No, it’s not a Hollywood blockbuster special effect…airports, streets, and resorts are almost completely empty. Places that we’re used to seeing packed with people look like a surreal otherworld from a science fiction movie. You, like millions of others, probably spent the early part of the year looking forward to a planned vacation or even a work trip, only to find yourself weeks later wondering if it’s safe to go at all, or worse, how, if, or when to cancel.
The travel industry is scrambling to address the ever-changing environment that Covid-19 has created, while also balancing rules and regulations being set by the government. It may seem overwhelming to try to interpret all of the information coming out of the news, but it’s important to know that the industry is working to help you. Here’s what you need to know to handle your existing travel plans.
1. When are your travel plans?
Companies across the travel industry have been working quickly to adjust policies to accommodate travelers, but with phone lines being inundated with panicked travelers, wait times are extremely long. Don’t worry, the good news is that if you’re traveling more than a week out, you have time. Most airlines are asking that travelers hold off on calling until the week of travel to reduce call volume. The Department of Transportation has issued new policies that will protect you, the traveler, in regards to refunds during COVID-19. So, if you’re having trouble getting through, know that you will be covered.
In most cases, airlines have already cancelled flights through the next 4-6 weeks, however, if your flight is not yet cancelled and you have three or more weeks before your scheduled departure, it may be best to wait for it to be cancelled. If you cancel while the flight is still scheduled, it may pose challenges in receiving your refund without greater hassle. It’s always best to review your airline’s website and COVID-19 policies before calling.
2. Are you currently away and looking to return home?
If you’re currently away and looking to return home, then it’s best to consider your options. If you are at a second home, or vacation home and can work remotely, sheltering-in-place is likely the best option. If you’re in a pandemic hot spot, then there may be restrictions surrounding whether you’re able to travel at all right now. Keep an open line of communication with your employer, friends and family back home. Review airline, airport, and government policies and restrictions, and most importantly, consider the safest option as opposed to the convenient option.
3. Seek assistance from travel professionals
If you typically book your own travel, now may be the time to consider using a travel agency to take care of the work for you. Licensed travel agents, like those at AAA, maintain close relationships with airlines, hotels, and other organizations, can provide greater travel insurance options, can negotiate better arrangements, and keep a finger on the pulse of the industry to advocate on your behalf.
Fortunately, both the government and travel companies are opening up options to protect travelers during this difficult time. Be sure that you’re putting safety above all else for you and others when considering travel during the pandemic. If it can wait, it should. Stay informed and diligent. For additional information on the coronavirus through the Department of Transportation, visit https://www.transportation.gov/coronavirus.