Travel in a (post) COVID world

It seems like everyone is ready for a change of scenery and the travel industry as a whole is glad to see that. We certainly are happy to help you get to a new place this year and have a lot of trips in the hopper right now. And just like everything else, we are adjusting. Things are a bit different, there are constantly new surprises, and we're learning something every day!

What You Need to Know about Traveling in 2021

Travel has always required patience and flexibility. We are at the mercy of airlines, rental cars, hotels, etc. Now, more than ever, there are changes that are out of our control that we've never encountered before. Here's what we're experiencing that you should know about before planning your own trip or having us plan it for you:

1) Airlines

We all know you need to wear a mask while flying. But what don't you know? Airlines are running fewer flights and are making sure those flights are FULL (air travel is still 60% below where it was in 2019). The airlines are trying to remain financially viable and they are doing it in a way that isn't necessary convenient for travelers (not that I have any better solutions).

Airlines are offering virtually the same number of routes, so you have great variety when booking your ticket. That said, it is highly likely that the flight you select will not be the flight you end up on. Why?

About once a month, the airlines are looking for which routes aren't selling as well. Then, they combine routes and move passengers onto other route to ensure full flights. Just last week, we had changes to 15 travelers' flight schedules!

Is it annoying, frustrating, and often inconvenient? YES! Is there a better alternative? Not really. The good news is that the policies about reschedules and cancellations are much more consumer-friendly- we'll take the silver lining.

What to expect?

  • Expect your flight schedule to change at least once, maybe more.

  • Flights are completely SOLD OUT, by design.

  • Nonstop routes are harder to come by, especially from smaller airports

  • Longer layovers

  • More flexibility in cancel/reschedule policies

2) Rental Cars

Oof, this is a really tough one. When travel came to a screeching halt in 2020, rental car companies sold off their fleets to avoid the expense of depreciation on thousands and thousands of vehicles that were sitting unused. With travel coming back, they are scrambling to replace their fleets. Add to that, the lack of availability of chips needed by car manufacturers and vehicles are really hard to come by right now. Rental companies are even trying desperately to buy from dealerships, which was previously unheard of, and paying top dollar to get cars into their inventory.

The good news: If you want to sell a car right now, without buying one, it's a sellers' market. The bad news? Rental car rates are SOARING and climbing. The most outrageous rate we've personally seen was just shy of $700 for a small car for 4 days (no, we didn't book it).

What to expect?

  • Record high rates, particularly into peak travel season

  • Rate changes happening in the middle of making reservations

  • Walkable destinations are key if you're on a budget

  • Take a road trip as an alternative

3) Lodging

The recurring theme of businesses trying to remain financially viable has not left the hotel/rental property world untouched. Things have gotten really interesting here and we're still scratching our heads over some recent events.

For the first time ever, we are getting weekly notifications of properties being sold. At first glance that doesn't seem like a big deal; but, when you have a reservation at a property that has been sold, you may find yourself in an unusual situation. Either, they cancel the original rental agreement and request a new one with the new owner; or, they cancel your reservation altogether. Aside from being frustrating, we have seen new rental agreements requested which include fees that weren't part of the original reservation. The issue seems to be affecting vacation rental type properties the most, which is what the majority of our clients request for their trips.

The most unusual and frustrating scenario presented itself just last week: The property called the day our clients were checking in and let us know the property was sold and closed on that morning and all existing reservations were cancelled! I actually thought it was a scam call, hung up and called the property directly. It wasn't a scam.

Talk about a scramble when your client is supposed to be checking in just hours later. The solution: they booked the client into a different property entirely and gave a small refund back for the inconvenience; but they went from a 2 bedroom to a single bedroom and no indoor pool. Seems ok, right? Well, they were travelling with a 5 and 2 year old, so the extra space and indoor splish-splashing would have been much preferred (shout out to these clients, by the way, for being incredibly cool about this change). We looked for a better alternative, but day of, during spring break doesn't leave a lot of options.

What to expect?

  • Major hotel chains are thus far unaffected

  • Vacation rentals (such as AirBNB and VRBO) are subject to last minute changes

  • You may be automatically booked into a different property

  • You may need to pay additional fees with new rental agreements

  • You might receive a refund if you are relocated

4) Tours and Experiences

Ok - you survived the flight changes, secured a rental car without selling any body parts, and checked into your lodging seamlessly. It's time to explore! But, wait. Much like the airlines, tour companies are trying to meet the needs of their customers without bankrupting themselves. Most of the good tours are run by small, local companies and they have been hurt HARD. It's awesome that they're up and running; but, low registration in a tour often means shifting the schedule. Again, flexibility is key here. Recognize that they don't like making these changes; but, are doing everything in their power to pay their tour guides and ultimately, feed their families.

They don't like doing this, but asking customers to attend a different/day time so there are enough people on the tour to pay the guide is happening quite often. Some tours are just plain cancelled and refunds issued or credits extended. It's definitely best to call and talk to the company prior to booking your tour. Ask them if there are any tours that have met the minimum registrations and get your tickets on one of those.

What to expect?

  • Pared down tour schedules

  • Tours being combined at the last minute

  • Cancellations and reschedules

  • Smaller group sizes

The Final Word: Patience.