We are all caught in the dilemma, between planning and reserving future travel and vacations, or cancelling. I have done plenty of both recently, but perhaps more cancelling than booking. All of my February, April, and May trips have been cancelled or postponed. My next big trip is in the Fall, when I am planning to cycle along the Croatian coast.
The most logical approach to a decision about travel already booked: set a deadline to cancel or re book. For instance, we have a trip in mid June to Seattle. So, I picked June 1 as our drop dead date. I should be able to get an airline credit or rebook, and the hotels are booked on hotels.com where no deposits will be lost.
But as I learned from a United booking using miles, it is best to wait until the airline provides some guidelines or specific policies for a refund or credit. It is always better to get a credit on your credit card, than a credit with the airline or hotel (that you may never use).
However, for a trip to New York City in May, cancelled in March, I have yet to receive ANY guidance on my Yankee tickets. The airline gave me a full refund on my credit card. But the hotel kept the first night deposit, for which I must call to get any reimbursement.
So, the general rule of thumb: better they cancel, rather than you! And do not count on credit card insurance to help. My experience with them borders on a D- or F, as in Failure!! Travel insurance, by the way, does not cover pandemics!
If you are one of the few who book direct with hotels, you may be in luck. A call to the reservations department or general manager may yield some flexibility for rebooking, credits, or refunds. This is precisely why seasoned travelers tend to use the SAME hotels, where they have established a personal relationship. It pays!
Booking through third parties (Expedia, Orbitz, Travelocity) is probably the worst way to book, then try to change, cancel, or postpone. Again, my experience has been their TOTAL reluctance to do ANYthing on my behalf. I avoid them like the plague. Many of you out there will agree, I am sure.
On the subject of vouchers, I try to avoid vouchers like the Covid-19. Enough said. Too many restrictions, too many unknowns, too many everything! And they often expire quickly.
Do you know what CFAR is? Cancel For Any Reason, but it comes at a premium. If you are booking the trip of a lifetime, go ahead and CFAR. If it is just another vacation, I would advise saving your money.
Experts say postponing is better than cancelling. But I would not make that a general rule. Seasonality is a factor, since rates can change dramatically. You will pay a premium to see cherry blossoms in Japan in April. Or attend the Olympics in Tokyo (since postponed). Will prices go up or down accordingly?
What about making new plans and bookings? When can we start traveling again? Will we be safe? Where can we go? But I have seen one good sign for future travel. Some great discounts can be had for flights, and hotels for the Fall. I will bet airfares will double (at least) when travel restrictions are lifted.
Making plans will make you happy
Saving money and added flexibility are alluring incentives to book now for travel later in the year. But there’s another benefit: Planning a trip can make you happy.
According to an Applied Research in Quality of Life study, published in 2010, “For most, the enjoyment starts weeks, even months before the holiday actually begins.”
So, if you decide to make travel plans, you’re very likely to experience this “pre-trip happiness.”
The study goes on to report, “Need theory can explain the pre-trip high if one assumes that we have an innate need for wandering, possibly a leftover of our hunter-gatherer past and that this need can already be partially gratified by anticipation.”
But please realize there is always a risk in these uncertain times. For one, I think a good amount of bumping will take place. And planes will be full, upgrade possibilities slim, and schedules may be out of whack. I hate arriving in the middle of the night!
From USA Today: Should I book these coronavirus travel deals now while everything is cheap?
No one knows how long the deals will last. Airfares may be at their lowest point now, but cruise tickets and hotels could drop further, depending on the rate of recovery.
The conventional wisdom seems to be: If you see a deal you like, buy it now. Travel companies will try to raise prices as soon as they can to make up for the revenue lost during the coronavirus crisis. They won’t keep their 80%-off sales going one minute longer than they have to.
Something else could happen. The dreaded bankruptcy could rear its ugly head. How many times have I wired money to a travel company in Europe, South America, Africa, or Asia? Too many. to be comfortable in this new environment. There is little to no recourse, particularly as a foreigner. Paying by credit card, even if they assess another 4 to 5% fee, is generally worth it. Most airlines should survive, as well as rental car companies and large hotel chains. But beware the economy airlines, boutique hotels, and small travel companies.