Imagine a once-in-a-lifetime African safari, a tour of ancient ruins in Italy or an adventure into South America’s rainforest. Wherever your dream vacation takes you, a travel professional can help you get from here to there. AAA travel experts and a few of our trusted travel partners answer some of the most common questions about planning a bucket list trip.
Roman Forum in Rome, Italy; Photo by tichr/Stock.Adobe.com
Q: HOW CAN A TRAVEL ADVISOR HELP CREATE THE TRIP OF YOUR DREAMS?
A: Even if you’ve started your own research, working with a travel advisor can simplify your planning and enhance your trip.
"Consult AAA Travel for the details on a recommended itinerary and estimated budget,” says Patricia Parsons, senior travel advisor at the AAA Store in Flemington, New Jersey. “Don’t limit yourself by the sticker price; your AAA advisor will explain the value that is included.”
The logistics of getting from point A to points B, C and D can also be daunting, but a professional can find you the best route and price, says Parsons, who also recommends that travelers consider “flying business class to arrive rested and refreshed.”
Best of all, getting started on planning with your dedicated AAA travel advisor about 12 months in advance can save you money, according to Parsons. “Planning far in advance gives you the most flexibility in pricing” she says, “and offers the most options for booking your first choice, not being forced to go with what’s left over.”
Travel advisors are compensated by the travel suppliers, so in most cases, there is no charge for working with one. Complicated itineraries might include a small planning fee, but the amount of time saved by the traveler makes this small charge well worth it. In addition, AAA advisors sometimes offer member benefits that are not available when booking directly with the travel provider.
Sunset over African savanna; Photo by By Sergey Fedoskin/Stock.Adobe.com
Q: IS A SPECIALIZED BUCKET LIST TRIP LIKE AN AFRICAN SAFARI ÜBER-EXPENSIVE?
A: You may think a dream trip such as an African safari is out of reach, but that may
not be the case.
“Don’t be hesitant about the price of a safari, which by nature includes much more than a typical hotel or resort since most meals, drinks, accommodations and experiences are part of the package,” says Sherwin Banda, president of African Travel, Inc. “Fully private trips cost the most but are tailored to your exact needs.”
If you enjoy traveling with other like-minded travelers at a great price, consider an intimate small-group departure, which allows you to share the costs of transfers and guided experiences, Banda recommends. “With AAA members, we often organize a mix of both, where you can enjoy the benefits of a group trip but also add a few experiences of your own to the trip,” he elaborates.
When weighing safari options, don’t always rely on price, cautions Banda. “The true worth of a safari is in its value for money: what exactly it includes—not just the experienced guides and culinary experiences but moreso the service you receive when planning, booking and enjoying it,” he adds.
If you’re looking for excellent value, shoulder and low seasons are ideal options and have a shorter lead time, though booking times can vary by destination and seasonality. For example, there are only a limited number of gorilla permits sold per day and a set number of small groups that can see these incredible creatures, according to Banda. “You will want to secure permits as far in advance as possible—sometimes as much as a year in advance in high season,” he says.
Sydney Harbor located in Sydney, New South Wales, Australia; Photo by Richie Chan/Stock.Adobe.com
Q: IS PURCHASING TRAVEL INSURANCE WORTH IT WHEN BOOKING BUCKET LIST TRIPS?
A: Travel insurance should definitely be on your packing list when planning a bucket list trip, notes Randy Osborne, AAA’s tour product manager. “It has never been more important to have the safety and security travel insurance offers—most especially on a more expensive bucket list trip. From trip cancellation coverage to interruption coverage to emergency medical coverage while on your vacation, you can feel at ease knowing you have someone to reach out to and assist should the unexpected happen.”
Travel insurance can cover your prepaid, nonrefundable trip deposits if you must cancel or interrupt a trip due to a reason covered by the policy, explains Daniel Durazo, spokesperson for Allianz Partners, the preferred travel insurance provider for AAA Travel. Travel insurance also can cover costs for medical emergencies and emergency medical transportation.
“This coverage can be a lifesaver if you become ill or injured while traveling as it also includes 24/7 travel assistance, which can help with navigating foreign healthcare providers or with almost any travel-related problem,” says Durazo.
Amazon Rainforest in Brazil;n Photo by gustavofrazao/Stock.Adobe.com
Of note, Allianz’s TripAssist Family Care plan may be AAA’s most popular plan. It provides excellent coverage and benefits and covers children 17 and under for no additional cost when they are traveling with a parent or grandparent, according to Durazo.
TripAssist Choice is another smart option for travelers who need higher coverage limits due to the cost of their trip or the distance to their destination. “TripAssist with Cancel Anytime provides the most flexibility available, allowing travelers to cancel their trip for almost any unforeseen reason and receive a refund for a portion of their prepaid, nonrefundable trip deposits,” says Durazo.
Thorough planning will make it more likely that your excursion delivers the best bucket list trip ever. “Bucket list trips are meant to be unforgettable; travelers should plan for a longer trip to fit in everything on their list and also have time for spontaneous activities,” says Melissa DaSilva, president of Trafalgar, North America. “At the end of the day, it’s all about having that ‘wow’ moment, the one that makes you think ‘I can’t believe I was there.’ It’s important not to stress over the planning and to remember that travel is supposed to be fun.”