What to Know Before Taking a Trip
So far this year, flight cancellations, wintery weather and the COVID-19 omicron variant have all combined to create a perfect, unwanted storm for travelers. However, if you feel ready to travel during the pandemic, AAA provides some advice on doing that without losing your mind or money:
- Anticipate the expenses associated with delays and cancellations including the possibility of having to stay longer if you need to quarantine in place or are stranded.
- Purchase travel insurance that specifically provides coverage for travel interruption and additional expenses due to COVID-19.
- Notify credit card providers of your travel details (specify location and duration) to reduce the risk of frozen cards due to unusual activity.
- Have photos of your vaccination card and other important documents (like your passport) on your phone as a backup.
- Understand your destination’s COVID-19 restrictions and requirements, including if you will need to take a test ahead of leaving and/or returning home. If so, make an appointment for a COVID-19 PCR test at least one month before departure and make sure the date of your results adheres to the timeline set by your destination (i.e. 1 day, 3 days). AAA suggests requesting a QR code for your results from the PCR tester since more destinations require this.
- Pack N95 or KN95 masks, hand sanitizer, disinfecting wipes and disposable gloves in your carry-on and make sure they are easily accessible.
Travel Agents: Are Critical
The internet gave travelers the independence to book their flights, cruises, hotels, tours, rental cars, etc., yet it also forced them to go it alone when something went wrong. As recent events have shown, travelers benefit from having an expert in their corner when all or part of their trip is delayed or cancelled without much notice. Another bonus, if you are a AAA member, the services provided by a travel agent are a member benefit. A trusted travel agent can:
- Save you time, money AND stress by handling the details, researching any travel restrictions or changes and coordinating plans within your travel group.
- Provide advice and advocate for you before, during and after a trip. Their extensive knowledge, training, expertise and experience help you better understand the current, sometimes complicated landscape.
- Match the right travel insurance with your specific needs and budget.
Advocate on your behalf when you need to cancel or reschedule travel due to situations beyond your control.
- Quickly find alternative flights or accommodations for you if you find yourself stranded in a crowded airport.
Travel Insurance Protects Your Trip AND Your Wallet
The days of skipping this part of travel planning are over. AAA recommends purchasing travel insurance, including flight protection, when booking a trip to cover unexpected delays or trip interruptions. There are a variety of policies to choose from depending on the type of trip, destination and mode of travel. The expertise of a travel agent can guide you through the best options, including if specific destinations require visitors to carry travel insurance. Insurance may add a little to the trip’s overall cost, but the peace of mind it buys is priceless.
What to Know When Your Flight is Grounded
In the last several weeks, travelers have faced daily flight delays and cancellations due to wintery weather, airline staff shortages caused by the COVID-19 omicron variant and the introduction of 5G phone service. Often, a flight delay or cancellation causes a domino effect, making it difficult for stranded passengers to rebook. AAA recommends you do the following to lessen your chance of being grounded:
- Book the first flight in the morning. Because of how airlines plan routes and set up crews, early morning flights are less susceptible to cancellations or delays.
- Check-in online 24-hours in advance and have the airline notifications enabled on your mobile device in case an issue arises that requires a change in plans.
- When a flight cancellation or delay happens, the airline must try to accommodate by booking passengers on a later flight. However, under federal law, you are entitled to a full refund if you request it. It could take time to recover this money since more cancellations mean more people asking for refunds.
What to Know When the High Seas are Calling You
Cruising, more than other modes of travel, has faced the most challenges since the start of the pandemic. In an effort to make it as safe as possible for passengers and crew, cruise lines have responded by implementing strict safety protocols, working closely with the CDC and adapting those practices when new variants arise. AAA offers the following advice when considering a cruise, whether now or in the future:
- If you are thinking of postponing a planned cruise, AAA recommends contacting cruise lines early to have the best selection of dates for future sailings. Demand is already pent up, and dates will book up fast as conditions improve.
- Currently, the CDC advises travelers to avoid cruise travel, regardless of vaccination status. For those who still intend to cruise:
- AAA strongly recommends working with a travel agent to understand what to expect while onboard; limitations on ports, excursions and onboard activities; and changes to safety protocols, including testing or daily self-health assessments for travelers who still wish to cruise.
- Follow the CDC guidance, which includes being fully vaccinated and/or getting a COVID-19 vaccine booster if eligible before cruising.
What to Know When Booking Lodging
Always confirm your hotel’s cancellation and/or change policies before locking in a reservation, so you are not surprised by unexpected penalties. AAA also suggests you ask about the following when booking your accommodations:
- Do they offer contactless services such as mobile check-in/check-out, virtual keys and room service?
- Can you request housekeeping based on your personal preferences?
- Are amenities like restaurants, gym, spa and pool open? What are the hours and safety protocols in place?
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