'Safe-cations' Are Probably the Smartest Pandemic Travel Trend—Here’s How to Plan Yours
Time to book a much-needed "safe-cation."
It's almost summer. We've almost made it. Obviously travel plans and expectations have had to change dramatically for everyone since the coronavirus outbreak—canceled or postponed trips, closed hotels, and halted flight routes. But as the weather warms up, people slowly receive their full vaccines, and parts of the country begin to reopen gradually, travel still seems to be very much on the table for anyone hungry to get out of town. Travelers will just need to be extra cautious for the foreseeable future.
That's why online travel agency Travelocity predicted the latest travel trend for summer 2020, and it still rings true this year—the "safe-cation": a mini getaway to destinations that are cleared for safe travel during this time.
People's desire to travel is naturally matched by their concerns over health and safety—their own, their family's, their fellow travelers', and that of the places they visit. According to insights from Travelocity, 72 percent of travelers name health and safety as their top priorities when deciding where and when to travel post COVID-19.
Responsibility to be smart and safe falls on both sides. As airlines, hotels, restaurants, and other establishments loosen their restrictions and start to reopen for the public, their utmost priority is ensuring a totally safe, sanitized, and socially distant experience for guests. And travelers, too, should do their due diligence to find safe and responsible accommodations and activities. The good news is, it looks like travelers are doing their homework: Another Travelocity survey, fielded last May, found that 90 percent of families consider a) refundable hotel rooms, and b) the cleanliness of both transportation and lodging options, as the most important factors when deciding where and when to travel due to COVID-19.
Here, Travelocity shares its top tips and insider secrets for planning and enjoying a safe-cation this season.
First and foremost: Before you make any plans to travel, consult the Centers for Disease Control's Considerations for Travelers amid the ongoing prevalence of COVID-19 in the U.S. (and a doctor if you have any follow-up health questions or concerns).
For example, do not travel "with someone who is sick...if you are sick, or if you have been around someone with COVID-19 in the past 14 days."
If you can, book in advance.
Travelocity experts have lately noticed an upward trend in last-minute bookings—about zero to three days out (for perspective, the most popular booking window is typically 21 to 30 days, per Travelocity insights). Totally understandable, given the uncertainty of the moment: Since new information emerges every day, people are waiting as long as possible to decide whether or not they’ll make moves.
But while the biggest upsides to booking last minute are flexibility and peace of mind, travel experts actually encourage thinking ahead and booking at least 60 days out, if you already know when and where you're going. This is because you can expect to see good values on airfare and travel—you don’t want to miss out on the opportunity to take advantage of coupons or deals from many travel providers.
Another downside to down-to-the-wire booking: “As demand for travel picks back up again, you might not have as much availability in inventory,” Travelocity shares. “Especially as many hotel providers are limiting the number of occupants or rooms they fill due to COVID-19. You might not want to wait until the last minute if there’s a property or neighborhood you really want to be in.”
Find flexible change and cancelation policies.
Travel experts are seeing low fares on major U.S. airlines like Delta and American right now, and say that many airlines are waiving typical change or cancel fees through the end of year. That means, if you end up changing your mind, you’ll only pay the difference in ticket price. And that’s a big deal, since many airlines charge customers several hundred dollars (at least) to reschedule or cancel trips.
An easy way to travel anxiety-free is to look for refundable hotels, like those offering free cancelation. (Booking sites like Travelocity let you filter your search to make finding and booking refundable lodging a breeze.) Remember, many travel providers have desirable deals, coupons, and offers right now—partly to rekindle interest in travel this summer, but also to ensure travelers get their money back if anything changes. “If you book a refundable hotel, you can book with confidence in advance right now, knowing you’ll get the best deal and be able to change your mind later on if you need to,” Travelocity says.
Up your cleanliness standards.
In light of the current climate, most hotels opening up for the season are on their hygiene game, big time. That said, do your research, too, and look for lodging with sanitation and safety top of mind. You should be able to locate hotels’ cleanliness policies easily, either on their own websites or via booking aggregate sites.
Some health and hygiene amenities to look for: contactless check-in and check-out, readily available hand sanitizer for guests, increased cleaning practices (in accordance with CDC guidelines), an official social distancing statement, face mask requirements, and enhanced COVID-19 awareness training for hotel staff members.
Rethink your travel window.
Expect weekends to be busy. If your work and family schedules allow, travel experts recommend considering off-peak travel times. Try a Saturday to Monday or even mid-week excursion, to avoid crowds.
Explore close to home.
International jaunts just aren’t really an option this summer—and that’s OK. Start getting excited by the idea of roaming closer to home. Travelocity is seeing the most hotel bookings right now within a 100-mile radius of where people live. And unsurprisingly, data finds that travelers are mostly booking domestic travel within driving distance.
One way to keep summer exciting is to create a backyard bucket list. "This is the summer to take those in-state trips to landmarks and places you’ve always meant to visit as a family,” Travelocity pros suggest. Get to know the hotspots around you without the stress of staying somewhere unfamiliar, dealing with airports, or flying commercial.
Or take a repeat vacation.
In the same vein, it might offer you peace of mind to head somewhere familiar. “Revisit destinations you’ve been to before: There’s a feeling of comfort when we visit places we know well,” experts say. “Take this time to revisit those hidden gems you’ve enjoyed before.”
Do your part: Maintain necessary social distancing and safety practices.
The reality is, even with vaccines available, all travel is technically a risk, especially while the rest of the population still needs to be inoculated—but it’s still possible and 100 percent your prerogative to get out of town. The CDC maintains that one of the easiest ways to contract the virus is person-to-person contact; it can spread between people via respiratory droplets (a cough, sneeze, or saliva) from six feet away.
So to be as responsible as possible, it's up to you and those you’re traveling with to keep up all those social distancing and safety habits you’ve been practicing at home. Wipe down commonly touched surfaces, wash hands regularly (and properly), don’t touch your face, don’t share drinks or utensils, wear a face mask in public spaces, and avoid large gatherings whenever possible.