How to book travel in the age of COVID

How to Book Travel in The Age of COVID-19

The COVID-19/Coronavirus Pandemic has been hard on the travel industry around the world, but it has also created an enormous pent-up demand for travel among Americans. This is not that surprising.  Spending over two months cooped up at home with your family would make anyone dream of a getaway. 

While some travelers might be more comfortable doing day trips close to home or planning road trips to national parks in the United States, but the major travel searches online right now focus on relaxation and beach time. Mexico and the Caribbean dominate the list. It is possible to go on a summer vacation 2020 if you take some precautions to stay safe, but it is critical to book your travel in a way that puts you at the least risk both physically and financially.

General Recommendations

We recommend you book your travel directly with travel suppliers, rather than with extremely large online travel agency websites. This will give you the most flexibility to reschedule or cancel.    

Buy your travel insurance from an online comparison website like TripInsurance.com. DON’T buy travel insurance from the airline, cruise company, or travel companies. These plans do not include protection for the bankruptcy of the travel supplier. Plans you buy from TripInsurance.com will cover this risk.

Try to use travel vouchers as much as you can. YES, these are insurable, and we will tell you how to cover the money you have invested in them below.

Book larger hotel rooms, larger suites on that cruise, and even consider a business class on the plane. Prices are much lower because of how much the travel industry is hurting.  The extra space gives you more ability to socially separate, and more luxurious vacation at some of the most affordable prices in a very long time.

Where Can You Go This Summer?

Mexican beaches will start to open to tourists starting in June, with reopenings continuing through July and August. Cabo San Lucas will allow limited travel beginning June 1. They will have health screenings and enhanced sanitation measures to accommodate more tourists late into the summer.  Cancun and Riviera Maya will also reopen in phases, despite the U.S. State Department’s ongoing “Level 4: Do Not Travel” advisory.

Spain is expected to let foreigners visit this summer with some strong expectations of social separation.  For instance – On the Spanish beaches, outside Valencia, social distancing is enforced by having beachgoers book an appointment on the sand with their mobile phone.

Greece will open to tourists a bit later, starting July 1, but it’ll be a very different experience compared to last year. A summer vacation to Greece this year will be without the customary nightlife activities, and the Greek government is instead encouraging small group tourist activities like kayaking and boating. Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis told CNN. “Maybe no bars may be open, or no tight crowds, but you can still get a fantastic experience in Greece — provided that the global epidemic is on a downward path.” Every international traveler to Greece will enter through Athens and take a health screening, including a rapid COVID-19 test.

Belgium may open up to international tourists when the EU travel restrictions for foreign tourists hopefully ends on June 15.  Right now, all travelers must self-isolate for 14 days. Tourist sites including restaurants and museums open June 8. Masks are mandatory onboard public transport.

Don’t book any trips to Belgium until it is absolutely sure they will open.

Croatia is expected to be a leader in opening up tourism for summer vacations following the coronavirus outbreak. Foreigners may be able to visit in late summer and early fall.  It has become “the hottest Corona-free travel destination.”

Turkey is working on an internationally recognized certification system, to classify tourist destinations, and hotels and restaurants, as “coronavirus-free zones” under strict health protocols. Tourists will need to provide health documents to prove they are coronavirus free.  Travel should open up for a mid to late summer vacation.

How To Get There

Cruise ships may not be operating until September.  We have seen a few bookings available as early as August. The boats are expected to be nearly sterile environments to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and other infectious diseases. You won’t likely see buffets and meals will be served in a cafeteria-style environment to avoid having passengers share serving utensils. Book a room with a balcony if possible. If you are quarantined, you don’t want to spend weeks locked in an inside cabin with no windows or balcony.  Take advantage of the frequent hand wash stations and wear a mask when you can’t be separated from other passengers.  We recommend requesting a private table in the dining room when you make your booking.  

Airlines are requiring face masks while boarding and onboard the aircraft. Don’t expect a meal or drink service – these have generally been put on hold in the short term.  You can now take up to 12 oz of hand sanitizer or alcohol on board to clean your seat area.  We also recommend bringing several changes of rubber gloves. If you need to go to the bathroom, wear rubber gloves, then peel them off when you leave the bathroom, and use hand sanitizer rather than having to use the sink. You don’t need to book non-refundable tickets if you have to cancel for any reason travel insurance coverage. Purchase tickets directly from the airlines. Try to book a non-stop or direct flight to minimize exposure in the airport. With air travel, there is a much higher risk of catching COVID-19 in an airport than in the airplane, so the fewer airports you need to go through the better.

Hotels are starting to clean rooms much better than before the pandemic.  Pick hotels that you can verify are cleaning the rooms well and are taking appropriate safety measures. Once you arrive, we recommend you re-clean the room with a spray bottle of 91% rubbing alcohol.  Spray everything you can think of that has been touched by previous guests or housekeeping.   Minimize the number of times that housekeeping comes in your room so that you know that you have a clean place to rest.  Anytime the staff cleans your room, it is a good idea to respray with your alcohol. Book your rooms directly with the hotel.  Request an internet rate, and do not pre-pay for the room. Instead, use your credit card to hold the reservation with the right to cancel with no charge 24-48 hours before arrival. We would recommend avoiding the communal breakfast areas, gym, and other public areas in the hotel until we are past this pandemic.

Is It Safe To Travel?  

You are playing the odds, and the odds look good.  Living in a world of COVID-19 is a list of calculated risks.  If you go grocery shopping, pick up food at a restaurant, or even walk down a public street, you are at some risk of exposure to COVID-19. The number of infections per 1000 people in your area or the area you plan to vacation affects the odds that you might encounter someone that has the disease, and may not even know it. The more careful you are wearing masks, and avoiding touching your face, the lower and lower your risk of catching the disease.   Try to only frequent restaurants that have outdoor seating.  There is a much lower risk of infection in these environments.  We recommend taking extra clothes and changing into fresh ones every day. Stripping off your dirty clothes after a day of travel and bagging them at the hotel or your room on the cruise is a good idea when you turn in for the night. Liberally use hand sanitizer, and try to physically distance from people as best you can, and you will reduce the risk of infection. Then plan to isolate yourself when you get back home to make sure you have not brought COVID-19 home with you and will infect your friends and family. In summary:  traveling on vacation is likely a similar exposure risk to shopping at Walmart or Costco (except, you will have this exposure every day on your vacation).

Buy your travel insurance within 14 days of booking your trip, and purchase a plan with cancel for any reason (CFAR) coverage. This will give you absolutely the best protection for your travel investment.  All the plans in our Best category include cancel for any reason coverage, and they pay 75% of the cancellation penalties for canceling with an uncovered reason. There are a lot of uncovered risks while traveling during the pandemic, and a CFAR plan will cover them.

You can insure the travel voucher you received when you canceled your original summer travel plans. Keep the receipts for the money you spent on the original trip that resulted in the travel credits you received. If the cruise company is giving you a 25% bonus credit, that portion does not have an insurable value, but the rest of the travel voucher’s value can be insured. Your cancel for any reason plan will pay 75% of the value of that voucher if you are forced to cancel.

Your new booking date is the new trip deposit date – at least it is on our website.  Other travel insurance companies may consider the original canceled trip’s deposit date as the original travel date. If this is the case, you may not be eligible for a Cancel for Any Reason Plan, so make sure you double-check that trip deposit date with the insurance company’s customer service.

You can safely travel late this summer. Whether you are looking to go on family vacation within the United Stated or a bucket list trip that involves international travel, vacationers are still able to make summer vacation plans this year. Just make sure you book the trip carefully and take good care of your own health.  Feel confident wearing a mask, and keep your hand sanitizer close at hand.  Take the best travel insurance you can buy, and feel confident to conquer the world.