Like many of us, you’ve probably found that the isolation of the past few months has you itching to get away. But how do you know when it’s okay to travel again and where you can go? Can you take a road trip? Go for hikes if you social distance? Fly to another state? Another country? Is now a good time to be booking travel?
There’s a lot of questions—we’re here to provide some clarity on what you should know about booking travel right now, whether you’re booking travel for this summer or later this year.
1. Understand the local and national regulations.
No matter where you’re hoping to go, make sure you understand what the local and national regulations are for both your home and for your potential destination. Will you need to quarantine after you return if you travel out of state? Will you have to quarantine upon arrival at your destination? Do you need to provide proof of a negative COVID-19 test? Some destinations may require specialized preparations, while others may simply be off-limits for now. If you need ideas, we’ve got a list of international destinations that are reopening for tourists soon.
It’s important to be cautious and safe when making travel plans, but it’s also generally okay to leave your house as long as you follow social distancing guidelines. If you can’t leave the state, you still might be able to plan a road trip. If you can’t plan a road trip, you can probably still check out some new trails, beaches or landmarks near you.
You can find more information about traveling regulations on official government websites for your destination or on tourism board websites.
2. Understand airline rules and guidelines.
Airline rules have always been notoriously tricky, but they’re more important than ever to make sure you understand. Flexibility is key now when it comes to booking travel. You’ll want to understand what the change and cancellation rules and fees are on your ticket. If you have credit, make sure you understand how you can use it and when it expires.
Many airlines right now are offering flexible booking policies. This means that you can change your flight in the future once without paying a change fee. Fare differences usually still apply. Some airlines also have limits on how far out you can change the date to (usually 12 months from the original booking date or travel date).
3. Plan ahead, but stay flexible.
Even as states and countries begin to reopen, we’re not totally in the clear and the situation is still fluid. As a result, it pays to be flexible with your plans. Book your flights on airlines that are offering flexible change policies. If you don’t want to fly, book a rental car: most of which offer free cancellation periods as well.
You may want to purchase travel insurance as well. Some credit cards provide varying degrees of insurance for travel purchases booked on the card, so check your card policies and what they cover. Otherwise, your best bet is to purchase what’s known as CFAR insurance, aka Cancel For Any Reason insurance. That way your trip will be covered no matter what. Whatever you do, be sure to read the fine print so you understand exactly what is and isn’t covered.
4. Know what to expect at the airport.
Flying itself has changed since the start of COVID, so it’s important to know what’ll be different at the airport. Most airlines now require masks for travelers (and it’s a good idea to wear one anyways), so add that to your packing list. Besides masks, all of the major US airlines have instituted new boarding and on-flight procedures to help keep both crew and passengers healthy and safe. Make sure to check what those will be in advance. (Heads up: you’re going to want to start bringing your own snacks).
In addition, some airports are instituting additional screening procedures. As a result, it’s a good idea to get to the airport a bit earlier than usual.
5. Take advantage of cheap prices now.
Many airlines are now offering rock-bottom prices since demand for travel is so low. If you’re comfortable traveling—even later this year—and have a destination in mind that it’s okay to travel to, you can probably score a pretty cheap ticket when booking travel now.
It’s hard to say how long the cheap prices will last. However, many industry experts expect that prices will increase again once demand does. In which case—you should snag your cheap tickets now while they last! Again, if you want some added security when booking, just make sure you book tickets on an airline that’s offering flexible change policies for their tickets.
6. Start planning something, whether it’s for now or later.
You may not be comfortable—or able to—travel yet, and that’s okay. However, even just planning a trip can boost your mood and give you something to look forward to. Start looking for inspiration for trips you can take in 2021 or plan a socially-distanced road trip for later this year.
With airlines, hotels and other travel brands offering increasing flexibility, additional miles and cheaper prices, it’s definitely a good time to take advantage of the perks and book some travel.