Ready to Book
a Post-Pandemic Trip?
Here’s what you need to know before traveling
At the top of the month, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention gave the green light to fully vaccinated people to travel freely—adding that this group doesn't need to worry about testing before or after a trip or bother with quarantining. That in turn has got many of us itching to book a trip somewhere. Anywhere. Maybe you want to visit family or take a long-delayed, but much-needed vacation. And while the CDC is still not recommending non-essential travel, we know that this news is going to jumpstart some people's plans. So if you happen to be one of the dreamers out there scouring travel sites, then we have the six things you need to be aware of before booking a trip, according to industry experts.
Your Post-Pandemic Travel Plan
Travel sales have been aplenty since the beginning of the pandemic, but with few takers. According to Kayak though, searches for summer vacations have been up nearly 30% each week since mid-March (when President Biden announced a May vaccine guarantee). As travel picks up, bargains will fade, though the timing remains unclear.
Current spring deals reflect shoulder season sales while others are encouraging you to book now for future trips. That's a good bet, considering ticket prices will go up as plane seats fill up. “While discounts can still be found, they're no longer falling into consumers' laps,” says Jamie Baker, an airline analyst at JP Morgan. He says discounted fares will soon require a hunt—much like the pre-COVID days—especially considering airlines are still operating under reduced capacity due to the year-long dip in travel. So expect prices to yo-yo as airlines manage demand and available seats.
The good news is that food and drink service is being reinstated on most flights. But the reality is that masks will still be necessary whenever you're not eating or drinking. The Transportation Security Administration requires masks in airports and on planes until at least May 11. And while they say it's too soon to confirm what will happen after that date, masks are likely to be required for the foreseeable future.
A recent survey by J.D. Power found that 58% of travelers have said that requiring masks was the most important safety measure for airports to adopt. And 42% said they would likely continue mask-wearing and social distancing through 2021 and beyond.
Not surprisingly, hotel room rates plummeted over the past year. After all, who was eager to stay in a room serviced by strangers—no matter how many assurances were made? Many hotels are still operating on reduced capacity, but as they open up they're keeping rates low to draw people in. Other areas that have already seen an uptick in travel (such as Florida) are showing room rates that are practically back to pre-pandemic prices. According to Travelzoo, your best deals will be in cities with a lot of hotel inventory—Seattle, Chicago, Boston and Washington, to name a few.
Your Rental Car
Could Cost More
If you're renting a car at your destination, it could cost more than the flight or hotel. Jonathan Weinberg, founder of Autoslash, says that prices in most cities have gone up. “When COVID started, the rental car companies basically went into survival mode,” he says. “They had to sell off large portions of their fleet just to survive.” And, unfortunately, the spike in travel will mean more renters and fewer cars. So Weinberg thinks the costs will continue to stay high.
of Going Now
The global travel shutdown over the past year provided a silver lining of sorts for the overtourism problems that were approaching crisis levels in Instagrammable hot spots around the world just before the pandemic hit. The pause provided cities an opportunity to make repairs and rethink ways to host larger groups of tourists. Many places will be better equipped for crowds. Plus, the first wave of tourists booking trips will likely be more experienced, more interested in and sensitive to local cultures while bolstering local businesses. There's also a chance that once travel returns to normal, prices could really rise as companies seek to recoup some of the serious losses they encountered over the past year and a half.
Before you commit to a location—and a plane ticket—make sure that you can do what you're hoping to do once you arrive. The experts we spoke to all reminded us that just because you can go, doesn't mean the trip will be what you imagine. Look up your destination's local government websites in order to review the current rules and/or restrictions. Check to make sure restaurants or museums are open and taking reservations. You can also check the CDC website or the travel-planning app TripIt, which allows you to organize your itinerary and get up-to-date coronavirus infection rates, along with any entry and exit rules for travelers.
Even if you’ve never considered it in the past (we never did), travel insurance is a good idea these days. Especially for more substantial trips. This pandemic has proven that things can change quickly—in terms of your location or loved ones. The “cancel for any reason” coverage has never made more sense.