Red tide in Texas, tips for eternal vacations and best loos

Red tide of Texas

An unwelcome guest has arrived on Texas’s shores: red tide.

The disagreeable algal bloom is affecting a large swath of Gulf of Mexico coastline, from Freeport, near Galveston, to Mexico. The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department is monitoring the entire area, including such popular beach destinations as South Padre Island, Port Aransas and Corpus Christi. The last time such a widespread bloom was seen was in 2000.

“I’ve received many calls from people asking if they can fish and eat the seafood,” said Meridith Byrd, a marine biologist with the department. “The answer is ‘yes’ and ‘yes.’ ”

Other activities on the “yes” list: eating oysters (for now — the Texas oyster season starts Nov. 1), lying on the beach and swimming in the gulf and bays.

“For most people, red tide is more of an annoyance than a health issue,” Byrd said.

However, swimmers with sensitive skin may notice a rash, and folks who breathe in the sea spray may experience symptoms similar to an allergy attack, such as coughing and sneezing.

Pick a calm day for a beach outing; strong winds and surf stir up the red tide, causing it to release the irritating aerosol. The algal blooms are also less potent in the bays than in the gulf.

“There’s no way to combat it at this point,” Byrd said. “We just have to keep our eyes on it.”

The season started around late August/early September and is expected to last for at least a few more weeks. For updates, check the Red Tide Status at

Take a year, or two, off

A vacation can be hard enough to plan. Now imagine a trip that lasts three months or a year or interminably.

Last week, a roomful of people were plotting, or at least dreaming about, such an ad­ven­ture in a downtown Washington bar, at the second annual Meet, Plan, Go!, a national event held in 17 cities to offer advice on taking a long hiatus.

A seasoned panel including a financial planning expert, a family guy with a mobile brood, a high-powered career-breaker and a peripatetic free spirit provided a stream of practical info, guidance and encouragement. Here’s a peek at the tips CoGo compiled:

Start saving as soon as possible. Some couples will live off one income and bank the second one. Or pursue a side gig, such as coaching, consulting, dog walking, etc. Also pay off any debts before you go.

Plan a budget. How much you’ll need depends on your route (around-the-world ticket or leg-by-leg), the countries you visit (Europe is more expensive than Southeast Asia) and your level of comfort (when money is tight, hit the hostels). For example: One couple budgeted $60,000 for a 21-month around-the-world voyage. An Easy Rider saved $13,000 to motorcycle through South America.

Make money on the road by working on farms, freelancing, teaching English, etc. Avoid work permits by sticking with U.S.-based companies.

Save money by booking the big flights first (from home) and the smaller legs on the go. Also befriend local buses and trains.

Use your travel to beef up your resume: Learn a language or new skill, blog or teach English.

For more info and advice, go to

Travel ticker

American Airlines is expanding curbside check-in for international flights. The airline has offered the new service in 28 airports, including New York’s JFK, since September and plans to add 31 more by early November. . . . Barbados has launched Fully Accessible Barbados to help disabled travelers with hotels, bathrooms, restaurants and more. Info: . . . Chicago’s Field Museum takes the cake (of soap) as the winner of the 10th annual America’s Best Restroom, presented by Cintas Corp. The Renaissance Arlington Capital View Hotel snagged second place. For a list of winners: