InStyle Vacations's Blog

4 Tips to Navigate Travel's Re-Opening Like an Expert

Recent weeks and days have seen a flurry of changes in travel restrictions and COVID status. Some countries have started declaring themselves COVID-free, while other places - like the US - continue to see spiking numbers.

So re-opening rules keep changing and are different from place to place. It’s a lot for our US and Canadian readers to keep up with.

Lynn Elmhirst, Producer/Host of BestTrip TV, helps you stay on top of the latest best practices for an informed traveler.

Europe and the UK

Everyone was holding their breath last week as the EU prepared to issue a list of countries on July 1st they decided had COVID under control enough in their own countries to safely enter Europe.
People began dreaming of Tuscan wine country, the museums of France, a Greek island vacation, a Danube river cruise…
For some, those hopes were dashed. Canadians are on the list of those free to travel to the EU, but Americans, for now, are not.
Canadians didn’t have long to celebrate. A couple of days later, the UK eliminated a requirement for travelers to quarantine on arrival from countries on its own new list. Neither Canada nor the US was on it.
Unlike the outright EU ban on travel, travelers can still enter the UK. But you must quarantine for 14 days, (as do British returning from any country not on that new list). 
Note that in America’s own most recent travel restriction updates in June, the US extended its ban on travelers from the EU, UK, and Ireland (as well as China, Iran, and Brazil).

The US and Canada

For travelers returning to the US, the ‘CDC recommends that travelers stay home and monitor their health for 14 days’.
Canada’s approach to travelers from all countries remains a restriction on leisure travel, and anyone traveling for essential reasons must quarantine for 14 days immediately upon entering the country.
That rule, too, was set to expire June 30th. Canadians hoped by July 1st, they’d be free to travel to Europe and return home without restrictions. Those hopes were dashed as Canada’s mandatory quarantine requirement for all arrivals was extended another month. 
The border between our two countries remains closed by mutual agreement with a very few exceptions. Although the closure is currently set to expire on July 21st, the consensus is that this travel ban will also be extended – for months to come.
Within our own countries, travel remains restricted in some cases to ‘bubbles’ of adjacent jurisdictions who have the spread of the virus equally under control. Puerto Rico (pictured top) will start requiring even mainland American travelers to present a negative COVID test from within the last 72 hours. 

Tips for Travel 2.0:

 1. Get a Mask
You’ve seen the sign: No shirts, no shoes, no service? Add masks to that list.
Jurisdictions can legislate mask use (the city of Toronto now requires masks in all public indoor spaces), and companies, from airports to airlines to hotels and stores, have the right to declare terms of service. That can include wearing a mask.
Airlines in the US and Canada may have abandoned their policy of keeping middle seats empty for physical distancing, but they ARE adopting strict mask policies - as a man on an NYC- Florida flight discovered the hard way when he was de-boarded for refusing to don a mask.
2. Follow the Law
Ignorance is no excuse, and web sites, border authorities and signs communicate regulations clearly.
Compliance is not optional.
Just ask the American couple permitted to enter Canada with clear instructions to immediately quarantine for 14 days. They were later fined $2000 CDN (nearly $1500 USD) after they were seen in public in several places around the Canadian border community.
3. Be Prepared for Changes - and Last Minute Quarantines
‘Be prepared’ is an essential rule of thumb anytime you travel. Now more than ever.
Make sure you have access to wifi and data so you can stay in touch with home, your travel advisor, airline and other travel providers, so if your situation changes, you will be quickly able to put together a new plan.
New outbreaks might arise unexpectedly. So you should have a plan – in both your travel destination and on return to your own country – in case you need to quarantine.  
4. Use Only Official Information Sources
Misinformation and rumors can get you and others into trouble. Make travel decisions based on official sources, and be part of the solution by only sharing official information about COVID and travel, including:
For Americans:
For Canadians:

#PlanNowTravelSoon


Copyright BestTrip.TV/Influence Entertainment Group Inc or Rights Holder. All rights reserved. You are welcome to share this material from this page, but it may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.




What's a Travel Bubble? Plus 3 Tips For Making the Most of Yours
You might see this view sooner than you think.
The world of travel has begun to re-open. But it’s not like the tap has suddenly been turned full blast. More like a trickle. And there’s a clear pattern that’s going to shape your travel opportunities for at least the rest of this year, and possibly into 2021.

Bubble Travel

Human interaction has gone from shelter-in-place, work-from-home and no contact with anyone outside your household, to health authorities laying out phases for a return to normal. Phase 1 involves ‘bubbles’. Each household selects a small group of friends or family who are taking the same level of precautions as you, you trust to stay the course, and not mix with others who might not be on the same page. And you are ‘exclusive’ with just that small ‘bubble’.
Just like bubbles for individuals, travel is re-opening in regional and international ‘bubbles.’
Here’s an example: Right now, Canadians have been asked to stay in their own province. As a first step towards re-opening travel to all Canadians, the 4 neighboring maritime provinces of Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island and Newfoundland have agreed to launch a travel bubble, with residents permitted to travel just within those four provinces.

(Fogo Island Inn, Newfoundland)

New Travel Opportunities

Some people are describing bubble travel as restrictive.
It’s true that many international and regional borders remain officially closed. European countries, for example, have decided their ‘bubble’ includes residents of other European countries only – not even Great Britain, let alone the US or Canada – yet. 
Some borders are, if not officially, then effectively closed. Australian airline Quantas has announced it’s operating flights only within Australia or to next door New Zealand until 2021.
But I’m a glass-half-full kind of person, and I see travel bubbles as an opportunity to actually get travel started again and even create new travel experiences. Some travel companies are viewing it that way, too:

Bubble Cruising

  • Expedition cruise line Hurtigruten, a Norwegian company, become in June the first ocean cruise line to re-start cruising – BUT only in its own country, with coastal and fjord cruises only for guests from Norway and Denmark.
  • French-flagged luxury line Ponant is doing the same thing: with all its ships back in France, it's launching new itineraries just along the coasts and waterways of France beginning in July, and German river cruise line A-rosa has also re-launched select European river cruises for its bubble guests.
  • Luckily for Americans, the US has its own flagged ships able to offer ‘bubble’ cruises, too. 
Not the big ships. Most of the big cruise lines sail ships flagged from other nations, not the US, so they can’t offer exclusively American itineraries. Only US-flagged ships are permitted to sail exclusively American itineraries. Furthermore, the CDC has issued a no-sail order for all US ports that applies to ships with more than 250 on board, an order that expires in July, but might be renewed. 
But that still leaves smaller, US-flagged ships able to sail American, 'bubble' itineraries. For these cruise lines, that's what they specialize in:
  • UnCruise Adventures is one of the very few cruise lines currently able to sail in Alaska (with Canadian ports closed for the season and the US/Canada border still closed). UnCruise is picking up its Alaska season beginning August 1st.
  • American Cruise Lines and American Queen Steamboat Company, which operate US river cruises, both plan a return to cruising this summer.
  • In one remarkable example of lateral thinking and creating new opportunities, American Queen Steamboat Company and Uniworld Boutique River Cruises (which operates European and exotic river cruises) have established a reciprocal alliance. AQSC offers special pricing to Uniworld guests unable to take their planned Uniworld cruise this year so they can sail in their American ‘bubble’. And Uniworld will reciprocate with a special offer for AQSC guests to cruise on their European, and exotic itineraries later. 

(Alaska, courtesy Abercrombie & Kent)

Bubble Land Touring

Land tour companies in particular have pivoted, expanding their North American itineraries to accommodate bubble travel with unprecedented speed and agility.
  • Abercrombie & Kent has launched new American itineraries, plus an innovative private driving tour series that speaks directly to the concerns of travel in the time of COVID. The company’s ‘Great American Road Trips’ series includes a private car, with a driver/ guide, customized start and end points depending on your location, local guides providing behind the scenes access and hands-on activities, and pre-selected hotels that meet the company’s high standards.
  • Last week, we learned about Globus and sister, budget tour company Cosmos’ new ‘Undiscovered North America’ tours that follow the ‘Undiscovered’ format of their European tours of the same name: focusing on ‘less-traveled highways, legendary lanes and scenic country roads to the special places and parks other tour companies don’t visit. These itineraries help travelers discover the world’s tucked-away towns, lesser-known nooks and secluded seafronts for an unforgettable – and unique – vacation close to home.’
  • And just this week, Trafalgar Tours have announced a brand new ‘Near Not Far Limited Series’ of tours ‘hand crafted by Canadians for Canadians, to further your appreciation for your own backyard, connect you to locals you wouldn’t typically meet, and support local communities by doing something that you love – traveling,’ with similar new series in other countries where it operates.

Tips for Bubble Travel

What does all this mean for your holiday plans in the immediate and mid-term future? Primarily, bubble travel offers you safe and inspiring ways to travel sooner than you thought might be possible.
Here's how you can take advantage of your own travel bubble:
Switch reservations
Talk with your travel advisor about the possibility of changing an existing travel booking outside your travel bubble to one inside, while sticking with the same travel provider. 
If you have a favorite escorted tour company, you may be able to switch your Europe reservation, for example, for a tour within your bubble area. Then you can book Europe again later when it's possible.
Explore options for your favorite travel style within your travel bubble area
With so many travel companies performing incredible feats to pivot and offer new travel options closer to home, your travel advisor may find never-before-offered, exciting new tours and cruises for you.
Along with some great offers and savings to make travel close to home even more worthwhile.
Expand your horizons
Or you could switch it up and try a new style of travel. Are you a devoted cruise lover? Maybe this is the year you re-discover the joys of heady mountain air and scenery. 
Do you look forward every summer to an extended family reunion with dozens of relatives all descending on a beach resort or cruise? Maybe this is the year you take just your family bubble on an intimate journey to discover history or natural wonders within your travel bubble area.
 
Bubble travel is not just an important next step towards returning to normal in a post-COVID world. 

It opens the doors to discover whole new ways to see, taste, learn about and experience the Nature, culture, history, and flavors in our own backyard - even before the kids go back to school this fall.

By: Lynn Elmhirst, Producer/ Host, BestTrip TV
 

#DreamNowTravelSoon

 
Copyright BestTrip.TV/Influence Entertainment Group Inc or Rights Holder. All rights reserved. You are welcome to share this material from this page, but it may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.





3 Travel Planning Tips in a Post-COVID World
There’s good news for travel lovers! We are starting to see travel restrictions lifted.
Once we do start traveling again, the world of travel will be different.
Here are 3 tips for how to prepare yourself to travel again.
 

Coming… and Going

It’s not enough to have a valid passport anymore .
These days, you may not be able to get there from here. Even if planes say they are flying, and hotels are open where you want to go, it doesn’t mean you’ll be allowed to actually enter.  
Every day brings word about a patchwork of destinations opening, all on different schedules, with different restrictions.
Are you confused? So are we. But we've discovered a couple of helpful web sites tracking re-openings in the travel industry.
Some countries whose borders had been closed have now begun to open their borders, beginning with select – usually nearby – countries. Yours may not be one of them. 
But set aside the issue of crossing international borders. Even travel within countries – including travel within the US and within Canada - may not be possible, with air and road restrictions maintaining secure state or provincial borders.
Even if the border may be officially open, there could be a catch - you could face a 14-day quarantine when you arrive in your destination.
Or, on the flip side, you could face a quarantine period on your return home.
If quarantining on your arrival to your destination and/ or on your return home is NOT something you want to commit to do, make sure before you go you know all the regulations involved with arrival and departures so you don’t get caught by surprise.
If you know you’re going to have to quarantine, make sure you prep for that entire period of time in advance, with plans for someone else to restock you with groceries and medications and run any other errands you need so you don't break your quarantine obligations by not being prepared.

Insurance

No matter where you live and what kind of health insurance you have, travel usually changes your insurance status. And it is always – always! recommended to have comprehensive medical travel insurance so if you become sick while you are traveling, you have access to medical treatment to help you recover and keep other people safe from your sickness - and not be stuck with an enormous bill.
Now that COVID is a known factor, that has changed what is and is not covered under a medical travel insurance policy you might already have – many frequent travelers have an annual policy still in effect, for example. And it certainly affects what is and is not covered if you buy a new policy.
Please check with your travel advisor who sold you your travel insurance – or check directly with your insurance company, to see what is or may not be covered! 
That’s only one type of travel insurance. Travelers buy insurance to protect their financial investment in their trips, too, and those cancellation policies are also affected by the pandemic. You may be able to purchase an upgrade that will protect you financially if you need to cancel travel plans due to the outbreak.
When it comes to either travel or medical travel insurance, DO NOT assume you have coverage – it’s the worst situation to find out during an emergency that you do not. 
Double check so you can make smart decisions.

Immunity

What if you’ve already had COVID-19? There are now people beginning to travel – who, after exposure, are now immune to the virus. They should have no problems traveling, right?
For people who haven’t acquired immunity already, there are efforts underway to develop immunizations to make them able to safely travel, too.
The question is now: how to communicate or assure any destination of your immunity?
You could show a medical certificate.
Another proposal that’s been suggested – and we may see in our future - is for basically an ‘immunity passport’. That turns out to be controversial for some people. But from my point of view - this is neither controversial nor new. 
I still have my little document that tracks every vaccination I’ve had since I was a small child – right up to vaccinations I’ve had much more recently – in order to be able to go on some of my extensive travels.
People seem to forget in the panic surrounding COVID-19 that recommended – and required! With proof! – immunizations for travel are not new. 
Lots of people wisely get recommended immunizations for Hepatitis A & B just for week-long all-inclusive beach vacations a short flight away. And I’ve had vaccinations for typhoid and other serious diseases for the purposes of travel.  And did you know there are still dozens of countries that require travelers wanting to enter their countries show proof they’ve been immunized against yellow fever in order to get an entry visa? 
So it makes a lot of sense to me that COVID-19 becomes just one more line on my list of immunizations that I might have to show in order to be able to get an entry visa or cross a border. It helps me and my health care providers keep track – and it also shows respect to people in places where I want to travel that I’m not a health threat to their communities.  
It’s a privilege to be able to travel to so many places, and proof of immunization is us doing our part to earn that privilege and show that respect for their country and their safety.
 
We can’t wait to travel again- but in the ‘new normal’ developing in our post-COVID world, these are 3 new bits of research and preparations you are going to need to add to your travel planning process.


Happy traveling again soon!

 

Copyright BestTrip.TV/Influence Entertainment Group Inc or Rights Holder. All rights reserved. You are welcome to share this material from this page, but it may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.




Now More Than Ever: Why You Should Work With A Travel Advisor
 The COVID-19 pandemic will pass. Until then, the global travel scenario will continue to change daily.

Our top advice for people with travel booked – or considering travel – is to stay calm. And work with a trusted, expert travel advisor when you’re making travel plans.

A responsible, qualified, and professional travel advisor will always:

1. Only use and refer you to credible sources of information with expert and reasoned advice

Some of your friends at work, strangers on social media and less professional media are sharing gossip and spreading hysteria. They are making a difficult situation worse.

Here are three official travel advisory sources used by travel suppliers, insurers and others to make decisions about canceling trips and providing coverage.

  • The highly respected Centers for Disease Control and Prevention travel notices are located here.
  • The Government of Canada’s official travel information can be found here; and
  • The United States’ State Department advisories are published here.
 
2. Have the best, most up-to-date information from travel suppliers, airlines, insurers and other members of the travel industry you need to get you where you’re going, get you help, or get you home.

As the COVID situation rapidly evolves, there have been nearly daily changes to travel itineraries, schedules, as well as cancellations and modified policies affecting payment and cancellation of travel plans.

Your travel advisor gets this information first. And they get it from the source; from those cruise lines, airlines, tour companies, travel insurance providers and others. 

And agencies have direct access to travel supplier company officials to get answers, and help solve specific, individual cases. Like yours.

3. Pick up the phone. Or return your email. 

Someone said to us the other day, “I feel sorry for people traveling right now who didn’t use a travel agent. Who are they going to call?” 
 
Crisis is showing up the limitations of online travel agencies. Without a personal contact who has a vested interest in you as a customer, you can find yourself waiting forever for an answer to your email, on hold for hours, or passed from one person who can’t help to another.

Travel advisors are people. Your neighbors. Your community members. They take your travel needs and problems personally, and most of all, they are responsive when problems arise. 

4. Employ travel industry best practices to best protect your safety, your health, your investment, and your peace of mind, like:

  • Staying up to date with Terms and Conditions for each supplier in a client’s itinerary particularly those concerning refunds or penalties for changes and cancellations;

  • Encouraging you to book travel with a credit card. Depending on your card’s terms and conditions, it may offer added securities;
 
  • Offering and explaining to you different types of travel insurance – including medical travel insurance and trip cancellation insurance - and what it covers; and
 
  • Remaining compliant with their legal responsibilities, which in some places include disclosing conditions that may influence your decision to purchase, or advising you of changing travel conditions.
 
COVID-19 may be new, but serious global events having an impact on the world of travel are not new.

Experienced travel agencies have company experience, and often advisors with personal knowledge of dealing with crises like SARS, 9/11, and hurricanes that have disrupted large numbers of travelers.

Those are the experts you need in your corner, not just when there is a global health crisis. A qualified, expert travel advisor always adds value to your travel plans. But they are indispensable when things don’t go as planned.

World travel will return to a new normal when COVID-19 ebbs. Don’t let it hijack your travel or your travel dreams. Work with a travel advisor to make a thoughtful, appropriate, best plan for your next trip.



 
By: Lynn Elmhirst, Producer/ host BestTrip TV
 
Copyright BestTrip.TV/Influence Entertainment Group Inc or Rights Holder. All rights reserved. You are welcome to share this material from this page, but it may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
 
 
 






20 Things You Must Pack For Your Next Trip - and 1 Thing To Skip

Luggage allowances are shrinking and on many airlines, checking a bag comes at an additional cost. So a savvy traveler only packs what's most important.

Travel Expert and BestTrip.TV Producer/ Host Lynn Elmhirst has packing down to a science. Here's what's in her bag.

The smartest travelers and frequent fliers try to never check a bag. Not everyone can go that far. But everyone can pack smarter.

It works both ways. Not only do you want to have everything you need, there's no worse feeling than coming home having lugged something around your whole trip and never used it.

Here's what I've learned you really do need to pack:

  1. Packing Cubes. The first time you use packing cubes, you never travel without them again. They're indispensable to keep things organized and compartmentalized in your suitcase. No random clothes spilling out of your bag if you need to open it en route! And they save you precious holiday time: you can easily unpack at your destination, just opening up a cube and laying it in a dresser, then closing it up again and putting back in your suitcase when you move on.
  2. 3 Pairs of Shoes – 4 at the most. Believe me. No matter what your type of trip, anyone can travel successfully with 3 pairs of shoes – maximum 4, even though one of the best ways to handle tired feet from exploring all day is to CHANGE shoes so your feet still have support. Wear your comfortable (and heaviest) shoes on the plane. (This will keep the weight of your luggage down, too.) One pair of 'dressier' shoes for dinners/ evenings that go with everything. Another pair of day shoes to switch out sore feet makes 3. Maybe that 4th pair of shoes for the beach or your workout.
  3. Shoe bags. Put all your shoes in separate bags. Fabric shoe bags are kind to your leather shoe finish, but plastic bags will do. They keep street/beach/jungle dirt or moisture away from your clothes.
  4. Shoe-Shine Wipes. Your shoes usually get dustier when you travel because you are walking around more. Shoe shine wipes (you can also get mini, enclosed, sponge/polish units) for any color of leather will keep you looking, well, polished for meetings or nice evenings out.
  5. A Large Wrap/ Scarf. Planes and trains and even hotels get chilly. Men and women both can need a little extra something even if there are blankets on the plane. A large, lightweight wool-type (not heavy knit) scarf/ wrap can keep you warm, and double as an evening wrap (for ladies). Black is almost always useful. A lightweight black cardigan sweater can do the same trick for men or women.
  6. A Small, Fold-up Umbrella. It can protect you from both rain and blistering sun. If you get one small enough, you won't even notice it in your bag. And it will save you the embarrassment of arriving somewhere dripping.
  7. Travel First Aid. Don't waste valuable time on your holiday hunting for solutions for minor issues. Travel with an easily-packable, small pouch containing:
    1. Your preferred over-the-counter (OTC) pain medication;
    2. Bandaids (Tip: get the ones that already contain antibiotic ointment; they help blisters heal faster);
    3. Non-drowsy travel sickness medication. I never get travel sick but I carry it to help travel companions. Preventing people getting sick around you is as much a kindness to yourself as them.
    4. Throat lozenges for dry airplanes and hotels (especially helpful if you are traveling on business and need to make a presentation or speech or... host that travel video);
    5. Help for tummy trouble (constipation or diarrhea) which can strike as a result of strange water, jet lag/different body schedules or new food;
    6. Non-drowsy OTC allergy meds as you never know when something new may trigger an unpleasant allergic reaction, and
    7. OTC sleep aid especially if you have a long, overnight flight (arriving somewhat rested will help you enjoy your travels much better than starting exhausted.)
  8. A Foldable Shopping/ Carry-all Bag. This is one of the most useful things you can carry with you at all times – not just when you are shopping. Carry it in your carry-on bag, then if you get to the airport and your carry-on bag ends up needing to be checked, you can pull out the foldable bag and still have something to hold essential carry on items. Splurge: on a Longchamp Pliage bag. It has classy leather handles and closure and very sturdy and stylish, water-resistant fabric in multiple colors. It can double as a purse or beach bag as needed but folds up to pack. Priceless.
  9. Plastic Bags. You can use plastic bags to store your wet or dirty clothes or muddy shoes. I know a savvy traveler who always has a roll of doggy-waste bags in the bottom of their suitcase. They are heroes to their travel companions in rainy climates.
  10. Multi-tool-plus-knife. Airline regulations still permit you to pack one in your checked luggage (but not carry-on) for emergencies. If you're like me, you love to check out local markets and food producers. So most of my travel 'emergencies' involve opening wine bottles and serving cheese. Splurge: on a real Swiss Army knife - it will last your whole life. It also makes a perfect gift for a traveler in your life.
  11. Pen. It is almost embarrassing to have to remind you. There's always someone in a line up or on a plane who needs to fill out a form and starts asking around for a pen. Don't be that guy.
  12. Hard copies of all your travel bookings, confirmation numbers, loyalty program numbers, travel insurance, emergency contacts and local addresses, including your hotels. The best digital solutions are only as good as the wifi that powers them. You don't want to be stuck unable to pull up a reservation or even the name of your hotel on your phone for the taxi driver if you can't connect to the local internet.
  13. Notepad – Same thing; never be completely reliant on digital technology when you are traveling. Names, phone numbers, names of restaurants… if your phone isn’t connected, your essential notes need to go somewhere.
  14. Flash Drive – Keep a back up soft copy of all those travel documents and reservations because paper documents can get lost, too, and your hotel will be able to let you plug into a computer (or your own laptop) to print them out again.
  15. Updated Travel Apps – Make sure you have up-to-date versions of your preferred booking apps, map apps, and language translation apps. Don't use expensive (and possibly slower) local wifi to update your apps.
  16. Smartphone / Device Battery Extender – Even if you are on your phone constantly now, chances are, when you travel you'll use it even more: more photos, more videos, map app running in the background… plus you may well find yourself away from a plug and running out of power. Carry a battery extender you can charge nightly in your hotel, or a portable solar charger.
  17. Converter - Abroad, an electricity adapter / converter for all your electronics will keep you powered up. Spend once, use forever: a universal unit that adapts electronics anywhere in the world. If you carry a lot of electronics, you might even want two.
  18. An extended-length smartphone charging cable. Use your phone as an alarm clock? Post to social media and reply to emails in bed? Not all hotels or cruise ships yet have bedside USB charging adapters. You may need to plug your phone in 10-12 feet from your bed.
  19. Emergency Cash. A nice number is $250 USD or Euro depending where you're going. Or a number that makes you comfortable to cover yourself if local bank machines are down and you can't get local currency, or a restaurant won't take credit cards, or… any number of little emergencies can come up when you're traveling that cash will solve. Having an emergency stash (hidden but on hand) can save the day.
  20. Contact information of your travel professional - If bad weather or other emergencies interfere with your travel plans, your travel agent/advisor is one of your best advocates to help get you home or your problems resolved smoothly.
  21. PLUS here's a big tip about what NOT to pack: Your most expensive watch, jewelry or sunglasses. First, many people lose things when they travel, leaving a trail of items in planes, hotels and taxis. Second, in some destinations, pricey accessories make you a target. That's not the sign of a smart traveler.

Start your Trip!

Copyright BestTrip.TV/Influence Entertainment Group Inc or Rights Holder. All rights reserved. You are welcome to share this material from this page, but it may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

You'll notice we aren't using a photo for this story. That's because there's not much good to see. Hurricane Irma is possibly the most destructive natural event ever to strike certain parts of the Caribbean.

What about Travel?

Information is trickling in, but here's the best available information we have today from 3rd party sources about the situation:

  • Tourists are barred indefinitely from the Florida Keys although they have begun to let residents back in.
  • South Florida's airports are operating although they are working back up to full service.
  • Cruises from Port Canaveral, Fort Lauderdale and Miami are resuming this week – but most with modified and/ or abbreviated itineraries.
  • The islands worst hit include Barbuda (where the entire island's population has now been evacuated to sister Antigua), St. Maarten/ St. Martin, parts of Cuba, St. Thomas, Turks and Caicos, Anguilla, St. Barth's, and the damage in some is overwhelming.St. Maarten and St. Thomas in particular are among the most popular cruise ports in the Eastern Caribbean.It's unknown at this point when any cruise or other tourists may be able to visit.
  • Some cruise lines are canceling Eastern Caribbean itineraries and changing them to Western – or even Southern Caribbean – itineraries for the next few weeks.

Good News

Already, though, there is some good news we want to share, as rays of hope during this terrible time:

  • We have been so heartened by how many cruise lines – in astonishing feats of logistics – quickly re-routed and dedicated ships to transporting people away from danger and hazardous conditions and bringing vital supplies and assistance to communities affected.
  • Similarly, airlines and charter companies made heroic evacuations before the hurricane made landfall, and some have returned with assistance where they can land.
  • We are even starting to see 'assistance tourism' – people choosing to take their holidays in devastated areas to contribute to local economies and help clean up and get communities back to functioning.
  • And even in affected areas, not all hotels, resorts and activities have been destroyed.Some are still functioning or will be soon.

Just a few examples:

  • Our friends at St. Maarten's 12- metre Challenge racing yacht experience report they'll be back in business by December.The heavily damaged airport has restored enough service to land flights with needed supplies and assistance.
  • So, too, Sandals says its Beaches Turks and Caicos property will be restored and 'better than ever' before Christmas.For booked travelers, they offer to"re-accommodate your stay at one of our Beaches Resorts located in Jamaica or to any available Sandals Resort, or reschedule your travel dates for Beaches Turks & Caicos"
  • St. Barth's airport re-opened Thursday morning.

What Can You Do?

The affected areas are facing estimated lost tourism revenues this year in the billions. And in the worst-affected locations where tourism is the largest or only industry, almost all jobs are gone indefinitely until tourists return.

Our hearts go out to everyone affected by Hurricane Irma. And we hope you join us in supporting recovery efforts.

One of the best ways to support recovery in the region is to continue to travel. High season from December to March is vital for the economies of tourism-dependent Caribbean countries.

If you have booked travel plans, check with us or the travel supplier to see if you can complete those plans. The Caribbean Tourism Organization and the Caribbean Hotel and Tourism Association are other excellent sources of information.

And if you are thinking of a sun or beach vacation, let us help you book a trip to the Caribbean. There are many places unaffected or that will be ready by December to provide you with a memorable holiday that also helps economies recover from Hurricane Irma.

Copyright BestTrip.TV/Influence Entertainment Group Inc or Rights Holder. All rights reserved. You are welcome to share this material from this page, but it may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

2016 is Sailing off into the Sunset...

And here at Walnut Grove Travel, we're looking back on some of our best, most inspiring travel stories of the past year... AND bringing you some fresh ideas to start your travels off right in 2017.

Thank you for being part of our community of travel lovers this year. We wish you a very Happy New Year 2017, and whether you travel on business, for pleasure, on your own, with colleagues, family, friends, or that special someone, we hope you have many exciting and memorable journeys ahead!(Top Photo: BestTrip.TV in Fort Lauderdale, Florida)

As 2016 Sails off into the Sunset...

We look back on some of our best, most inspiring travel stories of the past year... AND bring you some fresh ideas to start your travels off right in 2017. Thank you for being part of our community of travel lovers this year. We wish you a very Happy New Year 2017, and whether you travel on business, for pleasure, on your own, with colleagues, family, friends, or that special someone, we hope you have many exciting and memorable journeys ahead!(Photo: BestTrip.TV in Fort Lauderdale, Florida)

Retie the knot in Jamaica Retie your knot and celebrate your married life with your kids in Jamaica! read more
10 Awesome Activities to do in Berlin 10 funtastic things to do in Berlin! read more
St. Lucia, the perfect Wedding Destination.

Saint Lucia is the perfect destination for romance. Whether you want an adventure wedding, an unbelievable honeymoon or a quiet intimate getaway, St. Lucia guarantees a romantic experience that you can only dream of.

St. Lucia offers:

  • A mix of French and British Influences
  • An ideal backdrop for special celebrations
  • Unusual and stunning features such as:
    • The high twin peaks of the Pitons.
    • Tropical Forests
    • Soft Beaches lined with palm trees
    • Secluded Coves
    • Natural Harbours
    • Natural waterfalls
  • Activities such as:
    • Sailing
    • Yachting
    • StandUp Paddleboarding
    • Surfing
    • Water Skiing
    • Fishing.
  • Luxurious Accommodations along with magnificent eateries ranging from gourmet to fresh, authentic and local

St. Lucia has so many options to choose from for your wedding locations. Here are the top 5 locations to get married in St. Lucia:

1. Imagine your wedding day on a beautiful beach lined with palm trees, a magnificent horizon, and clear blue waters. At Reduit Beach in Rodney Bay, you can have just that!

2. For the adventurers, St. Lucia's waterfalls provide the perfect backdrop and demonstrates just how one-of-a-kind St. Lucia is. Diamond Falls in Soufriere is one of St. Lucia's beautiful waterfalls.

3. One of the most popular historical parks in St. Lucia is the Pigeon Island National Landmark. Pigeon Island provides breathtaking views of the Caribbean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean on either side. It also boasts the beautiful ruins from an old naval fort.

4. The Piton Mountains in Soufriere offer a breathtaking backdrop for your wedding. You can arrange to use this location with a private wedding coordinator or with any of the hotels located nearby. It offers a romantic wedding scene like no other.

5. St. Lucia's botanical gardens are one of the best locations for a beautiful Wedding. They host tropical scents as they are home to special flora and fauna. Mamiku Gardens are one of St. Lucia's beautiful gardens.

Say I Do In Mexico Mexico is one the best destinations for your wedding. Here are 5 places that could make your wedding spectacular. read more
Minmore, House of Spirits in Cairngorms National Park A stay at Minmore House on the Glenlivet estate in Cairngorms National Park, the mythic heart of the Highlands. read more
Why get married in the Bahamas 10 reason to get married in the beautiful and magnificent Bahamas. read more
North Coast  Highway 500 Travel Itinerary Spending five days driving around Scotland’s north coast, taking in beautiful sites and visiting magnificent places. read more
Thinking Destination Wedding?

Thinking of saying " I do " in a paradise-like setting far away from home?

Well before you start packing your wedding gown and tuxedo to travel, ask yourself these five crucial questions:

1. Budget: Are you willing to stretch your budget if necessary? In most cases, destination weddings can actually be much more economical for the bride and groom. However, in some cases we've had couples with a 'go big or go home' attitude and in those cases, things can add up really fast.

2. Decisions: Can you make quick but calculated decisions along with the wedding planner? The perfect destination wedding comes down to a series of small decisions, so make sure you're ready to make them.

3. Guest list: This one is the biggest one of all. Will the people you want most to be at your wedding be able and willing to attend?

4. Both sets of parents: Have you spoken to each set of parents and received feedback from both parties? If one set of parents is hesitant, it can sometimes become an issue before and even during the wedding itself.

5. Destination: Where will you tie the know? Do the bride and groom share the same dream destination? Can you and your partner easily come to a decision or, at least, the style of destination wedding that would work best?

How did you do? If you got lots of positives, give us a buzz or drop us an email, and we will have one of our destination wedding experts show you the next steps in the planning process.

What's Hot in Wedding Food

No matter where you have your wedding, catering is one of the biggest elements you will plan. How will you feed your guests? What kind of culinary experience will it be? Here are the latest trends in Wedding Cuisine.

1. Participation: Passing food around during the cocktail hour is pretty traditional. More and more brides and grooms are now making 'culinary performances' part of the overall wedding experience. Think oyster shucker, roast carver, midnight crepe chef...

2. Food Trucks: Nothing's hotter right now than having food trucks at your wedding. Everything from poutine to ice cream to latte trucks.

3. Comfort Foods: Burgers and fries and cakes and cookies, "Oh my!"

4. Going Rustic: Many brides and grooms are opting for a rustic theme, which includes harvest tables and meals served family style.

5. Beverage Stations- Signature, destination-themed cocktails, specialty coffee and teas, and even milk and cookie stations are right on trend.

6. Forget the Cake, Move Over Cupcakes. Now, it's pies, macarons, and gateaux of crepes making a move for the head table.

7 . Goodbye, Late Night Buffet: More and more brides and grooms are opting for a late night fast food type snacks. Popular options are pizza, taco and ice cream sundae stations.


10 tips on how to travel stress free
 

Make a list of packing items to put in your checked luggage and in your carry on - This reduces the chances that you will forget something and have to bear unnecessary expenses to replace an item that you might need 

Confirm your flights ahead of time - Obviously very important, nothing worse than showing up to the airport only to realize that your flight schedule has changed and it's leaving 8 hours later. 

Book your first and last night's accommodation -  if you haven't booked a packaged holiday, guided vacation or a cruise. This is important because you don't want to show up to your destination only to realize you can't find a place to stay or have great difficulty doing so. At the end of your trip, try to stay at a  accommodation closer the airport,  particularly if you are leaving earlier in the morning. 

Scan or take a picture of your passport and email  to an email account that you can access anywhere in the world - Losing a passport in a foreign country can be one of the most stressful travel experiences one can have. The process of replacing one can be made much simpler when you have a copy of your passport.  If you have emailed a copy of it to an email address you can access anywhere, you never have to worry about losing a copy as it can always be accessed.

Plan your itinerary  - decide what are the key attractions/sights that you absolutely want to see, and which ones aren't as important. Try not to load up your days with too much activities, as time tends to move faster than what we expect and that can cause extra stress.   

Choose the right traveling companion - This is one of the most important ones. If you are traveling  by yourself, clearly this isn't an issue. However, if you are traveling with somebody,  they can either make things great or can ruin your trip. If you have any doubts about whether someone would be good to travel with, you may want to reconsider. Insurance - 

Make sure that you have proper cancellation and medical coverage. It's better to have it and not need, than need it and not have it. If you need to use your insurance while in destination , you should familiarize yourself with the process of making a claim, etc. Know what phone number you need to call, as well as what your insurance plan number is. 

Credit and Debit Cards - Carrying two credit cards is never a bad thing. There is always a chance that your credit card might be compromised while on a trip. If you have a back up credit card, that will solve many headaches.  Let your bank know that you are traveling to reduce the chance of your debit card/atm card being deactivated while away. 

Bring Local Currency - Whenever traveling out of country, always make sure you have some local currency with you before you arrive. Saves you time looking for an ATM machine or trying to find a place to exchange money. The most expensive place to exchange money is...you guessed it..the airport! 

Adaptors/Converters - Make sure you have the right adaptor/converter for the destination you are going to, especially if you are bring items like a laptop/tablet/smart phone, etc

A Wee Dram in Aberdeen: Consider a Visit to these Distilleries
  • Strathisla Distillery

Seafield Avenue, Keith, Banffshire
With its distinctive pagodas, cobbled courtyard and picturesque buildings, Strathisla Distillery is arguably the most beautiful distillery in Scotland. Founded in 1786, it is also the oldest operating distillery in the Scottish Highlands.

  • The Glenfiddich Distillery

Dufftown, Moray
World famous working distillery. On Christmas Day in 1887, William Grant watched proudly as the first spirit ran from the stills at Glenfiddich Distillery. Five generations later the distillery is still owned and managed by the Grant family. Glenfiddich is unique in the fact that it is the only Highland Single Malt that is distilled, matured and bottled at its own distillery.

  • Balvenie Distillery

Dufftown
The Balvenie is unlike all other single malt Scotch whiskies, thanks to a unique combination of human craft and natural alchemy. Neither the craft nor nature’s mysteries have changed in over a century. A visit to the distillery in Speyside, Scotland, brings this all to life.

  • Speyside Cooperage Visitor Centre

Craigellachie, Aberlour, Banffshire
No visit to Speyside would be complete without a visit to the Speyside Cooperage, the only cooperage in Britain with a Visitor Centre. Here you can watch the coopers make and repair the barrels for the whisky industry.

  • Royal Lochnagar Distillery

Crathie, Ballater, Aberdeenshire
Royal Lochnagar distillery is situated on the south side of the River Dee close to Balmoral Castle. Age old traditions and craftsmanship produce one of Scotland's most exclusive whiskies. A visit to Royal Lochnagar is a timeless experience. Visitors can see distillers tending to the traditional mash-tun and gleaming copper stills. At the tour end, a complimentary dram will confirm that Royal Lochnagar is a malt whisky worthy of the "Royal" prefix to its name.

Top ten kid-friendly destinations in Tokyo, Japan

If you are bringing your kids to Tokyo, you do not have to worry about where to bring them. Tokyo has a number of attractions that you and your kids will love. Here are our favorites:

  • If your kids are “Kung fu Panda” fans, you must bring them to Ueno Zoo, Japan’s oldest zoo. This is where their eyes will pop out when they see two of its Pandas eating and frolicking.
  • Located about 50 minutes by train from the center of Tokyo, the Monkey Park in Mount Takao is a must visit. It is the home of about 40 Japanese Macaques. Wacth them walk the ropes and perform tricks.
  • Bring them to Toyota Mega Web, a car theme park, which features indoor car rides, kart rides, simulators, a vintage car collection, and where you can watch cars being restored.
  • Tokyo Dome City is where you and your kids can enjoy thrilling rides. It features five zones, namely: LaQua, Viking, Splash Garden, Parachute, and Geopolis. You can also watch some live shows, and play with them in an interactive role playing game at the MagiQuest.
  • Enjoy a Dolphin & Sea Lion Show at the Shinagawa Aquarium. You can also walk in an underwater tunnel tank where you can watch hundreds of sea creatures swimming around you!
  • For indoor entertainment, head to Joypolis Entertainment Center which features lots of games and activities for kids of all ages.
  • One of the pillars of the gaming industry, Sony Corporation is where you and your kids can marvel at its newest gadgets which can you try for free. You can also shop for the latest gadget and souvenirs
  • Located in Kitanomaru Park, the Science Museum is one of the city’s three science museums. It features interactive exhibits, shows and demonstrations, entertainment place, museum shop, restaurant, and a café.
  • The RiSuPia Panasonic Digital Network Museum features Panasonic products. It is where you and the kids are provided with an active learning opportunity through its hands-on museum. The coolest thing about his museum is each visitor gets a handheld tablet that they scan at each exhibit.
  • If your kids love robots and techie stuffs, you must bring them to the Museum of Emerging Science and Innovation. It is where they will learn about the world of technology and science in a fun way. Watch Asimo, the walking robot, demonstrate his skills.

Your kids might not want to leave Tokyo when they get to visit these kid-friendly destinations. It is a wonderland for kids! Consult your travel agent for more details. 

Ten books that will inspire you to book a trip, pack those bags, and travel around the world

A bookworm’s bucket list is filled with places they have read about. Whether the book is fiction or non-fiction, reading about places you have never even heard of before, will want you to pack up your bags, leave everything behind, and travel around the world. Some of these books have been made into movies, inspiring more people to travel. Here are my personal favorites.

  • The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho. If you are yearning to travel to places you have never been before, but lack the courage to do so; this book will inspire you to take that trip and just follow your dream.
  • Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Garrett. Sometimes it takes a devastating incident to make you courageous enough to take steps to fulfill your dreams. This book will bring you to Italy, India, and Indonesia. The book was made into a movie starring Julia Roberts.
  • Born to Run by Christopher McDougall. In the process of discovering the secrets of the Tarahumara Indians who can run miles without getting tired, the author will take you to breathtaking valleys, canyons and mountains across North America. A must read for runners.
  • Journeys of a Lifetime: 500 of the World's Greatest Trips by National Geographic. Provides a glimpse of the world's most famous and lesser known travel destinations. Reading the book will take you to places you have not even heard of before.
  • Last Chance to See by Douglas Adams and Mark Carwardine. A book that will inspire you to travel and see a variety of animals on the brink of extinction. Highly recommended for nature lovers.
  • Life is a Trip: the transformative magic of travel by Judith Fein. This book will teach you how to open your heart and soul to traveling even if things do not turn out the way you want it.  Embrace the experience and find pleasure in traveling.
  • Tales of a Female Nomad: Living at Large in the World by Rita Golden Gelman. What to do when you feel like everything is simply stagnating? You travel solo and see the world in an entirely different light. The book will bring you to Guatemala, Mexico,  the Galapagos Islands, and other fascinating places.
  • The Motorcycle Diaries: Notes on a Latin American Journey Ernesto Che Guevara, Cintio Vitier, and Aleida Guevara. My all-time favorite. It is based on the travels of Che Guevara across Latin America. It features unpublished photos taken by Che Guevara. It is a journey to self-realization.
  • Seven Years in Tibet by Heinrich Harrer. A memoir that was originally published in 1953. It will take you across rugged mountains, godforsaken plains, and to the enigmatic and mysterious heartland of Tibet where the author had the pleasure of meeting the Dalai Lama.
  • Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer.  If you are afraid of change, this book will inspire you to leave everything behind and follow where you heart leads you. Heartbreaking and powerful, the book is based on the true story of Christopher Johnson McCandless.

These books will inspire you to travel and embrace the world beyond. Take the first step; consult your travel agent about the places you have read about, and start planning your trip. 

Where’s the Beef?

By: Anita Draycott

Argentina boasts the best beef in the world. Whereas most North American cattle are pumped with hormones and bred to be marbled with fat, Argentina’s cows are leaner, sweeter and chewier because they range freely on the vast pampas. Sink your teeth into something memorable at these fine tables.

  • The aroma of meat sizzling on an asador (wood fire) in the window lures carnivores into Las Nazarenas (Reconquista 1132), where friendly staff will guide you through the various cuts of beef. The complimentary glass of Lequi herbal liquor is an effective digestif after your Flintstone-sized T-bone.

www.lasnazarenas.com.ar

  • At the Palacio Duhau Park Hyatt (Avenida Alvear 1661), dine on Black Angus beef and such regional specialties as king prawns from Tierra del Fuego in its eponymous restaurant. Or, consider a wine-and-cheese grazing in Vinoteca’s unique Cheese Room.

www.buenosaires.park.hyatt.com

  • In Recoleta, the Alvear Palace Hotel reins supreme with a list of awards that’s almost as long as its wine list. The flower-filled French gourmet restaurant, La Bourgogne, is worth the splurge. The hotel also boasts an Art Deco style Champagne Bar,

www.alvearpalace.com

  • Many claim that chef Martitegui’s culinary creations at Casa Cruz (Uriarte 1658) are the best in town. Try the fois crème brulée and veal tenderloin with green pepper sauce and see for yourself why Conde Nast Traveller and Wallpaper magazines raved about this upscale eatery.

www.casa-cruz.com

5 things to avoid while traveling in Japan

The Land of the Rising Sun, Japan is a nation full of contrasts. This is where you will see people in traditional costumes walking side by side with teenagers in their cosplay outfits, traditional ryokan lodges and modern hotels, sumo wrestlers and baseball players, Koto players and rock bands, serene gardens and hi-tech amusements parks, and urbanized cities and traditional old towns.

Although the country is a mixture of the eclectic and traditional, there are still some things you must avoid when traveling to Japan.  It is still a country whose people are sticklers for proper decorum and behaviors that most westerners do not know about. Here are five things you must avoid when traveling to Japan.

  • If you are invited to enjoy a traditional Japanese bath, don’t just plunge in! You must take a thorough shower before stepping into the steaming hot pool called Onsen.
  • Avoid walking around without a face mask if you are suffering from colds or the sniffles. Even if you are just feeling a little unwell, you must wear a face mask. Heath concerns are a big issue in Japan.
  • Most tourists are very tip-oriented. In Japan, tipping is not the norm. No matter how big or small your tip is, they will return it back to you.
  • It is considered impolite to eat or drink while walking around in Japan. Although there are stand-up eateries in Japan, you must stay put and not wander around.
  • Avoid displaying your tattoos if you have them. Tattoos are not fully accepted in Japan.

Now you are ready to conquer Japan! Have a safe and exciting trip!

 

How to avoid pickpockets in Barcelona Are you traveling to Barcelona soon? Although Barcelona is a generally safe city, it cannot be denied that it has a pickpocket problem at hand. But, do not let that stop you from seeing and experiencing Barcelona because it is truly a beautiful city. What is a tourist to do then? read more
5 Things You Need To Know About Bodrum 'Halicarnassus of Caria' was the ancient name given to the present day Turkish city of Bodrum that is located on the entry into the Gulf of Gökova. It was previously popular for being home to Mausoleum of Mausolus, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. read more