Most of us had plans to travel somewhere more exciting in 2020 than the path between the couch and the kitchen. Unfortunately, COVID-19 has scuttled countless plans for ocean cruises, bus tours and flights to exotic locales. To make matters worse, after being cooped up for months, many of us feel more in need of a vacation than ever. It’s natural that, as the months wear on, people are at least considering future travel. You might be clicking through travel websites and beginning to make plans, if not yet booking tickets.
Planning a trip can be a good thing to do, even in the middle of a pandemic. It gives you something to look forward to, which is much needed in these times when one day may seem to blend into the next. It’s a reminder that we won’t always be stuck in the middle of a pandemic; things will get better.
We all hope that medical developments and sensible public health measures will bring COVID-19 under control soon. Even if they do, the virus will forever change some things about how we travel. Here are some tips for planning your next trip.
Travel Tip #1: Look (at Travel Advisories) Before You Book.
If there’s one thing we have learned during this pandemic, it’s that conditions change quickly. A few months ago, New York City was a “hot spot” and people were avoiding travel there unless absolutely necessary. Now, New York is much better situated, but Florida, Georgia, and other southern states are suffering outbreaks.
Trying to plan a future trip to a place where COVID-19 risk will be low when you travel is something of a moving target. There is so much we don’t know about this virus. That said, if traveling domestically, you should check whether domestic travel advisories have been issued for your intended destination within the U.S. (and check periodically for updates). Make sure that the state you are visiting doesn’t require you to quarantine for longer than the planned duration of your trip, defeating the purpose of your travel.
If hoping to travel abroad, consider that many countries are now not accepting visitors from the U.S. Get information regarding your ability to travel abroad from the U.S. Department of State website.
Travel Tip #2: Reconsider that Cruise.
Cruises are a great way to travel in comfort and see a variety of destinations without having to unpack and repack. Unfortunately, they are also a great way to spread illness. Even before the coronavirus emerged, there have been tales of norovirus and other viral illnesses spreading like wildfire on cruise ships. Most cruise lines are taking measures to entice travelers back with intensified hygiene practices, but you are still taking a risk. More than one person has referred to cruise ships as “floating petri dishes.”
If you do decide to book a cruise now, you may be able to get exceptional rates. Consider spending some of your savings on hand sanitizers and travel insurance.
Travel Tip #3: Work With a Travel Agent.
The internet has made it possible to book flights, hotels, cruises, and entire travel packages online. For that reason, many people have never considered working with a travel agent. Why have someone else do what you can do yourself?
There are a number of good reasons to work with travel agents, not the least of which is that they can often score you discounts and upgrades you can’t get online.
There are a number of good reasons to work with travel agents, not the least of which is that they can often score you discounts and upgrades you can’t get online. Many travelers during the pandemic have realized the value of travel agents who helped them get flights when they were stranded or refunds when they could no longer travel as planned. They can also advise you regarding travel insurance. And remember that the services of a travel agent cost you nothing; they are paid by airlines, cruise lines, hotels, and resorts.
Travel Tip #4: Stay On the Road—and Off the Beaten Path.
If you’re eager for a change of scenery, but not for crowded airports, planes, and hotels, think about taking a road trip. Driving may put certain destinations out of reach, but it also offers certain advantages: flexibility and the ability to avoid throngs of people. You can book a cabin by a quiet lake, or a vacation rental by owner in a quaint mountain town. Getting a vacation rental where you can prepare your own meals if you wish lets you avoid the risks of restaurants. Just remember to keep hand sanitizer and paper towels in the car on a longer trip; gas pumps are notoriously germ-ridden.
Travel Tip #5: Get Travel Insurance—And Read the Fine Print.
Travel insurance has always been a good idea when booking costly trips. In the age of COVID, it’s virtually essential. You are looking for a trip cancellation/interruption policy that will reimburse you if you have to cancel your trip prior to departure, or need to cut it short for some reason.
However, most such policies only apply if the trip is cancelled or interrupted due to an unforeseen event. These days, COVID-19 related causes do not fall into that category; as a pandemic, it is considered a “known event.” So if you book a trip with insurance, thinking that you can cancel if you’re too nervous to travel as it draws close, you will likely be disappointed. Read the fine print to be certain what is covered.
If you want the option of cancelling shortly before your planned departure, you should consider “cancel for any reason” (CFAR) coverage. This type of coverage is often available as an add-on to traditional travel insurance. CFAR coverage allows you to cancel your trip as little as 48 hours before a planned departure and recoup much of your trip cost. Be aware, however, that this flexibility is typically costly; that said, it may be worth it for the peace of mind in these uncertain times. Also, you usually need to purchase CFAR coverage with or shortly after your traditional travel insurance coverage, and there may be other eligibility requirements.