What Will Travel Look Like in 2021?

So many people are asking the question: what will travel look like in 2021? While the rollout of a coronavirus vaccine is a positive sign, Dr. Anthony Fauci, the top health expert in the United States, predicts that is will be at least the fall of 2021 before enough vaccinations can take place to enable some sense of normalcy. In the meantime, countries around the world face continued surges of cases, new strains of the coronavirus, inconsistent plans for vaccine distribution and wide-ranging protocols and restrictions for travelers that seem to change by the day.

That leaves travelers wondering how to plan and what to plan for in the coming months. While many people are still planning staycations in the short term, there is a growing desire to book vacations or reschedule getaways that were postponed in 2020. Here are some things to consider:

Health and Safety

The first thing to consider before planning 2021 travel is your health and the status of where you want to go. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the U.S. State Department continue to caution against unnecessary travel. With new variants of the coronavirus spreading and a vaccine now within reach it is worth considering waiting a little longer before packing your bags.

Travel Refunds and Flexibility

Many travelers plan trip far in advance or have moved 2020 postponed trips several times meaning that pre-booked 2021 travel dates are fast approaching. Most tour operators, booking sites and airlines continue to offer fee-free rebooking and travel flexibility. Now is the time to check into current policies and options if your travel date is approaching and consider rebooking. If you do not have a trip already scheduled but are looking to plan one, be sure to read the fine print when it comes to refunds and travel flexibility. 

Driving Versus Flying

Many travelers are staying closer to home and opting to trade in a destination that requires flying for one where they can drive. While a number of studies support that flying is safe, there is still inherent risk by passing through airports and interacting with people. It is easier to manage interactions and public spaces when driving to your destination.

The biggest challenge for driving vacations is lodging where there are closed indoor public spaces like hotel lobbies and elevators. Be sure to read the coronavirus cleaning protocols for your lodging and make sure that you are comfortable with any potential risks that could arise.

Destination Protocols and Restrictions

Due to the constantly changing pandemic surges, many countries around the world are vacillating back and forth between regional or national lockdowns, limited entry and other restrictions. This leaves instability and uncertainty when it comes to travel planning. Even when things re-open for travel you will need to carefully understand your destination’s protocols and requirements for entry.

Do you need a negative COVID test before you depart? Are you required to get tested again when you land? Will you need to quarantine for two weeks upon arrival? Are you required to carry specific travel insurance to cover medical expenses if you get COVID-19 while traveling? The burden of knowing and understanding all of these details is on you, the traveler, so trip preparation will take some time. The expense of coronavirus testing and quarantines also rests on you which will surely impact your travel budget.

Travel Insurance

The coronavirus pandemic has changed travel insurance options and requirements. Early during the pandemic in 2020 many insurance companies imposed exceptions for their coverage that did not include anything that was caused by the coronavirus. Things are changing though as the world gets a grip on a new normal when it comes to travel. You can now get travel insurance that covers medical expenses related to COVID-19 and trip interruption coverage that will cover some quarantine costs should you get sick while on vacation and require it.

Many policies will also now cover medical evacuation related to COVID-19. Surprisingly, most of these policies that cover COVID-related trip issues do not cost any more than your previous travel insurance policies. You will have to check with your individual insurance company for details on their policies and restrictions related to COVID-19.

While travelers are seeing the light at the end of the tunnel with the rollout of vaccines there is no clear timetable as to when we can all hit the road again for regular travel. Even with the vaccines it will take time for infection rates to drop and for consistent travel protocols to get into place. Many health experts suggest that vaccines will be widely available to most of the general public but the summer of 2021 and gauge that some travel could comfortably resume by the late in the year. In the meantime, these guidelines can help you in your planning whenever that next trip happens.