PLANNING (OR JUST DREAMING ABOUT) POST-CORONAVIRUS TRAVEL

PLANNING (OR JUST DREAMING ABOUT) POST-CORONAVIRUS TRAVEL

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Stuck at home going nowhere (except to the grocery store or pharmacy)?

Me, too.

Had planned trips scrapped because of the virus?

Me, too.

So should you be planning a post-coronavirus trip while you’re twiddling your thumbs sitting in front of your computer watching YouTube videos?

Maybe.

Maybe not.

There are a number of factors to take into account before hitting the road or taking to the air to travel once “stay at home” orders that ban anything but “essential” travel are lifted.

GOT ACCRUED VACATION TIME?

 If you’ve got a job were you forced to take time off from work and either use up or fail to accrue vacation time?

If you don’t have time off “on the books” at your place of employment and can’t afford to take unpaid vacation, then you won’t go any farther away from home than your “weekend” (whatever consecutive days of the week you don’t head to work) will permit.

GOT CASH ON HAND?

For most people vacation travel is a discretionary expense.

First you have to pay the rent or mortgage, insurance premiums, utility bills, car payments, groceries, medical expenses, school costs, and so on. If anything is left over from your paycheck, you can consider spending on travel.

If you are retired you don’t have to worry about not having “accrued vacation leave,” but the damage that COVID-19 did to your investment portfolio and IRAs might make you think twice about shelling out even a few hundred let alone a few thousand dollars for a trip.

Put if you were laid off or lost your job because of the coronavirus, you may not be able to afford to travel right now.

FEAR FACTOR

If you stay-at-home, or at least close to home, you probably have a fairly good idea of the risk you face of becoming infected with the coronavirus and whether the medical facilities in your community are prepared to deal with a quick upsurge in new COVID-19 cases, particularly if a large number of patients require hospitalization.

You might be able to find statistics on the COVID-19 cases in a place that you might wish to visit on vacation, but those numbers might be lower than they should be due to reporting errors, or reflect past experience but not predict how the incident of disease might vary by the time you arrive in town.

Immediately after “9/11” and for at least months afterwards, it was pretty clear than a large percentage of the world’s would-be-travelers decide not to fly anywhere for fear that their plane would be the next to be hijacked into a deadly ending.

Airports were devoid of crowds of travelers; airplanes were full of empty seats.

Presumably when the summer of 2020 arrives, many who would have taken off on a trip away from you will not do so for fear that they will travel into a coronavirus “hot spot.”

SUCH A DEAL!

Right now you may find that airlines, hotels, and tour companies are offering incredible deals on near-future travel.

There’s nothing particularly new about this.

Airlines have long offered discounted fares to those who are willing to give up the right to cancel and reboot flights at no charge.

Hotels and rental car companies have given customers a chance to “Pay Now!” and save money as long as they don’t cancel their reservations.

But read the fine print on any travel “deal” you find. Can you cancel at no charge, or will the cancellation fee wipe out what you would have saved?

Suppose you just can’t go and have to junk your trip plans after booking non-refundable travel expenses?

Can’t you buy trip insurance to cover your losses?

Maybe.

The best trip insurance policies are those that allow you to cancel for any reason (or no reason at all). But even in the pre-coronavirus days those policies were not always easy to find or inexpensive. Today they may not be available at all.

And all travel insurance policies may now specifically exclude cancellation for any reason related to the coronavirus or similar diseases.

READY, SET, BUT GO?

Getting time off and having “the readies” (as British sometimes call “cash on hand”) may not be a problem, so you are both “ready” and “set” to head out the door.

And you’ve pushed your COVID-19 fears into the back of your mind.

But can you “Go” or did the virus keep you from “Passing Go” (as in the game of Monopoly)?

In other words, is the boat, train or plane that you need to take up and running?

Airlines around the world have cancelled thousands of daily or weekly departures. Presumably flights that have been “grounded” won’t be “taking off” immediately after restrictions on travel begin to be lifted.

Planes have to be shifted back into position. Flight crews, cabin attendants, booking agents, airport check-in staff, and ground crews have to be recalled or maybe even rehired.

Was your cruise cancelled? Maybe the company won’t offer the trip you planned to take until “same time, next year.”

I MADE IT! (BUT WHERE IS EVERYBODY?)

So the good news is that you made it to your vacation destination.

The bad news is that you couldn’t stay in the upscale boutique hotel you hoped to book a room at because it went out of business.

Ditto for several restaurants whose guidebook descriptions had made your mouth water.

And local tour companies that could have “showed you the town” have gone belly up as well.

You didn’t pack enough clothes and retails stores where you might have purchased some additional duds are shuttered.

The hotel were you managed to snag a room used to have laundry service, but it doesn’t now.

And the closest laundromat where you might have washed your clothes is five miles away, you don’t have a rental car, Uber, Lyft and taxis are few and far between.

Not a problem because you decided to visit a U.S. National Park!

But, uh, the only in-park accommodations are small cabins with “efficiency kitchens” and all of the park dining services are closed except for limited “take out” meals. And lodging in the small town outside the park went belly up. And the park laid off most staff except some maintenance or law enforcement folks.

TRAVELING ONLY IN YOUR DREAMS?

I hate to have thrown cold water on your post-coronavirus travel planning.

But my guess is that a large percentage of Americans, as well as those from other countries, who prior to January were expecting to take one or more leisure-travel trips, will not pack their bags for even a “quick getaway” let alone an extended vacation until at least sometime in 2021.

For those who are “up in years,” this could mean “The End of Travel” (except to visit family).

For those who are in their 20s or 30s, it may simply mean putting off trips they could have taken now until some unknown future date.

And for everyone else, traveling may only happen in their dreams during the rest of 2020 and perhaps beyond.


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