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Experts share favorite Diamond Rated hotels and restaurants for holiday celebrations

ORLANDO, Fla. (October 25, 2017) – As millions of people make plans to travel this holiday season, hotels and restaurants are unpacking decorations and spicing up menus to help their guests get into the holiday spirit. Travelers and diners looking for the comforts of home without the stress of hosting during the holidays can find festive and family-friendly activities, extravagant light displays and décor, sensational seasonal menus and much more at properties across the United States and Canada.

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To help those travelers who are looking for a little extra holiday magic, AAA’s professional inspectors, who conduct annual evaluations of nearly 59,000 AAA Inspected & Approved hotels and restaurants, have selected 12 of their favorite festive Diamond Rated properties to visit this holiday season.

Hotels with Holiday Cheer for the Entire Family – Go ice skating, take a sleigh ride or join in a “reindog” parade. These AAA inspector picks offer visitors hands-on ways to enjoy the holidays away from home throughout the season.

Set at the base of Blackcomb Mountain, this gorgeous property is perfect for skiers. Activities in the nearby village include sleigh rides, ice skating and plenty of options for shopping and dining. Visitors can also enjoy daily holiday arts and crafts and other family-friendly activities, a special Christmas dinner, as well as an adults-only New Year’s Eve gala. –Inspector #450

Northern California’s wine region is open for business – wineries and resorts are ready to welcome visitors this holiday season despite recent wildfires. And one of the best things people can do to support the people of Napa is by spending time in the region, helping local businesses get back on their feet. On weekend afternoons in December, hop aboard a festively decorated trolley playing seasonal music, which runs between destination spots like the Oxbow Market and Historic Napa Mill. This cozy bed and breakfast, near the heart of Napa, has a cheerful holiday environment with a beautifully decorated tree and miniature town. –Inspector #569

This property, centrally located in the winter wonderland of Aspen, is lavishly adorned with holiday décor and complete with a mini-gingerbread village. Visitors can enjoy carriage rides through town with Santa and Mrs. Claus, and the hotel provides treats for Santa and his reindeer on Christmas Eve. –Inspector #599

This exclusive, luxury resort features a full calendar of family-friendly offerings, including holiday movie screenings, elf tuck-ins, ornament decorating, a “reindog” parade, gingerbread house and ornament decorating, a Christmas Eve yule log ceremony, Christmas Day brunch and much more. –Inspector #43

Bright Lights, Winter Wonderland – Immerse yourself in extravagant light displays and décor that create a magical environment. Decked out with hundreds of thousands of lights, ornaments and garlands, these AAA inspector picks offer a holiday feast for the eyes.

AAA’s inspector recommends planning your visit after the first week in December, when this beautifully restored historic country inn is turned into a holiday wonderland. The public areas and guestrooms are charmingly decorated with decked-out Christmas trees, a not-so-small collection of Santa figurines and a lighted village display. Guests are welcomed with eggnog and holiday-decorated cookies throughout the season. –Inspector #87

Located just steps from Rockefeller Center, this hotel is regally decorated for the holidays with its own 30-foot Christmas tree featuring 30,000 ornaments and more than 70,000 lights. Enjoy a cup of eggnog or spiced cider, go for a spin around the Rockefeller Center ice skating rink, then stroll by the spectacularly decorated department store windows nearby. –Inspector #592

  • AAA Five Diamond Bellagio in Las Vegas, Nevada

With seasonal sculptures created from thousands of fresh flowers and plants, the resort’s 14,000-square-foot conservatory is a floral fairytale. During the holidays, visitors can enjoy the florally crafted enormous polar bears, life-size snow globes and penguins on display. The lobby and shopping areas are also festively decorated. –Inspector #39

This luxurious resort creates a winter dreamscape with nearly 200,000 lights, ribbons, garlands, wreaths and gloriously decorated trees. Guests can take part in myriad activities, 12 days of holiday themed events and Christmas Day brunch or dinner. –Inspector #76

Holiday Delights for Foodies and More – Sensational holiday-themed menus and settings at these Diamond Rated restaurants and hotels offer festive treats for the discerning foodie to the casual diner looking for a flavorful escape from the usual.

Each Sunday and Wednesday in December, the inn offers a Dickens Dinner with roast duck and pheasant accompanied by a reading from Dickens’ novel, “A Christmas Carol.” Guests can go for a stroll along wooded trails adorned with icicles and lovely buildings set among the Hocking Hills. –Inspector #10

The beautiful dining room’s upscale western flair is transformed with festive decorations and seasonal menus for the holiday season. Sleigh rides at night take guests through a winter light display, complete with hot chocolate and blankets for snuggling. –Inspector #450

  • AAA Four Diamond Circa 1886 in Charleston, South Carolina

This renovated carriage house at the historic Wentworth Mansion offers an intimate dining setting. An annual Dickens Dinner includes a retelling of “A Christmas Carol” with a four-course dinner prepared by the award-winning chef. –Inspector #43

This charming Victorian home decorates every square inch with tasteful holiday décor. Diners can warm up and enjoy a holiday-themed tea with options like gingerbread cheesecake and tea sandwiches with roasted turkey and apple cranberry mustard. –Inspector #593

The year-end holiday season is one of the busiest times of year, when millions of travelers take to the roads and air to spend time with family and friends. To help those who will set out on a holiday getaway this year, AAA’s travel experts offer these travel tips:

  • Plan ahead – Book early for the best deals and availability on hotels, airfare, car rentals and more.
  • Work with a travel agent – Travel agents often have access to extra amenities and added benefits to help plan a magical holiday getaway. They can also be a tremendous help in the event something changes or goes wrong on your trip.
  • Be flexible – If your schedule permits, consider traveling on the holiday itself to encounter less congestion and fewer crowds.
  • Safety first – Get plenty of rest before setting out on a holiday trip. If driving, schedule breaks every two hours or 100 miles to remain alert and avoid driving drowsy.
  • Make sure your vehicle is road trip ready – Motorists should check the car battery and windshield wipers, inspect tires and pack a winter emergency kit containing a snow shovel, flashlight, ice scraper, jumper cables, warning devices and extra warm clothing for everyone riding in the vehicle.
  • Pack your patience – The holiday season is one of the busiest times of year for traveling. Expect heavy crowds and allow plenty of time to get to your destination safely.

For more information to plan a holiday getaway, visit AAA.com/HolidayDiamonds.

As North America’s largest motoring and leisure travel organization, AAA provides more than 58 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. Motorists can map a route, identify gas prices, find discounts, book a hotel and access AAA roadside assistance with the AAA Mobile app for iPhone and Android. Learn more at AAA.com/mobile. AAA clubs can be visited on the Internet at AAA.com.

Julie HallORLANDO, Fla. (April 21, 2016) – As families across the country eagerly await the end of school and the beginning of summer, millions of Americans are making plans to travel with loved ones this year. According to a recent AAA survey, more than one-third of Americans (35 percent) are planning to take a family vacation of 50 miles or more away from home involving two or more immediate family members in the next 12 months.

AAA estimates that U.S. drivers have saved nearly $12 billion on gas so far this year compared to the same period in 2015, and drivers this summer should pay the lowest gas prices in 12 years. These lower gas prices have helped motivate Americans to drive at record levels, and prompted many families to take road trips this year. Fifty-five percent of Americans say they are more likely to take a road trip this year due to lower gas prices.

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Road trips (69 percent), national parks (49 percent) and theme parks (42 percent) are the most popular types of vacations for families planning to travel in the next year. Vacations to international destinations (26 percent) and cruises (19 percent) round out the top five most popular vacation options for traveling families.

“Two-thirds of Americans say spending quality time as a family is the most important part of taking a family vacation,” said Bill Sutherland, AAA senior vice president of Travel and Publishing. “Whether it’s a cross-country road trip or a dream vacation to a far-off destination, travel offers busy families an excellent opportunity to share experiences and connect with each other in meaningful ways.”

AAA Travel experts offer tips for families planning vacations this year:

  • Road Trips: AAA recommends travelers map out a route in advance to make the most of their road trip. Drivers should plan frequent stops, about every 100 miles or two hours, to remain alert. Tools such as AAA’s TripTik Travel Planner, in desktop and app versions, can help families find AAA Diamond Rated hotels and restaurants, gas prices and plan fun stops along the way.
  • National Parks: The National Park Service celebrates its centennial anniversary in 2016, making it a great year for travelers to discover the parks. The most popular national parks, such as Great Smoky Mountains, Grand Canyon and Yosemite, may reach capacity during peak travel times, so plan ahead. For families traveling on a budget, national parks are waiving entrance fees this year April 16-24, Aug. 25-28, Sept. 24 and Nov. 11.
  • Theme Parks: Theme parks in Orlando and Southern California are expected to continue growing in popularity with families this summer, as new attractions debut at theme parks coast-to-coast. For families with flexible travel schedules, early May and September are great times to visit theme parks, when travelers can experience lighter crowds and shorter lines.
  • International Vacations: Favorable exchange rates and discounted pricing are helping many families plan trips to international destinations this year. The current strength of the dollar makes international travel especially affordable right now and Americans will get more for their money when visiting destinations around the world.
  • Cruises: Cruises offer a variety of activities for all ages, plus children’s programs that give parents a chance to relax and unwind. Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) forecasts 24 million vacationers will cruise the world’s waterways in 2016, one million more than last year. Experienced travel agents can help first-time cruisers identify the cruise line, ship and itinerary that best suits their family.

AAA’s professional hotel inspectors, who evaluate nearly 28,000 hotels across North America using detailed, published guidelines, have identified a few of their top picks for family-friendly Diamond Rated hotels:

Beaches Negril Resort & Spa, Negril, Jamaica – Three Diamond

AAA Inspector Notes: Marvelous for both families and adults, this lovely all-inclusive is well laid out with an amazing water park offering refreshing fun for all ages. There is an Xbox play lounge, sailing lessons for children and adults and a comprehensive kid’s camp area for all ages.

Great Wolf Lodge, Centralia, Wash. – Three Diamond

AAA Inspector Notes: From splashing in the water park, gaming in the arcade, playing a game of checkers in the lobby, to any number of other seasonal adventures, this hotel is a fantastic place for the entire family. A nice selection of guest rooms is available, including some with bunk beds and a popular kids’ cabin.

LEGOLAND Florida Resort, Winter Haven, Fla. – Three Diamond

AAA Inspector Notes: Geared toward children, this LEGOLAND resort features pirate, adventure and kingdom themed rooms. Kids have a bunk bed area while adults can relax in their own space. Set on Lake Eloise, there are boardwalks with views of wildlife, a fire pit to relax beside at night, a LEGO club room with movies, a splash pad by the expansive swimming pool and even a Master LEGO builder’s workshop with classes.

Wequassett Resort and Golf Club, East Harwich, Mass. – Four Diamond

AAA Inspector Notes: This waterfront resort is the perfect family-friendly destination, with an outdoor amphitheater and a pirate-themed interactive water playground with treasure chests, fountains and a pirate ship with slides and swinging ropes. The high-tech children’s center features a 135-inch HD screen for Wii, PlayStation and Xbox gaming. Activities include dive-in movies, teen gaming nights and lessons in swimming, sailing and tennis. An ice cream truck with complimentary treats makes special appearances throughout the property in summer.

Westgate Smoky Mountain Resort & Spa, Gatlinburg, Tenn. – Three Diamond

AAA Inspector Notes: The resort features cabin-style duplexes, plus condos that can be expanded via connecting doors, perfect for large families. Many units have fireplaces and whirlpool tubs. Family-friendly facilities include an infinity pool and nature trails that lead from the property into the densely wooded forest of Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

Before setting out on a family vacation, download the free AAA Mobile app for iPhone, iPad and Android. Travelers can use the app to map a route, find the lowest gas prices, access exclusive member discounts, find more than 58,000 AAA Approved and Diamond Rated hotels and restaurants, request AAA roadside assistance and more. For in-person travel planning, seek the expert advice of a trusted travel advisor, who can provide personalized service and first-hand destination knowledge to create a memorable family vacation. For more information and to begin planning a vacation, visit AAA.com/Travel.

As North America’s largest motoring and leisure travel organization, AAA provides more than 56 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. Motorists can map a route, identify gas prices, find discounts, book a hotel and access AAA roadside assistance with the AAA Mobile app for iPhone, iPad and Android. Learn more at AAA.com/mobile. AAA clubs can be visited on the Internet at AAA.com.

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About AAA’s Family Travel Survey

This report presents the findings of a telephone survey administered as part of global market research company ORC International’s weekly CARAVAN® omnibus surveys conducted among two national probability samples (landline only and cell phone), which, when combined, consists of 1,002 adults living in the continental United States. Interviewing was conducted March 17-20, 2016. This study has an average statistical error of ±3.6% at the 95% confidence level for US adults. That means there is a 95% chance that the results found in this study are within ±3.6% of the results that would be found if all US adults living in private households in the continental United States were interviewed using the research methodology and questionnaire used in this study. The actual statistical error depends on the number of respondents to each question and on the observed proportions.

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