The first wave of COVID-19 vaccinations has lifted many spirits and raised expectations.
Those shots have also inspired a sharp rise in travel bookings among folks who are hoping it will finally be safe to jump on an airplane and lounge at a luxury hotel for summer vacation.
Even with the encouraging news, your travel plans should account for COVID-19 whether you receive a vaccine or not. These tips could help to save you some money and safeguard against more travel-related disappointment.
1. Avoid nonrefundable reservations
In the early days of the pandemic, millions of frustrated travelers spent untold hours trying to secure refunds for plane tickets, hotel reservations, and theme park passes. To their credit, many travel and hospitality companies were very responsive to their customers. Many have even improved their refund and cancellation policies going forward.
After all those 2020 cancellations, travel companies are just as anxious for your business as you are to leave your house. If you don’t like the terms offered by one hotel, there’s probably a nearby competitor offering a better deal with a more generous refund window. The most important step is to read the fine print BEFORE you book.
2. Have a back-up plan
As your travel date nears, it’s important that you check the COVID-19 situation in your destination city. Even if you and your family are vaccinated, rising infection rates in popular tourist spots could lead to park closures, event cancellations, and even lockdowns.
If you’re determined to travel as long as local governments are allowing you to do so, scout for a Plan B that’s close to where you’ll be staying. Many cooped-up Americans rediscovered national parks during the pandemic. Touring local beaches, nature trails, and public parks could be another option. Cities across the country have expanded outdoor shopping and dining.
Just remember that if a large theme park shuts down on short notice, outdoor spaces could become crowded as well. Wherever you decide to go, pandemic best practices will still apply.
3. Don’t wait
Believe it or not, yours isn’t the only family who wants to make up for lost time. Popular travel destinations are only going to be more popular if 2021 continues to go as well as we all hope.
Even a modest trip to visit family could be susceptible to inflated travel prices (not to mention the rising gas prices!) if infection rates drop and travel demand continues to rise. Private destinations like bed and breakfasts, house rentals, and campsites will still be in high demand by those who are following strict social distancing until vaccines are more available. Once you’ve settled on an itinerary – and built in some flexibility – the sooner you book the better.
4. Splurge responsibly
Before you start locking down dates and comparing airline fares, it’s important that you have your travel budget locked down too. Talk to your spouse about where you’ll get the money for this trip. Is this a trip you’ve already been saving for? Are you rolling over 2020 reimbursements for cancelled travel and youth sports memberships? Or are you dipping into some reserve funds?
After making it through 2020, you certainly deserve to splurge a little. Make sure you don’t let the excitement of a potential vacation throw off your 2021 financial plan before the year’s really begun.