AAA experts advise working with a trusted travel agent, offer tools to help travelers plan a safe and fun getaway
More than one year since the COVID-19 pandemic upended nearly all travel plans, many Americans are eagerly awaiting their next chance to get out once again and explore. Whether planning a trip for spring break or summer, or dreaming of a trip later on, AAA Travel experts advise would-be travelers that things will look very different than the last time many took a vacation.
“The entire travel experience has been transformed by COVID-19. If you’re considering travel sometime this year, it’s more important than ever to do your due diligence ahead of any trip to ensure it is safe and enjoyable,” said Meredith Mitts, spokesperson, AAA – The Auto Club Group. “As vaccines help boost consumer confidence to begin traveling again, we have to remember that wearing masks and social distancing are still a requirement.”
What Travelers Can Expect
- Masks – Face coverings are required on planes, buses, trains and other forms of public transportation traveling into, within or out of the United States, and in U.S. transportation hubs such as airports and stations. Outside of these transportation requirements, states—and some establishments—have mandates and/or restrictions on where and when masks must be worn.
- Auto – Road trips to domestic destinations continue to be the preferred way for many to travel, but even these trips require additional planning and preparation. Those who make the decision to travel by car can refer to AAA’s COVID-19 Travel Restrictions Map and TripTik.AAA.com for the latest state and local travel restrictions, and to identify which rest stops, gas stations, restaurants and hotels are open along their route.
- If renting a car, ask what has been done to clean the vehicle. Hertz, for example, has introduced Hertz Gold Standard Clean, an enhanced vehicle disinfectant and sanitization process. For extra peace of mind, use disinfecting wipes to wipe down door handles, steering wheels, shifters and control panels.
- Hotels – Prior to any hotel stay, call ahead to ensure your hotel is open and ask what precautions they are taking to protect guests. Ask about social distancing protocols like capacity reductions, hotel staff requirements to wear masks at all times and if all amenities are available, like restaurant dining.
- Air – AAA cautions air travelers that in-flight amenities, including food and beverage services, may be limited or unavailable. Some airlines continue to limit flight capacities or block middle seats to allow for social distancing. Due to COVID-19, TSA is allowing one oversized liquid hand sanitizer container, up to 12 ounces per passenger, in carry-on bags, rather than limiting those to 3.4 ounces. Masks are also required at airports and on planes.
- International Air Travel – All air passengers coming to the United States, including U.S. citizens, are required to have a negative COVID-19 test result or documentation of recovery from COVID?19 before they board a flight to the United States. Travelers who don’t provide this to their airline will be denied boarding. There are no test requirements for domestic travel at this time.
- Cruise – Even with the CDC’s no-sail order lifted, many cruise lines have voluntarily extended their suspension of sailing operations further into 2021. Anyone considering a future cruise vacation should talk to the cruise line or a travel agent about the ship’s cancelation policy and to understand what you can expect on a cruise when they start sailing again.
“Vacations are an investment in memory making. COVID-19 reminded us that safeguarding those investments, where possible, is important. We recommend anyone considering making a trip seek the expertise of a trusted travel agent,” continued Mitts. “They are an invaluable resource for travelers navigating evolving travel and public health guidelines.”
Travel agents are more important than ever during a pandemic. They serve as your advocate before, during and after a trip, and can answer questions related to:
- travel insurance options,
- what destinations and attractions are open both domestically and internationally,
- destination-specific testing and quarantine requirements,
- what to do if you need to make last-minute changes to a trip, and much more.
AAA Resources Guide Travel Planning and Offer Inspiration
In addition to trusted travel agents, travelers have a new resource in the AAA Digital TourBook guides, now available for destinations across the U.S., Canada, Mexico and the Caribbean at TourBook.AAA.com. Available on smartphone, tablet or desktop, the new interactive guides feature detailed destination information, must-see attractions, sample itineraries and more.
All featured hotels and restaurants have earned a AAA Diamond designation by going through rigorous inspections conducted by AAA’s team of professional inspectors, based on the latest industry trends and travelers’ expectations. Hotels and restaurants must meet AAA’s high standards of cleanliness, comfort and hospitality to be part of the esteemed AAA Diamond Program, then they are assigned a designation of either Approved, Three Diamond, Four Diamond or Five Diamond.
In the upper echelon of those AAA Diamond hotels and restaurants are just 182 Five Diamonds (119 hotels and 63 restaurants) and 2,354 Four Diamonds (1,731 hotels and 623 restaurants). Out of 53,000 AAA Diamond designated hotels and restaurants across North America, only 0.3% have earned the coveted Five Diamond designation and 4.4% have achieved Four Diamond status.
While inspections were on hold for most of 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, one new Five Diamond hotel was added this year: Four Seasons Hotel One Dalton Street, Boston. Like nearly all hotels, the property has launched enhanced health and safety protocols in response to COVID-19, and it was also recognized with AAA’s Best of Housekeeping designation based on its last on-site inspection. (50 new Four Diamond hotels and two new Four Diamond restaurants were also added to the lists for 2021.)
Travel Restrictions Remain in Place—Plan Ahead
The CDC continues to urge Americans to delay traveling, warning that doing so increases your chance of getting and spreading COVID-19. For those who choose to travel, current guidelines and requirements include the following:
- Travel Restrictions – State and local governments may have travel restrictions in place, including testing requirements, stay-at-home orders and quarantine requirements upon arrival. Check the state and local health department where you are, along your route, and where you are going. Prepare to be flexible, as restrictions and policies may change during your trip.
- COVID-19 Vaccines – If you are eligible, consider getting vaccinated for COVID-19. The CDC says to wait two weeks after getting your second dose to travel for your body to build protection after vaccination. Even if you’ve been vaccinated, continue to follow all official travel requirements and guidelines.
- Testing – The CDC recommends taking a viral COVID-19 test 1 to 3 days before your trip. Do not travel if you test positive. Keep a copy of your negative test results with you during your trip and make plans to get tested again with a viral test 3 to 5 days after you return. Self-quarantine for a full seven days after trip, even if your test is negative. If you don’t get tested, the CDC advises staying home and self-quarantining for 10 days.
To find a travel agent or for more information, visit AAA.com/Travel.