‘New normal’: AAA offers tips for stir crazy, COVID-19-weary travelers

Between extreme winter weather, flight cancellations and the ever-evolving COVID-19 landscape, it’s hard out there for travelers right now, but AAA is confident that two little words can help satisfy mounting wanderlust in the age of omicron: planning and precautions.

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“What we are seeing is an acceptance that this is the ‘new normal,’” Chip Morgan, vice president of leisure travel for AAA Club Alliance, said in a prepared statement.

By “new normal,” Morgan means understanding COVID-related restrictions and requirements, as well as increased consideration of travel insurance and increased use of travel advisers not only to help plan long-overdue excursions but also to troubleshoot when things go awry.

Brenda Hunsberger, senior vice president of travel for AAA Club Alliance, stated in a news release that travel inquiries and bookings are steadily increasing, reflecting a “renewed sense of determination to get going again.”

“Not only are we seeing more people making plans for the future, with winter upon us, but AAA is also hearing from travelers who want to know where they can go right now,” she added.

According to the latest survey by Destination Analysts, nearly 80% of American travelers state that they have at least one trip already planned for 2022, and nearly 60% confirmed that they are making travel spending a priority this year.

Specifically, AAA travel advisers have recorded some of their busiest days since summer 2021 in recent weeks, with demand spiking for spring break, summer escapes and more extravagant trips – including cruises – well into 2023 and 2024, the nonprofit federation of North American motor clubs confirmed.

According to WDBJ, AAA experts gathered last week for a panel discussion tackling current trends and the future of travel. Highlights from the discussion are as follows:

  • Road trips continue to be the most popular travel method, with a distinct uptick in recreational vehicle travel recorded.
  • The percentage of American travelers who have engaged in travel planning, or fantasized about doing so, in the past week saw a 7% week-over-week increase to 70%.
  • Airlines are still experiencing repeated cancellations and delays, so it’s best to book the earliest flight of the day to limit schedule disruptions. AAA also recommended checking in online 24 hours in advance and keeping the airline notifications enabled on your mobile device in case an issue arises that requires a change in plans.
  • Supply and demand issues are expected to keep travel costs elevated throughout 2022.

AAA also offered the following tips for navigating the “new normal” of travel:

Prepare and plan:

  • Research your destination’s COVID-19 restrictions and testing requirements and, if required:
  • Make an appointment for a COVID-19 PCR test at least one month before departure.
  • Make sure the date of your results adheres to the timeline set by your destination.
  • AAA suggests requesting a QR code from the PCR tester because more destinations require this.
  • Keep backup photos of your vaccination card and other important documents, such as your passport, on your phone.
  • Budget in accordance with supply and demand, meaning expect to pay more because staffing issues and other pandemic-related challenges have impacted the availability of everything from flights and hotel rooms to rental cars and public transit.
  • Plan financially for the possibility of staying longer than planned because of unexpected delays and cancellations.

Consult a travel adviser who can:

  • Help you explore travel options that best meet your needs, budget and timeline.
  • Save you time and money by handling all research and booking details.
  • Ensure travelers understand the complexities of the current travel landscape and any curveballs that are thrown.
  • Advise travelers of the latest COVID-19-related restrictions or requirements traveling to, or returning from, their destinations.
  • Advocate on your behalf as needed to cancel or reschedule travel due to situations beyond your control.
  • Find alternative flights or accommodations for you in the event of flight changes or cancellations or weather-related disruptions.

Consider travel insurance:

  • Options are varied and plentiful, and some destinations require travelers to carry travel insurance.
  • Flight protection has grown in popularity recently because it covers unexpected delays and trip interruptions.

Pandemic preparedness:

  • Pack N95 or KN95 masks, hand sanitizer, disinfecting wipes and disposable gloves in your carry-on and make certain it is easily accessible.

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