Welcome to The Check-In, our weekend feature focusing on all things travel.
The cost for TSA PreCheck is dropping
The Transportation Security Administration announced last week that it's actually lowering the enrollment fee for TSA PreCheck — the price has dropped from $85 to $78, with the online renewal still $70. TSA PreCheck is an expedited screening program that gets travelers through airport security lines faster; they can skip things like taking off their shoes and removing their laptops from their backpacks. The TSA said in October, 91 percent of TSA PreCheck passengers spent less than five minutes in security lines. There are more than 500 enrollment centers across the United States where travelers can apply for TSA PreCheck, and once approved, their membership is valid for five years.
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It just got a little easier for tour groups to visit Hong Kong
The Hong Kong government is continuing to relax its COVID-19 restrictions, declaring on Monday that inbound tour groups will now be able to visit theme parks and museums upon arrival. This comes more than a month after the government lifted its mandatory three-day hotel quarantine for travelers coming from overseas. While their movement is a little less restricted, members of tour groups will still need to take multiple COVID-19 tests during their first week in Hong Kong, and they have to wait three days before going to restaurants, bars, and clubs.
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Destination of the Week: Puerto Vallarta, Mexico
You can't help but fall in love with Puerto Vallarta. This resort town on Mexico's Pacific coast is just as modern as it is traditional, known for its beautiful beaches, historical neighborhoods with cobblestone streets, and robust nightlife. Art is everywhere, from the murals painted on the sides of buildings to the expertly beaded handicrafts made by Huichol Indigenous artists living in the nearby mountains, and checking out the sculptures along the Malecón boardwalk is a must. The vibe is decidedly laid back — there's no rush when you're in Puerto Vallarta, unless you're trying to catch one of the gorgeous sunsets over the water.
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Don't miss: Strolling along the mile-long Malecón is a good introduction to Puerto Vallarta. The ocean views are unparalleled, and there are plenty of boutiques, art galleries, and restaurants offering authentic goods and dishes; you can easily avoid falling into a tourist trap. The Parroquia de Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe, or Church of Our Lady of Guadalupe, is beautiful inside and out, topped with an ornate crown of angels. Dec. 12 is Our Lady of Guadalupe Day, and there are processions and parades and other celebratory events happening in the surrounding streets. Snorkelers and swimmers should also plan on visiting Los Arcos Marine Park, where it's easy to spend all day exploring the caves, tunnels, and coral reef.
Where to stay: Puerto Vallarta has a wide range of options when it comes to accommodations, from budget lodging to five-star living. Many are all-inclusive, like the affordable Villa Del Palmar Beach Resort & Spa, which has pretty rave reviews on TripAdvisor, and the Hyatt Ziva Puerto Vallarta, known for its private beach. The luxe adults-only Casa Velas has an on-site golf course, an organic garden where its restaurants grow their herbs, and resident peacocks that roam the grounds.
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What to pack: Comfortable shoes. You'll likely be doing a lot of walking, as there's so much to see and a lot of the neighborhoods travelers usually visit are close to each other. If beach days are on the agenda, come prepared with several swimsuits, a hat, a coverup, water shoes, and sunscreen. Puerto Vallarta can get very hot and humid, so short-sleeved shirts, tank tops, shorts, and skirts will offer relief. It's a safe bet to say that you can leave the bulky sweaters and coats at home.
How to get here: The Licenciado Gustavo Diaz Ordaz International Airport serves Puerto Vallarta, with flights from the U.S. available on United, American, Delta, Alaska, Spirit, and Aeromexico. Many cruise ships also have Puerto Vallarta on their Mexico itineraries.
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What's the weather like? Puerto Vallarta has a tropical climate, and its rainy season runs from June to mid-October. It's typically the most humid in August and September, but even in December it can feel stifling to those who aren't used to a muggy environment.
Plan accordingly: Upcoming events and openings to add to your calendar
You can once again make it a Blockbuster night. The Blockbuster Pop-Up Bar is opening in Los Angeles on Nov. 19, giving visitors another chance to wander the aisles of the video store — except this time, your sister won't be there to tell you, "Hurry up and pick something out already, no not Clueless, we've already seen that 20 times!" When you're ready to grab a drink or get some dinner, just pick up one of the VHS cases lining the shelves — that's where the menus are. Of course, you'll also have a Blockbuster membership card, which doubles as a drink ticket. Starting Dec. 10, brunch will be available on weekends. Tickets start at $29 for admission and one throwback cocktail.
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Theater lovers, get ready — 2023 is going to be a big year for Broadway. Several shows are opening in the late winter and early spring, including Pictures From Home starring Nathan Lane, Danny Burstein, and Zoë Wanamaker on Feb. 9; Andrew Lloyd Webber's Bad Cinderella starring Linedy Genao on March 23; Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street starring Josh Groban and Annaleigh Ashford on March 26; and Camelot starring Andrew Burnap, Phillipa Soo, and Jordan Donica on April 13. These productions each have something that sets them apart — Sweeney Todd will feature a full 26-piece orchestra, while Camelot has an updated book by Aaron Sorkin.