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News Flash: Travel Update for Caribbean and Mexico

After pounding several Caribbean islands over the weekend, Hurricane Dean hit Mexico’s Caribbean coast Tuesday as a Category 5 storm, according to USA Today. The hurricane was downgraded to Category 2, but is expected to regain strength as it heads towards central Mexico.

Travelers with plans to visit Mexico, especially the Yucatan Peninsula, should check with their hotel for information on rebooking. Most hotels and tour operators in impacted destinations will waive cancellation fees and allow travelers to rebook for a later date, based on availability. Customers with cruise itineraries that include Mexico ports will experience itinerary changes; check with your cruise line for updates and schedule changes. The South Florida Sun-Sentinel reports that Carnival Cruise Lines shifted the itineraries of six ships, while Royal Caribbean International changed at least two.

Island by Island Conditions
On Grand Cayman, Owen Roberts International Airport is open and the visitor restriction has been lifted. Visitors should check with individual properties for inofrmation on hotel opening status.

Jamaica was spared a direct hit by the hurricane and hotel damage was limited. Many hotels, particularly in western Jamaica, are fully operational. Montego Bay Airport is now open and ready to receive flights. Norman Manley Airport in Kingston is expected to open on Tuesday.

On Martinique, Martinique Aimé Césaire International Airport is open. All island hotels are open, though some have suffered landscaping damage. No structural damage was reported.

On St. Lucia, both airports are open and hurricane damage was minimal.

On St. Kitts, airline service remains normal and all hotels are open. The island suffered very little impact from the storm.

What’s the big deal about Virgin America?

When Virgin America began ticket sales late last month, the site was so flooded with traffic that potential customers – frustrated by long delays – simply gave up trying. Certainly, plenty of people were trying to book at once, but the real culprit was an orchestrated cyber attack that resulted in a slow start for sales. Though the offender remains unknown, it does get you wondering. Could a rival airline have been responsible? Very unlikely, though several of the legacy carriers lobbied vigorously to block Virgin America from entering the market.

Learning to Love Hawaii

For 28 years of my life, I never thought twice about Hawaii. When you grow up in Florida in a town like Panama City whose official motto is “The World’s Most Beautiful Beaches,” you don’t find yourself pining for a trip to the Aloha State. But a year ago, I moved to the Bay Area and I began to wonder if I had been missing out on one of life’s most essential experiences, like reading a book or, I don’t know, breathing air. You see, you’re not truly a San Franciscan until you 1) have a bay window 2) learn to rhapsodize about In-N-Out and 3) fall head over heels for Hawaii and talk about it exclusively in hyperbole.

One Night In Bangkok

Now, personally, I’m not the type of girl to spend $250 on a hotel room when I go on vacation. No siree—not when I could be spending that sort of money on food or souvenirs or (in the case of my recent three-month jaunt around Southeast Asia) two months worth of local beer. (And we’re talking several a day. Every day. Honestly, in Beijing, it was only a quarter!)

But if you are looking to drop the mad cash when you travel abroad, you might like to know that the Peninsula Bangkok has been voted the world’s best hotel for USD$250 or less in a reader survey conducted by Travel + Leisure magazine.

I can’t, of course, vouch for its excellence, as I stayed in an $8-a-night flophouse with a shared bathroom in the backpacker mecca of Khao San Road the last time I was in Bangkok. But since the Peninsula beat out the prestigious Tu Tu’ Tun Lodge in Gold Beach, Oregon and the Post Hotel & Spa in Lake Louise, Alberta–which came in at second and third place respectively–we’ll just have to go ahead and assume that it’s pretty darn fancy.

After all, I’m fairly sure you get your own toilet there. Which is more than I can say for where I stayed.

America’s Favorite Cities

I’m torn. Austin or San Francisco?

Travel+Leisure magazine asks travelers to rank America’s favorite cities in a poll that features 25 of the countries best destinations. Some of my personal favorites made the ballot – Charleston, New Orleans, New York, Austin and San Francisco – but my vote for number one came down to two inspiring cities that are actually very similar to one another.

Both Austin and San Francisco have a hip and funky vibe, but the similarities that stand out to me are their live music hot spots, love of food and outdoor pursuits. Growing up in Texas, Austin has always been one of my favorite weekend getaways. It’s a haven for music junkies and bar flies with blocks and blocks of local pubs, Mexican food joints and live music dives. Similarly, SF (my new home) boasts a bar on every block, worldly cuisine and iconic music venues.

With these two cities on the list, I’m struggling to cast my vote (maybe I’ll just cheat and vote for both!). What’s your favorite American city?