It’s the start of the race. You’re kneeling on the track, ready for the crack of the pistol to go off. You’re ready to start sprinting into planning your next vacation, but COVID confusion has filled your head filled with questions. We’re all having the same thoughts, but I’m a glass half full kind of gal. The travel dreams that went “poof” last year WILL eventually come true, and there are phenomenal opportunities out there just waiting to be booked at fabulously low rates. If you start researching now, you’ll be happy you did your homework ahead of the mad dash.
So let’s get going! Today is National Plan for Vacation Day (NPVD). That’s right — there’s actually a day dedicated to spreading the word about making travel plans early in the year. As much as I love National Doughnut Day, and National Clean Your Desk Day, I’m ready to celebrate National Plan for Vacation Day! According to research conducted by the Institute for Applied Positive Research, 97% of survey respondents said that having a trip simply planned makes them happier. NPVD is joining forces with the Let’s Go There initiative, which is a coalition of businesses and organizations whose mission is to welcome you back to travel…when you’re ready. So today would be an excellent day to start brainstorming your own vacation dreams, and join the #PlanForVacation movement online for inspiration.
Not surprisingly, one of Google’s top trending travel questions is, “When will it be safe to travel again?” Sadly, Google will not be transforming into a magical 8-ball. Google doesn’t know. Amazon Alexa doesn’t know. Yoda doesn’t know. However, what we do know is that 63% of Amercans say they desperately need a vacation. Amen to that.
So, while the sales are hot, and the deals plentiful, take the time now to plan your own 2021 vacations. Here are some important points to keep in mind as you start:
Why book your 2021 trip right now?
1. There’s pent up demand:
The rollout of the vaccine has encouraged more travelers to at least start booking now. According to a recent Wall Street Journal article, a VRBO study found that 82% of customers have already booked a 2021 vacation. 82%! Additionally, people are mapping out more than one trip, in order to have a “Plan B” in place. Destination Analysts, a tourism research institute, reported that 25% of Americans said they will travel more in 2021 compared to 2019, and 44% are doing more trip planning in advance.
2. The early birds will be well rewarded this year:
There are currently excellent deals to be found, but travel experts predict these opportunities will not be around for long. Currently, many hotels are offering a free night — even during peak seasons, and airlines have much lower fares. Just make sure your reservation includes a full refund option for cancellations.
Here are some deals offered by airlines and luxury brands that I recently found:
- On United Airlines, a roundtrip ticket from NYC to Savannah, Georgia is down to $97 in May (high season).
- Enjoy a complimentary 4th night free at Enchantment Resort in Sedona, Arizona.
- Enjoy 20% off your room rate when you stay 2+ nights at Four Seasons Sultanahmet in Istanbul, Turkey.
- Enjoy a 20% discount on your rate (and 100 euro resort credit) at the Katikies Kirini in Santorini, Greece. This is one of my personal favorite hotels in the world.
- Enjoy a complimentary 4th night free at Rosewood Mayakoba in the Maya Riviera. This one is on my personal go-to 2021 bucket list!
3. Airlines and accommodations are offering flexible cancellation policies:
Many hotels, third party rentals, and airlines have instituted flexible COVID-19 related cancellation policies. Always check the fine print, but you should be able to scout out great deals this early in the year. Special shout out to The Ocean House, Whiteface Lodge, and The Woodstock Inn, who not only followed strict COVID protocol, but also provided very flexible cancellation policies. They were friendly and easy to work with, and you can read more about these particular spots here and here for vacation inspiration. Here are some factors to consider before making a reservation at a destination:
- When making a new reservation, check the NEW cancellation terms. Does your new reservation fall under the same COVID-19 protection policies?
- What type of credit will you receive if you do have to cancel? Is it a voucher or full refund?
- Airlines are often legally obligated to offer you cash back, especially if the airline cancelled the original flight. You can read more about that process here.
- Check your loyalty points and if possible, use those to book hotels or flights — points can be easier to refund if need be. You may also find some great deals right now on business or first class airplane seats using points. That extra space up front certainly helps with social distancing!
- Many airlines have ended the unpopular ticket change fees, but make sure your ticket class is included. For example, oftentimes the basic economy class fare still has fees applied.
4. Early booking may enable you to choose your airplane seat:
It may make you more “COVID-comfortable” to be in close proximity with those you know versus strangers. Here’s what you need to know about seat selection.
- If you don’t want to get separated from your kids or spouse, buy your tickets early. Some airlines, like United, Delta, American, and Jet Blue, allow complimentary seat selection the earlier you book.
- Don’t book an exit row if traveling with kids under 16 — the airline will have to split you up.
- Check in online as soon as you get that email or text from the airline!
- Book all individuals under the same reservation; airlines often keep reservations together when assigning seats. If you didn’t do this, you can usually call the airline ahead of time and ask to link reservations together.
- For more information on seat selection, check out this helpful article.
Before booking — Get organized!
Masks will remain part of your fashion look:
The rollout of vaccines has everyone hopeful for a speedy recovery, but it’s most likely that masks will be required on planes, and in hotels, restaurants and public spaces for the foreseeable future. Time to turn it into a cute fashion accessory for your pictures!
Expect to show proof of vaccination and/or negative PCR test:
Every state and country will have their own rules. Airlines may require this paperwork as well. Double check any requirements of your destination/arrival 1-2 weeks before departure.
- For domestic travel, you can find each state’s rules on the CDC.
- For international travel, read about each country’s rules here.
- A negative PCR test may not exempt you from a mandatory quarantine period.
- Currently, as a U.S. citizen (ages 2+), you’ll need a negative PCR test result to re-enter the country, taken 3 days before departure. That means you’ll need to find a testing site in another country. You can read more about that here. Alternatively, you can present the airline with proof of recent COVID-19 recovery. This includes a positive viral test within 3 months of travel, and a letter from a healthcare provider.
- Tours and excursions may also require proof of a negative test result. Double check any requirements before booking.
Countries may require proof of purchase for international healthcare coverage:
If you do get sick overseas, you may not be able to just waltz into any hospital. In the past, it was not required to have travel insurance, but this may change, given most U.S. health insurance policies don’t include international coverage. Read up on the requirements of your destination ahead of time. You can compare policies with companies like Allianz Travel, and GeoBlue. Make sure that you purchase a policy that covers COVID-19.
Make a plan, and then be flexible:
You may have to roll with the punches on your journey. Have your Plan B mapped out!
What type of vacation is right for you?
A study conducted by Destination Analysts found that the highest demand for 2021 trips included national parks, beaches, and road trip itineraries. It’s no surprise that the “great outdoors” is calling everyone’s name, so if you’re thinking of exploring one of these spectacular destination types, best to book it now.
On your mark, get set…….LET’S GO!
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