All posts by krubin723

Novel Ways to Give the Gift of Travel, Satisfy Unrequited Wanderlust this Holiday Season

Fez, Morocco: Several travel companies including Road Scholar, The Travel Corporation and Butterfield & Robinson are have created a virtual bazaar to access the arts and crafts of the world and sustain the artisans when travel has been cut off to the marketplaces © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

by Karen Rubin, Travel Features Syndicate, goingplacesfarandnear.com

This is a holiday season like no other, and with the routes for travel cut off for many, there are still ways to satisfy unrequited wanderlust and instill the hope and joyful spirit for a future when the thrill and enrichment of discovery will return.

If you can’t get to places, some popular destinations known for their distinctive artisans and boutiques, can bring themselves to you: 

Not-for-profit Road Scholar, renowned as one of the world’s largest and most innovative creators of experiential learning opportunities for adults has partnered with NOVICA, which works directly with artisans in Asia, Africa and Latin America, to create a “virtual” world bazaar (https://worldbazaar.roadscholar.org/).

“An important part of every history and culture that we learn about is recorded in the arts, crafts and traditions of its people. While travel is limited now, we have created a way for you to continue your discovery of the cultural creations found in the places we explore on Road Scholar learning adventures through our new World Bazaar.”

Similarly, The Travel Corporation (ttc.com), a family of 40 travel and hospitality companies, through its charitable foundation, TreadRight, is using holiday gift giving to benefit its project partners and sustainable initiatives around the world hard-hit by the collapse of international travel (https://www.treadright.org/holiday-gifts-that-give-back/).

Butterfield & Robinson also has a foundation that supports conservation and cultural projects as well as an B&R Artisan Marketplace promotes the small businesses and independent artists that you would otherwise encounter on trips (https://www.butterfield.com/br-artisan-marketplace/)

Fez, Morocco: Several travel companies including Road Scholar, The Travel Corporation and Butterfield & Robinson are have created a virtual bazaar to access the arts and crafts of the world and sustain the artisans when travel has been cut off to the marketplaces © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.comez, Morocco © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

In this season when we think about good will, doing good and making a difference, use your gift-giving to support important institutions, destinations, organizations either with direct donations or actual purchases of subscriptions and items:

Get unique gifts and support favorite iconic museums and institutions like the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York City, by buying from their online stores © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Many of the great museums and iconic institutions of the world offer some of the most interesting, innovative and creative items in their gift shops and you can support their endeavor by shopping online or through catalogs (check out holiday specials): the Metropolitan Museum of Art (metmuseum.org), the American Museum of Natural History (www.amnh.org,  https://shop.amnh.org/featured/holiday-gift-ideas);  Smithsonian (Smithsonian Museums, Smithsonianstore.com;  you can also get a membership & subscription to the fantastic Smithsonian Magazine with two gift subscriptions, so 3 subscriptions for $34, Smithsonianmag.com).

Also (but you can insert your own):

World Wildlife Fund (https://gifts.worldwildlife.org/)
National Wildlife Fund (www.shopnwf.org/collections/Shop-Home-and-Garden-Garden-for-Wildlife).

Zoos, aquariums and special attractions are fantastic to shop at, especially for kids: The Palm Beach Zoo (www.palmbeachzoo.org), for example, has eco-friendly items. There are also Adopt-an-Animal programs. The Bronx Zoo has similar programs and an online store (www.bronxzoostore.com). And you don’t have to visit the Kennedy Space Center, to get space-related items (www.thespaceshop.com), though visiting offers incomparable experiences. Indeed, you might also consider gifting special experiences, like Zookeeper for a Day or an Overnight Campout at a Museum.

Zoos, aquariums and special attractions are fantastic to shop at, especially for kids: The Palm Beach Zoo (www.palmbeachzoo.org), for example, has eco-friendly items © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Another gift idea is to purchase family memberships in your favorite museum, zoo, aquarium, preserve, historic site or attraction, which gives a sense of “ownership” and encourages multiple or multi-day visits as well as giving access to benefits including discounts, like the Smithsonian Institution, Sierra Club (they produce a catalog of trips), Rails-to-Trails Conservancy (also check out the trail shop for gear like jerseys, trail guides and such, railstotrails.org) Parks & Trails NY (ptny.org), National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA). The National Park Foundation’s Board of Directors is matching all gifts, dollar-for-dollar up to a total of $500,000, through Dec. 31 (https://give.nationalparks.org/site/Donation2)

Among the distinctive historic places for the holidays recommended by National Trust for Historic Preservation is Touro Synagogue in Newport, R.I., Dedicated in 1763, Touro is the oldest synagogue building in the United States. “A structure of exquisite beauty and design, steeped in history and ideals, the synagogue is considered one of the ten most architecturally distinguished buildings of 18th century America and the most historically significant Jewish building in the United States.” © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Membership has benefits for National Trust for Historic Preservation (savingplaces.org) and its sister organization Historic Hotels of America (www.historichotels.org), National Trust for Historic Preservation offers Great Experiences & Tours, (nationaltrusttours.com) and a new program to make history fun for families: Distinctive Destinations. From grand homes to artists’ studios to working farms, these places across America can add memorable moments to your off-the-beaten-path road trip, create new opportunities for your next vacation, or even be your new favorite gift shop (https://savingplaces.org/distinctive-destinations). They even have created an online list of holiday experiences at its collection of historic holiday sites (https://savingplaces.org/collections/distinctive-destinations-historic-holidays). Members, donors, and supporters of the National Trust for Historic Preservation save up to 30% off best available rates at more than 200 participating Historic Hotels of America with offer code NHP when booking at www.HistoricHotels.org.

These days, with capacity restrictions and advance-purchase ticketing requirements at major museums and attractions, even ski areas, think about gifting pre-purchased tickets or better yet, memberships.

Stocking Stuffers, Gift Cards, Travel Gear

Resorts and hotels, tour companies, cruiselines offer gift certificates and gift cards (ideal stocking stuffers) that can be used toward accommodations but also dining, shopping, activities, experiences.

SpaFinder has gift certificates for resorts, hotels, wellness centers and day spas (www.spafinder.com/best-of/resorts-and-hotel-spas), as well as Gift Cards can be used to buy Gift Sets at its new shop offering skincare products from Sothy’s, Jurlique, Circadia, clothes, beauty products and has sales all the time (spafinder.com).

The world-class spa at Eau Palm Beach Resort & Spa, Palm Beach, is geared for indulgent pampering and relaxation. Spafinders.com is a source for gift certificates for resort stays, spa visits and spa items © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

And for stocking stuffers, there’s no better than actual socks, so crucial for walking tours, hiking, biking, skiing, and packing.

Darn Tough: Made in America socks for just about every purpose, that comes with a lifetime guarantee and the benefits of Marino wool (no odor; when hot, it wicks away moisture, when cold, it keeps you warm). Socks tailored to hiking, running, endurance, skiing, biking, hunting, work and lifestyle. Founded by Ric Cabot in 2004, a third-generation sock maker, the company operates out of Cabot Hosiery Mills, in the Sock Capital of the World, Northfield, Vermont. Colorful, a great stocking stuffer. (www.darntough.com).

And my kids loved the Bombas socks I sent them last year – Marino wool all-season, everyday socks; hiking, skiing socks. Bombas socks come with a promise to donate a pair for every pair purchased, and now, a specially designed donation clothing item for every Bombas clothing item purchased (so far over 30 million items donated). (Get 20% Off by entering email for a code, https://bombas.com/).

Camping gear like our tent from REI is much appreciated with the boom in outdoor travel © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Then you get into clothes, jackets and specialized gear and equipment for every interest imaginable: camping, hiking, skiing, snowboarding, tennis, fishing, outdoor stuff. Among our favorites (especially when you catch sales and closeouts): REI (www.rei.com/s/gifts-for-travelers, 800-426-4840); Eastern Mountain Sports, 888-463-6367, ems.com;  LL Bean, 888-610-2326, llbean.com; Sun & Ski, 866-786-3869, sunandski.com; Tennis Express, TennisExpress.com, Bass Pro Shops, www.basspro.com. And of course, luggage (I love my Olympia USA 22 inch 8-Pocket Rolling Duffel for $25 purchased through homedepot.com of all places which I have taken around-the-world; another great site is Luggageonline.com, 888-958-4424).

Photography & Camera Gear

What trip doesn’t involve photos! Yes, everyone has their cell phones, but they don’t do for safaris, kayaking, biking, wildlife, etc. (though there are lens kits for cell phones which would make great gifts).

Cameras and photography gear are big on the list for travelers, with size and functionality among the key criteria. Some of the new smaller, mirrorless cameras have as much functionality as the larger, heavier digital SLRs and use interchangeable lenses but tend to be fairly costly (over $1000 range). But I was able to take advantage of a sale to purchase the Canon EOS M6 Mirrorless Digital with 18-150 mm lens for $449, light and compact enough to use for hiking and travel.

The Canon EOS M6 Mirrorless Digital with 18-150 mm lens for $449, is light and compact enough to use for hiking and travel © Dave E. Leiberman/goingplacesfarandnear.com

For something like a safari, you would need a good DSLR with decent zoom lenses to cover the various focal lengths (I use the Nikon D500 with Nikkor 28-300), but for, say, a biking or hiking trip ( that is, what I can wear around my neck, shoot with one hand while riding a bicycle that gives excellent quality images, image stabilization, decent zoom lens, auto focus, is fast and responsive on/off/shoot, and is reasonably priced), I have found my Panasonic Lumix DMC ZS70 and ZS50 to be ideal for this kind of travel; thinking of weather and more rugged hikes and photo environments, my latest acquisition is the waterproof, shockproof Olympus Tough TG-6 Digital Camera, with 4x zoom lens (25-100mm, with an amazing macro feature for nature photography), on sale at $100 off at $349). B&H consistently has best inventory, prices, and holiday specials, plus excellent customer service, delivery and return policies, www.bhphotovideo.com, 800.606.6969212.444.6615).

There are endless opportunities on a photographer’s wishlist, from memory cards and external hard drives, to backpacks to lenses, lighting, etc.

More travel-inspired gifts:

Shou Sugi Ban House, a Hamptons wellness retreat and destination spa, recently launched an e-commerce site includinga line of signature ceramics made exclusively for Shou Sugi Ban House by New York-based ceramicist Stephanie Charlene. The collection includes bowls, dinner plates and tumblers made from a groggy white stoneware and finished with a sandy white glaze. Prices start at $30 available online at www.ssbhouse.myshopify.com or at their onsite shop in Water Mill, NY.

For the fashionistaWilbert Das, the former creative director of Diesel and owner of UXUA Casa Hotel & Spa, designed limited-edition sunglasses with local Trancoso, Brazil craftsmen. They are handcrafted from three different varieties of reclaimed wood as well as sustainably-sourced buffalo bonewith lenses by German supplier, Zeis. Each of the 150 pairs comes with an individually carved leather case by Artist in Casa Mark Inglis, an Irish designer who splits his time between Trancoso, Italy, Bali, and Tulum. Retail price is $360, and it is available via email to atelier@uxua.com, through www.uxuacasa.com or at Zerezes retail outlets in Rio de Janeiro.

For the next Bond, James Bond: Chris Blackwell – the Rock & Roll Hall of Famer and owner of Ian Fleming’s former residence, GoldenEye – is celebrating the release of the 25th Bond film, No Time To Die, witha special 007 Limited Edition release of his Blackwell Fine Jamaican Rum.A mainstay spirit at each Island Outpost resort, Blackwell Fine Jamaican Rum is inspired by Chris Blackwell’s time-honored recipe as his family has been involved in distilling Jamaican rum since the 17th century. Available starting in November, the 750 ml bottle will retail for $35 and can be purchased online at www.blackwellrum.com/shop.

For the coffee connoisseur: When Nayara Springs launched its espresso bar, Mi Cafecito, they wanted to showcase the best of Costa Rica. They worked withlocal coffee farmers to plant organic beans which they roast on propertyto create super local and fresh coffee. Until the next trip is booked, the coffee is now available to purchase and have shipped home. A half-pound bag of coffee starts at $8 (www.navarasprings.com).

For the ‘it’s five o’clock somewhere’ enthusiast: Napa Valley Distillery was the first distillery to open its doors in the city of Napa since Prohibition. Cocktail aficionados will love an old school gift set of spirits, bitters, syrups and shrubs – from a Bloody Mary kit to a box of Rum n’ Kola. Or for someone extra special, gift a yearlong membership to The Distinguished Bar Club and they will receive a quarterly box of goodies in the mail, including limited release whiskies, rums, and brandies (www.napadistillery.com)

Can’t get to the wine tastings in Sonoma and Napa? You can still join their wine clubs which ship the orders, for example, Imagery Wine, which we visited recently © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Can’t get to the wine tastings in Sonoma and Napa? You can still join their wine clubs which ship the orders. For example, Imagery Winery, which we visited recently (877-550-4278, www.imagerywinery.com/store) and its sister winery Benziger (benziger.com),  Find more on sonomawine.com and napavintners.com.

Being here: the Golden Arrow Lakeside Resort in Lake Placid where we have enjoyed spending a Christmas holiday (shuttle to Whiteface for skiing and close to Olympic venues and sites), is promoting and facilitating shopping at its local shops and restaurants with resort dollars ($20 for every night you stay) that can be used in town (see site for COVID-19 safety precautions).  (888-974-6053, 844-209-8080, golden-arrow.com)

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© 2020 Travel Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. All rights reserved. Visit goingplacesfarandnear.com, www.huffingtonpost.com/author/karen-rubin, and travelwritersmagazine.com/TravelFeaturesSyndicate/. Blogging at goingplacesnearandfar.wordpress.com and moralcompasstravel.info. Send comments or questions to FamTravLtr@aol.com. Tweet @TravelFeatures. ‘Like’ us at facebook.com/NewsPhotoFeatures

Black Friday/Cyber Monday Deals Bring Bucket-List Travel Experiences Within Reach

Staying at one of the Xanterra hotels on the South Rim of Grand Canyon National Park lets you step outside to capture the fleeting drama of sunset. Xanterra, which operates resorts at many national parks, has its biggest sale of the year, Nov. 24-Dec. 1. © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

by Karen Rubin, Travel Features Syndicate, goingplacesfarandnear.com

“Now more than ever, we’re all dreaming of destinations we long to go. We dream of wide-open spaces and journeys that stir your soul,” says Xanterra, which operates resorts in national parks which have proved such a respite this year. Black Friday/Cyber Monday deals put bucket-list travel experiences within reach this season, and hearten those with wanderlust, pent up with the ongoing health concerns. The offers come with flexibility and assurances to accommodate appropriate concerns, but are filled with hope and optimism to brighten the holidays.

Xanterra, which operates resorts in national parks including Grand Canyon and Death Valley, has its biggest sale of the year, Nov. 24-Dec. 1, with savings up to 40%. Generous cancellation policies mean you can save now and travel when you’re ready, and you can be confident measures are in place to create a safe and healthy environment for your visit (we know this first hand from our recent stay at the Ranch at the Oasis, Death Valley):

National Parks

●      Grand Canyon South Rim – 40% off in-park lodging at Kachina Lodge and Bright Angel Lodge and 20% off the crown jewel, El Tovar, during select dates Dec. 2020 to March 2021 (Jan. 2021 to March 2021 for Bright Angel Lodge).  Discover the “secret season” at the Grand Canyon with fewer crowds. The lodges are either in or within walking distance to the Historic District and rim of the Grand Canyon which includes Lookout Studio and Hopi House.

●      Historic Grand Canyon Railway & Hotel – 50% off roundtrip train tickets on an entertaining journey to the Grand Canyon’s fabled South Rim when booking a two-night Getaway Package over select dates between Dec. 2020 and March 2021.

The famous, historic El Tovar hotel and the historic Grand Canyon Railway. Xanterra is offering 50% off roundtrip train tickets on an entertaining journey to the Grand Canyon’s fabled South Rim when booking a two-night Getaway Package over select dates between Dec. 2020 and March 2021 © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

●      The Grand Hotel – 30% off at the only AAA Three-Diamond hotel near the Grand Canyon in Tusayan (just one mile from the South Rim entrance) on select dates between Dec. 2020 and March 2021.

●      The Oasis at Death Valley – 33% off hotel stays at the beautifully renovated historic AAA Four-Diamond Inn at Death Valley and newly revitalized, family-friendly Ranch at Death Valley. Valid for select overnight stays between Dec. 2020 and Feb. 2021.

●      Zion National Park – 30% off overnight stays inside the park at Zion National Park Lodge on select dates between Dec. 2020 and Feb. 2021. 

●      Cedar Creek Lodge, at the gateway to Glacier National Park – 40% off room rates on select dates from Dec. 2020 through April 2021.

●      Yellowstone – Enjoy summer savings at Yellowstone National Park. Receive 25% off best available daily rates on new reservations for Superior Lodge Rooms at Canyon Lodge and Cabins on select dates from June to Sept. 2021.

Staying at the Oasis at Death Valley (a literal oasis in the midst of a desert) inside the national park let’s you capture the rich colors cast by the fast-rising sun at Zabriskie Point, just minutes away © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Luxury Hotels

●      The Broadmoor – Rates as low as $200 per night for select dates, up to 20% off Wilderness Properties (The Ranch at Emerald Valley and Cloud Camp), and 10% off for select stays at Fly Fishing Camp.

●      Sea Island – To celebrate the 20th anniversary of The Lodge at Sea Island, book a three-night stay and get the third night for $20. The Cloister is also celebrating little brother’s anniversary.

Guided Travel/Tours

●      Bicycling Tours – Take $150 off any VBT Guided Bicycling Vacation in North America departing between Jan. 2021 and Aug. 2021.

●      Walking Adventures – Receive $150 off any Country Walkers Guided-Flex or Guided-Full North America tour departing between Jan. 2021and Aug. 2021.

●      Holiday Vacations – Save $400 per person on select award-winning Alaska itineraries in 2021.

Cruising

●      Windstar Cruises – Save on 2021 yacht-style cruises with fewer than 350 guests starting from $1,299.

For a complete list and to take advantage of Xanterra and its affiliates’ Book Your Bucket List offers, visit Xanterra.com/BucketListSale (www.xanterra.com/book-your-bucket-list-sale)

More Black Friday/Cyber Monday Deals

Available on Black Friday and Cyber Monday only, Perillo Tours is offering $500 gift cards for the price of $250. Gifts cards can be redeemed for future Perillo Tours to Italy, Hawaii or Spain and valid for travel through December 2023. This gift card promotion is available by phone purchase only on November 27 or November 30 (800-431-1515,www.perillotours.com/giftcard).

Take advantage of Quark Expeditions 2 for 1 Black Friday Sale on select Antarctic and Arctic voyages. These select voyages offer you the chance to cruise past icebergs in a Zodiac while visiting the 7th Continent, be amazed at stunning views of dramatic Arctic fjords while flying in a helicopter, and experience new innovative itineraries such as Greenland Adventure and Essential Patagonia. Plus, experience the inaugural season of the game-changing polar vessel Ultramarine on select voyages. Offers expire Nov. 30 (quarkexpeditions.com, 833-435-1900).

At the five-star Grand Residences Riviera Cancun, no detail is overlooked © Eric Leiberman/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Grand Residences Riviera Cancun’s  “All-in Grand offer” provides 46% off on stays through Jan. 14, 2022. The all-suite resort located along a private beach in the secluded town of Puerto Morelos, half an hour outside Cancun, is extending the offer through Dec. 7,. Available for all-inclusive stays or room only bookings (new bookings only with no minimum stay requirements). Complimentary airport transfer included on all bookings and children under the age of 12 stay free. Blackout dates apply and reservations are subject to availability. Book the promotional offer online or call reservations, 855-381-4340; use promo code ZW-20-17

Casa Kimberly, the former home of Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton and one of Mexico’s most renowned boutique luxury hotels, is offering 50% off on bookings made Nov. 27-30for stays from December 1, 2020 to May 31, 2021. Use the code CYBERCK to reserve at the discounted rates. Link to sale information.

Imagine staying at Casa Kimberly, the former home of Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton and one of Mexico’s most renowned boutique luxury hotels.

Escape to the tropical paradise of Riviera Maya, Mexico, and enjoy every consecutive 3rd night free breakfast for two at Fairmont Mayakoba, a 401-room AAA Five Diamond resort set on 45 acres within a private, luxury community. Book Nov. 25-27 and upgrade to the next category: Book here: https://www.fairmont-mayakoba.com/offers/resort-offers/black-friday/. Fairmont Mayakoba has been welcoming back U.S. travelers since June 15, 2020. For additional information on Fairmont Mayakoba’s and Accor’s commitment to helping its community stay safe and stay well, visit ALLStayWell.com.

Set in the middle of Meads Bay, one of Anguilla’s most renowned beaches, Frangipani Beach Resort, features 19 rooms and suites and an impressive 5,000 square foot beachfront villa.  The Take All the Credit Black Friday and Cyber Monday offer allows travelers to purchase resort credits at a 20% discount in denominations ranging from $1,000 up to $12,500.  Credits can be used at any time including the Festive Season, up until August 2024, and can be used in conjunction with existing specials.  Direct bookings, Nov. 23-30, can be made via email info@frangipaniresort.com or by phone at +1 264 497 6442; reference the Black Friday offer. 

Casa Chameleon Hotels, which operates properties in Las Catalinas, Nosara, Santa Teresa and Mal Pais, from jungle villas and ocean-view suites, to a private clifftop estate is offering 50% off standard rates for five nights or more, booked Nov. 27-30 for travel through Dec. 20, 2021. Accommodations feature coastal views, eco-friendly designs and infinity plunge pools. Book here and use booking code THANKYOU.

Located three miles off the coast of Belize, Cayo Espanto offers private island luxury. Recognizing that travelers are looking for a way to escape to nature and focus on taking a break from it all, the resort is offering a special “Choose Wellness” package where guests can experience the unique tranquility offered by a private island at a special all-inclusive starting rate of $3,995 per couple, a savings of over $3,000. Offer includes an all-inclusive three-night stay in Casa Ventanas, the Over-the-Water Bungalow (pricing available for other villas and longer stays) along with a series of customizable options such as private yoga classes from the comfort of your villa, menus crafted to fit a health-conscious focus, a private excursion to snorkel the Great Blue Hole or explore the Belizean jungle (excursions off-island are priced separately). Book online at aprivateisland.com or call 888-666-4282 Nov. 27 through Dec. 4 for travel now through Dec. 15, 2021.

Get 50% off standard rates for two nights or more at Renaissance Aruba Resort & Casino, Oranjestad, Aruba on bookings Nov. 27-Nov. 30 for travel through the end of 2021.Renaissance Aruba offers two experiences, the adult-exclusive Renaissance Marina Hotel and the Renaissance Ocean Suites. The resort is the only property on Aruba to operate its own private island, a 40-acre atoll exclusive to guests. Book here and use booking code: BOG.

Pacifica Hotels’ “Black Friday/Cyber Monday” enables guests to book their collection of more than 30 boutique, independent, design-inspired hotels along the California coast, at 45% off.  This offer is bookable from November 27-30 on stays through March 31, 2021. Sale link will be live on the 27th.  

Hawks Cay Resort is offering guests the ultimate Florida Keys vacation experience with onsite amenities like fishing excursions, dolphin encounters, snorkel trips and more.  The resort is offering an extended booking window this year, so travelers have a full week to save big on a getaway to Hawks Cay! From Nov. 23-30, receive 40 percent discount on two nights or more with promo code BLKFRI. Reservations are valid on stays through October 31, 2121.  Visit www.hawkscay.com for more information or to book. 

Hawks Cay Resort in the Florida Keys.

Ocean Club Resorts “Black Friday/Cyber Monday” offer makes every third night booked complimentary, for stays March 1 – December 18, 2021. This offer includes a new cancellation policy implemented by the resorts where guests can receive a full refund up to 10 days prior to their stay dates between March 1 – April 11 and a full refund within 24 hours of their travel dates from April 12 through Dec. 18. Blackout dates apply and reservations are based on availability. The promotional offer must be booked online, use promo code BFCM.

Kingsmill Resort, the only AAA Four Diamond golf condominium resort in historic Williamsburg, Virginia, offers one-to three-bedroom condominiums, with kitchens and spacious living areas.  Book by Nov. 27 to buy 2 nights, get 1 free on all room types, plus a $100 per reservation food and beverage credit for stays Dec. 1, 2020 – Feb. 17, 2021.

Grand Geneva Resort & Spa in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin’s Cyber/Black Friday Travel deal: stay Sunday-Thursday for $159/night, weekend from $179, with a $100 resort credit to use toward skiing, dining, spa services. Book by Nov. 30 for travel through May 27 (flexible change policy).

Timber Ridge Lodge, Lake Geneva, Wisconsin, is bundling four NOW! Waterpark passes, pizza and $10 arcade credit in its Cyber Deal with weekday rates starting at $109, weekend at $149. Reserve by Nov. 30 for travel through May 27, 2021 (flexible date change policy). 

Aspen Meadows Resort, Aspen, Colorado is offering up to 40% off accommodations this ski season for bookings between Nov. 26 and Nov. 30, for stays through April 18, 2021. Tucked away on 40 acres in Aspen’s quiet West End neighborhood, this low-key resort surrounded by mountain views is still close enough to be on the slopes of Aspen/Snowmass within minutes.

Main Street Hospitality: With the new Hammetts Hotel in Newport, RI and four properties throughout the Berkshires, Main Street Hospitality’s Cyber Weekend special – buy one night, get the second night free – goes live at 7 am on Friday, Nov. 27 and ends at midnight on Tuesday, Dec.1. Also The Red Lion Inn, Stockbridge, MA (Bonus option: pre-buy a $100 dining credit to use during a stay and the Red Lion Inn will add $50); Porches Inn at MASS MoCA, North Adams, MA;Briarcliff Motel, Great Barrington, MA;Seven Hills Inn, Lenox, MA

Imagine a wedding or a sleepover at The Breakers, one of the Preservation Society of Newport County’s most famous legendary Gilded Age mansions. The Preservation Society is hosting an online Exclusive Experiences Holiday Auction from Nov. 22 through Dec. 6 with proceeds supporting the society’s preservation efforts © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

The Preservation Society of Newport County is hosting an online Exclusive Experiences Holiday Auction from Nov.22 through Dec. 6 consisting of 19 unique, once-in-a-lifetime experiences that allow people to explore the Newport Mansions in new ways (one is a wedding at The Breakers! Another is a sleepover for up to 8 kids and 4 chaperones in the Great Hall), All proceeds support the preservation work of the Preservation Society of Newport County (www.newportmansions.org)

If you can’t get to places, some popular tourist places, known for their clever boutiques, can bring themselves to you: 

The Nantucket Island Chamber of Commerce has created a virtual store, offering goods and gift cards from members, nantucketchamber.org/marketspace. Purchase proceeds go directly to each small business.  Also, Nantucket is encouraging shopping with a “red ticket” program which becomes a lottery for prizes (https://www.nantucketchamber.org/red-tickets).

If you can’t get to places, some popular tourist places, known for their clever boutiques, can bring themselves to you. The Nantucket Island Chamber of Commerce has created a virtual store, offering goods and gift cards from members, nantucketchamber.org/marketspace © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

You can purchase Lift Certificates, gift certificates for discounts at the most interesting local lodging, restaurants, artists and boutiques on Martha’s Vineyard and Falmouth on Cape Cod. Shoppers have access to exclusive discounts not offered elsewhere. The site is powered by Martha’s Vineyard Bank (at no cost to merchants) https://lift.mvbank.com. Also, Martha’s Vineyard’s chamber is building a Vineyard Holidays web page.

See also:

Black Friday, Cyber Monday Bring Bucket-List Gift of Travel Within Reach

More Gift of Travel Ideas to come

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© 2020 Travel Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. All rights reserved. Visit goingplacesfarandnear.com, www.huffingtonpost.com/author/karen-rubin, and travelwritersmagazine.com/TravelFeaturesSyndicate/. Blogging at goingplacesnearandfar.wordpress.com and moralcompasstravel.info. Send comments or questions to FamTravLtr@aol.com. Tweet @TravelFeatures. ‘Like’ us at facebook.com/NewsPhotoFeatures

Black Friday, Cyber Monday Bring Bucket-List Gift of Travel Within Reach

Black Friday and Cyber Monday deals put travel to such bucket-list destinations as Iceland within reach. This holiday season, travel companies are finding novel ways to bring destinations, cultures and travel experiences to you, from virtual encounters to links to local artisans © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

by Karen Rubin

Travel Features Syndicate, goingplacesfarandnear.com

There can be nothing more full of hope and promise for the future in this holiday season for a traveler than a gift that speaks to that wanderlust.  The holiday spirit is manifesting differently this year, but nonetheless splendorous.

And travel companies offer Black Friday and Cyber Monday deals which can make that bucket list that much less costly but still as valuable. There are so many that you should just check the websites of travel companies, tour operators, hospitality companies you are interested in, but here are some examples:

&Beyond is offering 20% discount on its series of ‘7 Wonders in 7 Days’ itineraries designed to offer a longer stay in one destination with less travel time for travel dates through Dec. 15, 2021. Each itinerary includes conservation and community experiences as a way to do good while travelling. The discount will apply to a selection of itineraries across Africa and South Americaon inquiries made on Cyber Monday (Nov. 30) only. https://www.andbeyond.com/cyber-monday/ 

G Adventures is offering up to 21% off select worldwide tours (like Costa Rica, Iceland, Peru), $1 upfront deposits and 21% off My Own Room (gaadventures.com, 800-280-5214).

REI (which I love for clothing and specialized equipment, especially when they offer sales) is also an adventure travel company, and is offering 10 percent off 2021 private departures booked by Nov. 23. For groups of four or more, the cost per person is actually the same as our regular trips. Call for an estimate: 877-326-0470, travel@rei.com.

Hurtigruten’s Black Friday sale offers savings up to 50% off pp, and book with discounted deposit of $500 pp. Hurtigruten operates premium expedition cruises on small, purpose-built, hybrid ships designed specifically to sail in remote waters and reduce carbon footprint to Alaska, Antarctica, the Caribbean & Central America, Greenland, Iceland, North America, the Northwest Passage, Norway, South America, and Svalbard (Hurtigruten.com, 888-412-2590)

The White Elephant Resorts portfolio, including Jared Coffin House, The Cottages, The Wauwinet, White Elephant, and the Boat Basin in Nantucket, and newly opened White Elephant Palm Beach in Florida (debuted November 4), will offer 20% off the best available rate on bookings made from Black Friday through Cyber Monday for travel through Dec. 31, 2121. (www.whiteelephantresorts.com/ Booking code: Cyber)

Island Outpost properties in Jamaica, Strawberry Hill and The Caves, is offering 30% off bookings (minimum two nights) made from Black Friday through Cyber Monday (for travel January 4-December 19, 2021, with holiday blackouts).

The Setting Inn, Napa Valley will offer 30% off all three-night bookings made from Black Friday through Cyber Monday, including $100 credit at Bottega Napa Valley restaurant and $100 transportation credit with Beau Wine Tours for travel Nov. 27, 2020-March 31, 2021.

The Meritage Resort & Spa and Vista Collina Resort & Spa will offer 21% off all two-night bookings made from Black Friday through December 1, 2020 for travel through April 30, 2021. The Meritage Collection will also donate $21 per stay to the First Responders Children’s Foundation to support the families of first responders. https://meritagecollection.com/specials/black-friday-offer

Gift the gift of genealogy: start tracing roots for a future trip to discover heritage. Ancestry.com is offering 20% discount on gift memberships (through Nov. 25). Then, trace your family story on genealogy tours, created in collaboration with Ancestry, where each trip includes an AncestryDNA® kit and pre-trip family history review and a genealogist from AncestryProGenealogists® accompanies your tour group to answer questions about your heritage. (https://www.goaheadtours.com/travel-styles/heritage-tours, 800-590-1161; check Black Friday deals).

Dromoland Castle in County Clare, Ireland, is offering a new genealogy package for families looking to trace their Irish roots.

Heritage tours are a whole genre. Here’s another: Dromoland Castle, a 16th century castle-turned-hotel set in the countryside of County Clare, Ireland is offering a new genealogy package for families looking to trace their Irish rootsAfter filling out their family history, the in-house genealogist, Lorna Maloney, will host a private 45-minute Zoom call  to give a genealogy review, then prepares the full results along with next steps on familial connections or travel suggestions. This can take place over Zoom or, ideally, at the Castle over tea and scones. The genealogy package starts at £220 for the Zoom conference, and nightly rates at the hotel start at $367 per night, double occupancy. (dromoland.ie)

Travel Gifts That Don’t Require Travel

Context Travel (contexttravel.com), known for erudite cultural walking tours, is featuring online cooking classes: Italian Cooking with Gina Tringali, Cooking with Clementine Haxby. Other seminars feature music and art. You can give the gift of learning with a Context gift card (https://conversations.contexttravel.com/products/context-conversations-gift-card)

The South Africa-based adventure, ecotourism and safari company, &beyond, is offering a slew of travel gifts that don’t require travel, including virtual experiences such as three-hour safaris; private, one-on-one sessions with conservation and marine experts; a virtual, interactive birding masterclass with leading birding specialists; virtual cooking masterclasses; a safari-themed children’s party; virtual session with certified nature and forest meditation therapy guide; yoga sessions; a virtual tango lesson; authentic African handicrafts and luxury accessories; or give a voucher for future travel (www.andbeyond.com/magazine/10-gifts-that-dont-require-travel/, andbeyondsafarishopping.com/)

Travel Gifts that Give Back

Many major travel companies that adhere to the principles of sustainability and responsible travel also are deliberate about giving back to communities and conserving heritage and resources. Among them Pure Adventures, Overseas Adventure Travel (Grand Circle Foundation, www.oattravel.com/oat-difference/grand-circle-foundation), Butterfield & Robinson,  Austin Adventures (Wheels of Change) and Wildland Adventures (just acquired by Austin Adventures, which has Travelers Conservation Trust, www.tct.global) and The Travel Corporation (ttc.com), which is a family of 40 travel and hospitality companies.

Brett Tollman, chief executive officer of The Travel Corporation, commits the company and its 40 brands, and the TreadRight Foundation to “Make Travel Matter” for the planet, people and wildlife. TreadRight is using holiday gift giving to benefit its project partners and sustainable initiatives around the world – projects hit hard by the collapse of international travel © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

TTC’s charitable foundation, TreadRight, is using holiday gift giving to benefit its project partners and sustainable initiatives around the world – artisans and conservation projects hard-hit by the collapse of international travel. TreadRight is bringing these artisans to you:

Laboratorio Giuditta Brozzetti is a TreadRight project partner in Italy which works to preserve the ancient weaving tradition of the Perugia region, while empowering local women through employment. Shop woven goods including runners, bags & clothing (www.brozzetti.com/en/shop/

Clean & Proud, based in Malawi, collects plastic waste and recycles it into practical and beautiful goods. Shop pouches, wallets, totes & other goods made from recycled plastic (https://cleanandproud-recycling.com/shop/

Proyecto Titi is a TreadRight project partner in Colombia working to protect the critically endangered cotton-top tamarin. Shop totes, ornaments & novelty items (www.proyectotiti.com/en-us/Shop

Centro de Textiles Tradicionales del Cusco is a TreadRight project partner in Peru which works to preserve the ancient weaving tradition of the Cusco region, while empowering local women through employment. Shop woven goods including runners, bags & clothing (www.textilescusco.org/shop-categories

Manitobah Mukluks Storyboot School is a TreadRight project partner in Canada which empowers Indigenous elders, artisans, and youth by teaching the traditional Canadian Indigenous art. Shop mukluks, moccasins, dreamcatchers, jewelry & more (www.manitobah.ca/collections/storyboots#storyboot-section

Ock Pop Tok Village Weavers is a TreadRight project partner in Laos which supports local artisans and preserves the cultural heritage. Shop woven goods including clothing, bags, jewelry & home goods (www.ockpoptok.com/shop-online/)

 You can also make donations on behalf of someone: 

Support local water projects in developing countries with a donation to Walkers4Water, a 2020 Tread the Pledge Fund recipient which provides accessible clean water for communities worldwide (www.charitywater.org/walkers4water-1/walk4water-2020) . 

 A donation to the National Kiwi Hatchery, a TreadRight project partner in New Zealand, will support the protection and conservation of the endangered national kiwi bird.  (www.nationalkiwihatchery.org.nz/donate/)

Support the rescue and rehabilitation of sick and injured elephants with a donation to TreadRight project partner Wildlife SOS in India.  (https://give.wildlifesos.org/page/16138/donate/1)

Your donation to Wilderness Foundation Africa, TreadRight project partner, will fund anti-poaching and rhino conservation efforts.  (www.wildernessfoundation.co.za/support)

Adopt a turtle through the Sea Turtle Conservancy, a former TreadRight project partner working to protect the endangered species in Central America and the Caribbean.  (https://conserveturtles.org/support-stc-join-stc-and-adopt-a-turtle/)

Butterfield & Robinson also has a foundation that supports conservation and cultural projects (https://www.butterfield.com/about/we-give-back/) as well as an B&R Artisan Marketplace promotes the small businesses and independent artists that you would otherwise encounter on trips (https://www.butterfield.com/br-artisan-marketplace/)

Give the Gift That Keeps Giving

Travel is a gift that keeps giving, living inside with memories and life-enhancing, life-changing experiences, with developing a global citizen value system, and forging bonds among family and friends. A way to immortalize those memorable travel experiences and family events is to create a photo book (the entire process online). MilkBooks.com, a New Zealand-based company, produces superb quality photo books and albums, offering great value, excellent customer service with online chats or by phone, and timely delivery (you need about 2-3 weeks), and offers discounts for first-timers.

Coming up: More Gift of Travel Ideas

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© 2020 Travel Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. All rights reserved. Visit goingplacesfarandnear.com, www.huffingtonpost.com/author/karen-rubin, and travelwritersmagazine.com/TravelFeaturesSyndicate/. Blogging at goingplacesnearandfar.wordpress.com and moralcompasstravel.info. Send comments or questions to FamTravLtr@aol.com. Tweet @TravelFeatures. ‘Like’ us at facebook.com/NewsPhotoFeatures

Travel in a Time of COVID: Hospitality Industry Rises to Need to Keep Travelers Safe

Art gallery experience, adapted to coronavirus precautions. “Between Walls” exhibit by artist Laini Nemett opens at the Paul Mahder Gallery in Healdsburg, California © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

by Karen Rubin, Dave E. Leiberman & Laini Miranda
Travel Features Syndicate, goingplacesfarandnear.com

People are being urged not to travel now as COVID-19 cases are rising, but travelers who show judicious care and act responsibly should be able to continue to take trips, because the travel, tourism and hospitality industry has taken bold steps to keep travelers safe.

We realized we had a window of opportunity to travel to California in October because we take to heart Dr. Fauci’s warning about travel during fall and winter when the weather gets cold (coronavirus lingers longer in cold air), there are fewer opportunities to do meals and congregate outside, and the numbers of infections have spiked, especially in states that have not taken seriously the necessary measures to contract the virus (just as he predicted).

Indeed, the spike in cases as the winter holidays approach, is horrifying and I would avoid traveling at any distance during these concentrated times, especially if travel involves going through states and destinations that have been so cavalier about containing the coronavirus. So we chose our itinerary with great deliberate care and intention, as well as showing the consideration and personal responsibility that all travelers should exercise.

And we are still planning to bike and hike in fall, ski and snowshoe in winter, and looking forward to traveling in spring when I expect a new Biden administration to do a better job of controlling the spread (if 95 percent of Americans would just wear a damn mask, the spread would be contained), when there will be more likelihood of treatments and perhaps even vaccines. (Indeed, RV vacation companies are doing gang-busters business and Tracks & Trails has made Dec. 15 a hard deadline for booking summer 2021 trips.)

RVs and campers are all the rage. RV vacation companies are taking bookings now for next summer © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

It would have been better – and likely tens of thousands of lives would have been saved and millions avoid long-term health issues – if the federal government had been more honest that COVID-19 would be a problem for a year or two, not two weeks or months (“Churches open by Easter!”), because businesses, infrastructure, and families would have made the necessary investments (even just wearing masks and having adequate PPE, while stores, restaurants, schools, offices and factories would have made proper changes), and people would have felt much more confident to get out and about.

The travel industry, facing existential crisis since these are the most face-to-face, people-to-people enterprises (airlines, restaurants and hotels are more than 50% percent down in business and unemployment is epidemic, especially among women who predominant in these fields), has been a model to make the necessary changes.

And that is what we experienced, pretty much going through the entire travel and tourism infrastructure that comprises a long-distance trip: airport, airline, car rental, AirBnB, hotel, restaurant, art gallery, vineyards, bike rental (Laini was disappointed with some elements of the bike rental), tennis, pool. We thoroughly enjoyed all of Sonoma’s delights – vineyards and wine-tastings, hiking along the Pacific Coast, beaches, even taking advantage of outdoor dining at a couple of restaurants, with the piece de resistance, an getaway adventure to Death Valley National Park (great vast open spaces, but still, everyone put their masks up on hikes when coming upon other hikers) which involved AirBnB and hotel accommodations and restaurants.

Wine tasting at Imagery in Sonoma. Timed reservations are required; capacity is controlled; tables are separated, and servers wear masks.

The point being that both sides of the equation, the travel purveyors (transportation, accommodations, dining, attractions) have to be responsible, but so do the travelers.

That begins with the planning.

We felt comfortable planning a trip to California, a state which was hit early but hard by the coronavirus, but, especially in San Francisco’s environs, has acted very responsibly since and gotten its infection rate down. I frankly wouldn’t have considered going to a place which has been cavalier, even arrogant or dismissive of protecting residents and visitors, politicizing the very notion of public health, and where, sadly, the infection rates are skyrocketing (South Dakota is a key one).

We quarantined ourselves for two weeks before traveling and each of us took COVID-19 tests (readily available in New York State for free) in time to have the results back when we departed.

We chose our flying route – airport and airline – with deliberate care.

Road Trip! – Laini double-checked with Dollar Rent-a-Car that the vehicle had been COVID-19 sanitized when picked it up at San Francisco Airport © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Laini booked a car rental from Dollar which promised COVID-19 sanitizing (the car rentals are connected to the air terminal by AirTrain, which is preferable to a shuttle bus, which was almost empty).

She booked an AirBnB for one night at Death Valley (originally it was for all three nights, but we realized we needed to be inside the park rather than more than half-hour drive outside), and we used hotels.com to book one of the few hotels in the park. She interrogated the Ranch at the Oasis, where we stayed a delightful two nights, to insure that they sanitized the room and left it vacant for 24 hours before the next guest arrived, that we didn’t have to go up in an elevator or go through a lobby, and could dine outside.

Prepare in advance: cooking dinner at our AirBnB, Design2Death, in Beatty just outside Death Valley National Park with groceries we brought with us © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

We brought a lot of our own groceries (David baked sour dough bread) to cook dinner at the AirBnB as well as for breakfast and for picnic lunches for the remaining time (they located a popular grocery store, Carroll’s, en route to Death Valley, which had received rave s for its blue-cheese dressing); we ordered take out dinner (espresso rubbed steak!) from the Ranch’s restaurant and ate it on the outdoor terrace one night, and dined on the outdoor patio at the Inn at the Oasis’s fine dining restaurant the next.

The timing of the trip wasn’t just because I considered this a window of opportunity that would be shuttered for six months, but because we had a special event: to attend Laini’s opening of her art exhibit, “Between Walls” (on through December 20) at the Paul Mahder Gallery in Healdsburg (paulmahdergallery.com).

Wear a mask! Healdsburg, a popular town for tourism, has adapted itself to COVID-19 © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Healdsburg is a wonderfully vibrant town, culturally rich with some 25 art galleries and a food-and-wine haven with marvelous restaurants and 30 wine-tasting rooms (we loved our lunch at Bargas, and our dinner at the H2Hotel restaurant, with gorgeous outdoor seating areas), set around a lovely village square.

Healdsburg, which like Sonoma, depends on tourism, has taken public health precautions very seriously:  signs say you will be fined if you don’t wear a mask, and sanitizing stations at the crosswalks. Restaurants are organized for take-out and outdoor dining (space heaters available), menus are either disposable or can be wiped off; the retail stores have sanitizing stations, require masks, limit capacity and kept their doors open for added ventilation. The same for the art galleries.

Indeed, art and wine come together – there is a wine-tasting semi-outside room at the Paul Mahder Gallery (fun fact: it boasts the largest moss wall in America) and the gallery itself is very large, well ventilated, with mask-wearing required.

We had traveled extensively through New York State, camping, hiking (Letchworth State Park, North-South Campground, the Adirondacks), biking rail-trails (Mohawk Trail, the emerging Empire State Trail Network), so were aware of the precautions that were being taken even in outdoor milieus to protect public health.

At each of the places we visited in California, which like New York, has mobilized to contain the coronavirus and, at least in the San Francisco environs, gotten huge buy-in from the community – farmers market, restaurants, galleries, stores – not only sanitizer, mandated mask-wearing, social distancing – and to minimize transactions to reduce in face-to-face interactions.

The Kortum Trail is such a popular hike that even being outside on the Pacific coast, you need to put a mask on when others approach © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
 

We had hand-sanitizer at the ready for when we had to fill up at gas stations or pick up food.

I felt comfortable booking a stay in a hotel because I have been following the hotel industry’s protocols that have been put into place, because the industry, facing existential crisis, is aware that people have to feel confident to travel.

“Through our Safe Stay initiative, hotels have enhanced our already rigorous cleaning protocols to be more transparent and give travelers even more peace of mind,” said Chip Rogers, president and CEO of the American Hotel & Lodging Association. (See: www.ahla.com/safestay).

We booked our stay at the Ranch at Death Valley over hotels.com (I’m a regular; Laini likes booking.com) – one of two hotels at the Oasis at Death Valley which date back to the beginning of tourism in Death Valley (www.oasisatdeathvalley.com).  

Hotels.com states at its website (while also advising travelers to “check government advisories before booking and traveling”),  now includes “COVID-19 Hygiene and Cleanliess” list on property pages:

Travel with peace of mind. We’ve made changes to allow hundreds of thousands of properties to add their hygiene and cleanliness details to the Hotels.com site, so you can make the right choice for your stay.

Enhanced health and safety measures

Look out for “COVID-19 Hygiene and Cleanliness” on the property pages to find information on enhanced health and safety, such as:

Hygiene and Sanitization • Property is cleaned with disinfectant • Commonly touched surfaces are cleaned with disinfectant • Gap period enforced between guest stays
Social distancing • Contactless check-in and check-out available • Shield between guests and staff in main contact areas • Social distancing measures are in place
Essentials at the property • Guests are provided with free hand sanitizer • Masks and gloves are available to guests • Individually wrapped food items available
Official health standards • Property adheres to corporate/organizational sanitization guidelines

“COVID-19 hygiene and cleanliness measures vary by property. Please check the relevant section of the property pages when searching for your stay.”

Laini went a step further and called the hotel directly to confirm that they sanitize the room and leave it empty for 24 hours before arrival, and chose a room where we didn’t need to go through a lobby or ride up an elevator. The Ranch is a sprawling-style resort with low buildings, rather than one large high-rise. (We were really surprised by the number of guests at the hotel, judging by how full the parking lots were in both the Ranch and the Inn, as well as the number of campers and RVs throughout the park.)

Dining outside on the terrace at the Ranch at the Oasis in Death Valley © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Many destinations (like Hawaii and Maine) had been requiring 14-day quarantine for out-of-state tourists, but now are accepting COVID-19 test results in place of the quarantine. Hawaii is making rapid testing available to visitors. New York State, trying to tamp down a new spike in infections and responding to the surge throughout the country, now requires everyone (including New Yorkers) who have been out of state for more than 24 hours (except for the contiguous states of New Jersey, Connecticut) to get tested before they come back, self-quarantine for three days after arriving in New York, and get a COVID test on the fourth day (otherwise, self-quarantine for 14 days).

Flying from Albany Airport © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
 

Had the federal government been honest and told businesses that the risk would be one or two years, they would have invested in the changes, and public health protocols would have been as accepted and routine as the anti-terror security protocols after 9/11, instead of being politicized and tribal.

Look at Hawaii. As the New York Times reported,  instead of quarantine, the islands accept a preflight coronavirus test, processed by specially certified laboratories and trusted testing and travel partners including some airlines.

“Hawaii is at the vanguard of what travel will look like for the next year or so as we reopen,” said Avi Mannis, senior vice president of marketing at Hawaiian Airlines. Hawaiian Air is one of a few airlines that began offering pre-travel Covid-19 tests in October.

“In some markets, especially for international travel, until a vaccine is more widely available, testing will become part of the norm,” said Aaron McMillan, United’s managing director of operations policy and support. “What the data suggests so far is that here in Hawaii, testing has been the key to safely reopening. We now understand the data and the importance of testing. Testing provides a high level of protection for visitors, staff and residents.”

Upon arrival back at Albany airport, we were greeted by National Guardsmen who handed us a form to fill out for contact tracing and notifying us of the self-quarantine and testing requirements.

See also:

Travel in a Time of COVID: We’re Getting on a Jet Plane…

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© 2020 Travel Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. All rights reserved. Visit goingplacesfarandnear.com, www.huffingtonpost.com/author/karen-rubin, and travelwritersmagazine.com/TravelFeaturesSyndicate/. Blogging at goingplacesnearandfar.wordpress.com and moralcompasstravel.info. Send comments or questions to FamTravLtr@aol.com. Tweet @TravelFeatures. ‘Like’ us at facebook.com/NewsPhotoFeatures

Travel in a Time of COVID: We’re Getting on a Jet Plane….

Onboard our Delta flight to San Francisco, with plenty of spacing in the seats and masks on © Laini Miranda/goingplacesfarandnear.com

by Karen Rubin, Dave E. Leiberman & Laini Miranda
Travel Features Syndicate, goingplacesfarandnear.com

Who would imagine that going to airport would be adventure requiring intense planning beyond packing to fit a carry-on? – the decision of which airlines keep the middle seat empty and have a high rating in COVID-19 procedures, routing (direct, or what airport and for how long to lay over?) self-driving and long-term parking over Uber or taxi service?; masks, face shields, wipes, sanitizer, food and a water bottle (refilled after going through security) so you don’t have to buy at the airport.

With all these considerations in mind for a trip to San Francisco (a calculation in itself, taking into consideration infection rates at the destination, the confidence that California, hit early and hard by the coronavirus, is taking COVID-19 mitigation seriously, and seeing the timing, in October, as a window-of-opportunity before a likely lockdown in fall and winter as infection rates re-surge), we decided to fly out of Albany airport (small compared to flying out of JFK) on Delta, which scored extremely high marks for its new COVID-19 safety standards and policies.

It also afforded us the ability to drive our car, park in the long-term lot just a few minutes walk to the terminal and avoid any car service or shuttle bus.

After reading what the airlines are doing to keep passengers safe – including HEPA filtration and ventilation systems on par with hospitals (health tip: this means you need to drink plenty of water to stay hydrated and avoid getting headache or nauseous) – I was more concerned about going through the airport itself and security.

The choice to fly Delta from Albany (versus JetBlue out of JFK) meant a layover at Detroit, a city and state that has seen a surge of infections. I actually called to find out if there were numbers of cases traced back to the airport (I was told to check the CDC). I was told the airport takes every precaution with its workers.

Arriving at Albany airport for our flight to San Francisco. © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

We arrive at Albany Airport in plenty of time for our 12:50 pm flight. There is hardly anyone around. We wait outside for David to park the car. Inside, there are sanitizing stations everywhere. The restrooms are extremely clean. There is hardly anyone going through security so we breeze through, following the marked-off places on the floor. All the airport and TSA personnel are wearing masks and gloves and most are behind plexiglass shields. We drop our mask just long enough for the TSA agent to check face to photo.

We get our seats at the gate – people are sitting one to a row on this small (2×2 seating) aircraft to Detroit; the flight from Detroit to San Francisco is 3 x 3, with the middle seat kept empty.

As we enter the plane, we are handed a sanitizer packet.

The new safety speech (fasten your seatbelt, your life preserver is under your seat, in the event of loss of pressure, a mask…) now features new safety protocol, delivered with cheery smiles which, like the traditional safety speech, makes it all routine and not alarming at all. “Wear your face mask over nose and mouth… underneath these masks, we assure you we are still smiling.”

We are told about the “new standard of health and cleanliness” – high grade ventilation, hospital-grade filter, all surfaces sanitized prior to each flight.

During the flight, just 1 hour, 19 minutes to Detroit, the flight attendants in masks and gloves come by with a plastic bag filled with packaged snacks (biscotti, cheese bits, bottle of water) and a Purell packet and a notice about supporting one of Delta’s sponsored charities, for breast cancer (on the next flight, the safety video features a split screen showcasing Delta’s support of Habitat for Humanity, done extremely well). “We are excited to see the world together again,” it ends.

We aren’t restricted in terms of going to the restroom and there never is a line.

Deplaning isn’t a wild scramble either. We are told to wait until the passengers in front have taken their items and moved out (I would suggest they unload from the front and middle, so two sets of passengers can leave at the same time, and to let the people making connecting flights leave first) to preserve social distancing.

At Detroit Metropolitan Wayne County Airport, a major hub airport, there are a surprising number of people (at least compared to Albany) but not nearly the crowds of normal times. Traveling by air is remarkably unharried © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

At Detroit Metropolitan Wayne County Airport, a major hub airport there are a surprising number of people (at least compared to Albany) but not nearly the crowds of normal times (DTW handled 36 million passengers in 2019, 1,100 flights a day to and from 140 destinations on four continents). Indeed, there is a sense of “new normal,” a new routine.

Everyone is wearing masks; seats at the gates are marked off for social distancing, food services take orders and hand them out by number.  In fact, while airports in these days of mass travel, are typically hectic, frenetic, frantic places, it feels amazingly calm, refined, a throwback to the old days when air travel was special. And the attitude of the airport and airline personnel is calmer, welcoming, even appreciative of having passengers.

The Delta agent at the gate at Detroit who gives us our seat assignments to San Francisco says that they get as many free COVID tests as they need, and if they aren’t feeling well, if they have a cough, they are told to stay home.

On board, we are handed a packet of sanitizer as we enter and seated spaced apart, and I could feel the enhanced ventilation (tip: drink plenty of water because you feel your essence sucked out of you). We used the sanitizing cloth over the chair, hand rests, monitor, tray, headrest (for our own peace of mind).

On this flight, about 5 hours (two movies worth!) we are again handed a plastic bag with snacks and Purell.

Riding the air train into the San Francisco airport terminal from the car rental drop-off © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Delta has taken major steps (some you may not even realize) – in fact, more than 100 measures – to keep passengers safe and equally as importantly, give passengers confidence to fly, which it calls the Delta CareStandard intended to provide layers of protection (see: (see: https://news.delta.com/delta-keeping-you-safe-blocked-middle-seats-hospital-grade-air-filters-and-more):

In the airport: There is touchless check-in(download the Fly Delta app to access a digital boarding pass); check-in lobbies, self-service kiosks, gate counters and baggage claim are thoroughly wiped down during the day. Electrostatic cleaning, used on the aircraft, is also deployed in key airport locations. There are plexiglass shields at check in counters, Delta Sky Clubs and gate counters across the globe; social distancing markers at check-in, jet bridges; hand sanitizer stations are ubiquitous.

San Francisco airport at 11 am is uncrowded. Airlines do as much as possible with as little contact as possible © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

In partnership with the Transportation Security Administration, Delta is rolling out antimicrobial bins that prevent the growth of a broad spectrum of bacteria to automated screening lanes in Atlanta, Minneapolis/St. Paul, Los Angeles, New York-LaGuardia and New York-JFK, with other markets coming online.

Customer care kits may be obtained at Delta ticket counters and gates with sanitzer wipe, mask and informational card.

Air filtering systems that pump outside air into jetbridges and parked aircraft are being replaced with LEED Platinum MERV14 filters.

Onboard experience: Delta was the first US airline where customers can find hand sanitzer stations near boarding door and bathrooms on every aircraft. The boarding process is adjusted to encourage more space – boarding all flights from back to front so dcustomers shouldn’t need to pass one another, and limiting boarding groups to 10 or fewer.

Through at least Jan. 6, 2021, Delta is blocking the selection of middle seats and limiting the number of customers preflight.

In order to accommodate extra spacing, Delta may put higher-capacity aircraft or add flights on routes where there is increased demand .

Every flight is thoroughly sanitized prior to boarding using electrostatic sprayers, then cleaning crews use high-grade disinfectant to wipe down personal and common areas of the cabin.  “If an aircraft doesn’t pass our spot check before you board, our teams are encouraged to hold the flight and call back the cleaning crew.”

The air on all aircraft is completely recirculated 10 to 30 times per hour with fresh, outside air through industrial-grade HEPA filters, which extract more than 99.99% of particles, including viruses.

The airline is installing Vyv antimicrobial LED lighting above high-touch sinks and countertops in lavatories on select aircraft to continually reduce the growth of bacteria – one of many clean innovations that Delta is bringing onboard.

“The (travel) experience is a very comfortable, a very safe experience, we have taken actions, even above and beyond what the CDC has recommended to ensure safety,” Delta’s Chief Customer Experience Officer Bill Lentsch told ABC News. 

Delta has formed a new Global Cleanliness Division which is working with teams across the airline and partners like Mayo Clinic and RB (makers of Lysol)

In a similar vein, United Airlines assures its passengers, “We know travel looks a little different these days, but rest assured that we’re here for you every step of the way. Throughout your journey, we’re putting safety and cleanliness at the forefront of your travel experience through our United CleanPlus℠ program and by teaming up with Clorox. We’re also working closely with the experts at Cleveland Clinic to advise us on enhancing safety measures.”

Actually, it is remarkable how “normal” these new procedures seem.

A notable absence of people on line to go through security at San Francisco airport © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Indeed, according to a Pentagon study, since airlines began putting these measures in place in spring 2020, “there has been little evidence to date of onboard disease transmission,” according to researchers at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. Their report notes that when the “highly effective” ventilation systems are running from boarding until deplaning the risk of exposure falls below that of activities like grocery shopping and dining out.

As reported by Ellen Mitchell in The Hill, the risk of contracting an airborne virus such as COVID-19 is very low when traveling aboard a large commercial aircraft when most people are wearing masks, the Defense Department-led study concluded.

The study found that due to air particle filtration and ventilation systems, 99.99 percent of particles released into the air from an infected person wearing a mask were removed from the aircraft cabin within six minutes of being released.

Even if someone were sitting directly next to an infected passenger, 99.7 percent of the virus particles around them would be removed in that timeframe, the study found. That’s roughly 15 times faster than the particles would take to dissipate in an average home and five to six times faster than in a modern hospital, Mitchell reported.

The study concluded that it was “extremely unlikely” passengers would be exposed to an infectious dose of COVID-19 while on a 12-hour flight. (See: thehill.com/policy/defense/521303-pentagon-study-low-risk-of-contracting-covid-19-on-planes-with-passengers)

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© 2020 Travel Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. All rights reserved. Visit goingplacesfarandnear.com, www.huffingtonpost.com/author/karen-rubin, and travelwritersmagazine.com/TravelFeaturesSyndicate/. Blogging at goingplacesnearandfar.wordpress.com and moralcompasstravel.info. Send comments or questions to FamTravLtr@aol.com. Tweet @TravelFeatures. ‘Like’ us at facebook.com/NewsPhotoFeatures

Catching the Peak Fall Foliage in New York State’s Adirondack Mountains

Stunning rock formations atop Chimney Mountain in New York’s Adirondack Mountains, made all the more spectacular by fall foliage colors © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

By Karen Rubin and Dave E. Leiberman

Travel Features Syndicate, goingplacesfarandnear.com

We literally raced up to catch the peak fall foliage colors in the dramatic, spectacular setting of New York’s Adirondack Mountains.

There are so many different hiking trails, we wanted to make the best choices for a one-day adventure. Researching potential hikes, I found The Adirondack Experience, which lists hikes in categories, one of which is “best summit views” and excellent descriptions (also alltrails.com gives precise maps, elevations). That wasn’t enough for me to pin down, so I called Adirondack Experience, to get the low-down on the trails to high peaks. They also offer a fall foliage report, as does New York State (www.iloveny.com).

We set up an itinerary that would allow us to do two hikes to summits affording 360-degree views, in one sensational day:

View of the Adirondack Mountains at peak fall foliage from the summit of Chimney Mountain © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Chimney Mountain: The extraordinary appeal here are the geologic formations at the top, a maze of caves and crevices, after an invigorating mile-long climb (entirely uphill), before you get to the true summit, a smoothed, mostly flat boulder, reached via a quarter-mile long herd path. “Chimney Mountain has unique features due to a large proportion of soft, sedimentary Grenville layers that have made passageways, cliffs, boulders, and caves. View the large geologic depression that was formed when the Western Rift separated from the Eastern Rift.” The hike, three-miles round trip (in/out), is a 870-foot ascent to 2721-foot elevation. Plan on 3 hours (bring water, face mask, and take into account that it gets dark in the woods before the sunset). (Big Brook Road, Indian Lake, NY, 12842, 518-548-3076, info@adirondackexperience.com, www.adirondackexperience.com/hiking/chimney-mountain).

View from the summit of Chimney Mountain at peak fall foliage. © Dave E. Leiberman/goingplacesfarandnear.com

We came down and had ourselves a picnic lunch before setting out for our afternoon hike, about 30 minutes further drive, at Castle Rock, above Blue Mountain Lake. By the time we arrived, the drizzle which started just as we got back into the car turned into an actual rain when we were on the trail. But no matter, we were determined to forge on. This trail is a 3.2 mile long loop with a steady rise, but more gradual than Chimney Mountain – that is, until the last one-tenth mile that involves a scramble up over and between boulders, made more challenging (and therefore satisfying), by the slippery leaves (young kids would have no problem). But so worth it (and really satisfying to have accomplished it)! The rock formations here at the top are absolutely fabulous. Amazingly, just as we got to the summit – another relatively flat boulder – the rain turned to drizzle and then stopped altogether, allowing the sun to poke through, making the wet rock surface glisten. The views of Blue Mountain Lake, with its several tiny islands, and Blue Mountain, with other mountain peaks in the near and far distance, are stunning.

View from the summit of Castle Rock with the Adirondacks at peak fall foliage, rocks glistening with rain © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

The summit is about at the half-way mark of the loop. At about the 1.5 mile mark, there is a sign that directs you to the summit, only a little disconcerting to realize you have another half-mile to go.  It’s 1.8 miles up on the less steep part of the trail, 1.4 miles on the other side, which goes past fabulous rock formations. (So glad we opted to do the full loop, instead of returning on the 1.8 mile side to avoid a steeper descent, but it actually wasn’t bad at all, even with the slippery leaves. I’ve cultivated a technique of hanging on to trees and branches to swing down, or climb down, or sit down and dangle my feet, and I really value my hiking poles.)

Tackling the scramble to the Castle Rock summit © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

This is one of the most popular hikes in the area, so people are advised to get here early to get parking at the trailhead (Maple Lodge Road, Blue Mountain Lake). Also, on all of these hikes, wear a face mask and respect social-distancing when people are passing.

The Adirondack Fall Foliage Meter (www.adirondacksusa.com/fall) provides up-to-the-minute fall foliage reports on where the leaves are prettiest and most colorful.  

More sources: Adirondacks Regional Tourism, visitadirondacks.com; Hamilton County Tourism, adirondackexperience.com, 800-648-5239.

Hiking up to Chimney Mountain © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Since the Adirondacks are about a five-hour drive from the downstate metro area, people are flocking to Lake George and the surrounding area for accommodations which has maintained very strong occupancy. There are also any number of cabins, lodges, Airbnb’s to choose from, many with exquisite views along one of the many, many scenic lakes. At the trailhead to Chimney Mountain, in fact, there are rustic cabins.

High Peaks Resort in the heart of Lake Placid offers three different lodging experiences overlooking Mirror Lake and the Adirondack Mountains: The Resort, a traditional hotel with 105 guest rooms and suites (newly renovated earlier this year); the modern retro-vibe Lake House with 44 guest rooms; and the private and serene Waterfront Collection with 28 guest rooms including 10 suites on the shores of Mirror Lake. Take a break from studying or work with a dip in the indoor or outdoor pool, paddling Mirror Lake, hiking, biking, golfing. Dogs are welcome, with special canine-friendly treats and amenities. Save up to 30 percent with the Best Dates, Best Rates package, with rates from $125 per night (www.highpeaksresort.com).

Coming down from the summit at Castle Rock (c) Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Foliage in the Catskills: Find vibrant fall colors on a hike along the Hannacroix Creek Preserve (www.greatnortherncatskills.com/outdoors/hannacroix-creek-preserve-hcp) in New Baltimore—featuring 113 acres of trails and scenic vistas—or explore the RamsHorn Livingston Sanctuary (https://www.greatnortherncatskills.com/outdoors/ramshorn-livingston-sanctuary) in Catskill, which is home to a wide variety of wildlife and plant life along more than three miles of trails. For exhilaration on your quest for foliage, try mountain biking along the Tannersville-Hathaway Trail System (https://www.greatnortherncatskills.com/outdoors/tannersville-hathaway-trail-system)  in Tannersville—suitable for beginners and experienced riders alike. To get the latest update on colors in the region, check out the Catskills’ fall foliage meter (www.greatnortherncatskills.com/catskills-fall-foliage).  

Connect with nature while camping at Purling Waters (www.greatnortherncatskills.com/camping/purling-waters), a fully-equipped campsite accommodating up to 6 campers, located along the banks Shinglekill Creek. For a historic stay, try Tumblin’ Falls House (www.greatnortherncatskills.com/resorts-lodging/tumblin-falls-house). The house, offering 5 guest rooms in an 1890s Dutch Victorian perched on a cliff overlooking Shinglekill Falls, has a tree level spa overlooking falls, natural pools, garden and trails.

To keep tabs on the progress of fall foliage in New York State, www.iloveny.com/things-to-do/fall/foliage-report.

See more information on where to go, what to do in New York, www.iloveny.com, 800-CALL- NYS, info@iloveny.com.

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© 2020 Travel Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. All rights reserved. Visit goingplacesfarandnear.com, www.huffingtonpost.com/author/karen-rubin, and travelwritersmagazine.com/TravelFeaturesSyndicate/. Blogging at goingplacesnearandfar.wordpress.com and moralcompasstravel.info. Send comments or questions to FamTravLtr@aol.com. Tweet @TravelFeatures. ‘Like’ us at facebook.com/NewsPhotoFeatures

New York’s Empire State Trail Comes Together: Biking the Wallkill Valley Rail Trail in Hudson Valley

Biking over the Rosendale Trestle, 150 feet above the Rondout Creek, on the Wallkill Valley Rail Trail, part of the New York Empire State Trail © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

by Karen Rubin, Dave E. Leiberman, Laini Miranda
Travel Features Syndicate, goingplacesfarandnear.com

The ambitious New York Empire State Trail is taking shape, linking and connecting and improving existing trails for a 750-mile network that will enable bikers, hikers, recreational users go from New York City to the Canadian border, and from Buffalo to Albany. And it seems like it is on track for completion by the end of the year, when it would become the longest multi-use state trail in the nation.

We headed out to one of the trails, Wallkill Valley Rail Trail, newly incorporated in the Empire State Trail, with signage and improvements (new trestles, bridges, widened paths, improved drainage), from New Paltz, which itself is a hub for some marvelous multi-use trails that collectively form the Hudson Valley Greenway Trail (www.ny.gov/empire-state-trail/routes-empire-state-trail).

It was pure delight. The linear trail through forests, beside and over creeks, passed dramatic rock formations, is 22 miles long (so 44 miles, out and back). Because of time limitations (and the fact the trail has some closures north of the Rosendale Trestle, midweek, for improvements that are expected to be completed in October, check the site), we only went seven miles north of the parking lot at Sojourner Truth Park in New Paltz, but can’t wait to return to do the rest, another 7 miles north to Kingston, and 7 miles south to Gardiner. The northern half of the trail, from New Paltz to Kingston, has been incorporated into the Empire State Trail, with new signs and improvements.

Biking the Wallkill Valley Rail Trail © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Shortly after the Wallkill Valley branch of the New York Railroad closed in the 1980s, the Wallkill Valley Land Trust purchased the12-mile stretch of the corridor between New Paltz, south to Gardiner, leading to the opening of the first stretch of trail in 1993. Today, the trail stretches a total of 24 miles and runs along its namesake river from Gardiner to Kingston.  In 2009, the northern section was purchased, extending the linear park 11.5 miles north from Rosendale through Ulster to Kingston, incorporating the dramatic Rosendale trestle, a 940-foot bridge across the Rondout Creek that provides one of the most thrilling parts of the ride. This portion of the trail, from New Paltz to Kingston, has been designated as part of the statewide Empire State Trail, which, when complete next year, will stretch 750 miles, running from New York City to Canada and from Albany to Buffalo. (info at Wallkillvalleylt.org,  845-255-2761).

The sights are marvelous, and the trail very pleasant.

We find our way from the New York Thruway to the Sojourner Truth Park along the river (where you can rent kayaks),  park the car and set off, north.

We soon come to a repurposed train station, now the Rail Trail Cafe, right on the trail.

About a mile north of the village, the trail crosses the Wallkill River on the Springtown Truss Bridge, featured in the movie “A Quiet Place” with magnificent views.  

Biking over the Springtown Truss Bridge over the Wallkill River, featured in the movie “A Quiet Place” © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

The trail passes besides orchards, organic farms, lakes, streams and the Wallkill River.

 In Rosendale, the most memorable feature of the trail can be found, the Rosendale Trestle. This 940-foot-long continuous truss bridge carries the trail 150-feet high over the Readout Creek, and spans both route 213 and the former Delaware and Hudson Canal.

Gorgeous scenery off the Wallkill Valley Rail Trail © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

We ride a little further north beyond the Rosendale Trestle, and come to the Binnewater Historic District where local quarries produced Rosendale cement. (I subsequently learn The Rosendale Cement Works near Limewater employed 5,000 workers and produced 4,000,000 barrels of cement a year at the peak of its activity at the turn of the century. Rosendale cement was used in the Brooklyn Bridge, the pedestal of the Statue of Liberty, the U.S. Treasury Building, as well as in many other structures around the country. The decline of the cementworks in this area is what accounts for the rail line being abandoned, and subsequently repurposed for the recreational trail. You can still see mines used to extract the cement,)

Interesting rock formations on the Wallkill Valley Rail Trail in the Binnewater Historic District where local quarries produced Rosendale cement © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Here, though, we see magnificent rock formations – what looks like a cave from which it feels as if air conditioning were flowing and we sit on a boulder to have a snack before turning back.

 Notes about the trail say that were we able to continue biking north, we would come to great views of Third Lake, Fourth Lake, and Fifth Lake before passing under Interstate 87 alongside Hickory Bush Road. The northernmost stretch of the trail runs through a scenic forested area before reaching its terminus at a parking area off of New York State Route 32 just south of Kingston. However, the City of Kingston and Ulster County are exploring options for extending the trail into the city. Meanwhile, the Empire State Trail is adding roadway enhancements to run the trail along roadways into the city, where it can connect with other projects currently underway, including the Kingston Point Rail Trail and the Ulster County Midtown Linear Park which runs out towards the O&W Rail Trail.

Riding back, we come to the Café in the Woods, set up for musical performances, where you can purchase food from what looks like a gypsy caravan, and an outdoor kitchen with a wood-burning stove.

Here is where we see Happy Trails Bike Rental (917-443-3600; call in advance) set up right on the trail, (you should call in advance to make sure he’s around). (There are a couple of bike rental shops in the area).

Café in the Woods on the Wallkill Valley Rail Trail © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

It’s late afternoon by the time we ride back south to the Sojourner Truth Park, but if we had time, we would have wanted to complete the trail the further 7 miles to Gardiner.

The southern end of the Wallkill Valley Rail Trail is at Denniston Road in the Ulster County town of Gardiner. True to the corridor’s original use as a rail line, the trail is generally flat. However, especially at this southern end, the trail is unpaved and best suited in the summer for hikers or for bicycles with wider tires.  (www.traillink.com/trail-itinerary/wallkill-valley-rail-trail)

New Paltz Hub for Trails

New Paltz has become a regional hub for trails, with the Wallkill Valley Rail Trail running as the spine through the village. To the east, carrying the Empire State Trail up from New York City, is the Hudson Valley Rail Trail (which I have done in the past and found fantastic). This trail connects with the Walkway Over The Hudson’s western end in Highland – which has become one of New York State’s most popular attractions –  and as a part of the Empire State Trail’s investment, was recently extended from its previous terminus in the town of Lloyd all the way through to New Paltz where it connects with the Wallkill. Running west from New Paltz, a newly opened River-to-Ridge Trail  amidst the magnificent scenery of the Shawangunk Mountains.

Biking the new River to Ridge Trail © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Indeed, the next weekend, we return to bike the River-to-Ridge Trail (www.openspaceinstitute.org/places/river-to-ridge-trail) which was created by the Open Space Institute in partnership with Mohonk Preserve (www.mohonkpreserve.org) with support of the Butler Conservation Fund and only opened in 2018. This is a surprisingly hilly, gravel trail, about six miles long, that runs from the Wallkill River up through newly protected lands adjacent to fields, to 90 miles of carriage road trails on the grounds of the Mohonk PreserveMohonk Mountain House, and Minnewaska State Park Preserve.

Developed and managed by the Open Space Institute, the trail is a scenic and recreational off-road loop. It meanders through farm fields and over gently rolling hills, connecting New Paltz directly to the Shawangunk Ridge and 90 miles of recreational carriage roads and trails at the Mohonk Preserve and the Minnewaska State Park Preserve (https://parks.ny.gov/parks/127); the Wallkill Valley Rail Trail; and the Empire State Trail.

Just off the Wallkill Valley Rail Trail and up the road from the River to Ridge Trail is Coppersea Distillery © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

There’s a bike rental set-up right by the parking lot on Springtown Road. Just up from the parking lot, on Springtown Road, we found you can visit Coppersea Distilling, where you can go for whiskey tasting, which turns out to be a stone’s throw from where we had biked the Wallkill Valley trail (239 Springtown Road, New Paltz, 845-444-1044, coppersea.com).

We also go for cider tasting, fruit picking, and have pizza, prepared in a wood-burning stove, enjoyed at an outdoor table (with strict COVID-19 protocols), rounding out a sensational day.

Empire State Trail

About 400 miles of the Empire State Trail network had already existed – the absolutely fantastic Erie Canalway, 326 miles from Buffalo to Albany (which we have done on the annual 8-day, 400-mile Parks & Trails NY Cycle the Erie supported biking/camping trip, ptny.org), during which you see unfurled before you 400-years of American history. Improvements to connect the Canalway have also been made.

Most notable is the work done to connect the trails on the north-south routes, from New York City (where you can ride the fabulous Hudson River Park), all the way up to Canada. This involved some 60 different construction projects, all engaging local stakeholders.

When the full 750 miles of continuous route is finished, The Empire State Trail will be the longest multi-use state trail in the nation. (see https://www.ny.gov/programs/empire-state-trail)

When the New York Empire State Trail is completed, it will be possible to bike from Hudson River Park in Manhattan, up to the Canada border © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

The sections include:

Hudson Valley Greenway Trail

The Hudson River Valley Greenway segments start in New York City and run north to the Capital District:

LOWER HUDSON VALLEY

  • Hudson River Park
  • On-Road connection from Upper Manhattan to Van Cortlandt Park
  • South County Trailway
  • North County Trailway
  • Putnam Trailway
  • Beacon Rail Trail
  • Dutchess Rail Trail
  • Walkway Over the Hudson

UPPER HUDSON VALLEY

  • Hudson Valley Rail Trail
  • Wallkill Valley Rail Trail
  • Kingston Point Rail Trail and Promenade
  • On-Road North of Kingston to the City of Hudson
  • Albany-Hudson Electric Trail (AHET Trail)
  • Corning Preserve Trail
  • Mohawk Hudson Bike Hike Trail

Champlain Valley Trail

The Empire State Trail within the Champlain Valley goes from the Capital District to Whitehall, Wherever feasible, it is off-road along Champlain Canal towpaths. The 120- mile section from Whitehall to the Canada border at Rouses Point is on-road route primarily intended for bicyclists.

CHAMPLAIN VALLEY 

  • Champlain Canalway Trail
  • On-Road from Mechanicville to Stillwater
  • Path through Hudson Crossing Park
  • On-Road to Fort Edward
  • Champlain Canalway Trail
  • On-Road from Fort Ann to Plattsburgh
  • Terry Gordon Bike Path
  • Saranac River Trail
  • On-Road from Plattsburgh to Rouses Point / Canadian Border

Erie Canalway Trail

The Empire State Trail within the Erie Canalway include proposed new trail sections and link Buffalo to the Capital District.

WESTERN ERIE CANALWAY TRAIL

  • Buffalo Connection
  • Pendleton Connection
  • On-Road connection in Lyons
  • Shared Use Path from Lyons to Clyde
  • On-Road connection in Clyde
  • Shared Use Path from Clyde over Erie Canal
  • On-Road connection to Savannah
  • Savannah shared use path
  • On-Road connection to Port Byron trailhead
  • Honeywell Trail to Loop the Lake Trail
  • Onondaga Creekwalk 
  • On-Road Water Street Connection in Syracuse
  • Erie Boulevard

EASTERN ERIE CANALWAY TRAIL

  • Old Erie Canal State Park
  • Rome Connection
  • Utica – Schuyler
  • Ft. Herkimer Church – Lock 18
  • Lock 18 – Little Falls
  • Schuyler – Ilion
  • Ilion – Mohawk
  • Pattersonville Trail
  • Rotterdam Junction Connection

More information from Parks & Trails NY (ptny.org). (Next Cycle the Erie scheduled July 11-18, 2021).

Also, Rails to Trails Conservancy (railstotrails.org), Great American Rail-Trail, which would link up 3,700-miles of multi-use trails from Washington DC on the east coast to Washington State on the west coast (www.railstotrails.org/greatamericanrailtrail/vision).

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© 2020 Travel Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. All rights reserved. Visit goingplacesfarandnear.com, www.huffingtonpost.com/author/karen-rubin, and travelwritersmagazine.com/TravelFeaturesSyndicate/. Blogging at goingplacesnearandfar.wordpress.com and moralcompasstravel.info. Send comments or questions to FamTravLtr@aol.com. Tweet @TravelFeatures. ‘Like’ us at facebook.com/NewsPhotoFeatures

Fall Festivals, Hayrides, Corn-Mazes, Pumpkin Picking & Leaf Peeping Underway Throughout New York State

While in North Creek (Gore Mountain ski area) for an Adirondacks getaway, Marty takes a class with artist-in-residence glassblower Greg Tomb. In cooperation with North Creek’s Tannery Pond Center, Tomb has made hundreds of colorful, glass-blown pumpkins that will be sold at the “Glass Pumpkin Patch” weekend, September 25-27 © Laurie Millman/goingplacesfarandnear.com

by Karen Rubin
Travel Features Syndicate, goingplacesfarandnear.com

This fall, you can enjoy your favorite corn mazes, pick-your-own-fruit and vegetable activities, hayrides and haunted houses, plus farmers’ markets and craft beverage trails in New York State, albeit under special health protocols for low-risk outdoor outdoor arts and entertainment. You can also visit the state’s farmers’ markets and craft beverage trails, which have remained open under New York’s NY Forward guidance, supporting agriculture and tourism in the state.

Sleepy Hollow’s Iconic 16th Annual Great Jack O’Lantern Blaze Comes to Long Island for the First Time 

The extraordinarily popular Great Jack O’Lantern Blaze event that takes place each extended Halloween season at historic Hudson Valley is coming to Long Island for the first time, as Nassau County’s Old Bethpage Village Restoration (OBVR) hosts the iconic fall event in conjunction with the original Great Jack O’Lantern Blaze® Hudson Valley, kicking off this week, running for a record 53 select evenings from September 18 through November 21. The Great Jack O’Lantern Blaze® Long Island will run for 23 nights from October 2 through November 1. Both locations feature outdoor self-guided, touch-free walk-through experiences through the wooded pathways, orchards, and gardens of historic sites. A small team of local artists hand-carved more than 7,000 Jack O’Lanterns and elaborate pumpkin sculptures at each site. Nassau’s location will feature pumpkin sculptures that celebrate icons of Long Island culture – from the Apollo Lunar Module to the Montauk Lighthouse to the windmills of the East End.

Bringing the event to Nassau County is part of County Executive Laura Curran’s efforts to expand on the variety of extraordinary, cultural and memorable activities available to residents close to home – making the County a spectacular place to live, work, and play. OBVR provides a perfect 19th century backdrop for this magical and spooky event where attendees can safely socially distance across the property’s 209 acres. Advance purchase tickets are required; prices start at $32/adult, $24/child, purchase online (https://pumpkinblaze.org/blaze-long-island.html). (Old Bethpage Village Restoration, 1303 Round Swamp Rd., Old Bethpage, NY 11804)

The Headless Horseman in jack o’lanterns during Great Jack O’Lantern Blaze at Historic Hudson Valley’s Van Cortlandt Manor in Croton-on-Hudson. This year, for the first time, a second Great Jack O’Lantern Blaze is taking place at Old Bethpage Village Restoration on Long Island © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

To see the original, come to Van Cortlandt Manor. Meander through an 18th-century landscape and discover a breathtaking display of more than 7,000 illuminated jack o’ lanterns—all designed and hand-carved on site by HHV’s team of artisans. New for 2020, a fire truck—making a special rescue—and witches stirring up a spell. Tour the Museum of Pumpkin Art, where classic paintings get the gourd treatment, see who let the (pumpkin) dogs out, listen for the Headless Horseman—and watch out for swooping jack o’lantern bats. See the Pumpkin Carousel twirl and the Pumpkin Windmill whirl and step inside the Pumpkin Planetarium for a star show like you’ve never seen. Hold a torch for the 25-foot-tall jack o’lantern Statue of Liberty and get personal with Instagrammable signs of the zodiac. Social distancing and masks required at all times (no food and beverage on site and no outside food or drinks permitted). Tickets must be purchased in advance. (Van Cortlandt Manor, 525 S Riverside, Croton-on-Hudson, NY 10520, https://hudsonvalley.org/events/blaze/).

Historic Hudson Valley is also re-creating its famous “Legend” event for these times. Sunnyside celebrates its connection to Washington Irving’s classic tale, The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, at this family friendly daytime event. Home of the ‘Legend’ includes a literary-themed scavenger hunt and a Legend-themed exhibit on the grounds of Washington Irving’s estate. Weekends through Nov. 6-8; tickets $12/adults, $10/seniors and children 3-17. (Sunnyside, West Sunnyside Lane, off Route 9 in Tarrytown, https://hudsonvalley.org/events/home-of-the-legend/).

Buy tickets online at www.hudsonvalley.org or by calling 914-366-6900 ($2 per ticket surcharge for phone orders).

Hudson Valley Bountiful With Farmers Markets, Pick-Your-Own, Biking, Hiking

Hudson Valley is full of farmers markets, pick-your-own, and tastings that show off New York State’s bounty.

After biking the River to Ridge trail in New Paltz, just off a Springtown Road, filled with apple and pumpkin farms and stands, just a few minutes away from the trailhead (and actually located right off the Wallkill Valley Rail Trail), we found Coppersea Distilling, with beautifully laid out bar stands for tasting their wonderful whiskeys and brandies, made with “heritage” methods, and locally source (within 25 miles) all the ingredients. They even use New York State wood for their barrels (which actually shape the taste). They floor-malt grains, ferment in wood tanks, distill in direct-fired copper pot stills to crate spirits with “provenance.” (It’s fascinating to hear James explain these processes.) They also have resurrected a 250-year old process for “green whiskey” – the significant difference in method and taste is that the grain is still alive and has chlorophyll, which gives the whiskey a kind of green-tea flavor. (Coppersea, 239 Springtown Road, New Paltz 12561, coppersea.com, 845-444-1044).

Whiskey tasting at Coppersea Distilling, New Paltz, meeting New York State’s COVID-19 guidelines. The state has made it possible to enjoy the traditional festivals and festivities of fall throughout New York State, with apple and pumpkin picking, farm stands, tastings, leaf-peeping, biking, hiking and more. © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

“New York State’s amazing outdoor attractions and recreational opportunities are a boon for families and communities during the fall season each year, and we want New Yorkers to be able to enjoy this time with their family responsibly and safely,” Governor Cuomo said. “The new guidance will ensure that these businesses can open to the public, allowing families to enjoy their favorite fall activities while providing a boost for our farming communities and local economies.”

New York State will be offering fall festivals that support the state’s agribusiness and agritourism, such as with this “Taste of New York” stand at one of the service centers on the New York Thruway, with COVID-19 precautions in place. (c) Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

“As one of the nation’s top agricultural states, New York traditionally comes together in the fall to celebrate the harvest—from apples to grapes to pumpkins,” State Agriculture Commissioner Richard A. Ball said. “This year, while things may not look exactly the same on your favorite farm, I am happy to say we can still celebrate agriculture’s bounty and the many family-friendly activities that go with it. With this new guidance, we hope New Yorkers will be able to enjoy some of the best of New York agriculture in a safe and socially distanced manner.” 

The protocols include reduced capacity, face coverings, social distancing between individuals and parties, and frequently touched surfaces, such as handrails, cleaned and sanitized between rides. (See https://agriculture.ny.gov/coronavirus).

Autumn in The Adirondacks

Autumn is always a fabulous time to visit the Adirondacks in upstate NY, but in a year when fresh air and wide open spaces are what we are all craving, the region’s natural landscape is especially nurturing. Travelers will find endless opportunities for adventure, exploration and relaxation, from hiking the High Peaks to scenic drives along the Whiteface Memorial Highway to fireside dining on outdoor patios.

The Adirondack Fall Foliage Meter provides up-to-the-minute fall foliage reports on where the leaves are prettiest and most colorful.  In Lake Placid, the new Skyride, an 8-person state-of-the-art gondola, takes guests from the Olympic Jumping Complex’s base lodge to the 90-meter and 120-meter ski jump towers, where a new glass-enclosed elevator brings them to the top to enjoy the panoramic vista of the Adirondack High Peaks (and to experience what the jumpers see as they start to accelerate towards the end of the ramp!). The new Sky Flyer zipline also offers unparalleled views of Lake Placid and the High Peaks.  (https://lakeplacidolympicsites.com/todo/skyride/)   

Adirondacks ‘Glass Pumpkin Patch’ Weekend, Sept. 25-27

For a COVID getaway, which we just did over Labor Day, enjoy fall foliage colors and no quarantining required (if you live in the Northeast) in New York State’s Adirondacks State Park. 

While in North Creek (Gore Mt ski area), visit and/or take a class with artist-in-residence glassblower extraordinaire, Greg Tomb — last day for classes this season is  September 23, 2020.

In cooperation with North Creek’s Tannery Pond Center, Tomb has made hundreds of colorful, glass-blown pumpkins that will be sold at the “Glass Pumpkin Patch” weekend, September 25-27, 2020, from 10am – 6pm daily. Each pumpkin has been hand-blown by Tomb, giving them their unique and distinctive sizes and designs (starting price of $35). A sizable percentage of all sales goes towards the arts and operations of North Creek’s Tannery Pond Center, North Creek, NY. For more info, visit https://tannerypondcenter.org/event/fundraiser-glass-pumpkin-patch/). — Laurie Millman and Martin Rubin/Travel Features Syndicate

To keep tabs on the progress of fall foliage in the state, www.iloveny.com/things-to-do/fall/foliage-report.

See more information on where to go, what to do in New York, www.iloveny.com, 800 CALL NYS, info@iloveny.com.

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© 2020 Travel Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. All rights reserved. Visit goingplacesfarandnear.com, www.huffingtonpost.com/author/karen-rubin, and travelwritersmagazine.com/TravelFeaturesSyndicate/. Blogging at goingplacesnearandfar.wordpress.com and moralcompasstravel.info. Send comments or questions to FamTravLtr@aol.com. Tweet @TravelFeatures. ‘Like’ us at facebook.com/NewsPhotoFeatures

Ikon Passholders Get Priority Access to Alterra Mountains; Windham NY Becomes 43rd Ski Destination

Ski Killington, Vermont, the largest destination ski resort in the Northeast, on the Ikon Pass © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

by Karen Rubin
Travel Features Syndicate, goingplacesfarandnear.com

With all that is impacting mountain resorts, from wildfires to COVID-19, the major ski resort companies are focusing on drive-markets and alleviating uncertainty with pass flexibility and refundability, as well as significantly changing mountain operations to incorporate the highest health protocols.

Here in the Northeast, Ikon Pass, the seasonal pass program of Alterra Mountain Company (most famous for Aspen and Snowmass mountains, but the owner/operator of 15 others and partnerships with dozens more around the nation and worldwide), is expanded with the addition of Windham Mountain, in New York’s Catskill Mountains, an easy drive from the New York metro and Long Island. This is in addition to Stratton, Sugarbush Resort, and Killington in Vermont, giving the Ikon Pass that much more value to Northeast skiers.

Ski Windham in New York State’s Catskill Mountains becomes the 43rd ski destination accessible on Alterra Mountain Company’s Ikon Pass. Passholders will have priority access this season, when there will be capacity limits © Dave E. Leiberman/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Alterra Mountain is not just prioritizing access for season pass holders in order to tightly regulate the number of daily lift tickets that will be available, but eliminating day tickets and walk-up window sales; the sale of some undated lift ticket products will be discontinued until further notice. While it is not instituting an advance reservation system at the 15 destinations that Alterra Mountain owns and operates, the dozens of partner resorts may have their own advance reservation protocols this season (check the sites).

“The pandemic has disrupted our lives in so many unpredictable ways,” Rusty Gregory, Alterra Mountain Company’s Chief Executive Officer, stated. “Medical professionals and scientists tell us that this constantly changing dynamic will likely continue until effective vaccines and therapeutics are developed and become available to the general public. Alterra Mountain Company and our destinations are committed to staying on top of the inevitable changes to come as best practices and health regulations throughout the two countries, six states, three Canadian provinces and 15 mountain communities in which we operate rapidly evolve. Our teams will communicate these changes to you as soon as possible so we can all adjust and plan accordingly.”

Alta Ski Area, Utah, is part of the Ikon Pass network © Eric Leiberman/goingplacesfarandnear.com

This year, to address the extraordinary conditions, Ikon Pass introduced Adventure Assurance, free for all passholders, designed to alleviate uncertainty and provide flexibility for the 20/21 passes.

Ikon Pass holders may elect to defer the purchase price paid for their unused 20/21 Ikon Pass to the 21/22 winter season. Or, if passes are used and there is an eligible COVID-19-related closure at any North American Ikon Pass destination, Ikon Pass holders will receive a credit toward a 21/22 Ikon Pass based on the percentage of days closed, more details below. Expanded Adventure Assurance coverage is free and included with every previously purchased 20/21 Ikon Pass and new 20/21 Ikon Pass purchases. (Details and terms and conditions at the Adventure Assurance Program page and Ikon Pass FAQ.)

“We understand that there is still pass holder uncertainty around winter 20/21, and we aim to offer Ikon Pass holders peace of mind and more time to make the best decisions,” said Erik Forsell, Alterra’s Chief Marketing Officer. “Pass holders can ski a little, ride a lot, or defer the purchase price of their unused 20/21 Ikon Pass, we’ve got them covered. We look forward to next winter, sweet days await us.”

Winter Park, Colorado is part of the Ikon Pass network © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

The different Ikon Pass products include Ikon Pass, Ikon Base Pass, Ikon Base Pass with Jackson Hole Mountain Resort & Aspen Snowmass Access, and Ikon Session Pass 4-Day. The Ikon Pass is on sale now at www.ikonpass.com.

Ikon Pass continues to expand access across North America with the addition of Mt. Bachelor in Oregon and Windham Mountain in New York for the 2020/2021 season, bringing the total number of destinations accessible on Ikon Pass to 43.

Ikon Pass holders will have access to seven days each at Mt. Bachelor and Windham Mountain with no blackout dates, and Ikon Base Pass holders will have access to five days each, with select blackout dates.

Just two and a half hours north of New York City, Windham Mountain boasts 285 skiable acres across 54 trails serviced by 11 lifts, six terrain parks, an award-winning snowsports school, Terrain Based Learning™, lodging, on-mountain dining, an Adventure Park, a full-service spa, and sunset skiing (on select nights during the season), all in a private-club like atmosphere. In summer, Windham offers the Windham Mountain Bike Park famous for its World Cup course and a three-mile-long beginner trail and Windham Country Club with an 18-hole public golf course.

Ikon Pass Gives Access to 43 Destinations

Copper Mountain, Colorado is in the Ikon Pass network © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.comopper Mountain, Colorado

The 43 destinations on the Ikon Pass span the Americas, Europe, Australia, New Zealand and Japan and include such iconic mountain resorts as Aspen Snowmass, Steamboat, Winter Park, Copper Mountain Resort, Arapahoe Basin Ski Area, and Eldora Mountain Resort in Colorado; Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows, Mammoth Mountain, June Mountain and Big Bear Mountain Resort in California; Jackson Hole Mountain Resort in Wyoming; Big Sky Resort in Montana; Stratton, Sugarbush Resort, and Killington in Vermont; Snowshoe in West Virginia; Boyne Highlands and Boyne Mountain in Michigan; Crystal Mountain and The Summit at Snoqualmie in Washington; Tremblant in Quebec and Blue Mountain in Ontario, Canada; SkiBig3 in Alberta, Canada; Revelstoke Mountain Resort and Cypress Mountain in British Columbia, Canada; Sunday River and Sugarloaf in Maine; Loon Mountain in New Hampshire; Taos Ski Valley, New Mexico; Deer Valley Resort, Solitude Mountain Resort, Brighton Resort, Alta Ski Area, and Snowbird in Utah; Zermatt in Switzerland; Thredbo and Mt Buller in Australia; Coronet Peak, The Remarkables, Mt Hutt in New Zealand; Niseko United in Japan, and Valle Nevado in Chile.

Special offers are available at CMH Heli-Skiing & Summer Adventures, one of the world’s largest heli-skiing and heli-accessed hiking operations. For more information, visit www.ikonpass.com.

In addition to the 15 year-round mountain destinations, one of the world’s largest heli-ski operation and the Ikon Pass program, Alterra Mountain Company owns and operates a range of recreation, hospitality, real estate development, food and beverage, retail and service businesses out of its Denver, Colorado headquarters. For more information, visit www.alterramtnco.com.

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© 2020 Travel Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. All rights reserved. Visit goingplacesfarandnear.com, www.huffingtonpost.com/author/karen-rubin, and travelwritersmagazine.com/TravelFeaturesSyndicate/. Blogging at goingplacesnearandfar.wordpress.com and moralcompasstravel.info. Send comments or questions to FamTravLtr@aol.com. Tweet @TravelFeatures. ‘Like’ us at facebook.com/NewsPhotoFeatures

Vail Resorts’ Epic Pass Comes With Special Privileges to Meet COVID-19 Precautions

Okemo Mountain Resort, Vermont. skiing is one of the best winter travel experiences for these unprecedented times – you can’t think of a better place to socially distance and breathe fresh air or a better way to be active, get blood flowing and endorphins popping and adrenalin firing. Vail Resorts is taking precautions to maximize safety and health, including controlling capacity on the mountain. Epic Pass holders will get priority for reservations © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

by Karen Rubin
Travel Features Syndicate, goingplacesfarandnear.com

Vail Resorts’ Epic Pass which gives access to dozens of resorts across the country and around the world including here in the Northeast, driving distance from New York, Long Island and the Boston metro markets  – has always afforded value (paying for themselves in as few as four days of skiing). But beyond discounts and extra value, the Epic Pass this year affords membership status and priority to reserve time on the slopes in face of capacity restrictions.

And you can maximize the value by early-bird purchasing ahead of deadlines (the deadline for Vail Resorts’ Epic Pass has been extended to Sept. 17).

When you think about it, skiing is one of the best travel experiences for winter – you can’t think of a better place to socially distance and breathe fresh air or a better way to be active, get blood flowing and endorphins popping and adrenalin firing. Mountain resorts also afford many safe lodging options, including condos so you can prepare your own meals. What is more, there are many spectacular mountain resorts within driving distance.

“We are fortunate that our core experience of skiing and riding takes place outdoors, across huge mountains, offering fresh air and wide-open spaces for our guests. However, to help protect our guests, our employees and our communities amid this pandemic, some changes will be required this season,” Vail Resorts CEO Rob Katz wrote guests.  “It has been our goal to design an approach that can remain in place for all of the 2020/21 season. We do not want to be caught off guard or find ourselves needing to make reactionary changes. Striving for consistency will provide our guests, employees and communities with as much predictability as possible this season, which we believe is worth the extra effort.”

Key changes include:

Guests will be required to wear face coverings to get on the mountain and in all parts of resort operations, including in lift lines and riding in lifts and gondolas.

To maintain physical distancing on our chairlifts and gondolas, we will only be seating related parties (guests skiing or riding together) or: two singles on opposite sides of a four-person lift; two singles or two doubles on opposite sides of a six-person lift; or two singles on opposite sides of our larger gondola cabins.

Ski and ride school will be offered and on-mountain dining will be open, but with changes to help keep guests safe.

Mountain access will be managed to ensure guests have the space they need. As such, the Company announced a mountain access reservation system and limits on lift tickets to prioritize its pass holders.

“For the vast majority of days during the season, we believe everyone who wants to get on our mountains will be able to. However, we are not planning for the majority of days, we are planning for every day of the season,” said Katz. “We want to provide assurance to our guests that we will do our very best to minimize crowds at all times – be it a holiday weekend or the unpredictable powder day. We believe this approach will help ensure a safe experience for everyone, while prioritizing access for our pass holders.”

The intoxicating view at Park City Mountain, Utah, which after being combined with The Canyons, is the biggest ski area in the US © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

A key element is reducing and controlling capacity, so a new reservation system is being implemented, with priority for Epic Pass holders:

Pass holders will be required to make a reservation before arriving at the mountain. 

Throughout the season, pass holders will be able to make as many week-of reservations as their pass type and availability allow.  

The early season will be reserved for pass holders only. Vail will begin selling lift tickets Dec. 8.  

In addition to week-of reservations, pass holders can book up to seven Priority Reservation Days for the core season (Dec. 8-April 4), or as many days of access as they have on their pass if less than seven.

The booking window for Priority Reservation Days will open Nov. 6 and will be exclusive to pass holders until Dec. 7.  

As pass holders use their Priority Reservation Days, they can book new ones, maintaining up to seven (or however many days of access are remaining on their pass) at any time. In addition, pass holders can always make as many week-of reservations as they choose (or however many days of access are remaining on their pass). 

Families will be able to book reservations together if they are in the same pass holder account. 

While still subject to change, at this time Epic Pass holders will not need a reservation to access Vail’s partner resorts (Telluride, Sun Valley, Snowbasin, Resorts of the Canadian Rockies, Hakuba or Rusutsu in Japan).   

Lift tickets (including Buddy and SWAF tickets) will go on sale on Dec. 8, with sales limited based on the number of spaces available for any given day after the exclusive pass holder reservation period. This season, lift tickets will be sold with a reservation for a specific resort on a specific date. 

Given the need to manage lift tickets sales, they will only be sold on Vail’s websites and through its call centers. No lift tickets will be sold at the ticket window in resort – you may only pickup your pre-purchased lift ticket at the ticket windows. Guests are encouraged to purchase in advance, though guests can purchase a same day lift ticket online or through call centers, subject to availability, and then pick up the lift ticket at the ticket window.  

To make the reservation system as easy to use as possible, pass holders will be able to book reservations to any of the Vail resorts, and for all dates, on EpicPass.com. Booking a reservation will turn on pass access for that day, so there will be no need for pass holders to bring anything but their pass and access the mountain as usual.   

Skiing Kirkwood, one of Vail’s three ‘Best of Tahoe’ resorts © Eric Leiberman/ goingplacesfarandnear.com

To provide additional peace of mind, Vail is including Epic Coverage free this season for all pass holders. It allows for refunds:  If pass holders are unable to book their preferred Priority Reservation Days during the initial booking window (Nov. 6-Dec. 7) and if they have not used their pass yet. 

If there is a resort closure due to certain events such as COVID-19 during a pass holders’ initial Priority Reservation Days selected by Dec. 7. (There will still be an option for pass holders to choose to cover the core season instead.) 

If pass holders experience an eligible personal event that prevents them from using their pass, such as job loss, injury or illness.  

To give guests more time to consider the changes, the Company’s Labor Day deadline has been extended to Sept. 17, including the deadline to use pass holder credits from last season.

“There is no doubt this season will be different but we are committed to what matters most: working to protect our guests, employees and communities and doing everything we can to provide great skiing and riding all season long,” Katz said.

Ski Heavenly, Lake Tahoe (c) Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

To provide the safest experience for guests, Vail is implementing these procedures:

Physical Distancing on Chairlifts and Gondolas: To maintain physical distancing on chairlifts and gondolas, only related parties (guests skiing or riding together) or two singles on opposite sides of a four-person lift will be seated together; two singles or two doubles on opposite sides of a six-person lift; or two singles on opposite sides of our larger gondola cabins. 

Physical Distancing in On-Mountain Restaurants: Vail will open all on-mountain restaurants this season, but to allow for physical distancing, the number of people will be restricted in accordance with public health requirements. Full-service, sit down restaurants will operate with reduced seating, spaced to enable physical distancing. At most of the large, quick-service restaurants, “scramble areas” will be reconfigured to have a cafeteria-style approach, where guest come in, go through a single line, and pass all the food options until they get to the cashier.  

Food options in quick-service restaurants will be more limited this season, with just a handful of ready-to-go hot and cold options and no ability for any custom or special orders. Tables will be spaced in seating areas to allow for physical distancing while eating. There will also be as much outdoor seating as possible. Guest are recommended to avoid the peak lunch rush and encouraged to bring their own water, snacks and other food.  

Packaged beer and wine will be available for sale at most of locations, but there won’t be full-service bars, on or off the mountain. All transactions will be cashless (unless required by local regulations). 

Physical distancing in Ski & Snowboard Rental Locations: Guests and employees will be required to wear face coverings, and for the portions of the process that require close interactions with our technicians, our employees will take additional precautions, including wearing eye protection and gloves. Equipment will be fully sanitized between each guest use and rental delivery service expanded to provide enhanced options for guests to rent equipment outside of the store locations.  

Health Screenings within Ski and Ride School: All employees will be required to undergo health screenings. “We are taking this same precaution with our ski and ride school participants, given that physical distancing may not always be possible during a lesson such as when the group rides lifts and gondolas or eats lunch together. With this in mind, all participants will be required to undergo and confirm an online self-health screening prior to arriving at the mountain for their lesson.”  

Limiting class size of group and private lessons to a maximum six people. “While we plan to continue many of our season-long youth programs offered at many of our resorts, we will be suspending most other smaller specialty programs this winter.”  

Lessons will need to be purchased in advance – no walk-up, day-of lessons will be available. A mountain access reservation will be included with the purchase of a ski school lesson. A lift ticket or eligible pass product will be required if the student will be riding a lift. 

Mount Snow, Vermont: Under Vail Resorts’ new protocols this winter, lessons will need to be pre-booked; riding the bubble chair will be limited to family or groups © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Next Steps: Each of the Vail resorts will continue to work closely with all local community stakeholders to ensure policies are aligned. 

“Success for this season can only happen with close collaboration and partnership in each community. While we have designed our winter operating plan to comply with and at times exceed all known applicable laws, our operations will remain subject to the local regulations in each of our resort locations. These may change at any time, either ahead of or during the ski season. Resorts will have a dedicated page on each of their websites that will provide the most up-to-date information on COVID-19 impacts,” Katz wrote.

Epic Day Pass products offer up to a 50% discount off lift tickets. Find more details on Vail’s various pass products, reservation system, Epic Coverage and the new Epic Mountain Rewards program at www.epicpass.com.

Vail Resorts, Inc., through its subsidiaries, is a leading global mountain resort operator. Vail Resorts’ subsidiaries operate 37 world-class mountain resorts and urban ski areas, including resorts that are driving distance from the New York and Boston metro areas: Stowe, Mount Snow, Okemo in Vermont; Hunter Mountain in New York; Mount Sunapee, Attitash, Wildcat and Crotched in New Hampshire. Also, such renowned resorts as Vail, Beaver Creek, Breckenridge, Keystone and Crested Butte in Colorado; Park City in Utah; Heavenly, Northstar and Kirkwood in the Lake Tahoe area of California and Nevada; Whistler Blackcomb in British Columbia, Canada; Perisher, Falls Creek and Hotham in Australia.

More information at www.snow.com.

See also:

Bubble Chairs, Great Snowmaking Give Okemo Mountain Resort an Edge

Park City Mountain, Utah: Biggest Ski Area in US is One of Easiest to Reach

Skiing Kirkwood: It’s All About the Mountain

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© 2020 Travel Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. All rights reserved. Visit goingplacesfarandnear.com, www.huffingtonpost.com/author/karen-rubin, and travelwritersmagazine.com/TravelFeaturesSyndicate/. Blogging at goingplacesnearandfar.wordpress.com and moralcompasstravel.info. Send comments or questions to FamTravLtr@aol.com. Tweet @TravelFeatures. ‘Like’ us at facebook.com/NewsPhotoFeatures