Some experts believe there will be a slow recovery as newly-vaccinated travelers cautiously test the waters. I think this outlook is wrong – it’s too conservative if the early signs of recovery gain momentum.
Wanderlust is building, and I’m feeling it myself. I know I’m tired of staring at the same four walls of my home, with an occasional trip to the grocery store or a restaurant to pick up food. Armed with a vaccine, I will travel. I’m not alone.
How do I know others are dreaming of a return to travel? 90% of participants in the Generali Global Assistance Holiday/2021 Travel Sentiment Survey indicated they’d be traveling for leisure in 2021.
Answering a survey is one thing, but taking action, like booking a cruise, is another. In September, Carnival, one of the world’s largest cruise lines, announced 2021 second-half bookings were at “…the higher end of the historical range…”.
So how do you prepare for travel in 2021, keeping in mind it could rebound quickly? The first question is…
Are you comfortable traveling?
Your comfort level with traveling is going to be fluid this year. It will change depending on whether you’ve received a vaccine or not and the overall number of COVID-19 cases in your area.
There is no right answer when it comes to comfort level, and it may be even more complicated when making plans with family and friends as there may be varying levels.
Decisions you will have to make include how to get to your destination? Are you comfortable flying in a small, metal tube packed with hundreds of strangers? Or do you prefer the family sedan packed with your hygienically-challenged teenagers?
Where will you stay? An Airbnb can offer a contactless experience, where you won’t have to interact with employees or other guests. Some hotels and motels provide this option as well.
Are you comfortable with riding up twenty floors in an elevator with other guests? You can try to catch only empty elevators, but there are no guarantees. Or would you be more comfortable in a motel with direct outdoor access?
Other factors to consider are cleanliness, price, and amenities that may, or may not, be available.
How do you feel about being near large groups of people? A trip to the city will put you in close contact with others, whereas you might not see another soul if you vacation in the country.
Even as the pandemic lessens, there will be areas where it may not be contained. Gauge the safety of any destination and make sure there are no restrictions in place for visitors.
If you’re traveling internationally, many countries will demand proof you’ve been vaccinated, make quarantines mandatory, and test you on arrival. Make sure you’re aware of the current procedures in place, and then double-check them. An internationally accepted proof of vaccination has not been approved, so make sure you have proof that is acceptable to the countries you plan to visit.
Put together a detailed itinerary and make sure the places you want to visit are open and operating hours fit your schedule.
Where do you find all of this information? I’ve put together a resource that is a good starting point, and you can find it here: Coronavirus Travel Advice – a Resource Guide.
Book early, but book wisely
If my prediction of a strong travel rebound is accurate, you’ll want to book as early as possible. Supply will overwhelm demand at some point, and prices are going to rise dramatically. However, this is with the caveat of making sure everything is refundable or covered by insurance through a credit card or separate policy.
Consider using miles to book your trip. Purchases of airfare and hotels using miles are generally refundable but check the fine print. Another reason to use miles is the travel industry is struggling, and these miles may be devalued.
Has your spending dropped during the pandemic? Travel, dining out, festivals, sporting events, movies in theatres – have all been reduced dramatically in my life.
Did someone say travel fund? Yes. That was me. It’s time to earmark some of your savings for a vacation if you were not harmed financially during the pandemic.
I realize many people lost their jobs, and a vacation is the last thing on their minds, regardless of how much spending dropped. It still makes sense to start planning, even if the date is in the distant future.
The simple act of planning a vacation can make you feel better. And who doesn’t want that right now?
Putting together a detailed itinerary and budgeting for your future vacation will not only make you feel good, but you’ll be financially prepared. While you’re at it, consider tucking a little away into a tax-advantaged retirement account. (The retirement advisor in me couldn’t resist.)
Do I need travel insurance?
When you start to book your next trip, there will be a strong desire to buy travel insurance. The coronavirus will weigh heavily on the decision. However, before you load up on insurance you might not need, ask yourself if it makes sense in your situation.
Only buy insurance on non-refundable expenses. Check to see if big-ticket items like airfare and hotel are refundable and under what conditions. Will you get cash back or a voucher to use another time? Under what circumstances can you receive a refund?
Read your credit card guide to benefits, or call customer service to see if you might be offered coverage. Credit cards targeted at frequent travelers often will cover parts of your trip.
Your homeowner’s, auto, and renter’s insurance will also provide coverage in certain situations. Check your policies as they may cover your belongings while traveling
There’s a big difference between losing some money and risking your health. Make sure you are covered for medical emergencies and medical evacuations above all else.
After you determine what portions of your trip are already covered, calculate possible losses. You may find out the total you are liable for is minimal. Would you be comfortable losing this amount, and can you sleep at night without insurance? If the answer is yes to both of these questions, you should be able to skip travel insurance.
For a more in-depth discussion on travel insurance and whether you need it, you can refer to my article: Do I Need Travel Insurance?
I debated whether it was a good time to write this article. Too soon? However, I firmly believe we will be traveling again in 2021. I could be wrong, but sometimes it pays to be an optimist when planning for the future. Remember to stay informed, book early, budget wisely, and use travel insurance only when needed. Safe travels!
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David Tuzzolino, CFA, CFP®, is the Founder and CEO of PathBridge Financial, a firm that specializes in providing comprehensive financial planning and investment management services for clients that are nearing retirement and love to travel.