Travel is back. But we still have "reservations" (no pun intended) ! What is the safe way to travel, where should we go and what is going on with rental cars?!!!!
It's back! Travel is returning with a vengeance as people get vaccinated, the CDC relaxes restrictions, and countries open up for tourism.
But we still have "reservations" (pun intended)! What is the safe way to travel, where should we go, and what is going on with rental cars?!!!!
I met with travel agent veteran, Linda Wolkoff of Protravel, to get the answers to these and other important questions.
Where to go
As you might imagine domestic travel is huge this summer. People are booking dude ranches, national parks, beaches, theme parks, RV rentals, and more. Look for the small town destinations or the roads less traveled to avoid crowds, although it may be near to impossible.
Traveling overseas is changing on a daily basis. At this writing, Iceland, Egypt, Dubai, the Galapagos, the Caribbean, Costa Rica, Greece, and Turkey are open for tourists. Africa is open. Much of the European Union is closed to Americans. The EU is beginning to open this summer for tourism from other EU countries. Spain and France may possibly open sooner than the rest of the EU. Canada is closed. Mexico is open.
Believe it or not cruising is back. Caribbean cruises will begin sailing as early as June, 2021, while the Baltic and Scandinavian lines will start cruising toward the end of August. The early deals are much more difficult to find and 2022 cruises are booking up quickly.
Always a popular summer vacation is cruising to Alaska. Alas, it is not available due to the Canadian quarantine extending to Canadian waters. However, Alaska trips are available by land tours.
Expect prices to move higher as time marches on. The really good deals before demand came back are fewer and fewer but still possible if one is flexible. Tour operators, airlines, cruise companies, and hotels all want to make up for the revenue they lost during the pandemic.
A note about rental cars. Rental car companies offloaded their fleets last year to raise funds for cash flow. With fewer cars and sharply increasing demand, pricing has skyrocketed. Fleets will be replaced eventually, but we still need to get through this supply/demand mismatch period. In addition, there is a semiconductor chip shortage delaying the delivery of new cars. Don't be surprised if you get a "vintage" automobile! Recently a friend booked a car in Hawaii for $1000/week and got a 2017 model. It could be worse.
Trip Insurance and Refundable Options
According to Wolkoff, trip insurance is always a must, Covid or no Covid. Pay attention to the fine print. If one must cancel for a Covid related issue, it is important to be aware of the policy terms and conditions as well as inclusions and exclusions.
With regard to refunds, prior to March 31, 2021, airlines were offering two years in which to apply a credit for a cancelled trip. After March 31, 2021, the extended grace period has decreased to one year. Tour operators and other vendors have different cancellation policies and typically are not offering refunds. Most are allowing travel extensions into 2022. Again, read the fine print. Every airline and vendor is different. In addition, there are things like “code shares” between the airlines and their partners and restrictions on air tickets can really get complicated. This is when it is very helpful to work with an experienced travel agent.
Proof of Vaccination and Passports
If you need a new or renewed passport the current wait time is 3 months. Expedited processing is running 6-8 weeks and is an additional $120. Plan ahead!
Currently, many destinations both within and outside the U.S are requiring proof of immunization and Covid tests to enter. And to make things more challenging, rapid Covid tests are sometimes not satisfactory and it must be the PCR Covid test. This test requires you to make an appointment 72-96 hours in advance. Uploading these test results with that state government or country may be mandatory in order to enter. Hawaii is the best example of this. You must first register your trip information with the state’s website. After you receive your Covid results, you have to upload the result within 72 hours of arrival. However, like everything travel related, this is subject to change. Wolkoff recommends laminating your vaccine card and taking a picture of it with your phone (same for drivers' licenses and passports).
Travel advisories include terrorism alerts, virus advisories, civil unrest, etc. Read these advisories carefully; the alert levels can change frequently. Some advisories can be poorly written or not applicable to the area to which you are traveling. One of the benefits of working with Pro Travel is the 'real time information' available to them from their local contacts.
Linda is an experienced traveler, beset by wanderlust and a thirst for safe adventure! Her best advice to travelers is timeless.
You can reach Linda Wolkoff at Protravel: firstname.lastname@example.org Telephone is 312-543-3790.