It’s been a long year and many months since you’ve been able to consider taking a getaway or vacation of any kind. Now, as we finally get the pandemic under control and the end is in sight, you might be starting to think about your first trip back.
Things are different out there. We’ve put together a few handy tips for you as you navigate this new, post-COVID world.
Do your careful destination research and know the barriers to easy entry
Many countries and lots of states have different rules for visiting, and we should not expect this fact to change any time soon. The United States now requires people to have a negative COVID-19 test before allowing people back into the country, and this has helped create interesting travel options. Some hotels now offer complimentary tests for guests, while some airports also facilitate testing for ticket holders.
Some good news about domestic travel, however, is that a lot of states are starting to relax quarantine restrictions. Check with the state you plan to visit (and also the state you live in) to wrap your head around the latest policies and regulations.
Flexibility will be a new, welcome change for customers
For as long as most travelers can remember, the airlines, travel operators and hotels dictated the rules of engagement as far as changes were concerned. This old school rule has completely been flipped on its head, with most vendors now allowing changes closer to scheduled travel dates without penalties. Finally – the customer gets to call the shots regarding his or her own plans. What a fresh idea!
Get your appropriate documents in order
In this post-pandemic landscape, countries that have been vigilant keeping COVID-19 at bay, have signaled they will very likely require a negative COVID-19 test or proof of vaccination. This has already inspired a “vaccine passport” concept that will be rolling out very soon, so passengers can have their medical information safely stored, private and on an easy to transport app.
Stay close to home if you’re nervous about going international just yet
With countries around the world opening up at different stages and paces to American passport holders, a lot of risk averse U.S. citizens will be casting around for low-stress vacation destinations. And a lot of us will be staying very close to home (or at least inside our own borders). Many smaller, less high-profile places are finally getting their due, as Americans look for less crowded places to explore.
Get comfortable with change
A lot will look different. If you love cruises, you’re going to be in for some pretty revolutionary changes. The classic cruise buffet is likely getting sunset, never to return. Pared back in-flight food service may stay pared back indefinitely. Fast, contactless hotel check-ins and rental car check-outs turned out to be an easy, welcome change and will likely persevere.
Bone up on your tech skills
Look. Most of us are quite comfortable with smartphones already, but if you’re not and you like to travel, you need to get very familiar with this little pocket computer. The smartphone is already ubiquitous, but in a post-pandemic world they become nearly impossible to live without. Many restaurants require you to order via app, and theme parks also require them to facilitate orderly crowd control and “ride reservations.” In the airport they will deliver important information like your vaccine passport, and they can also be used for check-in and virtual boarding pass. Get one.
Expect loads more contactless/self service
As mentioned earlier, the need to social distance created environments not seen in the travel industry. You might check in online to pick up a rental car or interact with a kiosk in a hotel lobby instead of a person. All of this has created much more efficient check-ins. Look for the car rental companies and hotels to expand this trend.
Look out for more biometrics (they might finally have their moment)
It’s been rumored for years, but the pandemic has finally pushed biometrics and facial recognition software into a “finally coming to an airport screening area near you” moment. Are you seeing a trend? Basically, anything that can keep you safe will be front and center for traveling, at least in the next few years.
Prepare yourself for higher prices and buy early if you can
Take advantage of those still low prices now. As demand for travel increases (and most trend followers think the demand later this year will be huge), prices will go up. If you buy now and have to make a change later, there will be no penalty to you and yours.
Protect your plans
For now, you can still buy travel insurance with riders that include COVID-19 related disruptions, but don’t assume that your policy will cover this. Not all of them do, and as we start to come out of this strange time in travel, more insurance companies will likely put some exclusions in place.
That’s all for now. Please mosey on over to our 2021 When to Buy Airfare Study. It will be a valuable resource for you as you start looking forward to your first trip back!