Tips for Smart, Safe 2020 Holiday Travel

In a year like 2020, the warmth, community, food, and chance to travel that the end of the year holiday season brings is seen as a highly-needed break from the daily stresses of life.  However, now more than ever, caution must be taken to ensure an enjoyable, yet safe holiday season transpires.  Travel Pulse has compiled several steps travelers can take for safe 2020 holiday travels.

Monitor Your Destination Early and Often

While there are expected to be far fewer crowds than in previous years and simply no shortage of deals to be snagged for flights and resort stays, travelers shouldn’t be swept up in the excitement that a reunioning gathering of loved ones could generate, as the latest travel restrictions, quarantine orders and health and safety guidelines of your destination should be regularly monitored. So, as you are holiday shopping and planning, be sure to research what your destination requires of its incoming travelers, as some places are requiring visitors to self-isolate for a minimum of fourteen days, if they are hailing from a “hotspot,” while others are asking visitors to complete health questionnaires and/or submit a negative coronavirus test result prior to entry. As a general rule of thumb, as this tip is the most serious, travelers at a higher risk of severe illness should avoid areas with high infection rates or, at the very least, exercise extreme caution.

Purchase Travel Insurance

Sure it’s often ignored, skipped over, or hastily signed, as a traveler focuses more on the type of seat getting them to the destination rather than the worse implications, but travel insurance shouldn’t be taken for granted this year. It’ll be a great idea to research some travel insurance policies prior to departure or booking, as the right choice in policy could cover medical costs and even medical transport back home, in the event of a passenger becoming severely ill, whether or not due to the pandemic. In fact, look into your specific destination, because many resorts, such as Sandals are offering complimentary travel insurance to their guests for an added layer of flexibility and peace of mind in these times.

Wear a Face Mask

This travel accessory that for many was first observed in international airport terminals should not be overlooked this year, as it has become one of the most effective tools in the fight against all viruses, not to mention that its utilization has become a requirement in most places such as airports, airplanes, hotel lobbies, bars, restaurants, and indoor attractions. It’s suggested that those choosing to travel for the holidays embrace face mask culture or choose to stay home. So, plan ahead! Coordinate masks with your traveling party or commission some personalized masks; just be sure to pack several, ensuring a clean, effective, and stylish accessory every time.

Actively Practice Social Distancing

Ignoring the pandemic, nothing is worse than anticipating a trip for months or weeks, packing, stressing about getting to the airport on time, and getting sneezed on in public or noticing that the passenger near you has been sneezing for the past minute, thus you attive sick on day one. That can be mitigated every year by maintaining a safe distance of six feet between yourself and others, but special attention should be paid to the practice this year, especially if you’re traveling in a high-traffic hub like a train station or airport. Remember, the CDC’s updated guidelines define “close contact” as being within six feet of someone with the virus for a cumulative total of fifteen minutes or more over a period of 24 hours, so be practical, yet mindful!

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The Best Holiday Lights in the US

Regardless of your location in the States, watching the twinkle of the Christmas lights is sure to spark joy and get you in the holiday mood. With a long and dated history, Christmas lights have become a symbol for an exciting and giving season.

Finding the best Christmas lights display within driving distance is a fun activity for the whole family, where you can watch the flickering of green and red dance to the best Christmas music. A few weeks ago, Travel + Leisure shared an updated list of the best Christmas lights in every state. Here are a few of our favorites!


Originally, the best Christmas Lights display belonged to the Osbourne Family Spectacle. Now that Disney laid their claim and moved it to Florida, you can get your Christmas fix at the Arkansas State Capitol Building.


Head to Hartford for the Holiday Light Fantasia, a drive-through animated Christmas display with larger-than-life scenes for Christmas, Hanukkah, and New Year’s Eve. Make sure to look out for Flurry, a puppy wearing a Santa hat, hidden amongst all the lights.


Whether you want a self-guided walking tour or a Christmas-themed getaway, Barnsley Resort in Adairsville is the place to go. Here, you’ll find millions of bulbs illuminating the manor house ruins.


Are you ready for a multi-house, synchronized holiday experience? Then head to the Waikele neighborhoodto see the grand Christmas lights show lead by the Yoshida family. There are shows daily from 7pm to 9:30pm, and the lights are usually up till early January.


Make sure to swing by the Jolly Holiday Lights, a 2.5 mile ride through over 100 light displays. All proceeds from the Jolly Holiday Lights are donated to Make-A-Wish Iowa.


Head to New Orlean’s to see the lights at Celebration in the Oaks. With over 165,000 visitors each year, there are hundreds of thousands of lights dancing throughout the oak groves in City Park. You’ll also have the opportunity to ride on the antique wooden carousel, so make sure you get a great look at “The Cajun Night Before Christmas” display.


Prefer your Christmas celebrations to be on the extreme side? Check out Baltimore’s 34th Street. Each house on the block dresses up in light displays ranging from candy canes and Christmas trees to Mr. Boh, Poe the Raven, and Chesapeake crabs.

New York

Nope, we aren’t talking Rockefeller Center. The hidden Christmas lights gem is actually in Dyker Heights, where homeowners in this Brooklyn neighborhood have an unspoken competition to see who has the best over-the-top lights, professionally crafted displays, and inflatable lawn ornaments.


For a unique experience, head to Ohio’s famousClifton Mill, where 3.5 million lights decorate  the building, the gorge, and nearby trees. Make sure to take in the 100-foot “waterfall” of lights, and be good, because there’s a good chance Santa is checking his list in Santa’s Workshop.


The Opryland Hotel in Nashville morphs into a literal winter wonderland over the holidays. You’ll see over 2 million twinkling lights, acres of holiday decor, and indoor winter wonderland (made with over 2 million pounds of ice), and Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer: The Musical.

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How To Survive Thanksgiving Travel

A lot of turkey wishbones – and travel records – are set to be broken during the Thanksgiving holiday this year. The following information from this article states,  AAA expects 54.3 million Americans will travel 50 miles or more away from home over the holiday, a 4.8 percent increase over last year and the highest Thanksgiving travel volume since 2005.  For the 48.5 million Americans expected to travel by car over the holiday, the best advice is: leave early. In the most congested cities, the Thanksgiving drive could take four times longer than on a ‘normal’ travel day, predicts INRIX, a mobility analytics company.  Traffic at airports and in the skies will break records as well.  The 12-day Thanksgiving air travel period is already under way, and trade organization Airlines for America predicts a record 30.6 million passengers will fly on U.S. airlines.  That’s up from the estimated 29 million passengers who flew during Thanksgiving last year. The Transportation Security Administration expects to screen 25 million people between Wednesday and Sunday, a 7 percent increase over last year.




The weather will cooperate for a majority of those traveling by road or air for the Thanksgiving holiday, with some exceptions in the northeastern and western United States.  The American Automobile Association (AAA) is projecting that 54.3 million will travel 50 miles or more away from home for the Thanksgiving holiday this year. Even in the absence of disruptive weather, the sheer volume of vehicles on the road in congested metro areas may cause travel time to double, triple or quadruple, according to AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Alex Sosnowski.  People traveling for the holiday can download the AccuWeather app to find out exactly when the weather could add further slow downs to their journey.

Snowflakes to fly in Northeast

The early taste of winter is expected to continue across the Northeast with batches of snow sweeping through the area and possibly lead to slick travel on occasion in the days leading up to Thanksgiving.  Motorists should prepare for possibly slick and snow-covered portions of interstates 75, 81, 87, 90, 91 and 95 in the days ahead. The greatest disruptions to travel may occur Monday night into Tuesday from portions of Pennsylvania to Maine as a storm takes shape and lays a swath of accumulating snow.  Snow showers will also riddle the eastern Great Lakes and central Appalachians on Tuesday, potentially reducing visibility on the roadways.

Yet another round of snow is expected across parts of the Northeast on Wednesday.  “There is concern that snow squalls could greatly reduce visibility and quickly coat roadways on Wednesday’s busy travel day across the interior Northeast,” according to AccuWeather Meteorologist Steve Travis.

“These squalls may not just be limited to areas downwind of the Great Lakes but may streak eastward to northeastern Pennsylvania and/or the Hudson Valley and western New England.”  These type of weather situations are notorious for causing chain-reaction accidents. Meanwhile in the Midwest, patches of light freezing drizzle may break out later Wednesday and Wednesday night, creating slick patches for motorists, especially on bridges and overpasses.

Rain to dampen travel in southeastern Texas

Travelers in southeastern Texas may contend with reduced visibility and ponding of water on the roadways as downpours cross the area at the start of the week.  “There is the possibility of wet roads and perhaps minor airline delays in Houston,” Sosnowski added. This includes on Monday afternoon, which is the worst time for Thanksgiving travel in the Houston metro area, according to AAA.  A press of drier air will shunt the rainfall southward on Tuesday, leading to a good day for travel along the Interstate 10 corridor from San Antonio to Houston. This dry press may hold firm on Wednesday, with damp conditions likely being held to southern and coastal Texas.

Storm to arrive along West Coast at midweek

Reduced visibility from wildfire smoke will be the main concern for travelers in California on Monday and Tuesday.  However, a pattern change will bring needed rainfall to the state starting on Wednesday. While rain is not normally a welcome idea during busy travel times and near the holiday, any rain with a lack of strong winds would greatly favor firefighting efforts and reduce the risk of new fires igniting, according to Sosnowski.  Despite the good news of rainfall, motorists will face slick roads as oil buildup from weeks of dry weather mixes with the rain. Heavy snow is expected over the Sierra Nevada by the end of Wednesday. Travelers over I-80’s Donner Summit should anticipate snow-covered roads, reduced visibility and possible closures. Rain will also spread into Portland, Oregon, and Seattle at midweek, heightening the risk of minor travel delays.


As with driving or going anywhere over the holiday, the key advice for flying is: leave for the airport early.  That not only helps reduce stress, but builds in extra time for all those things that can go wrong, such as discovering your favorite airport parking lot is already filled up or there’s a hiccup with your airline ticket.  TSA officials say new screening technologies, coupled with additional canine teams and more than 1,200 more TSA officers will help with the increased volume of passengers at airport security checkpoints this year. But there may still be long, slow-moving lines at many airports.

To make sure you’re not the person holding up the line, take some extra time when prepping and packing to make sure your carry-on items are checkpoint-savvy.  Dress for success: Transfer small items, such as wallets, phones and keys, from your pockets to your carry-on before you get to the checkpoint. Wear shoes or boots that are easy to take off and put back on.  Download and print your boarding pass. Putting your boarding pass on your mobile phone means one less paper to keep track of but a paper version is good back-up in case your phone loses its charge while you’re waiting on a long line, or if the checkpoint scanner can’t read the downloaded version of your pass.  Review the rules. If you’re an infrequent traveler, find a quart-sized clear bag and take a moment to read TSA’s primer on the liquids rule. Charge up your phone and other travel gadgets, including one or more back-up chargers, before you leave home. While airports have added more power ports, finding an empty one can still be a challenge. Show up with a power cord with extra plugs, and you’ll be a hero.  Download the apps for your airline and all airports you’re traveling through and sign up for the alerts for each of your flights. Get numbers. Make a list of all the phone numbers you might need for your trip. The list should include not only your airline, but also the rental car or shuttle company you’ve booked with, your hotel, the person picking you up and the person who dropped you off (in case you left something behind). Put those numbers in your phone and on paper.
Pack extras. Bring along snacks, a hefty amount of patience, and your sense of humor. Add a stash of ‘mad money’ to your wallet. That way, if something goes wrong despite all your planning and preparation, you’ll be able to buy yourself or your family a stress-busting treat.
If you’re traveling with food to eat during your journey or with a turkey or something else destined for the Thanksgiving table, you will likely be asked to take it out of your bag and put it in a separate bin for a ride through the x-ray machine.  TSA allows turkeys, turkey sandwiches, pies, cakes and other baked through the checkpoints, but foodstuffs that are liquid, such as jellies and cranberry sauce, need to travel in checked bags. Unsure if your food is a liquid or gel? TSA’s “What can I bring” tool, available online and as an app, can help – and you can send a question about a specific item to @AskTSA on Twitter.


To read more on how to survive Thanksgiving travel, click here.  For more general travel tips, click here.

Best Holiday Travel Destinations

Has the Holiday cheer put you in a wanderlust mood?  Give in to it and hop on a plane for a trip during the time of year that many deem the BEST time to see a new place.  Here are our top 10 American holiday travel destinations for you to indulge in. Enjoy!


No. 1 Aspen, CO
A combination of luxe living and quaint charm helped this Rocky Mountain town capture the spot as the merriest of them all. Wandering along Cooper Avenue, you may chance upon cookie exchanges, public s’mores roasts, or elf meet-and-greets. But the two most famous hotels in town act as the nerve centers for holiday cheer. The lobby of the Hotel Jerome regularly hosts carolers, while the Ajax Tavern and Element 47 at the Little Nell both serve fabulous holiday meals, with indulgences like venison loin with huckleberries, black truffles, and chestnut-and-caramel profiteroles.


No. 2 Vail, CO
Ski season kicks into high gear during the holidays in this Colorado wonderland. December brings the festivities of Snowdaze—where the fresh powder is celebrated with live concerts every evening—and Holidaze, which includes the village’s tree lighting during the winter solstice and a New Year’s Eve torchlight parade down Golden Peak, followed by fireworks. Any time of year, readers love Vail’s liquid nourishments, ranking the town highly for its hot coffee (compare local favorites Yeti’s Grind and Loaded Joe’s).


No. 3 Ogunquit, ME
Readers may be drawn to this former artists’ colony in Maine as a beach getaway, but the holiday season brings the perks of winter on the sand: lower prices and overall calm, with just enough festivity to keep things humming. Mid-December’s Christmas by the Sea Festival typically includes a bonfire on the beach and a soul-warming chowder fest. From Ogunquit, you can also easily reach two shopping areas for getting through your list: the Kittery Outlets and, an hour away, Freeport. For distinctive local shopping, browse the Harbor Candy Shop, where the gift boxes include a Vegan Sampler, featuring soy truffles, marzipan, and orange peel enrobed in dark chocolate.


No. 4 Nantucket, MA
The banner event during the holidays in this island town started in the 1970s, because too many locals left to shop in Cape Cod. Today, during the annual Christmas Stroll—typically the first weekend in December—you can shop downtown amid dozens of seven-foot, decorated Christmas trees, and take part in wine tastings, ghost walks, and home tours. Pick up some gifts at Murray’s Toggery Shop (the mother ship for holiday-ready Nantucket Reds pants) and Jessica Hicks, the boutique of a local jewelry designer. For more tree-gazing, go to the Whaling Museum, which houses 80 trees decorated by local artists, merchants, and kids.


No. 5 Naples, FL
This Florida town lacks snowman-building material, but the snowbird-style winter wonderland still lures holiday revelers with its luxury stores, cool boutiques, and festive ambience. Third Street South is the headquarters for the official tree, evening “snow” showers during Thanksgiving week, and gorgeous window displays, like those at department store Marissa Collections in the Old Naples Historic District. Continue shopping along Fifth Avenue South, and check out whimsical clothing and gift shop Wind in the Willows, whose window won Best in Show at the 2013 local holiday decorating contest. Of course, the holidays are about more than retail; catch the Naples edition of the worldwide TUBA Christmas, a concert on Fifth Avenue South’s Sugden Plaza featuring brass tubas, euphoniums, and baritones.


No. 6 Breckenridge, CO
Breckenridge gets revved up during the holidays, as ski season swings into high gear. Indeed, this resort town skates the fine line between thrills and low stress, ranking well in the survey for both adventure and safety. On the first weekend in December, the traditional lighting of the town’s official tree coincides with the Running of the Santas, in which hundreds of red-clad, supersize elves take to the streets; on December 31, there’s a torchlight parade down the mountain, followed by fireworks.


No. 7 Lewisburg, WV
Grande dame hotel The Greenbrier is the epicenter of the holidays in the Lewisburg area. The 18th-century resort trims the lobby with opulent decorations, holds ribbon-tying seminars in its Christmas Shop, and offers weekday discounts on treatments at its legendary mineral-springs spa. While you can hear the West Virginia Symphony play at Lewisburg’s own Carnegie Hall, the town may otherwise win the Silent Night award, getting high marks for peace and quiet.


No. 8 Beaufort, NC
Winter weather doesn’t really kick in until January in this Outer Banks town, so the holiday season is typically still a good time to paddle a kayak or take a boat tour along Taylor’s Creek. The Christmas lights take to the water too: one of the biggest holiday events is the Crystal Coast Christmas Flotilla, a twinkling-lights-strewn boat parade held on the first weekend in December. Readers’ favorite cuisine in this low-key town are the sandwiches: try the double crab cake Cranky Crab at the Beaufort Grocery.


No. 9 Carmel-by-the-Sea, CA
This California town with a rocky coastline doesn’t experience much in the way of winter, but the chilly air makes the crashing waves and neighboring wine country seem all the more enticing. Carmel has its own tree lighting—a huge resident tree at the corner of Junipero and Ocean avenues—and the quiet days of early December also make it a little easier to get a table at nearby restaurants like La Bicyclette and Flying Fish Grill. December also brings the Inns of Distinction Tour, which includes the Cypress Inn (dating back to 1929) and the cottage-style Wayside Inn, as well as wineries such as Heller Estate and Cima Collina. Carmel also ranked well for its distinctive shopping; pick up French linens and antiques at Jan de Luz.

No. 10 Park City, UT
The holiday season ushers in serious wattage—star-powered and otherwise—in this Utah mountain town. In late November, Park City holds its annual Electric Parade, in which locals light up their trucks, cars, and bicycles and crank up the holiday tunes as they parade down Main Street. On Christmas Eve, Saint Nick spends the day skiing the slopes and then leads a torchlight parade down the PayDay trail. January’s Sundance Film Festival draws a Hollywood crowd, yet Park City also scored well with readers for feeling family-friendly. During the holidays, kids and sweet tooths of all ages will love the life-size gingerbread house (nearly 13 feet tall, made with 11,000 cookies) at Montage Deer Valley.


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