Travel News March 2023
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US DOT adds Family Seating to its Airline Customer Service Dashboard
Are you planning a trip with kids? If the answer is yes, and you hope to all sit together on the airplane, the US Department of Transportation (DOT) is here to help. On March 13, the DOT launched a Family Seating Dashboard.
The Family Seating Dashboard lets travelers see at a glance which airlines help families with young children sit together at no extra cost. It is an expansion of the US DOT’s Airline Customer Service Dashboard, launched in September 2022, to help passengers when their flights are disrupted by delays or cancellations.
The Family Seating Dashboard is an online tool for families to check the seating policies for 10 popular American airlines before booking flights. The dashboard specifically highlights which airlines will guarantee that guardians and children aged 13 or under can sit together when booking airline tickets.
Spring Break Travel Update
It's officially Spring Break season, and it is the time of the year that remains a popular time to travel for school-aged children, their parents, and college students everywhere. Without the COVID-19 testing requirements of last spring, many travelers are eagerly returning to their favorite beaches.
If Mexico is your spring break destination, you should be aware that The U.S. Department of State and U.S. Embassy and Consulates in Mexico issued a travel alert warning Americans about high levels of crime and the dangers of spiked alcohol, illicit drugs, fake prescription drugs, and more. It is worth noting that most visitors travel safely, but staying informed is key. Per the U.S. Embassy and Consulates in Mexico website, you can "enroll your trip in the State Department’s Smart Traveler Enrollment Program to receive up-to-date information on Mexico's safety conditions and help the U.S. Embassy contact you in an emergency."
If you are headed to Florida this Spring Break, it has been reported that several beaches have been hit by an early bout of red tide, which kills fish and leaves a smelly mess on the sandy beaches. To see if your beach destination is affected by red tide, check the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission website, FWC.com. Sargassum, a smelly seaweed that lands on beaches in south Florida, the Caribbean Sea, and the Yucatán Peninsula of Mexico every spring and summer, is expected to hit the beaches of Florida in full force in July, according to CNN. That means that if you have a spring break trip this week or next, you'll likely be unbothered by it.
Don't forget to check our spring break blog for tips on how to prepare for your trip!
Wherever you are headed, a trip cancellation plan with optional Cancel for Any Reason and Interruption for Any Reason benefits, like our Safe Travels Voyager plan, is your safest bet. It allows you to cancel your trip entirely up to 48 hours before you depart or leave your trip after being there for at least 48 hours for any reason and receive partial reimbursement for prepaid, nonrefundable trip costs.
Cruising can be a wonderful way to spend your spring break vacation, and as we reported last December, the industry is making a comeback. The Cruise Lines International Association forecasts that the number of passengers this year will surpass 2019 numbers, with an anticipated 31.5 million passengers embarking on cruises in 2023.
Among spring break travelers, for example, cruises are getting plenty of attention, according to Expedia. "Demand for spring cruises to Alaska, for example, is up nearly 25% compared to the same time frame last year, while demand for European cruises gains momentum going into the summer.” Along with that demand, cruise prices have also gone up. But wave season is still upon us, which means you can still find great deals on a cruise for this year or next.
It's important that you know what to expect when taking a cruise this time of year. If you are a family that gets booked on a cruise with a large group of spring breakers, it doesn't mean that has to define your vacation. You'll still have lots of fun, as cruise lines are great about providing programming for different age groups and interests.
If you purchased a cruise or you are thinking about booking one soon, keep us in mind for all your cruise travel insurance needs! Learn more about cruise insurance and get a quote.
Are the Riots in France Affecting Travel?
Protests and strikes have been taking place across France since the government announced a bill to raise the country's retirement age from 62 to 64. Some sidewalks in the city have become impassable, full of garbage bags leaking rotting food and spilling broken bottles onto the pavement. Also, more than a million people took to the streets across France on Thursday, March 24th, with protests turning violent in some areas. This strike disrupted transport networks, oil refineries, and schools. It also affected air traffic, with 30% of flights impacted at Paris Orly airport.
The protests have caused disruptions at train stations and metro services, and some roads in central Paris have been blocked. Travelers should consider not using public transport to get to and from the airport. Instead, try to pre-book an airport transfer. It's also a good idea to leave extra time at the airport, as some operations, such as immigration services, may only have a skeleton staff.
There has been no official advice from the US or UK about traveling to France. That said, there are a few precautions that people with upcoming travel plans to France can take to ensure that their trips go as smoothly as possible. Tourists should reconfirm itineraries, booked activities, and flight details before traveling, and of course, use common sense and stay away from protest hot spots.
For alerts and more information, visit the U.S. Embassy and Consulates in France website.
Good News for Travelers to and from China
As we reported in our January travel news, China reopened its borders on January 8 with some restrictions, giving priority to students and businesses. As of March 15th, the country reopened its borders to tourists and has resumed issuing all types of visas as China tries to revive its economy after the pandemic. Visa-free entry will also resume at destinations such as Hainan island as well as for cruise ships entering Shanghai that had no visa requirement before COVID-19.To enter China, all you need is a valid visa, passport, and a PCR or antigen self-test.
Additional good news for travelers coming from China &emdash; as of March 10, The U.S. CDC announced that air passengers no longer need to get tested and show a negative COVID-19 test result or show documentation of recovery from COVID-19 prior to boarding a flight to the U.S. from the People’s Republic of China, Hong Kong, and Macau.
Speaking of Hong Kong, the city is giving away 500,000 free arline tickets as part of its efforts to bring back visitors and relive the tourism industry. The initiative is called Hello Hong Kong, and those interested can visit the World of Winners splash page to enter their name into the flight ticket lottery. The tickets are being allocated in three waves: from March 1 to people across Southeast Asia, from April 1 to people living in mainland China and from May 1 to residents in the rest of the world.
ETIAS Delayed until 2024
The European Travel Information and Authorisation System (ETIAS), designed to more effectively regulate non-EU nationals’ entry into and exit from the Schengen Area, which was initially expected to go into effect in May 2023 and then delayed until November 2023, has been delayed again until 2024. When launched, the system will check the security credentials and charge a fee to travelers visiting EU member countries for business, tourism, medical or transit purposes.
What does this mean for travelers to Europe?
If you are traveling to Europe this year, nothing. Travel as you would normally. Beginning in 2024, if you are traveling from a country that does not require a visa to enter the EU, you will need to apply for ETIAS authorization. There are 63 countries from which travelers will need ETIAS authorization to enter the EU or Schengen countries, including the United States. It should be noted that if you are entering a country that is not part of the Schengen Zone, you do not need to apply.
The application is expected to be a quick online process taking about 10 minutes to complete. If it is filled in correctly and there are no issues, it will be approved in minutes, as well. There is a small fee of €7 (about $7.56 USD at the time of writing) to apply. To see the full list of countries whose citizens will need to apply, visit schengenvisainfo.com.
For all the latest on ETIAS, please visit etiasvisa.com.