Is It Safe To Travel Yet?

Dear Rich Lifer,

With 2020 almost over and the idea of “normalcy” on the horizon in 2021, many are finally hoping to take that trip they had to postpone back in April.

Both the hopes of a coronavirus vaccine and the amount of travel that’s currently on sale are leading many people to consider booking travel in the new year.

However, without the ability to foresee the future, no one knows for sure how safe it will be — or how possible it will be — to travel a month into the future, three months into the future or even a year from now.

The virus surges, ever changing quarantine requirements, and border closures have been making planning next to impossible since March 2020. Additionally, given the economic strain, who’s to say whether that resort you’re looking at will even be in operation in six months.

But, we get it. It has been an incredibly challenging year, and people around the world are itching to get out and explore.

Stella Shon, the travel and credit cards expert at ValuePenguin, also notes:

Travel will become expensive once we have a vaccine and life rebounds again. If you see a great deal, as long as you take the necessary precautions to protect yourself in the event of interruption or cancellation, it’s not a bad idea to book now, especially if you can change or cancel without penalty.

And most experts agree that the best deals to consider are those for the second half of 2021. So your question may be, “How do I take the necessary precautions to protect my trip?”

Lucky for you, today we will break down tips from experts on how to take the proper steps to protect your travel investment.

Read the Terms

Julie Ramhold, a consumer analyst at the sales website DealNews.com, says it’s incredibly important to first “look at the cancellation policy. If you’re getting anything back, what are you getting back, a refund or travel credit? When does the credit expire and are there blackout dates?”

Hotels have traditionally been very easy to cancel within days of a potential stay, and now airlines are becoming more flexible as well due to the pandemic. Many airlines are now waiving both cancelation penalties and rebooking fees and are extending the deadlines to use credits.

For example, American Airlines has extended its credits for tickets expiring between March 1, 2020 and March 31, 2021 (and purchased by Sept. 30) through year-end 2021.

All airlines must refund your ticket if the flight is canceled or if schedules change significantly — although there is no actual definition for significant…

Sara Rathner, the credit card and travel expert at Nerdwallet, notes, “It’s pretty easy to reschedule, but airlines have lost a lot of money because of the pandemic so they’re not exactly jazzed to refund your money.”

She goes on to say, “It’s best to book with the knowledge that you might have to reschedule and you might be left with a voucher.”

Many other companies, such as tour groups, are following the examples of airlines and loosening cancelation terms or making fee schedules more flexible, offering options to put down smaller deposits for trips.

Rental properties through services like AirBnb have varying cancellation policies, so make sure you read the terms carefully before you book.

Use Points

If you have been saving up frequent flyer miles or loyalty points, now is the time to use them. You will be able to save your cash and you’re unlikely to lose points if you have to cancel.

Brian Kelly, a loyalty rewards expert and the founder of the travel site The Points Guy, says that using points is basically like, “booking a totally refundable ticket” considering most airlines will give you your miles, taxes and fees back, without penalty, due to the pandemic.

Additionally, experts anticipate these deals regarding point usage won’t last long. There is an expected deflation of point values when travel resumes en masse.

Already we have seen airlines switch to dynamic pricing for award tickets, charging more during peak times rather than keeping a points schedule.

Another thing to look for is deals on travel credit cards, as many offer large signup bonuses based on spending requirements. If you want to capitalize on a deal like this, consider applying for a card soon so you can make use of the points for a summer vacation.

Ms. Rathner suggests thinking, “five months ahead. It could take three months to hit the spending minimum and take a billing cycle to show up in your account. This is a long-term strategy.”

Use Credit Cards

It’s always a better idea to purchase travel with a credit card rather than cash or a debit card because in the event a travel company goes out of business, you can dispute the charge with the credit card company.

This will take extra effort on your end, but is worth it to get your money back. Some credit cards also offer travel protections like benefits that cover trip cancellation, delays, interruptions and lost and damaged bags.

Sometimes these cards are more expensive — the Chase Sapphire Reserve, which costs $550 annually — but generally the more expensive the card, the more generous the protections.

Leigh Rowan, the director of special projects at UpgradedPoints.com, notes, “If you really want insurance coverage, private insurance coverage is often easier to deal with [than credit card insurance].”

As always with insurance, you need to do your homework to look for plans that cover incidents related to Covid-19. Remember to be aware of loopholes — because there will be loopholes — and call your insurance provider if you have any questions about a travel provider.

Negotiate

“The consumer is in the driver’s seat right now,” Mr. Kelly said. “If you don’t see something you like, everything is negotiable.”

It is always worth it to ask for a better deal if you don’t like the terms you are offered.

Also, try to remember to stay flexible. Although vaccines are rolling out, remember the pandemic is far from over and we will all need to adopt a mentality that changes will likely continue into 2021.

Regardless, we hope for the day we can one day be reunited with friends, sipping a fruity drink on a beach… far from home.

To a Richer Life,

The Rich Life Roadmap Team

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