visitors from its local southern California market. That said, the park — currently restricted to Californians — reopens to all visitors in full on June 15.)

Don’t have any plans set in concrete; you’ve got to be a little flexible right now.

Trish Smith

InteleTravel-affiliated travel advisor

Consumer spending at Orlando parks has been recovering from last year’s crash for months, with out-of-state visitors opening their wallets more than Florida residents, Erstad explained.

“I think it is a healthy sign for Disney and the destination-focused operators, as well as overall consumer appeal for theme parks in general this summer, [and] indicative of consumers seeking out this type of [mostly outdoor] entertainment,” he said.

Florida’s been among the least restrictive states when it comes to pandemic-related regulation, and Orlando area Disney, Universal and SeaWorld parks have all been open since last July. Temporary interstate travel restrictions and quarantine requirements tamped down on long-distance demand for a few months but were eventually eased by year-end.

While interest in Disney’s Orlando parks is strong, “road trips close to home will be very popular this summer for regional theme parks like [Cedar Fair’s] Kings Dominion [and] Cedar Point, Six Flags, Sesame Place, Busch Gardens and Dollywood,” said Carolyn Moody, an InteleTravel advisor in Durham, North Carolina.

The jury’s actually still out on how regional parks will fare, with a lack of real data for climate-related and corporate reasons at some venues, Erstad said.

Cedar Fair Entertainment Co., for example, took four of its 11 theme parks in the U.S. and Canada completely offline for most of 2020, even in jurisdictions that allowed limited opening with restricted capacity, and cut the operating season short in the rest. It had just 487 total operating days in 2020, compared to 2,224 in 2019.

“Cedar Fair has taken more of a conservative approach to things; they were the first to announce they’d honor 2020 pass holders into 20201 and took a cognizant decision to take a more cautious approach,” Erstad said. “It’s a little too early to look at some of your colder weather parks, although we’ve been seeing pretty healthy demand at the parks that are open.”

This year, Sandusky, Ohio-based Cedar Fair plans on opening all its U.S. parks — such as Knott’s Berry Farm in Buena Point, California, and Carowinds in Charlotte, North Carolina — by Memorial Day, although Canada’s Wonderland, outside Toronto, Ontario, will remain closed. The company plans to debut attractions originally planned for 2020 and to spend an additional $100 million on new upgrades this year, said president and CEO Richard A. Zimmerman, in a May 5 statement, in anticipation of “strong pent-up consumer demand for closer-to-home, outdoor entertainment, particularly in the year’s second half.”

“We are pleased with the early leading indicators we have seen thus far, and our 2021 operating strategy is focused on maximizing performance during our seasonally weighted second half of the year,” he added. “With our park openings right around the corner, we are once again seeing a lift in season pass sales.”

Erstad, meanwhile, pointed to Six Flags Great Adventure & Safari in Jackson, New Jersey, as a regional park that opened early in the pandemic and did “extremely well last summer.”

“That was just attributable to the fact they have the safari attraction, where you can be in your car with your family and socially distant from others,” he noted.

The park, near New York City and Philadelphia, reopened its safari last May 30 to drivers with reservations, and then reopened its theme park portion at 25% capacity on July 3. The good response points to a lot of “pent-up demand,” Erstad said.

Parks like those of Cedar Fair’s that weren’t open at all last year may see an initial spurt of visits but “I don’t know that they’re going to see a surge in demand the way Disney and some of the other larger parks have experienced,” said Summer Hull, director of travel content at website The Points Guy.

“But I think that for some of the people who typically enjoy going to those spots, this may be the summer they do get back to them,” she added.

Theme park tips and pivots

“The theme parks have done a great job of keeping people safe,” said Smith. “Even with more people being vaccinated, they’re still taking safety into account …so I don’t think there’s going to be a big uptick in cases or anything.”

The Points Guy’s Hull has been to Walt Disney World three times since it reopened and said “it’s been a blast.”

“It’s largely outdoors and they’ve done a great job of making it feel fun and at the same time safe in your own little ‘Disney bubble,'” she said.

Also be open to change. “That’s the biggest thing,” Smith said. “Don’t have any plans set in concrete; you’ve got to be a little flexible right now.”

Hull agreed and said theme park guests who do their homework will have a great time this summer. “But those who assume it’s just business as usual are going to have a few surprises awaiting them,” she said, noting that many parts of larger destination parks — from hotels to restaurants to rides — are still not online or operating at normal capacities.

“You’ve got to line some stuff up in a way you might not have before and still go in with tempered expectations for things around dining, housekeeping and other elements that are still sort of pandemic-era and haven’t gotten back to normal yet.”

 (Disclosure: CNBC and Universal Parks & Resorts are both subsidiaries of NBCUniversal, owned by parent Comcast.)

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Travel Tips For Andaman And Nicobar Islands| 5 Must-Visit Places, Adventure Activities, And More

Craving stunning sunsets, crystal clear blue waters, and white-sand beaches? Then you can experience this and more in Andaman and Nicobar Islands. An archipelago of over 300 islands located in the Bay of Bengal, Andaman and Nicobar Islands is the perfect choice for a vacation. The picturesque islands cater for a perfect beach holiday away from the hustle-bustle of the city. The untouched white sandy beaches offer a plethora of adventure activities and luxury staycations.Also Read – Visit Chaukori in Uttarakhand For a Heaven-Like Experience – Here Are Some Places to See And More

The gorgeous islands have something for every tourist. Here, we list 5 must-visit places in Andaman and Nicobar Islands. Also Read – As Sikkim Decides to Lift Inter-State Travel Curbs – Here Are Some Places to Explore

  • Radhanagar beach, Havelock Island: Awarded as one of the best beaches in Asia, this beach offers picturesque scenery, pristine white sand, crystal clear blue water.
  • Cellular Jail, Port Blair: Built between 1896 and 1908, the jail was home to hundreds of freedom fighters. The jail is known as Kala Pani, this jail was constructed during the colonial rule of Britishers.
  • Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose Island: Formerly known as Ross Island, this is one of the most popular destinations in Andaman and Nicobar Islands, located near Port Blair. This island is famous as the headquarters of the British Colony in the state. This island has a beautiful view of the sea, and you can laze around gazing at the turquoise blue waters for hours.
  • Kala Pathar Beach: A flawless seashore with white sand, clear blue water and big black rocks. Located on the tip of Havelock Island, the name of the beach was derived from the adjoining street known as Black Road. You can spend hours here and witness amazing sunset as well as sunrise.
  • Viper Island: The island has derived its name from the H.M.S Viper that met with an accident and its wreckage was found near the island. This island is famous for its old jail, here you can enjoy the sunset and the peace.

Adventure Activities in Andaman and Nicobar:

If you love all things adventurous, then Andaman and Nicobar Islands has a lot to offer: Also Read – World’s Highest Motorable Road In Ladakh – Check Interesting Facts

  • Snorkelling and Scuba Diving: Explore the vibrant aquatic life in the turquoise waters of Andaman and Nicobar Islands. Witness the famous coral reefs and the wide range of aquatic flora and fauna.
  • Underwater sea walking: Experience underwater sea walking or helmet diving. You can walk on the seafloor at a maximum depth of seven meters during high tide and in calm water, as reported by Outlook India.
  • Glass Bottom Boat Ride: You can explore the mysteries underwater with the Glass Bottom Boat Ride.
  • Mangrove Kayaking: Want to experience kayaking? Then take a trip to Havelock Island. Explore the rich flora while riding kayak in still waters.
  • Seaplane ride: Witness the scenic attractions of Andaman with a Seaplane ride.

When is the Best time to visit Andaman And Nicobar Island:

The best time to visit Andaman and Nicobar Island and enjoy water sports activities is between October- May.

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