As the Covid-19 crisis reaches its zenith, we’re beginning to see the light at the end of the tunnel. Or as the case may be, the light outside of our immediate quarantine quarters.
In the United States we’re starting to see signs of change, although the volatile nature of the crisis means that daily infections and death rates will continue to impact restriction levels on a rolling basis. Currently the expectation is that summer will mark the beginning of the end, with airlines and travel restrictions starting to return to normal.
Many of us had summer travel plans booked far in advance of the crisis, and we’ve held onto them with the hope that normalcy will resume by mid-year.
Others are hoping that summer will open up the perfect last-minute escape opportunity to recharge from the personal toll of this crisis. As the weather starts to turn and families near the end of the (virtual) school year, now is a good time to evaluate the possibility of summer travel.
Safety, finances and stress all factor into the contingencies of upcoming summer travel. We need to make sure travel can be undertaken with minimal exposure to health risks, especially if traveling with children. We don’t want to lose money that’s already been invested in summer bookings.
Lastly, we need to consider our individual stress threshold. Personal risk tolerance varies by individual, and we can all benefit from postposing a cancellation decision until more information is available.
As we near the middle of June, our ability to postpone taking a decision is beginning to draw to a close. In order to make a more effective decision, we recommend you build yourself a personal timeline.
To begin creating your timeline, work backwards from the cancellation dates stipulated by your travel suppliers. No two travel plans are identical. Carriers, agencies and accommodation vary in their terms and conditions, and you will need to review the fine print to make sure you aren’t missing critical cutoff dates.
Be meticulous with your travel list, including transfers and smaller plans that may go amiss. Don’t leave out any prepaid travel bookings, as you may be eligible for some level of flexibility. Make sure you streamline your process by putting your timeline into a spreadsheet or handwritten calendar. This way you can review it chronologically and make it easier on yourself to spot gaps.
Make a note of deadline dates and penalties per chronological item. Refund eligibility may be staggered, with a potential refund percentage reducing as you near the planned travel date. Taking note of progressive cutoff dates will be important in evaluating your risk level. It will help you weigh up the financial pros and cons of extending your waiting period versus the risk of financial loss.
If you’re travel is outside of the next 8 weeks, you may be able to wait and continue to monitor the ever-changing situation. There’s no need to add an extra layer of stress before the time is due.
In addition, as you near your travel date there’s the likelihood that your plans will be cancelled by the travel organizations themselves. In these cases you are eligible for a complete refund.
On the other hand, if you cancel in advance you may not be entitled to a full refund.
As your travel dates near I would not recommend paying any additional travel deposits, even if requested. The global travel situation is too uncertain to risk additional investment.
However, if your travel plans are between now and July, it may be wise to make modifications at this time. We are still in a state of transition, and while normality is expected to return early July, it will take time for the new changes to implement and for travel to regain it’s normal rhythm.
This is where your timeline will serve as a critical tool to make sure that financial penalty dates are clear so you can meet cutoffs. In keeping with your timeline, speak to the agencies you booked with and inquire about any revised conditions that may have been updated in light of the virus.
Travel representatives are motivated to retain you as a customer, so make sure you ask them to explore all options.
The travel industry has suffered greatly due to the pandemic and travel companies are highly incentivized to make concessions, if not through refunds then through postponing your trip.
Postponing a trip may also entitle you to get an upgrade or other extra benefits for continuing to support their business.
Refer to this simple recap for easy reference:
- Make a written chronological timeline.
- Delay your decision if your flight is outside of the next 8 weeks.
- If your trip is between now and the end of July, expect travel disruptions and consider changing plans.
- When you call travel companies to change plans, request flexibility for cancellations. Explore all options and weight up the benefits or rewards of cancelling or postponing your trip.
- Enjoy your summer wherever you are, and remember to stay healthy and stress-free!