Ready for an adventure but not sure how to make travel plans amid the coronavirus crisis? If we want it or not, the COVID-19 pandemic will change the way we travel, just like 9/11 did. If the wanderlust is calling your name, you will have to face a new reality. No escape from the fact that we all will be dealing with the fear of getting infected, losing our money, or even getting stranded in a foreign country. In the next year or maybe longer, the travel industry will have to implement dramatic changes to gain back travelers’ confidence. Meanwhile, tourists need to come up with new ways of making their plans focusing on not only physical but also financial health. In this post, you will learn how to draft your travel plans without the risk of losing your money.
When the coronavirus outbreak wiped my two major trips for the year, I had to jump through hoops to get refunds for my travel investment. With almost 20 different cancelations, I quickly became an expert on How to Get a Refund for Travel Cancel Due to COVID-19. I still ended up with a credit voucher for over $1000 that may not be able to spend if, in a year from now, travel will still be hazardous. I would rather lose the money than risk my health. So how am I going to move forward as a person who loves traveling? My old ways of planning trips will not work for sure until the world goes back to normal or a “new normal,” whatever that might be. Leaving health issues behind, I came up with a few ideas that would make my travels possible but without significant financial risk.
Switch from advance planning to last-minute travel
Just like any other travel addict, I love to plan my trips. I usually do it well in advance, partially because I am worshiping travel hacking or in other worlds traveling for free, which requires a lot of research and logistic maneuvering. But would that work now? Unfortunately, no, and I do not see any changes coming soon. The coronavirus pandemic is still not under control and the whole world in an experimental stage of trying to figure out the next step. Additionally, the seriously dismantled world economy does not offer any signs of encouragement.
Therefore, investing in trips with dates months ahead creates substantial financial risk. ( Is Buying Cheap Vacations During the Coronavirus Pandemic a Good Idea?) You are much better off taking action a week or two in advance when you have a better understanding of the current situation. Keep in mind, we are entering the unknown where “at least 93 percent of the global population now lives in countries with coronavirus-related travel restrictions, with approximately 3 billion people residing in countries enforcing complete border closures to foreigners, according to a recent analysis by the Pew Research Center. “Source The New York Times: Coronavirus Travel Restrictions, Across the Globe.
Stay away from nonrefundable reservations
Investing in nonrefundable offers is risky anytime, but especially during the time of COVID-19 uncertainty. I very rarely use that option, but I could not resist an offer of saving over $150 on my week-long hotel stay in Paris. I justified that decision by the fact that I had yearly travel insurance in case something goes wrong. Safe, right? Well, except that the insurance does not cover an epidemic or pandemic. I am very thankful that the hotel actually offered me credit in a spirit of global solidarity. Otherwise, my money would be gone. Still, since I will only use this voucher when it is safe to travel again, I may lose that $1000 anyway.
Use Booking.com for your lodging reservation to search no payment reservations
My favorite hotel booking site is Booking.com and I am planning to use it even more during the COVID-19 crisis. Why? It offers a wide selection of not only hotels but also Airbnbs. Many of them do not require any payment until you arrive and have a wide window of cancelation. I usually start my search with “payment not required” criteria. Booking.com has a simple loyalty program, Genius Level 1 which offers 10% discounts, and Genius Level 2 with a 15% discount, complimentary breakfast, and free room upgrades. Keep in mind that not all hotels listed offer that option, so you will need to do the search tool for that. And lastly, I have a great experience with the service. When one of my bookings was canceled by the owner 48 hours before arrival, the agency found me a better place without additional charges.
Avoid international travel amid COVID-19 crisis
With a second wave of the coronavirus pandemic as possibility still hanging above our heads, international travel is especially risky business. As we have seen in the first wave, Thousands of Americans Were Stranded Abroad Due to Coronavirus Crisis. You do not want to be one of them. It is not only nerve-racking and often very costly experience. Travelers were left alone to figure out how to survive in a foreign country and how to find their way home. Also, you may be required to quarantine on your way home and in your country.
Avoid putting money even in domestic flights
Let’s start with the fact that as of now, most airlines do not have any sensible policies to keep their passengers safe. Flight attendants are calling for significant changes afraid of risking their health on a job. Social distancing is practically nonexistent. All this chaos will definitely trigger low interest in flying, and some airlines may not survive. “If the airline goes bankrupt, you may find out that your flight tickets for long-planned vacations are suddenly worthless. One of the worst things for passengers of recently bankrupt airlines is the lack of information available. At the precise moment you need to know what’s going on, there is no-one left at the airline to help you.” Source AirHelp Airline Bankruptcies: What Are Your Rights?
Do not buy cruise vacations
Lots of changes will have to take place before cruise ships are permitted to resume service and ignites a high demand. As you can read in the USA Today article, “cruise ships won’t be hitting the high seas again anytime soon.” There is so much wrong with the industry, it may not come back in a previous form, and some may not survive. (How the deadly coronavirus brought an industry to its knees: The ‘cruise lines 9/11′”)
I already see lawsuit ads against the cruise industry for putting the passenger in danger and sailing despite confirmed coronavirus infections. I am sure it is just the beginning. For a while, scenes of cruise ship passengers lining their balconies, awaiting return to their home, may keep people away even if significant health safety changes are implemented. The bottom line, the cruise industry was hardest hit by the COVID-19 crisis and will have the most difficult time to recover. Stay away from it for a while.
Buy travel insurance…or not
With the travel industry on its knees, you may ask yourself, Is Travel Insurance Worth It? In general, it is, but in the current situation, things are looking different. Typical insurance does not cover a pandemic. To get this coverage, you will have to pay substantially more for a “cancel for any reason” policy. It is not worth it for small amounts, like $300 airfare, but if you are willing to invest a larger amount, getting this coverage makes sense. Still, the risk remains, without people traveling and paying for their insurance, would these companies survive?
Always use credit cards to pay for your travel
Even prior to the COVID-19 crisis, I used credit cards to collect points and miles and for extra financial protection. Many credit cards not only provide an additional tier of travel insurance but will also fight for your rights. They will help you to dispute travel charges, for example for flight cancelations. Paying with a debit card or check does not give you this peace of mind.
Reevaluate credit cards you are using
Many of my vacations I made possible with credit card anniversary nights, opening bonuses, points, and miles. Especially miles, that I used very often for flying internationally. With the COVID-19 crisis, I am going to re-evaluate my tactics and focus on cashback cards. I will definitely stay away from miles since I am not planning on flying in the near future and the future of many airlines is shaky. Having cash in my hand will allow me more flexibility and possibly use it for last-minute travels.
Where to go without flying?
My biggest hope to salvage the upcoming summer is that Canada will open its borders for Americans. Why Canada? Because it offers beautiful nature and plenty of room for social distancing. I am thinking Prince Edward Island the, only province in the Northeast that I did not visit yet. Or maybe, I will revisit some of my favorite destinations: