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Are You Ready to Use Your Passport this Winter?

Holiday greetings to everyone! Do you believe it's December?! It seems like only yesterday we were complaining about 2020, and now we're about to welcome 2022!

I'm excited to be headed to Burleson, Texas, for the Fourth Annual Toy Drive at Anson PDR. With more and more boosters and other vaccines rolling out, we're able to gather more in person. This event will do a whole lot of good for Mission Arlington and Harvest House, but I suspect we'll also have a lot of fun.

Have you got the winter and COVID blues?

It's been nearly two years ago since we lived a life without words like vaccines, masks, and even gruesome statistics as part of our daily vocabulary. But, things are opening up. And, even though we may need to adhere to some safety protocols, many of us feel good about traveling again.

Last month we talked about some warm weather domestic destinations. Let's face it; those of us who live in Minnesota and Wisconsin could really use a break in the winter months. But maybe you're looking for another passport stamp and feeling a little more adventurous; international destinations now welcome US travelers as long as you've got your ducks and your paperwork in a row.

International travel considerations:

Even when we travel outside the United States borders when not dealing with a pandemic, there are certain things you need to bring and information you should know:

A valid passport: When you plan your trip, make sure to check the expiration date. If the expiration date falls within six months of the time, you plan to return to the United States, apply for a renewal, and make sure you receive it before you leave on your trip. If you don't have a passport, make sure to start the process at least four months in advance. You can expedite the process, but it's going to cost you.

Visa: If you're going someplace slightly more exotic, you may need a Visa, and not the credit card kind.

Language: If you're not fluent in the language spoken in the country you intend to visit, you may want to download the Duolingo app for a bit of a crash course for the basics. Find out if the city or area you're going to employs many English-speaking people in the service industries. Nowadays, you can download an app on your phone for a quick translation.

Safety: Before you sign up for that excellent hotel deal, make sure it's in a relatively safe neighborhood. Check Yelp reviews and Facebook pages for guidance.

How about a trip across the pond?

If you're looking to get to Europe for the first time, or you can't wait to get back there, you may want to steer clear of some of the more popular destinations. Countries such as France, Italy, and Germany are in the midst of possibly the 5th wave of the COVID-19 pandemic. Mandates and rules change as the numbers change, so it's challenging to make long-term plans. Check out the countries below that may represent a better destination for now and fascinating places to visit any time:

Greece boasts an infection rate of 50 times less than central Europe. It also claims more hospital beds per capita. Greece offers gorgeous islands, fabulous beaches, and important historical sites you'll find in Athens. They still practice social distancing and enforce mask mandates as needed.

Croatia's numbers are 20 times better than in places like France and Germany. Not only is affordable Croatia ridiculously beautiful, but they also offer private cruises. The hospitals also have plenty of beds,

Portugal doesn't get the tourists that its neighbor Spain does, but right now, its COVID-19 infection rates come in at about 40 times better than other more popular European countries. If you visit Portugal, you'll discover why it's becoming a popular destination for ex-pats.

Or, you may want to travel south of the border:

Mexico's borders are open to tourists, but not without plenty of safety provisions. If you're planning a trip to Mexico, you will, of course, need a passport, but these days, if you plan to return to the United States, you'll also need your vaccination card, a negative COVID-9 test, and a completed health questionnaire. Check with your airline to see what you'll need to return to the United States.

Mexico now claims that over half of its population is totally vaccinated, and over 90% have taken at least one jab. Mexico City that seemed entirely out of control, now claims one of the highest vaccination rates in the world at over 90% fully vaccinated.

Generally speaking, the tourist areas in Mexico enforce mask and social distancing mandates and do a good job of providing vaccines. Some of the locations you might want to consider include:

  • Cancun- If you're mostly looking for beach, sun, and adult libations, you might enjoy Cancun. It's not much on authentic Mexican culture, although many resorts offer excursions to Tulum, Chichen Itza, and Isla Mujeres.

  • Puerto Vallarta is an actual city that gives you a little bit of everything from fun in the sun to all kinds of activities, including the incredible Vallarta Botanical Gardens, Whale Watching, and other boat excursions, including the Pirate Ship and Rhythms of the Night. Don't miss the Farmer's Market on Saturday in Old Town.

  • Mexico City may be massive with over 30 million residences, but it seems quaint at the same time with its individual neighborhoods. It's a foodie's paradise and full of history.

  • Guadalajara is the capital of Jalisco and is only about four hours from Puerto Vallarta by car or an hour by plane. While not as overwhelming as Mexico City, it's still huge with lots of museums, fantastic restaurants, and the home of the mariachi.

Okay, you're probably not going to drive to any of these places, but if you want to come home to a perfect-looking vehicle, make sure to call us for any dents or dings. Remember we come to you! Contact us here for an estimate or an appointment.

Whatever you celebrate this holiday season, make it joyous and stay safe.

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