The travel industry has been hit hard since the pandemic began, with travel spending declined by 42% in 2020 from 2019. But the introduction of three leading vaccines has created a fervor for booking future travel.
Leah Smith, president of Denver-based Tafari Travel, told Bloomberg news they had seen a “25% increase in travel inquiries since the first round of vaccinations became available.” People are so excited to get back to travel it is creating a wave of “vaxications,” as Bloomberg reporter Jen Murphy put it—vacations planned to celebrate being fully vaccinated.
Even though we are still required to wear masks and social distance, people are taking advantage of their enhanced immunity and booking a year or two in advance for their national and international excursions. Here are some helpful tips for planning a vacation six months to a year in advance.
Plan based on your vaccination date
President Joe Biden addressed the nation last week, announcing his ambitions to make vaccinations available to all Americans starting May 1—regardless of age or qualifying conditions, everyone should be eligible to get the vaccine. With the larger population eligible for vaccinations, administering facilities could become overwhelmed starting early this spring. You’ll want to plan your vacation well after the vaccine rush to better your chances of being fully vaccinated. Take advantage of your city’s possible waitlists now.
Once you have a possible vaccination date, make sure to plan your trip at least 14 days from the required dosage amount (after your second dose with the Pfizer or Maderna vaccines, or one dose with Johnson & Johnson). If you expect you’ll be fully vaccinated by September 1, make sure your trip begins after September 14.
Download a flight tracking app
You’ll want to find a favorite price tracking app to start browsing prices in advance. I use the fight tracker app Hopper to search for the best ticket prices, as it monitors airlines and third-party travel sites for price fluctuations and predicts the best time to buy, but you can get similar notifications from Google Flights, Kayak, and many others. Just enter your location and travel dates, and they’ll send notifications that can even let you know specific dates the flight prices might rise. If you have a set budget, apps like Hopper and Scott’s Cheap Flights are great for finding the best price at the right time.
If you’re not so concerned with your trip’s location but want to go somewhere and spend less, use a site like The Flight Deal that has last-minute deals for reduced airline tickets around the world. Due to COVID-19, they only offer flight deals for May and beyond, encouraging you to think ahead. It’s perfect for the pandemic-fatigued traveler who just wants to go somewhere for cheap.
Pay for your trip in monthly installments
When you plan for a trip six months or more in advance, you have the luxury of saving up over time, and sites like Airbnb allow you to pay a portion of your stay at booking and the rest closer to your travel dates. Travel sites and hotel chains offer a “pay at check-in” option for a slightly higher nightly rate, meaning you might pay a bit more for the stay, but you won’t commit a large chunk of change upfront.
Some airlines have a “book now, pay later” option, so you can lock in a low ticket price and pay for the costs monthly. The deal search site Finder compiled a list of airlines and travel sites that include the pay later option. It’s important to mention, though, that these sites often use third-party loan companies for their payment plans, meaning you would need to qualify and pay interest on what you buy.
Alternatives like Airfordable let you pay off the cost of a flight for a percentage of the flight cost—you simply send them a link to the flight you want to take, they essentially book the flight for you, and set up a payment plan. Your monthly payments will be lower the further out you book the flight.
Other types of vacations can be paid for at your own leisure. While cruising is the last thing on everyone’s minds, you can book a cruise now for 2022 or 2023. Sites like cruises.com allow you to book your future cruise for a down payment of $100–$500, and make payments whenever and for however much you want. You have until a certain due date to make the full payment, and you can make changes to your reservation or cancel up until that point.
Save in advance with automatic transfers
You should think about how much it costs per day to enjoy the location you’ll be visiting. I searched St. Thomas on Budget Your Trip—which rounds up reviews and comments from actual travelers to calculate the daily cost of food, alcohol, ground transportation, excursions, and more—to get an idea of the daily costs, and it calculated $145 per day per person for a trip to the U.S. Virgin Islands (stay included). Estimate your full trip costs and use your bank’s automatic transfer settings to transfer a pre-planned amount (in increments of your choice) to a savings account designated for your upcoming trip. That way, even if your trip is scheduled for 2022, you won’t be scrambling to afford it when the payment due dates come around.