It’s Time To Travel – And Plan Travel

July 14, 2009 on 9:15 pm | In Air Sale, Europe travel, Greece Travel, Hawaii travel, Mexico travel, ocean cruising, things travelers need to know, travel news | 1 Comment

Sorry for the lack of news lately, but our teams have been…traveling! Yep, we travel summer, winter, spring, and fall. In fact, we’re on the go just about anytime we can arrange it. And right now is a great time to plan a getaway.

While the airlines and cruise industries seem to be having serious problems due to the state of the economy (e.g. airline ticket revenues are down 25 percent for the first half of the year and many of the big boats are sailing with a lower occupancy than last year), sometimes there are silver linings to be found in “dark clouds”. We have noticed that several major airlines are still discounting tickets to Europe and there are some amazing cruise deals to be found for touring Mexico and Alaska. At this point, it looks like discounts on travel fares and accommodations may last into the fall.

While we realize that it is difficult for families to travel once school starts again in September, if you have the opportunity you should consider a vacation this fall to take advantage of the lower levels of leisure travel and the discounts that seems to be resulting from this phenomenon. Autumn is a wonderful time to tour Europe, although the weather can get “iffy” in northern Europe in late November and December. If you are thinking about soaking up the sun, Hawaii is great in the fall, as is coastal Mexico. Of course, the Greek islands can be magnificent in September and October, although you need to make sure that your favorite place to stay has survived this year’s slow summer travel season.

In other words, our advice is “GO”, whenever you have the chance. While travel is our business, it is also our avocation. We find travel educational, relaxing, enjoyable and important to our well-being. There are so many places to go, so many interesting places to discover and so many wonderful people to meet that we are already anticipating our turn to enjoy the world of travel. When will it be your turn?

Yep. We know. You want to wait just a little bit longer. Maybe next year? Maybe the economy will improve? If that is your position, we think someone may be giving you bad advice. We all hope that the economy improves, but we can guarantee you that as the economy improves, the price of travel will rise accordingly. Now is the time that you should be able to find bargains that you may never, ever see again in the world of travel.

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Acapulco, Sun, Style, Cliff Diving, Drug Wars and Grenades?

June 9, 2009 on 1:36 pm | In Mexico travel, ThereArePlaces.com, ocean cruising, things travelers need to know, travel warnings | Comments Off

The travel authorities in Mexico must feel that the cards are stacked against then. First, Influenza H1N1 (Swine Flu) hit the country and tourists stayed away (and are still doing so). Now that the Influenza has started to ebb, it appears that the drug wars are restarting. Over the weekend Acapulco witnessed a fixed battle between the authorities and the local drug gangs in which the members of the drug cartel tossed numerous hand grenades at the police, shops and anything and anyone in their way.

Today, the Federal authorities and the local police stared each other down over drawn guns.
Sounds like the Wild West has resurfaced in Acapulco. Can other tourist towns in Mexico be far behind?

We recommended avoiding Acapulco in our recent revision of our coverage of Mexico at ThereArePlaces because of the city’s economic decline, as well as its current drug cartel problems. However, many cruise ships stop there and it remains a popular shore excursion with most lines. However, the authorities inAcapulco may no longer be in a position to guarantee your safety. If you are going to Mexico, we recommend that you think long and hard about the risks involved in visiting Acapulco – even as a day tour from a cruise liner. Ask your cruise director for an update about personal safety in Acapulco and then make your plans.

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Western Hemisphere Travel Rules Complete for U.S.

June 1, 2009 on 7:30 pm | In Mexico travel, ThereArePlaces.com, WHTI, Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative, air travel, passports, things travelers need to know, travel | Comments Off

Well, we finally hit June 1, 2009 and that means that all aspects of the United States’ Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative (WHTI) are now in place. If you need to know the details, check our article on the WHTI. In addition, if you have heard about the new Passport Card for use under the WHTI, see this ThereArePlaces article.

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U.S. CDC Changes Recommendation on Travel to Mexico

May 17, 2009 on 7:27 pm | In Health and travel, Influenza outbreak, Mexico travel, Swine flu outbreak, ThereArePlaces.com, things travelers need to know | Comments Off

The following Travel Alert was issued by the U.S. Department of State on May 15, 2009:
The Department of State wishes to inform U.S. citizens traveling to and residing in Mexico that on May 15 2009, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) lifted its recommendation that American citizens avoid all nonessential travel to Mexico.  As a result of the CDC’s decision, the State Department’s Travel Alert relating to the 2009-H1N1 influenza outbreak is no longer in effect.

The CDC continues to suggest precautions that travelers and U.S. citizens resident in Mexico (especially those at high risk for complications of influenza) should take to reduce their risk of infection while in Mexico; provides recommendations for those who must travel to an area where cases of 2009-H1N1 influenza have been reported; and recommends measures travelers should take following their return from an area that has reported cases of 2009-H1N1 influenza.

At ThereArePlaces, we report the offical stances to you, but suggest that you decide when you feel that travel is safe.  While the Influenza A outbreak has not yet lived up to its potential severity, it is still early in the game.  If you have travel plans in Mexico, check locally to determine the severity (or lack of it) at your destination.

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Cruise Lines Begin Cancelling Port Calls in Mexico

April 30, 2009 on 12:18 pm | In Caribbean travel, Mexico travel, Swine flu outbreak, ThereArePlaces.com, Uncategorized, things travelers need to know, travel, travel warnings | Comments Off

We forgot to include this is our earlier blog, but thought you might be interested. Reuters has reported that major cruise lines have begun to cancel ports of call in Mexico. 

Don’t know about you, but taking a cruise without ports of call is just not in the cards for us.  Of course, it would be a great way to “get away” from it all.

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More Swine Flu News

April 30, 2009 on 11:04 am | In Mexico travel, Swine flu outbreak, ThereArePlaces.com, Uncategorized, personal travel, things travelers need to know, travel | Comments Off

The United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have issued a health warning advising US citizens to avoid non-essential travel to Mexico.  The EU is considering a ban of all air travel to Mexico in response to their current belief that all cases of Swine flu in Europe have originated in Mexico.

This page at the CDC site provides a good overview of what travelers need to know about the Swine Flu.

We will keep you updated on any information we come across on Swine Flu and travel.

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EU Health Chief – Restrict Travel to Mexico and U.S.

April 27, 2009 on 7:34 am | In Mexico travel, ThereArePlaces.com, United States travel, personal travel, things travelers need to know, travel warnings | Comments Off

Just a quick note following-up on our blog of yesterday regarding the deadly outbreak of Swine Flu in Mexico and a related, but not yet deadly, outbreak of the Swine Flu in the United States.  Today Androulla Vassiliou, the Health Commissioner for the EU recommended that all travelers postpone non-essential travel to Mexico and the United States   For more information, see this AP article at MSNBC.com, or this more detailed article by the BBC.

The acting director fo the Centers for Disease Control in the US felt that the inclusion of the US in the travel warning was unreasonable, since only 20 cases had surfaced in the US and only one of those required hospitalization.  See this article in the New York Times for more detail

A case of the Swine Flu has been detected in Spain, while others are being tested in New Zealand, Brazil, the UK and Israel, all of whom had traveled to Mexico.

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Human Swine Flu – A Pandemic?

April 25, 2009 on 11:21 pm | In Mexico travel, country travel information, personal travel, things travelers need to know, travel warnings | Comments Off

Last Tuesday we wrote about the possibility that the Avian Flu was still lurking and the potential problems that it could cause for travelers.  It appears we were focused on both the wrong geography and the wrong “carrier”. 

Late last week it was revealed that there appears to be a previously unknown variation of the swine flu that has combined into a form that can be communicated to humans.  In Mexico, mainly  in Mexico City, it appears that 81 have died of the flu and over 1300 may be infected.  In addition, according to the CDC 8 cases of swine influenza have surfaced in the western and southern US, although, as of this date, no fatalities have been recorded.

International organizations are worried the this particular strain of the flu could become a pandemic.  A pandemic is a flu that can 1) infect humans, 2) be easily spread between people and 3) for which there is no immunity.   The last pandemic in 1968 (the Hong Kong Flu) resulted in over a million deaths, while the two other 20th century pandemics resulted in over 50 million deaths. 

See this article from the BBC for more information on the flu.

Until the threat situation in Mexico becomes clear, we receommend avoiding travel to Mexico City.  Until more details are known, it might be prudent to reconsider any immediate travel anywhere in Mexico.  Of course, these are issues that all travelers must decide for themselves. 

If you must travel to Mexico, wash your hands frequently during travel, avoid groups of people (hard to avoid when flying) and contact with people (hand shakes, etc.).  Finally, wear a mask.  Yes, it looks silly but is very effective in thwarting the influenza.

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New Travel Document Requirement for U.S. Citizens (and others) traveling in the Western Hemisphere

February 25, 2009 on 11:31 am | In Canada travel, Caribbean travel, Mexico travel, ThereArePlaces.com, WHTI, Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative, things travelers need to know, travel news | Comments Off

Writing this article has been like sculpting molasses.  Trying to find authoritative information about the implementation of the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative (WHTI) is an example of dealing with bureaucracy at its best.

For the last couple of years the U.S. government has been implementing changes to the rules for the use of passports for travel between the United States and other countries in what is being called the Western Hemisphere.  At this time, the WHTI covers travel to and from the United States and Canada, Mexico, Bermuda and the Caribbean region (17 nations).
We thought it a good time to update you on the latest proposals on the WHTI.  Our article examines when you will need a U.S. passport  (or other official document verifying your citizenship and identify) for travel to and from the areas covered in the WHTI.

Background

The Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004 required that by January 1, 2008, travelers to and from the Caribbean, Bermuda, Panama, Mexico and Canada have a passport or other secure, accepted document to enter or re-enter the United States. However, the plans for implementing the WHTI changed on September 29, 2006.  The rules also changed again in the summer of 2007.  Next, the rules changed again in March of 2008.  Now it appears we have some clarity about the final rules.  Note that the rules for entry to the U.S. by air (and now in effect) were implemented on a different schedule than the rules for re-entering the U.S. by sea or land.
 
New Rules and Dates of Enforcement

1.  The WHTI requires that all air travelers (including US citizens) entering the United States from the Caribbean, Canada, Bermuda or Mexico must present a valid passport.  Due to the government’s inability to issue passports in a timely fashion, the passport requirement for air travelers was delayed and not implemented until January of 2008.

2.  The passport requirement for land or sea re-entry to the United States, which was to occur on January 31, 2008, was postponed until June 1, 2009.  As it now stands, on and after June 1 2009, those entering or re-entering the US from Canada, Mexico, the Caribbean, Central and South America and Bermuda, by land or ship must present either a passport or other documents deemed acceptable by the Department of Homeland Security.  The best way of crossing the U.S. border and then re-entering the country is to have a passport and take it with you when you depart the United States.  Two other official documents are recognized.  The first is the new Passport Card, which we cover here.  The alternative form is a State or Provincial (Canada) issued enhanced driver’s license, a secure document that denotes both identity and citizenship).

• In February of 2007, the U.S. Government proposed that when the land and ship portion of the initiative goes into effect, U.S. citizen children aged 16 and younger, who have parental consent, would be allowed to cross land and sea entry stations with certified copies of their birth certificates in lieu of a valid passport.  This plan will now be implemented on June 1, 2009.

• U.S. citizen children, ages 16 to 18, traveling in official, supervised groups, will be allowed to cross border with a certified copy of their birth certificate.

• The exemption described here does not apply to air travel.

The Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative is a significant change from prior travel requirements and will affect all United States citizens above the age of 18, who do not currently possess valid passports.  This new requirements will also affect certain foreign nationals who currently are not required to present a passport to travel to the United States.
Most Canadian citizens, citizens of the British Overseas Territory of Bermuda, and to a lesser degree, Mexican citizens (due to the potential use of a proposed Border Crossing Card) will be affected by the implementation.  Information for citizens and Canada, Mexico and the Caribbean can find more information at this U.S. government website http://www.getyouhome.gov/ .

The Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative does not and will not affect travel between the United States and its territories.  U.S. citizens traveling between the United States, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, Guam, the Northern Mariana Islands, and American Samoa will continue to be able to use established forms of identification to board flights and for entry.

If you are a U.S. citizen and want to know more about applying for a passport, see our article on the process.

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U.S. State Department Travel Alert on Travel In Mexico

February 23, 2009 on 6:32 pm | In Mexico travel, personal travel, travel news, travel warnings | Comments Off

The U. S. State Department has issued a travel alert regarding travel in Mexico.  While State sometimes seems to be overly conservative in issuing alerts, this one might be good advice. 

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