How to safely plan your post-pandemic travels
Vaccines are rolling out (slooowly), 2020 is officially and finally over and there are tiny glimmers of hope starting to emerge. The pandemic will end, life will return to something close to normal and that means we will one day take to the skies again and travel beyond our borders. I. Can’t. Wait. But as we travellers start itchin' to get back out there, the temptation to plan and book a trip is getting stronger. I say don’t fight it. But with some lingering uncertainties around how the rest of this year will unfold, you should keep these important recovery-phase trip planning tips in mind so you—and your wallet—stay safe.
Think about travel differently
Maybe the pandemic put the kibosh on the trip you spent months planning in 2019, so while you might be tempted to roll those plans out the second borders open again, you may also have discovered new ways of thinking about travel over the past year, thanks to all the time you had to reflect in 2020. Perhaps the biggest shift of all is recognizing the importance of just going. When’s the right time to travel? As soon as you can.
Check cancellation policies
As you start to get serious about making plans, familiarize yourself with the cancellation policies of the companies you’re looking to book with—everything from airlines to hostels and tour operators. This is the most important part of booking trips these days. Knowingly booking a trip when there's uncertainty in the air around future regulations and restrictions comes with risks, and you can't always expect businesses to offer a refund if plans change, even if you're not responsible for that change and especially if you booked a non-refundable rate. Have a good think about how much risk you’re willing to assume. At HI Canada, if you book right here on our website, you can cancel your stay at no charge up to 24 hours before you’re scheduled to arrive, which gives you a lot of flexibility. It’s always best to book direct rather than going through online travel agencies or fare aggregators.
Travel likely won’t resume all at once, so you may find more opportunities to explore in Canada before international borders open up, or before flight schedules (and prices) stabilize a little bit. Start with a road trip to another city or province to get your travel legs back on. Local travel is a whole lot easier to plan at the last minute, too, leaving less room for things to change after you commit.
Be flexible and compassionate
As we crawl out of this mess, things are still unpredictable, which means hard and fast travel dates may not be within the realm of possibility to start. Plus, even as travel returns, some companies may not be able to weather the storm, and it’s not just government rules that could shut a business down. Some businesses may come to the difficult conclusion that their operating costs can’t sustain persistently lower travel demand and may choose to remain closed a little longer, or worse, permanently close after months of difficulties. All this to say, open borders and the green light from governments may not actually guarantee your trip goes off as planned. So stay flexible, and hold a little place in your heart for businesses that are struggling to hang on through these tough times.
Stay in touch
If you book flights, hostels and activities, make sure you keep an eye on your promotions or junk email folder in case the company sends you an update or needs to change plans. It’s also a good idea to follow these companies on social media to stay up to date on any changes. Companies will do whatever they can to reach out to you with as much warning as possible if things need to change, but they can’t force you to open or read an email, so staying in the loop is partly up to you. You really don’t want to find yourself surprised the night before you were supposed to leave.
Heed the experts’ advice and trust your gut
Stay up to date on evolving government rules and guidelines, including at your destination if you’re leaving your province or the country. You’re responsible for knowing the rules and following them, and what’s in play when you book may be different when it’s time to go. And do your own gut check along the way, too. If case numbers are rising, if vaccine roll-out slows down or you don’t get yours when you thought you would, if businesses haven’t reopened like you expected them to or if you just don’t have a good feeling about it, don’t go. If you’ve protected yourself in terms of cancellations, you can’t lose by postponing until you’re feeling ready.
Hang in there
Sick of this phrase yet? Me too. But we really are getting closer to the end of this every day. Still, who knows how the next bit will go, and if you make plans and have to cancel, whether because of government rules or just your own assessment of the situation, rest assured you'll get back out there one day soon.