It's a special time of year as most people offer good wishes.
In spite of the hustle and bustle, we have the time to look at each other in friendship and offer our salutations for a good holiday.
Many choose to escape the cold on the earliest winter departures from Winnipeg. Even more families leave on the first flights after Christmas, taking advantage of the school break to go from turkey stuffing to getting stuffed at an all-inclusive in Mexico and the Caribbean.
To all of our readers, I offer my sincere hope that the holiday will be everything you want it to be.
But readers should be aware; there is a significant change on the horizon relating to passport requirements to Mexico.
QUESTION: Is it correct that Canadians will now need a passport to enter Mexico?
ANSWER: While it has not been announced officially, Mexico will soon require Canadians to have a valid passport when they enter Mexico. The announcement will be made in January. All Canadians travelling to Mexico will be required to have a valid passport as of March 1.
One of our major Canadian tour operators has already sent notice of this requirement to travel agencies, informing them that all passengers will need a passport on their Mexican-bound flights starting on that date.
Apparently, the Mexican embassy is currently working with tour operators and others on plans to make the announcement in early 2010.
Because this policy does not take effect until March 1, for most of the winter season the old rules will apply.
However it is important to recognize that March is still a major travel month to Mexico, with non-stop flights from most tour operators continuing until April from Winnipeg and longer from eastern Canadian cities.
Hundreds of people have already booked March departures. Those who do not yet have passports will be scrambling, especially if they were planning on travelling with families during spring break.
This development underscores the need for travellers to apply for a Canadian passport. It is still the preferred option even in countries that don't require this official form of identification.
It's becoming clear that it will not be long before every country will demand a passport. When the United States demanded that Canadians would be required to produce a passport, the writing was on the wall.
Those who are not in possession of a passport should apply quickly.
I was impressed with how the processing of new applications was speeded up when the U.S. demanded Canadians produce a passport for land crossings. Apply early to ensure there are no snags in your application turnaround.
Preparing your application online can save you significant time when you go to the passport office. You can find it easily at www.ppt.gc.ca/form/index.aspx.
I was shocked to read the following on www.voyage.gc.ca about what some Mexican officials were doing to Canadian travellers before talk of a passport requirement:
"Furthermore, even though a passport is not required for entry into Mexico, most airlines departing from Mexico are now refusing boarding to Canadians returning to Canada without a valid passport even if the same airline accepted to board the passenger without a passport in Canada. We strongly recommend that Canadians carry a valid passport for all air travel to Mexico in order to ensure they may board their return flight to Canada. Canadian citizens should be aware that extra costs derived from being denied boarding in Mexico can be considerably high and must be assumed by the traveller.
For more information, please consult the embassy or consulate of Mexico in Canada or Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada's travel report for Mexico."
QUESTION: Is there anything different I need to be aware of this year if I am travelling over the holiday period to another Canadian destination?
ANSWER: Every year, the Canadian Air Transport Security Authority (CATSA) run into the same challenges with passengers not following some fairly simple guidelines.
As a result, they ask us to inform travellers about things that should be taken into consideration, even though some of them may seem repetitive.
One of the best pieces of advice is to check-in online at the earliest available hour the airline allows. This can give you better seating, a pre-printed boarding pass, and is a time-saver at the airline counter as you only need to drop off your luggage.
On the day of your departure, check your flight departure times frequently. If your flight is delayed, you can remain at home while the airport clogs up with those who neglected to check.
Airport parking can be much scarcer around the holidays. If you plan to take your vehicle, get there early in case you have to wait for someone to leave to free up a space.
The same can be said if someone is dropping you off or picking you up, since airport traffic workers are extremely strict about loading or unloading times. The temporary lots may fill up quickly.
Do not bring wrapped packages. It is time consuming if you are asked to unwrap parcels for a closer look at the electronic toys inside.
Check your airline website for restrictions on pets, sports equipment and size and weight allowances for luggage.
And do have a tremendously joyous holiday.
Forward your travel questions to firstname.lastname@example.org. Ron Pradinuk is president of Journeys Travel & Leisure SuperCentre and can be heard Sundays at noon on CJOB. Previous columns and tips can be found on www.journeystravel.com or read Ron's travel blog at www.thattravelguy.ca