Travel is aspirational, vital, wonderful and everything all in one.
It’s also not what anyone should be doing right now unless they need to, but that doesn’t include planning. Planning travel offers glimmers of hope at the end of what for many, has been an awfully long period of lockdown, and there are some fantastic ways to plan for the future, without being locked in too tight. Here’s how to go about planning your great escape…
One of the few things there’s global consensus on, is that domestic or regional travel will be much easier in the near term than long haul international travel. Countries are applying a crawl then walk philosophy focused on initial tests on small groups of travelers before they open the floodgates.
This absolutely does not mean a trip further afield won’t be possible in 2020, or certainly in 2021, but if you’re looking to avoid hassle and complication, thinking of trips that don’t involve borders, or only involve neighboring borders is typically going to be easier.
Europeans will have access to other European countries sooner than those further afield, and with few exceptions similar allowances will apply in North America, Asia, Pacific, South America, Africa and beyond.
If you are hoping to plan a long haul trip, be sure to read up as much as possible on proposed reopening dates, and follow the advice below to avoid non refundable travel which doesn’t offer any flexibility, should things change.
Points & Miles Are Golden
For years, points have kinda sucked. They became harder to earn from actual travel, and when you wanted to cash them in, there was hardly ever a perfect opportunity to do so. But now that the skies are empty, and hotels are too, points unlock the key to most dreams without locking you in.
Points and miles allow you to book flights or hotels for the future, with very little to lose.
Unlike cash reservations which can be cumbersome to cancel, and even worse to get a refund right now, a reservation made with points can typically be cancelled for free, or for a fee lower than $100. And yes, you get all your points back as long as you do so in advance of travel.
Each loyalty program has a slightly different time for “when”, so be sure to check yours.
Aside from fantastic flexibility to cancel entirely, or change dates – something that’s never easy with cash – points bookings are also enjoying super availability at the moment. Flights once referred to as “unicorns” due to their improbable likelihood of ever being available are wide open, and hotels which were out of sight are now in focus.
You can even find two, three, or four or more seats, which makes family travel easier too. Straight To The Points runs a great free newsletter which will bombard you with points availability to cool places.
Airlines and hotels are struggling for new cash, but they’re finally getting crafty about incentivizing you to hand some over. With many positive signs for a return of international travel, but still so many unknowns, travel brands are adding key flexibility for new and existing cash reservations.
Qatar Airways is offering anyone booking travel for dates up to September 30th the option to change dates without any additional fees, or accept a voucher with a 10% bonus on the amount, if things don’t go as planned.
Banyan Tree, a leading luxury hotel group in Asia just launched another interesting promotion which allows you to purchase two night stays, with added perks, but you don’t need to book dates yet. To spice it all up, they’re offering discounts up to 78% off, which makes it a great reason to buy in.
If you have a favorite travel provider, be sure to stop by their flexibility policy page and see if there’s an offer which makes it easier for you to start planning, or get something to look forward to on the books. The best deals are likely still yet to come.
Side tip: always use a credit card to book travel. It’s not a sales pitch, it’s a fact. Credit cards provide greater levels of security if a trip gets cancelled, or a travel provider goes out of business.
If you close your eyes right now, and imagine the one place you miss the most – where is it?
The world took travel for granted, and now we live in a world without travel. While availability to use points is amazing, and travel brands are bringing great offers to make new bookings, take the time to consider the place you’d like to visit most, and find a way to get there.
Any travel before July is seen as highly optimistic, and for many parts of the world, October is the new goal, but that doesn’t mean you can’t put something for later in the year, or into 2021 on your calendar to get excited. Weeks in lockdown has a lot of people down, but nothing brightens the spirits like writing “Tokyo Trip” on the calendar.