We’re only two weeks in, and most of us have already given up on 2021 being ‘normal’.
The pandemic is still with us, with the end only barely in sight.
However, we’re already at the start of week 2 of the Isle of Man’s circuit-breaker lockdown.
This lockdown and the first wave of COVID-19 vaccinations has hopefully lifted your spirits and maybe has raised your expectations for the New Year too.
Further afield in the US, I read that new vaccines have also inspired a sharp rise in travel bookings.
Maybe they also want to avoid the domestic terrorism being waged by Trump extremists (words fail me) and hope it will finally be safe to jump on an aeroplane and lounge at a luxury hotel in the second half of 2021.
But while it’s good to have things to look forward to, your travel plans for the year, and perhaps beyond, will have to account for COVID-19 whether you receive a vaccine or not.
These tips could help to save you some money and safeguard against more travel-related disappointment. And who hasn’t had their fair share of those already?
1 – Avoid non-refundable travel reservations.
In the early days of the pandemic, millions of frustrated travellers spent untold hours trying to secure refunds for plane tickets, hotel reservations, and theme park passes.
To their credit, many travel and hospitality companies were very responsive to their customers. Many have even improved their refund and cancellation policies from now on.
But before you click BUY, make sure you’ve read the fine print.
Remember that, after all those 2020 cancellations, travel companies are just as anxious for your business as you are to leave your house.
If you don’t like the terms offered by one hotel, there’s probably a nearby competitor offering a better deal with a more generous refund window.
2 – Have a back-up plan.
As your travel date nears, you must check the COVID-19 situation in your destination.
Even if you and your family are vaccinated, rising infection rates in popular tourist spots could lead to park closures, event cancellations, and even lockdowns.
If you’re determined to travel as long as local governments are allowing you to do so, look for a Plan B that’s close to where you’ll be staying.
I turn to the example of what my sister and family did last summer.
Rather than coming home for the TT, like many cooped-up Americans, they rediscovered their National Parks in the south of Colorado during the pandemic.
For those who are still planning on abroad, other examples could be touring local beaches, nature trails, and public parks could be another option.
Cities across many countries have expanded outdoor shopping and dining.
Or maybe one of the far-flung cousins you reconnected with during your weekly video chats lives within driving distance.
Just remember that if a large theme park shuts down on short notice, outdoor spaces could become crowded as well.
Wherever you decide to go, pandemic best practices will still apply; face masks, social distancing from people outside your household, and lots of handwashing.
3 – Don’t wait.
Believe it or not, yours isn’t the only family looking to make up for lost time with grandma, grandpa, and Mickey Mouse.
Popular travel destinations will only be more popular if 2021 turns out as sunny as we all hope it will be.
2021 probably isn’t the year to wait for a spur-of-the-moment urge to hit the road. Even a modest trip to visit family could be susceptible to inflated travel prices if infection rates drop and travel demand continues to rise.
Private destinations like bed and breakfasts, house rentals, and campsites will still be in high demand by people who are following strict social distancing until vaccines are more available.
Once you’ve settled on an itinerary – and built-in some flexibility – the sooner you book, the better.
4 – Splurge responsibly.
Before you start locking down dates and comparing airline fares, you must have your travel budget locked down too.
Talk to your spouse or partner if you have one about where the money for this trip is coming from. Is this a trip for which you’ve already been saving?
Are you rolling over 2020 reimbursements and vouchers for cancelled travel and youth sports memberships? Or are you dipping into some reserve funds?
After making it through 2020, you certainly deserve to splurge a little. But don’t let the excitement of a potential holiday throw off your 2021 financial plan before the year’s really begun.
We can meet via video conference or in-person after lockdown to discuss the best ways to plot your travel plans on your 2021 financial plan.