In the span of just a few months, the current coronavirus pandemic has turned everyone’s worlds upside down. From how we shop to how we work and more, everyone is quickly trying to find their way amidst a new normal.
While you obviously can’t be traveling right now (unless traveling from your couch to your refrigerator counts), at some point in the hopefully-near future, it’ll be okay to travel again. When the world opens up again, how will things look different because of the coronavirus? And what should you do differently to be prepared for travel after this? We don’t have all the answers, but we do have a few ideas to make things smoother for you in the future.
Choose an airline with clear and supportive policies.
Typically it’s not too much of a concern to know all the details and terms of your ticket. However, with things being as they are and subject to change at any time, it’s become more important to know exactly what kinds of changes and/or cancellation policies your ticket offers. Different airlines—and different tickets—will have various change and cancellation fees. At this point, many airlines are offering flexible travel policies for booking future travel. This will allow you to adjust your plans more easily as needed in the future.
Currently, American Airlines, United Airlines, Delta Air Lines, Jetblue, Alaska Airways and a few others have issued flexible booking policies on future flights. When you do book travel for the future, we recommend checking the airline’s policies first. This will help you know what options you’ll have if you need to change your ticket. You can check our list of airlines offering flexible policies and then search for discounted flexible ticket options.
Consider premium support options
When you book with us, you always have access to our 24/7 support lines. While typically the wait times to talk to a team member are a few minutes or less; during a crisis, those wait times can get long quickly. If you want to have quicker access to us, you can upgrade to our premium support when checking out for your flight. We’ll give you access to a number that will help you skip some of the line should you need it.
Rethink that Basic Economy ticket.
Each airline has various classes of tickets you can buy, from the very cheapest (Basic Economy) to the super-fancy (Business class). While we love Basic Economy for the super-cheap tickets you can score, there’s a few downsides too.
The biggest of these downsides is that Basic Economy tickets are not refundable. They also have fewer flexible options for changes. Even if you’re willing to pay a cancellation fee, the terms and conditions of the tickets do not allow for refunds.
Know what your travel insurance covers.
Not all travel insurances are created equal! When you purchase travel insurance for your trip, make sure you actually read the policy information to make sure you understand what it covers. For the most coverage, purchase a CFAR (Cancel For Any Reason) insurance, that allows you to get refunds for your travel no matter why you’re cancelling.
Some credit cards also provide coverage for travel purchases. If you paid for your trip with a credit card—or if you’re signing up for a new card—check what trip insurance benefits are provided with the card. In any case, if you do end up having to use your travel insurance to get refunds, you’ll need to file a claim directly with the travel insurance company, not with the airline/hotel/online travel agency/etc. So make sure you keep those emails with trip insurance information, contact numbers and plan details!
Don’t buy your tickets too far in advance!
If you’re planning to travel somewhere this summer or fall, don’t feel that you have to book your tickets too far in advance. (This is a good rule of thumb in general too.) Although many airlines have flexible booking policies so that you can book now and change later if needed, it can also be a good idea to just wait until about a month or so in advance. That way you can make sure that the situation has stabilized a bit more before traveling.
Don’t be afraid to book one-way tickets.
If you’re going to be traveling for a long time, say, for a study-abroad trip or a long trip abroad, it might be a good idea to book one-way tickets. Things can change quickly, even in more normal times than during a global pandemic. If you’re going to be away for several months, or longer, consider booking two one-way tickets. You can also book your one-way ticket there and book your return trip later. If you need to return home earlier (or later), you won’t have as many problems doing so because the tickets will be separate.
Know what to do if plans get changed.
No matter the circumstances, travel plans can often change without notice: someone gets sick, a bad storm comes through and your flight gets canceled, your Airbnb falls through and you need a hotel room—there’s lots that can change! The important thing is to know what to do if something happens and who to contact.
If the airline cancels your flight, look to them first for information. They may provide options to rebook you on another flight or provide some kind of credit. If they haven’t given you any details, you can contact them directly or contact the third-party you booked through. Know that different airlines have different policies in place in terms of delays and cancellations. Rules can vary based on if you cancelled the flight or if the airline did.
Of course, during an unprecedented situation like a global pandemic, normal rules may not always apply. Things are changing frequently and up in the air for everyone.
I can’t travel right now—now what?
Even though you may not be able to travel this spring, it’s a good time to spend some time planning future trips if you know you’ll want to travel again soon. Have a big trip that will take a lot of planning? Why not start now, while you’re stuck inside?
Start planning a road trip with your friends with our guide to epic road trips around the country. Contact your school’s study abroad office to start dreaming or planning a study abroad trip in the upcoming semesters—and read our budgeting guide so you can start saving. Or just check out these ways to feed your wanderlust from home.