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.