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Briefs: Swine flu altering travel plans, so stay informed

Because the situation with the H1N1 virus, or swine flu, is changing rapidly, travelers need as much information as possible before making travel decisions. Here's what you need to consider as you make or rearrange travel plans.

Keep current. Go to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Web page at or

Check with your airline. Policies, dates and change fees vary widely by airline. Some airlines, for example, are waiving rebooking fees. For an aggregated list of airline policies, go to and click on "Concerned About Swine Flu? Read This First!"

Be prepared for changes in cruise itineraries, especially those that include Mexico. Cruise contracts give cruise lines great latitude to change an itinerary, so don't expect a refund or credit for ports missed.

Read the fine print in insurance policies. You may be covered if you want to cancel, or you may not. The "cancel-for-any-reason" policy, often an add-on, is just what it says it is. If you have regular travel insurance, it probably will not cover travel after April 24 (and it may not have covered flu outbreaks anyway).

Bookmark these sources: World Health Organization,; the State Department's travel page,; and a swine flu health map,

Spellbound in Chicago

If you've ever wished you could step into the sets of the movies based on J.K. Rowling's bestsellers, plan a trip to Chicago this summer. "Harry Potter: The Exhibition" recently opened at the Chicago Museum of Science and Industry. The exhibit features sets, props, costumes and more from the five movies so far about the Boy Who Lived, and it will be updated with gear from the upcoming films in the series. Featured sets include the Gryffindor Common Room, the Great Hall and Hagrid's hut, where you'll want to look out for Buckbeak in the pumpkin patch. The exhibition continues in Chicago through Sept. 27, then will tour other major venues for the next few years. Maybe Hogwarts will settle somewhere around Tampa Bay for a spell. To get more information or tickets to the Chicago show, go to

History remembered, reenacted

Colonial Williamsburg's African-American Experience, above, celebrates 30 years of programs designed to share the history of slaves and free blacks in the historic Virginia town. This year, the living history museum has added an interactive walking tour, a reenactment of a slavery debate featuring George Washington, and a black preacher's sermon. A commemorative weekend is set for July 18-19. Colonial Williamsburg Resort is offering a deal from May 31 through Sept. 3, starting at $599 for a family of four for a four-night stay. The package includes museum passes, parking, a $200 resort credit and other discounts. To learn more, go to and click on "Packages & Specials" or call toll-free 1-800-447-8679.

Fun is brewing in St. Louis

St. Louis is the destination for beer lovers next month as the St. Louis Brewers Heritage Festival takes place June 5-6. This is the festival's third year, with 60 beers on tap and all the festivities in Forest Park under one large "Bavarian beer-fest style tent," according to the festival Web site, Tickets are $30 in advance, $35 at the door. No one under 21 is allowed into the festival, but designated drivers are allowed in free. See the Web site for details.

See fish now and later

Here's a hands-free way to capture your close encounters with underwater life: the Liquid Image Explorer Swim Camera Mask. The mask features a waterproof 5-megapixel videocamera. Once you touch a button, the lens above the bridge of your nose records about 20 frames a second. You can store about a minute of video in the camera or nearly 2 hours on a microSD card (sold separately). See how it works at; it retails for $99.95 at

Compiled from Times staff and wire reports

Briefs: Swine flu altering travel plans, so stay informed 05/09/09 [Last modified: Saturday, May 9, 2009 4:30am]
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