Planning Travel for 2021 the Smart Way

Does booking a vacation and planning travel for 2021 seem like a gamble to you? If you are like most people, you can’t not think about a vacation for you and/or your family after what we all have been going through now for the past year plus. Like most sensible people have been doing, being locked down and staying put, winter, summer, fall, and spring has been really difficult. Just how many movies and videos can you watch each week before your head explodes?

Despite (and because of) the pandemic, many people are ready for a vacation. Planning travel for 2021 may be tricky, so be sure to do it the smart way.

So now, the weather is starting to warm up and you are venturing a little bit more outside. That is especially true since the pandemic is at least starting to feel like we’ve made a bit of a dent in it—there’s a vaccine being administered, workplaces are gearing back up, and even such things as sports and entertainment seem to be moving forward, albeit just a bit too fast for some and definitely for me.

So here’s the really big question for 2021: “Can you plan a vacation this year?”

The Uncertainty about Traveling

There’s only one thing that travelers know about traveling this year and that is that nothing is certain. No one knows exactly when or if the coronavirus pandemic will really end or if it will be this year. No one knows when authorities will be lifting all of the travel bans. And while you can plan all the trips you want for later this year, no one knows if or when you’ll actually be able to take any of them.

Pardon the pun, but it really is all just “up in the air”.

What We Want and What We Are Going to Do

Most Americans want to at least travel domestically right now and some are actually doing it. When asked about it in recent surveys, people responded in big numbers (over 60%) saying that domestic travel is something they want and will plan for 2021.

For some unexplained reason, confidence that American vacation destinations are “safe or safer” seems higher than that at foreign destinations. This kind of flies in the face of what we actually have been seeing around the U.S., where some states have “reopened” despite the warnings about waiting for vaccines, developing herd immunities, fighting against new COVID-19 strains, and careless habits that are becoming regretfully the norm.

But these surveys do suggest that Americans will venture on vacations, maybe as soon as Memorial Day.

But what about plans for foreign travel? More than half of U.S. travelers have said they would feel comfortable traveling internationally later in 2021, perhaps in six months, after the vaccine has become much more available.

What Will Travel Be Like?

Let’s assume that one day, maybe soon, you will want to go someplace and get away. Let’s face it. We all want to return to some kind of normalcy and taking a vacation, even a small one, is something we at least think about and now more than ever. But it is scary right now, and it is also going to be a bit different than it was before.

Two points that are changing now are where you might stay and how you might get there! Travelers started using places like Airbnb in recent years and right now they are becoming the preferred spots over hotel stays. Travelers will also likely make car travel their main choice over airplanes, at least for the near term. “That’s one small step for travelers,” if I can steal that line from Neil Armstrong.

Should You Book a Big Trip in 2021?

You are already seeing and can expect some truly amazing deals and travel offers for vacation destinations out there. Round trip airfare from New York to Hawaii for less than $400! Round trip airfare from New York to Cancun, Mexico now under $350? Fares were almost $800 just a year or so ago to do that! Spectacular ocean beach all-inclusive hotels are at 60% off former prices.

The airlines and hotel and vacations spots, both foreign and domestic, have taken an enormous hit because of the pandemic. These deals are a huge attempt to win back their customers and instill confidence in at least making the plans to travel. It’s an incentive and it is bound to attract many.

The best deals are actually for next year (2022) according to Priceline. Since they watch airfares and hotel rates, they know what’s going on. Many will take advantage of these current promotions.

Easing of the Dreaded Fees

One of the things we all hated most about travel were the fees that were always looming over us if we ever had to change or cancel a trip. Most of the time they were killers and cost us an outrageous amount. Well, one of the big pluses right now is that most change fees have been loosened or even dropped to try and encourage you to book. But the downside is this: Expect more overbooked flights.

That’s a direct result of easing cancellation restrictions during the pandemic. Because customers can now cancel without penalty, airlines have started to overbook more flights.

So if there is any good coming out of a pandemic for travelers, it may be this: Some of these fees may be gone forever. Airlines want to stay competitive and gain more consumer loyalty. The same goes for hotels. If they want people to book with confidence, they’re going to have to be more flexible on their cancellation terms.

Book Each Part of Your Trip Separately

In the past, the best travel deals were usually the package deals that included transportation, hotel, cars, and even food and entertainment. Planning travel for 2021, don’t book that way, at least for the foreseeable future. If you book a package it may be difficult or impossible to alter dates, times, and even to cancel it. Non-refundable deals and discounts mean just that.

It is advisable to pay a bit more to have the flexibility to change or cancel, because you don’t know what things will be like in six, nine, or twelve months. Safe in this case means flexibility and not saving a few dollars now that may cost you more in the end.

Final Thoughts

Traveling safely will be a gradual occurrence. Yes, many people are booking now and traveling and going on vacation. But that’s not advised by experts for right now.

Travel increases your chances of spreading and getting COVID-19. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) says that “postponing travel and staying home is the best way to protect yourself and others” at this point in time.

Each location is dealing with the different dimensions of the virus and despite precautions, each is having different degrees of success and failure. As the percentages of people who are vaccinated increase, the desire and success of planning and taking a vacation will become more likely.

I’m still not ready to plan my vacation as of right now. Maybe I will change my mind as things continue to improve or is that wishful thinking? Are you ready and are you making your plans? If so, where and when are you going?

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