Why you need a plan B for your vacation trip


This item is reprinted with permission from Nerdwallet.

It’s not even the busiest time of year to travel yet, and 2021 has already been chaotic for even the most seasoned travelers.

Among the 2021 travel fiascos:

  • Spirit Airlines SAVE,
    + 4.62%
    suffered an operational crisis, with 2,800 flights canceled between July 30 and August 9 due to a combination of bad weather, staff shortages and technical issues that left passengers stranded.

  • Some vaccinated travelers have unexpectedly tested positive for COVID-19 while traveling internationally, finding themselves forced to self-isolate overseas due to U.S. travel restrictions.

  • COVID-related rules can change at the last minute, which means you may have to abruptly quarantine upon arrival, even if you are vaccinated – as was the case when the Netherlands suddenly tightened restrictions travel in September.

  • And as booking travel through the sharing economy becomes more and more popular, vacationers are experiencing situations where vacation home and RV rental owners ghost them.

All of that, and Thanksgiving is over three weeks away.

And so, when you book a vacation trip in 2021, don’t overlook the best kind of plan you can make: a back-up plan. Here are a few ways to build one.

See: No, it wasn’t a “work stoppage”: here’s what’s really behind Southwest’s flight disruptions

Be flexible and pack light

This summer has been brutal for air travel in the United States. According to the Ministry of Transportation, 1.7% of domestic flights were canceled in July, up from 0.8% the same month last year. In addition, the on-time arrival rate in July fell from 90.5% to 73.4% year-over-year.

With so many challenges, you might find yourself taking a different flight at the last minute, but only if you’re nimble. Avoid checking your baggage so you won’t be separated from your belongings if you need to change your reservation.

Read: September 11 forever changed air travel – will COVID-19 do the same?

Be prepared to extend your trip

While trying to avoid checking your luggage, pack enough to survive a trip that takes longer than expected. Of course, a day’s flight delay probably only requires minimal extra clothing. But if you test positive for COVID-19, you might need 10 days of supplies.

For international travel, pack enough medicine and other items that cannot be easily purchased overseas.

To avoid overwrapping, wear versatile clothing that matches any outfit or occasion. Bring items that can be washed in the sink if you don’t have access to the laundry room.

Also see: Delta Air Lines facial recognition technology expands to Atlanta – here’s how it works

Book flights that can be easily canceled

This is probably not the year to book low budget airline tickets. While airline change and cancellation policies have improved, base economy fares are generally not eligible for easy travel changes.

Don’t put yourself in a situation where you can’t get your money back because you booked the cheap seats.

For cheap airline tickets, you could turn to Southwest Airlines, which has one of the best change policies. The cheapest Southwest fares can be canceled up to 10 minutes before scheduled departure in exchange for travel credit for a future flight. This generous policy existed before COVID-19 became part of the vernacular.

Know the alternatives

Since the start of the pandemic, many carpooling drivers have stopped driving. These days, Uber says there are more passengers than drivers available, so don’t rely on carpools, even if you’ve scheduled a trip in advance. Download several ridesharing apps for the widest choice of drivers and learn about local taxi services.

If you are heading to a location that requires proof of a negative COVID-19 test result, be aware of several places where you can get tested. If your results don’t come back on time, you might be scrambling to find a quick test. You can take two COVID-19 tests from different companies to make sure that at least one return on time.

Get travel insurance

If you need to cancel your trip, have a point of sale to get your refund. While most premium travel credit cards charge a hefty annual fee, they can be worth it for just one underrated benefit: travel insurance. It is not uncommon to find a travel card that will reimburse up to $ 20,000 for eligible expenses paid with that card.

If you don’t have a credit card with built-in travel insurance, you may need to purchase a separate travel insurance policy to offset the unpredictability these days.

Be sure to read: What if I test positive for COVID-19 when traveling abroad?

The bottom line

Even the best-planned trips turn out to be stressfully canceled, rescheduled, shortened or sometimes extended. This is because if there is one thing that we can be certain of in 2021, it is that nothing is certain.

To avoid getting stranded, spending more money, or losing luggage, make sure your overall travel plan includes a back-up plan.

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Sally French writes for NerdWallet. Email: [email protected] Twitter: @SAFmedia.


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