It’s Almost Too Late To Book Holiday Travel. Here’s Where One Expert Recommends Going

You’re vaccinated, Delta’s on the downswing, and you’re finally contemplating that holiday trip with friends. You launch Kayak and search five-star hotels in Cabo San Lucas only to turn up wildly priced leftovers. Oops.

According to travel expert Cynika Drake, many key destinations for American travelers booked up weeks and even months ago. Drake, president of Lavish Lifestyles Concierge, a global travel and event planning company based in NYC, suggests booking your hotel or villa for the “festive season,” the period covering Christmas and New Year’s Eve, immediately.

Offering an example, Drake recently helped a client search for a villa in Turks & Caicos. “It’s 99% booked” she says. “I even checked with 4-star and 5-star hotels. There was one 3-star hotel left and that would not work for my clients” she said. Ultimately, Drake found two villas due to last minute cancellations since Turks & Caicos changed its entry-requirements to allow only fully vaccinated visitors.

“Those went fast. Turks & Caicos is currently one of the hottest markets and there are only so many villas and hotels on the island” she said.

The holiday period has long been notoriously difficult and expensive to book, even when planning a year in advance. Some consumers assumed, wrongly, that the pandemic would have dampened travel, but it’s having the opposite effect.

“This year, we’ve seen festive season travel practically double compared to last year. People are eager to travel after been stuck inside and many people rescheduled their vacations for this winter. So, you have people that don’t typically travel choosing to travel this holiday season combined with those rolling over their vacations to this winter. Now, time is of the essence, especially in popular markets such as the Caribbean and Mexico.”

Drake recommends four places, ranked by price, for those without plans to consider.

  1. St. Barths 
  2. Antigua 
  3. Sint Maarten 
  4. Mexico 

Saint Barthélemy or St. Barts, has a certain je ne sais quoi, says Drake, which is why it remains one of her favorite vacation destinations. She highlights the islands abundant beaches, including remote Saline beach which allows for social distancing. “Often, you’ll be the only person there” she says. For clients who love to explore, she recommends renting a car to drive around the 11-mile island and stop at beachfront restaurants. “You can literally drive the entire island in 30 mins” she says.

St. Barths is a popular winter destination, but Drake believes the slew of last-minute cancellations she’s witnessed, will allow the persistent traveler to nab a villa or hotel room. Keeping track of cancellations is a service professional travel agents like Drake will handle.

Drake’s tip: “be prepared to put down 50%, which in many cases will be $30k or more for St. Bart’s during festive season. During this timeframe, villa rentals typically have a 14-night minimum though some allow 10 nights.”

Antigua is next on Drake’s list, notably because of its selection of boutique all-inclusive 5-star hotels. She recommends this Leeward island with remnants of its British colonial past, to clients who are looking for a luxurious experience and want to be around other people, not just their travel partner or family. Antigua boasts some of the nicest beachfront villas she’s toured; plus, visitors can spend a day visiting nearby Barbuda.

Drake’s tip: You need a car or daily driver on Antigua, unless you stay on the property for the duration of your trip. Book a rental car the minute you book your lodging.”

St Maarten offers more budget-friendly villas and hotels. Depending on where you stay, walking to various places is possible, especially on Dawn Beach. Drake appreciates that island has both a Dutch side (Sint Maarten, in the south) and a French side (Saint Martin, in the north) to explore. That means French wines, cheeses, and foie gras can be found when exploring the beaches, towns and coastline of the north.

Drake’s tip: “the water is calmer on the Dutch side, whereas the French side is great for kite surfers. 

Mexico is one of Drake’s favorite destinations because Mexico lends itself to many different vibes, from all-inclusive luxury to bohemian chic. Drake’s favorite places in Mexico include Playa Del Carmen & Puerto Aventuras for beachfront villas. Tulum for bohemian chic resorts. Cabo San Lucas or Puerto Vallarta for those on the west coast seeking high-end accommodations and a short flight. For those appreciative of beautiful Spanish architecture and an arts scene, San Miguel de Allende and Mexico City are top choices.

Drake’s tip: “Your best bet for accommodations over the holidays is Mexico. It’s a larger market than the Caribbean and has far more hotels and villas.”

Given the challenges of booking during the festive season, one should consider managing their trip through a travel agent or adviser. For example, when last minute cancellations occur, the management company contacts to those on the waitlist, and it can become a bidding war. In other words, whomever can wire the money the fastest gets to book the villa. An adviser will stay on such situations for their clients.

As Drake explains, agents have relationships with villas and hotels, and as a result, receive insider information as to what’s available or what will be coming on the market from villas to hotel suites.

An agent also stays abreast of the evolving travel requirements during the pandemic.

Additionally, as Drake puts it, “who wants to spend hours researching hotels and villas? Negotiating rates and thinking of itineraries? We do! As travel advisors, we live for that!”

“Save yourself time, money and the headache of traveling planning and let a professional do the job for you. Let figuring out what to pack, be your hardest challenge of the day” she says.

Contact Drake through her website; follow her journeys on Instagram at Lavishlifestyleconcierge.

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CDC Recommends Unvaccinated Americans Avoid Domestic Travel Ahead of Holiday Season

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European Union travel restrictions: E.U. recommends new rules for unvaccinated Americans

Airlines for Europe, the largest E.U. airline association, urged policymakers to rethink the decision, arguing that the rampant community spread on both sides of the Atlantic shows that air travel is not fueling new virus cases. The restrictions, the group said in a Monday statement, are “extremely disappointing for Europe’s airlines and our ailing tourism sector.”

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Americans eager to travel over Labor Day as CDC recommends those unvaccinated stay home

The director of the Centers For Disease Control and Prevention this week asked Americans who are not vaccinated against COVID-19 to stay home during the Labor Day holiday weekend.

“First and foremost, if you are unvaccinated, we would recommend not traveling,” CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said during a news briefing on Tuesday.

Walensky said people who are fully vaccinated should still take precautions. The CDC says of those eligible for vaccines, 38.5% are not fully vaccinated. It recommends travelers get tested 1-3 days before traveling, and another 3-5 days after traveling.

For those who are traveling, gas prices have been on the rise ahead of the Labor Day Weekend, according to AAA. Louisiana and other parts of the Gulf Coast, which were hit by the massive hurricane, play a major role in oil production.

“Drivers will almost assuredly see gas prices rise this week, because of Hurricane Ida’s effects on the Gulf Coast,” AAA spokesman Mark Jenkins said in a statement Monday. “Based on overnight movement in the futures market, a 10- to 20-cent jump at the pump is not out of the question. Where gas prices go from here will depend on the extent of the damage and how long it will take for fuel production and transportation lines to return to normal.”


Florida’s average gas prices have declined during the past three weeks and were at $2.95 a gallon Sunday for regular unleaded. That was down 3 cents a gallon from the previous week.

Americans eager to travel over Labor Day as CDC recommends those unvaccinated stay home
Americans eager to travel over Labor Day as CDC recommends those unvaccinated stay home

News4Jax spent the evening speaking with people in Jacksonville Beach. It was packed with people dining, shopping and bicycling.

April Smith was visiting from Michigan.

“We came here because it’s my husband’s birthday the day after Labor Day, and he’s never seen the ocean,” Smith said.

She said they made a 16-hour drive to Jacksonville Beach and that she and her husband have both been vaccinated.

Mark Harris is local to the Jacksonville Beach area and said he’s welcoming the visitors.

“I’m a big believe in live your life, do it the way you wanna do it,” Harris said. “If people come here and have a good time and travel, so be it.”

Another group of people flew in from Indianapolis for a bachelor party. All said they were vaccinated and are taking precautions.


Traffic at Florida’s busiest airport — Orlando — is forecast to exceed pre-pandemic crowds. Officials at Orlando International Airport said Wednesday that this Labor Day weekend they are expecting more than 303,000 departures, a 7% increase above Labor Day weekend in 2019.

The official holiday travel period started Thursday and ends next Tuesday.

The busiest travel day of the holiday weekend is expected to be on Saturday when Orlando International Airport is forecast to have more than 53,000 departures.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Copyright 2021 by WJXT News4Jax – All rights reserved.

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CDC recommends unvaccinated people not travel over holiday weekend | News

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) — Despite concerns about COVID-19 and the spreading Delta variant, the holiday rush started early Thursday at the Louisville Muhammad Ali International Airport.

Anthony Gilmer, director of marketing and air service development for the Louisville Regional Airport Authority, said the TSA mask mandate is still in place.

“You will need to have your mask on while you’re inside this airport or any other airport and also onboard the airplanes,” Gilmer said.

With the U.S. surpassing an average of 160,000 new COVID-19 cases per day, the head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has a warning for people who are unvaccinated.

“If you are unvaccinated, we would recommend not traveling,” Dr. Rochelle Walensky said. “We have actually articulated that people who are fully-vaccinated and who are wearing masks can travel.”

If you are traveling, health officials recommend taking a COVID-19 test beforehand.

“It’s good to be tested before, especially if you are going to see any at risk family members,” said Dr. Erik Korte, a lab director with Bluewater Diagnostic Laboratory. “It’s good to get tested afterward as long as you give it enough time to be able to test positive. We are seeing people test positive a little bit faster with the Delta variant.”

Korte said testing is important, but he said vaccination is what will really help slow or stop the spread.

“The more people we have vaccinated, the less the virus will be multiplying in the community,” he said. “So, please, get yourself vaccinated, protect your family, protect your children and protect the community.”

Copyright 2021 WDRB Media. All Rights Reserved.

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Arwady Recommends Parents With Unvaccinated Kids Avoid Labor Day Weekend Travel – NBC Chicago

As Chicago changes its recommendations for unvaccinated travelers as part of its travel advisory, what will parents need to do if they have unvaccinated children?

Chicago Department of Public Health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady said ultimately the decision will be left to parents and schools, but she urged those with unvaccinated kids to avoid traveling for the long Labor Day weekend.

“It is higher risk,” she said. “I would not recommend traveling right if you’ve got unvaccinated children, and particularly younger children. And the whole country is doing really badly from a COVID perspective right now so… I can tell you my own sister, you know, they have three young children who are too young to be vaccinated. They were hoping to go to Michigan for Labor Day, they’re not going in the context of it now being an orange state and their kids not being able to be vaccinated. I know that’s hard for people but we’re just trying to avoid infection and I think especially when we’re back in school the bar is a little higher in terms of trying to think about limiting that risk as much as possible.”

Chicago updated its travel advisory recommendations for unvaccinated travelers Tuesday, adding additional testing guidelines for those going to or coming from higher-risk locations as well as quarantining.

According to the city, before travel, unvaccinated individuals should:

  • Get tested 3-5 days prior to departure.

While traveling:

  • ALL individuals regardless of vaccination status should wear a mask on planes, buses, trains, and other forms of public transportation traveling into, within, or out of the United States and while indoors at U.S. transportation hubs such as airports and stations.
  • In Chicago, wear a mask in all indoor public settings, regardless of vaccination status.
  • Avoid crowds, try to stay at least 6 feet/2 meters (about 2 arm lengths) from anyone who is not traveling with you, and wash your hands often or use hand sanitizer (with at least 60% alcohol).

 After travel, unvaccinated individuals should:

  • Get tested with a viral test 3-5 days after travel AND stay home and self-quarantine for a full 7 days.
  • Even if you test negative, stay home and self-quarantine for the full 7 days.
  • If your test is positive, isolate yourself to protect others from getting infected.
  • If you don’t get tested, stay home and self-quarantine for 10 days after travel.
  • Avoid being around people who are at increased risk for severe illness for 14 days, whether you get tested or not.

The city advised all travelers to monitor themselves for COVID-19 symptoms and isolate and get tested if they develop any after travel.

“We have seen and know that travel is a significant risk factor for acquiring COVID,” CDPH Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady said. “If you decide not to get tested, the recommendation is actually to stay home and self quarantine for 10 days after travel, and you should avoid being around anybody who has an increased risk for severe COVID outcomes for 14 days after travel regardless of whether you get tested or not. Obviously we want anybody who’s traveling to self monitor for COVID symptoms and get tested if you develop symptoms.”

Nearly every U.S. state, with the exception of Vermont, is now on the city’s travel advisory.

Increases in COVID metrics pushed those newly added states over the threshold of 15 cases per day per 100,000 people to get onto the “orange” list. Any below that mark are on the “yellow” list, with public health officials still warning against non-essential travel.

“Unfortunately COVID is surging across the entire United States,” Arwady said. “The average right now is at 39 cases per 100,000 per day. We’re doing much better than that here in Chicago, but nevertheless the news remains not good from a COVID perspective at the national level.”

This week’s update to the travel advisory comes at a time when the average daily number of new cases in Chicago is up to 473 per day – a 2% increase over the previous week.

That figure is also more than 12 times the low of 34 that the city saw in late June but remains lower than the more than 700 cases per day the city was seeing during the most recent surge earlier this year.

Hospitalizations in Chicago are down 29% from last week and deaths are down 31% from the week prior, per the city’s data. The positivity rate in testing is down to 4.4% this week, a drop from 4.5% last week.

Arwady noted earlier this month that about 99% of new COVID cases, hospitalizations and deaths are among unvaccinated individuals.

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Travel news latest: Transatlantic corridor in doubt as EU recommends US travel curbs

The EU has removed the US from its Covid safe list for non-essential travel, further dampening hopes for the opening of a transatlantic corridor. EU countries may decide to tighten entry rules for US arrivals based on this change in advice.

“Israel, Kosovo, Lebanon, Montenegro, the Republic of North Macedonia and the United States of America were removed from the list,” a statement from the European Council said.

This move to halt non-essential travel from the US follows a rise in Covid numbers in the country – its seven-day infection rate is now 337 per 100,000 people; the UK’s is 331, for comparison. Meanwhile, travellers who have been in the UK or the EU in the 14 days before arrival are still banned from entering the US. 

Tori Emerson Barnes, US Travel Association executive vice president of public affairs and policy, told trade publication Travel Weekly that the EU’s advice was a “disappointing development following the boost in inbound visitation by vaccinated travellers that many EU countries experienced this summer”. 

He added: “We encourage the EU to remain open to vaccinated Americans, and likewise urge the United States to take immediate steps to begin welcoming vaccinated individuals and restoring our travel economy.”

Scroll down for the latest travel news.

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Panel recommends approval of Wendinger Travel building request | News, Sports, Jobs

NEW ULM–The New Ulm Planning approved a recommendation Thursday to permit allowing the operation of Wendinger Travel in a portion of an existing building located at 1314 S. Front St.

The building is located in a general industrial district and travel offices are not usually permitted in the industrial district. They are allowed with a conditional use permit, and the business is compatible with surrounding land uses. In addition, the primary intended use for the site is storage. The travel office would occupy a small portion of the site.

Staff received a call from an area property owner who was concerned about the condition of the alley and believed heavy traffic could make it worse. The individual also had concerns that a travel bus could not make difficult turns in the alley.

Community Development Director David Schnobrich said staff contacted Street Commissioner Jeff Hoffmann about Wendinger Travel using the alley but said Hoffmann had no concerns with this planned usage. He saw no issues with a bus entering or leaving the alley.

Wendinger Travel owner Michael Howk later said the bus used by the company had rear-wheel turning that made it easy to navigate difficult roads.

Commissioner Anne Earl said she agreed the entrance to the alley was suitable but had concerns with extra traffic on Front Street. The street dead-ends at this side of town, but there is no barrier preventing drivers from driving onto the city berm. It was suggested the city engineer look into blocking off the end of the road.

Commissioner Ashley Aukes made a motion to recommend the permit to the city council, with a second from Commissioner Dave Munson.

The motion included amending the hours of operation to allow the business to open at 6 a.m. instead of 7 a.m. Howk said the business could have buses leaving before 7 a.m. for some trips.

The motion was approved by the commission and will go to the city council next Tuesday.


A second condition use permit was approved to allow the retail sale of appliances, plumbing, heating, ventilation, air-conditioning roofing and other similar products and materials at 1500 N. Front St. John Gag requested the permit on behalf of JMG Rentals.

The property is zoned as a planned industrial district and retail sales would require a permit. Staff recommended approval because the business is compatible with surrounding land uses and the retail portion would occupy a small part of the building.

Gag described the plan for the retail section as an interior showroom. Most of the retail would occur inside the building, but some grilling demonstrations might occur outside the building. Purchasing of grills and accessories would happen indoors.

The permit recommendation was approved by the commission and will go to the council Tuesday for final approval.

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Expert shares concern as COVID-19 numbers surge, L.A. County recommends halt of Nevada travel

LAS VEGAS (KLAS) — As L.A. County asked its residents to avoid Nevada travel due to rising COVID-19 numbers, 8 News Now spoke with visitors and a local expert Thursday about what this means for the future.

After months of downward trends, COVID-19 is once again on the rise, as groups gather with fewer masks and vaccination rates remain below the national average. 

“There are more people not wearing masks than are wearing masks,” Las Vegas visitor Marcus Ward told 8 News Now. “And you know a lot of those people still aren’t vaccinated.”

8 News Now asked Las Vegas visitors for reactions to the uptick, and their answers were mixed. 

“You’ve got to be cautious these days,” visitor Roidrick Scott said. “And be safe.”

“I think we live our lives within reason,” visitor Mindy Ward said conversely. “But normally.”

However, as our positivity rate climbs well above 10%, UNLV Kirk Kerkorian School of Medicine Dean Dr. Marc J. Kahn said we shouldn’t ignore these changes. 

“People are starting to let down their guard and get together,” Dr. Kahn said. “And the group that’s most concerning is the unvaccinated.”

He added that 99.8% of those hospitalized with COVID-19 here in Nevada are not vaccinated. 

“Because the vaccination rate among older people, especially here in Nevada, is much higher than younger people,” Dr. Kahn explained. “We are starting to see a switch of who gets admitted to the hospital, and now it’s younger people, again, who have not been vaccinated.”

He said the solution is simple; immunization will stop this virus from spreading while allowing us all to enjoy the city we know and love safely. 

“Why would you not want to be vaccinated?” Las Vegas visitor Maira Buenrostro asked. “Why would you not want to be safe, protect yourself, protect others?”

“Please get vaccinated,” Scott concluded. “Also, wear your mask”

As of Thursday, there are no plans to reinstate mask mandates here in Nevada, though masks are recommended for anyone not vaccinated. 

The state’s health department reported 46% of those eligible in Nevada as fully vaccinated Thursday, which is below the national average. 

Dr. Kahn told 8 News Now because many have been immunized already, it is unlikely our numbers will ever get as high as they were before vaccine rollouts. 

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