Planning a vacation this year will be an emotional roller coaster. Travelers are asking, “When will the coronavirus crisis end and when can I hit the road again?” but there is no clear answer. Epidemiologists say the time to safely venture out of the house, let alone the country, will come when we’ve managed to stamp out transmission of Covid-19. At this moment, no one knows when that might be. If you decide to jump on the roller coaster of travel planning, here’s some stuff you’d better know.
Travel agents say bookings have dried up. Some airlines are offering hefty flight discounts and award deals to win back customers, and the savings can be substantial. Hotels also are struggling to attract new bookings in advance.
Air travel remains uncertain.
Air travel is uncertain as entire countries are banning visitors. Many airlines are focused on cutting flights and grounding aircraft instead of cutting deals. Numerous flyers who had booked early for spring and summer travel are struggling to get refunds for cancelled flights. Many airlines are offering vouchers for future travel instead of refunds, and those vouchers may be used for only a limited number of months. Several FlyerTalk.com forum members say refund hassles are the reason they won’t take advantage of those savings.
Yet the temptation to break out and travel is strong. Travel agents say they are seeing requests for information mostly for dates starting in August. Infectious diseases experts recommend travelers postpone and look ahead to September through December.
Fall Is the new summer.
Travel industry insiders say airlines will probably offer bigger fare discounts in a few weeks. This summer could be a busy time for booking trips as travelers discover fantastic values but taking those trips will probably shift a whole season.
Look for late-summer deals that you can book now and delay to a later departure date if things are not better by then. Keep in mind that a flight you buy today might not be available in a few months. When booking ahead, read the fine print regarding change and cancellation policies. Some major airlines are extending penalty-free cancellation and rescheduling with some extensions set to last through April and others until the end of May.
Great open spaces are calling.
Even before the coronavirus spread, travel agents were reporting increasing numbers of vacationers wanting off-the-beaten path destinations. The trend was away from popular international spots plagued by over-tourism. Now that we need more elbow room between us and others, vacationers are expected to head for the great outdoor spaces and other destinations away from crowded vacation spots.
The United States is home to some of the world’s most spectacular wildernesses and roads. Seek out the otherworldly landscapes of Utah or the lush landscapes of the Pacific Coast Highway. Expect increased reservations for national parks at Yellowstone, the Grant Tetons and Glaciers. Trips to Alaska and the Canadian Rockies are expected to surge.
The popularity of camping is expected to stay very solid and maybe even increase. Check to see if state parks are open in your area. The appeal of nature is strong when you don’t want to be surrounded by crowds.
Look close to home.
Vacationers are expected to delay trips abroad and favor destinations closer to home within their regional markets. Requests for information are focusing on the U.S., according to travel agents.
Now’s the time for places close to home that you’ve always wanted to explore but never had the chance to visit. That means road trips are poised to become the next big thing. Driving gives both flexibility and the peace of mind that comes when travelers know they can remain at a safe social distance.
Explore armchair travel.
Travel professionals say now’s the time for armchair travel to satisfy your wanderlust. Take this moment to dream about what comes next. Plan your grand trip for the day when the barriers come down. Research your journey by taking a virtual walking tour through the Grand Canyon or visiting a favorite museum at the Google Arts & Culture collection.
Check out TravelZoo, which lists discounted vacation packages. Find air travel deals app Fareness and travel booking app Hopper.