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AAA says extra planning, flexibility are keys to vacation getaways

As more Americans get vaccinated, many are planning trips to reconnect with family and friends across the U.S. and elsewhere.
Credit: KTVB
File image of passengers at Boise Airport.

BOISE, Idaho — As more Americans get vaccinated they are starting to plan a long-awaited vacation. AAA is reminding travelers that before they head out, they will want to be prepared for a much different travel experience in 2021.

"It's too early to predict what will happen around the major holidays this year, but it's safe to say that there's pent-up demand to travel, whether it's to see family and friends or to check a few items off the bucket list," says AAA Idaho spokesman Matthew Conde. "With the ever-changing landscape of the current pandemic, it's more important than ever to do your homework on a potential travel destination and rely on the advice of a skilled travel professional."

The CDC still recommends postponing vacation plans to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, but those who plan travel should take several things into account as part of the planning process. 

AAA provided this extensive list:

Masks: Face coverings are required on planes, trains, buses, and other forms of public transportation, and in transportation hubs such as airports and stations. States, counties, cities, and local establishments may also have mask requirements.

Automobile travel: Many travelers will opt for a road trip. This year, the state and national parks will be popular for their natural beauty and the ability to promote physical distancing. Travelers can refer to AAA's COVID-19 Travel Restrictions Map and TripTik.AAA.com for the latest information on state and local travel restrictions, and to identify which hotels, restaurants, gas stations and rest areas are open along their route.

Air Travel: Seating capacity is still very limited, so it's important to book well in advance. Due to COVID-19, passengers can pack one oversized bottle of liquid hand sanitizer in their carry-on bag at this time, but other liquids are limited to the standard 3.4-ounce containers.

Hotels: Call ahead to make sure your hotel is open. When you arrive, use disinfectant wipes to clean high-touch surfaces such as light switches, door knobs, faucets, telephones and TV remotes.

"As much as we all enjoy a good hotel breakfast, many locations have been forced to switch to simple, pre-packaged items," Conde said. "As part of the planning process, you should also ask about capacity restrictions in pools, hot tubs, and any other amenities that are a high priority for you, including on-site spas, business centers, and dining options."

International air travel: All air passengers traveling to the United States, including U.S. citizens, must present a negative COVID-19 test result or documentation of recovery from COVID-19 before returning to the country. Travelers who don't provide this information will be denied boarding.

"Regardless of where you're interested in traveling, it's critical to understand cancellation and refund policies, because the situation can change in the blink of an eye," Conde said. "Be ready to pivot to Plan B, whether it's an alternate route, alternate destination, or even a different venue in the same location. Travel insurance can further alleviate concerns if your original plans don't work out."

AAA Diamond Awards

AAA Diamond designations are awarded to 53,000 hotels and restaurants across North America. After meeting AAA's high standards of cleanliness and quality, each location is issued a designation of Approved or Three, Four, or Five Diamond based on the number of additional features and amenities. Just 4.4% of the properties that AAA inspects have achieved Four Diamond status.

This year, AAA Four-Diamond designations have been awarded to these Idaho hotels:

Grove Hotel Boise – since 2014
Inn at 500 Capitol (Boise) – since 2017
The Coeur d'Alene Resort – since 1986
Shore Lodge (McCall) – since 2012
Sun Valley Lodge & Sun Valley Inn – since 2005

Beverly's Restaurant at the Coeur d'Alene Resort is the state's only Four Diamond restaurant, a distinction it has held since 1989.

"What these properties accomplish year-in and year-out is nothing short of impressive," Conde said. "They never know when AAA inspectors might show up, or which rooms will be inspected. That means that these teams aren't taking any off days – they are constantly delivering exceptional service."

AAA says that now is a great time to get discounts on future travel. Many travel companies are offering deep incentives and minimal deposits to book now.