It's not looking great for the 2021 holiday season. It doesn't matter if you book flights, rental cars, hotel rooms or months in advance. The pace at which the travel industry is changing means that booking a ticket or making a reservation does not guarantee your trip will happen as planned.
It is important to have a backup plan in case of weather emergencies, COVID regulations which could change at any time, staff shortages and the fact last year's flexible cancellation and booking policies are almost gone. Sally French, an associate editor at the Associated Press, shares a few ways you can be prepared for this year. Here's what you need to know.
Flying? Consider your plans changing if you are flying.
It's not Thanksgiving yet, and air travel is (still?) Unreliable. French recommends that you arrive prepared to extend your trip a little and be flexible about your plans.
My approach is slightly different. It's okay to assume that things will change. This could be delayed flights or cancelled flights, rental companies giving someone ahead of you the car you reserved, and so on. If things go as planned, you'll be grateful, and it will seem like a holiday miracle.
You can only carry one bag.
French suggests that you pack everything you need for a flight with your carry-on luggage. You won't have to worry about your luggage if you get on a flight that changes.
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Travel insurance is a good investment
French suggests that even if you don't always accept travel insurance, this holiday season is the right time to change your approach and actually get it.
Check to see if your credit cards offer travel insurance. If so, ensure that it isn't a bogus plan. If that is not the case, it's time to purchase travel insurance or at least to research your options.
At least one alternate route or mode of transport should be considered
Most people will not have the luxury of riding in a van with an impromptu polka band to return home for the holidays, unlike Moira Rose from Home Alone. If you plan to fly somewhere, it is important that you have a backup plan. You won't have the time to search for an outlet or do preliminary research on your smartphone. That is something you should do at home.
You can drive to your destination if you are able. Find out what rental car companies are available in the area and estimate how long it will take. Although you can price out several companies, if your flight is cancelled, others will be in the same boat and prices will likely rise significantly.
It is also a good idea to check out which airlines fly to or near your destination, and their times, so that you can plan where to book another flight if needed.