Travel can be very unpredictable in the era of the COVID-19 pandemic.
As vaccination rates rose and cases declined in the spring and summer, many popular destinations opened up to American visitors and people began to book their long-awaited vacations accordingly. But with increasing hospitalizations and growing concerns about variants in recent months, a number of those same destinations have placed new restrictions on non-essential travel from the United States.
While this is disappointing for would-be travelers, it is especially upsetting for those who had previously booked their dream trips to these places and now don’t know how to do it. But the good news is, they have options.
HuffPost asked experts what travelers should do if new restrictions in a particular tourist destination affect their upcoming travel plans. Below, read their recommendations on what to do if you find yourself in this situation.
Do extensive research.
Before taking any action, make sure you understand the new restrictions and what they mean for US travelers.
“If you’ve planned a trip to a destination and see a headline announcing a change, there are a few things you should do,” Willis Orlando, member operations specialist at Scott’s Cheap Flights, told HuffPost. “First, be thorough. Be sure to check official government sources, as news headlines tend to over-simplify or overstate restrictions. “
Orlando advised that you check the U.S. Embassy website for your destination for complete and up-to-date information. You may find that your trip is still achievable with good preparation in advance.
It is also important to do this research periodically in the lead-up to your trip. Be prepared for further updates or changes.
“Entry requirements and restrictions can change quickly, so be sure to always check official government websites a few days before your departure,” said Konrad Waliszewski, co-founder and CEO of the travel app Tripscout. “Don’t be fooled by old blog posts or research you made when booking.”
Check the flexibility of your reservations.
Once you understand the rules at your destination, figure out what options are available for your flight reservations, accommodation and other aspects of travel.
“It really depends on the restrictions,” said Phil Dengler, co-founder of The Vacationer. “If this is a quarantine rule for international travel or something else that will seriously affect your trip, you should be aware of your itinerary’s refund policies.”
Flexibility is the watchword when it comes to traveling in the event of a pandemic.
“Ideally, you book a stay at a hotel with free cancellations near the start of your stay,” Dengler said. “Even if you don’t, you can still get your money back or postpone your stay. I recommend requesting a refund from the hotel. If they say no, ask for a credit to change reservations for different dates. If they refuse to budge, dispute the charge with your credit card company.
For flights, he noted that most major carriers no longer have change fees and you may have the option of a cash refund or air credit.
“The good news is that many car rental companies allow you to cancel free of charge as long as you haven’t prepaid your reservation,” he added.
Whatever trip you book, approach it with changed expectations.
“Expect your plans to be able to be canceled or changed,” Waliszewski said. “Do not book anything that cannot be fully canceled and refunded if new restrictions or prohibitions are put in place. This will give you peace of mind if you need to make any last minute changes to your plans.
Choose an alternative destination.
You may discover through your research that you will not be allowed to enter any destination of your choice or that you will be subject to a quarantine that makes the trip you have planned undesirable. But you don’t have to give up your vacation altogether.
“If you’ve booked a ticket without a change fee, you can look to change your ticket to a different destination,” Orlando said. “Incredible offers are popping up all the time right now. If, for example, you were to travel to Amsterdam but felt discouraged by the recent changes to entry requirements, take a look at the other offers to Europe. A little flexibility can go a long way, and much of the world is, and likely will continue to be, open to vaccinated Americans. “
Look for other destinations with your preferred airline’s services, and if you’ve booked accommodation through a hotel chain, see if they have places to stay as well. You may be able to organize a very similar trip.
Wait to cancel if it is not refundable.
When it comes to non-refundable airline tickets, the situation may not be completely hopeless if you find that your destination imposes a travel ban. You just have to wait and hope for the best. Even if the restrictions are not lifted, you will still be able to get a refund on time.
“If you’ve booked a ticket with a change fee, we recommend that rather than canceling the tickets immediately and paying the cost, you’d better set a calendar reminder for a date one or two weeks before the scheduled date.” of the trip as the final cancellation date. the trip if conditions don’t change, ”said Orlando.
“If you voluntarily cancel the trip, the airline owes you nothing, so there is literally no benefit in canceling too quickly,” he continued. “But if you hold on, you increase the chances of the airline canceling or drastically changing your itinerary. When restrictions are put in place, airlines often reduce the number of planes they fly on the given route, increasing the chances of a schedule change or cancellation. If they do, then you are entitled to a full refund under federal law. A little patience can save you hundreds of dollars.
Consider investing in travel insurance.
While it may be too late to protect the trip in question, the latest travel restrictions are a good reminder to inquire about travel insurance when booking future vacations.
“We have seen an increase (between 3 and 5 percentage points) in the number of travelers adding travel insurance to their trip in 2021 compared to 2019,” Matt Clarke, senior vice president of marketing at Kayak, told HuffPost . After this increase, Kayak will begin offering the option to purchase ‘cancel for any reason’ coverage at the time of your reservation this fall so that users can rest if they need to cancel their trip for any reason until. 24 hours before a flight For example, if something appears at the last minute as a new travel restriction requiring you to cancel your trip, you can do so, no questions asked.
Make sure you look at the fine print and know what you’re getting before committing to a particular provider or insurance plan.
“Take a full read through each insurance plan to find out what’s covered under your policy,” said Ravi Roth, queer travel expert and host of the “Gaycation Travel Show”. He has recommended HTH Worldwide, Allianz Travel Insurance and Travel Guard by AIG.
So if unexpected changes arise that affect your next trip, take advantage of the flexibility and resources that your insurance plan gives you.
“Finally, there is always help from the U.S. Embassy if you find yourself in a bind regarding COVID while traveling,” Roth added.
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