Catch flights not feelings crew, y’all alright? After canceling my 4th trip and counting, I am growing restlessly tired, anxious to finally use my passport again, and touch down to somewhere new. As an avid wanderer, travel is my form of self-care.
I want to preface this article with the idea that it is okay to grieve whatever you are currently missing as we are all trying to understand and process our *current* and *temporary* new normal. The gravity of Covid-19 weighs heavy on all of us as we see so many unfortunate deaths, millions upon millions of displaced workers, and folks struggling to cover bills, nervous of where their next meal will come from. It is so unfortunate and it is scary and for some, thinking about traveling is literally the last thing on their mind. But, as my amazing therapist reminded me, it is okay to be disappointed about things that upset you and you are multi-faceted, you can be concerned for the current state of the world, while still being upset with that canceled trip, missed graduation, or your weekly, and probably unnecessary, stroll through the aisles of Targét.
I mentioned that I’ve canceled or postponed about 4 trips thus far, and with more hanging in the balance for Q3 and Q4 of 2020, I am left a bit perplexed as to when I should even think about rescheduling them. On one hand, I have friends who refuse to leave their home, let alone travel, before 2021, and on the other, have friends who are ready to be on the first thing smoking…I land somewhere in the middle.
Obviously, I am no pandemic expert and though I wish I did, I have no idea of when we will really be able to resume life and travel as normal, as the virus is really in charge. However, I am periodically updating myself on what is happening to see if there is an end in sight (which let’s be reminded, there is an end). With cases in our major US hotspots, like New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts, and California leveling off, as most states move past their peak week, it is hopeful that our government is making smart plans to help safely restore some level of normalcy. Though we are seeing an extension in most stay at home orders in states like California, New York, and even Massachusetts, extending to mid-May.
Though I do not have the answers, as someone who is also itching to start my next journey, I encourage everyone to not only use common sense but to also have empathy. It is critically important that we all do our part in flattening the curve by staying home, sheltering in place, and practicing social distancing. With Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institue of Allergy and Infectious Diseases speaking to CBS on April 9, stating that “a more or less normal summer of travel can be in the cards”, as he states with caution and with several travel blogs/groups predicting we will be back in the air by August/September, there is hope that we will be able to salvage some part of our 2020 travel plans.
So, what can you do in the meantime, until outside opens back up?
- Get a copy of my electronic guide, The Ditch The Travel Agent Starter Kit, a 42-page e-travel planner, outlining all you need to know for planning any vacation. From visa/vaccination requirements, how to minimize spending during your planning process, and more. Get a leg up on your planning while we shelter in place and learn all of the tips and trade secrets, so you’re ready to jet-set as soon as we can!
- Take advantage of flight deals for future travel. We are seeing prices at an industry-low as #shelterinplace orders around the world put a near halt on non-essential travel. I’ve seen deals as low as $22 for trips between Boston and Puerto Rico or $400 between NYC and Hawaii. Tip: Look for tickets that offer flexibility to either postpone or cancel in the event that restrictions on travel continue to extend further into 2020.
- Apply for your passport if you don’t have one! In my E-Guide, I outline all of the steps for applying for a new passport or renewing an expiring one.
- Consider local or road trips versus international travel. As mentioned, no one can be sure as to when we will have a handle on this situation or what the status of any individual country will be like. In a recent study on The Harris Poll, only 15% of Americans stated that they would catch a flight a month after the COVID-19 restrictions are lifted. Check out my A Day In Series for a few ideas in the US or use google to explore destinations within driving distance of you!
- Check with your travel rewards cards to make sure your benefits don’t expire, asking for an extension on any travel credits or rewards, if available. Note: Some companies are also offering grievances or help with annual fees for users who may have financial difficulties due to COVID-19.
- Take a virtual tour with one of my favorite blogger’s Instagram via her posts and saved stories, Jessica Nabongo (@thecatchmeifyoucan on IG), the first black woman to travel to every country in the world.
- Have a Houseparty Party with your travel crew (drinks included of course!).
- Learn some phrases in a new language to prep you for your next adventure, it’s super easy to pick-up a new #travelbae when you’re speaking the same language, even if only a few words! I love Duolingo.
What to do if you already have travel plans scheduled that you need to cancel or postpone?
- Airlines: Airlines have some of the strictest cancellation policies in the industry unless you have a fully refundable ticket (which I almost never do), but being that we are in a global pandemic, most airlines are relaxing their policies
- At the moment, the only way to get a full refund from the airlines for restricted airline tickets is if the airline cancels the flights (but this is rapidly changing and varies by airline)
- Another option is to get a travel credit. Most airlines are allowing for extreme flexibility with credits, waiving change fees for an average of 12 months and extending the range of validity before the credit expires
- Cruises: Practically all major cruise lines have suspended operations amid COVID-19 restrictions, so passengers who had plans to cruise will usually be given one of two options, cancel for a full refund or receive a flexible cruise credit (some in upwards of 125% of their ticket value).
- Lodging: Most major hotel chains (IHG, Hilton, Marriot, Hyatt and more) have updated their policies to waive cancellation fees for travelers wishing to either cancel or postpone their travel up to 24 hours before their scheduled arrival. Varying hotel chains have language that specifies when the trip had to have been booked to qualify for the waived fee. Visit the specific hotel website for further details. Airbnb updated its policy to allow for free cancellation for reservations booked on or before 3/14/2020, with a check-in date between 3/14-/31. For reservations made after March 14, 2020, normal cancellation policies apply, unless the guest or the host is currently sick with COVID-19. Check out the Airbnb site HERE for further details or updates.
Note: Wait times are outrageously long as the travel industry across the world takes a major hit, canceling flights or entire routes, with countries closing their borders and restricting travel. Leverage customer service chat or text features, when available. Also, check for the most recent COVID-19 policy changes to ensure you are getting the service you legally deserve, whether that is a full refund or a credit.
Let’s hang in there travel fam because as soon as outside opens back up, I belong to the streets…..