As of April, over a hundred million Americans have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19. All U.S. adults are now eligible for vaccination, and millions are making appointments and lining up to get their jab. And while the CDC and other government and health officials are still recommending taking precautions like mask-wearing, travelers everywhere rejoiced when the CDC eased their travel guidelines and announced that fully vaccinated individuals can travel domestically and internationally. Some countries will also start opening their borders to fully vaccinated travelers as the year continues.
With all those positive signs, you may already be looking at flight tickets or thinking about planning trips for the summer or later in the year. But it’s not full-steam-ahead yet. While the relaxed guidelines are promising, health officials are still urging that everyone continue taking precautions over the summer. Millions are still unvaccinated, both in the U.S. and around the world. So while you can plan a trip this summer, waiting until later in the year or even next year will still give vaccination efforts more time, giving you and those around you a safer world to travel in. Here’s everything you need to know about planning and booking a trip for late 2021 or 2022.
First, do your research
Before doing anything, it’s important to make sure you’re up-to-date on the current COVID situation where you are and where you’re interested in traveling. The CDC website has a comprehensive map showing COVID-19 risk levels in countries around the world, divided into “Very High,” “High,” “Moderate,” “Low,” and “Unknown” levels. Clicking on each country, you’ll see whether the CDC recommends travel there, as well as any entry requirements the country may have, such as a negative COVID-19 test or requiring that all in-bound travelers quarantine after arrival. This information is continually being updated so that you can stay informed and make educated decisions.
The creation of “vaccine passports,” which some countries have started issuing to their citizens to prove that they’ve been fully vaccinated, may soon also become a requirement for entry into certain countries. But even with all this, many countries still simply aren’t accepting foreign travelers yet, keeping their borders closed. So even if you have tested negative for COVID or have been vaccinated and can prove it, your dream destination still might not be open.
With overseas travel being riskier than traveling locally, national or regional travel will once again be a top travel trend for 2021, especially road trips (see our New Mexico road trip itinerary). With local travel — especially by vehicle — being easier to plan and make itinerary changes on than a large international trip, traveling safely within your region or state is likely to be a popular option. Check out our guide on how to rent an RV for your next outdoor trip.
Above all, always listen to what health and safety experts are recommending in terms of travel. While travel advisors and the overall travel industry have been equally thoughtful and cautious about recommending travel, not wanting to put lives at risk or create unrealistic expectations about timelines, listening to experts is a must. For any kind of travel, national or international, refer to CDC guidelines for their health and safety recommendations. And whether traveling for work, necessity, or fun, always wear a mask, practice social distancing, and wash your hands and sanitize often.
You may be thinking, “If I want to travel later this year or in 2022, why should I book now? Shouldn’t I wait to see what the situation is?” While the second part of that rhetorical question is answered below, the answer to the first is because of availability. When COVID-19 hit, a wave of cancellations swept through the travel industry, but many people were also willing to push their travel dates into 2021 or 2022. That means there may be entire weeks to months at hotels, resorts, and popular destinations that have already filled up. And with so much cooped-up wanderlust, you can be sure that as things get safer, the floodgates are going to open and travelers will be heading out en-masse. So if you want to guarantee good travel dates and access to the accommodations and activities of your choice, it’s better to book soon to guarantee availability.
Flexible cancellation and postponement policies
Everyone from airlines to cruises to tour operators has changed their policies pertaining to booking, postponing, or canceling a service, making them more flexible than ever. The exact policies vary by company, but the gist with most is that, within a set amount of time, you can easily cancel or change dates for your travel with no extra fees. You can even find “book now and decide later” policies that allow you to book a trip without set dates and just wait and see when the best time to travel is. The new policies are extremely consumer-oriented and make it very easy to adjust your travel plans for these rapidly changing times; if there’s a sudden surge of COVID-19 cases in your area right before your trip or the destination you were planning to visit decides to shut down again, you can change plans. Knowing that you’re not going to be saddled with fees and extra charges for changing travel dates makes it easier to take the jump and book a trip.
Great deals and rates
Every sector of the travel industry is desperate for travelers and the money they bring right now, so in looking to later this year, next year, and beyond, many hotels, tour operators, airlines, and cruises are offering great deals to entice travelers to reserve a trip in advance. From special discounts or rates during select time frames to great perks, you’re bound to find some amazing deals out there if you start looking. Here are some booking sites for your next trip:
- Booking.com: Stays
- KAYAK: Flights, stays, and car rentals
- Expedia: Flights, stays, and car rentals
Support the travel industry
Another key reason why you should invest the time and money in booking a future trip now: It helps support the travel industry in the meantime. The big hotel chains, resorts, cruises, and airlines may be able to survive a tough year, but what about the small boutique hotel with slim margins? The family-owned-and-operated tour company? The workers and communities that depend on annual tourism revenue? Studies have shown that one in eleven people works in a job related to tourism, and with nearly the entire industry shut down due to COVID-19, that’s millions of people out of work for the foreseeable future.
Booking a future trip provides a direct cash infusion to all the different sectors of a destination. Book a tour and you’ll be supporting trip planners, tour guides, drivers, and more. Book a hotel and you’ll be helping the hotel stay afloat and retain staff. If we want to be able to get back out there and travel once it’s safe to do so, there needs to be an industry there to support that demand, so booking now for future trips throws the travel industry a lifeline during these turbulent times.
Have something to look forward to
The thought of finally packing your suitcase, heading to the airport, walking down that jet bridge, settling into your seat, and feeling the anticipation of an adventure wash over you … we all want that right now. We’re going to have to be patient for longer, but do you know what makes the waiting easier? Having something to look forward to. Even if it’s still some ways in the future, knowing you have a great trip already planned, booked, and paid for means that you’ve done your part. And once you’re fully vaccinated, you’ll be good to go. Counting down the months and weeks to a new trip helps the time fly by, so even if the thought of booking a trip for later this year or even early next year feels like an exercise in torture, you’ll reap the benefits come travel time.
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