JetBlue adds Buffalo to L.A. at an excellent price for Canadians, plus Zika Virus update and Barbados turns 50

I didn’t get anything directly from the JetBlue folks, but I spotted in the business section this morning that JetBlue will be adding flights from Buffalo-Niagara International and Los Angeles International (LAX) starting June 16.

It’s a bit of a drive for some Torontonians, and there’s the U.S. dollar strength to worry about. But I went online this morning and found seats for a flight to LA on June 18, with a return June 26 (on the red-eye) for about $300 U.S. Even with the horrendous exchange rate we’re stuck with right now, that’s about $418 Canadian dollars. On Air Canada, flights on the same day (albeit not the red eye, which sucks) were $704 Canadian dollars.

Try a bike tour of lovely Santa Monica when you're in the L.A. area. - JIM BYERS PHOTO

Try a bike tour of lovely Santa Monica when you’re in the L.A. area. – JIM BYERS PHOTO

Not that June is the hottest time of year for flights to L.A. from Toronto, but that’s a savings of nearly $300 Canadian dollars per ticket. Buying for two or more people and you’re WAY ahead of the game.

Many Buffalo hotels offer free parking, so even if you spent $30 on gas to get there and $150 Canadian on a hotel, you’d still be way ahead of the game with a JetBlue ticket.

JetBlue recently launched service from Albany, N.Y. to Fort Lauderdale and Orlando in Florida. Albany is three and-a-half hours driving time south of Montreal and about four hours south of Kingston, Ontario. That makes it worth at least considering for a Florida getaway.


The news about the Zika Virus appears to be sweeping the globe. The World Health Organization on Monday said there’s been an “explosive” growth of the virus around the world and said they’d declared a global emergency.

Airlines have been allowing concerned travellers to change their tickets if they were headed for a country affected by the virus. Which is a substantial burden, as affected countries include a good deal of South America, plus the Caribbean and Central America.

U.S. health officials on Monday added four more countries to the list of areas to watch; Curacao, Costa Rica, American Samoa and Nicaragua.

There are no advisories for Canada, at least right now, so that’s good. Still, the virus is said to be extremely problematic for pregnant women or women hoping to get pregnant, as tests indicate the virus can lead to microcephaly in children, often resulting in underformed brains.

Not unlike malaria and dengue fever, the Zika virus is carried by mosquitoes and is thus more problematic in warm-weather countries.

Brazil is gaining unwanted attention due to the Zika virus.

Brazil is gaining unwanted attention due to the Zika virus.

There have been around 4,000 reported cases of microcephaly in Brazil alone since October.

It’s a major issue, which prompted a handy explanation/how-to-cope letter from the folks at Travelzoo Canada, who I write for on a regular basis.

Here’s a handy Q and A on the issue with Travelzoo Canada publisher Michael Duchesne.

Who should be worried about Zika?

Ultimately, the risk to Canadians is low. To date, there have been no reported cases of the virus acquired domestically.

The recommendation for pregnant women or those trying to conceive is to discuss all travel plans with their doctor and consider postponing travel to Zika affected areas or to choose alternative destinations. (see below for cancellation options).

If you’re not pregnant, the risk is diminished so it’s up to you whether you want to alter your plans. It’s important to know that most people recover fully from the Zika virus without severe complications.
If you are still worried after speaking with your doctor, consult with the Public Health Agency of Canada for any outstanding questions or concerns. http://www.healthycanadians.gc.ca/diseases-conditions-maladies-affections/disease-maladie/zika-virus/risks-risques-eng.php?id=risks

What destinations are most risky?

Cases have been reported in Brazil, Chile (Easter Island), Colombia, El Salvador, French Guyana, Guatemala, Honduras, Martinique, Mexico, Panama, Paraguay, Puerto Rico, Suriname and Venezuela.

What you can do if you’ve already booked a vacation to one of the destinations affected with Zika?

Major Canadian airlines have followed the lead of U.S. carriers, like United and American, allowing passengers to alter bookings. Call your carrier and find out your options. Many require passengers to produce a medical note in order to change dates and destinations altogether. Travel companies are also easing restrictions, but it is recommended to ask about cancellation options.

Resorts in Mexico and the Caribbean often take proactive steps in times like these, spraying mosquito repellent and offering mosquito netting for beds.
If you do decide to go to a destination that is deemed at risk, take necessary precautions, including measures to prevent mosquito bites. Use repellent, minimize skin exposure, stay away from areas with stagnant water sources, use air conditioning indoors and use screens for doors and windows.

What type of travel insurance will cover you?

If you don’t qualify for the free trip cancellations offered by airline and tour companies, it’s important to stress that standard travel insurance policies will not cover cancellations for bookings to affected areas either. Only the ‘cancel-for-any-reason’ upgrade allows travellers to cancel because of the Zika virus. This upgrade can be pricier so if you are looking to book travel insurance you’ll have to assess your needs.

Can you suggest alternative travel destinations for those looking for to avoid Zika?

The majority of Canadians are still planning to vacation in Mexico or the Caribbean but if you don’t feel comfortable doing that, you have plenty of other options. Travelzoo is seeing some great current deals to Europe – places like Iceland and Poland – as well as more exotic locales like China. Why not take advantage of these deals and go somewhere you haven’t been before.

If you want some sun and sand, consider the southern U.S., Bahamas, Jamaica, Cuba or other countries that haven’t been affected. Bear in mind though that new cases can still be found so cover yourself with the appropriate insurance if you’re worried.


It’s the 50th birthday of one of my favourite Caribbean countries, Barbados. I fell in love with the beaches and the gentle landscape and the people a few year sago, and went back late in 2014 to check things out again.

Here are a couple of blogs I posted at the time..

Miami Beach is one of the prettiest in Barbados. - JIM BYERS PHOTO

Miami Beach is one of the prettiest in Barbados. – JIM BYERS PHOTO


Here are some blogs I wrote from my last visit, a little more than a year ago…



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