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Need to cancel your holiday travel plans amid COVID? Here’s the latest on changes and refunds

With California’s pandemic policies tightening, COVID-19 cases escalating and vaccines unlikely to reach most people until spring or later, many families are rethinking their holiday travel plans. “It’s time to cancel everything,” L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti said in a news conference Wednesday night.



a group of people standing next to a sign: A flight crew member at LAX on Nov. 23, just ahead of the Thanksgiving travel period. (Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)


© (Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)
A flight crew member at LAX on Nov. 23, just ahead of the Thanksgiving travel period. (Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)

Dr. Mark Ghaly, secretary of health and human services, said Thursday the state is, in effect, telling, not asking, Californians to stop all nonessential travel. That includes canceling holiday travel plans, Ghaly said. The new requirements, to take effect Friday, were in response to stress on critical care services and hospital intensive care units. Details on how the state would enforce such a broad restriction remained unclear Thursday afternoon.

Here’s a quick look at how airlines, lodgings and other travel suppliers are handling reservation changes and cancellations.

Airlines

In late August and early September, several airlines dropped their ticket change fees at least through the end of this year. Among them: Alaska, American, Delta, Hawaiian and United.

Southwest Airlines, which has had the most flexible major airline ticket policy for years, continues to allow passengers to rebook their flights for travel up to one year from the original purchase date.

It’s easier to get a credit or vouchers for future travel than it is to get your money back. As millions of travelers learned in the first months of the pandemic, many airlines refused to issue refunds unless they had canceled or significantly delayed a flight themselves. And even then, many did their best to nudge customers toward accepting travel credit rather than cash.

But as the Federal Trade Commission noted, airlines are required to offer refunds for canceled or significantly delayed flights, even if the cause is beyond their control. If your airline resists, report it to the U.S. Department of Transportation — but be warned that the DOT can take months to process complaints and the process is far from a sure thing.

Trains

Amtrak has waived change fees for tickets bought by Dec. 31. You may be eligible for a credit voucher or a refund, depending on the type of ticket you bought.

The cheapest Saver Fares give refunds only within 24 hours of booking; these tickets can’t be changed, either. Value Fares offer a refund or voucher if you cancel within 15 days of your departure. Canceling closer to your departure date may cost you 25% of the ticket price.

Flexible, Business and Premium fares will give you a full refund or voucher with no fees as long as you cancel in advance. If you don’t show up without canceling, you forfeit your ticket.

Buses

Greyhound is allowing bus riders to postpone their travel plans through Jan. 31. Requests for a credit voucher must be made at least a day before you are scheduled to leave. (This doesn’t apply to cash or

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Did Thanksgiving Spread Covid-19? Here’s Why You Can’t Tell Yet.

That’s what happened after July 4, said Megan L. Ranney, an emergency physician and public health researcher at Brown University. She said a jump in positive tests began between two and four weeks after the holiday, suggesting that many were pass-along infections.

The American Automobile Association forecast that about 50 million people would travel for Thanksgiving. Even if only 1 percent caught the virus, Dr. Ranney said, “that’s an extra 500,000 infections in one day,” and they could infect untold thousands more before showing up in the statistics. “We are looking at an exponential effect,” she said, one that would only truly be seen around Christmas and New Year’s Eve. “It will be a double whammy.”

Lewis S. Nelson, chair of the Department of Emergency Medicine at Rutgers New Jersey Medical School, said he was not certain that Thanksgiving travel and gatherings would create a widespread surge in new cases. The virus has been tricky, he said, and predicting the numbers can be extremely difficult.

“We keep saying we’ll see a bump, but most of these events don’t seem to really materialize into something really concerning,” Dr. Nelson said. “Sometimes what you expect to happen doesn’t happen.”

Even so, he said, “my gut tells me we should remain concerned and attentive.”

Dr. Nelson said his hospital in Newark, N.J., was overwhelmed in April, but is manageable now, even though the state is reporting many more new cases. He said there were currently about 30 coronavirus patients, compared to more than 200 in April, a drop he and his colleagues were still puzzling over.

“Just the whole fact that we are not experiencing April right now is inexplicable at this point,” he said. “People haven’t changed. A lot of us believe maybe the virus has.”

Officials were trying to make sure that any Thanksgiving exposure would be reflected in the data. On Monday, Mayor Bill de Blasio of New York City urged residents who had ignored official guidance and attended Thanksgiving gatherings to get tested.

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With COVID stalling vacation plans, here’s what Canadians can do with unused travel rewards

Many Canadians have had their travel dreams slip out of reach this year as the COVID-19 pandemic closed borders and forced many airlines to reduce their services.

With vacation plans on hold, credit card users’ travel rewards are piling up, which is leading some consumers to use their points in other ways.

Personal Finance Expert Melissa Leong says there are two main choices Canadians have when it comes to their travel reward points right now.

“You either save them because, like me, you love travel, or you have family out of town and know you are going to use them at some point. When it comes to travel reward points you get your best bang for your buck if you use it towards travel,” she said in a phone interview.

“The second option is that you could use them [on something else]. Other people have different priorities at this time and they may find more use for putting those points towards gift cards, groceries or applying points to pay off actual debt.”

The author of Happy Go Money, who said she has decided to hoard her own travel rewards, warned credit card users should check if their points expire.“If they don’t expire, hoard them. If they do, then you might want to use them,” she said.

Clinton Braganza, senior vice president of customer loyalty and partnerships at Scotiabank, says his team has seen travel point redemption fall by about 40 per cent year-over-year and a 60-per-cent increase in customers using their rewards points to pay down their credit cards.

“Travel has played a significant role in rewards cards year-over-year,” Braganza said in a phone interview. “But many people who usually redeemed their points on travel are now migrating over to everyday spending.”

“This really speaks to the pragmatism of Canadians during these times.”

Other credit card issuers have adapted their rewards programs to meet customers’ changing spending habits during the pandemic, which Jason Rasmussen, vice president of TD Credit Cards, says is centred around online shopping.

Jennifer Douglas, head of North American retail and small business payments at BMO, says changes in consumer spending habits amid the pandemic have put a spotlight on the need for banks to adapt.

“This pandemic has really amplified the need for banks to think more broadly and beyond travel…what we really tried to do is put ourselves in our customers’ shoes during this time,” Douglas said in a phone interview.

Jamie Golombek, managing director of tax and estate planning at CIBC Private Wealth Management, says Canadians could start thinking about redeeming their unused credit card points towards gifts for friends and family over the holidays.

“Given the holiday season, now may also be an opportune time to use some of your points to purchase a gift card or other merchandise as many programs do offer special deals this time of year, where the redemption value may be higher,” Golombek said in an email.

“Just go online and see what your card is offering.”

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Here’s how to turn your Triton into a wilderness-ready hotel

If you live in Germany and like driving utes but wish they were a little more accommodating for camping trips, this is for you.

Mitsubishi Germany has created a pair of highly modified Tritons to show off its range of aftermarket components. The first plonks a tent on the roof racks wth an extended awning and adds a full pull-out kitchen. This includes a gas cooker, folding washbasin, 12 litre water supply, 12-volt electrical connection, and a cutlery tray. It’s not exactly a cheap package, retailing for 3600 euros (NZ$6157) but it is very cool.

The whole package, as well as a table and folding chairs, fits into the tray of the ute and can be hidden under a lockable roll cover with a roll bar, though you’d add another 2989.68 euro (NZ$5113.73) for those.

Need ideas for Christmas? How about some camping accessories for your Triton?

Supplied/Supplied

Need ideas for Christmas? How about some camping accessories for your Triton?

Mitsubishi’s other ute puts an emphasis on space. It’s not nearly as bad as that one old episode of Top Gear where Jeremy Clarkson put a three-storey tower on the back of a Citroen though – this looks much more thought out.

READ MORE:
* What was at Fieldays for the car enthusiast?
* Triton VRX is the Nokia mobile of the ute world
* Mitsubishi unveils one-off toughened Triton ute for Fieldays

The GT Pick Up roof tent costs 3410.79 euro (NZ$5834) and expands from a small storage area into a two-levelled tent with a 140 centimetre by 220 centimetre sleeping area on the ute’s roof and a smaller living space on the tray. It can be set up in “just a few steps by one person” using the supplied 12-volt electrical pump.

You could also turn your ute into a two-storey pop-up hotel for the wilderness.

Supplied/Supplied

You could also turn your ute into a two-storey pop-up hotel for the wilderness.

For those wanting even more off-roadyness, Mitsubishi will convert your Triton into an expedition vehicle, which adds a “suitable” roof tent, its own water supply, a compact outdoor shower and, crucially, an all-terrain chassis. A 230-volt chilly bin ensures cool drinks even in hot areas, and the available solar panels ensure a self-sufficient power supply even in the most remote areas.

Mitsubishi also offers fender flares that add 30mm of width per side (965 euro/NZ$1650.59) and 20-inch light alloy wheels (2725.52 euro/NZ$4661.89).

Unfortunately, it looks like all of these are Germany-specific parts, at least at this stage. Though, with a little persuasion, maybe Mitsubishi NZ could be swayed into looking at importing a few…

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If you must travel for Thanksgiving, here’s what you need to know

With Thanksgiving next week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention urged Americans to skip holiday travel this year.

The recommendation released Thursday was a break from earlier messaging in which U.S. officials largely declined to issue firm guidance for holiday gatherings, leaving it to American families to decide for themselves whether to risk infection at large dinners with the coronavirus pandemic still raging. The agency’s website suggests virtual Thanksgivings pose the lowest risk, and that outdoor gatherings, smaller gatherings and shorter gatherings all help to reduce risk of viral transmission.

The agency now projects a grim increase in deaths due to the virus over the next four weeks, with 7,300 to 16,000 new deaths likely to be reported in the week ending Dec. 12, 2020.

In Oregon, as with many other states, leaders are also encouraging people to keep Thanksgiving gatherings small and to limit exposure beyond one other household.

West Coast travel advisories

Last week, Oregon Gov. Kate Brown joined with her counterparts in Washington and California to ask people to avoid non-essential out-of-state travel. And if people do travel to those West Coast states from other states or countries, the governors urged those visitors to self-quarantine for 14 days after they arrive to slow the spread of COVID-19.

Crowded flights

While this year’s traffic through Portland International Airport is expected to be a fraction of the usual crush, Sunday is expected to be the biggest day. Passenger volumes through Portland International Airport this month are down 65% from November 2019, yet that means as many as 25,250 flying in and out of the airport on Sunday.

Indeed, flights have been getting more crowded since the pandemic began and more airlines plan to stop blocking seats to accommodate the growing number of people taking to the skies again.

Starting Dec. 1, Southwest will join United and American in allowing every seat on planes to be sold. JetBlue will scale back the number of blocked seats, and — along with Delta and Alaska — plans to drop all limits at some point next year.

Are masks required?

Yes, and that’s at the heart of the industry’s argument that it’s safe to fly. Industry leaders point to a report they funded that found the risk of viral spread on planes is low if everyone wears a mask, since planes have good ventilation and strong air filters.

But the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention notes that sitting within 6 feet of others — sometimes for hours — can still increase your risk of getting infected. And though airlines are still requiring passengers to wear masks, there’s no guarantee everyone will comply. More than 1,000 people who refused to wear masks have been banned by U.S. airlines.

Tough to avoid close quarters

Flying means spending time in airport security lines and gate areas, where you might come into close contact with others. Experts recommend that travelers wash their hands frequently and use physical distancing in airports.

In an October update

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Here’s what the CDC and Massachusetts colleges are saying about students who plan to travel for Thanksgiving

With COVID-19 cases surging across the country and Thanksgiving approaching, officials with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are urging those who plan to travel to take precautions, and Massachusetts colleges are issuing their own guidance for students.

The safest way to celebrate this year is to hold virtual gatherings or spend it with people you live with, officials say. If college students decide to travel home to spend Thanksgiving with their families, it can pose varying levels of risk.

College students returning home for Thanksgiving should be considered part of a separate household, the CDC says, and there are a number of factors that contribute to the risk of spreading COVID-19 at an in-person gathering with people from different households. Among the considerations that should be weighed are the following:

  • Levels of COVID-19 where the gathering is taking place and levels of COVID-19 at the college or community the student is coming from
  • The potential for exposure to the virus in airports, bus stations, train stations, and gas stations
  • Indoor gatherings with poor ventilation pose greater risk than outdoor gatherings
  • Events that last longer pose greater risk than shorter events
  • Gatherings with more people pose more risk than gatherings with fewer people
  • The behavior of people who are attending before the gathering and during the gathering. People who social distance, wash their hands often, and wear masks pose less of a risk than those who don’t

Colleges in Massachusetts are also issuing their own advice and requirements for students who decide to travel for Thanksgiving and then return to campus to complete the semester.

Boston University is suggesting students stay on campus for Thanksgiving and host “Friendsgivings.” If they travel home, they should finish out the semester remotely, according to BU Today, the university’s online publication.

For BU students who opt to travel home and then return to campus, they’ll need to isolate for a week and test negative for COVID-19 three times before they can leave their rooms, the post said.

“This means remaining in your room, attending courses remotely, and exiting the building only for medical appointments or meals,” Dean of Students Kenneth Elmore wrote in an email to students who have indicated they plan to go home for Thanksgiving and return to campus after, according to BU Today. “Violations of this advisory may result in disciplinary action up to and including suspension.”

Northeastern University is also asking students who travel for Thanksgiving to consider finishing the semester remotely, according to an email sent to students and staff.

For students who decide to return to campus, they will need to take a COVID-19 test and quarantine. Four days after they return, they’ll take another test. They can return to in-person classes and other activities after that test comes back negative, the email says.


Amanda Kaufman can be reached at [email protected] Follow her on Twitter @amandakauf1.

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‘Jersey Shore: Family Vacation’: Who is Nikki Hall? Here’s all you need to know about Pauly DelVecchio’s girlfriend

‘Jersey Shore: Family Vacation’ is back with another season, and things are about to get interesting in the house as the cast members invite their dear ones in the house. However, they are making sure that everything is done safely. The cast members are set to enter the house with their masks on and sanitizer placed in every corner. 

Even though the surrounding and situation is going to be different, there is no doubt they will bring the same amount of entertainment as they used to. The previous season ended in a cliffhanger as Jenni Farley, Nicole Polizzi, and Deena Nicole Cortese got into an argument with Angelina Pivarnick on her wedding day. 

Angelina was not pleased with the speech the girls had delivered that also led to them not speaking for months. It is uncertain if they have reunited, but the new season will definitely give a glimpse of where they stand now. Apart from this, the show will also see Pauly D’s girlfriend Nikki Hall coming on the show with him. 

In the previous season, the cast members tried to hook up Pauly and Jennie. However, this season it will not be possible. Nikki and Pauly first met each other on the show called ‘Double Shot At Love’ that was started to help him find true love. Nikki managed to go till the finale, but Pauly decided he wanted to stay single. 

Just when people thought there was no hope for the couple, things changed when Nikki returned for season 2. At first, the pair had a hard time getting comfortable with each other, but things changed soon. With a little push from Mike Sorrentino and his wife, Lauren Pesce Pauly, and Nikki managed to get comfortable with each other. 

However, it wasn’t until after the season finale that the two decided to give their relationship a shot. The two made their relationship official during the reunion episode. Nikki had been staying with Pauly during the quarantine. There were numerous occasions when she made an appearance on his social media. 

Even though their relationship is new, there is no doubt that the pair is still going strong. ‘Jersey Shore’ fans might get to see a different side to him in the coming season. 

‘Jersey Shore: Family Vacation’ Season 4 premieres on November 19 at 8 pm ET on MTV. 

If you have an entertainment scoop or a story for us, please reach out to us on (323) 421-7515

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Planning vacation in Goa during Covid-19 pandemic? Here’s your 3-step guide to a safe vacation



a group of palm trees next to a body of water: The safest way of enjoying the tropical Goa life is to choose an all-equipped resort which becomes a destination in itself.


© Provided by The Financial Express
The safest way of enjoying the tropical Goa life is to choose an all-equipped resort which becomes a destination in itself.

By Sulakshna Wadhwa   

At the cost of sounding obvious, it’s safe to say that this year has changed the definition of normal. Our routine was the first one to take on the “new normal,” and after which, it has been travel which has found a way back into our lives, the 2020 way, a much-welcomed revival.

After a slumber of months, our travel bags are finding their way out of the closet, equally excited to call a new destination their home for a couple of days. But unlike the older times, a huge gap of questions concerning safety must be bridged with the right answers. India’s favourite beach destination, Goa is becoming that fresh wind of air one needs right now. The question remains the same, is Goa tourist safe? The answer is yes, but to ensure that you have a stress-free and much needed relaxing trip, we put together a 3-step guide to a safe vacation in Goa.

Step 1: Starting on a safe note with a reliable airline 



a group of people sitting at a table


© Provided by The Financial Express




a close up of food


© Provided by The Financial Express


If you are planning your trip to Goa, one of the first and foremost things to check off your to-do list should be booking your tickets with a reliable airline. It is the easiest way to ensure that you and your travel companions/family members enjoy a hassle-free trip.

We decided to fly by Vistara, India’s 5-star airline which is undertaking over a dozen measures to ensure a safe on-ground and in-flight experience for the passengers and crew members. As soon as one arrives at the airport, the self-check-in and E-Tag kiosk followed by automated baggage drop ensures minimum contact between the staff and the passenger.

The social-distancing markers at the airport get one through the security and waiting gates safely. Prior to boarding, a secondary temperature screening is conducted for all the passengers, after which PPE Kits containing a mask, face shield, sanitizer are handed over to every passenger. The protective gowns add an extra layer of safety for middle-seat passengers. Wearing a mask and face shield on the flight is mandatory.

The aspects that won our faith in travelling with Vistara were sanitization of lavatory after every use, and the intensified cleaning process after every turnaround. The use of washrooms was one of our biggest concerns on our first-trip since the pandemic hit. But the precautions undertaken by Vistara ensured that even the tiniest element on-board was thoroughly sanitized through a deep cleaning process.

While we found ourselves at ease after observing the many safety measures, our nerves were still dancing to their own tunes because it was our first flight in months, but courtesy of the soothing music while boarding, take-off and landing, our nerves found a joyous space in no time.

Make sure airlines staff are dressed in

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Ryman Hospitality Properties: Here’s Why This Hotel REIT Is Worth Owning

Ryman Hospitality Properties (NYSE:RHP) is certainly hurting this year. At a time when conventions, conferences, and other large events are just not happening, it’s not a great time to own group-focused hotel properties. However, there could still be a very bright future for this company, and in this Nov. 5, 2020 Fool Live video clip, Millionacres REIT analyst Matt Frankel, CFP and Millionacres editor Deidre Woollard discuss the recent results and why investors should look beyond the pandemic. 

Matt Frankel: Moving on to our next one, which is Ryman Hospitality Properties, ticker symbol is RHP. If you’ve ever been to a Gaylord Hotel, this is their parent company. Unlike Empire State, Ryman is not profitable. Ryman’s hotels are specifically oriented toward conventions, conferences, other large group of events. The one in DC hosts the big ICE exhibit every year, just to name one thing. The DC one is actually still closed. They’re using this opportunity to renovate it a little bit. It’s not a great hotel just for leisure travelers, so they decided to keep that one closed. The other four are open. But for Q3, they were less than 50 percent occupied. That’s better than zero, and Ryman’s obviously decided that that’s enough that it’s worth keeping them open for, but this is not a profitable company right now. They’re burning through about $23 million a month. They have that to burn through. They have over 700 million in liquidity, so they’re not in the danger zone or anything like that, which is why their stock actually has not done that bad since start of the pandemic. They also own some entertainment venues. They get their name from the Ryman Auditorium in Nashville. They also own the Grand Ole Opry, which had been experimenting with some very, very lightly attended live shows recently, and just got the go-ahead to bump that up to 25 percent capacity. That could be a positive going forward. But for now, they are hemorrhaging money, but they’ve rebooked successfully over a million canceled room nights for subsequent years. Deidre, I’ll let you take this because you actually tweeted out a comment by Ryman’s CEO about the future of conferences and conventions, if you remember that one.

Deidre Woollard: Yeah. Colin Reed was talking about how he feels like the Work From Home movement actually benefits Ryman a little bit because they’re already seeing some companies hold their retreats at the properties and that that’s going to continue. If people are a distributed workforce, they will need to get together from time to time, and what better place to do it than at a Ryman property. They’re beautiful places to be, so it’s a treat for the workers and there’s plenty of room. So he really sees that as something that’s going to be something people will be looking at going forward.

Matt Frankel: I’m glad you mentioned just how beautiful and iconic these hotels are. They are very valuable assets. They’re really one of

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