As geopolitical tensions dominate international headlines, AAA is providing guidance for Americans interested in traveling overseas.
The US State Department has issued a Level 4: “Do Not Travel” advisory for both Russia and Ukraine. These two countries are not top destinations for American travelers and are more than a thousand miles away from some of the most popular destinations like Rome, Paris and London - which are open to American travelers.
Travel providers are making adjustments that can affect plans for some travelers. Flights scheduled to stop or fly over Russia are being rerouted, which could result in delays or additional stops. More than 400 cruise sailings with planned stops in St. Petersburg, Russia are also being adjusted.
AAA urges international travelers to:
- Closely monitor news reports
- Work with a professional travel advisor
- Ensure you use a licensed travel provider when purchasing any tours/excursions
- Purchase travel insurance, but understand most policies have exclusions related to war
American travelers should also enroll in the Department of State’s Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP). STEP enrollment gives you the latest security updates and makes it easier for the U.S. Embassy to contact you in an emergency.
“Before this conflict, we saw a resurgence in demand for European travel, but understandably, many of these travelers are seeing the reports about what’s happening in Ukraine and have questions about their trip,” said Debbie Haas, Vice President of Travel for AAA – The Auto Club Group. “That’s why we always encourage people to talk to a travel expert like the ones at AAA. They work with travel providers who are vetted and have staff in these countries who provide real-time updates about conditions in the area. Travel advisors are also your advocate, helping you understand your rights and who can help take the hassle out of managing your trip.”
Travelers’ COVID Concerns are Easing
Before the Russia-Ukraine conflict, travel was on the road to recovery from the pandemic. A quarterly AAA survey – fielded in January - revealed that 71% of Minnesotans and 72% of Iowans felt comfortable traveling; a significant increase from the 42% and 43% respectively reported in early 2021. As a result, travel bookings with AAA – The Auto Club Group were stronger in the first two months than the same time in 2021.
According to the survey, traveler confidence was driven by:
- The COVID-19 vaccine
- Belief that the risk of contracting the virus is the same wherever they go
- People are more knowledgeable and less afraid about the virus
- The implementation of enhanced safety measures
- Reports that COVID-19 cases and deaths are declining
Despite their growing comfort, AAA’s survey shows some lingering concerns related to COVID travel restrictions. Thirty-one percent of Minnesota and Thirty-two percent of Iowa respondents say it’s challenging to understand the COVID-related requirements for international travel. As a result, it’s affecting their willingness or ability to plan a trip.
“There’s that segment of people who really want to go, but are hesitant because they’re unclear about how COVID requirements may impact their trip,” Haas said. “For anyone who has those concerns, we encourage you to talk to a travel expert. We’ve found that travelers who speak to AAA travel advisors about COVID requirements for their desired trips feel more confident in planning.”
Self-serve tools on AAA.com
AAA enhanced its website, enabling travelers who visit AAA.com/Travel-With-Confidence to view travel requirements based on their vaccination status, destination and date of travel. AAA’s website and mobile app also provide a breakdown of the requirements for various modes of travel.
AAA’s Top Three COVID-Related Travel Tips
1. Thoroughly Plan your Trip
- Know the destination’s COVID-19 restrictions and guidelines
- Understand if these restrictions will limit certain amenities
- Take photos of important documents such as passports and vaccination cards
- Bring a COVID-19 test in case you become ill while traveling
2. Work with a Travel Advisor
Travel Advisors can:
- Explore options and construct itineraries that best suit your interests, time and budget
- Provide the latest COVID-related restrictions or requirements by destination
- Serve as the traveler’s advocate if you need to reschedule or cancel plans
- Help find alternate flights or accommodations in case of a flight cancellation or weather-related disruption
3. Consider Travel Insurance
While policies and coverages vary, travel insurance can provide reimbursement for:
- Nonrefundable payments if you must cancel your trip due to illness (including COVID-19)
- Medical emergencies or treatment (most U.S. health care policies do not cover you abroad)
- Lodging, transportation and food expenses incurred due to flight cancellations
- Flight delays of as little as three hours
- Lost, delayed or damaged luggage
AAA’s travel survey shows that 44% of Minnesotans and 39% of Iowans are more likely to purchase travel insurance than before the pandemic. However, only 25% of Minnesotans and 24% of Iowans feel very well informed about travel insurance.
“Now more than ever, travel insurance offers very relevant benefits before and during travel,” Haas continued. “Policies generally exclude the impact of war. Yet it’s still enormously important to have travel insurance, as policies provide medical coverage overseas and reimbursement for various unexpected interruptions to your trip.”
AAA Offers New Emergency Medical Support Plan for Travelers
For travelers who want a safety net, but do not need medical insurance or to insure the cost of their trip, The Auto Club Group is now offering its members a protection plan that provides round-the-clock emergency evacuation and medical support services, in case they become sick (even with COVID-19) or are injured while traveling the world. The new product called “Worldwide LifelineTM” is exclusively available on AAA.com at a discounted rate to members of the AAA club’s 14 state territory. The services are provided by Global Rescue, a leading provider of medical, security, evacuation and travel risk management services.
Worldwide LifelineTM is different than Travel Insurance
- Travel Insurance policies are typically purchased to cover a single trip and are priced to insure the cost of your trip, offer medical insurance coverage, and provide financial reimbursement for trip cancellation or interruption.
- Worldwide LifelineTM is an annual membership program, like AAA membership, designed to provide on demand emergency rescue and travel support whenever and wherever you need it without having to file claims or report your trip in advance.
- To learn more, visit AAA.com/GlobalRescue
Travelers can book a vacation, find a travel advisor or additional travel information by visiting AAA.com/Travel or AAA.com/Travel-With-Confidence.
About the AAA Consumer Pulse™ Survey
The AAA Consumer Pulse™ Survey was conducted online among residents living in Minnesota from January 26 – 31, 2022. A total of 400 residents completed the survey. Survey results asked of all respondents have a maximum margin of error of ± 4.9% points. Responses are weighted by age and gender to ensure reliable and accurate representation of the adult population (18+) in Minnesota.
The AAA Consumer Pulse™ Survey was conducted online among residents living in Iowa from January 26 – 31, 2022. A total of 400 residents completed the survey. Survey results asked of all respondents have a maximum margin of error of ± 4.9% points. Responses are weighted by age and gender to ensure reliable and accurate representation of the adult population (18+) in Iowa.