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Travel

One Area of Disney World Is Reopening—Here's What You Need to Know




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    Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport was still the busiest passenger airport in the world in 2019. But the pandemic is hitting global air traffic hard in 2020.

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Travel

Summer travel is still a question mark. But summer airfare sales are here anyway.


“Dreaming of summer?” the recent tweet from Frontier Airlines asks. “We can take you there. Fly from $11.”

a plane flying in the sky

Not to be left out, fellow low-cost carrier Allegiant sent an email this week advertising domestic late-summer deals as low as $24 each way. And in its own email, Southwest had this suggestion: “Set your sights on summer travel with a $49 fare.”

Cue the record-scratch sound effect. Do they mean this summer, age of the coronavirus pandemic, era of uncertainty about when most nonessential travel will return?

The short answer is yes.

“We know that people will have the need to travel in the near future and, as is our standard practice, we want to make it affordable and easy for them,” Sonya Padgett, a spokeswoman for Allegiant, said in an email. “That’s why, like most airlines, we are offering deals on fares.”

But the longer answer, according to airfare expert Rick Seaney, is that carriers are probably fishing around to find out what their customers’ interest is.

“It’s about, essentially, trying to look like it’s business as usual, but mostly, it’s about probing and getting more information,” said Seaney, CEO of travel data-science company 3Victors. “The more information they get, the better they’ll be prepared to deal with this.”

Because of the unprecedented nature of the pandemic, he said, airlines don’t have historic norms to help inform their forecasting. 

“They can’t go back to the 1918 flu pandemic,” he said.

Air travel has plummeted compared with the same time a year ago, and airlines have slashed routes in response. Carriers have also introduced measures to make travelers feel safer, such as requiring crew and passengers to wear masks, highlighting enhanced cleaning and sanitation processes, and blocking off middle seats to keep people farther apart on planes. Frontier this week said it would guarantee an open middle seat for a charge, prompting a backlash on social media. Most airlines have also introduced more flexible policies around changing or canceling flights.

Cases of coronavirus have been reported in all states, and some areas are experiencing community spread of the disease. Travel increases the chances of getting and spreading coronavirus. The CDC recommends everyone stay home as much as possible, especially if a trip is not essential, and practice social distancing.

But some figures show that travel at least appears to be clawing back from the lows reached in April as many states start to gradually reopen and ease stay-at-home orders. According to the Transportation Security Administration, more than 130,000 people went through airport checkpoints on Monday. That’s down from 2.1 million a year earlier, but higher than the daily numbers for most of last month.

And according to hospitality research firm STR, hotels in the United States were more than 28 percent full for the week of April 28 to May 4. That’s still a huge drop from a year earlier, but higher than the previous few weeks. And the company noted that weekend hotel occupancy in areas that have eased some restrictions suggests some travelers are eager to get back to vacations.

“This past week was the first to show solid evidence of leisure demand as weekend occupancy grew in states that have significantly eased mitigation efforts,” Jan Freitag, STR’s senior vice president of lodging insights, said in a statement. “As we have noted throughout the pandemic, the leisure segment will be the first to show a demand bounce back. In weeks prior, the more reasonable conclusion was that hotels were selling mostly to essential-worker-types.”

Still to be seen: how much coronavirus infections might increase as more people resume semi-normal activities — and what that could mean for the summer.

Frontier CEO Barry Biffle said in an email that the airline is seeing business improve from the lowest point, when about 3,000 passengers were flying a day. That number has climbed back to about 10,000 a day — still way down from the norm of 80,000 daily passengers, mostly made up of travelers visiting friends and family and taking leisure trips. But, he said, the carrier expects to be back to about 70 percent of its original schedule by the end of summer.

“Consumers are reacting very positively to our current fare sale and are clearly willing to plan travel again, with an assurance that we are taking significant and appropriate measures to help ensure their well-being,” he said.

Southwest acknowledged that essential travel is the current norm, and a spokeswoman said the airline is limiting the number of seats that can be occupied to let passengers stay at a distance.

“As the world gradually transitions into flying again, we will continue our focus on offering low fares for customers,” spokeswoman Ro Hawthorne said in an email. 

Seaney, who also co-founded the travel planning site FareCompare, said he believes “it’s pretty clear” that those who buy tickets for summer flights will need to exchange them for later trips.

“I don’t think they have a huge expectation for these marketing campaigns,” he said.

WATCH: The surreal experience of flying during the pandemic


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Travel

Why an Airline Voucher Is Sometimes Better than a Cash Refund



an empty bench next to a glass of water

Over the past couple of months, many of us have learned about the ins and out of canceling flights. Phrases like cancel-for-any-reason insurance and airline voucher are now part of every traveler’s vernacular, and we’ve all found inventive ways to reach airline customer service representatives.

It’s also become second nature to demand that cash refund when canceling flights—and to firmly say no to the travel vouchers most airlines are offering. But should you ever consider taking that airline voucher over cash? Some experts say yes, but warn there are things to keep in mind when you do. Below, we walk you through the nuances of vouchers—the good, the bad, and the potentially negotiable—so you can make the best move next time you cancel a flight.

The case for getting your refund in cash

There are some obvious reasons to take cash over a voucher. Most of us like our money where we can see it, and it’s hard to justify letting an airline hang onto your money—especially when it looks like we won’t be flying any time soon. “From a high level, cash is better than a voucher because you can’t pay for groceries with an American Airlines gift card,” says Scott Keyes of Scott’s Cheap Flights. “If you had a $500 ticket, and they’re offering a $500 cash or voucher, cash is way superior because it’s fluid, and it doesn’t have an expiration date.”

Jesse Neugarten of Dollar Flight Club is team voucher, but he agrees there are certain situations in which to push for your money back. “If you’re low on cash and don’t plan to travel anytime in 2020 or 2021, more cash on hand may be the best bet for you,” says Neugarten. “Plus, some airlines, like Virgin Australia and smaller carriers, are shutting down, and they may not be able to honor vouchers in the future.” If you bought a ticket from an online travel agent like Expedia, Travelocity, or Orbitz, then you absolutely want your cash back as well, Neugarten says, and not a gift card or voucher you have no reason to use.

If you end up needing to cancel and rebook a second time, travel vouchers can cause issues with insurance, too. “If you’re buying travel insurance, we’ve been telling people not to take the voucher and to get a refund,” says Megan Moncrief, the chief marketing officer at insurance comparison website Squaremouth. “Historically, travel insurance providers widely grouped travel vouchers with points and miles, as award-based travel, which is typically uninsurable as there is no direct dollar amount associated with [the vouchers].” In laymen’s terms: If you book a flight with a voucher and have to cancel, your flight cost in an insurance claim would technically be zero, meaning you wouldn’t get any of that money back. Moncrief says that some providers are now changing their stance given the current situation, but it’s important to keep this in mind when purchasing travel insurance—something most of us are doing these days—and make sure to understand the coverage offered on award-based trips.

 

The case for taking the travel voucher

All that being said, there are times when it makes more sense to take a voucher—namely, when the airline is willing to offer you a credit of a higher value. “What the smart airlines are doing is offering an incentive to take the voucher,” says Keyes. “They might say you can take a $500 cash refund or a $600 travel credit [for your $500 flight], and that’s when it starts getting interesting.”

Neugarten says his Dollar Flight Club customers have reported the same. “American Airlines and Delta have been offering 10 to 20 percent bonus vouchers to those who elect to keep a credit with the airline, rather than take a refund,” says Neugarten. “These airlines are not advertising that yet, but they are offering this over the phone to select customers on a case-by-case basis, or to those who ask for it.” Few airlines, like Qatar Airways and Finnair, have formalized such offers, telling customers that all vouchers will receive 10 percent increases from the original flight prices.

“I think this poses a great opportunity for travelers to get additional value from their ticket by simply and persistently asking airline agents for these bonus vouchers,” adds Neugarten. “Though these bonus vouchers have been offered at random, some people have simply asked for them.” And if you’re wondering how to do the dance? Neugarten says they’ve found a script that has worked. They make sure to thank the agent, mention they’ve heard of other people taking these vouchers, and use these golden words: “I would prefer to keep my ticket if you would be willing to give me a bonus voucher. Does [insert airline name] have the ability to offer this? If not, I’d happily take the refund.” Given that airlines are legally required to offer cash refunds for canceled flights, it’s well-worth asking—you’ll either walk away with the cash you’re owed, or a higher value voucher.

“Passengers are in much more of a position of strength than they normally are,” says Keyes. “I haven’t heard of a passenger successfully negotiating a higher voucher, but it wouldn’t shock me if some airlines are in a position to do that. They need cash: They have so few incoming bookings and so many cancellations, so anytime they can hang on to a passenger’s money because that passenger agreed to take a credit instead of a refund, it’s worth trying.”

Whenever you take a voucher, read the fine print

If we’ve learned anything during our coronavirus cancellations, it’s to always, always read the fine print. And even when the voucher pot is, as Keyes says, being sweetened, make sure you understand the restrictions of a voucher before pouncing on it. “I’d look at two things,” says Keyes. “The deadline or expiration date can be problematic for a lot of them.” If a voucher expires, say, at the end of the year, it leads to a bigger question: Do you anticipate traveling by then? Is it even possible for you to use this credit?

“Secondly, who can use the voucher?” says Keyes. “Usually you can use [a voucher] to buy a ticket for anyone—a kid, a spouse, whomever—but sometimes the voucher is only eligible for the person who received it. That’s another instance when a voucher becomes level valuable than cash.” Keyes also suggests considering the airline offering the voucher, how frequently you fly it, and if the voucher works on partner airlines.

Vouchers are always better than miles

Last but not least, Keyes cautions that you should understand what type of travel credit you’re getting—and be wary of accepting miles or points instead of a typical voucher. “There’s a difference between a voucher and frequent flier miles,” says Keyes. Some airlines, he warns, have been sending customers tempting deals to accept miles as refunds, or to convert vouchers into miles. But miles are even less tangible than vouchers and harder to use to your advantage. “When you purchase a flight with a voucher, it’s like purchasing with cash: You get the same status, and importantly, you earn miles,” says Keyes. The same can’t be said for flights purchased with miles. The only real benefit to miles as a form of refund, for the average traveler, is that they sometimes have a further out expiration date, but at that point, you’re probably safest asking for your money back.

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Cruises

Why Now Is a Good Time to Become a Travel Advisor

Travel may be at a standstill at the moment but that doesn’t mean it isn’t a good time to become a travel advisor.

Sandy Saburn of Gifted Travel Network sat down with Steph Lee of Host Agency Reviews for a webinar discussing why and how potential travel advisors should think about starting a business now.

Saburn is the ideal person to tackle this topic since she launched her own career in the travel industry right after September 11.

“I was passionate about travel and that’s what I wanted to do and like then, now is a great time,” she said.

Saburn defined what she meant about timing, noting that you need to be driven by more than just a love of travel.

“What we are talking about is people who are serious about starting a travel business—not a hobby,” she said. “It may not be full-time but the goal is for this business to support you and your family.”

New travel entrepreneurs have a lot of decisions to make which takes time and that is why it is good to start now.

“You have some time now,” she pointed out. We have lots of time to do things that we want to do…like finish Netflix or instead, you could be working on starting a travel business.”

Travel advisors are in the spotlight now in a positive way and new advisors can take advantage of that. Saburn pointed out that demand for travel advisors is higher now after this event. Online travel agencies or OTA’s have received a lot of negative press while travel advisors have received praise for their handling of this pandemic.

“The travel industry is coming back,” she said. “Americans are not going to stop traveling. How they travel may be different for a little while or a long while—we don’t know that yet, but we do know that travel agents are in demand. A lot of people have said that this ‘do it yourself thing’ is not as great as I thought it was.”

Saburn points out that Virtuoso, to which Gifted Travel Network belongs, says that there is more demand for luxury travel advisors than there are advisors specializing in this type of travel, illustrating that when travel does return, there will be a need for more travel advisors.

Saburn goes on to detail how to launch a travel business the right way to lead to success.

“You are not going to just flip a switch and turn this on and suddenly the money starts rolling in,” she said. “This is not that kind of business.”

If you want to make money, Saburn says you need to make three critical decisions: Who are you going to serve, what makes you different and how will you reach your ideal client.

Saburn also advised potential travel advisors to pick a specialty. This will help drive marketing and can earn advisors more money.

“There are riches in niches. It doesn’t limit you, but it expands your opportunities,” said Saburn.

Saburn walks potential travel advisors through the critical steps they need to tackle before deciding to launch a travel business—most importantly your pitch to potential clients.

“You need to be really clear about what it is you have to offer,” said Saburn, who stressed the importance of picking a specialty and having a marketing plan that will guide future decisions and build trust.

Saburn goes on to recommend those considering becoming a travel advisor partner with a host agency and not go it alone.

“You will make more mistakes, you will be more frustrated and you will have less opportunity because you are operating in a vacuum,” she said.

Many prospective advisors are concerned about the money that they will have to put forward but Saburn points out that you are going to get so much more from your host.

“You can’t start a business without making some sort of investment. You need to invest in things in order to get this business off the ground and being part of a community has immeasurable benefits.”

Saburn also noted that, for potential advisors, choosing a host is an important decision and a site such as Host Agency Reviews, which provides detailed information on a wide range of host and franchise opportunities for advisors, is an ideal resource.

“We send people there all the time…because you read the reviews that are there and set up appointments to talk to different hosts and find a fit.”

Advisors should look for hosts whose vendors match their goals, provide resources that meet their needs and a community that is a good fit.

In addition to a host agency, future travel advisors are going to first and foremost need a training program.

“The host agency’s job is to provide support and infrastructure for experienced agents,” said Saburn. “You need a training program and a mentor.”

To evaluate and find a good training program, Saburn recommends looking at the curriculum, the community, mentorship opportunities and selling opportunities.

“You need to find a training program that meets you where you are so that your learning style is taken into consideration when you are making this decision,” she said.

Saburn also steered new travel advisors away from focusing on aspects of host agencies that sound tantalizing to new adviors, but that aren’t really as beneficial down the road, such as lead generation, websites and dedicated booking engines.

An excellent resource for new agents is the Travel M.B.A. program. The program trains new agents to operate successful, rewarding businesses without working 16-hour days.

The program is exclusively for travel entrepreneurs and designed for people who want to focus on service, putting new travel advisors on a path to success.

The Travel M.B.A. includes 12 months of mentorship, comprehensive e-learning modules and it is part of the Gifted Travel Network, which offers an engaged community of supportive entrepreneurs. It also includes hosting so that travel advisors can start selling when they are ready.

The cost is $4,997, payable in 12 monthly payments.

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Travel

Flying during coronavirus is nothing like it used to be. Who's doing it?


When Bill Nord’s boss asked for a volunteer last week to fly to Denver for an assignment, Nord accepted, telling himself that a round trip from Santa Ana in the middle of a pandemic “sounds like an adventure.”

a passenger seat of a car: A flight from Los Angeles International Airport to Boise, Idaho, was carrying only four people on March 31.

Nord, a 56-year-old inspector who certifies that foods and products are organic, planned to wear a mask during the flight. Plus, he is in good shape from bike riding along the beach.

But his confidence was shaken when he heard another passenger on the nearly empty plane cough repeatedly. “Oh, no,” he recalls thinking. “I’m taking a real chance.”

The coronavirus outbreak that has infected more than 600,000 people in the U.S. has pushed the demand for air travel down by 95% in the past week, compared to the same time last year, according to a trade group for the country’s airlines.

That remaining 5% includes people like Nord, who feel it is relatively safe to fly or decide they must risk their health to travel for a work assignment or a family obligation.

Airline passengers who are braving confinement in a plane cabin include an elderly woman moving to an assisted living facility in Tuscon, Ariz., to be closer to her family; a parent heading to help his daughter move back home after college dorms closed; a father-to-be picking up his new baby from a surrogate mother in Arkansas and vacationers cutting short trips abroad to ride out the crisis at home.

Other airline passengers include pilots and flight attendants commuting home after completing work shifts and medical staff traveling to hard-hit regions of the country to help treat victims of the outbreak.

 

Those who have flown in the past few weeks describe the experience as a mixture of anxiety over the increased risk of being exposed to the virus and amazement over the sight of nearly abandoned airport terminals and almost empty airplane cabins.

“The airport was about as empty as the planes were,” said Dennis Raveneau, a retired teacher and actor who recently returned to Dallas from a vacation in Paris. “There were no crowds at all.”

Most Americans are under stay-at-home orders to slow the spread of the virus, but commercial flights continue to crisscross the skies for several reasons.

A provision of the federal government’s $2 trillion stimulus bill requires airlines to continue flying to the cities they previously served if they want to qualify for federal grants. Airlines are also flying to transport cargo across the country.

Dramatically cutting air service would also mean storing planes in remote desert airports, an expense airlines want to avoid.

“Our elected officials want us to provide safe air travel through this crisis, and they want us to be up and flying when demand for travel picks up again,” American Airlines Chief Executive Doug Parker said in a recent video message to his employees.

GALLERY: Haunting photos of empty airports and planes amid the coronavirus outbreak (provided by INSIDER)

  The newly passed CARES Act requires airlines to maintain  certain levels of pre-March 2020 air service even as passenger  demand dwindles.    Despite the raging pandemic and stay at home orders, air  travel remains the quickest form of transportation and is used by  medical professionals and other essential workers to get where  they're needed.     With non-essential travel limited, airports have become  deserted and aircraft are flying with only handfuls of passengers  if any.        Visit   Business Insider's homepage for more stories.     Nowhere has the effect of COVID-19 been more pronounced in the US  than the country's transportation system, especially its largest  airports and the aircraft still flying.   Once vibrant, bustling centers for the facilitation of travel  have been reduced to ghost towns operated by skeleton crews  serving the few remaining flights that have yet to be cut by  airlines.   Provisions of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security  Act, or the CARES Act, require of the airlines that apply for  federal aid maintain minimal air service.    The law requires that airlines "maintain scheduled air  transportation service as the Secretary of Transportation deems  necessary to ensure services to any point served by that carrier  before March 1, 2020."   Especially in a time of crisis, airlines fly crucially needed  cargo and maintain national connectivity, as stated in the  newly-adopted law.   "The Secretary of Transportation shall take into consideration  the air transportation needs of small and remote communities and  the need to maintain well-functioning health care and  pharmaceutical supply chains, including for medical devices and  supplies," the CARES Act includes.    Take a closer look at the current state of airports and aircraft  amid a pandemic.

A union representing about 50,000 flight attendants at 20 airlines wrote to the U.S. Department of Transportation on March 31, urging the agency to halt all leisure air travel, limiting all passenger flights to essential services, such as flying medical supplies and first responders to hard-hit areas of the country.

Airline representatives say it is difficult to tell how many passengers are now flying out of necessity and how many are still traveling for leisure.

Passengers on recent flights say they have been allowed to spread out in the cabin — an airborne version of social distancing. Most airlines have either stopped serving food or offer only a box lunch to cut back on the contact between passengers and flight attendants.

“They pretty much sit there and watch movies on their computer and sleep because they have an entire row to themselves,” said Rock Salomon, an American Airlines flight attendant based in Boston. “My last trip to Phoenix had less than 20 passengers on each leg.”

Those who have been flying during the pandemic are finding air fares down 29% or more, with nonstop, round trip tickets from Los Angeles to Miami now selling for as little as $153.

Airlines don’t require passengers to wear masks and gloves on planes but encourage travelers to abide by the recommendations of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Last month, the nation’s largest airlines gave flight attendants the go-ahead to wear gloves and masks while serving passengers.

Although dozens of flight attendants, ticket agents, TSA agents and CDC health screeners have tested positive for the virus, it is unclear how many travelers could have contracted the virus while flying on a commercial plane.

Still, some passengers say they felt anxious flying in close quarters with strangers who could be infected with the coronavirus.

Andrea Perdue returned not long ago from attending a wedding in Chile that was planned last year. The Los Angeles translator said she felt nervous about her flight when officials at the airport in Chile took the temperatures of all the passengers and asked them to sign a document saying they had no symptoms.

“On the way back to L.A., the situation was much more tense,” she said. “The flight still had a lot of passengers but most were wearing masks.”

Danny Roman, who runs a tour company in Los Angeles, is worried about a flight he is taking in two weeks to Arkansas to adopt a baby that a surrogate mother is expected to deliver.

“So, I have to get in two planes to get there,” he said. “Having my baby and then flying back with my newborn is absolutely terrifying.”

Other travelers who flew recently said they felt relatively safe because they took precautions before boarding.

Kevin Jones, a film professor at the University of North Carolina School of the Arts, flew back to his home in Los Angeles last week after face-to-face classes were replaced with online courses.

He said about 40 people were on the last leg of his Delta Air Lines flight to Los Angeles but no one sat within a few rows of him. Jones wore gloves and a surgical mask the entire way. After taking a nap on the flight, he said he woke to find a box lunch and a small bottle of hand sanitizer in the seat next to him.

“Loading and unloading a plane when no one is on is pretty easy,” he said. “When I went to the baggage claim there was no wait. My bag was right there when I got there.”

Raveneau, the retired teacher, said he and his wife cut their vacation in Paris short to ride out the pandemic at home. He said he wasn’t nervous about the flight back home because he and his wife both had N95 respirator masks.

But when they landed in Dallas, Raveneau said he became unnerved when Texas state troopers who wore no gloves or masks rounded up the passengers on his flight in a small room to fill out customs and medical forms.

Raveneau, who vacations in Paris annually, has no plans to fly soon. “We are going to stay put for a while,” he said.

Nord, the organic food and products inspector, said he would still consider flying for work in the future, despite the scare with the coughing passenger on his last flight to Denver to inspect a CBD production facility.

“I wouldn’t jump at it,” he said of another out-of-town work assignment. “I’d take a deep breath first and maybe wait until June or July.”

———

©2020 Los Angeles Times

Visit the Los Angeles Times at www.latimes.com

WATCH; Skyscanner sees uptick in interest for late 2020 flights (provided by Bloomberg)


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Destinations

Grand Canyon Is Now Closed Until Further Notice

The Grand Canyon, one of America’s greatest and most popular National Parks, is now closed.

The surprising news – surely the park is large enough to maintain the social distancing guidelines – came Wednesday in a press release after the National Park Service received a request to close the Canyon from

Coconino County, Arizona, health officials.

“The National Park Service (NPS) received a letter today from the Health and Human Services Director and Chief Health Officer for Coconino County recommending the full closure of Grand Canyon National Park. Upon receiving this request from the local health department, acting Superintendent Mary Risser, with the support of the NPS Deputy Director, Operations, David Vela and Secretary of the Interior David Bernhardt, made the decision to immediately close the park until further notice,” the NPS said in a statement.

The park is closed until further notice. Earlier this week, a food service employee at the Grand Canyon’s South Rim’s became the first identified case of the virus in that area.

“The Department of the Interior and the National Park Service will continue to follow the guidance of state and local health officials in making determinations about our operations,” department Secretary David Bernhardt said in the NPS press release. “As soon as we received the letter from the Health and Human Services Director and Chief Health Officer for Coconino County recommending the closure of Grand Canyon National Park, we closed the park.”

According to the Arizona Republic newspaper, the South Rim is home to more than 2,500 residents from the Grand Canyon Village inside the park and the neighboring Town of Tusayan and Valle, several miles outside the park. In recent weeks, several residents called for the park’s closure to protect themselves from potential exposure to COVID-19 and a shortage of already limited supplies.

Facilities inside the park have slowly been closing the last two weeks. There are more than 1,400 cases of COVID-19 in Arizona and 29 known deaths by Wednesday morning, the paper reported.

“The health and safety of park visitors, employees, residents, volunteers, and partners at Grand Canyon National Park is the Service’s number one priority. The NPS has consistently assessed its park units and made modifications to its operations in accordance with CDC, state and local public health guidance, and the NPS will continue to follow the guidance of public health officials in making determinations about our operations to address this pandemic,” the NPS said. “The NPS encourages people to take advantage of the many digital tools already available to explore Grand Canyon National Park, including: The NPS encourages people to take advantage of the many digital tools already available to explore Grand Canyon National Park, including: webcams, virtual tours, photo galleries, mobile app, videos, Flickr, Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, and Twitter.

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Travel

The Palace of Versailles is open for virtual reality visits


Globetrotters quarantined at home can teleport themselves to France and back to the 17th century with a virtual reality-powered visit to the Palace of Versailles.

a statue of a person: The Palace of Versailles, France

Your trip to France canceled because of Covid-19? Or need to keep a child in your home occupied for an hour? There’s a virtual reality experience for that.

“Experience Versailles” isn’t new. But it’s enjoying renewed interest among Francophiles and households on lockdown for offering an alternative way to experience Versailles from thousands of miles away.

For kids, the experience is an educational one, teaching players about Louis XIV and French sovereignty. Players also infiltrate a sumptuous masked ball held by Louis XV and can explore the palace grounds, moving through the Royal Courtyard, to the Hall of Mirrors and the King’s Apartments.

For parents, it’s an hour or two of distraction.

The “Experience Versailles” is free, powered by Steam and works with VR headsets like HTC Vive or Oculus Rift.

Related video: Time for a ‘staycation!’ Museums around the world offer virtual tours (Provided by Buzz60)


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Delta is having technical issues rebooking flights as travelers deal with the coronavirus outbreak and the US ban on some travel from Europe


Some travelers looking to change their flights on Delta Air Lines on Thursday were asked to call back later if their travel was not urgent, as the airline deals with technical problems ticketing and rebooking flights.

a large passenger jet sitting on top of a runway

Delta’s technical problems come as travelers around the world are scrambling to manage the fallout from the coronavirus pandemic, and the chaos caused by President Donald Trump’s ban on travel from some European countries, which was later clarified by the White House to exempt US citizens and permanent residents.

Customers calling Delta on Thursday afternoon received this message:

“Thank you for calling Delta Air Lines. We are currently experiencing intermittent technical difficulties and extremely high volume. Our current wait times exceed six hours. For those customers who do not have an urgent need to travel within the next 48 hours, please visit delta.com or call back later.”

A Delta spokesperson was not immediately available to comment on this specific issue, but said the company is doing everything it can to help travelers dealing with the pandemic.

An earlier message on Thursday told customers: 

“Thank you for calling Delta Air Lines, we are currently experiencing intermittent technical difficulties in processing ticket changes and new bookings. Our current wait times exceed four hours. For those customers wishing to book or change a flight, please call back later or visit delta.com. For other questions, you can stay on the line or attempt your call later.”

Other airlines were also dealing with a high volume of calls as travelers rushed to book or rebook flights. Customers calling American Airlines were asked to call back later if they’re not traveling within the next few days.

WATCH: Coronavirus causes travel industry to pivot, airlines to cancel flights (provided by USA Today)


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How Coronavirus Is Impacting Disney World and Disneyland

With the busy spring break season upon us and COVID-19, aka novel coronavirus, today declared a global pandemic by the World Health Organization, families with plans to head to Walt Disney World and Disneyland have a lot of questions about how the virus could or should impact their travel plans.

Internationally, four Disney parks remain closed in Hong Kong, Tokyo, and Shanghai, although Shanghai has begun reopening its shopping and dining district. A Disneyland Paris worker tested positive for coronavirus but that park remains open.

Domestically, Walt Disney World and Disneyland also remain open for business. Dr. Pamela Hymel, Chief Medical Officer, Disney Parks, Experiences and Products, said in a statement on the Disney Parks Blog that “Walt Disney World Resort and Disneyland Resort are open and welcoming guests and we continue to implement preventive measures in line with the recommendations of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), as well as state and local health agencies.”

What Steps Is Disney Taking to Keep the Parks Safe?

In her statement, Hymel detailed the additional steps Disney is taking to prevent the spread of coronavirus and other diseases in the parks, including “frequent cleaning and disinfection of targeted areas,” “easy access to handwashing facilities and hand sanitizers,” and “frequent cleaning of outdoor locations, including walkways and queue.”

Hand sanitizer stations have been added throughout the parks, and today new portable handwashing stations began showing up at Walt Disney World. Disney has published the locations of many of the hand sanitizer stations at Disneyland and Walt Disney World.

Should Travelers Keep Their Plans to Visit Disney Parks and Resorts?

It’s well known by now that the CDC is recommending that high-risk individuals, mainly older adults and those with serious chronic medical conditions like heart disease, diabetes, or lung disease, avoid crowds, cruise travel, and non-essential air travel.

But, for healthy individuals, it remains more of a personal choice. A statement by a coalition of 150 travel-related organizations issued by the U.S. Travel Association seeks to reassure healthy travelers:

“Though the headlines may be worrisome, experts continue to say the overall coronavirus risk in the U.S. remains low. At-risk groups are older individuals and those with underlying health conditions, who should take extra precautions. The latest expert guidance indicates that for the overwhelming majority, it’s OK to live, work, play and travel in the U.S.”

A Doctor’s Take

We asked Dr. Colleen Nash, Assistant Professor of Pediatric Infectious Diseases at Rush University Children’s Hospital and Medical Director of the Pediatrics Antimicrobial Stewardship Program for her advice on how families should decide whether to take a Disney vacation. She recommends families evaluate the potential outcomes.

“Visiting a theme park or partaking in any activity involving very large crowds always poses a risk of (any) infection transmission,” she says. She suggests those considering travel evaluate the health of those in their party as well as family members back home and how illness could potentially affect them.

Even for healthy individuals, she recommends considering “how coronavirus infection (if it were to happen) could impact your family and if that is a tolerable risk and potential time away from school, work, normal daily activities, say, if you had to undergo quarantine.”

For those comfortable with those possible outcomes, there aren’t currently any official recommendations that go against proceeding with travel plans.

What’s It Like to Be at Walt Disney World Right Now

I visited Walt Disney World last week and found almost no discernible difference in the experience from other times I’ve visited the parks. This week, aside from the noticeable uptick in hand-sanitizing stations and handwashing stations, it feels like business as usual for vacationing families. Meet-and-greets, buffet meals, and other higher-contact experiences haven’t been reduced.

Len Matela of Western Springs, Illinois, is currently at Walt Disney World with his wife and three sons and said the main difference their family noticed was that guests were utilizing personal hand sanitizer and hand-sanitizing stations more frequently.

“We’re not germaphobes so it’s not stressing us out,” Matela says. “If you didn’t watch the news or look at your phone and continuously see new information about the virus spreading, you wouldn’t notice any changes.”

Matela says concerns about the virus haven’t impacted their vacation at all. “We’re having a blast,” he says, noting that worries don’t seem to have had an effect on crowd levels yet. “Selfishly we were hoping for smaller lines and less of a crowd!!”

What If Disney Does Decide to Close Walt Disney World or Disneyland?

Should the spread of coronavirus or official government recommendations lead the domestic parks to make the decision to close, as was the case in Asia, it’s safe to assume Disney will offer refunds of park tickets and resort stays, as they’ve done in Asia. Should guests electively cancel a Disney vacation, standard resort cancellation terms will apply. Park tickets are changeable but non-refundable.

Now that most major airlines have issued waivers and have given travelers the flexibility and peace of mind to change their flights without fees, guests who are planning or looking forward to planned Disney vacations should feel reassured that any official park closures will likely see them fully reimbursed or able to change their vacation plans without fees.

How to Stay Healthy During Your Disney Vacation

We asked Dr. Nash what families can do to stay healthy during a Disney trip, and they are much the same as recommendations you’ve been hearing across the news media—mainly, wash your hands!

She recommends frequent, meticulous handwashing or hand sanitizing before and after meals and regularly at the parks, particularly after each ride.

“I cannot stress enough the importance of washing your hands (and doing it well, at least 20 seconds, with soap and water OR using alcohol-based hand sanitizer) and not touching your face (eyes, nose, mouth),” she says. “This provides so much protection against many infectious diseases and cannot be overstated.”

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Travel

Orlando is most popular spring break destination in US this year


College students in the US are increasingly opting for city getaways over beach vacations, according to the latest ranking of most popular spring break destinations.

a view of a city: Orlando

While old standbys like Orlando and Fort Lauderdale top CheapOair’s list for 2020, the results also show that post-secondary students are increasingly using their spring break to visit cities like Los Angeles, New York and Phoenix. 

Budget-conscious travelers looking for a cheap and cheerful spring getaway are advised to travel on off-peak days like Tuesday and Thursday, and to consider flying into neighboring airports rather than major hubs to take advantage of lower average airfares. 

“It’s no secret that Spring Break could be an expensive time to travel but there are a few things you travelers can do to save money and still have a great time. First and foremost, I’d recommend packing lightly and if you can avoid checking a bag – definitely do so,” said Tom Spagnola, Senior Vice President of Supplier Relations in a statement. 

Here are the top 10 most popular spring break destinations for US travelers this year: 

1. Orlando 2. Fort Lauderdale 3. Las Vegas 4. Tampa 5. Los Angeles 6. New York 7. Fort Myers 8. San Juan, Puerto Rico 9. Phoenix 10. Miami

WATCH: Tips for smooth spring break travel (provided by Buzz60)


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