Explorations from home: Safari! African Travel and AAA

Join AAA and our partners African Travel as we take you LIVE to the Shamwari Private Game Reserve in South Africa for a sunset game drive. Multiple rangers will be in the bush and tracking animals live. Hosts will provide insights on planning your own safari and will answer questions during this exclusive event.

This is a zoom event.


How airline seating may change

One of the most common questions AAA Travel advisors field is “How are airlines handling the COVID pandemic?” AAA Travel recently hosted a SmartDepart Broadcast on the subject, which included representatives from the industry discussing increased sanitation, onboarding changes, and seat management. But there are lasting ramifications to the flight industry, and focus groups, engineers, and corporations are currently designing the new look of air travel.

We all envision plexiglass dividers between passengers or staggered row layouts with seats hosting personal space bubbles around travelers. But the questions remain around what is necessary, what is ineffective, and what makes the best sense. A wide variety of new concepts for airline seating are being discussed, based on the constantly changing universal understanding of the coronavirus.

One known fact is that the most effective barrier is closest to the mouth of an exhaling passenger, which highlights the importance of passengers with face masks. That’s why airlines are, by and large, mandating them. Even though cabins are close quarters, the aircraft environment does not seem to be much higher risk than other inside spaces. Few to zero flights have turned out to be infection clusters themselves. We can thank the widespread requirement to wear face masks onboard aircraft and HEPA filtration for their impact.

Now, the industry has shared a wide variety of cabin additions proposed to combat the spread of Covid-19 and to reassure passengers. Transparent barriers clipping into the seatback pocket, foam inserts for the top of the seat, sculpted headrest shrouding add-ons and more.

Janus seat from Aviointeriors has offered a cabin design where passengers face in alternating directions. With proposed barriers attached in a variety of ways to the seat, the design offers specific challenges in bringing the formation onboard. Any addition to the aircraft cabin needs to be certified as safe in a variety of ways. As always, materials must be fire-resistant and not give off fumes that might be toxic to passengers. It needs to resist incredible forces without shattering, creating sharp edges or blocking passengers’ emergency egress from their rows. These regulations apply to shields and barriers too, attached to the seat or provided by the airline. Anything attached to the seat needs to undergo crash testing, which has become more arduous in recent years as regulators insist on ever-safer travel.

The historic focus on aircraft cabins has been sturdiness. Additions, whether temporary or permanent, need to be cleaned and serviced regularly. Adding time to the already constrained schedules of airline cleaners creates complexity and cost, while airlines would also need to keep stocks of spares across their operations. The timing and release of a vaccine are also impacting the revision process. There’s little benefit in completing an expensive program just a couple of months ahead of the vaccine.

For now, the best ways to combat Covid-19 seem to be around minimizing contact between passengers, and between passengers and crew. Service standards have been changed to reduce the amount that crew circulates within the cabin, and meals have been rethought to reduce the amount of time they stay open to the air while being prepared and eaten, although food is not thought to be a transmission route.

For anyone traveling in 2020, masks and sanitizers are your new must-have travel accessories.

As you prepare to take to the air, you may have questions. AAA Travel SmartDepart Certified travel advisors are here for you. With a deep understanding of the industry, these advisors are responsible for staying up to date on all regulations, restrictions and protocols impacting travel. Together, your AAA Travel advisor will work with you to find a vacation that is both safe, and exhilarating. To speak to your advisor, please call 1-800-222-7448


Five international destinations to visit in 2020.

Yes, there are countries you CAN visit before the end of the year. While regulations and restrictions have fluctuated throughout the year, AAA Travel has rounded up our top destinations welcoming Americans looking to capture an escape. While we may feel limited, there are still some great options available to venture beyond American borders. Plus, these destinations offer plenty of outdoor, socially-distanced sightseeing opportunities once you’re there, and some have direct flights available from major US hubs.

Aruba

Prior to entry, you’ll be required to complete the online Embarkation / Disembarkation process by providing basic information including your duration of stay, a personal health assessment, uploading a negative PCR COVID-19 test result within the most recent 72 hours, and confirming proof of travel insurance. But it is worth it. Aruba asks you to follow protocols like wearing a mask in the airport and practicing social distancing.  Visitors will find many restaurants and attractions open with safety guidelines in place. Though you can certainly make the most of your Aruba experience without too much close contact with others. Aruba continues to be a popular destination with AAA members, and there are packages available through AAA.

Bermuda

Much like Aruba, Bermuda is another popular AAA member destination here in the North East. Easily accessible from the East Coast, Bermuda is a short flight, quick cruise island welcoming Americans. If you plan to travel here, you will need to complete the travel authorization process online, at a $75 cost (for children nine and under this is only $30). You must also prove that you tested negative for COVID-19. You will still be tested upon arrival even if your pre-departure result is negative, and must quarantine in your accommodation until the results of the test come back—which they estimate as only six to eight hours. The island’s natural beauty will help you forget about the paperwork and tests. Kayaking, snorkeling, catamaran tours., or just a stroll along the shores will offer you a welcomed break from mainland life. AAA members can receive various member perks when booking a Bermuda vacation package with AAA.

Cambodia

While the restrictions and financial commitments are the strongest on this list, Cambodia's culture and accommodations offset the burdens. Connecting flights will be needed, and you more than likely will need to start your journey out of New York—with a stop at Incheon International Airport in South Korea. In addition, Cambodia requires travelers to pay a $3,000 deposit to cover any potential coronavirus-related costs that could occur during your visit. If you test negative for COVID-19 during the mandatory test upon arrival at the airport, you’ll only be on the hook for $160. More information can be found at TourismCambodia.com. From the iconic temples at Angkor Wat to the street food of Siem Reap, Cambodia is a bucket list destination for many AAA members. Trafalgar and others offer some great vacation options. In fact, there are several packages available through AAA.

Croatia

Croatia is not part of the EU’s borderless Schengen Zone, allowing them to bypass the union's travel restrictions on global tourism. If Croatia has been on your radar, now may be a perfect time. Travelers will need to prove a negative PCR coronavirus test result and complete an online travel form. While there ae no direct flights from the US, there are connecting flights through European airports, which is acceptable as the EU’s travel ban includes an exception for travelers in transit. You will not be able to hop to other European countries once in Croatia, but you will have that European flare through the region's beaches, vineyards, historic cities, and parks. Club Adventures offers small group tours that will feed your wanderlust.

Turkey

Visitors are currently only subject to medical screenings upon arrival. Nonstop flights are currently bookable to Istanbul, from New York City. Istanbul is known for its many historic areas with incredible mosques and palaces, as well as the remarkable Grand Bazaar market. Rich in history, and deep in culinary flavors, Turkey feeds all your senses. AAA members will find a variety of vacation packages to Turkey, each with their own flare.

AAA Travel understands that now may not be the right time for everyone to adventure out into the world. We also understand that for some of us, our wanderlust speaks louder than ever. For those ready to explore, we are here to help you find safe yet exciting destinations. AAA travel advisors are studying destinations, updating themselves on guidelines and restrictions, and building vacations that feed travelers' souls. To speak to a AAA travel advisor, please call 1-800-222-7448.


family road trip

Could you work from a resort? Some people are!

The terms "work remote" and "distance learning" are sweeping America as companies adjust their workforce policies and schools look to bring education to children through ipads and laptops. As we all adapt, some Americans are questioning just how far a "distance" could work, and how "remote" can you truly be while logging in to your workday. A new trend is emerging, where people are taking extended stays at resorts and hotels across the nation, and beyond.

Earlier this summer, Playa Hotels & Resorts launched the “Work and Learn from Paradise” program, and some in the industry credit them with sparking this new trend. In short, you book a stay for 14 days, can be upgraded to a suite room, receive free spa treatments and have all your needs taken care of you through an all-inclusive package. And you'll have access to the most valuable tool in remote learning and work, WIFI.

Playa also invested in stronger WiFi to ensure no guests complain about internet access to handle remote working and virtual learning for the kids.

And as children return to learning from home, stress levels are on the rise. The Four Seasons Resort Orlando at Walt Disney World Resort (and other hotels) are now offering “schoolcation” promotions. It’s school, at a luxury resort, with Disney World as your recess playground. Overnight hotel guests can send their child to supervised schoolwork sessions in settings that promise natural light, private terraces and ample physical distancing between each desk. Social distancing is enforced, and no more than six children are allowed in the classroom.

Monday through Friday, parents can choose between a half-day or full-day schedule, at $50 for 9 a.m. to noon, or $100 for 9 a.m. 3 p.m. That includes lunch. An optional enrichment period is also available midday to make room for arts and crafts or exercise. Staff from the Kids for All Seasons team will oversee e-learning, allowing parents to focus on remote work. But let's not forget recess. where the kids can blow off steam running around the resort’s five-acre Explorer Island, a playground with pools and waterslides and visits to Disney World. The resort has a dedicated Disney Planning Center and provides complimentary transportation to all the parks.

Four Seasons is offering a similar Knowledge for All Seasons program at its property in Punta Mita, Mexico.

At the Hamilton Hotel in Washington DC., their "Home-Away-From-Home Office" package includes high-speed wifi, complimentary breakfast before noon and a Keurig coffee maker for a caffeine boost a few steps away. Guests will also have access to a PressReader, a digital newspaper with over 7,000 publications in 200 languages. Printing and faxing are also available upon request.  Each room will also be stocked with self-care amenities for anyone looking to shower onsite. Third-party delivery for a takeout lunch or any other needs is also permitted.

AAA Travel advisors are here to help you find the right accommodations for your travel plans. Together with your advisor, you can explore long-stay getaways or just a simple weekend away. Whether you want to work from a resort, or just lounge in the pool, your advisor can review COVID restrictions, safety measures, and destinations that will allow you to make the most of your time away from home. To speak with your AAA Travel advisor, please call 1-800-222-7448.

 


Let's Go There! Planning brings smiles

The happiest place on Earth joins dozens of tourist boards, companies and more with one goal in mind! They want you to smile. In fact, a recent study shows that people's spirits are lifted as they plan to travel.

Through this industry-wide collaboration of more than 75 businesses and organizations, the U.S. Travel Association is demonstrating the personal benefits of travel planning and welcoming back customers who want to hit the road now or in the future. Coalition members include American Airlines, Delta Airlines, Expedia, Hyatt, Disney Parks, Marriott, Sabre, many destination marketing organizations, as well as many others.

A recent survey from researcher Michelle Gielan, showed that 97 percent of respondents reported having a trip planned makes them happier. Seventy-one percent of respondents felt greater levels of energy when they had a trip planned in the next six months. These findings were released as part of a new travel industry-wide initiative called “Let’s Go There.” The effort, coordinated by the U.S. Travel Association, brings together major airlines, hoteliers, local destinations and other businesses part of the travel ecosystem.

This initiative aims to spark conversation about future getaways and encourage travel planning. The Let’s Go There campaign will extend into 2021 and be featured on top television stations such as CMT, Cooking Channel, ESPN, Freeform and National Geographic Channel, as well as two spots will air on ESPN’s Monday Night Football on September 14. Disney offers a peek at the campaign, a travel inspiring video geared to light your travel fire. AAA Travel is excited to share this clip, which not only includes Disney footage but destinations across America.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a9_BTOyT6uQ

As you prepare your return to travel, you may have questions. AAA Travel Advisors are here to find the answers. Our SmartDepart Certified Advisors are up to date on the impacts COVID-19 could have on your vacation plans. Together, you and your advisor can navigate the restrictions and protocols required for your travel plans. To speak with you AAA Travel Advisor, please call 1-800-222-7448. Let's go there!


Aloha and Safe Travels with Hawaii's New App.

The State of Hawaii is announcing that the new online Safe Travels application will be mandatory for all travelers on Sept. 1. This new digital application, which collects the required health and travel information, is critical to protecting the health of residents and visitors alike. Safe Travels is one part of a multi-layered screening process which includes arrival temperature checks, and secondary screening for those with symptoms or temperatures of 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit or higher. The application can be found at https://travel.hawaii.gov.

"I am pleased to launch this digital app which will allow our travelers to provide their required health and travel information before they arrive at the airport," said Gov. David Ige. "It will also help us keep in contact with those who are required to be in quarantine. This is an important step in preparing to reopen our economy." Safe Travels digitizes and simplifies the current paper-based process. Currently, there are two different types of forms — one each for interisland and transpacific — for travel to and within Hawaii. This platform provides a one-stop-shop for both types of travelers.

This new online application will provide the State Department of Health (DOH) access to the mandatory health information that passengers need to provide to monitor and protect public health in real-time. It can also be used by the Dept. of the Attorney General and county law enforcement officials to enforce the quarantine rules.

Travelers are encouraged to enter their information and trip details well in advance of their flight. Once their health information is entered 24 hours before departure, travelers receive a QR code via email. The QR code on their mobile device or printed on paper gets scanned by the airport screener upon arrival.

"Compared to paper processing, this online app will save travelers time at the airport and will speed up distribution of information to state and county officials who need it to keep us all safe," said Douglas Murdock, chief information officer, Office of Enterprise Technology Services, State of Hawaii.

This new app was developed in partnership with Google and its premier partner, SpringML, and offers the ability to login using Email, Google or Facebook logins. Features include:

  1. A highly secured platform built on Google cloud.
  2. The verification of passenger contact information before arrival to speed up their processing at the airport.
  3. Collection of health and contact information needed for arrival screening and public health monitoring.
  4. Creation of a QR code that airport screeners scan to review the traveler’s information for clearance or secondary screening.
  5. Automated generation of quarantine check-in reminders as emails and text messages.

New features and data elements will be added in future phases, as the Safe Travels process and State travel requirements evolve. Travelers without smartphones or computers can ask a friend or relative for assistance or receive assistance at the arrival airport. Travelers without email addresses will need to create one on email service to comply with the conditions of quarantine.

Hawaii has long been a desired location for AAA members. As you plan your return to travel, and perhaps a visit to the islands, make sure you include your AAA Travel Agent. Together you can find the right resort, the best pricing, and review all health and safety needs your Hawaii vacation requires. To speak with your AAA Travel Agent, please call 1-800-222-7448.


What to know before going to Universal Orlando Resort

Universal Orlando Resort continues to work closely with local health officials and their own health and safety experts and reference CDC guidelines with respect to the safety of Team Members and guests during their limited opening of the popular Florida resort. Currently, you can expect the following to be apparent during your visit:

  • Limiting capacity and following social distancing guidelines throughout all attractions, restaurants and shops throughout the destination
  • Increasing our already-aggressive cleaning and disinfection procedures, and frequently cleaning all high touch surfaces
  • All team members will undergo temperature checks and wear face coverings
  • All team members will participate in extensive training on our new procedures

"Things are going to feel a little different, and I encourage everyone to become well-versed in our updated operational guidelines, but know that everyone at Universal Orlando is looking forward to having you back. We’ve got a bit of a service mentality around here — whether we’re serving you food, getting you on a ride, selling you a T-Shirt — serving our guests is what we do and our Team Members are grateful for the opportunity to go the extra mile on your behalf." Bill Davis, President of Universal Orlando stated in a recent letter to the public.

Universal has produced a quick video highlighting changes and what visitors can expect on an upcoming trip to the resort.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=De1d6TlYkKw&feature=emb_logo

In accordance with CDC guidelines, the resort has released enhanced sanitization procedures and implemented additional measures for distance spacing and screening.

Universal asks that all guests and Team Members continue to comply with the following:

Face covering required
Everyone is required to wear a face-covering during their visit.

An appropriate face covering for a visit to Universal Orlando must fit the following criteria:

  • Must cover your nose and mouth and be secured under your chin
  • Must fit snugly against the sides of your face and be secured with ear loops or secured around your head

Universal recommends that face coverings be at least two-ply (consist of at least two layers). Also, a gaiter is considered an appropriate face covering as long as it covers your nose and mouth.

The following are NOT permitted at Universal Orlando:

  • Face coverings with exhalation valves
  • Face coverings that are not secured with ear loops or secured around your head
  • Face coverings that include mesh material or holes of any kind
  • Face coverings that are unable to be secured under your chin, such as bandannas
  • Costume masks or veils, per our costume guidelines

Temperature check required
Temperature checks will be required upon arrival, and guests with a temperature of 100.4 degrees or greater will not be admitted.

Wash hands often
Wash your hands with soap and water often for at least 20 seconds.

Social distancing
Practice social distancing and keep at least 6 feet (2 meters) between your travel party and others.

Floor markings
When present, please stand on the floor markings until the group in front of you moves forward.

Follow Team Member direction
Please follow directions from our team members and have patience as we work through these new operational procedures.

AAA Travel has been sending members to the park for decades, and our discounted tickets and vacation packages have been a long-standing club favorite. Learn more about AAA and Universal Resorts and contact your AAA Travel Agent to help you plan your next trip to Florida. Call your agent at 1-800-222-7448.


Winter ski trip? You may need a reservation

In an open letter to guests, Vail CEO Rob Katz announced that Vail Resorts will require skiers and snowboarders across its 34 North American resorts to reserve mountain space during the 2020-21 season. The need for reservations will be mandatory for pass holders as Vail aims to limit capacity in response to Covid-19. In making this announcement, Vail Resorts became the first major ski resort operator in Colorado to release details of the COVID-19 protocols it plans to implement for the upcoming ski season. Vail Resorts owns five resorts in Colorado, including Vail, Beaver Creek, Breckenridge, Keystone and Crested Butte.

Holders of individual lift tickets will reserve their mountain space at the time of purchase, while pass holders will use a new reservation system to schedule ski days. Epic Pass holders, as well as holders of other pass products, will be able to reserve mountain space only a week in advance. But they will get some advantages under the new procedures. Vail won't sell any daily lift tickets until Dec. 8, meaning that mountains will be for pass holders only from opening day until that time. Furthermore, pass holders will be able to reserve mountain space for up to seven different days of Vail's core Dec. 8 to April 4 ski season before daily tickets go on sale on Dec. 8. That policy should provide assurance to pass holders wishing to book a weeklong ski trip that the mountain they are visiting will be open to them.

“It is possible that at some point in the season, as we evaluate the dynamics of our operations, we may decide that we no longer need the reservation system at certain resorts,” wrote Vail Resorts CEO Rob Katz in a letter published Thursday. “However, with so many uncertainties, we believe it is only prudent to have this system in place now.”

Walk-up tickets will no longer be available for purchase at the window, but day-of guests can purchase tickets from their mobile devices and pick up their day-use tickets at the window. The resort will ask guests to cancel their reservation by midnight the night prior if they can’t make it.

Vail provided no specifics on the capacity limits it will set at ski areas but did announce several other operational adjustments for the 2020-21 ski season, including face coverings to be required on the mountain, in lift lines, on ski lifts and at resort amenities. Physical distancing will also be required. On chairlifts, parties staying in the same room may ride together. But singles will be separated. Just one single will be allowed on two-seat lifts. On four-seat lifts, two singles can sit on the opposite side of each lift. On six-seaters, either two singles or two parties of two can sit separated on opposite sides. As of now, Vail will continue to offer on-mountain dining and ski school this coming season but with changes geared toward safety.

As you look ahead towards winter activities and the possibility of travel, it is important to rely on AAA. You've trusted us with your car and relied on us when plans didn't turn out the way you had hoped. With the helping hand of a AAA Travel Agent, you can find safe yet fun adventures for the remainder of 2020 and into 2021. To speak with your agent, please call 1-800-222-7448.


CDC Removes Mandatory 14-Day Post-Travel Quarantine

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has changed its recommendations for quarantine. While the CDC previously recommended travelers quarantine for 14 days after visiting overseas destinations or arriving in areas with a high number of confirmed coronavirus cases, the agency's official website now shows the mandatory quarantine portion of the order has been lifted. Travelers are now being advised to follow the same protocols people should be following on a daily basis regardless of travel habits.

With this new recommendation, understanding your local requirements are imperative. Several states — most famously New York — still require a period of quarantine after returning from a majority of U.S. states and has set up health checkpoints at major points of entry to the city and more recently has begun requiring anyone who is staying at a hotel or vacation rental property to fill out a health declaration form. New York City solicits contact information so that the city can more effectively stay in touch with a given person for contact tracing and quarantine enforcement.

Violators are subject to whatever penalties a given locality has decided to impose — in the case of New York City, you could be charged with a Class-B misdemeanor or face fines.

Despite the CDC announcement, not much has changed for travelers. AAA Travel advises that when you decide to travel anywhere, be sure you research the destination to which you’re traveling so that there are no surprises about restrictions on that destination, whether you’re traveling to or returning from the location. The CDC still believes that regardless of where tourists visit for the remainder of 2020, they should practice social distancing, wear a mask, wash their hands often and monitor for possible symptoms of coronavirus when they return home. The agency still recommends travelers who visit areas with a high number of COVID-19 cases, attend large gatherings, or sail on a cruise ship quarantine for 14 days and get tested for the virus.

As you prepare to travel, we understand you may have questions. AAA Travel Agents have undergone a unique certification that enables them to understand, monitor, and build travel plans that comply and conform to the pandemic and its impact on travel. Our SmartDepart Certified Agents can help you plan your upcoming trip and with our new AAA Triple Check program, agents will ensure your trip is taking advantage of all your AAA membership discounts and rewards., includes AAA diamond experiences, and should be minimally impacted by COVID-19. To speak with a AAA Travel Agent, please call 1-800-222-7448.


Costa Rica to accept SOME Northeast Tourists

AAA Northeast members from Connecticut, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Maine, and Vermont may be excited to hear they are welcomed to Costa Rica. Travel will be accepted at three airports: Juan Santamaría International Airport, Daniel Oduber Quirós Airport, and Tobías Bolaños Airport. However, Rhode Island and Massachusetts will have to wait a bit longer. Individuals who fly privately from an unapproved state will be allowed into the country on a case-by-case basis.

Additional Documentation Needed

Americans choosing to head to Costa Rica will need to have their driver’s license on hand to prove that they’re a resident of an approved state.

COVID-19 Test Requirements

  • All travelers going to Costa Rica will be required to have tested negative for COVID-19 48 hours ahead of departure
  • Complete a health form beforehand.
  • Travelers must also have insurance, which can be purchased in Costa Rica through its National Insurance Institute or local company Sagicor if needed. The policy needs to cover up to $50,000 in medical costs should a traveler become sick while on their trip.

Visitors are also expected to comply with the airports’ mandatory mask rule and physical distancing protocols.

Costa Rica has been and continues to be a popular AAA member destination. With providers and partners, such a Club Adventures, AAA has several vacation packages for a multitude of Costa Rican experiences. As you prepare to return to travel, AAA Travel Agents are here to help you make safe and smart decisions. To speak with an agent, please call 1-800-222-7448.