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Dept. of State issues 'Europe Travel Alert' due to heightened risk of terrorist attacks

As the holiday season approaches, many families are preparing to take advantage of school breaks, federal holidays and remaining paid time off by traveling out of state to see family and friends and desirable international destinations.

But according to the U.S. Department of State, prospective travelers might want to reconsider any plans to journey across the pond.

>> Related: 17 states granted extension for REAL ID compliance; Driver's license OK for domestic travel 

In a travel advisory issued Thursday, government officials warned citizens of a heightened risk of terrorist attacks throughout Europe, particularly during the holiday season. The advisory urged American travelers who go abroad to be cautious at holiday festivals and events. 

Officials cited two terrorist attacks that occurred in Europe last year -- one in which a man drove a truck into a German Christmas market, killing 12 people and injuring dozens more, and another in which a gunman shot and killed 39 people during a New Year’s celebration in Istanbul, Turkey.

>> Read more trending news 

“Extremists continue to focus on tourist locations, transportation hubs, markets/shopping malls and local government facilities as viable targets. In addition, hotels, clubs, restaurants, places of worship, parks, high-profile events, educational institutions, airports and other soft targets remain priority locations for possible attacks,” the advisory reads. “U.S. citizens should exercise additional vigilance in these and similar locations.”

The advisory is in effect until Jan. 31.

Americans traveling abroad can always check the website of the U.S. Embassy or consulate in a destination city for any recent security messages.

>> Related: Paris plans to ban all gas cars by 2030

15-acre crystal-clear lagoon to be built in Orlando

A resort and 15-acre crystal-clear lagoon is being planned for Orlando's Lake Nona development, officials with the Tavistock Development Company said Wednesday.

>> Read more trending news

Company officials said crews will break ground on the Lake Nona Resort on Lake Nona's southern shore next year. It's expected to open in 2020.

The eight-story resort will feature 250 rooms, 80 condominium units, a spa and a beach volleyball venue.

The resort's lagoon -- one the nation’s largest man-made crystal-clear lagoons -- will be lined with sandy beaches and have the potential to be expanded to more than 20 acres. Visitors will be able to enjoy swimming, sailing and paddle boarding.

The lagoon will be accessible by resort guests and members of the Lake Nona Golf and Country Club, company officials said.

Expansion plans include luxury condominiums, single-family homes and a beach club along the lagoon, officials said.

The wellness resort will also feature an expansive rooftop lounge and ballroom and several restaurants.

Company officials announced Monday that a water sports park will be built near the Orlando VA Medical Center.

Read more here.

>> Related: Amazon to build mega warehouse in Orlando

Chicago hotel available for $11.14 a night -- but only for a limited time 

Planning on booking a trip but still haven’t settled on a destination? Or maybe you have and you decided you’ll brace the Windy City?

Then you better act fast because this deal is not going to last long: Through 11 a.m. Central time on Wednesday, you can book a room at the Conrad Chicago hotel for only $11.14 a night.

>> Read more trending news 

 

Why are the rates so cheap? The deal is being offered for the hotel’s one-year anniversary. According to “Chicago magazine, the savings is a net of 95 percent off the hotel’s standard daily rate of $235 for a room.

Situated on Michigan Avenue, the hotel offers remarkable views of downtown Chicago. It was designed by renowned architect Pierre Yves Rochon. The hotel was recently featured on Conde Naste Traveler’s reader’s choice awards.

RELATED: Dream job alert: Get paid $10,000 per month to 'experience' Cancun

The restaurant Baptiste and Bottle in the hotel lauds executive chef James Lintelmann, who has previously worked in the kitchens at Charlie Trotter’s and Boka; a dining experience there is a must for anyone who enjoys bourbon.

The one-of-a-kind deal isn’t without some restrictions: The available dates begin Nov. 15 and go until March 31, but there are blackout dates from Nov. 24 to Nov. 29, on New Year’s Eve and between Jan. 21 and Jan. 22. 

RELATED: New York Post declares Chicago is the city to visit right now

There are only three rooms available on each day, so you may want to have a few dates in mind when you book the deal, and bookings are limited to one night only.

But what if there’s only one night when you’re able to take advantage of the deal? If the three rooms get booked before you have a chance, the hotel will release another three-room block for $111.14 a night.

While the deal is great for you, you get the added satisfaction that a portion of these proceeds are going to charity, as well. Youth Guidance is a local nonprofit that supports mentorship programs at Chicago Public Schools and will receive a significant portion of the revenue generated through the sale.

RELATED: New Michigan Avenue food hall coming to Magnificent Mile

So are you ready to book your room yet? You’ll have to go about this old-fashioned way by calling it in to 844-676-2522. When you make your reservation, use the code 1YEAR. 

Thanksgiving 2017: The best and worst times to drive and fly this Thanksgiving

Don’t let road rage or flight delays ruin your Thanksgiving.

» RELATED: Thanksgiving 2017 travel trends and tips

To ensure you make smart travel plans this November holiday, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reached out to popular navigation app Waze for national historical traffic data to determine the best and worst days to be on the move around Thanksgiving Day (Thursday, Nov. 23).

The AJC also incorporated Google Flights historical data, which was shared on the company blog in October. 

PRE-THANKSGIVING DAY

Best and worst times to drive

If you’re driving, the best time to hit the road is 6 a.m. on Sunday, Nov. 19, according to Google.

» RELATED: Police surprise drivers with Thanksgiving turkeys instead of traffic tickets

Between Sunday and up until 3 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 22, traffic will get progressively worse.

But Waze data shows 5 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 21, is the worst time to drive for Thanksgiving, especially if you’re headed to the airport.

Using 2016 data, Waze found Tuesday navigations to airports are up by 50 percent and Wednesday navigations to airports are up by 66 percent.

» RELATED: Holiday travel with kids: Top survival tips

Best and worst times to fly

Google data indicates Friday, Nov. 17 and Wednesday, Nov. 22 will be the busiest pre-Thanksgiving airport days. Try to avoid flying on these days.

POST-THANKSGIVING DAY

Best and worst times to drive

Waze data shows the worst time to drive home after Thanksgiving will be Monday, Nov. 27 at 7 a.m. and 5 p.m.

But there will also be a spike of mid-day travel on Sunday, Nov. 26. Traffic will peak at 2 p.m. Sunday.

» RELATED: It’s not all about the turkey: 9 things you probably didn't know about Thanksgiving

And if you’re headed to the airport Sunday, Waze warns that navigations to airports will peak at 4 p.m. and 5 p.m Sunday., so you may want to consider booking an earlier flight.

Compared to an average November Sunday, navigations to airports on Nov. 26 will be up by 53 percent.

» RELATED: All the Black Friday sales you should be jumping on now

If you’re flying back home Monday, navigations to airports will be up by 21 percent compared to an average November Monday, according to historical Waze data.

Best and worst times to fly

Google Flights search data from the past two years indicates that Sunday, Nov. 26 is one of the busiest days of the year to fly.

Google recommends booking a flight back home on Monday, Nov. 27, instead of Sunday.

Here’s more on the worst times to drive nationally around Thanksgiving:

» RELATED: Thanksgiving 2017: Alternative ways to spend the holiday

Dream job alert: Get paid $10,000 per month to 'experience' Cancun

Love to travel? Looking for a new job? 

A new job posting by Cancun.com might be just what you’re looking for. 

>> Read more trending news 

The travel site is seeking a social media savvy CEO, or a “Cancun Experience Officer.”

A description of the position online notes that the company is looking for “an outgoing, authentic and dynamic individual (or team) to represent the amazing destination of Cancun.”

The CEO will live in Cancun between March and August 2018, developing video of the vacation, capturing photos and creating written content. The CEO will be the face of the Cancun.com brand and its newly launched website.

Salary is listed at $10,000 per month -- and that doesn’t include the housing costs that will be completely paid for during the six-month period.

“You’ll get paid to dive into the culture, charm and wonder of Cancun and share your experiences with a worldwide audience,” the posting reads. 

“We can’t wait to get started on our search for a CEO to be the face and personality of Cancun. Getting paid to live and travel around Mexico is a once in a lifetime experience,” Chad Meyerson, general manager at Cancun.com, said in a press release. “It’s truly one of the most remarkable travel destinations, and we want to make sure we find the right person to help us show the rest of the world everything Cancun has to offer, from the culture and community to its beautiful hotels and pristine beaches.”

According to the press release, other perks include: 

  • Sleeping in luxurious beds overlooking the most pristine beaches
  • Scaling 3,000-year-old pyramids followed by a swim with a 40,000-pound whale shark
  • Sipping an ice-cold beverage before teeing off 200 yards down an ocean fairway
  • Mingling with locals and tourists at your VIP table in the hottest clubs
  • Coordinating charitable projects with local organizations to support education, health and well-being 
  • Having the most enviable job on the planet

Interested job seekers have until Dec. 17 to apply. A minute-long video describing why you’d be the perfect fit for the position is required.

The top five finalists will travel to Cancun in January, and the winner or winners will be announced Jan. 31. 

Apply here

Holiday travel with kids: Top survival tips

Holiday travel with kids can be a challenge. Whether you’re driving or flying, normal routines are interrupted, and challenges such as traffic jams or delayed flights can lead to boredom and fussy children. A little preparation can go a long way to making a holiday trip with kids go more smoothly. The following tips from sources such as ParentsReader’s Digest and the AJC will help everyone keep their sanity when embarking on holiday travel with kids. Pack ahead of timeIf you’re stressed at the start of your trip, you could be setting the tone for your entire first day. If possible, have everything packed the night before so you’re not rushed and cranky when you’re starting your trip. Prepare some snacksEven adults can get cranky when they’re hungry, so why should kids be any different? Be prepared with snacks like cereal, pretzels, granola bars or string cheese and have them easily accessible in the car or on the plane. Water is also a good choice for a drink, since kids aren’t likely to guzzle more than they need. If you’re flying, you can pick these items up at an airport store after you’ve gone through security. Bring some distractionsHelp your child pack some small, quiet toys, books, a small box of crayons, paper and a favorite stuffed animal or blanket for the trip. These will help keep them busy and offer comfort in unfamiliar places or situations. Let kids help planAllow children to have input on sightseeing when making travel plans. Maintaining a child’s interest can make for smoother travel. Let kids choose their own entertainment when traveling. On long road trips, try to find points of interest along the way if you have time. On the road Prepare for emergenciesIf you’re hitting the road for a long trip, have your mechanic check your car out before you go. Few things can ruin a trip faster than a breakdown along the way. While you’re at it, also pack a basic first aid kit, a flashlight and jumper cables. Get enough sleepThis advice holds true for both parents and kids. If everyone is sleep-deprived, they’re likely to be cranky. And if you’re driving, you’ll need to be as alert as possible. Use Pull-UpsFor those with very young children, you may want to use Pull-Ups even If they are potty-trained. If you’re stuck in traffic and are miles away from the nearest bathroom, they can provide an emergency back-up. The same goes for flying, during takeoff and landing when passengers are not allowed out of their seats. Take frequent breaksStop every couple of hours if you’re on a long road trip. This can give kids a chance to stretch their legs and burn off some energy.  Prepare for messesHave an extra change of clothes for everyone, as well as wipes and resealable plastic bags. Traveling with kids often means dealing with a diaper blowout, car sickness or other unexpected mess. Point out the sightsHoliday travel with kids can involve some long, boring stretches, but they can often enjoy mundane sights like a funny billboard and farms with cows and horses. If it’s a long trip, your child may also enjoy seeing changes in terrain along the way. In the air Fly early in the morning if possibleEarly flights are less likely to experience delays, and they’re often less crowded. With any luck, your kids will end up napping for part of the flight.  Dress in layersYou’ll be outdoors, in the airport and in the airplane cabin, so your child can experience a wide variety of temperatures. Dressing in layers can allow him or her to add or slip off a jacket or another layer if necessary. Make sure you’re sitting togetherSince computers assign seats, make sure you’re sitting together before you board the plane. Be sure to check and sort it out before boarding begins. Board earlyParents with young children are sometimes allowed to board the plane before other passengers, so you can have a minute to let your kids check out the seat, window shades and bathroom. You’ll have the chance to get settled in and not feel like you’re in such a rush. Keep it cleanWipe down surfaces that can harbor germs, like trays. Also carry along hand sanitizer to use before eating or in other cases where germs can easily be transmitted. Don’t pull out everything at onceDon’t pull out your child’s entire stash of snacks and entertainment right when you’re seated. Most kids will find flying to be exciting at first. Once they’re been in the air a while and have become bored, then you can reach for the toys and food.

Thanksgiving 2017 travel trends and tips

Whether your Thanksgiving travel plans involve domestic destinations or an international getaway, understanding holiday travel trends for 2017 can help you maximize your Thanksgiving travel budget and minimize stress.Here are the key travel trends for Thanksgiving, including best and worst places to visit, busiest airports and a look at gas prices for those whose Thanksgiving travel plans includes hitting the road. Thanksgiving 2017 travel trend watch Top trending destinations for Thanksgiving 2017: According to a report by the Points Guy, Google Flights data determined the following as the trending destinations for Thanksgiving in 2017. In the U.S.:Honolulu, HawaiiTucson, Ariz.Burbank, Calif.Providence, R.I.Fairbanks, Alaska International:Brussels, BelgiumRome, ItalyNice, FranceMalaga, SpainAmsterdam, the Netherlands The most wallet-friendly places to visit this ThanksgivingGOBankingRates used cost of hotels, holiday flights, food, drinks, transportation and entertainment to come up with the most expensive places you could travel for Thanksgiving this year. One of the priciest to visit at Thanksgiving was Cape Town, South Africa. Winter for us is summer in South Africa, and it costs $1,341 to fly from Los Angeles to Cape Town during Thanksgiving, more than any other city on the GOBankingRates list. The average daily cost of meals came in at $48, with the daily drink cost average at $24.GOBankingRates had much better news at the other end of the spectrum. It listed these three among its most affordable places to visit during Thanksgiving.

  • Seattle: Holiday flights to Seattle are cheaper than to most other cities in the rankings and the average nightly hotel rate during Thanksgiving is $142.
  • Chicago: You’ll be rewarded for braving chilly temperatures with low average nightly hotel rates of $87 during Thanksgiving. And holiday flights to Chicago are among the cheapest in the rankings.
  • San Francisco: The average nightly rate for a hotel during both Thanksgiving and Christmas is $121 and within San Francisco, transportation costs are among the lowest in the rankings and you can see the city’s most popular tourist attractions for free.

KAYAK also ranked "wallet-friendly" Thanksgiving destinations for 2017 using its billions of annual search queries, coming up with these Top 10: Chicago, Toronto, Montreal, Vancouver, Las Vegas, Atlanta, Dallas, New York, Calgary and Seattle. Highest and lowest gas costsIf your Thanksgiving travel plans include driving, you’ll want to know the gas price trends.As of Nov. 7, 2017, the national gas price range was $2.21 per gallon to $3.22 per gallon, according to AAA.Gas Buddy lets you see gas prices around the country at a glance with a color-coded map indicating the average price for regular unleaded gasoline.Generally, you'd pay the least for gas in Texas, Midwest states including Indiana, Illinois, Kansas, Virginia and Oklahoma and Southeastern states including the Carolinas, Virginia and Georgia (Florida is slightly higher.) As you make your way into Northern, Northwestern and Pacific Northwest states you'll encounter the highest gas prices, with California topping the list to the West.If you're concerned that gas costs will derail your travel budget, check the AAA website a few days before Thanksgiving to get a prediction on how gas prices will fare during 2017 Thanksgiving peak car travel days.Top 10 busiest airports Thanksgiving 2017Whether hustle and bustle is your thing or you're looking for an excuse to stay out of the fray, these 10 airports will be the busiest in the U.S. come Thanksgiving, according to Google Flights:

  • Boston
  • Chicago
  • Ft. Lauderdale
  • Honolulu
  • Las Vegas
  • Los Angeles
  • Miami
  • New York City
  • Orlando
  • San Francisco

 Travel tips Thanksgiving 2017 When to book: KAYAK's annual Holiday Hacker Guide has a hard and fast rule for Thanksgiving fliers: Avoid flying the Sunday after Thanksgiving. KAYAK data pegs that day as one of the most expensive departure dates.KAYAK also shared the best days to fly for the price-conscious, based on 2016 data. The best 2016 flight deals were for those who could depart and fly back on Thanksgiving day (median price $163 in 2016) or Black Friday ($261), leave the Monday before Thanksgiving and return Thanksgiving day or Black Friday ($286 and $300) or leave the Tuesday before Thanksgiving and return Thanksgiving Day or Black Friday ($296 and $299.)Book your flight ahead of the price increases. While variances are inevitable, a good rule of thumb is to expect fares to increase 21, 14 and again 7 days before your desired departure date, according to Google Flights. Plan your road trip costs: To make sure you'll still have money left over for Black Friday, or to avoid arguments with your cheapskate co-travelers, use Gas Buddy's trip cost calculator to plan how much you'll spend getting to Thanksgiving get-togethers. Consider getting away instead of going home. The Points Guy blogger reported 5 top holiday tips from the Google flights team, and this was both the most radical and most sensible idea. If you won't be drummed out of the family over your choice, consider a brief vacation instead of going to a traditional Thanksgiving gathering. If you can’t afford a high-cost Thanksgiving travel destination, consider traveling to a less popular destination over Thanksgiving week. The Points Guy says that in some cases, travelers can visit international destinations for less than domestic fares during the holiday season.

’Shiptease’: Richard Branson launches Virgin Voyages cruise line

Richard Branson turned travel on its ear. Now he’s planning on doing the same with the cruise line industry.

The founder and chairman of Virgin Group has started construction of Virgin VoyagesCondé Nast Traveler reported.

The keel of the first ship of the line was laid Tuesday, with Branson making a show of the milestone, dropping 200 feet from a crane to the shipyard. Tom McAlpin, the CEO of Virgin Voyages, welded a ceremonial coin into the base of the ship.

The ships are being built by Fincantieri in Genoa, Italy and will come at a cost of nearly $3 billion for three vessels.

>> Read more trending news 

Each ship will be constructed in 399 sections, but the laying of the backbone of the ship was the first step.

Branson also gave a sneak peek of the ships, calling the debut a “shiptease.”

The ship will have a red-tailed mermaid that hearkens back to the figurehead of classic ships and is touted as “the feminine spirit of the ship.”

The cruise line will do what many businesses haven’t in the past: be child-free.

Sailors, as the company is calling those who sail on the ships, will have an adults-only, 18 and older, experience, but not with a feeling of “a spring break crowd,” McAlpin said.

Eventually, though, they will have ships that welcome children. 

“We’ll have to -- I have grandchildren,” McAlpin told the Telegraph.

What else will be missing from the cruise experience? Virgin will not offer what company officials call gimmicks and tricks that other lines offer. It will also not have Vegas-style entertainment.

“We don’t need them. Our focus is the software. We’re creating a platform for a phenomenal experience on board,” McAlpin told the Telegraph.

And while they didn’t go into detail, voyagers will find out what that means in three years when the first ship is launched.

But if you want to get in on the ground level, pre-sale, fully refundable deposits of $500 are currently being accepted.

The ships will carry 2,800 guests and 1,150 crew members, Condé Nast Traveler reported.

Delta to debut new uniforms across airline in May

After making a variety of changes to designs for new employee uniforms, Delta Air Lines plans to roll out its new Zac Posen-designed collection next May.

Last year, Atlanta-based Delta held a fashion show to display its new uniform designs, and since then 1,000 Delta employees have tested the clothing. The new uniforms will be worn by 60,000 Delta front-line workers starting May 29.

>> Read more trending news 

In response to feedback from the employees who did the testing, more than 165 changes have been made to the uniform designs, according to Michael Hall, a Delta Sky Club lead agent who sat on the airline’s uniform committee.

>> Related: Delta will now pay passengers up to $9,950 to give up seats

Lapels will be added to some men’s uniforms, a trench coat will get a hood and more lining for cold weather, and a women’s bag will be lighter, with an added strap to attach to a roll-aboard suitcase, Hall said.

Flight attendants, customer service agents, baggage handlers, cargo and maintenance workers will all get new uniforms. Pilots’ uniforms will not change, however.

>> Related: Delta hiring 1,000 flight attendants

The new line of uniforms for employees at the airport also includes a base layer for ramp workers, amid the growing popularity of Under Armour and similar base layers.

Walt Disney World announces addition to Toy Story Land

The 12-acre Toy Story Land expansion in Disney's Hollywood Studios at Walt Disney World is set to open in Summer of 2018, and today the Resort announced that Woody's Lunch Box would be a quick-service dining location in the new area.

Toy Story Land will 'shrink' guests to the size of a toy so they can step into the whimsical and beloved world of Pixar Animation Studios' blockbuster franchise set in Andy’s backyard, and in keeping with the Land's theming Woody's Lunch Box has been created by Andy using his lunch box and thermos.

>> Read more trending news 

If you look closely at the rendering released earlier today, you can see some of Andy’s favorite toys, items from his lunch, and maybe even a few green army man on a nearby lookout tower watching for Andy’s return.

“We can’t wait for our guests to experience Toy Story Land, and the new quick-service window located within the land will surely delight hungry toys and people alike,” said Carlos Castro, vice president of Disney Corporate Alliances. 

While we don't have a complete menu for the location yet, we know that it will serve “tasty meals and old-fashioned soda floats” and is the first in a multi-year strategic alliance with Mini Babybel, which has also been named the Official Snack Cheese of Walt Disney World Resort in Florida, the Disneyland Resort in California, and Disney Cruise Line.

“At Bel Brands USA, we are all about sharing smiles and we are delighted to bring that to life through our alliance with Disney,” said Francis Perrin, chief marketing officer of Bel Brands USA, makers of Mini Babybel cheese. “We believe Mini Babybel makes snack time an adventure in deliciousness for the whole family every day and now we can share that fun and great taste with even more families as they enjoy adventures of their own at Disney Parks.”

Once opened in Summer 2018, Toy Story Land will also be home to two major attractions.

Slinky Dog Dash is a family coaster themed as if Andy built it in his backyard using his Mega Coaster Play Kit and some of his other favorite toys. The attraction’s ride vehicles, inspired by the character of Slinky in the film, will send riders dipping, dodging and dashing around turns and drops Andy has created to stretch Slinky’s coils to the max.

Alien Swirling Saucers, is designed as a toy play set that Andy got from Pizza Planet, inspired by the first “Toy Story” film. Aliens are flying around in their toy flying saucers and trying to capture your rocket toy vehicle using “The Claw.”

You can stay connected with icFlorida on FacebookTwitter, and Instagram for more Toy Story Land and attraction news!

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