Around the World: Book Future Travel at fire Sale Prices
For folks who find travel one of the greatest of life’s pleasures, the current coronavirus lockdown is particularly painful, and especially if a long awaited and much anticipated outbound adventure – distant or nearby, of long duration or weekender -- had to be cancelled
While trip cancellations were disappointing to travelers, they were devastating to the leisure travel industry which was, obviously, one of the first economic sectors to be impacted by event cancellations and travel bans. Airlines, cruise lines, resorts, hotels, tour operators and event planners were suddenly in the business of rethinking and revising their refund policies. New marketing initiatives were put on hold.
Fortunately, most travel businesses have stepped up with policy changes that allowed for refunds or credits for travelers whose trips had to be cancelled. Applications for refunds and credits were and are fairly clear and easy to follow, and most travelers who lost planned trips were spared the additional frustration of losing the money they’d paid for them.
With refunds and credits in place, it’s most important to note that cancelled trips need not equate to cancelled dreams.
Some of the refunds – airline ticket refunds, for example – are credited towards future travel rather than restored to charge cards or pther payment platforms as credits. These credits have expiration dates, so it’s important to figure out how and when you want to use them.
The bottom line is that this is a good time to plan and purchase future travel – either rebooking trips to already selected destinations or finding new opportunities for bucket list choices that may now be selling at incentivizing discounted prices.
Even without extensive research, you can find incredible deals on airfares for almost any destination on flights during the upcoming months – before your airline refund credits expire.
For example, you can book a roundtrip flight from New York to San Francisco for July 4 (usually a high volume travel day with high price flights) for about $250 roundtrip. Or New York to Amsterdam in August for around $475 roundtrip. Or, roundtrip from New York to Las Vegas in November for $120. These are prices too good to pass up.
Cruise lines were extremely hard hit by current cancellations and are scrambling to get future bookings to keep their ships afloat. The deals they’re offering are too good to resist. Take for example the Royal Caribbean seven-night Majesty of the Seas itinerary departing New Orleans on July 4, priced from $431 per person. That’s roughly $62 per day, covering all on board meals and 24/7entertainment. That’s a fire sale price makes life on board less expensive than it would be if you were enjoying similar amenities while staying at home. Plus you get to visit the Bahamas and Key West and other fun ports of call.
The caveat is, of course, that travel precautions and/or bans may be in effect for as long as coronavirus is a threat and nobody can accurately predict how long that will be. Will the leisure travel industry – airlines, cruise lines, resorts and package tours -- have returned to normal by July? Or August? Or November? Your crystal ball is as good as mine.
But, even without knowing for sure whether or not you’ll be able to travel on a specific date, it is still a good idea to invest now in future trips. But you must take precautions to protect your investment in future travel by putting safeguards in place to make sure that the future trip you’ve purchased is still offered and available as scheduled and/or that it can easily be canceled, if need be, with full refund or the least possible financial loss.
Pinning down the details isn’t always easy because refund policies are neither regulated nor standardized, and individual travel companies update their policies frequently. Due diligence is the key. And here are some tips:
Before booking and paying for a trip, ask for a detailed rundown of the company’s cancellation and refund policy, read and make copies of written guarantees and go through any contract with a fine tooth comb before signing it.
Airlines have also updated their policies with regard to fees charged for changing flight times or dates of travel. Check with the airline to find out its current policy, and how long it will be in effect.
Hotels are also changing their cancellation and refund policies to meet current conditions of uncertainty in leisure travel. For example, Marriott International recently announced that it will allow reservations made before June 30, 2020, to be cancelled or changed without penalty if notification is made at least 24 hours in advance.
When booking hotel accommodations, homestays, airbnbs or other lodging, you may find that there are two prices listed, with the higher of the two providing a much more liberal refund policy. Pick the higher priced option so you can recoup your money if you have to cancel. Otherwise, you may be stuck – no matter the reason for your cancellation.
Make a note of the requirements for refunds, especially the defined timeline for submission of valid refund claims. Some cancellations can be made with as little as 24-hour notice for refunds. Others require longer lead time. Document everything!
When booking rental cars, avoid lower pre-paid rates that are non-refundable and allow no changes.
Know your rights. If an airline cancels service to your chosen destination or a specific flight that you’ve booked and there’s no reasonable rebooking option, the airline is required by law to issue you a full refund for your ticket. They may offer credit for future travel, but opt for the cash, even if the credit is for an amount greater than the price of your purchased ticket. Vouchers and credits have expiration dates. Cash does not.
Purchase travel insurance that offers cancellation for any reason (CFAR) coverage. Make sure the coverage is for the full price of the cancelled trip and that it is reimbursed entirely in cash, rather than a combination of cash and travel credit. Read the contract very carefully. Make sure that the policy covers medical treatment while you’re traveling and transportation home if you need it.
With those tips in mind, begin planning for future travel before demand rises again taking prices with it.