AAA travel agents hit the road. We talked with a few of our AAA team members who have recently traveled within the states to get a feel for what it is like to travel domestically right now by way of car, plane and train.
Travel is a personal choice, now more than ever. While some of our members are ready to travel again as soon as possible, others are waiting until they feel comfortable to do so. As we begin to travel again, where we go and how we get there might look a little different for a while.
While many international travel plans remain on pause, those who wish to continue to travel are taking this time to explore a little closer to home.
Our team provides great insight and tips for members who are considering travel soon whether it be for the holidays or just a quick getaway.
Our Travel Agents Hit the Road
Wild, Wild West
Where did you travel to? My wife and I traveled to Las Vegas, Nevada to meet other family members. We toured Las Vegas until Tuesday, September 22nd. After that we drove to several National Parks, including Zion, Bryce Canyon, Arches, Natural Bridges, and Canyonlands. We also visited Monument Valley Tribal Park in Arizona and Valley of Fire State Park in Nevada.
What mode of transportation did you take to get there? We traveled by plane to and from Las Vegas from Portland and rented a vehicle in Las Vegas to explore outside the city.
What steps did you take to make sure that you were safe during your travels? We wore face masks in public settings and used personal hand sanitizer after visiting public attractions such as restaurants, entertainment, and shopping venues – most of which provided complimentary hand sanitizer.
If you were not traveling in your own personal vehicle, what was the transportation provider doing to make sure you were safe? Our Hertz rental car was presented to us clean, disinfected, and driver’s-door sealed Upon picking it up at the airport. Our airline handed out small clear plastic bags containing pre-moistened wipes to each passenger entering the aircraft. Each middle seat on our aircraft was left unsold. The Portland and Las Vegas Airports were constantly reminding airport travelers that masks were required and to wash hands frequently after touching public surfaces.
Did you experience any challenges on your travels? Many airport food offerings were limited – so be sure to pack some snacks. As expected, live entertainment at Las Vegas resort hotels was not available. When we traveled through the Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park in Arizona, the governing tribal council enacted a 59-hour business shutdown due to a recent spike in Covid-19 reported cases. This affected all businesses except lodging. After checking out of our hotel the next morning, we had to drive off tribal land to find a place to eat. National Park Visitor Center exhibits were not available to see because of the pandemic. However, Visitor Center staff were available to answer questions and the gift shop was well-stocked.
Did anything surprise you about your travels? A few things, actually. Airline on-board crew members are not permitted to assist customers placing bags in overhead bins, so pack your carry-on light in you need to. Las Vegas resort hotels were taking guest’s temperature upon check in and the casinos do have plexiglass partitions at every gaming table (i.e. craps, roulette, blackjack). There are hand washing stations on all casino-level floors at all casinos.
Any advice to our members looking to travel in the near future? As things continue to evolve, keep in touch with your AAA Travel Agent to stay up to date on destination pandemic restrictions as well as airline, train, and other travel updates.
Where do you hope to travel next? I hope to travel next to Great Britain to discovery the fascinating history, it’s artistic culture, scenery, and food!
When you’re ready to travel again, AAA is here to help!
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When did you travel? I stayed in Chicago August 15th through the 19th. I flew to Houston on August 28th and then drove to Las Vegas to move my son August 31st through September 2nd. I stayed in Las Vegas until Sept 6th and then flew back to Portland.
What mode of transportation did you take to get there? Plane and Rental Car
What steps did you take to make sure that you were safe during your travels? I wore a mask whenever inside or when I could not socially distance, used wipes at hotels on any high-touch surfaces, washed my hands often.
If you were not traveling in your own personal vehicle, what was the transportation provider doing to make sure you were safe? I rented a car in Chicago, I used wipes when I first got in the rental car and I also wiped down all surfaces around me on the planes. I have Hertz Gold Plus Rewards and when I went to the parking lot to pick my car they unfortunately did not have any cars in the section where I was supposed to pick a car so I did had to go inside and ask for a car, and they were able to locate a vehicle for me quickly.
Did you experience any challenges on your travels? Not really. All passengers were complying with the mask mandate on the plane and the airports were doing an excellent job making sure that travelers had enough space and had sanitizer stations throughout. When I was in Northern Arizona some people in Walmart were not wearing masks, but that was the only place I observed that.
Did anything surprise you about your travels? Travel, especially right now, is a personal choice. But based on my recent travel experience, I can confidently say that by following the guidelines in place, I felt safe in my travels.
Any advice to our members looking to travel in the near future? Travel when you’re ready – and that will be different for everyone. But when you are ready to travel again, consider starting a bit closer to home. If that goes well and as you become more comfortable, start planning for those vacations further away.
Where do you hope to travel next? I will be flying to Las Vegas to see my son in November for Thanksgiving. I am also booked on a cruise in Greece in May of 2021 and I’m really looking forward to it!
When you’re ready to travel again, AAA is here to help!
Name: Leslie Eastman
Role: Member Service Representative
Transportation: Rental Car & Train
When did you travel? September 19th– September 27th.
Where did you travel to? Throughout the entire trip, we were able to see parts of Western & Eastern Glacier National Park (stunning views of the Flathead River while the leaves were changing and snow caps on the Rockies). Our stop in Williston, ND led us to pick up our rental car and drive straight down through North Dakota. As we reached our final destination to Rapid City, SD, we explored a majority of Western South Dakota. Stopping and seeing areas of interest such as Sturgis, Mt. Rushmore, Crazy Horse Memorial, Keystone, Deadwood and Sylvan Lake in Custer State Park.
What mode of transportation did you take to get there? One of the transportation sources we used was Amtrak. Riding the Empire Builder the entire way from Union Station PDX, to Williston, ND round trip. Due to the limited railways, Williston was our best location to part ways with the train because there are no railways that run directly into South Dakota. After spending the night in Williston, we picked up our rental car from Hertz and drove down to Rapid City, SD where we would stay for the next four nights.
What steps did you take to make sure that you were safe during your travels? I made sure that our party of four had a sufficient amount of masks and plenty of hand sanitizer. Before we boarded the train, I made sure to bring my disinfectant wipes to wipe down trays & tables. (A travel habit I will continue even post Covid-19). We also brought our own refillable water bottles so that we could reduce the amount of trips to a gas station or local grocery store.
If you were not traveling in your own personal vehicle, what was the transportation provider doing to make sure you were safe? Amtrak did a great job at enforcing the mask mandate while on board at all times (with the exception of actively eating and/or drinking) and at every one of their train depots. On both routes to the Midwest and back to the North West, the trains were not even close to half capacity, so it was nice to be able to go out and stretch your legs or even have an area to yourself to easily social distance from others you weren’t traveling with.
Amtrak crew members were continuously checking to make sure each passenger was compliant, and also throughout the train there was plenty of signage to let the passengers know to wash their hands often and continue to keep their masks on. If you needed to walk through several train cars, there were no issues because Amtrak has implemented a contactless way to open each door with just the tap of your foot.
When we disembarked the train in Williston, we arrived at our hotel for a good nights’ rest and picked up our rental car the next day at the brand new Williston Basin International Airport where only one flight per day, on average, comes in via United Airlines. Plexiglass signs were everywhere you would be face-to-face with someone, including the Hertz rental desk.
Did you experience any challenges on your travels? Thankfully, there were not many challenges that came our way during the time of the trip!
Did anything surprise you about your travels? One thing in particular that stood out to me the most was as soon as we adjusted to being in a different region, reality immediately set in as I realized there were virtually no people wearing masks. Granted, I did read up on North and South Dakota’s current state restrictions before we left, but it was still very surprising to me that maybe 5-10% of the population in both states wore a mask.
The only noticeable difference between the two states we stayed in was the way Best Western hotel breakfast was served. In North Dakota, you were still able to experience a similar buffet style breakfast most of us are familiar with. The food was pre-portioned in paper bowls covered in tin foil, muffins/pastries were individually wrapped, but juice, milk, cereal, and yogurt were self-serve and bringing your food back to your room was encouraged, but not required.
In South Dakota, you were able to experience the full Best Western hotel style breakfast. Seating was very open, everything was self-serve, nothing was pre-portioned you just grabbed whatever you wanted. There was even a breakfast attendant bringing guests juice/coffee and taking empty plates.
The only place that required masks where we had been traveling was the museum/gift shop at Mt. Rushmore. While being in South Dakota, we took advantage of a guided tour. You would think being on a stagecoach bus with 45+ people in closed quarters, masks would be required but I had to remind myself we were in South Dakota and it was not mandated in that state.
At the end of the guided tour that took us throughout the Black Hills, our package included a western-style dinner and a concert, which was definitely not expected to happen. It did, and was still enjoyable and only went on for about an hour and a half.
Any advice to our members looking to travel in the near future? If you’re looking to travel, make sure to read up on as much information you can about that state or county you plan to adventure in. You can also call your local AAA Travel Professional for information or visit AAA.com/covid where you can find lots of information.
Where do you hope to travel next? I think my next trip will be domestic again. I often think about planning a road trip with my husband next spring or early summer to go back and explore more of what Montana has to offer! Especially the town of Kalispell, to spend some extra time in Glacier National Park. As I reflect on my last trip, I am more eager to plan more trips that involve camping and exploring.