Updated: Oct 19, 2020
Yes, it’s true. It’s May 12th, 2020. As a travel blogger and owner of We 5 Thrive, a travel agency specializing in what we call “Tranquil Travel”, I have booked a quick research trip to the Dominican Republic for July 2020.
(Ahem, I love my job! Who else gets to conduct business drinking from a coconut and wearing a swimsuit and sarong?!?).
Travel bans have not yet been fully lifted. Most resorts in the Caribbean are still closed until July 1st. Why on earth would I book in these uncertain times?
Well, you may ask. It’s natural to be wary of travel during the COVID-19 pandemic. But here’s the good news: There are so many safety measures in place to protect your travel investment, there really is so little to lose in booking future travel now. In fact, you are very likely to score an incredible deal!
The generosity that is being exhibited by many airlines, resorts, and other travel industry leaders -- it is unprecedented, and it inspires my trust. I am confident that my clients and I will be taken care of because I know we travelers can change or postpone plans with little to no penalties. The travel industry is looking out for their clients with such generosity these days. I am proud to be a part of the industry.
So here’s my advice for booking travel while the world still feels upside down from COVID-19.
Be realistic with your dates.
Don’t expect things to open up in the next week. That’s really only for truly essential travel. This is a fluid situation, so changes are happening daily. I recommend booking travel for a few months out or later at this point, but everyone’s comfort level will be different. Of course, there are no guarantees that you’ll for sure be able to travel when your preferred dates roll around (nothing in life is guaranteed, right?), but if you choose your supplier wisely, you’ll be well provided for with generous change policies.
If you’ve been meaning to take a family visit to Europe, to Iceland, to Japan, to Florida -- wherever it may be -- start doing a little shopping around. Airfares, cruises, resort rates, and escorted tour rates are at an all-time low. Lock in an excellent rate while you can, and simply be prepared to shift your plans back a month or two should we still be in a global crisis. (And keep in mind, you may be able to put down relatively small deposits, rather than payment in full, in order to lock in your rates. You’ll have some time to save for your final payment!)
Postpone, don't cancel.
Should plans have to change, consider postponing rather than cancelling. The travel industry has been hard hit. Let’s repay their generosity during this time, by rescheduling rather than asking for refunds. This will protect our own future travel options as well, as we boost the industry.
CRUISES: If your cruise cannot embark due to COVID restrictions, several cruise lines are offering up to 125% future cruise credit should you choose to rebook. Because of reduced rates, some travelers have even been able to turn one cruise into two full cruises with their credits!!
HOTELS/RESORTS: Let’s say you hear from a resort that they cannot honor your upcoming reservation due to COVID restrictions. Choose to postpone rather than cancel, and you may be gifted extra nights, or resort credit, etc. We’ve even seen resorts offer cash back when the rebooking rate is lower than the original booking. These amazing offers are making it so that the potential reward outweighs the risks of booking. Fantastic!
AIRLINES: The most generous flight change policies that we are currently seeing are offered from United, Delta, and JetBlue Airlines, who are all allowing travelers to re-book for up to 2 years. The airlines are eager to make things work for you.
Familiarize yourself with supplier policies.
Each airline, hotel, car rental company, etc. have developed their own unique change policies and health & safety policies during this time. Be aware of what yours are, and choose wisely.
Health & safety measures like social distancing, sanitizing, and more have become every-day for all of us, including travel suppliers. For example, United Airlines has chosen not to fill any middle seats for my own July flight to the Dominican Republic, in order to help ensure the health and comfort of their passengers. Health and safety measures like this are found throughout the travel industry.
“Peace of Mind” policies, which offer things like flexibility to change dates, cancel up to 24-48 hours prior to travel, and more are growing in generosity. We’ve seen these policies with cruise lines, resorts, wholesalers, and guided tour operators.
Most change policies are currently in effect for travel booked by May 31st, 2020. Depending on your supplier, these may vary from rebookings through January 2021, to rebookings of up to 2 years after the original travel date.
Work with a travel agent.
Don't go in blind. Working with a travel agent has countless benefits even outside of a world pandemic -- a topic for another blog post. During COVID, two key benefits are even more magnified, during the planning stages as well as later should you experience bumps or disruptions.
If you feel overwhelmed navigating all the various change/cancellation policies, travel agents are here for you. It’s our job to keep a finger on the pulse of the travel industry, and to protect the interests of our clients. We are watching the trends and serving our clients daily. We are in relationship with resorts and suppliers, so we know who is in the strongest position to serve you on your travels. We have a wealth of knowledge available to you. Take advantage of this wonderful service.
Save yourself time and frustration. If you book independently and find yourself in a position where you need to change your plans, you face the potential of waiting on the phone for hours, and bouncing back and forth from department to department, trying to advocate for yourself. Travel agents have resources and relationships to advocate for you in a fraction of the time it would take you to navigate for yourself. We are here to serve YOU -- it’s good to have an advocate in your corner.
So, in conclusion, I have moved forward with my travel plans, and based on your own comfort level, I encourage you to consider doing the same. If this particular trip doesn’t end up happening for me in July and gets moved into the fall, it’s no skin off my back. Flexibility is the name of the game right now, friends. Ride the waves with confidence!