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Making a do-it-yourself drive down to the countryside has been among the age-old favorite pastimes of urbanites. However, the COVID-19 pandemic and the government quarantine regulations threw a monkey wrench to the family weekend drives we look forward to.
While impromptu trips provide a sense of adventure, day trippers believe that travel matters shouldn’t be left to chance particularly under the so-called new normal regime. Not only are we looking at road safety, but more so the health situation in our destination and the corresponding travel requirements which vary from one municipality to the next.
It is for these reasons that AAP Travel, the motor tourism arm of the Automobile Association Philippines, recently revived its caravans around nearby provinces to help restore travel confidence among motorists.
Unlike before, planning for the itinerary has become more meticulous to ensure that the destinations and the conduct of the tour are compliant to government-prescribed health protocols. 
As before, every caravan emphasizes road safety, quality food and lodging, security, and a seamless overall experience. Participants also drive their own vehicles, so they can cruise at their own pace and admire the roadside attractions. 
A brainchild of former Department of Tourism secretary Mina Gabor, who also heads AAP Travel, the caravans are in line with the DOT’s drive tourism program to promote domestic travel to spread the economic benefits to the countryside. 
“One big advantage of the AAP Travel caravans are the curated itineraries which are coordinated with local authorities and community stakeholders to ensure road safety, police-assisted traffic and secure parking,” she said.
She noted that caravans are often hosted by local governments and DOT regional offices to give participants a taste of the locality’s warm hospitality and culture through music and dance. 
Since 2012, the group has driven to touristic provinces such as Ifugao, Ilocos Sur, Ilocos Sur, Rizal, Cavite, Oriental Mindoro, Negros Occidental, Bulacan, Laguna, Quezon, Bohol, Batanes, Iloilo and Guimaras.
Last year, the AAP Travel made a two-day pre-Christmas caravan to Pampanga and Bulacan to break the months-long inactivity due to the lockdown. The group rolled around heritage sites, farm tourism resorts, and notable restaurants in the country’s “Culinary Capital.”
For a well-oiled driving experience, quite literally, Petron Corp. has partnered with the group to share the advocacy for road safety, clean fuel, and domestic tourism promotion. The firm has been providing caravan participants with Petron Value Card with P 1,000 credits, lube oils, and free change oil service at select stations for a worry-free run. 
Adding form and function to the event is Maxus Philippines which will showcase its latest cars and display their mettle as the caravan rides to the max around Luzon’s gorgeous sights. 
The group will foray into Bulacan’s northern towns today (Feb. 21) and explore the lesser-known attractions in Calumpit, Bustos and Baliwag, to kick off the year’s travel season.
In the pipeline is a three-day Laguna-Quezon caravan which will be a merry mix of nature, culture, cuisine and everything in between. Supported by the DOT Calabarzon Region, the route will pass through some of the spots within the Laguna Green Corridor which is laden with health safety measures.
With the nuances under the new normal, on top of the advocacies being pushed by AAP Travel, motorists will never look at the road trip the same way again.  
For details and updates on forthcoming caravans, log on to www.aaptravel.com.ph or email info@aaptravel.com.ph.

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