COVID-19 Travel Experience in Q4 2021

I thought a short blog might be due to share some thoughts on what travel may look like in the remaining months of 2021. The Delta variant is causing havoc around the world, so many of us are still wondering what countries and locations will be open…or not in 2021 or early 2022.

Photo by Atypeek Dgn from Pexels

This posting is a little out of date, but this link keeps updated on the status of all countries quite regularly. I recommend bookmarking it.

Masks

Photo by Tara Winstead from Pexels

Many locations and countries may remain open, but the TSA has extended the mask rule for airline passengers until at least 2022. We need to get use to wearing masks for a long time. I do not think this is going away any time soon.

The other bug question is what will be the experience on both airlines and in hotels?

Airlines

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I am pleased to say that food and drink service is slowly returning. It may not be full 5-star in first or business class yet, but this updated online summary is looking promising.

Hotels

Now, lets look at hotels. I think this is a mixed story across the chains and the status of the hotel.

As US News and World Reports highlights, many changes are occurring and we need to get used to much more utilitarian service and less luxury perks for the foreseeable future.

Photo by Anastasia Shuraeva from Pexels

Will hotels start offering room service again?

The WSJ had a good article that some hotels are starting to charge fees for the pool, gym or even cleaning services. Is this the new trend and only business travels will expense these services when they return?

Attractions

The most complicated topic is attractions, landmarks and activities.

Photo by C. Cagnin from Pexels

I think the best practice and rule of thumb is you need to research carefully before you plan and travel. Every state, every city, every location is a little different. One example is Florida. And they can and could change quite quickly or dynamically.

Restaurants, Car Rentals and Tours

Similar to the above, it is likely to be a mixed story. Look ahead to see if you can even get into a restaurant before you make a flight reservation. Many are trying to go to places like Hawaii which no longer require quarantine if you are vaccinated, but you may have limitations in some of the services like car rental which are very hard to find. This article has some good recommendations to think about.

Vaccinations

Here is what I recommend plan and perform before considering travel anywhere:

Photo by Gustavo Fring from Pexels
  1. Get vaccinated
  2. Make sure you have a physical and electronic copy of your vaccination
  3. Assume you need to wear a mask
  4. Plan to get a booster vaccine when they time comes

Business Insider has a good chart on how effective your vaccine can be against the variants.

Do you have any tips to share? Please send them my way and I will add to this posting.

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Seattle Polo Party

With the COVID-19 Delta variant starting to create some limitations in travel and event restrictions, many in the Pacific Northwest needed and were looking for a fun event to enjoy this summer.

and I am excited to share the Seattle Polo Party is back and we were invited to attend! The smoke was a little hazy, but it was not too bad and did not interfere with any of the activities or fun.

Despite the warm weather, most the guests and attendees chose to dress up and promote the festive atmosphere. You can see that the best and most popular choice is to attend as a VIP and that is the long registration line here.

But beware, purchasing an individual VIP ticket is not a good choice unless you are going to have a table or cabana to sit at.

There was a number of local luxury sponsors like Seattle Rolls Royce, Alvin Goldfarb and Oris watches. It was fun to wear a nice watch and check out some of the line in the Oris airstream trailer. The Oris cotton candy watches were definitely popular with this crowd! I might have even been tempted to pick up a new model for my collection as well 😉

I admit I have never been in this area of WA state before, and it was a nice drive down and opportunity to observe and learn how Polo is actually played.

Needless to say, it is not easy and it was impressive on how the players and horses could be so agile and precise in hitting a small ball down the field.

Summary: it felt like a yuppie picnic, but it was fun to dress up on a hot summer day, interact and socialize with the greater community. You can even spot some local celebrities walking around. I was lucky to get a picture of this local celebrity — it seems she is no longer driving a Ferrari when I last saw her in Shanghai, and now has started driving a Bentley sedan!

We will definitely go again. It was a great escape from the challenging times, weather and continued uncertainty of the year ahead.

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Lake Chelan

The state of Washington is no longer locked down and everyone is travelling again, so we decided to adventure and visit a place we have never visited before:

Lake Chelan Washington!

It is a bit of a long drive from the Seattle area, but it is a relaxing and comfortable drive through the Cascade mountains.

It is not very green, due to a draught and hot weather, but still very scenic. We were so tempted to try hiking on some of the nearby hills (mountains), but with the hot sun and 100 degree weather, it does not seem logistically possible to carry enough water to support a multi-hour hike to those elevations.

Chelan has an old town kind of atmosphere with accordingly styled stores, restaurants and things to do. Numerous parks, not too crowded and lo

We rented an AirBnB condo. You must book months in advance now. It is pretty much 100% booked for the entire summer now. If you do not want to be right on the lake, you can get some decent deals and still only be a 10 minute from the parks and many attractions.

You can even play mini golf downtown or ride go karts.

Be warned, you will not see or find anyone wearing a mask. You will almost feel like there was never a pandemic or a need to wear a mask in this town. Maybe 1% of the people working inside or stores wear masks.

So, what did we do on day 1? Rented a boat, spent the day cruising around the lake, checking out some of the mansions and even perform a little tubing in the calm waters. Enjoyed a nice mini picnic on the water with some treats from the local Safeway. We rented a nice boat from Shoreline which is a very convenient and great choice for visitors.

Let’s see – eating recommendations. Everyone in town seems to like the Drive In burger place. We walked up and that is OK too. Great burgers, onion rings and they even make a better shake that Shake Shack!

I have to admit, I am not sure I have ever bene to a water park since I was in Navy bootcamp in Orlando many years ago and a water park was our liberty day after 4-6 weeks. I have to admit Slidewaters in Chelan is a really fun place for families.

It is not huge, but it is well run and not very expensive. Great place to have a picnic if you get in early and find a shade spot.

but be ready, it will get very packed quickly and not a bare piece of grass will be found by the late afternoon as towels breed and multiply faster than rabbits.

The major downside of the park is the Grill. The natural park “grub” is not healthy, but aligned with the standard fare for recreation facilities. The major disappointment is you will likely need to stand in line in the hot sun for 30+ minutes just to buy a hamburger.

One of the highlights some talk about in the area are the wineries and vineyards. We decided to check one out that was on the south side of the lake known as Lake Chelan winery. They definately have some older vines and have good online reviews.

The real highlight was the evening BBQ they host Sun-Thur. Delicious with a great outdoor menu and lots of side choices. It provides a great excuse to try out some of the wines and enjoy the festive and family atmosphere. Highly recommended.

The vineyard also provides a very family friendly atmosphere which lends to its popularity.

Now, what did I do every morning while in the area?

Last, but not least, yes, I went running around parts of the lake. How could I not? It is a great place to run early in the morning when it is 30 degrees cooler and almost no traffic on the roads.

One element that is unique to Chelan – all runners wave hi when passing each other. Very friendly. None are wearing masks though.

Running around the world is always fun.  Some of my other favorite spots:

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Planning a Weekend Trip to Mexico on a Budget

Although I have been to Mexico many times, I thought it would be great to have a posting on the topic as many people are now looking to visit and travel to Mexico now that the lockdowns have been lifted!

I have been to Puerto Vallarta, Acapulco, Cabo and over course, Cancun, but never Mexico City. I need to start planning I think!

Photo via Pixabay by Mscxp

For many Americans, finding the time and the funds to take a weekend trip can be extremely difficult, but these days, it’s important to do the things that make us happy in a healthy way. With so many anxieties and stressors whether you’re a busy manager, parent, or student, it’s no wonder that so many people are looking for budget-friendly trips so they can get away from everything for a little bit and relax. But how do you do it when you only have time to head out for the weekend?

The key is to get creative, and it helps to do a little research as well. One of the most affordable trips you can take is a weekend jaunt to Mexico, where you can book a four-star hotel for a little over $60 per night and take in all the sights of a historic city like San Miguel de Allende. Located in Mexico’s central highlands, the city offers gorgeous architecture and cobblestone streets, as well as mild weather well into fall.

The David Cross Travel Blog shares some great tips on how to plan a weekend trip to plan to many places around the world.

Know Your Dates

One of the first major steps in planning a weekend getaway is to have firm dates so you can book your airfare and accommodations. Clear your schedule, and make sure there are no conflicts before you make any final decisions. Look for days and times that are off-season, as during peak times the flights will fill up faster and you’ll end up paying more. This also applies to hotels.

Avoid Scams

While traveling can be a time to relax, it can also be tricky. Making plans and using your credit card means you’re more susceptible to scams and theft, so only use companies that are confirmed with the Better Business Bureau before giving them any of your information. Travel fraud is a very real thing that affects many Americans every year, so it’s important to only do business with reputable agencies.

Skip the All-Inclusive Resort

These types of resorts are wonderful if you’re going to be staying for a week or longer, but if you’ll only be there for a couple of days, it’s probably in your best interest to pay as you go. You can download an app such as Trail Wallet that will help you keep track of exactly how much you’ve spent on your trip so you won’t have any nasty surprises down the road.

Plan a Little

For many travelers, the idea of a weekend trip comes with the need to get away, destress, and not plan too much. Flying by the seat of your pants can be freeing sometimes, but when it comes to saving money, it’s not always the best option. Instead of winging it, plan a bit so you’ll know how much you can expect to spend on a given day. You might do some research on local restaurants or tourist attractions to find out the average cost of a meal or ticket, or consider how you’ll get around. In many cities around the world, small motorbikes are popular because they allow for fast travel without having to deal with traffic. These can often be rented for the day.

Planning a weekend trip to anywhere on a budget can be tricky, but it doesn’t have to be stressful. Simply think ahead as much as possible and do some research before you commit to anything. With a good plan and a little thought, you (or you and your family) can have a wonderful weekend getaway in Mexico without breaking the bank.

By Jesse Clark from Soulful-Travel.com

P.S. If you want a good example of what a great trip to Mexico City looks like in the summer of 2021, then check out Paul Thurrott’s trip blog which really makes the city look a great opportunity to visit on a budget!

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How to Prepare Your Car for the Road Trip of a Lifetime

This week I have a returning guest author posting that I think will help everyone a little in the year ahead as the world starts opening again for travel!

I think this topic is quite interesting (for at least the United States) based on the travel and vacation interest that skyrocketed last weekend due to three factors (IMHO):

  1. The reduced infections of COVID-19 across most states in the US
  2. The high vaccination rate of adults in the US
  3. Most cities and attractions opening back up again and no longer in lockdown
  4. The immense urge and need for vacation after a year of WFH and no travel
Photo credit: Pixabay

There’s nothing more exciting than hitting the road for an extensive road trip. With endless possibilities on the horizon and an unbridled sense of freedom, many people list this experience at the top of their bucket list. While it’s easy to get carried away by the more interesting parts of the trip, there’s one major logistical aspect that must be addressed: transportation. Even the most capable of cars will need to undergo some changes before tackling such an epic adventure. Here are some tips for preparing your car for the road trip of a lifetime.

Double-Check Your Car Insurance Coverage

Before hitting the road, you need to double-check your car insurance to see how long it lasts and what it covers. If you’ve been with the same provider for many years, it might be the right time to shop around for something more affordable. You’ll want to find companies that have been around for a while with positive reviews from customers. For example, State Farm has an A++ rating, was founded in 1922, and enjoys an 18 percent market share. Additionally, Allstate has an A+ rating, was founded in 1931, and has an 11 percent market share. Reviewing multiple companies is a great way to find the best coverage for your road trip.

Take Your Car In for a Professional Inspection

Unless you’ve recently purchased a brand-new vehicle, it’s important to receive a professional inspection to catch any current problems with your car. You don’t want a pre-existing issue to stall your road trip after just a few days. Most maintenance shops should be willing to do a quick inspection for a reasonable rate. Make sure to tell them about your plan for an extended road trip as there may be some parts of your car that are particularly sensitive to prolonged use. Inspecting these parts is especially important to ensure they’re prepared for the long haul.

Replace Your Brakes, Headlights, and Tail Lights

You don’t need a professional inspection to know that your brakes aren’t in tip-top shape or that your headlights and tail lights aren’t operating at full power. Unless you’ve just replaced each of these parts, it’s safe to assume that they’re lacking in one way or another. When taking a road trip, you should replace these items beforehand to err on the safe side. You don’t want your headlights going out in a storm or your brakes to wear down when driving through the mountains. You can greatly reduce these potential problems with fresh brakes and lights.

Load Your Car with Essential Tools and Maintenance Kits

Cars are easy to maintain when used for a few hours each day; it’s a different story when you take that same car on a long road trip. Even with the most thorough preparation beforehand, your car may still experience some mechanical issues while on the road.

To limit your chances of being stuck in the middle of nowhere, it’s important to load your car with some essential tools. For one, you’ll need jumper cables in case you experience a dead battery and a spare tire if you encounter a flat. For another, flashlights are also important for dealing with problems in the dark. But make sure that you invest in car tools and accessories that will go the distance. Take the time to consider expert recommendations, as well as maintenance tips.

Road trips place a lot of stress on even the most capable cars. In order to make sure that your trip goes smoothly, it’s important to prepare your vehicle beforehand. You should focus on increasing safety and minimizing maintenance issues along the way. Even a little preparation can make it easier to enjoy the road trip of a lifetime.

Thanks again for the tips and collaboration from Allison Morgan from TravelTravesty.com

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Breitling Watches and Travel

I thought it might be fun to write about two of my favorite topics — in a combined blog posting!

I am a big fan of watches and how they are not just a choice of jewelry, but also a tool for many travel purposes and a visible expression of yourself as well as your personality.

I admit I am a huge fan of Swiss watches primarily, but I will admit, not exclusively. One of my favorite brands is Breitling and I thought I would share some of the watches in my collection and how each of them serves a purpose when travelling.

OK – lets start with my favorite watch for when travelling on business and especially when travelling overseas.

My favorite watch is the Breitling Aersopace. They do not make this model anymore, but it is amazing watch to travel. Here are the benefits:

  • It has a titanium case which makes it lightweight, thin and very durable
  • It is not flashy and does not attract attention when travelling in dangerous places
  • It fits easily and comfortably under long sleeve shirts, sweaters and sweatshirts
  • It has multiple time zones. One your current time zone and one for your home time zone
  • It has a very loud and reliable alarm — I never trust hotel alarm systems or wakeup calls. This is a critical function when travelling and your schedule is dynamic
  • It has a battery and it literally lasts almost 2 years before requiring a change

OK – what is my favorite vacation watch when being adventurous?

The Breitling Seawolf. It is a true diving watch.

  • You can actually go as deep as 3,000 meters and it is 100% titanium case with a very thick sapphire crystal.
  • It is an automatic watch that is so reliable, durable and has a bracelet extension to wrap your wrist when wearing a thick wetsuit.
  • It is very light and comfortable due to the titanium case

Hint: this is not a watch that easily fits under any shirt due to its thickness to handle extreme underwater depths.

Now, when on vacation, sometimes you do want to go out and dress up a little, but not go overboard. What is one of the best choices when you still want to be a little fancier when out for dinner?

The Breitling two-tone Chronomat is a great choice. You maintain the technical styling, yet the gold accents class up the look quite a bit. It is not a large or thick as a Seawolf, so you can still comfortably wear it under a dress shirt if you like.

Now, if you would like some a little toned down, but still very cool and classic Breiting, what would I recommend?

I really the relatively TWA Navitimer. It has a classic look, but not flashy. It fits nicely under a shirt and has a somewhat retro look.

Now sometimes, what if you are not travelling on business and do not need a muted or simple look for a watch with an alarm clock?

This is where the Breitling Chronospace Military comes in. As a US Navy and US Army veteran, it is a perfect match for my military experience, it has a classic military style, dual time zones, amazing alarm and even works great with night vision goggles! A great choice when you want to have fun and not need to wear a watch that is subdued and business like.

Now, last, but not least, what is a good casual watch for daily wear when being active on vacation at the beach, playing sports or working out?

The new Breitling Endurance Pro line is one of my new favorites. It is so lightweight, thin, comfortable, water resistant and yet as a very cool look without standing out as an expensive watch. I never thought I would like a rubberized band, but this is perfect for a hot, sweaty day with sports or activities and quickly cleans up after a day out.

What is a dream Breitling or two that I would love to have in my collection some day for travelling?

One is the Breitling Emergency. I have (and will continue to do so) travelled around the world to some (dangerous) places. The emergency watch could be a valuable asset if something goes wrong.

Any other recommendations?

Interested in more of the luxury watch market and what is going on in this dynamic ecosystem? I thought I would share a few of my favorite YouTube subscriptions which are somewhat informative and fun to stay up to date.

Where do I acquire these great pieces? Thanks again to Alvin Goldfarb for the great choices, services and friendship over the years!

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Practical Travel Tips to Save You Time, Money, and Stress

This week I have a guest author posting that I think will help everyone a little in the year ahead as the world starts opening again for travel!

Photo Credit: Rawpixel

Whether you want to explore the world through running adventures or find other ways to experience other states, countries, and cultures, worries about money or stress shouldn’t be an obstacle — especially when there are so many practical and doable ways to keep your journey budget-friendly without taking away from the fun and excitement. Here are a few cost-savvy and low-stress travel tips to get you started.

Only Pack the Essentials

If you want to keep the stress and costs of your travels minimal, you need to also keep your luggage light and manageable. Here’s what you really need to travel comfortably:

  • A good wireless charger so you don’t have to worry about finding a plug for your phone. You may even want to pick up one or two extra to keep in your suitcase.
  • A top-rated toiletry bag filled with your favorites in smaller sizes. You could pick up toiletries at your destination, but why deal with the extra expense or hassle?
  • Laundry detergent — or at least be willing to pick up some and do laundry. This is one of the top recommended tips for bringing less clothing and minimizing your packing.
  • Your ID and travel documents. The US Department of State offers a handy list to help you figure out which documents you will need, especially if you are traveling abroad.
  • Consider including your COVID-19 vaccination card in your travel paperwork.
  • Keep in mind the CDC is currently recommending COVID-19 testing for air travelers arriving in the US; requirements could be upgraded at any time.

Stray Off the Beaten Path

Another secret for taking the stress and expense out of travel is to avoid doing what other tourists or travelers do. With these tips, you’re also more likely to have the time of your life.

  • Skip the hotel and choose a more creative accommodation instead. Vacation rentals, RV rentals, couch surfing, and even camping are all cheaper and much more fun options.
  • Hiking ski resorts during the summer and checking out Europe in the fall. These are both practical ways to cut out crowds and avoid extra costs.
  • Treat yourself to local cuisine. Visit local favorites instead of relying on more popular chains and restaurants. Eating locally can help you save a lot of money.
  • Creating budget rules for your adventures can also help you avoid surprises, anxiety, and stress about money. For instance, set a limit for the total cost of your flights.
  • David Cross recommends getting a Platinum AMEX Card — not just to cover your travel expenses, but also to enjoy travel-friendly perks on the road.

Travel will help you stay healthy, explore new worlds, and make connections as you’ve never imagined possible. Don’t let worries about your budget keep you from exploring. Keep your packing minimal and be willing to get creative so you can save money and stress. 

Thanks again for the tips from Allison Morgan from TravelTravesty.com

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Rome

Time for a retro post to share one of my favorite cities in Italy!

I have visited Rome a few times on business, many years ago on the way back from the Gulf War (1991) and once again in 2008 on a long weekend trip with some friends.

Back in 1992, you could actually visit and go inside the famous colosseum and walk around with no restrictions and no tickets! I only wish they had digital cameras and smartphones back then. When I was in the military, I did not make a lot of money and you had to be very careful and thoughtful on how many pictures you took as you may not have enough money to get all the film developed! It was actually cheaper to buy the tourist postcards or books than it was to pay for film!

Now, when you visit, there are LONG lines and lots of pickpockets and lots of people in costumes hassling you take a picture with them for $10.

One of the most surprising discoveries whenever you visit Rome, even recently, is that the city is still being excavated and uncovered over time. Not everything is known and not all structures are even exposed.

You will often see many places and diggings underway throughout many places in the city.

Speaking of all the hidden history. Did you know that Rome used to have a wall around it? When you drive in and out of the city, some of the wall still remains to this day.

It even has some mini pyramids based on their attraction from earlier times and their discoveries in the middle east.

I wish I had some before and after pictures, but one of the major differences between my first visit in 1992 and my most recent visit in 2008 was how much cleaner the city was. The buildings, the streets, the marble were shining and clean compared to 20 years ago, everything was black and covered with decades of pollution.

What is the one recommendation I can make for visits? The cathedrals.

They are simply amazing and HUGE. They will blow your mind. Go inside an explore if you can!

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We need physical running races again!

I decided to post something a little different today.

As many know, I am active runner to help keep myself in good shape physically and mentally. When I travel, I love to run. It is one of the best ways to explore a city, country or learn more about an area that is not easily experienced otherwise. I have posted some of my favorite spots in my blog over the years:

I have even travelled to run in a race internationally when on vacation like in Dublin where they held a great half-marathon race. Races are a great way to focus your results…even when you are not targeting to get specific goals or personal records.

But, during the pandemic, the races have been pretty much non-existent due to the risks, crowds, insurance, travel. The only options have been virtual and that has been hard. I have been reluctant to join them.

But they are an easy way to help keep people motivated and still have some targets to hit…even though they are so different from the energy, competitiveness and drive that physical races create.

Many races are for good charitable causes. I am totally in support of these to raise money. I joined my first one earlier this year to join many in my company that support this cause. I joined and supported the Travis Manion Foundation run which is also known as the 9/11 Heroes run. As the executive sponsor for MAVEN at Oracle which is the US based veteran’s employee resource group, I felt I needed to lead by example. It was motivating. It drove me to train and be ready.

However, all these other virtual races started to feel like a business model to make money and nothing else like the Conquerors Virtual Challenges.

However, I still desired in my heart to be in a physical race. I am now vaccinated as a I shared a view week ago here, and ready to join again, but I am also going to continue to wear a mask and stay distant like I did this weekend.

I joined Pat Tillmans Foundation run to help this great cause and focus myself for the next challenge.

It was motivating. I pushed hard. I rant the fastest mile pace in a few years. I reached an optimum weight based on a thoughtful diet. Maybe it was due to the fact it is not safe to go out and eat in restaurants until we are mostly vaccinated and achieved herd immunity, but I digress…I also had the fastest 5K and 10K in a few years.

Success! But it still did not have the energy of a physical race. I/we need them again. Question: when will they start again and when can we travel to join?

The window may be opening again. I am joining a local 5K – will this be the start of the new year opening again for races?

Will there ever be massive crowds again? So many questions, but I think we need the races again to get us focused as well as physically and mentally fit again!

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Moderna Vaccine 2nd Shot Side Effects

CNN had a good article on what people should expect after their second vaccine shot that many may want to read to get prepared. Talking and observing many that have received the Pfizer of Moderna vaccines in the United States, it is clearly a mixed story. Some of had no side effects, some have had extreme short term illness.

My experience summary: second verse, same as the first! I had exactly the same side effects that I had after my first vaccine shot.

If interested here are some of the details:

  • After about 4 hours, my arm near the shot location started to get quite sore
  • After about 6 hours, I started to feel slightly fatigued
  • Overnight, my arm got VERY sore, and it was a little uncomfortable sleeping
  • In the morning, I felt slightly achy and slightly fatigued
  • The arm was very tender to the touch and slightly restricted in movement. I did take two 200mg ibuprofen for the sore arm and that helped and did not have a need for anything later.
  • By Saturday night, the arm movement restrictions were gone and only the “jab” area was sensitive to the touch.
  • By Sunday morning, only slight arm sensitivity and almost no indication of any other side effects.

Similar to the first shot, I took an easy 10K run to work off the achiness and soreness. I ran about 15 seconds per mile slower, but it was very helpful in working off the side effects.

In the end, it was no big deal and I am very happy with Moderna vaccine so far. I am already willing to get a booster shot in 6 months to deal with the UK and Brazil variants that are starting to occur. So far, early results show that Moderna is 90% effective even after 6 months. I will share udpates here when available.

Now, what is the next step? Keep your vaccination card in a safe place. Both CBS and CNN had some good recommendations for your vaccination card after getting your second shot.

Recommendations

  1. Take a photo on your mobile phone and keep a backup on OneDrive, Box, etc.
  2. Make a paper copy
  3. Laminate the original to protect it.
  4. Only take your mobile photo version of paper copy with you to preserve the original

Time to Travel

Now that we can start to travel again, what will be the future hotel experience? Hilton states or should I say “warns” that the hotel experience will no be the same as before the pandemic.

No longer daily cleaning service, very limited hotel (food) room service, limited restaurants and reduce amenities. Will this make the large hotel chains less competitive with smaller independent hotels that will take advantage of the gaps and offer more services? Time will tell…

Stay tuned, I expect this will be a good opportunity to share some travel experiences and reviews in the not too distant future!

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