Travel planning pre-COVID seems like a lifetime ago – Be aware of Hurricane season; when is the best time to travel to Europe, Australia or anywhere you were thinking of going. Many people planned big trips 6 to 18 months in advance in order to secure the best lodging or cruise cabin. Travel insurance was always recommended but not everyone took it or understood what it covered.
When the world came to a screeching halt, we all had to navigate it. In the travel industry it meant a lot of watching and waiting because if the flight or cruise cancelled, our clients could receive a refund but if you cancelled too early then you would have to follow the terms of the original cancellation policy. Some cruise lines and tour operators gave a nice incentive if you changed dates instead of wanting your money back.
This leads us to the current times. While a vaccine seems to be on the horizon, it’s still important to understand where the world is today when making travel arrangements for the next few months and next year. I like to call it “minimizing your risk” which means that you need to fully understand all the terms of the arrangements you are making and health regulations of where you are going.
Airlines are waiving change fees on most nonrefundable tickets. Every sector of the travel business has adopted more sanitation protocols. Most river cruise lines, ocean cruise lines and land tour operators have implemented a risk-free guarantee if you book now for 2021 and some 2022 departures. This generally means that you can cancel up to a few hours before your trip and not lose money; a future credit will be given for anything under penalty. There are also vacation package companies that offer a true “cancel for any reason” insurance that can be added. Medical insurance is available to cover you should you get sick while on your trip, even if it’s from COVID-19.
Traveling now and for the foreseeable future means adopting to a new normal with mask mandates and social distancing. The last time we saw a major change in travel rules was after 911. While getting through the airport experience was much easier prior to that it didn’t stop us from traveling.
Cruise lines are now working at getting their ships back in the water first quarter of 2021.
If you are comfortable with placing a deposit now and knowing your risk if you change your mind, you may find some of the best values in ocean & river cruising on sailings in 2021 and 2022. Once they start sailing, we expect some of the incentives we see now to be dialed back.
The upside to traveling now will likely mean fewer crowds, less occupancy in resorts and on ships. With prices favorable in the short term it may be the best time to travel for some.