Explorations From Home: Aruba and the Bahamas

https://youtu.be/oGmZ5SCXF4M

Join AAA Travel as we learn more about AAA members' two favorite destinations- Aruba and the Bahamas. Learn the need to know information about the islands, as you prepare for your next trip. Special guests include the Aruba Tourism Board and the Islands of the Bahamas, plus AAA Travel advisors will be in the session to answer any questions you have on exclusive member benefits and options while planning your warm-weather escape! This session is hosted on GoToWebinar, and attending is easy.


6 Questions to ask yourself when considering travel insurance

Not all travel insurance is created equal. Like all insurance, there are levels of protection. It is common to find an array of price points and you may feel overwhelmed as you examine the coverage levels on a line by line basis. AAA is here to help. A good place to start is asking yourself these simple questions.

Is my trip insurable?

Travel insurance is designed to cover what is NOT refundable by your travel providers and their policies. Some trips can’t be insured with traditional travel insurance, such as many business trips, inexpensive road trips, or trips taken with reward miles or points. The main thing you need to ask yourself is what would you lose in non-refundable deposits and payments if your trip is canceled. The immediate follow-up, once you know the value of your risk, is whether or not that exceeds the cost of your insurance policy, and whether you feel the need to protect that investment.

What do I need from a travel insurance plan?

Even if you do not have a huge financial risk, travel insurance may still be right for you. International healthcare coverage may be a concern. While you may already have medical coverage through your health insurance, you may find exemptions for international destinations. This is common with Medicare plans.It is important to understand the terms of your existing policies. For example, does your health care offer in-network resources at your destination? Do you have car rental coverage through your auto insurance policy? You also may have more traditional travel insurance-type coverage, such as lost luggage and medical evacuation, through the credit card you use to book the trip. Once you know what’s covered, you can determine any holes in liabilities, and find the best travel insurance plan to fill in those needs.

Should I use an agent?

Consulting with your AAA Travel advisor about your trip and the insurable interests you have is important. Together you can review your list and focus on the items needing coverage. Advisors will also act as your advocate when they can, helping you prepare a claim. AAA Members are not required to purchase travel insurance from AAA, and you have the capability to use a third party seller, or even buy direct from a travel provider. Remember, a good travel advisor will help you find the best travel insurance policy for you, regardless of the source.

How do I know the travel insurance company is fair?

Reviews. Plain and simple, you should look into the company's reviews. Start with a simple web search of the company, and then add in some keywords such as “claim” “delay” or  even“scam.” Read the reviews carefully. Combine your advisor's recommendations, user-generated reviews, and the company’s star ratings for a holistic view on what to expect from your policy in the event of an issue.

When is the right time to buy travel insurance?

You should buy your policy when you book or place a deposit on a trip. Most travel insurance policies require purchasing your policy within two weeks of your first trip payment or trip deposit. You will want to make the most of your investment in the insurance, and protect your costs from the very beginning. Starting your policy at the time of booking allows this. You should also consider playing for your insurance policy with a credit card. That way, if you ever have a problem with the policy, you can dispute the charges through your card company. That type of dispute is rare, but the whole concept of insurance is “just in case”, so why not add that layer of protection.

Does AAA have travel insurance?

AAA Travel partners with Allianz Travel to offer our Members travel insurance. You can learn more about Allianz Travel through AAA by visiting this dedicated webpage, where you can fill out our online form or you can always call AAA Travel at 1-800-222-7448.


Long weekend away! A necessary escape.

Guest written by Mike Rotondo, Managing Director of Travel Services.

With the changing of the seasons, now is the perfect time to step outdoors. Mild temperatures, fall foliage, and pumpkin spice everything makes it easy to escape for a long weekend. In that spirit, my wife and I spent some time away from home, spending a night at a hotel and a couple of days at the outlets to shop for her birthday gift.

After 23 years of marriage, we came to the realization that I am not a good shopper.  My wife on the other hand is an excellent shopper. She knows good deals and where to find them. A few years ago I decided to make the bold offer to take her to the outlets so she can pick out her own gifts. It started out as an all-day event with a promise from me not to complain at all.  Don’t tell her, but I actually enjoy spending the time with her and I do find some good deals for me as well. This year, and being a little stir crazy, we decided to take it up a notch to get out of the house for more than a day. We made it a weekend away.

The Tanger Outlets in Riverhead and Deer Park served as our destination. New York in the fall is beautiful, and we knew the ride out to the outlets would be wonderful. We took the quick start to our weekend, wasting no time and making it to the outlets on a Friday, which happened to be a holiday.

Friday’s holiday must-have impacted the number of shoppers, as it seemed fewer people were out and about. This was something we had expected. However, the outlets were prepared for any type of crowd, offering social distancing guidelines, sanitation stations, and extra cleaning crews. Tanger Outlets also offered AAA Members a free coupon book for the stores found in the complex. It must have been in the spirit of the holiday, as there is normally a $5 fee for the book. All I needed to do was simply stop by the guest services kiosk and show my AAA Membership card.

The only noticeable difference in this trip, compared to birthday adventures of the past, was that some stores did not have open dressing rooms. It wasn’t much of a hindrance, and we carried on.

Shops did require masks and had signs referencing social distancing at their entrance and throughout the store.  There were great deals to be had.  Most stores had signage marketing up to 70% off, some as high as 80% off.  My wife especially liked Coach, Vera Bradley, GAP, Eddie Bauer, Anne Taylor, Pandora, VANS, and Michael Kors.

Public restrooms were clean and provided for a touch-free experience for sinks and dryers. There were also no entrance doors, eliminating those “how do I handle this handle” experiences.

Not every vendor was open at the Food Court: A few of the stores were closed but staples like McDonald's, Annie Ann's pretzels, the Chinese restaurant, and gyros were available with both indoor and outdoor dining options.

After a day at the outlets, we were happy to relax at The Inn at Fox Hollow. This AAA Three Diamond Hotel is also a Best of Housekeeping award property.  AAA members receive a 25% discount. Our check-in process was easy. The hotel staff greeted us from behind plexiglass as we entered through the touchless hotel doors. While the outdoor seating area and pool was enjoyed by various guests, everyone was spaced appropriately.  The Inn’s staff was very friendly and accommodating, in fact, they brought us a plate of free cookies while we were in the lobby.

If you ever have the chance to stay at this hotel, it is worth knowing that there are two floors, and there is an elevator. Your hotel stay includes a buffet breakfast however due to COVID restrictions, our visit did not include a buffet.  Instead, the hotel offered a plated breakfast for pick up during the morning hours. Our dishes included waffles, eggs and bacon, a muffin of choosing, fruit and juice. You could eat outside, at a table, or in your room.

We opted for dinner at Rare650, a AAA Three Diamond restaurant. This place was fantastic! The restaurant offered a spectacular service and food selection. Rare650 is known for steaks and sushi, and we indulged in various cuts of steak and sides, all of which all were prepared perfectly.

We continued our shopping on Saturday, with a visit to the outlets at Tanger Deer Park. We found that shoppers were more abundant here due to it being a Saturday, yet everyone followed social distancing. The stores did limit the number of shoppers allowed inside at one time, and face masks were worn by everyone.  We were also excited to see the facility host a small outdoor farmers market of fresh fruits and vegetables.

The weekend was a welcomed break from the monotony of our COVID restricted normalcy. It was a chance to get out, bond as a family, and enjoy one another. My wife and I are well-traveled, and we know Europe, or our favorite islands, will be there when we are ready. For now, that peaceful weekend in a fantastic inn in New York was just what we needed.

As you plan your next escape, whether near or far, I encourage you to think AAA. We saved hundreds from our weekend by using the perks of our membership. Chat with your AAA Travel advisor and together you can plan your own getaway. Call your advisor at 1-800-222-7448, tell them Mike sent you.


New hotel "perks" during COVID era

Once upon a time, hotels wooed guests with luxurious offerings, such as free hot breakfasts and resort wifi. But now, various chains and boutique hotels are offering add-ons and incentives in response to COVID-19. Some hotels are going as far as healthcare access and on-demand doctors. Yes, properties are pledging best practices according to CDC and EPA guidelines such as frequent cleaning, air-filtration systems, contactless check-in, and decreased capacity, but some are really looking to please (and reassure).

At one Dominican Republic resort, visitors who show evidence of a negative COVID test have been assured a spot at an onsite hospital in the event their situation changes. The resort has arranged an entire floor to be reserved only for their hotel guests. For those staying over five days at Atlantis in Dubai, you can book free COVID testing in the comfort of your own suite.

Montage Hotels has formed a new partnership with One Medical, where guests can schedule virtual doctor's visits and consultations while on the property, and continue to do so for an entire month after their departure.

Even golf resorts, a sport that has gained popularity thanks to open spaces and social distance, are making adjustments. One Colorado Springs resort removed real-life caddies and golf carts, replacing them with Tempo Walk. These hands-free, autonomous caddies come complete with GPS yardage and the capacity to hold a cooler of untouched drinks.

And while temperature checks at the door are not uncommon, The Cape, in Los Cabos, Mexico, is utilizing a full-body sanitation station at their entrance. As visitors walk through the report doors that are treated with a spray of nonstaining mist from head to toe. The hotel also offers sanitizer stations, QR codes for menus around the property and a little package of masks and sanitizers in-room.

For one resort in Montana, they've moved away from shuttle vans and busses. No this is not a chance for socially distanced black car transfers. Instead, the hotel leaves a Lexus at the baggage claim curb, so that guests can drive themselves.

Closer to home, Ocean House in Rhode Island has dreamed up a "BarMobile" experience, where an expert mixologist pushes a "Ferrari-red" bar cart from room-to-room, mixing craft drinks -- with complimentary canapés -- for guests to enjoy solo. At Chatham Bars Inn in Cape Cod, guests can set up private dining experiences seaside, on the lawn, in their rooms. With so many AAA Northeast Members headed to the Finger Lakes, places like the Inns of Aurora in upstate New York have reacted. The Inns built a five-mile trail system where guests can also take private archery and fishing lessons led by their new resident "Outdoorsman." Not to be outdone, Nantucket's White Elephant is now advertising rates for stays in 30-day increments, allowing travelers to social distance in elegance.

One thing is certain, the hotels are reacting to a demand for travel. People are still longing to step away, to visit new places and explore opportunities. The industry is reacting to the new traveler sentiment, one that shows people will travel if the accommodations are clean, safe, and compliant.

As you begin to plan your next escape, a AAA Travel advisor can help you navigate the travel landscape. Together, you and your advisor can find the destination and accommodations that will feed your wanderlust while doing all they can to protect your health. To speak with your advisor, please call 1-800-222-7448.

 


Cooking with Oceania's Executive Chef

Throughout the pandemic, Oceania has been connecting with travelers through a series of videos that routinely get thousands of views on its Facebook page. Some of the most popular posts have been focused on cooking. Recently Chef Renald Macouin treated Travel Weekly's Jamie Biesiada to a private lesson. Macouin, corporate executive chef overseeing the culinary operation and special projects onboard Oceania and Regent Seven Seas Cruises, led Biesiada in a virtual cooking lesson from his home in Stirling, Scotland. Together they made a decadent chocolate mousse and pan-fried salmon with leek fondue and beurre blanc. Learn how YOU can make your own ship-worthy dishes by watching the recorded session.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-E75R0WF63c&feature=emb_logo


Trick or treat? CDC's No Sail Order on cruising possibly set to end on Halloween

Halloween is a spooky holiday filled with candy, costumes and scares, filled with goblins and ghosts living and dead. However, in true 2020 style, the holiday acts as a "dead" line for the cruise industry. According to Axios, CDC director Robert Redfield was overruled when he pushed to extend the order on cruises next year, citing two sources with direct knowledge of the conversation Sept. 29 in the White House Situation Room.

Vice president Mike Pence reportedly oversaw the meeting in which the administration decided to extend the No Sail Order by one month. A task force member involved in the talks is quoted as saying that the administration hopes to see the cruise industry "demonstrate it has a plan to ensure 'ships can sail in a safe and responsible manner and that the companies assume the burden of dealing with any possible outbreaks.'

The extension through Oct. 31 would match CLIA's current voluntary suspension of cruises. Industry representatives are set to meet with the Trump administration on Friday for a review of their transformation and the dozens of ways that they will mitigate risk and ensure public health. The outcome of that meeting will help determine if the order needs to be extended beyond October 31st.

The Axios report says that public health officials have privately complained that the move is politically motivated because of the industry's economic significance in Florida, a key battleground state. White House deputy press secretary Brian Morgenstern rejected that, Axios said, saying the task force enables "the science and data to implement policies that protect the public health and also facilitate the safe reopening of our country. It is not about politics. It is about saving lives."

AAA Travel is seeing members ready to return to cruise. While the cruise lines are suspended, their still selling inventory for 2021 and beyond. AAA Travel continues to see pricing and offers that at levels the industry has not seen in some time. While we all our stuck on shore for now, we know the ships will depart again soon. If you have questions about your travel plans, cruise of not, AAA Travel advisors are here to help.  With their new SmartDepart Certifications, advisors are constantly learning and processing industry changes that pertain to member travel. Let your advisor find the right travel destination with you, and offer you insight into what you need to know to have a safe and enjoyable vacation.

To speak with your AAA Travel advisor, please call 1-800-222-7448.


Celebrity Cruise: Healthy Return To Sailing

Earlier this week, the Healthy Sail Panel's expert recommendations for revolutionizing health and safety in cruising were submitted to the CDC. The panel presented 74 recommendations across five core focus areas, a result of a months-long study and are not only meant to inform Royal Caribbean Groups' already exceptional sanitation standards — but a guide to be shared across the industry and the world.

The panel is a collaboration between Royal Caribbean Group and Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings Ltd. and includes experts across public health, infectious diseases, biosecurity, hospitality, and maritime operations.

The five core focus areas are:

  1. Testing and Screening
  2. Sanitation and Ventilation
  3. Response and Contingency Planning
  4. Destination and Excursion Planning
  5. Mitigating Risks for Crew Members

The efforts of this panel, and the industry as a whole, have been placed before the CDC on the eve of a possible end to the suspension of cruise services in the United States. While ships have returned to European waterways, it is not yet clear if the US agency will lift the no sail band at the end of September.

While the ships remain docked, booking opportunity and exclusive cruise incentives remain strong. Cabin inventory is filling at a great pace, with some 2021 sailings near complete booking levels. AAA Travel is here to help you plan and find the right cruise. Our AAA Travel Advisors are staying up to date on the COVID impact on the cruise industry, including ports and itineraries opening and closing in response to the pandemic. One thing is certain; ships will sail again. Planning now will allow you to secure your vacation, and with easier rules around booking changes, the financial risks are minimal. To speak with you AAA Travel advisor, please call 1-800-222-7448.

 


America ready to return to cruising? Indicators say YES.

Europe has seen a steady, incremental return to both large and small cruise ships over the past month. Cruise lines are encouraged that success there can be replicated here in the United States. Cruise executives referenced the European success in discussions with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in an effort to lift the agency's No Sail Order.

MSC Cruises and Carnival's Italian brand, Costa Cruises, each resumed operations with one ship out of Italy, with strict health and safety protocols and at a lower capacity than normal. Both planned to launch second ships in the Mediterranean this month and next, Costa on Sept. 19.

Prior to the large-ship restart, the European-based lines Hurtigruten, SeaDream Yacht Club, and Ponant Cruises had all been operating in European waterways in June, now offering the industry months of learning and data collection.

Norwegian Cruise Line has gone on the record stating that the example being set in Europe should indicate to the CDC that, with the proper protocols in place, cruise lines should be able to resume service in the U.S., as well.

SeaDream has plans to bring its 100-passenger SeaDream I to Barbados in November, to launch seven-day cruises visiting only St. Vincent and the Grenadines and Grenada, which are open to Americans, with protocols similar to what they were in Norway. This includes passengers getting tested before flying into Barbados and again before boarding, and onboard social distancing. As of now, mask-wearing onboard will not be mandatory. SeaDream also said it is likely that the line will have to limit passengers to its own shore excursions.

A combination of testing, onboard protocols and what passengers do before and after a cruise is all part of a successful cruising restart. Whether Americans will be as willing to abide as closely to such rules as Europeans have is unknown. Mask adherence among Americans on ships would have to be compulsory and enforced.

While the US No Sail Order is currently set to expire at the end of September, it is widely expected to be extended. The question remains on how long the ban will last, and if the European success stories will impact the CDC's approach to opening our ports for departure.

As you plan your next cruise, you may have questions about safety, protocols and requirements. AAA Travel advisors are here to help. Leading the industry with our new SmartDepart Certification, these advisors are staying up to date on the impacts COVID-19 is having on the travel environment. To speak with you AAA Travel advisor, please call 1-800-222-7448.


Virtual Travel Event: Explore New York's Finger Lakes Region

The Finger Lakes region of New York is a 9,000-square-mile, four-season playground, set against a backdrop of Mother Nature's best work - waterfalls, gorges, rolling hills and miles of spectacular shore-line around 11 glacial lakes and one Great Lake. Join AAA and four local experts on Thursday, October 1 at 1 pm to hear tips for planning your next Finger Lakes vacation.

Breaking News: Hawaii to Bypass Quarantine with Negative COVID-19 Test Results

Hawaiian officials have declared that travelers arriving from out of state will be able to bypass the mandatory 14-day quarantine upon arrival if they provide a negative coronavirus test. Hawaii Governor David Ige revealed that travelers who take a COVID-19 test with a negative result within 72 hours before their flight arrives in the state would be able to enter without quarantine starting on October 15.

Travelers who complete an FDA-approved nasal swab COVID-19 test within 72 hours of their flight arrival in Hawaii — and are able to produce evidence of negative test results — will be eligible to forego the state’s 14-day quarantine instructions

“I want to emphasize that this pre-travel testing will allow us to add a greater element of safety for travel into our state,” Governor Ige said in a statement.

The state is working with drug store operator CVS and healthcare provider Kaiser Permanente to conduct the tests. Hawaii previously announced two planned tourism restart dates, but a lack of supplies and a spike in confirmed cases forced delays.

Hawaii's government also requires travelers to fill out its online "Safe Travels" application in an effort to keep its residents and visitors healthy during the coronavirus pandemic.

Travelers can fill out two forms: one for interisland travel and one for trans-Pacific travel. The new plan digitizes the process from paper and uses the same form for each traveler type. The forms collect health and contact information to assist in public health monitoring.

Interisland travelers may submit and enroll in the 14-day non-quarantined travel monitoring program but must stay in specific geographical areas and limit their contact with people not under self-quarantine restrictions. Travelers who participate must sign waivers saying they voluntarily chose to participate, as well as allow electronic monitoring and access to their health information. All are required to pay for associated costs.

Travelers can still arrive in Hawaii without a COVID-19 test, but they will be required to quarantine for 14 days, or until they are able to provide negative test results. They will also have to undergo a health screening at the airport along with visitors who have taken a test.

As you plan your return to travel, you may have questions. AAA Travel advisors are here to help, whether you're planning a trip to Hawaii or a weekend in Vermont. To speak with a travel advisor, please call 1-800-222-7448.