Archive for the ‘Travel’ Category

Heather HunterOverall value is top priority for most travelers when selecting a hotel

ORLANDO, Fla. (Oct. 15, 2013) – Selecting a hotel can be an overwhelming task. On vacation your hotel is your home away from home and base of operations.  The right hotel enhances your vacation experience, while the wrong choice can lead to unexpected expenses, inconvenience and frustration. The first step to selecting the perfect hotel for your next trip is determining what is most important to you and your travel companions.

Additional Resources

“Every traveler and every trip is just as varied as the lodging options available,” said Bill Sutherland, vice president, AAA Travel Services. “Whether you are looking for a weekend getaway, an oceanfront room or a hotel with activities for kids, the right hotel will enhance your vacation experience. A little research goes a long way in successful vacation planning.”

AAA provides travelers with travel booking services and all the travel information needed to make informed decisions. A reservation through AAA can be made using the AAA mobile app, online at AAA.com, by calling a AAA Travel Agent or by stopping by one of the more than 1,000 branch locations across the U.S. and Canada.

Look Beyond the Price Per Night for Best Value

Whether travelers are looking for a budget motel or luxury beach-front resort, they want to be sure they are getting the best property within their budget.  In a recent AAA survey, 85 percent of respondents cited overall value for money as the top consideration for choosing a hotel. Value was cited as an important consideration for all income levels. Eighty-seven percent of respondents with annual household incomes above $100,000 and 84 percent of respondents with annual household incomes below $35,000 selected overall value as a priority, illustrating that no matter the cost or level of the hotel selected, value is key.

AAA Travel also recommends travelers look beyond the price. At AAA.com travelers can examine prices and compare hotels of similar Diamond Ratings. Be sure to investigate fees that are not included in the price such as resort fees or parking charges. Check what facilities are available at the property which will enhance your stay such as a pool, arcade or children’s programs that could save money on entertainment expenses. Be sure to take advantage of any discounts available to you such as AAA discounts available to members at partner hotels.

While expanding the geographic search for a hotel can lower a hotel bill, convenience to attractions or activities is important to 73 percent of respondents when selecting a hotel.  AAA’s TripTik Travel Planner, which is available free at AAA.com, allows travelers to search and book hotels near points of interest.

No Such Thing as a Free Lunch Unless it is Stated

Added benefits such as free breakfast (63 percent) and free hi-speed Wi-Fi (51 percent) also ranked as very high considerations when choosing a hotel. Free Wi-Fi is even more important to younger travelers with 71 percent of respondents age 18-34 saying free, high-speed Wi-Fi is a top consideration when choosing a hotel. Wi-Fi access for a family can add a substantial cost when the kids bring along their laptops, tablets and smartphones, while a free breakfast for every travel companion can lower overall vacation costs.  Be sure to check what extra value your hotel choice offers.
Travelers Going Green

Nearly half (48 percent) of women and 18-34 year-olds surveyed said they seek environmentally-friendly programs when selecting a hotel. AAA provides travel planning information to travelers who wish to consider sustainability programs when making travel plans. Currently an ECO icon marks approximately 3,000 eligible lodging listings in the TourBook® guides, TripTik® Travel Planner and on AAA.com.

Research Reward Programs and Pet Policies

Frequent travel programs or points are important to more than one-third (35 percent) of all respondents. Other considerations for selecting a hotel involve the personal needs of travelers including is the hotel pet-friendly (29 percent), does it have a spa (23 percent) or does it have a children’s program (23 percent).

Nearly half (47 percent) of all people with children under age 13 consider a children’s program when booking a hotel.

Showing your loyalty can result in extra savings or free nights on future trips. Consider signing up for a hotel’s reward program from your first stay. Even if you do not plan on staying long enough to earn a free room, some chains offer benefits to participants in loyalty programs right away. Keep your loyalty numbers organized and use them every time you book. Some loyalty programs with AAA partner hotels offer additional benefits to AAA members – be sure to check for details at AAA.com/Travel.

For those travelers who like to bring Fluffy or Fido on the family vacation Traveling with Your Pet: The AAA PetBook is a great resource.   Available in print and digital versions, The AAA PetBook is updated annually and features more than 14,000 AAA Approved and Diamond Rated hotels and campgrounds that are pet friendly.  Also, this on-the-road guide offers the locations of dog parks and emergency vet clinics, as well as other pet travel advice.

Travelers with pets in tow check should check with the hotel in advance of their stay to confirm pet policies and the cost related to bring your best friend along. Price can vary greatly and some hotels charge a pet fee by the night or one fee for the entire stay. Also ask if there are size or breed limitations and the rules for leaving your pet alone in the room.  The AAA PetBook also includes tips for bringing your pet on vacation. For more information visit http://www.AAA.com/PetBook.

The results of the survey show that Americans expect value and also desire convenience. The assistance of a qualified travel advisor, such as a AAA Travel Agent can help consumers plan the perfect getaway that meets their needs without the frustration of planning. For more information visit www.AAA.com/Travel.

DesmondJordonEntries welcome through Nov. 30 for a chance to star on the next AAA PetBook edition

ORLANDO, Fla., (Sept 30, 2013) For the many Americans whose vacations wouldn’t be complete without their favorite fur ball, the annual AAA PetBook Photo Contest offers an opportunity to show off travel photos in a big way. Through Nov. 30, travelers can enter a photo of their traveling pet for a chance to appear on a cover or inside Traveling With Your Pet: The AAA PetBook®.

For the sixth consecutive year, the AAA PetBook® Photo Contest is sponsored by Best Western, which has more than 1,600 pet-friendly hotels worldwide. AAA judges entries on artistic qualities and ability to convey the joys of safely traveling with a pet. Candid photographs are preferred. Contest rules and entry forms are available on the AAA.com/PetBook website.

First- and second-place contest winners are featured on the back cover and spine of the softcover edition and in the opening pages of the digital edition. More than 40 irresistible finalists are pictured in a photo insert, and winners and finalists are also showcased on the AAA.com/PetBook photo gallery — a virtual brag book for proud pet parents. Additional prizes include cash, pet treats, and copies of the book and, for the first-place winner, a $150 Best Western Travel Card.

For everyone who travels with pets, The AAA PetBook is a must-have resource. The annually updated guide lists more than 14,000 pet-friendly AAA Approved hotels and campgrounds, along with pet travel tips, recreational opportunities and emergency vet clinics.

The softcover edition of Traveling with Your Pet: The AAA PetBook is available at many AAA and CAA offices and select bookstores with a cover price of $18.95. Digital editions for popular tablets and e-readers are available through online booksellers at a suggested digital price of $9.99.

About AAA

As North America’s largest motoring and leisure travel organization, AAA provides more than 54 million members with travel, insurance, financial and automotive-related services. Since its founding in 1902, the not-for-profit, fully tax-paying AAA has been a leader and advocate for the safety and security of all travelers. AAA clubs can be visited on the Internet at AAA.com.

About Best Western International, Inc.

Best Western International, Inc., headquartered in Phoenix, Ariz., is a privately held hotel brand made up of more than 4,000* BEST WESTERN®, BEST WESTERN PLUS® and BEST WESTERN PREMIER® hotels in more than 100* countries and territories worldwide. Now celebrating 67 years of hospitality, Best Western welcomes hundreds of thousands of guests nightly. Best Western provides its hoteliers with global operational, sales, marketing and promotional support, and online and mobile booking capabilities. More than 20 million travelers are members of the brand’s award-winning loyalty program Best Western Rewards®, one of the few programs in which members earn points that never expire and can be redeemed at any Best Western hotel worldwide. The brand’s partnerships with AAA/CAA, race car driver Michael Waltrip, and Harley-Davidson® provide travelers with exciting ways to interact with the brand. In 2012, Best Western won a record number of awards, including AAA’s Hotel Partner of the Year, CAA’s Partner of the Year, TravelClick’s eMarketer of the Year and Compuware’s Best of the Web Gold awards.

For more information or to make a reservation, please visit bestwestern.com.

*Numbers are approximate and may fluctuate.

Heather HunterInteractive travel guides in free AAA Mobile app for iPad highlight AAA experts’ recommendations on offerings too good to miss

ORLANDO, Fla., (Sept. 12, 2013) – It’s now easier than ever for AAA members to plan memorable travel experiences and activities, thanks to AAA’s new Top Destinations digital travel guides. Available via a recent update to the iPad version of the free AAA Mobile App, the guides give travelers a fast, fun way to plan their visits to popular destinations.

“These informative, interactive guides provide valuable time- and vacation-saving insight from AAA’s travel experts,” said Bill Wood, executive editor and vice president, AAA Publishing and Travel Information. “Our editors are seasoned travelers who spend their days immersed in travel information, so they’re in a perfect position to steer members to the best experiences and away from potential pitfalls. The guides also make the most of AAA’s mapping expertise, allowing users to switch back and forth from pages to map views.”

Top Destinations guides are available for several popular U.S. cities including Chicago, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, New York City, Orlando, San Diego and Tampa, with more titles underway. The guides are loaded with enlargeable photos, colorful maps, insider details and listings for places to stay, dine and play. Users can save their favorites to a ‘trunk’ for later reference and itinerary planning, and they can share ideas through social media.

Travelers can learn about AAA’s Top Destinations travel guides at AAA.com/mobile and download it from the iTunes Store. Everyone who downloads the free app to their iPad or iPad mini can access sample sections of the Top Destinations guides, and those who complete a one-time AAA member registration can access the full versions.

Heather Hunter4.2 percent more Americans plan to travel during final summer holiday

ORLANDO, Fla., (August 20, 2013) – AAA Travel projects 34.1 million Americans will journey 50 miles or more from home during the upcoming Labor Day holiday, a 4.2 percent increase from the 32.7 million people who traveled last year.  The anticipated increase in holiday travel is predominantly due to increased consumer spending and the improving housing market.  The total number of 2013 Labor Day holiday travelers is expected to reach a new post-recession high. The Labor Day holiday travel period is defined as Thursday, August 29 to Monday, September 2.

Additional Resources

“AAA is forecasting a lift in Labor Day travel this year due to the increasingly positive economic outlook and optimism in the housing market,” said AAA President and CEO Robert L. Darbelnet.  “For many Americans, their home is also their biggest asset, as home prices improve in many parts of the country more families are feeling comfortable about traveling this Labor Day holiday.”

Highlights from 2013 AAA Labor Day Holiday Travel Forecast include:

  • Labor Day holiday travelers to total 34.1 million, an increase of 4.2 percent from the 32.7 million who traveled last year
  • Eighty-five percent of travelers (29.2 million) to travel by automobile, an increase of 4.3 percent  from 28 million last year
  • Holiday  air travel expected to increase nearly three percent to 2.61 million.
  • The largest share of travelers (46 percent) will depart on Friday, August 30
  • Monday, September  2, is the most popular date of return for holiday trips with 43 percent planning to return that day
  • The average traveler is expected to travel a round-trip distance of 594 miles and spend $804

“As schools across the nation usher in their next session of students, the Labor Day holiday provides families with the opportunity for one final extended summer weekend getaway,” continued Darbelnet. “AAA reminds drivers as they head out for the holiday and the school year is beginning that safety should remain top of mind. It is important to remain distraction-free and keep their mind on the task of driving.”

Labor-Day-Travel-Forecast-Graphic-FINALAutomobile travel remains dominant mode of transportation

Approximately 29.2 million people (85 percent) plan to drive to their destination, an increase of 4.3 percent from the 28 million who drove last year.

Gas prices are unlikely to be a major factor for people in determining whether they will travel this Labor Day. As of mid-August, prices were on average down 2.7 percent per gallon compared to the same time year. The average price for gas on Labor Day 2012 was $3.83 per gallon, the most expensive average ever on record for the holiday. The current national average price for a gallon of regular gas is $3.54, 18 cents lower than last year.

AAA forecasts gas prices to remain less expensive than last year based on current trends through the middle of August, but there remains the potential for late-summer hurricanes and refinery problems that could send prices higher.

However, gas prices remain at a level most Americans consider too high. Half of U.S. adults consider gas prices to be “too high” when it reaches $3.44 per gallon. Forty-six percent of adults believe gas is too high when it reaches $3.00 per gallon; 61 percent when it reaches $3.50 per gallon; and 90 percent when it reaches $4.00 per gallon.

August 30 busiest travel day as travelers take full advantage of extended weekend

The largest share of travelers (46 percent) on a single day will depart on August 30 and the largest share will return on Monday (43 percent). Eighty-five percent intend to return from their Labor Day trip on Monday, Tuesday, or later.

Air travel to increase slightly

More than 2.61 million leisure travelers (eight percent) will arrive at their destination by air, a slight increase (2.8 percent) from last year’s 2.54 million air travelers.  The remaining seven percent of holiday travelers are expected to travel by other modes, including rail, bus and watercraft.

Average travel distance decreases, spending up slightly

According to the survey of intending travelers, the average distance traveled by Americans during the Labor Day holiday weekend is expected to be 594 miles, which is 32 miles less than last year’s average of 626 miles.

Median spending during the Labor Day holiday weekend is expected to grow to $804, compared to $749 last year.  Travelers expect to spend 24 percent of their budget on transportation and lodging and 21 percent on food and beverages.

During the holiday weekend the most popular activities will be dining (57 percent), visiting with friends/family (46 percent) and shopping (43 percent).

Car rental rates and airfares rise, hotel rates see slight increase for mid-range hotels

According to AAA’s Leisure Travel Index, weekend daily car rental rates will average $51, 32 percent more than last year’s average of $39. Airfares increased four percent year-over-year, with an average lowest round-trip rate of $214 for the top 40 U.S. air routes compared to $205 last year. Hotel rates for AAA Three Diamond lodgings are expected to increase four percent from one year ago with travelers spending an average $161 per night compared to $154 last year. The average hotel rate for AAA Two Diamond hotels are expected to drop two percent with an average cost of $115 per night.

AAA offers digital travel planning resources

AAA’s digital tools for travel planning ‘on the go’ include eTourBook guides for tablets and smartphones, available free to members at AAA.com/ebooks. Choose from 101 top North American destinations including city titles, like the award-winning Las Vegas, regions, like Wine Country, and National Parks.

The free AAA Mobile app for iPhone, iPad and Android uses GPS navigation to help travelers map a route, find current gas prices and discounts, book a hotel, and access AAA roadside assistance. Members using the iPad version can access interactive Top Destinations travel guides for popular cities. Travelers can learn more at AAA.com/mobile.

On AAA.com, travelers can find thousands of AAA Approved and Diamond Rated hotels and restaurants using AAA’s TripTik Travel Planner or the searchable Travel Guides at AAA.com/Travel. Every AAA Approved establishment offers the assurance of acceptable cleanliness, comfort and hospitality, and ratings of One to Five Diamonds help travelers find the right match for amenities and services.

AAA’s projections are based on economic forecasting and research by IHS Global Insight. The Colorado-based business information provider teamed with AAA in 2009 to jointly analyze travel trends during the major holidays. AAA has been reporting on holiday travel trends for more than two decades. The complete AAA / IHS Global Insight Labor Day 2013 Forecast can be found here.

As North America’s largest motoring and leisure travel organization, AAA provides more than 53 million members with travel, insurance, financial and automotive-related services. Since its founding in 1902, the not-for-profit, fully tax-paying AAA has been a leader and advocate for the safety and security of all travelers. AAA clubs can be visited on the Internet at AAA.com.

Heather HunterAAA Approved historic hotels offer travel experiences rich in culture, comfort and adventure

ORLANDO, Fla., (Aug. 6, 2013) – To help travelers connect with our nation’s history, AAA inspectors assembled a list of their favorite historic hotels — structures of notable record or architecture, typically 75 years or older. Artifacts range from an opulent pre-Depression luxury hotel to a flamboyant Old West rail stop to a sprawling mountain resort with a Prohibition speakeasy.

Here are America’s hotel experts’ 10 top picks for evoking an atmosphere of days gone by. Travelers can read about additional AAA Inspectors’ Favorite Historic Hotels on the AAA TravelViews blog, visit AAA’s historic hotels board on Pinterest and find more than 1,500 AAA Approved historic hotel listings on AAA.com.

 

Casa Laguna Inn & Spa, AAA Three Diamond Historic Bed & Breakfast, Laguna Beach, Calif.

Mission-style architecture adds charm to this ocean-view inn, situated on a terraced hillside among picturesque gardens.  Because there is no elevator, be prepared to climb the stairs to get a full perspective of the property. Each step you take unveils yet another hidden seating area, artistic tile work or lush landscaping accent.

 

The Driskill, AAA Four Diamond Classic Historic Hotel, Austin, Texas

Opened in 1886 and designated a National Historic Landmark in 1969, the hotel offers a spectacular lobby with inlaid marble floors and magnificent woodwork leading to a grand staircase. From the cattle barons of the Old West to LBJ commandeering the hotel to watch election returns to today’s celebrities, guests enjoy superior service and upscale amenities.

 

Fitger’s Inn, AAA Three Diamond Historic Hotel, Duluth, Minn.

This renovated Lake Superior brewery houses a historic hotel, an operating brewery, a brewery museum, shops and several restaurants. Guestrooms reflect the elegance of the brewery’s heydays, each unique in décor and size based on the style of building, many with great views of the lake.

 

The Grove Park Inn, AAA Four Diamond Historic Resort Hotel, Asheville, N.C.

Dating from 1913, the Arts and Crafts inspired architecture and interior design are meticulously maintained.  The lobby’s floor-to-ceiling stone fireplaces mirror one another across the great hall. Distinguished past guests include the last 10 U.S. presidents, prolific authors and numerous political notables. Patrons enjoy outstanding cuisine, a 40,000-square-foot spa and a magnificent mountain view.

 

The Hermitage Hotel, AAA Five Diamond Classic Historic Hotel, Nashville, Tenn.

The stunning 1910 architecture, restored to its grandeur in 2003, marks the building’s exterior and ornate, cathedral-height ceilings in the large open lobby. Impressive marble columns circle the lobby and one-of-a-kind antique furnishings create an environment of pre-Depression prosperity. One area not to miss is the impressive 1930s art deco style men’s room near the restaurant bar. (Women may enter after knocking.)

 

La Posada Hotel, AAA Three Diamond Historic Hotel, Winslow, Ariz.

A popular stop on the Santa Fe Railroad, the hotel is just down the street from the “corner in Winslow, Arizona” made famous by the Eagles’ lyrics. Guest attractions include the hotel’s art museum, historical exhibits, architecture, gardens and contemporary southwest cuisine from the Turquoise Room. Restorations that began in 1997 include plans to add a million dollar garden to fulfill a dream of the original designer, Mary Colter.

 

Lake Quinault Lodge, AAA Two Diamond Classic Historic Hotel, Quinault, Wash.

This 1926 hotel where President Franklin D. Roosevelt once dined offers guestrooms with the smaller, sparser furnishings of an era when the idea was to spend time hiking in the rain forest or paddling at sunrise on the glass smooth lake. Guests can curl up next to the lobby’s roaring fire, relax in Adirondack chairs at sunset or casually stroll the rolling lawn.

 

The Occidental Hotel, AAA Three Diamond Historic Hotel, Buffalo, Wyo.

The Wild West comes to life with embossed ceilings, mounted animal trophies and antiques. Calamity Jane, Butch Cassidy, Teddy Roosevelt and members of the Hole in the Wall Gang stayed here. Each guestroom features a unique theme. The hotel, a restaurant and saloon featuring the original back bar plus a complex of storefronts comprise a city block.

 

Omni Mount Washington Hotel, AAA Four Diamond Classic Historic Hotel, Bretton Woods, N.H.

Among its many historical claims is The Cave, a Prohibition-era speakeasy still operating as a bar and an octagon-shaped dining room designed to avoid seating any guest ‘in the corner.’ The property is renowned for hosting the 1944 Bretton Woods Monetary Conference that resulted in the creation of the World Bank and International Monetary Fund. From a distance, travelers note the stately structure’s distinctive red roof atop pristine-white stucco masonry and local granite, set against a backdrop of the White Mountains.

 

Strater Hotel, AAA Three Diamond Classic Historic Hotel, Durango, Colo.

Steeped in history, this downtown landmark delivers world-class accommodations and hospitality. Employees in period costume add a sense of stepping back in time to your visit. The 93 Victorian-style rooms are filled with walnut antiques and period wallpapers. Western history enthusiasts enjoy the beautiful lobby, lounges and public space. Other offerings include fine dining, nightly live entertainment and live theatre performances.

 

The Willard InterContinental, AAA Four Diamond Classic Historic Hotel, Washington, D.C.

Opened in 1901, this time-honored hotel features rich, eye-catching Beaux Arts architecture. It was while staying here that Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., put the finishing touches to his “I Have a Dream” speech. In 1968 the hotel closed and fell into disrepair.  Demolition was averted by a developer who restored and reopened the hotel in 1986 to provide luxurious accommodations and a high level of personal services.

 

About AAA Inspections and Historic Hotels

AAA offers the only rating program that conducts comprehensive, on-site professional hotel and restaurant evaluations guided by member priorities. And, with far more approved properties than any other rating entity, AAA operates the only rating system covering the U.S., Canada, Mexico and the Caribbean. Travelers can find AAA Diamond Rated establishments across AAA’s online, mobile and printed travel information products.

 

Hotels classified as historic are typically 75 years or older with historic architecture, design, furnishings, public record or acclaim and at least one of the following: maintains integrity of historical nature, listed on the National Register of Historic Places, designated a National Historic Landmark or located in a National Register Historic District.

 

Heather Hunter

Originally released June 20, 2013

Shorter holiday travel period expected to result in 0.8 percent fewer American travelers this year

ORLANDO, Fla.,  – AAA Travel projects 40.8 million Americans will journey 50 miles or more from home during the Independence Day holiday, a 0.8 percent decrease from the 41.1 million people who traveled last year.  The anticipated decline in holiday travel is predominantly due to a shorter holiday period. With the Fourth of July landing on a Thursday this year, the holiday period has returned to the standard five-day holiday, compared to the six-day period in 2012 when the holiday fell on a Wednesday. Decade-high travel volume occurred in 2007 when 42.3 million Americans traveled and the holiday also fell on a Wednesday.  The Independence Day holiday travel period is defined as Wednesday, July 3 to Sunday, July 7.

Additional Resources

“This year nearly 41 million Americans plan to celebrate the nation’s birthday with a getaway, a slight decline from last year,” said AAA President and CEO Robert L. Darbelnet.  “This projection is due to the calendar effect of one fewer day in the holiday period and economic growth that is not robust enough to offset the impact of the sequester and the effect of the end of the payroll tax cut on American families.”

Highlights from 2013 AAA Independence Day Holiday Travel Forecast include:

  • Independence Day holiday travelers to total 40.8 million, a decrease of 0.8 percent from the 41.1 million who traveled last year
  • Eighty-four percent of travelers (34.4 million) to travel by automobile, a decrease of 0.7 percent  from 34.7 million last year
  • Holiday air travel expected to increase slightly to 3.07 million from 3.06 million in 2012
  • Independence Day holiday travel volume is expected to remain above the 13-year average of 38.9 million for this holiday
  • The largest share of travelers (32 percent) will depart on Wednesday, July 3
  • Sunday, July 7, is the most popular date of return for holiday trips with 38 percent planning to return that day
  • The average traveler is expected to travel a round-trip distance of 613 miles and spend $747

“Independence Day is typically the busiest holiday of the summer travel season with six million more Americans traveling than Memorial Day just two months ago. The Fourth of July benefits from the fact that all schools across the nation are out of session, making it truly a time for family fun,” continued Darbelnet.

July 3 and 7 busiest travel days

This year 46 percent of intending travelers plan to begin their trip prior to the start of the holiday travel period (July 3-7), compared to 65 percent last year. The largest share of travelers (32 percent) on a single day will depart on July 3 and the largest share will return on July 7 (38 percent). Thirty-four percent intend to stretch their holiday vacation into the following week returning on or after Monday, July 8.

Automobile travel declines, remains dominant mode of transportation

Approximately 34.4 million people (84 percent) plan to drive to their destination, a decrease of 0.7 percent from the 34.7 million who drove last year.

“AAA also reminds drivers as they head out for the holiday that it is important to keep their mind on the task of driving,” said Darbelnet. “Mental distractions can lead to a type of tunnel vision or inattention blindness where motorists don’t see potential hazards right in front of them. It is not sufficient to have our hands on the wheel and eyes on the road, we also need our minds on driving.”

Gas prices are unlikely to be a major factor in travel decisions this holiday. As of mid-June, prices were on average up two percent compared to the same time in 2012. Despite the slight increase compared to last year, prices remain below their highs of earlier this year. The current national average price for a gallon of regular gas is $3.60, 10 cents higher than last year.

However, gas prices remain at a level most Americans consider too high. Half of U.S. adults consider gas prices to be “too high” when it reaches $3.44 per gallon, according to a new consumer index developed by AAA. Forty-six percent of adults believe gas is too high when it reaches $3.00 per gallon; 61 percent when it reaches $3.50 per gallon; and 90 percent when it reaches $4.00 per gallon. Sixty-two percent of Americans are offsetting high gas prices by changing their driving habits or lifestyle.

Air travel to increase slightly

More than 3.07 million leisure travelers (eight percent) will arrive at their destination by air, a slight increase from last year’s 3.06 million air travelers.  The remaining eight percent of holiday travelers are expected to travel by other modes, including rail, bus and watercraft.

Average travel distance decreases, spending relatively unchanged

According to the survey of intending travelers, the average distance traveled by Americans during the Independence Day holiday weekend is expected to be 613 miles, which is 110 miles less than last year’s average of 723 miles. The decline is likely reflective of the shorter holiday period.

Median spending during the Independence Day holiday weekend is expected to be $747, compared to $749 last year. Transportation is expected to consume approximately 29 cents of every dollar. Travelers expect to spend 20 percent on food and beverage and 22 percent on lodging.

During the holiday weekend the most popular activities will be visiting with friends/family (57 percent), dining (49 percent) and shopping (44 percent). Other popular activities include going to the beach and sightseeing (36 percent) and 28 percent will celebrate the nation by visiting a national park or historic sites (21 percent).

Car rental and hotel rates and airfares rise

According to AAA’s Leisure Travel Index, hotel rates for AAA Three Diamond lodgings are expected to increase over four percent from one year ago with travelers spending an average $164 per night compared to $158 last year. The average hotel rate for AAA Two Diamond hotels are expected to increase two percent with an average cost of $119 per night. Weekend daily car rental rates will average $58, 29 percent more than last year’s average of $45. Airfares increased six percent with an average lowest round-trip rate of $228 for the top 40 U.S. air routes compared to $215 last year.

AAA offers digital travel planning resources

AAA’s digital tools for travel planning ‘on the go’ include eTourBook guides for 101 top North American destinations, available free to members at AAA.com/ebooks. Choose from city titles, like the award-winning Las Vegas, regions, like Wine Country, and National Parks.

The free AAA Mobile app for iPhone, Android and iPad uses GPS navigation to help travelers map a route, find current gas prices and discounts, book a hotel,  and access AAA roadside assistance. Travelers can learn about the AAA Mobile app and AAA Mobile Web at AAA.com/mobile.

On AAA.com, travelers can find thousands of AAA Approved and Diamond Rated hotels and restaurants using AAA’s TripTik Travel Planner or the searchable Travel Guides at AAA.com/Travel. Every AAA Approved establishment offers the assurance of acceptable cleanliness, comfort and hospitality, and ratings of One to Five Diamonds help travelers find the right match for amenities and services.

AAA’s projections are based on economic forecasting and research by IHS Global Insight. The Colorado-based business information provider teamed with AAA in 2009 to jointly analyze travel trends during the major holidays. AAA has been reporting on holiday travel trends for more than two decades. The complete AAA/IHS Global Insight Independence Day 2013 Forecast can be found here.

As North America’s largest motoring and leisure travel organization, AAA provides more than 53 million members with travel, insurance, financial and automotive-related services. Since its founding in 1902, the not-for-profit, fully tax-paying AAA has been a leader and advocate for the safety and security of all travelers. AAA clubs can be visited on the Internet at AAA.com.

Heather HunterSurvey examines summer travel plans, identifying top priorities and key frustrations for travelers

ORLANDO, Fla. (June 2, 2013) – As the weather gets warmer and children finish the school year, many Americans are planning summer getaways. A new AAA survey reveals that two-thirds (66 percent) of U.S. adults plan to take a leisure trip between Memorial Day and Labor Day this year.   Those planning to travel, will hit the road a few times, averaging 3.5 trips during the summer months.  Additional findings from the survey also reveal that family and value are top priorities while unexpected expenses and finding time to take the perfect trip are the biggest frustrations.

Two-thirds to travel, one-third plan multi-generational trips

Sixty-six percent of Americans plan to take a least one trip during the summer travel season, with many planning to travel more than once. With an average of 3.5 trips among those traveling, 22 percent are planning one trip,   16 percent are planning two trips and the 29 percent are planning three or more trips between Memorial Day and Labor Day. Many travelers will also use these vacations as a time to build family bonds with nearly one in three (32 percent) of respondents plan to take a multi-generational trip in the next 12 months. For one-quarter of Americans the multi-generational trip will include both their children and their parents or their partner’s parents.

Top travel frustrations

The survey, fielded in April, shows that while value continues to be a top priority for travelers, 58 percent of respondents ranked unexpected expenses that can make developing a travel budget difficult the top vacation frustration. Additionally, finding the time to take the perfect vacation came in as the second largest travel frustration and finding the best price for lodging and transportation was third.  The full results of travel frustrations are listed below:

  • Unexpected expenses such as airline fees, resort fees or parking (58 percent)
  • Finding the time to take the perfect trip (52 percent)
  • Finding the best price for lodging and transportation (49 percent)
  • Airport security lines (45 percent)
  • Crowds at your destination (43 percent)
  • Packing for your vacation (27 percent)
  • Family arguments about where to go and what to do (21 percent)

Top considerations for choosing a hotel

Survey respondents continued to reiterate the importance of value as 85 percent of respondents cited overall value   as a top consideration for choosing a hotel. Added benefits such as free breakfast (63 percent) and free hi-speed Wi-Fi (51 percent) also ranked very high. When surveyed, 44 percent of respondents said they seek environmentally-friendly programs when selecting a hotel. The full results of top considerations when choosing a hotel are listed below:

Overall value for money (85 percent)

Convenience to attractions or activities (73 percent)

Free breakfast (63 percent)

Free, high speed Wi-Fi (51 percent)

Environmentally-friendly programs 44 percent)

Frequent travel programs or points (35 percent)

Pet-friendly (29 percent)

A spa (23 percent)

Children’s programs (23 percent)

The results of the survey show that Americans continue to prioritize travel, however they expect value and also desire convenience. The assistance a qualified travel agent, such as a AAA Travel Counselor can help consumers plan the perfect getaway that meets their need without the frustration of planning. For more information visit www.AAA.com/travel.

AAA provides travel planning information to travelers who wish to consider sustainability programs when making travel plans. Currently an ECO icon marks approximately 3,000 eligible lodging listings in the TourBook® guides, TripTik® Travel Planner and on AAA.com.

Heather HunterNew edition and photo contest give travelers with pets plenty to smile about

ORLANDO, Fla., (May 31, 2013) – AAA has released the newest version of the popular Traveling with Your Pet: The AAA PetBook®. Now in its 15th edition, the guide features more than 14,000 AAA Approved and Diamond Rated hotels and campgrounds that welcome travelers and their four-legged friends. The annually updated guidebook provides detailed information for finding and selecting the right place to stay, hotel pet policies, pet travel advice and emergency vet clinics.

“Whether for seasoned pet travelers or first timers, this resource helps ensure an enjoyable pet-friendly vacation by providing up-to-date details travelers can trust when making travel decisions,” said Bill Wood, executive editor and vice president, AAA Publishing and Travel Information.

The AAA PetBook, available in print and digital versions, has seen a 40 percent increase in pet-friendly AAA Approved hotels and campgrounds since its first edition in 1999. “The industry has changed with the evolving needs of travelers,” continued Wood. “Pets are truly part of the family for many travelers, and the growing number of travel options, like those listed in the AAA PetBook, makes it easier to plan a trip that includes furry family members.”

The release of the new edition, teeming with scenic, smile-provoking photos of pets enjoying safe travel, also marks the opening of the next annual AAA PetBook Photo Contest sponsored by Best Western. Travelers who snap a candid photo of their winner during this year’s vacation can enter through Nov. 30, 2013. Each year, winners are selected to appear on covers of the next edition and receive additional prizes. See inside The AAA PetBook for details, or access official contest rules, an entry form and the contest photo gallery at AAA.com/PetBook.

Traveling with Your Pet: The AAA PetBook, 15th edition, is available at many AAA and CAA offices as well as select bookstores for a suggested retail price of $18.95. The digital edition, available at online booksellers, carries a suggested retail price of $9.99.

As North America’s largest motoring and leisure travel organization, AAA provides more than 53 million members with travel, insurance, financial and automotive-related services. Since its founding in 1902, the not-for-profit, fully tax-paying AAA has been a leader and advocate for the safety and security of all travelers. AAA clubs can be visited on the Internet at AAA.com.

Heather Hunter

An up and down economy, fee fatigue, higher fares and travel frustration top causes for the decline

ORLANDO, Fla., (May 22, 2013) – AAA Travel projects 34.8 million Americans will journey 50 miles or more from home during the Memorial Day holiday weekend, a 0.9 percent decrease from the 35.1 million people who traveled last year.  The anticipated decline in holiday travel is predominately due to a decline in air travel of eight percent, fee fatigue among travelers and a waffling economy. The Memorial Day holiday travel period is defined as Thursday, May 23 to Monday, May 27.

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“AAA is forecasting Memorial Day travel  to be slightly lower this year due to an to an up and down economy, the impact of the end of the payroll tax holiday on working families and a 30-year low in the percentage of working age people in the workforce,” said AAA President and CEO Robert L. Darbelnet. “Additionally, economic growth in the first quarter was strong, but the impact of the sequester is now beginning to be felt resulting in reduced economic growth expectations.  These and other variables are expected to result in few travelers this holiday. ”

Highlights from 2013 Memorial Day Travel Forecast include:

  • Memorial Day holiday travelers to total 34.8 million, a decrease of 0.9 percent from the 35.1 million who traveled last year
  • Eighty-nine percent of travelers (31.2 million) to travel by automobile, an increase from 31.1 million last year
  • Holiday air travel expected to decrease eight percent to 2.3 million from 2.5 million in 2012
  • Memorial Day holiday travel volume is expected to remain above the 12-year historical average of 34.7 million
  • Median spending is expected to decrease more than six percent to $659, compared to $702 in 2012 with transportation costs consuming about 28 cents of every travel dollar.
  • Travelers intend to journey an average of 690 miles which is higher than last year’s average of 642 miles

“The primary driver of the decline in holiday travelers is an eight percent decrease in the number of people expected to take to the skies this holiday,” Darbelnet said. “American travelers are experiencing fee fatigue and frustration with everything from higher fares to airport security.  As a result, many are choosing road travel in higher numbers due to the lower cost and convenience it offers. ”

Automobile Travel Only Mode of Transportation to Expect Increase

Approximately 31.2 million people plan to drive to their destination, an increase of 0.25 percent from the 31.1 million who drove last year.  Almost nine out of ten holiday travelers (89 percent) will take to the nation’s roadways during the Memorial Day weekend, keeping automobile travel in the traditional lead as the dominant mode of holiday travel transportation.

Impact of gasoline prices on travel plans

A survey of intended travelers found that gasoline prices would have no impact on plans for 62 percent of travelers. Of the remaining 38 percent of travelers who said gas prices would impact their travel plans, 27 percent plan to economize in other areas.  Eight percent are planning to take a shorter trip and three percent will travel by an alternate mode of transportation.

Since national gas prices peaked at the end of February, motorists nationwide have felt welcome relief at the pump. However, current gas prices are in line with this time last year and not expected to have an effect on travel plans.

Air Travelers to decline by eight percent

More than 2.3 million leisure air travelers (more than seven percent of holiday travelers) will arrive at their destination by air, an eight percent decrease from last year’s 2.5 million air travelers.  The remaining four percent of holiday travelers are expected to travel by other modes, including rail, bus and watercraft.

Average travel distance increases

According to the survey of intending travelers, the average distance traveled by Americans during the Memorial Day holiday weekend is expected to be 690 miles, which is 48 miles more than last year’s average of 642 miles. Generally a greater distance traveled also means there will be an increase in air travel, but this year is the exception as air travel is expected to decrease eight percent. It appears auto travelers will be taking longer road trips as travelers expect fuel to consume a larger share of their travel budget. Last year the shortest trips, those of less than 150 miles, made up 21 percent of total travel, this year the shortest trips make up only 13 percent of the total. Those travelers who will take to the skies have shifted towards longer-haul flights.

Median spending is expected to decrease as travelers prioritize family and friends

Median spending during the Memorial Day holiday weekend is expected to be $659, six percent less than the $702 median spending last year. Transportation is expected to consume approximately 28 cents of every dollar. Travelers expect to spend 22 percent on food and beverage and 20 percent on lodging.

During the holiday weekend, more than half of intending travelers will plan to partake in visiting with friends/family (59 percent) and dining (55 percent). Other popular activities include shopping (44 percent), going to the beach (32 percent) and touring and sightseeing (27 percent).

Car rental rates highest in four years, hotel rates rise modestly

According to AAA’s Leisure Travel Index, hotel rates for AAA Three Diamond lodgings are expected to increase over four percent from one year ago with travelers spending an average of $166 per night compared to $160 last year. The average hotel rate for AAA Two Diamond hotels remained unchanged with an average cost of $120 per night. Weekend daily car rental rates will average $43, 19 percent more than last year and the highest rate recorded for the holiday since 2009.

AAA offers digital travel planning resources

AAA’s digital tools for travel planning ‘on the go’ include eTourBook guides for 101 top North American destinations, available free to members at AAA.com/ebooks. Choose from city titles, like the award-winning Las Vegas, regions, like Wine Country, and National Parks.

The free AAA Mobile app for iPhone, Android and iPad uses GPS navigation to help travelers map a route, find current gas prices and discounts, book a hotel,  and access AAA roadside assistance. Travelers can learn about the AAA Mobile app and AAA Mobile Web at AAA.com/mobile.

On AAA.com, travelers can find thousands of AAA Approved and Diamond Rated hotels and restaurants using AAA’s TripTik Travel Planner or the searchable Travel Guides at AAA.com/Travel. Every AAA Approved establishment offers the assurance of acceptable cleanliness, comfort and hospitality, and ratings of One to Five Diamonds help travelers find the right match for amenities and services.

AAA’s projections are based on economic forecasting and research by IHS Global Insight. The Colorado-based business information provider teamed with AAA in 2009 to jointly analyze travel trends during the major holidays. AAA has been reporting on holiday travel trends for more than two decades. The complete AAA / IHS Global Insight Memorial Day 2013 Forecast can be found here.

As North America’s largest motoring and leisure travel organization, AAA provides more than 53 million members with travel, insurance, financial and automotive-related services. Since its founding in 1902, the not-for-profit, fully tax-paying AAA has been a leader and advocate for the safety and security of all travelers. AAA clubs can be visited on the Internet at AAA.com.

 

Heather HunterRestaurants steeped in notable origins offer dining options rich in history and flavor

ORLANDO, Fla., (May 15, 2013) – As Memorial Day approaches, bringing the start of the summer travel season, many Americans look for ways to connect with our nation’s history during getaways and get-togethers. To help travelers enjoy a taste of our colorful beginnings, AAA inspectors gathered their selections for favorite historic restaurants. In locations that vary from an 1885 school building to a rustic stone and wood lodge in the heart of a national park, these restaurants invite diners to step back in time while enjoying a memorable meal.

Below is a sampling of 10 establishments with notable historic origins, patrons and menu offerings. Access the full list of 40 inspector picks for favorite historic restaurants on AAA’s travel blog at AAATravelViews.com.

The Ahwahnee Dining Room, AAA Three Diamond, Fine Dining/Continental, Yosemite National Park, Calif.

On entering this magnificent establishment that opened its doors in 1927, visitors are struck by the 34-foot-high open beam ceilings, granite pillars and floor-to-ceiling windows. Delicacies on the dinner menu include grilled salmon, braised pork, roasted lamb and prime rib. Inspector Tip: Casual attire is permitted at breakfast, lunch and Sunday brunch, but at dinner gentlemen are asked to wear collared shirts and long pants and ladies are asked to wear dresses, skirts or slacks and blouses.

Buckhorn Exchange, AAA Two Diamond, Casual Dining/Steak, Denver, Colo.

Henry H. “Shorty Scout” Zietz, a performer in Buffalo Bill Cody’s shows, opened the Buckhorn in 1893. Now, after 120 years of continuous operation, Gramma Fanny’s pot roast is still on the menu. A meat lover’s dream, the menu features a variety of USDA steaks, elk, Colorado lamb, quail, bison, duck and even alligator tail. Inspector Tip: The decor features Old West memorabilia including a 150-year-old hand carved oak bar and an extensive taxidermy collection.

Carolina Crossroads Restaurant, AAA Four Diamond, Fine Dining/Regional American, Chapel Hill, N.C.

Inside the historic Carolina Inn, the restaurant embodies elegance with Chippendale-style chairs, posh fabrics and delicate orchids. Guests can relax over gourmet luncheon sandwiches, salads and cold plates or return for one of the chef’s prix fixe dinner menus offered in addition to à la carte selections. The seasonally changing Southern-inspired cuisine includes creatively prepared seafood, beef and chicken. Inspector Tip: Sunday brunch is a treat with an omelet station and homemade pastries.

Century Inn Dining Room, AAA Three Diamond, Casual Dining/American, Scenery Hill, Pa.

Swing open the doors of this 1794 pillared stone house and be transported back to Colonial times. The inn was an overnight stop for stagecoach patrons like George Washington, Andrew Jackson and James Polk. The homey dining room offers charming décor, antiques, exposed beams and rich wood tables and chairs. Fresh ingredients drive the seasonally changing menu of regional American dishes served by staff dressed in Colonial clobber.

El Charro Café, AAA Two Diamond, Casual Dining/Mexican, Tucson, Ariz.

Tucked away in a historic barrio on the edge of downtown Tucson, this family-owned Mexican establishment was built as the family residence and converted to a restaurant in 1922. One specialty is the chimichanga, reputedly invented here when the chef accidentally dropped a burrito into a skillet of boiling oil. Inspector Tip: Another favorite worth the visit is the carne seca made of sun-dried beef strips seasoned with secret ingredients.

Gadsby’s Tavern Restaurant, AAA Two Diamond, Casual Dining/American, Alexandria, Va.

The site’s two buildings include a circa 1785 tavern, now a museum, and the 1792 City Hotel, now the dining room. The Colonial atmosphere comes alive with the aged wood-plank floors and staff in period attire. Menu options include George Washington’s Favorite, a grilled breast of duck, and Gentleman’s Pye, made of tender cuts of lamb and beef in a savory red wine stew. Inspector Note: Renowned patrons have included George Washington, Thomas Jefferson and James Madison.

Gristmill River Restaurant & Bar, AAA Two Diamond, Casual Dining/Regional American, New Braunfels, Texas

Constructed in 1878 as a cotton gin in this German settlement, now a historic district, the restaurant sits beneath the old Gruene water tower. View the rushing Guadalupe River beneath the shade of ancient oak trees. Inside, enjoy thick-cut steaks, oversized strawberry shortcakes and Jack Daniels pecan pie amid the ambience of enormous wood beams and period brick walls.

The Historic Green Manor Restaurant, AAA Two Diamond, Casual Dining/Southern, Union City, Ga.

Established in 1910, the restaurant is built on an early-1800s foundation. Cannon balls from the Civil War have been found on-site. The structure includes multiple fireplaces, elegant staircases and a basement wine cellar. Inspector Tip: The wraparound porch is a great place to wait for the tasty Southern buffet featuring fried chicken, barbeque pork ribs, collard greens, speckled butterbeans and sweet tea.

Union Oyster House, AAA Two Diamond, Family Dining/Regional Seafood, Boston, Mass.

As the city’s oldest restaurant and reputedly the nation’s oldest continuously operated restaurant, this popular establishment serves up traditionally prepared New England favorites — oysters, steamers, chowders, haddock and lobster — and even some landlubber fare. Inspector Tip: The narrow stairs and uneven wood-planked floors reflect the history of this nostalgic must-stop, which will celebrate 200 years in 2026.

Webster House, AAA Three Diamond, Casual Dining/American, Kansas City, Mo.

Constructed in 1885 as the Webster School, this Romanesque Revival style building was restored and repurposed in 2002 as a unique dining and shopping locale. The menu focuses on lighter fare and Sunday brunch, complete with mimosas, is fantastic. Inspector Tip: The impressive first floor has been artfully restored as an upscale antique shop.

Read the complete list of inspectors’ favorite historic restaurants across North America on the AAA travel blog at AAA.com/TravelViews. Find more than 600 restaurants classified as historic in the searchable listings on AAA.com.

About AAA Inspections

AAA is the only rating system that conducts on-site professional evaluations guided by member priorities. And, with more properties than any other rating entity, AAA is the only rating system that covers the U.S., Canada, Mexico and the Caribbean. For 77 years AAA has used professional inspectors to conduct in-person property inspections and publish the results, on a system of One to Five Diamonds, to guide member travel decisions.

AAA Approved and Diamond Rated hotel and restaurant listings can be found in the eTourBook guides at AAA.com/ebooks, the AAA Mobile app at AAA.com/mobile, online at AAA.com/Travel and in the printed TourBook guides available at AAA/CAA offices.

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