The world has changed dramatically since COVID, and the travel industry was hit hard. While this can still be a challenging time to travel, there are steps you can take to make it easier. Planning ahead and being prepared will make for a great vacation in 2022 and beyond.
It has always been a good idea to purchase travel insurance, especially for trips out of the USA. Because of the pandemic, it is necessary that everyone has proper insurance coverage. A comprehensive policy provides coverage for issues such as trip cancellation, medical expenses, emergency evacuation, bankruptcy of suppliers and emergency assistance.
Some international destinations require visitors to have travel insurance to cover medical expenses. Regular health insurance policies usually do not provide coverage outside of the United States. A professional travel agent can assist you with travel insurance policies to find the best option for you.
One of the few good things to come out of the pandemic is that all major airlines have revoked change fees, previously between $125 and $350 per ticket, on their regular tickets for domestic and international travel. This does not include basic economy discounted tickets.
Be aware of basic economy type tickets and read all fine print. Many times, they do not allow carry-on bags, no changes for any reason, no pre-assigned seats and they force you to board last. If the airlines cancel a flight, they are to give you a refund, but you have to ask for it and they do not make it easy. Do not expect a refund if you choose to cancel a reservation. The airline will hold onto the amount you paid for your tickets to be used as a credit for future travel, usually within one year. You do not have to travel to the same place, just use the same airline.
When choosing flights, try and take non-stop options from your local airport to minimize hassles. Luckily there are more nonstop flights available from Eugene Airport than ever before. Low-cost airlines are not listed on the online travel sites, so you need to go to their websites directly. Remember to check Southwest, Avelo, Allegiant and aha! when you need flights.
Use the airline apps
Every airline has a free app you can use to check-in online and monitor your flights. This is essential as flight delays, gate changes and cancellation notices will be sent to you via the app on your phone. You can use the app to reschedule your flights if needed.
Smart phones are essential
Today it is almost impossible to travel without a smartphone. You will need a phone for online check-in, using QR codes, getting menus, activity schedules and communication. Make sure your cell phone plan covers any countries you will be visiting. Take extra charging banks and cords with you in your carry-on. Take photos of all important documents and share with your traveling companions.
Be prepared…and flexible
During this time of overbooked flights and understaffed airports and airlines, you need to expect that delays may happen. Do not book a flight to arrive the same day your cruise ship departs or that you need to attend a wedding. Build in some leeway in case of delays. When you fly, bring lots of snacks and things to do; this is especially important if traveling with children. Have your hotels and rental cars or transportation reserved in advance. Bring copies of your confirmations.
This is not the time to grab the first internet deal that you see advertised. Unfortunately, there are many scam artists ready to take advantage of the pent-up demand. There are also legitimate travel companies that may not survive until you take your vacation, so paying too far in advance is not a good idea.
Passports & Real ID
You will be required to show either a passport or a driver license with Real ID as of May 3, 2023 for boarding all airline flights within the US. The Real ID requires a new driver license, presenting extensive paperwork at the DMV and paying $70. It’s much smarter to get a passport: they’re good for 10 years and the cost is $165 for adults and $135 for those under 16 (valid for 5 years). You need a passport book (not the card) to travel anywhere outside of the US. It can take 3 months or longer to get a passport processed so start the process early and pay extra to expedite if you need them sooner.
The services of a professional travel agent are more important than ever to help you navigate the post-pandemic world of travel. A skilled agent will have your personal safety as their top concern. They will consider all issues when choosing a cruise line or tour company for your vacation and take care of all the important details. Most importantly, if something does go wrong, you will have someone on your side to help make things right.
Rules change often so check the following websites for up-to-date info.
Real ID: tsa.gov/real-id
Trusted Traveler Programs: ttp.cbp.dhs.gov
Passport Info: travel.state.gov/passport
USA State Department: travel.state.gov for Covid-19 Alerts
Centers for Disease Control cdc.gov/travel
Airlines serving the Eugene Airport
Alaska Airlines: AlaskaAir.com
American Airlines: AA.com
Avelo Airlines: Aveloair.com
Meet Vacation MOM Vacation MOM is brought to you in partnership with Eugene Airport
Donnita Bassinger is a certified travel consultant and master cruise counselor. She is the owner of VIP Vacations, Inc. and lives in Eugene with her family. She has been planning and participating in girlfriends’ getaway vacations for over 30 years.
Contact Donnita at 541-913-5272 or on facebook @VacationMOM