Our lives have been seriously disrupted over the past two years. Lockdowns, vaccines and face masks have altered life as we knew it. Human beings are resilient, and we’ve adapted to our new reality, but many of us long to resume certain activities such as travel, that were not feasible for much of the past two years. However, in light of the “new normal” we all live in now, travel today looks different than it did pre-pandemic. Furthermore, the highest inflation in decades is colliding with pent-up demand for travel, promising to make traveling in coming months a challenge. Here are some tips for navigating this new travel paradigm in a financially savvy way.
Focus on cancellation policies and refundable tickets or buy travel insurance. While buying non-refundable, non-cancellable tickets can appear to save you money on the surface, if you don’t buy travel insurance and need to cancel, it can end up costing you money in the long run. Alternatively, you can buy cancel-for-any-reason travel insurance, but it isn’t cheap and doesn’t typically give you all of your money back. Use a website like InsureMyTrip to research options. Bottom line: travel costs more than it used to because of the need to pay extra for either the ability to cancel or for trip insurance.
Be flexible. Have a plan A, B, C and D. To avoid doing nothing or feeling severe disappointment, keep an open mind and have at least one back-up plan, ideally using cancellable reservations. This way, if your first plan proves impossible to keep, you can easily pivot and pursue plan B (or C or D!). When we were forced to cancel our trip to Spain over Winter Break due to Omicron, we eventually changed our plan to go skiing in the local mountains. While not as exotic as international travel, it at least offered us a change of scenery and something fun to do.
If cost is an issue, be vigilant and look for alternatives. If sticker shock is impacting your travel plans, look for ways to bring the cost down. Use a site like Kayak to monitor airfare prices, which change constantly. If fares drop significantly after you book and your ticket is cancellable, cancel and rebook. Travel mid-week for lower fares. Now is a good time to use loyalty points as they don’t accrue interest, are prone to deflation if airlines change their value and you can usually get them back in your account if you cancel your flight. If high car rental and gas prices are giving you pause, consider renting an electric vehicle or hybrid from a car-sharing service like Turo. Alternatively, design an itinerary that involves driving fewer miles. If you own your home, consider doing a home swap using a site like HomeExchange to make lodging more affordable.
Traveling is more complicated and stressful than it used to be, but for those who are determined to resume their traveling ways, it can be done with careful planning and flexibility.