As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to rage across the globe, non-essential travel is still off the table. But many would-be travelers are holding out hope for later this year.
“Safety has rightly been the top priority for many people during the COVID-19 pandemic, but with news on vaccine readiness and approvals being granted around the world, we see the appetite for travel in 2021 growing,” said Mark Crossey, U.S. traveler expert for Skyscanner.
“The events of 2020 have underscored the importance of human connection and quality time with loved ones, and we know from our website traffic and customer behavior that travelers are turning their gaze to later this year,” he added. “We predict that many customers will prioritize spending on experiences over material goods in 2021, looking to make special memories with loved ones.”
But if you’re thinking ahead to potential travel later this year, should you go ahead and book things now ― or wait until you have a better sense of what’s feasible down the road? Below, Crossey and other experts share their advice.
Take advantage of good deals that come with flexibility.
With recreational travel at a low, there are some surprisingly inexpensive flight options right now. Crossey noted that “fares are currently still cheaper than normal seasonal trends.”
At the same time, airlines have responded to the pandemic by making their cancellation and rebooking processes more flexible. Because of this, TripScout co-founder and CEO Konrad Waliszewski recommend going ahead and booking your next trip, even knowing there’s a chance you’ll have to postpone or cancel it.
“If you’re planning any post-pandemic trips, book now,” he advised. “It’s unlikely you will ever see better prices, availability, and perks again ― but make sure it’s a flexible booking that you can change for any reason. Travelers who decide to wait until the pandemic has stabilized will miss out on this rare opportunity as they compete with the millions of travelers eagerly trying to satisfy their pent-up wanderlust.”
The Points Guy founder and CEO Brian Kelly echoed this sentiment, noting that there are amazing deals to be had. He also advised booking a trip with airline miles, sitting unused for most people over the past year.
“Almost every airline will give you your miles back if you don’t want to take the trip because they’ve gotten rid of redeposit fees, so it’s like booking a refundable ticket,” he said.
Although airlines have generally done away with change fees, another reason to book with airline miles instead of dollars is to hold onto your cash, which would become airline voucher money if you change your plans.
“You can’t pay rent with an airline voucher,” Kelly noted. “So I recommend we book a trip with miles and a refundable hotel, so if you’re unable to take it, you can get your miles back, and you aren’t out any cash.”
Read the fine print.
While airlines and other travel vendors have generally adopted more flexible cancellation and rescheduling policies over the past year, this phenomenon is by no means universal, so it’s essential to always read the fine print.