Depending on where you live, the pandemic has either partially or completely restricted your mobility for most of 2020. For everyone in general, it has made travel a bad idea.
Despite that, some people have continued to take advantage of intermittent opportunities to head out and visit faraway destinations. Some countries have loosened lockdowns and restrictions on entry for foreigners. There are cities or entire nations whose authorities have largely managed to keep the coronavirus under control.
Projections for a return to normal have been highly uncertain since the pandemic began. But just as unexpectedly, November brought some good news on that front. First, Pfizer and BioNTech announced a trial vaccine with 95% efficacy. Then Moderna followed shortly with similar positive results.
Through it all, travel enthusiasts have been wondering when they should book their next trip. In the spring, it seemed reasonable to make arrangements half a year down the road. That proved wrong. Does it make sense now to set down long-term plans for your next travel adventure in 2021 or beyond?
The airfare factor
The woes of the travel industry have been well-documented throughout the pandemic. You’d think that with many people afraid to board planes, fewer passengers would mean a considerable drop in airfare. And since airlines frequently give discounted rates on long-term bookings, that would present a great opportunity to save on your future trip.
In practice, however, it hasn’t been working out that way. Long-term bookings cost the same now compared to last year. The dramatic reduction in price has taken place in bookings made within 15 days.
It’s really simple supply and demand at work. The immediate reality that airlines are concerned with is the lack of close-in bookings. They are willing to hedge their bets on making up for it with long-term prospects.
Airfare may not be as cheap as you’d expect, but you can still find bargains on long-term travel. However, you’d best be prepared to piece together all those deals a la carte instead of booking a travel package.
The logic is similar to trading forex. An STP broker doesn’t give you access to the whole market. Only true ECN brokers do that. You have to eliminate the middleman and start canvassing all the options.
That said, you can still benefit from consulting with a trusted travel agent. As it’s their job to stay on top of constantly changing travel policies everywhere, they can help you navigate certain complications. Think cancellation policies, rebooking, postponements, and refunds. In unpredictable times, their assistance in such areas can be even more valuable.
Err towards safety
Keeping such unexpected events in mind, it’s prudent to give yourself some wiggle room when it comes to your travel plans. Banking on a viable vaccine in six months’ time is riskier than giving it a full year, for instance.
The same goes for accommodations and destinations. Even if all goes smoothly in 2021, it might not be the same in every country. There are no details yet on how a working vaccine could be fairly and rapidly distributed on a global scale. Just as some countries are less successful than others now in controlling the pandemic, you can expect that to remain true in the future.
If a country right now has kept the spread of Covid-19 in check, you can feel better about booking a trip there in advance. If a hotel has excellent hygiene and safety policies in response to the current crisis, they are more likely to maintain those standards as the situation improves.
And keep an open mind to local destinations and road trips. Experts believe that regardless of how or when we reach the new normal, those modes of travel are how the industry will begin to recover.
Savor the anticipation
In short, while you may be able to score a good deal and enjoy substantial savings when your next vacation finally rolls around, there are many question marks involved. The entire experience is by no means guaranteed to be a smooth or successful one.
You have to be prepared to make changes as the months pass and even adjust to surprises during the trip itself. But on some level, what traveler isn’t ready for the unexpected?
With that said, there’s one thing you can count on: a heightened sense of pleasure. Studies have shown that experiential purchases make us considerably happier than material ones from anticipation alone. If only for this reason, you can go ahead and start planning your next trip several months from now.