Many of us have had our travel plans put on hold, or at worst cancelled, due to Covid-19.
But here at CF we’re encouraging you to keep dreaming and planning your travels with this step-by-step guide on what you need to know and why it’s a better time than ever to book your next escape.
Dreaming Up a New Trip Can Help Soothe the Sting of Cancelled Plans
I’ve personally had to cancel three trips I had lined up between March and April alone. Not just any trips either – dream holidays in places that have been on my bucket list for years. I’m not going to lie…it sucks. Making the responsible decision to cancel already built plans, the hours of research to craft incredible itineraries, it hurt. And while disappointing, the greater good, triumphs over any disappointment.
To aide my soothing traveller’s soul I haven’t given up on furthering my wanderlust dreams, but instead have started to plan future holidays to more bucket list destinations than ever. The way I see it, I don’t necessarily have to know when I’m going to travel, but I’ve just started by picking a place I’ve always wanted to go to get a head start on planning now. This way, when the time comes to turn those dreams into a reality, it’ll be far less stressful and I’ll be so prepared I can enjoy the excitement of what’s to come knowing all the ground work has already been done. Also, it doesn’t hurt to have something to look forward to other than the next episode of my favourite Netflix show!
We’re All In This Together
We’ve all seen the headlines pointing to industries and businesses in distress. These are unparalleled times and the best thing we can do as travel lovers is to show support and sensitivity to the global community. Travel and tourism is one of the world’s largest industries contributing 10% of the world’s GDP. The World Travel & Tourism Council has warned that coronavirus is putting up to 50 million jobs in the sector at risk with Asia expected to be the worst affected. This impact will be felt throughout the entire supply chain – it’s not only going to affect airlines and their workers, but the small, independent hotels to the Machu Picchu porter to the Moroccan rug worker who sells their goods at a stall in the Medina – all of whom depend on tourism to make a living.
How badly the industry is impacted depends on how long the pandemic lasts, but also on how companies within the industry adapt their policies to maintain consumer trust. The good news across the industry is that businesses large and small are hearing this and shifting the travel landscape to provide the most flexible pricing and booking policies we’ve ever seen.
Airlines Put the Choice Back In Your Hands
Many airlines have shifted their policies to allow you to book new flights now with the option to cancel for a full refund at a later date and very often we’re seeing airlines giving carte blanche on making changes down the line.
For example, British Airways has introduced ‘Booking with Confidence’ which allows you to change your destination and/or your date of travel at any time without incurring any additional fees. They’re extending this for all travel booked up to May 31st for all new bookings for travel until December 31st, 2020. And at worst, if you do need to cancel your booking they’ve made it easy to do so via an online form and are offering vouchers you can use as part of payment for future bookings that are valid for 12 months from the date of issue.
Emirates have followed suit with similar flexible booking options and vouchers available for up to one year should you need to cancel at any time. They’re even letting you use the full amount of your voucher for various transactions throughout the year to allow you to use the money from your original booking on flights to multiple destinations.
Lufthansa, and their entire group of airlines, which includes Austrian, SWISS, Brussels and Air Dolomiti, have taken it a step further offering a discount of €50 off all rebooked ticket prices and if you currently hold a ticket for a cancelled or existing Lufthansa Group flight you can keep the ticket without having to commit to a new flight date right away. Lufthansa will consider the ticket cancelled, but the value will remain unchanged and can be extended to a new departure date up to and including December 31st, 2020. For all new bookings made up to March 31st they’re waiving rebooking fees, however, will only waive the fees once (i.e./ if you change a flight twice, on the second booking amendment you will currently be charged a change of booking fee). The €50 discount on re-bookings applies to new bookings as well with the caveat that any new re-bookings must be made by August 31st.
Delta Air Lines is offering what is probably the best and most flexible options we’ve seen so far, allowing their customers to adjust their travel as many times as they like without a change fee for an entire year from the date of purchase. At the moment this only applies to tickets purchased in March for travel up to December 31st. They’re also offering customers the option to cancel any ticket they have and exchange it for an eCredit for future use. If for any reason you can’t get through to Delta to cancel your ticket, they are honouring its full value and your ticket automatically becomes an eCredit within 24 hrs – keeping you stress free and their phone lines open for those who urgently need it. Something we can definitely get on board with!
With all airlines, and any new bookings, make sure you’re aware of the individual T&Cs that are now being outlined more clearly on websites. Every airline we’ve looked at is making it easier than ever to make sure travellers know their rights and properly understand policies. Also be aware, when changing any booking, if there is a fee increase for a different destination or travel date you will be responsible for that charge despite any discounts or waivers. With prices and booking options being as flexible as they are at the moment it’s a small price to pay to keep your Bali dreams alive.
Hotel Perks for Peace of Mind
There’s also never been a better time than now to be booking directly with hotels. It’s not only your chance to support that amazing family-run boutique hotel you found when the GPS took you off track on your Spanish road trip, but to also capitalise on the amazing free upgrades we’re seeing many hotels offering. The travel community really is a community, give your favourite hotel a call, speak with them directly, and you’ll be pleasantly surprised at how willing they are to welcome you at a future date with complimentary breakfast offers, spa credits and a host of other incredible perks.
If you’re not sure where to begin, it’s a brilliant time to start building a relationship with a tour operator or travel agent. Many have spent years building up direct relationships across the entire travel and tourism sector and can be incredibly helpful in making your dream holiday come alive whilst securing amazing deals through their well-built network. I’m a huge fan of companies like Exodus Travel who offer bespoke luxury holidays and incredibly unique experiences. Carrier are great for creating really luxe, 5 star bucket list trips and Intrepid Travel for fully sustainable getaways. Knowing someone always has your back, knows the small print in and out, and has the inside scoop on the industry will help make sure your next vacation is worry free from start to finish.
It’s also an amazing time to see what you can tick off of your growing bucket list. Many iconic, coveted hotels, and let’s not forget restaurants, that are usually booked up six months to a year in advance now have availability. Most of these properties have strict and lengthy cancellation policies during peak travel periods, but in a bid to attract guests have cut these policies down to a few days and are throwing in upgrades and valuable amenities as an added incentive.
The Grand Hotel Tremezzo, a luxury staple in Lake Como, is one example of a family-run property adapting to entice people to book later this year in hard-hit northern Italy. Guests who reserve a room now can expect preferable rates and special free add-ons like a private boat tour of the lake worth upwards of £200. If boat tours aren’t your thing, they’ll customise an experience based on your personal preferences and if you pre-pay for your stay they’re also giving a 15% discount off the best available rates until mid-May whilst offering full refunds up to 24 hours in advance if you choose not to travel or need to cancel.
The Hoxton is another one of our favourites offering all guests free changes and cancellations up to 6 p.m. the night before check-in. The offer is valid on stays up to August 31st. Moral of the story: be smart, travel safe, dream big and with the security to cancel at any time, book now.
Use Past Experience to Future Proof Your Plans
This is a lesson hard learned from my recent raft of cancellations that I’ll never forego again – always choose the booking option that allows free cancellations and changes. I had a hotel room booked through Expedia that I was not able to get a full refund on because I chose the ‘no cancellations price’. Expedia’s really good at making this clear upon payment, but at the time I didn’t even consider the possibility that my travel plans would be upended. Let’s be honest, they never have like this before. For literally only £3 more I could’ve secured my booking and reservation fee with full confidence. As I didn’t, I’ve since lost all that money. If given the option, which is mostly applicable to online travel operators like Expedia, always add on the free cancellation fee and save the burn for your Insta Live workouts.
You can, and should, also take things a step further and invest in trip insurance. Most airlines, travel agents and tour operators, have partnerships with travel insurance companies, or offer their own insurance, and provide different levels of coverage depending on your specific needs and timelines. If you don’t have independent travel insurance, you can usually add this on at the last stage of your booking. Most include cancellation, medical and lost property starting at around £20 per passenger for a single trip. You might even already be covered through your financial institution, many of which offer complementary travel insurance as a reward for having an account with them. If you’re still unsure about where to find travel insurance and secure the best rates there are loads of great cost comparison websites that break down price plans and basic T&Cs so you can make sure you’re getting the right plan with the right coverage for you.
And if you’re booking through a tour operator or travel agent make sure they are an ATOL registered company. It protects you and provides support so you are not at a financial loss if your ATOL holder ceases trading. Make note: ATOL protection does not cover things like medical expenses, delays/cancellations or lost luggage, so travel insurance is still a must, and it does not protect you if you book direct with an airline or book just accommodation, but is something you should definitely ask about when booking through an agent. Every ATOL holder will have the ATOL logo on their website, but as a traveller you have the right to ask them for their ATOL number and their certificate if you are unsure. Much like regular hand washing, having the right insurance in place is the best protective measure of our new found travelling times and the simplest way to ensure you can be fully at ease when booking your next holiday.
Be a Savvy Traveller: Consider Your Footprint
We’ve all heard the calls for better consideration for the environment in our travels. These days, being a savvy traveller isn’t just about securing the best deals, hotels and locking it all in with the right travel insurance, but should forever and always take in to consideration how we travel and what its impact is on our number one bae, mother earth.
Sustainable travel doesn’t have to mean giving up on luxury, it simply means we all have a role to play in making smarter choices when we do travel. As we dream now and travel later we have the opportunity to do so more responsibly by making smarter choices from the time we book. Think reservations at local restaurants, coffee from the independent shop, booking rail travel if possible and look at what that hotel you’re researching is doing to offset their footprint on the environment. There are tonnes of amazing eco-conscious hotels that have popped up around the world and some incredible tour operators who give a percentage of their profits to local charitable organisations. And don’t forget to pack your reusable water bottle, coffee cup and bamboo spork, all of which should be considered as essential to add to your suitcase as your favourite pair of Celine sunglasses.