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Safety Level (For My Wallet*&*I) To Book a Future Trip Now?

Every day, countless travel deals from airlines to my inbox from JetBlue, Delta, and every other major (and small) airline I’ve used for years. With airfares currently as cheap as they are, every day when I look at emails, I actually find myself saving saliva on a Thanksgiving or tropical vacation journey that will cost me less than my monthly Wi-Fi bill instead of hundreds and hundreds (or even thousands) of dollars. But the trajectory of COVID-19 remains foggy, and factors such as the virus’ potential second wave, current vaccine shortages, and various global travel restrictions, future travel bookings are like a high-stakes gamble on my health and wallet.

How Safe Is it (For my Wallet *and* Me) To Book Future Travel Right Now?
How Safe Is it (For my Wallet *and* Me) To Book Future Travel Right Now?

However, since the potential winnings of the gambling are so high (admittedly more to my wallet than my health, due to the increased risk of exposure to COVID-19), I gathered a team of experts to analyze whether it was worth it. Your airline’s booking when your flight plan may be in trouble in the near future.

Both Travel coach Dylan Grace Essertier and Navdeep Kaur, MS, EHE Health certified nurse, say you should consider a number of factors before scratching the itch and going to the airport. Below, they break them down.

3 practical and health-related questions to consider before pressing “confirmation” in future travel bookings.

1. How safe will I feel on the flight and where I am during the trip?

A trip that keeps you wondering about your health and safety won’t be a trip for photo albums — that’s for sure. That’s why Essertier says you’ll want to take control of the situation before packing your bags and going. “Check what hotels and airlines are doing to clean their spaces. Do your due diligence through the company’s websites and call your residence to ask questions such as:

What policies does your local airport adopt to keep you safe? The Travel Security Administration’s (TSA) new travel guide allows for social distancing, 12-ounce hand sanitizer, etc. — but the regulator recommends checking the local airport’s website to see what specific policies are in effect in your area.
Does the company have a seat in the middle? Alaska Airlines, American, and JetBlue are now setting up this policy to give people three feet or more apart — if not six.
How will it adapt to social distancing? Some airlines – such as Alaska Airlines – have begun adopting policies to maximize social distancing, such as allowing people to disperse on planes if flights are booked in advance with little or first-class ticket restrictions. How does accommodation deal with preventing guests from contracting with COVID-19? The American Association of Motels and Hotels (ALHA) recently released an industry-wide guide to keeping hotels safe and clean using methods such as contactless prevention, laundry services that comply with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) cleaning guidelines, and no contact payments. The association is working with hotels across the globe to come up with these policies, but you can’t ignore your chosen home to ask about their policies.
However, right now, keep in mind that the CDC’s official recommendation is still to avoid all unnecessary travel. Since no one knows how that recommendation might change in weeks, months, or even years to come, it’s still up to you to measure risk/reward — first of all, by considering your own health and any underlying conditions.

2. How has my travel destination responded to COVID-19?

Just as important as researching your travel plans methodology, Essertier points out that you should also be wise when considering where you’re traveling. “If you want to travel this summer, my advice is to study how that destination handles the pandemic and how they start opening up their world. You can check the country’s or city’s tourism board for this information,” Essertier said. (The same is true if you’re visiting family: Are they committed to a certain level of COVID-19 prevention that you’re comfortable with? Are you putting them at excessive risk? Will you feel comfortable in isolation a week or two after you arrive?)

Much of the Southern United States has begun or even completed the reopening process. So if you want to visit Savannah, Georgia, but feel nervous or uncomfortable in a place where restaurants and shops are open for business, that may be a reason to postpone your trip. On the opposite side of the spectrum, you may find yourself feeling more comfortable traveling to a place with vast swathes of land — and thus ample social distancing — such as Utah.

Countries also differ on whether they accept tourists, Kaur said. “This includes airports being closed, requests for medical clearance upon entry, land closures, and internal restrictions within the countries themselves. Although some countries have begun to loosen traffic and travel restrictions, unnecessary travel should be avoided at this time.” So for international travel, both your pocketbook and your health may be better if you push ahead with future plans further afield, ideally at a time when COVID-19 doesn’t obscure distant horizons.

3. How is my future travel booking financially guaranteed?

Your final step, according to Essertier, is to assess how much money you’ll lose if you end the trip for health reasons. To do that, you’ll have to research your favorite airline’s cancellation policy. In addition, you should be aware of whether you can get a refund for any other plans (amusement park, outdoor adventure, program, etc.) that you can also book in advance to fill out your travel program.

And if you buy tickets through third-party travel websites, like Kayak and Expedia, through personal experience, I learned that if you try to cancel, you’ll be redirected to the website that offers tickets for your chosen fare. But while you cannot cancel directly through a third-party provider, the cancellation policy must be in line with any airline whose ticket is available. Here are some of those policies:

How some of the most popular airlines are managing coronavirus cancellations:
Delta: While Delta won’t offer a full refund (like cash directly into your pocket) for all flights booked at this time, the company will offer free changes (i.e. you can switch flight dates and destinations without penalty) and eCredits through September 30, 2022, for flights purchased through September 17. 4 and departs until September 30, 2020. Other tickets booked until June 30 may be changed or redeemed for eCredits one year from the date of purchase.

JetBlue: As of May 28, JetBlue offers a 24-month Travel Bank Credit when travelers decide to cancel their upcoming journeys.

American Airlines: If you purchased a ticket through American Airlines before June 30, 2020, to travel from March 1 to September 30, 2020, you can rebook a future flight to any destination (through December 31, 2021) at no cost of change.

United Airways: For any ticket purchased between April 1, 2020, and June 30, 2020, United customers will be allowed to change their flights for free for up to 12 months after the original ticket date. They may also receive a valid travel credit for 12 months if the travel is booked during the same period.

Southwest: Southwest customers can cancel their flights up to 10 minutes before the plane takes off and they will receive credit (known as: “Want to Go” fares). All travel funds received after flight cancellations from March 1 to September 7, 2020, will expire on September 7, 2022.

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