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We’ve received a handful of emails and comments from consumers worried about the swine flu and their upcoming travel plans. Here are a few we’ll try to answer.
Dear TravelingMamas –
I’m 73 and I’m going to PVR in a couple of weeks with my 45 year old daughter…staying at a time-share. Should we be overly concerned? Both of us are in excellent health and have been there before. Thanks for your help
–An American Red Cross Disaster worker (so I’ve pretty much seen it all)
My thoughts are to keep up with current events regarding travel information through official sources. We’re not doctors nor do we give medical advice and suggest that if you are overly concerned about your health then you should visit your personal physician. The Department of Homeland Security suggests that only necessary travel to Mexico should be undertaken at this time. We have no way of predicting how swine flu will affect the next few weeks.
“We are planning a 50th wedding anniv. party in Club Med Ixtapa in June – we are taking our whole family 5 grandchildren – youngest being 8 mos. old. Should we go?” –Lorrie
“My Ph.D. and Dean at Univ of Houston husband and other profs are taking 23 students to TURKEY on May 19. Should they get travel insurance, or cancel trip? I am scheduled to fly into Burbank, CA. from Houston Hobby on May 22, for 18 days. Should I cancel? I was traveling to San Diego in CA. Should I stay away? My husband is 66 and has lung problems, was hospitalized and treated for 30 days last fall, having contracted flu and lung infection in Sicily. I am 66 with bronchial problems.” –Sybil
As a frequent traveler, both domestic and international, I highly suggest that travelers check their insurance policies through their current health provider before undertaking any travel. You should be prepared for an illness regardless of current events. Also, securing trip insurance for unexpected accidents or illness is probably a good idea, especially if leaving the US.
I’ve used TravelGuard in the past for international travel, but fortunately didn’t need to use the policy. There are many trip insurance providers available, but Travel Guard is the only one I have experience with.
Carol Mueller, a spokesperson for Travel Guard, explained that if a traveler secures an insurance policy with the “cancellation for any reason” option, then their trip should be covered even if it is affected by the current swine flu epidemic. She also noted that having a travel insurance policy not only protects your trip should you have to cancel, but it also takes care of the insured should they become ill while out of town. TravelGuard has operators on call 24/7 to answer any questions or to help the insured find an English speaking doctor or in the instance he or she needs to be evacuated.
Regarding travel from Houston to California, as far as we are aware, there aren’t any domestic travel restrictions. However, use your own judgment and realize that if you are sick or show signs of illness, the airline is within their rights to protect the other passengers and may deny you boarding. Again, stay in tune with current events and official updates from the CDC.
First, poor Mexico was hit with the increase in crime warnings. Now it seems that Mexico is the source of the outbreak of swine flu — and cases have been confirmed in other countries. We’ve all been hearing news reports about this possible pandemic, followed comments on Twitter, and listened to the opinions of our neighbors. But, what if you are currently in Mexico or you plan on traveling there in the next few days? I know that if I were in Mexico right now or had a big trip planned and paid for, I would be concerned about where to find the information I need. TravelingMamas.com has gathered information to help you make informed decisions. Here are some excerpts from a recent press statement issued by the Department of Homeland Security regarding the swine flu and travel warnings. You can read the entire release here: Official DHS Press Release Keep reading for resources and tips to stay informed before canceling your travel plans.
Dr. Richard Besser, Acting Director, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
“It’s important that people understand that there’s a role for everyone to play when there’s an outbreak going on. There are things that individuals do, there’s things that families do, communities do to try and reduce the impact. At the individual level, it’s important people understand how they can prevent respiratory infections. Very frequent hand-washing is something that we talk about time and time again and that is an effective way to reduce transmission of disease. If you’re sick, it’s very important that people stay at home. If your children are sick, have a fever and flu-like illness, they shouldn’t go to school. And if you’re ill, you shouldn’t get on an airplane or another public transport to travel. Those things are part of personal responsibility in trying to reduce the impact.
We issued two days ago an outbreak notice on our web site regarding travel to Mexico. It indicated that if you are traveling to Mexico, that you look at that to see what precautions could you take as an individual to reduce the likelihood that you became ill. We’re going to continue to evaluate the situation in Mexico, and if need be we will increase the warnings based on what the situation warrants.”
Secretary Napolitano, Department of Homeland Security
“…..we have implemented passive surveillance protocols to screen individuals who may arrive at our borders. All persons entering the United States from a location of human infection of swine flu will be processed through all appropriate CBP protocols. Right now those are passive. That means that they’re looking for people who — and asking about, are you sick, have you been sick, and the like; and if so, then they can be referred over for further examination.
Travelers who do present with symptoms, if and when encountered, will be isolated per established rules. They will be provided both with personal protective equipment and we will continue to emphasize universal health measures like hand-washing and gloves. And if and when the situation develops all CBP sites can implement and we can deploy additional personnel to the borders.
In addition, at the TSA, many of the similar measures are being implemented there with respect to the protection of our TSA workers and also their experience with travelers. To date, the State Department has not issued official travel advisories for particularly Mexico, but again, as I said earlier, these situations are very fluid and so you need to keep up to date on that. In addition to the CDC website, the Department of State has a website that will keep travelers posted on what the situation is not only with our neighboring countries, but with countries around the world.”
Before everyone starts to panic and cancel the vacation plans they made for that November dream trip, we need to all take a moment to assess the situation and learn what we can do individually to prevent this disease from spreading.
* If you are planning on travel in the next few days, keep yourself updated on the latest travel advisories regarding swine flu by visiting the CDC’s official page on swine flu updates.
* Watch your local news and keep abreast of happenings that might affect you directly.
* Use basic hygiene practices, such as washing your hands with soap and hot water, using a tissue when you sneeze or cough (and immediately dispose of it), and monitor your health. If you begin to have any flu-like symptoms and you have recently traveled to any of the affected areas in Mexico or the US, you should visit your healthcare provider immediately.
* Be aware that if you are traveling from an affected area and coming through US Customs, you may be subject to a health check. Normal border control is in place, regarding sick travelers, but the precautions may increase as more is discovered about this illness.
Canadian? Check out Health Canada for updates.
Airlines are now waiving change fees for passengers flying through affected areas.
European Union Health Commissioner Andorra Vassiliou urged Europeans to postpone nonessential travel to the United States and Mexico “unless it is very urgent for them.”
When it comes to swine flu and travel, we cannot be too careful. That said, again, the Mamas encourage you not to panic and cancel travel plans that are months away. Simply follow the updates from official organizations linked above. And let’s hope this awful virus can be contained.
Bell Buckle, TN is a charming little town set amidst the Tennessee Walking Horse farm area. I visited there while antique shopping with my family and found some great bargains, as well as nostalgia. It makes a great stop for families, couples, or travelers just wanting to explore.
The main building of Bell Buckle’s antique district was purchased for $750. This included all of the contents, which were WWII era. The owner, Mr. Phillips, refurbished the building and opened Phillips General Store and Antiques. The General Store offers antiques and gifts, but if you look above, the orginal items that were in the store hang as a memorial to a bygone time, where women wore dresses and men dressed up to go to “town”. Around the corner is Bluebird Antiques and Ice Cream Parlor that offers homemade fudge by the pound and hand-dipped ice cream in delicious waffle cones. They are all served up at the original ice cream and soda counter. An interesting fact about the place: the Ice Cream Parlor was voted Tennessee’s Ice Cream Shop of the Year. They also offer a special flavor, White Chocolate Raspberry that is made just for the shop.
I walked through downtown and admired the handmade crafts and the Southern Hospitality. I even went into the Bell Buckle Antique Mall and found out that it is owned and operated by the mayor at the time.
The kids were getting hungry, so we stopped in at the Bell Buckle Cafe to get some lunch. Every Friday and Saturday evening they offer live music with no admission charge and Thursday is songwriters’ night. This is where some of the great country music artists get their start. The ostrich burger and white chili was pretty good too. Get there early if you want a table on the weekends.
Bell Buckle was a charming weekend retreat and I am planning on visiting again to do some shopping. I may even visit for one of the annual festivals that they celebrate.
March – Daffodil Day Celebration of Spring and Arbor Day
May – Mayfest Outdoor Tribute to Music Motorcycle Day
June – RC and MoonPie Festival A Celebration of one of the South’s Finest Traditions, Moonpies and an RC Cola
September – Quilt Walk A Walking tour of Bell Buckle. View a display of quilts at churches and in homes
October – Webb School Art and Craft Festival The #1 Arts and Crafts Show in Tennessee
December – Christmas in Bell Buckle Lights and old-fashioned wreaths decorate the town.
Where to Stay
Mingle House Bed and Breakfast – A Victorian house that serves up a coutry-style breakfast. 931.389.9453 (recent traveler has slideshow available) No longer open.
Arrowlet Bed and Breakfast – Located 2 blocks from the Antique District.
The Cumberland House – A new, upscale Bed and Breakfast on Cumberland Street. 931.389.9223 (couldn’t find web listing)
Main Street Inn – Located in Wartrace, TN this B&B has a fantastic breakfast.
How to Get There
Exit 97, between Murfreesboro and
Manchester, Hwy 64 to Hwy 82
Near Lebanon, I-840 to I-24 to
Hwy 231 to Shelbyville, to Hwy 82
Exit at Cornersville to Lewisburg,
to Shelbyville, to Hwy 231 to Hwy 82
If you can’t get enough of the area, you can visit nearby Shelbyville, TN or Lynchburg, TN. Lynchburg is the home of the famous Jack Daniels Distillery. Bell Buckle also makes a great family day trip from Nashville, TN or Huntsville, AL areas. For more information, visit the Bell Buckle Chamber Website.
Have you ever wanted to sleep where the Beatles slept? During a solo visit to the UK I came across an interesting hotel, The Antrobus Arms, which offers lodging where the Beatles once stayed. I was searching for a place that wouldn’t beggar me with the exchange rate, yet was near to my friend, Keith Kellett, whom I was visiting in Amesbury.
Old Auntie, as the locals call the place, is a 17th Century coaching inn set near Stonehenge and Woodhenge. Not only does the place have history, but it is also where the Fab 4 stayed while filming “Help” on the Salisbury Plain. In fact, the garden area was also the setting for a few “Miss Marples” episodes. Of course, which room did I book, but The Beatles room. My mother was already jealous of my visit to the UK, but she became downright irate when she found out I would be sleeping where Macca slept. It seems that as a teen, she collected every Beatles trading card and Paul McCartney was her fave.
The building is old and a little worn, but still retains its charm. I did check out reviews of the place to see what other travelers had to say online. There were some complaints, but I kept in mind that it was the most affordable lodging in the area and also, well, it was old.
The Beatles Room was pretty cool, with a black and white theme. Photos of the group were placed throughout and the bed was super large and comfy. The floors were creaky as this room is located just above the lobby. I gasped when I stepped into the bathroom, not from horror, but of the various pictures of the Beatles staring at me from the walls. They were plastered with lyrics, newspaper clippings, and collectibles of all things Beatles.
There is a hotel restaurant and lobby bar, but while I was in residence for the night, it was also the city council meeting, which is held at the hotel. I stepped next door to The Kings Arms, which was empty except for me and one other patron. I sat down at booth, ordered a pint of Guinness and asked the server what was the cook’s favorite thing on the menu. The Steak and Ale was the meal of choice, and my American mind chuckled inside, since this was the first time I’d ever had the real deal. I had always thought Steak and Ale was a chain restaurant.
The steamy dish was placed in front of me, topped with a flaky pastry crust. I raised the fork to my lips and had a taste of Heaven. Who knew that in an empty little pub on an afternoon that I would taste such a delicious meal?
You can’t get much more British than this: Beatles, Miss Marples, Stonehenge, Steak and Ale. I sighed in contentment as I had the last sip of my Guinness and scraped the bottom of my dish. The only thing that could complete the evening would be a pot of tea and a hot shower before crawling into bed to rest up for a day of ancient archaeological exploration with Keith Kellett.
I enjoyed that shower immensely, entertaining myself by singing “Paperback Writer” at the top of my lungs. When I turned the shower off, I stopped singing, only to be surprised at Yoko Ono staring at me from the wall and the realization that I could hear everything below me at the lobby desk. I could hear a few people below singing back at me, “Paperback Writer” and laughing.
All I could do was crawl into bed laughing and stare at the pictures of The Beatles surrounding me, knowing that they would be there in the morning when I woke up.
A few weeks ago I had the chance to explore the northern part of Louisiana. I’ve lived in this state my entire life, but as any average American, when it comes to vacation time, we always venture far from home. I’m the first one that will tell you to “Boycott the Staycation” as we see how detrimental the lack of travel is on our economy, but I’ll also be the first one to tell you to get out there and see what is in your own backyard.
I really think the idea of a “staycation” is just plain ignorant. Last summer, the media was telling people how to save money, by providing alternatives such as buying an outdoor movie theater or visiting places close to home. Well, the cost of that outdoor movie theater is equivalent to a week’s condo rental, should you shop around. And as far as visiting places closer to home, you should be doing that with your kids on the weekends anyway.
I’d like to call my foray into north Louisiana as a sort of reconnaissance trip to determine what I’ll do with my kids this summer on short jaunts. This will by no means take the place of our annual family vacation, but now that they are preteens, my bonding time with them is growing short.
Here are a few of the choices I’m giving the kids for their summer learning through travel. This year’s theme is about learning where you live.
Black Bayou Lake National Wildlife Refuge – This 1600-acre lake is dotted with cypress, offers a visitor/education center (complete with baby alligators and various snakes), a wildlife observation deck, nature trail, and pier.
Poverty Point State Historic Site – This 400 acre site has been nominated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The earthworks are dated between 1650 and 700 B.C. An onsite interpretive center showcases an impressive collection of items found here. It is one of the largest mounds in North America.
Poverty Point State Park – This park and campground offers cabins for overnight lodging. The cabins overlook Poverty Point Reservoir. Don’t let the name fool you, these cabins are a steal at around $99 per night for a two bedroom cabin complete with full kitchen, flatscreen tv with satellite, screened porch, and even free wifi. The cabin I stayed in had a queen bed in one bedroom and two sets of bunks in the other. The wildlife and nature trails make for a true Louisiana getaway. Plus, the nearby Black Bear Golf Course is part of the Audubon Golf Trail.
Follette Pottery – Hidden just off of Hwy 86 in Ruston on Pea Ridge Rd is one the South’s hidden treasures. Kent and Libby are the nicest people and on the second Saturday of each month, they cook lunch for visitors and have a sale. Don’t worry if you stop in on another day, you’ll still get a taste of Libby’s sweet peach tea. Their products are sold in 44 states.
Lincoln Parish Museum – Have you ever walked into an old house and wished that the walls could talk? Well, they do here! The murals on the main hall walls tell a story, and there’s audio to go along, recorder by former living citizens of the area who recount their childhood stories and history of Lincoln Parish. Upstairs is like walking into your grandma’s attic (without the dust). The music collection made me chuckle, it even included an Ace of Base CD. Someone is very funny at that museum.
Arcadia Old Railroad Museum – This train station/museum/office/tourism center houses a collection of paraphernalia from the Bonnie and Clyde saga. In fact, the funeral procession of the legendary duo ended right across the street from the train station.
Bonnie and Clyde Ambush Museum – This was truly an interesting stop in the little town of Gibsland. There’s nothing like seeing autopsy pictures blown up and hung on a wall. I have to admit, it was pretty morbid, but I know my preteens will love it, even while they scream, “Gross. Come look at this!”
There’s so much more to see in North Louisiana and this is just the beginning. Be sure to check out my state’s Official Tourism Website for more information. Don’t worry, there’s more to come.