Should You Plan Future Travel Right Now?

Filed Under: Advice, Travel

I’m sure I’m not the only one who is daydreaming at the prospect of getting on a plane. At this point I’d be giddy about a middle seat in the last row on a Spirit Airlines flight taking me to a Holiday Inn Express just off an interstate.

I continue to receive a countless number of questions from readers asking for predictions on future travel:

  • ” I have a trip booked to [insert destination] in [insert month], do you think I’ll be able to take it?”
  • “I know I can’t travel now, but should I be planning travel for the future? If so, when is it safe to plan for?”

I figured I’d tackle this and share my overall perspective.

Nobody knows when we’ll be able to travel again

Let me state the obvious to start — no one knows when we’ll be able to travel again. I’m no doctor, scientist, or fortune teller (though even they couldn’t tell you when we’ll be able to travel again… well, maybe the fortunate teller could).

Besides, there are many different ways to view when we “can” travel again:

  • When is it safe to travel again?
  • When is it responsible to travel again (in terms of doing our part to flatten the curve)?
  • When will international travel be possible and practical again, given the current restrictions being imposed by governments?

No one has the answers to any of those. I think when this all started some of us optimistically thought “oh, maybe life will slowly start to return to normal within a few weeks.” But I’m sure I’m not alone in thinking that’s looking less likely than ever before.

As Dr. Fauci says — “you don’t make the timeline, the virus makes the timeline.”

General tips for approaching future travel planning

While I can’t answer the question of when we’ll be able to travel again, I can provide some general tips on how best to go about future travel planning, should you choose to do so. I’ll also share my current approach to planning future travel.

When am I hoping to travel again?

Here’s where I currently stand when it comes to the travel I was supposed to take:

  • We are supposed to be in Peru right now, and I canceled that
  • We were supposed to go to New Orleans next week, and I cancelled that
  • We were supposed to go to Namibia at the end of April, and I cancelled that
  • We were supposed to take my mom on a cruise at the end of May from Italy to Spain (what could go wrong?!); we don’t expect this to happen, though based on current policies it’s advantageous to wait to cancel, in hopes that they offer refunds

We’re supposed to go to Bodrum at the end of June. I’m not cancelling that for now:

  • The hotel stay was booked with points, and can be cancelled up to two days before arrival
  • There aren’t any travel waivers that would allow me to cancel flights right now anyway, so I might as well wait
  • I’m hoping we can take this trip, but maybe I’m being overly optimistic; at this point I’m hoping our odds are 50/50, give or take

In general my (non-crystal ball) hope is that we’ll be able to travel again pretty freely by the fall. I don’t have high hopes for summer, sadly. And maybe my hope of traveling by fall is optimistic.

But it’s anyone’s guess — no one’s guess is worse than mine, and certainly there are people who have more educated guesses than I do.

I’d love to still go to the EDITION Bodrum this summer

We all need something to look forward to

In this tough time, I think there’s something to be said for having some travel to look forward to. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with planning travel many months out in hopes of it working out, while recognizing that it may still not materialize.

I’d prioritize domestic travel over international travel

I suspect international travel will be complicated for a while. If I were to plan upcoming trips and wanted to maximize my odds of the trip actually happening, I’d recommend prioritizing domestic travel over international travel.

Not because anyone’s home country is any safer than anywhere else, but rather because immigration restrictions are an added wrinkle that make everything more complicated. It’s even more complicated when you consider that you often have to transit through a third (or even fourth) country to get somewhere.

This could be a good time to plan a trip to Alila Ventana Big Sur

Expect flight schedules to change

If you are going to plan travel for the future, I’d definitely book flights expecting that schedules could be changed significantly. Airlines are loading schedule changes week by week, and I don’t think the industry in October 2020 will look the same as the industry in October 2019.

My point is, if you’re planning a safari for late 2020 and are hoping for the best, don’t plan on any short connections, do leave an extra day buffer, etc.

I’d expect airlines to make big changes to their schedules

Redeem miles over paying cash when possible

In general we’re seeing some great airfare for travel in many months, and we’re also seeing a lot more award availability than usual.

Booking either way is a better opportunity now than usual:

  • Many airlines have change fee waivers on newly booked tickets
  • There’s so much award availability that you might not otherwise find

In general, though, I’d recommend redeeming miles over paying cash whenever possible at the moment. Why? Because if you need to cancel a revenue ticket, often you’ll only be entitled to an airline credit as a refund. Meanwhile when redeeming miles, you can usually get your miles back for a very reasonable redeposit fee (which may even be waived if things haven’t improved).

It’s much less risky to book a ticket when the maximum downside is maybe a $100 redeposit fee for the miles, rather than paying $1,000 in cash that could potentially only be converted into an airline voucher.

Don’t take up airline phone lines

If you are going to book future travel right now, please only do so online, at least with airlines. This isn’t the time to take up airline phone lines for speculative future travel planning when some people are trying to call for flights within 48-72 hours so that they can get home.

The trips that I’m locking in

Above I shared many of the future trips that I’ve already cancelled. At the moment I’m rebooking trips for travel in October and November, specifically to Peru and Namibia. Why?

Because the hotels wouldn’t let us get full refunds (we were within the cancellation policy), but allowed us to reschedule our stays for anytime in 2020. By locking in the stays now:

  • We can book the dates that work best for us
  • There’s plenty of award availability for flights
  • We have something to look forward to
  • If the situation hasn’t improved, presumably we’d be able to reschedule again

We can’t wait to visit Namibia

Bottom line

No one knows when we’ll be able to travel again. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with planning some travel at this point to look forward to in the future, especially if you can find good deals.

This is especially true if there’s flight award availability and the program you’re booking through has low redeposit fees, and if you’re able to book a hotel with points and a generous cancellation policy, or a hotel that doesn’t have a deposit at booking on cash rates.

However, I’d only recommend booking way in advance and if you can do so without taking up airline resources. Furthermore, I’d expect significant schedule changes from airlines, and potential complications with international travel.

Personally I’m not terribly optimistic about most of my summer travel (at least travel in early summer), while I’m hopeful about fall travel.

What is your current expectation (or hope, if you’d like to be optimistic) for when we’ll be able to travel again? What approach are you taking to future travel planning?

Comments
  1. No. Booking travel right now for a deal is a terrible idea. Wait for this to all be over and see what the travel landscape looks like afterwards. No way to know whether your hotel or airline will be in business until later.

  2. My June trip to Greece and London is looking less likely, but, like you, I don’t have to do anything about it for a bit. I’ll wait until the airlines start canceling June flights. Late July to the Pacific NW looks better, but we will probably adjust some of the elements. Hope but plan…

  3. Booking refundable things is one thing (incl on points) As long as you’re not *paying* for anything now.

  4. I have a cruise booked on NCL and tickets in Air France to get there… (July/2020) … I won’t be canceling anything now. Let’s see how the situation develops

  5. I had to cancel a bucket list honeymoon to the Maldives that was supposed to start 4/15/20. Right now I’m out about $2,000 (we can’t get CFAR insurance in New York until last week). Trip was paid for, etc. June of 2019. Took me 2 years to get the miles needed. Hoping AA changes waivers through May 1st, then I can probably get back all but $1600 (award booking fees, non-refundable fee from one resort, etc.)

    We’re trying to re-schedule for NEXT April. Assuming Etihad and Korean Air are still around so I can use the miles. Unfortunately resort prices for same resorts are about $4,000 more currently. I already made up my mind if it doesn’t happen then it will never happen.

    So far we’re both still healthy, although husband may not have a job if this continues, so that’ll mean a no-go. Can’t book until June anyway for miles, so at least gives some time.

    I’d like to think that a year from now we’ll be in a better spot, but nothing’s guaranteed/certain. I don’t want to get my hopes up as I took the whole cancellation very hard. I really had my heart set on this trip. I’ll survive, there’s others in worse shape than I right now. (neighbors are unemployed or “stay at home” and either burning through all their vacation time or taking NO PAY).

  6. Thank you for encouraging people not to tie up the phone lines with future travel bookings right now. Agree 100%.

  7. My somewhat conservative return schedule: Mid/Late Summer this year – domestic travel in personal vehicles – meaning hotel stays and restaurants would be ok. Fall this year – with treatment (antivirals) available, I’d be comfortable flying domestic US. By 2021 Summer – with the availability of vaccine, I would be 100% comfortable with International travel. In the meantime, stay at home for a few weeks and take day trips to the beaches by May (since I live in FL)!

  8. I agree with everything but have a situation not covered. I have our honeymoon flight booked on SAA with Aeroplan miles in mid July. Waiting would be the obvious thing to do except that until March 31 Aeroplan is offering free award cancellations, which would save me around $200 for two tickets. Seems unlikely this trip will happen, but if there were a even a 40% of it happening it would be worth waiting and risking the $200 to cancel after March 31. Not sure right now if there is even that much chance of things being good enough, especially given that we are serious about our civic responsibility to practice social distancing to mitigate the risk to everyone. Any thoughts about whether I should cancel now for free or wait?

  9. I have booked four trips for later this year and I will book three more this week (one favorite destination of mine doesn’t book dates before 1 April for fall).

    I’m a hub prisoner, but DL is offering unusually reasonable prices and a guarantee of flexible dates for trips booked by 31 March. I’ve booked trips for May, June, and August. It’s possible some may need to be moved later in the year, but I’m planning on going as of now.

    And just Sunday, four days ago, I flew internationally to visit family. Return ticket is a flexible April date, though I have my doubts. At SLC airport, my hands never touched a single object but my own bags and junk the TSA made me handle. You don’t even have to touch soap dispensers.

    DEN is almost as good. MEX was similar except they crowded us into a bus at a remote stand—gross. I was the only one who rushed out and washed my hands again after.

    There were 24 of us on the 737 and 35 on the A220, so I had seats across each time. For a coach person like me, it was pure F luxury, like my own Etihad apartment.

  10. Greetings from Germany. Its very simple. As soon as Trump opens the states again (I think in three weeks) all other countries will follow and the flu will end up like it was coming. disappears in thin air.

    so belief traveling in may will be fine 🙂 wait and see.. don’t be so pessimistic.. its like at the stock market. when there is the darkest hour its the best time to buy.

  11. This is a good post and gives us something positive to think about. I actually have done this already as I hade some Southwest miles and booked a trip to hopefully see a friend outside of Reno for end of September. I moved my flight a couple weeks ago from Beirut in April to October in Jordan. Good luck everyone. We will all see how it works out.

  12. @Flyer, there’s a good chance that the major US carrier (and some other large flag carriers, like Lufthansa) will stay afloat. The governments are likely to ensure that. I’m not planning on dropping a lot of cash, but if I get a really good deal on a flight or two, I’ll probably book it. Plus, that added cash does help the airlines chances of succeeding.

  13. @Jeff; if award prices are the same, I would cancel now and re-book. I’d be willing to bet that come mid-June (a month b4 your planned travel date), there’d still be plenty of award seats and you’d be in a much better position to judge your situation or your destination by then.. (just my take) You could try doing award seat searches around your dates now to see how many available too.

  14. You’re in denial.

    “Travel”, as we have so recently known it, ain’t coming back anytime in the next year (at the most wildly optimistic). If things go well, maybe 18 months, more likely it’ll be longer than that. It could easily be years before things get back to anything like they were a month ago.

    Take a look at how long the last worldwide great depression (1929) lasted and how long it took for things to settle down and get back to “normal”. Hint: things didn’t really settle down to “normal” until the 1950s (WWII both helped and hindered that recovery).

  15. Why do you never talk about your carbon impact? I find it appalling. From your politics it is absolutely clear you’re a Leftist and yet you totally ignore the most important issue facing the world. Its like, you’re a Leftist for everything to do with rights but the most far-right Trumpian Republican for your income and your carbon footprint.

  16. @aem

    Thanks for the positive thoughts!

    I’m hopeful that by June/July things will have settled down everywhere (actually hoping it’s sooner just because I don’t want to see anyone suffer physical or economic fallout).

    @Jeff:
    I’d be surprised (OK, maybe not anymore) if they don’t extend the waiver. I know KE waited a while to extend their waivers (fortunately they cancelled our flight so that freed things up right there). Hoping you make out OK on all fronts/ends. Very disappointing to miss one’s honeymoon, I know. Hang in there!

  17. Think it’s going to be third quarter before you see any real international travel. Remember all those planes that have been “stored” have to be re certified as well as the pilots that takes time.
    For me I am looking at London October/ November and or Cape Town SA first part of December.

  18. Booked a lot of domestic flights for the fall/thanksgiving/holidays, why wouldnt you book a deal right now when all airlines are offering extremely generous rebook/refund options. If you are afraid that AA UA and Delta are going to go out of business i feel sorry for you because clearly you dont have a 401k or you sold all your stocks in a panic at a low last week and will miss out on the majority of the recovery as you “wait for things to settle down”.

  19. @Ben – I will be in Bodrum the week after you guys at Caresse, but booked with a Category 6, 7 night certificate. Holding out hope that I’ll be able to make the trip, since in the meantime it went up to a cat 7 and I heard Marriott wasn’t being to accommodating with rebooking.

  20. Lucky,

    I think you are a bit too pessimistic on the summer for domestic travel. Most people are talking about restrictions on staying home / eating out being eased anywhere from late April through early June. There are no restrictions on domestic travel now – only recommendations (airlines and Amtrak are still running). Once advisories start to come off, some people will want to travel domestically immediately. International travel may be more of a late summer / early Fall timeline.

    That said it doesn’t make any sense to book travel (that is not refundable) now

  21. Just shifted a simple trip to Oahu from April to January. It helps me to have something to look forward to.

  22. I’ve already cancelled my cruise trip this July. Even if it’s all a go, I can’t imagine going onto a cruise. The last thing I want is to be quarantined for 14 days (perhaps longer) on a docked boat. I’ve also planned a new trip for July domestically as foreign countries’ airports can shut down anytime and I don’t want to be stuck in a place where I have to pay exorbitant fee to an airline (or several airlines) to get home. I still have a trip planned for mid September which I’m hoping will stand. Currently planning a trip for next March as I can’t imagine this thing will drag out for a year. But then again, who knows….

  23. @ Ben — Hell no, not until it is clear which travel companies should never be trusted again. There will be a long list of companies I will boycott for the rest of my life.

  24. Canceled Europe in June and Boston in late summer. Holding Japan/Taiwan in Nov/Dec to decide much later. Canceled India in Jan 2021.

  25. I have a trip to Hong Kong in October and Singapore for Thanksgiving. I’m cautiously optimistic about the former and optimistic about the latter. I wouldn’t book anything until September

  26. My husband and I have a dream trip planned to Norway at the end of July. Not cancelling yet and hoping for the best!

  27. Got a 10 day holiday booked to the German North Sea coast (LX ticket ZRH-HAM-ZRH booked in Oct 2019) for August, fingers crossed!

    Also shifted EK flights for ZRH-DXB-MCT-DXB-ZRH, originally booked for mid March to early December, and this is a trip I am really looking forward to. Hopefully by then the world is back to a kind of “normal”.

  28. I want to fly as soon as possible.

    I’m hoping to go to China or Japan in September-October.

    Me on June 21st : Let’s roll.

    The inflight services in business class on American will remain extremely limited indefinitely due to airline cost cutting anyways.

  29. Since companies are using every trick in the book not to refund you… I would only book with points at this stage. I cancelled a business trip in May. Still have a vacation in YHZ late august, but that should be ok (I’m Canadian…).

  30. While there is likely a non-zero chance that things will be better by then, I have a Europe trip scheduled for the end of June that I anticipate not being able to take. If there is a saving grace, there was enough of a schedule change that I can get the ticket refunded, even if there are no travel waivers or policies in place at that point. Everything else for this trip was either refundable (hotels booked on points) or had not been booked yet, so to that end, I’m far better off than most people with pending travel.

    Otherwise, I have been hoping to take some sort of vacation around Labor Day and right before Christmas that I’m hoping still will be in the cards. I haven’t booked anything yet (and I probably won’t until the beginning of summer at the very earliest), but if there are still significant issues come the end of August, then the world is going to be in for a far worse ride than we already are experiencing.

  31. We were supposed to be in Naples, FL this week and are supposed to be in CT in mid-May for a high school graduation. Naples was cancelled, but we are keeping CT on for now. After that, we are supposed to be in San Fran in July. Still on for now. Hoping to reschedule Naples for Thanksgiving.

  32. My guess is the US will still be so deep into their coronavirus pandemic for the foreseeable future (i.e. many more months), that every other country in the world will ban flights (and people) coming from the US, and due to proximity, potentially Canada, too.

    We have trip planned for late September and while I’m reasonably confident the rest of the world will be returning to normal by then, I’m not hopeful we’ll be taking that trip for the aforementioned reason.

  33. “daydreaming at the prospect of getting on a plane. At this point I’d be giddy about a middle seat in the last row on a Spirit Airlines flight taking me to a Holiday Inn Express just off an interstate”

    That is hilarious and I feel exactly the same. As I was in the middle of moving, I hadn’t booked any trips. It is hard enough just moving now. I think I’ll wait for awhile and see how it goes before booking any new travel. But it is good to read about what you and others are doing.

  34. @Anthony

    What do you mean there are no restrictions on domestic travel right now? Yes, you may still be able to get on a plane, but many states have now instituted stay at home orders which prohibit non essential travel. I’m assuming most readers here are not doing so to plan business trips. What’s the point of flying somewhere if everything you would typically do on a leisure trip is closed?

  35. Christ. This makes me so sick. Why the heck is everyone so sure we won’t be able to travel again until next year??

    Do you all really think the world can remain shut down for 10 FREAKING MONTHS? Come on, we might as well all jump off a bridge at that point, there will be nothing left of society.

    Why doesn’t anyone want the world to restart? Do you not realize liveliehoods are at stake?

    Holy cow, I’ve never seen such collective pessimism. People are even calling me crazy for thinking of possible travel plans in 2021! Are you F&*&%*#& kidding me?? Do you really think we’ll still all be stuck inside in 2021??

    What is WRONG with everyone? UGHHHH.

  36. Among so many other things to be upset and scared about right now, it feels indulgent to think about leisure travel – one of the things that my husband and I basically live for multiple times a year. But I do, and I’m already deeply depressed and sad that our old lifestyle is now, certainly and permanently, gone. We travelled to 5 continents, and took almost monthly domestic trips, making great use of the SW Companion Pass for the last 4 years. Just a month ago, were still planning summer trips to Hawaii, Canada, and Alaska, and discussing a late autumn trip to Australia.

    I am 100% sure none of that is going to happen now. I’ve cancelled all those plans, and am making no other travel plans, on any timeline. I have fond memories of that era, and I’m glad we were priviliged enough to go where we did, when we did.

    Trying to push past my denial about everything: I don’t think we’ll be travelling internationally for many years. And I’m sure we won’t be doing any domestic flying for at least the rest of this year, except for emergency purposes (i.e. if a relative dies, and it’s deemed safe enough to travel to a funeral [if the funeral is even allowed to happen], and there’s enough masks available for the public to start using). That’s the reality, and it’s devestating, but it’s the most likely scenario now. I’m just shaking my head at the idea – although I understand it and was there myself a few weeks ago – that this is all going to blow over in a few weeks or months, and the world will return to “normal”.

    Every hour and day that places go into deeper, economically disasterous lockdowns, and every time the death toll mounts in a new country, it’s becoming clearer that there’s NO “normal” anymore. The sooner we can accept that, the sooner we can learn to adapt.

    Few to none of us are going back to anything similar to the lives we had before this. Not even close. The days of widespread leisure travel – and luxury business travel, especially – are dead and gone. So many airlines are going to collapse or be nationalized this year, and flying will eventually become focused on critical humanitarian needs – not leisure. Economies don’t just switch back on after being shut down for months on end. NO economy in the world can function or survive for long – socialist or capitalist – if there’s no production, and people idle and wither (and die) in their homes at mind-bogglingly large scale. We’re looking at 30, or maybe 50%+ unemployement by the summer if lockdowns last more than a month or two – and public health experts are calling for many months, many seasons, and potentially 1.5 or even 2 years of such lockdowns. I’ve even heard people suggesting that social distancing will just have to be “permanent” in our society, perhaps because a vaccine will never be found (we haven’t found one for HIV yet), or the virus will always just mutate.

    Even if the lockdowns are lifted in some places in a few months, there will be massive social and political screams from well-meaning people (often those priviliged with remote-work compatible jobs) to keep them in place so as to not “sacrifice” anyone else to the virus. We’re only a couple weeks / months into this, and the politics have already centered on the false choice between “save as many people as possible, economy be damned” and “open the economy, sacrifice the olds”.

    As it stretches on, we’re also going to see massive labor and social unrest among those desperate to get back to some kind of work, virus suppression be damned. It will lead to conflict. There will almost certainly be wars, somewhere, if not here at home in America or Europe.

    I don’t think most people get it yet: we’ve entered the biggest social and political shift, and most massive economic depression the world has ever seen. We’re already in it. Think about the kind of social, political, and economic changes that occurred between 1929 and WWII (and beyond), and multiply that by 3x. As we sit here, today, there are more people immidiately out of productive work (over a billion, including India now) than at any time in history. And more people are being put out of work every hour. I have no good answers or recommendations as to when the “medicine” of lockdowns are worse than the “disease” of the virus. I doubt we’re there yet. But I have no faith that we’ll all recognize that point when it’s reached, and we’ll instead blow past it.

    I just opened up the Southwest app and thought about trying to book a ticket to see my parents, over Memorial Day, 1200 miles away in Washington State. They are in lockdown, and I’m desperately worried they are at risk and will get sick, go to a hospital and die alone, and I’ll have never had a chance to see them. But I know that my travelling, through an airport even today, will put them more at risk. I doubt that risk is going to disappear at all before late May. I may try to drive, if the state borders don’t close soon, and at least be able to see them from a few yards distance outside the house.

  37. @Reed

    “I don’t think we’ll be travelling internationally for many years” — are you KIDDING ME? Do you really think there will be zero passenger flights between the US and Germany in 2021?? 2022? 2023? EVER AGAIN? Come on, cut the insane pessimism, what is WRONG with you???

  38. @Lucky – awesome post, my reasoning is very similar to yours. I have a huge trip in the US (overseas for me) booked starting June 24th and I will keep that reservation for now since everything is flexible and fully cancellable, but I fully expect that we will probably need to reschedule (and probably pay more) for summer 2021. Will keep my bookings for the fall and winter, but expect that some schedule changes might occur and realise that these trips may have to be postponed or cancelled as well.

    I have a lot (millions and millions) of SAS points and would love to redeem many *A award flights right now but SK shut down the award booking service a week ago and I don’t expect them to re-open it anytime soon. Oh well. I have however booked a revenue flight in Air China business class around New Years since the price was exceptional even by their standards and I don’t think that they will go out of business. Let’s hope that there will be more deals to come 🙂

  39. Mark – Stay at home “orders” encourage you to stay at home while in your local city – there are no bans (or no penalties) on travel from city to city. The only one I know of is that you are encouraged to self quarantine for 14 days if you travel from New York (that is an encouragement, not a regulation or law). If you have to travel for whatever reason right now, you can. It doesn’t mean you should take leisure trips – its just that there are no prohibitions against doing so. If there were real travel bands, there would be no domestic flights.

    Reed – things won’t be as bad as they seem today. The curve will bend in a month, and public officials will start the hard work of easing restrictions

  40. @Robin – I think there will be passenger flights, for sure. I didn’t say that all air travel will permanently disappear. Just that, even if the virus fades away, several more months of lockdowns will turn the world into a social and economci disaster zone. The flights that do remain through this year and next will become critical transport, not leisure carriers. I will probably lose my job, my husband might too. Immigration restrictions will likely persist for several years, as political turmoil sweeps a bunch of nationalist or revolutionary governments into power around the world (a direction we were headed in *before* the virus!).

    I didn’t say it will be physically impossible to travel. I’m saying that points-based leisure travel on fancy airlines to resort areas worldwide… has disappeared and may not return for years, or even generations.

  41. @Anthony: “The curve will bend in a month, and public officials will start the hard work of easing restrictions”

    It may bend in Italy, or the UK, or Seattle, or New York. It’s going to flare up again in those places when people start leaving their homes (by hell or high water – I do agree with everyone that government ordered lockdowns won’t last for 10+ months, simply because we’d have a revolution on our hands before it got even close to that). And there isn’t one curve anymore. There are hundreds of curves. Thousands of curves. Trump is wrong, of course, that he as a federal executive can do anything to “open up” the economy again – it’s every state, every city, every workplace for themselves now. The complexity is mind boggling.

    And the lingering fear/trauma of the virus, the endless social pressure and shame focused on “flattening the curve”, and the residual effects of destroyed careers is going to be with us for a LONG time.

  42. My current projections are I will be back to working in office at some point in early May. Ramping up and maybe doing some short driving trips for meetings around then as well. By June I am cautiously planning to start full on travel, domestic first with overseas to follow.

    That’s if we are all still alive. And this is not made worse with Trump touting that, “We need to get back to work, very soon. We need to work!”

    No, I am not a fortune teller. But I did stay at a Holiday Inn Express last night.

  43. @Anthony – “The only one I know of is that you are encouraged to self quarantine for 14 days if you travel from New York (that is an encouragement, not a regulation or law).”

    It is a law (order? decree? I don’t even know what system of emergency rule we’re under anymore) in Florida now. And Rhode Island, and Hawaii. Last week, restaruant shutdowns and lockdowns were all the rage. Now it’s interstate travel bans. Expect many more states to establish them in the next hours / days.

    The problem is, with a virus that will like never *disappear* – the politicans and government leaders (public health officials, etc) will always be faced with the choice and the fear that they will be held responsible for “lifing” a lockdown or a travel ban too early, and there will *always* be someone who gets infected and dies after lifting such a restriction. It’s the epidemic version of Willie Horton. So, yes, I expect travel bans to increase, become more severe, and last much longer than is actually reasonable, especially since the overwhelming political rhetoric has now mostly settled on “virual suppression above all else – including economic suicide”.

  44. Reed – there is this thing called a “vaccine!” Clinical trials are now underway. The world will return to normal.

    My work travel is extended out until October and it’s all international in the northern hemisphere. Hopefully, that’s not too optimistic.

  45. @Donna – yes, if a vaccine can be created, that would be great. Some serious viral diseases still don’t have a vaccine, even after years and years of trying (HIV). And even if it can be created… even if the clinical trials happening right as we speak have identified a successful vaccine… it will still take the good part of a year, likely more, to prove it’s safety, efficacy, and then ramp up production.

    People are calling me crazy. I’d love, LOVE to be proven wrong.

    But there’s a hell of a lot more evidence that this is going to get so much worse, so much faster, than there is that this is simply going to blow over in a couple weeks or months (in fact, there’s no evidence of that at all – China is not a hopful case study, since we’re clearly not on the same pathway or have the same “tools” [i.e. authoritarian conrol] as they have. And it appears to be rebounding in the so-called “success stories” of Singapore, Japan, and South Korea.

    Even if it did quickly die off – EVEN if the virus disappeared suddenly tomorrow, it’s *already* generated such massive labor, business, and logistical disarray – not to mention social fear, financial debt, economic pessimism, and government distrust – that airlines likely won’t be flying again at anything close to their previous scale or service for many months. And it’s not ending tomorrow, so extend that timeline out as far as you can see…

    Hey, I get it. We’re all in denial, desperate to think that things will quickly rebalance themselves and we can continue point churning, planning vacations, and dreaming about fancy dinners in exotic locales. It was my favorite thing to do. I wake up every morning now and relish those few minutes when everything still *looks* normal around me. Nobody I know has died (several I know are sick though). I still have a job (but my company is spiraling). I still have a husband, a dog, a home, the sun is still shining. It’s easy to THINK this will be a minor, short term blip in our lives. But I know it won’t be, and like I said above, the sooner we all come to that realization, the better off long term we’ll all be.

  46. I sense early June is slim, but really unwilling to cancel now.
    I am still planning mid Dec to Japan and Taiwan. However I may cancel it if I don’t see any hopes in November as I need Isa to get into Taiwan, Japan and I also need to renew my kid’s US passport…. time would be very very tight.

  47. Reed – There is a lot of space between a “minor, short-term blip” and the catostrophic, permanent shift you describe. Travel will return sooner than you think, but it will be more sparse than you remember in the interim. Over time, things will reach a new equilibrium. Life will continue and go on.

  48. My take from NYC… The rest of the US is still in denial. There will be nothing normal about life for a foreseeable future. Travel? Right. Many other countries will ban Americans soon, because we are the worst on this planet in handling this.

  49. Have a cruise in June, Florida to Bahamas and Coco Cay. Im strongly getting the feeling it will be cancelled. In the states the coronavirus is only growing, we haven’t even begun to flatten the curve. That said, I also don’t want to be stuck on a 14 day quarantine after the cruise.

  50. @Lucky, I’ve seen you say a couple of times you’re seeing better award availability than normal. It’d be interesting to see a post about that availability and the trends you’re seeing, what carriers it’s on, programs, etc..

  51. @Don,

    just picked up a nice pickup truck with 0% interest for 84 months. Its just me, but ill have plenty of room to stretch out and have some fun in the back seat if I pick up something on the side.

    You should look into it. 10mpg on the highway!

  52. I would give this 45 more days before we are expected back in the office. If in 45 days we cant knock these numbers down then just blow the lid off and let peoples immune systems deal with this. If your elderly or immune compromised then stay home and quarantine. I think people should be traveling again by Memorial Day weekend.

  53. “When is it safe to travel again?” When the actual medical experts say it is. Wouldn’t trust anyone else to give advice of that nature. We haven’t even scratched the surface of how bad this is going to be.

  54. @Troy
    I really really hope you are right! I tend to think Memorial Day Weekend is a pie in the sky but here’s to hoping. In the mean time let’s all please social distance so this situation finishes sooner rather than later

  55. @Reed. Many in these comments, both here and other other blogs, thought I was crazy when I said repeatedly, as early as six weeks ago, that this was going to be catastrophic on many levels.

    Yet, I am also following the same models and paths as you see and I think you are, to be blunt, freaking the hell out with no data or anything to back your fears up long term. It’s like you enjoy it and actually relish the apocalyptic scenario.

    Yes, it’s bad, Yes, it’s going to get worse. Yes, it will subside. And yes, it will take time to bring the economy back to one that is less of panic and one of more optimism.

    Finally, yes, you are being completely ridiculous to imagine some dystopian world of Covid-19 going on for years. Even in the worst case scenario of the Spanish Flu of 1918 life soon continued after. Sure, people changed, society was marked. But people gathered themselves and they learned to love, be happy, make money, and live again. And one would think we are far better equipped than in 1918.

    I am sad for those so fatalistic that they see an end to life as you describe. But, on the plus side, that’s one more award seat and upgrade for me when things start churning again.

  56. Why not support our economy and book all of your 2020 trips to be domestic when its safer to travel?

  57. @Reed

    You do not seem like a dumb person at all, your writing is clear and articulate. But it comes across that you are panicked and likely a bit irrational about the scale of this situation. I am not underlining the severity and unprecedented nature of what we’re dealing with, but I’ve not seen a single model (from a diverse yet legitimate range of sources) that points toward what you’ve written above.

    My question to you: if your prognosis on travel and life as we know it is what you’ve written above, why are you visiting and posting on a travel blog?

    Stay safe and well.

  58. @Lucky – We just got back from a weeks stay at the Bodrum Edition in September. LOVED IT! Especially the in-room steam room, luxury bedding, breakfast and mesmerizing pool! Very intimate and private resort. Advise though on booking a United Airlines business class award from MEX-EWR in October with some of my Singapore airlines miles that are about to expire. Any news from Singapore on how they are handling miles expiration coming up soon, or how they handle partner airline cancellations?

  59. I am hoping by the beginning of June Domestic will be fine. I have every weekend in June-August booked for trips. I am hoping that will stick. Hopefully if we flatten the curve, it will help us travel again!

  60. @Nathan I think what Reed is getting at is that Imperial College UK study, which it seems most of the public health authorities are relying on for their models, that said extreme social distancing would need to initially persist for several months, and then cycle one month off/two months on for 18 months due to periodic flare-up outbreaks. That would absolutely result in some doomsday scenarios and unemployment remaining at Great Depression levels for a long, long time. Then again, the guy who wrote it debunked his own study earlier this week and now says the peak will pass in 2-3 weeks, so who knows.

  61. @Nathan @Stuart – I think what I’m saying sounds more apocalyptic… to people who are in denial about the seriousness of this, and think that everything is going to blow over easily by June vacation season. I don’t think my worst case apocalyptic scenarios about this are guaranteed to happen it totality. I don’t think this is going to be the end of the world. I don’t think I’m going to die, or anything. But I also don’t think there’s any chance that anything returns to normal in “a few weeks” or by this summer, as so many people seem to be so self-assured about on here (which is a form of… denial). I have friends who we talked to earlier tonight who are still asking if and when we’re buying ticket to Vegas in early May. They didn’t even know Vegas has all but closed.

    To the point about the model of “years and years” of virus – no, I don’t think that’s going to happen either. Don’t get me wrong (and that might be my fault). I just bring it up as a counterpoint to people who seem rock solid assured that some kind of vaccine is a *guarantee* that will nearly immediately restore everything back to normal. There’s no guarantee of that, and we’ve never developed a coronavirus vaccine before. This is a unique situation.

    @Nathan – the Imperial College London model, which apparently has been taken seriously by the UK government, European governments, and even the US federal government, is where the “18 months” timeline comes from. It makes me mad too. I thought it was ridiculous. But it’s being taken as gospel by all the people calling for endless lockdowns. I too think it’s catastrophic and apocalyptic to picture 18 months of on-off lockdowns in a battle to suppress the virus, until a vaccine is available. But until I see people actually coming to grips with the scale of what that study is calling for – and perhaps trying to figure out a solution for reopening the economy *even if* the virus isn’t totally under control again, then we’re in for all the economic disaster I described above.

    To be clear: I don’t think the virus itself is what’s going to screw up the world. A <1% fatality rate is bad, but it's not the Black Plague or Ebola. No. It's the *consequences* of our official responses to it, which I think are spiraling totally out of control and are going to cause all the lasting damage I'm fearful of. You want to call me irrational? Fine. But I think the real irrationality is coming from those who, as I say above, insist that "everything must lock down and stay that way" until the virus is totally gone or totally under control. Epidemiologists tells us that's going to take months or more than a year. So until we grapple with that and are willing as a society to accept that we have to balance virus risk against economic risk (and not just for "fat cat 401k"s), we're going to drag ourselves into a mostly self-imposed disaster.

  62. @Nathan – To answer your last question, I’ve read Lucky for years, so coming back here is a daily habit, and I’m *still* very interested in what’s happening in the aviation and travel industry. I, like you, would love nothing more for things to get back to “normal”. I just also need to prepare myself for the increasing likelihood that it won’t. And I keep recognizing others’ failure to grasp the titanic scale of what’s going on.

  63. @Robin, right on sister! People like Reed are unbelievably pessimistic. Yes, economy will suffer but not if we reboot quickly and cut this panic sh¡t. Did no one read that the people at Imperial College revised their dire forecast of calamity by a factor of 25…down! Meaning they overstated presumed deaths by a factor of 25!!! These are the fools who sparked this fire. Travel and life will resume. But only if we decide to do so. No way will we stay indoors for 18 months, much less much more than 18 days. Human nature abhors a vacuum.

  64. Well, I’m hopeful for early September. Scored an insane mistake rate at a Hawaii resort ($500/nt for a 2 bedroom Top-Tier Suite that lists for 3,500/nt), and would be bummed to have that cancelled. Yesterday I booked the last flight I needed to complete our trip Hawaii-New Zealand-Sydney-Tasmania-Abu Dhabi-JFK. I’d long ago booked Etihad Apartments from Sydney back to the U.S, and already booked most of my activities, hotels, AirBNBs before this pandemic.

    Fingers crossed.

  65. I don’t expect international travel to fully open up for at least 12-18 months. When it does it’s going to still come with many restrictions. Citizens and residents of countries that are locking down hard now will find it easier to travel then. The unchecked spread in the US is going to make it a lot harder for Americans to travel internationally in the near to mid future. I also wouldn’t be surprised if many countries need proof of Covid-19 vaccination (like many countries do for yellow fever) before they let you know. Production of vaccines and getting it to the everyone is at least 12 months or more away.

    So in a nutshell, I think your view on international travel is too optimistic.

  66. I have several non work trips booked (have estimated zero travel for work for Q2).
    (1) April was a staycation at Grand Hyatt in Melbourne Australia. It was an extremely cheap pay in advance rate. The hotel contacted me asking me if I wanted to go ahead with the booking. I cancelled it and was refunded in full.
    (2) May – Park Hyatt Sydney. Accomodation is on a corporate rates and can be cancelled up until 6pm on the day. Flight is with Qantas and was really cheap. Waiting for Qantas to contact me. Currently the border between the two states is not closed, but other state borders have been closed. I booked this trip during a double status credits promotion so I could retain status – given that is no longer an issue I don’t care if it happens
    (3) Park Hyatt AucklanD. Again hotel on corporate rates. Airfare is business class and again booked during double status credits. Not particularly fussed if it is cancelled.
    (4) Park Hyatt Maldives – this is for an extra special birthday. I have come to terms with the fact it may not happened. Flights to Male and Park Hyatt booked on points so not worried, but I upgraded accomodation and paid for the domestic flight – so am expecting I may lose the domestic flight. We shall see. I am waiting patiently (not my strength) to see what happens
    (5) Park Hyatt Sydney in July, flight again on points. Going to Sydney to see a specific production. If it is cancelled then I don’t care about the trip. Hotel can be easily cancelled and will wait for Qantas to contact me re the flight.
    (6) I have a 4 month holiday booked from late October which is RTW. Includes Berlin, “the Guyanas”, Antarctica (plus Falklands and South Georgia), plus Galapagos Plus other areas. I will be devastated if Antarctica does not go ahead in December – but then I think if it does not go ahead we will all have bigger things to worry about. Antarctica is booked and a large deposit paid, same with Galapagos (including paying for extras such as sea Kayaking). No idea if I would get my money back. Hotels for the remainder of the trip have mostly been booked on corporate rates so can be cancelled. I was about to book the main flights this week so have stopped.

    I 100% agree with Ben’s comment – don’t call the airlines/hotels unless your trip is soon.

    I have also selfishly been looking at accomodation and finding that there are a lot of cheaper options arising (sad and selfish I know). Given the complexity of my ticket I was planning on buying it – now I might try and get it on points (was fascinated by the comments on YouTube the other day saying don’t do RTW).

  67. Reed is spot-on, and most of you knuckleheads simply are in denial because you don’t want to accept facts. We have entered a new Great Depression. It is worldwide. It is going to last a long, long time.

    Because going to work will result in millions of deaths. India stopped working today. India. Whole swaths of the world’s economy are shutting down, and they are not going to snap back quickly. The disruptions from this are going to be profound and will change all of our lives.

    Governments will fall. There will be anarchy, revolutions (failed and successful), repression, extreme societal upheavals. The next few years are going to make the 1930s look like a walk in the park.

    I’d love to be proved wrong. We’ll see.

  68. @Tim – the author of the Imperial College report revised his death estimate down *because* the severe social distancing lockdown he proposed was finally put in place… which he credits for potentially causing the curve to flatten out in a couple weeks. His original estimate for death was if *nothing* was done. Something is now being done – lockdowns – but in either case, the model’s 18 month timeline hasn’t changed. It’s not based on the virus spread or “peak” time, it’s based on an estimate of how long a vaccine will take to develop and deploy. And it says that lockdowns and severe social and economic repression are required to hold the virus at bay until a vaccine is ready. It might be able to be held low enough to get some low risk people back to work, but in the absence of a vaccine, international aviation for leisure is a huge no-go.

  69. At the moment, it’s just too much of a hassle. If it needs to be canceled, I have to deal with the airlines not wanting to refund my refundable ticket, the hotels not wanting to cancel my cancelable stay, and other hassles. I’m an adult, I can wait. I honestly think this is a new world, and we won’t have billions of people flying anymore.

  70. Already had plane tickets to visit the UK in August with the family, and I’m fully expecting that we will. I’ve been busy booking accommodations a few days ago. I’ve got free cancellation though so it’s all good.

  71. My view is:
    1. DON”T GO ON CRUISES. Everything we’ve learned is that cruise ships are clearly hot-beds for disease transmission. Until they change their business practices to prioritize safety, I would suggest that anyone over the age of 55 or with an underlying health condition to avoid cruises for the foreseeable future. Heck, even younger people should probably skip it. Just too risky.

    2. I’m hopeful that we will be able to get back to some form of domestic plane travel by late May. We have a small wedding in June (provided it doesn’t get cancelled) that we are likely going to try and attend.

    3. International travel is trickier and likely on hold longer. We have an Asia trip in late summer and then one at the end of the year (both on points). So worst comes to worst, we get the points back but I’m mentally prepared to cancel if it’s not the right time to travel.

  72. We’ve got a trip to Japan, Singapore and Indonesia booked early August to early Sept, award miles on JAL and SQ. Hoping to go, because it might fall between curve-flattening lockdowns and a likely resurgence of the virus in the Fall. But more likely that we’ll have to postpone/cancel – especially Indonesia.

  73. @Reed I find it most insulting that you place me in the category of a Trump Virus Denier. I am anything but. I was getting lambasted here, and in other blogs, for the past two months because I kept to the idea that this was going to bad, much worse than we were preparing for, and that people were not taking it seriously enough. It’s unfortunate that Italy had to pay the price to wake up the world. Which it did.

    With that said, regardless of Trump’s idiocy of trying to put an Easter timeline to this ending, State Governments and politicians are saving the day along with brave health care workers and experts. Is it going to get worse? Yes. Is it going to get better? Yes.

    You are touting an extreme viewpoint. You’re like Bernie Sanders talking economics with Rush Limbaugh. Each of you relishing your spot in the limelight of a far leaning viewpoint. One painting a dire dystopian future as the other argues it’s all rosy and overblown. Neither of you is right. Neither of you is productive. Like most everything in life the answer is normally found in the middle. One day I hope our society returns to it.

    I find few now that are going around saying this is going to be easy and over soon. Or heading to Vegas in May. But, the signs are there that the virus itself will run its primary course in a few months. Putting us into late May or June that things START to return to normal. That does not mean everyone starts running around and licking the railings at Metro stations in celebration. It means a start to slowly and carefully reemerge. Italy is turning the corner. Spain as well. Germany is stabilizing. The signs are there.

    Will the economy take time? Of course. We were due for a correction anyway. This will take a year or two of massive infrastructure projects and stimulus to bring things back. Airlines and hotels will take 2-3 years. But the end of a deep recession will be there and it will not be some dystopian world in the process. Remember the Roaring 20’s you see in movies and read about? It came just after the devastation of the Spanish Flu. Now though we have better technology, unique abilities we did not have then, and a banking system that 2008 helped to make stronger and more responsible we are far better positioned for a fast turnaround.

    By mid-summer you will see cases still emerging, sure. But I am going to predict that we will have therapeutic drugs that help by then, better testing and preparedness, a significant part of the population with antibodies, and a vaccine just around the corner (I am doubting it is going to be a year for it given that the Chinese started trials earlier and also due to the world effort of scientists and doctors working in a war like setting).

    Be concerned. Stay at home. But use this time usefully to be part of the solution rather than the doomsayer of foreboding. It can’t be healthy for you.

  74. Ben,

    I think it’s outrageous for United to insist MileagePlus members to pay $125 miles redeposit fee to cancel a redemption ticket when it was the carrier that canceled the flight and you’re stuck with a schedule that won’t work anymore.

  75. @Todd – absolutely. The US will “get back to business” sooner than epidemiologists advise and the rest of the world will impose quarantines on us, if they even let us get that close. I escaped from Uruguay on March 16th, two weeks earlier than planned, and they were starting to close down, especially on people from hot zones. That would include (and likely will continue to include) the US. Argentina started by blocking visas to people from hot zones, including the US, while I was still down there, then they shut the border. They will open up the same way, gradually, starting with visitors from countries that adhered to best practices.

    So my plans for a fall trip (we usually do a fall and winter trip as we live on the beach south of Boston and summer is nice here) are on hold. I have no confidence that the world will be open to us by the fall. I suspect that we will trade off a deep hit now for death by a thousand cuts going forward.

  76. Anyone concerned that airlines might have to go through bankruptcy restructuring if this lasts a bit longer, and in that case that the those cheap, flexible tickets will be written off?

  77. If there’s one thing that is clear from 90% of these comment: Americans are eternally an optimistic bunch. However, they are an awful lot of blinker being warn as well.

    The US is behind the curve. First Asia, then Europe, next (and not quite yet) America.

    We can only hope and pray this nightmare ends as quickly as it started. Reality says we’re looking at a year. Asia relaxed and now it’s kicking off again there. Central to this retrogression is travel and so, worldwide, I suspect, borders will remain closed for longer than may even be necessary.

    We’re learning how to do business electronically and this is the new reality; why meet face to face (bad luck to those who clock up worldwide travel at corporate expense).

    And to those of you concerned about loosing your elite mile… Better than losing your health or the life of an elderly or sick loved one.

  78. Ben, I really hope you get to Bodrum in June. I was near there on turquoise coast last June and going again hopefully this June/July – if you do go, check out D-Resort Gocek. 3 hr drive from bodrum, small sailing town, quite exclusive. Resort has a private beach you’re shuttled to in a golf cart, service is impeccable. Easily one of the best hotels I’ve ever visited, a little piece of heaven and the reason I plan on flying back this year. Dreaming of travel too so though I would share.

  79. First off, two general comments:

    – We all agree “winter is coming” (but not for how long”
    – The economy always provides ways for people who want to spend money to do so, so yes, travel will be available, maybe not easily.

    Recommendations for travel decision making:
    – Keep in mind travel always involves varying levels of risk, so don’t be too surprised if things go south.
    – As this is a riskier time to travel (duh) don’t if losing the money/points/time/life right *now* would be overtly detrimental to you, or those you care for or care for you.
    – Recognize many of us are mourning and/or panicing our well-laid travel plans, or plans to be, and both give space, and don’t make rash decisions (study those cancellation scenarios).
    – Take advantage of planning something different closer to home that you might have not done before that involves fewer variables that might interrupt travel.
    – Don’t be shy about being a bottom price feeder, after all, suppliers are setting the prices, and they know unless they have a minimum number of customers to start the ball rolling and write those glowing reviews they will go out of business – so give them some.

    Yeah, and I’m mourning just having cancelled my 30th anniversary South Africa safari from NYC in business on miles, as I doubt I’ll get the same routing (SAA nonstop 1-2-1 seating in brand new plane) and advantageous layovers allowing seeing additional cities at no cost. Just hoping that the travel insurance will pay off the way I want it to, but regardless, not reserving any trips for a while until things calm down.

    But I am still doing my bucket list research, know where I’d like to go next, and am ready to take advantage of deals when we are ready to go. Nothing like a multi-year plan to stay focused on the prize!

  80. I canceled my Mexico trip early may for my birthday and for my moms mother’s day. Had the room booked but it was free to cancel. If things do get better I can just rebook. Have another domestic trip late May to see my dad in NC. Havent cancelled the flight yet as I doubt this early I’d get a refund but I’m like 90% it won’t happen. Then I had Colombia planned in November. Really really hoping that pans out.

  81. Air France has <$500 La Premiere First fares one-way from Algeria to Houston (as others have also observed) throughout their schedule. It is very painful to say no to that, but we do what we have to do for our friends, right?

    On second thought, La Premiere isn’t the worst way to go………

    Don’t worry. I’m kidding
    (I think)

  82. @Ned – Agreed. And I’m not trying to argue with or convince anyone. This isn’t an agenda I want to push, or “revel” in, as I’m accused of above. I’m horrified by what’s going and wish nothing more than to wake up from what is surely just a nightmare, to have it be December again.

    I’m not accusing anyone of “denial” about the virus itself. We all see what’s happening. People here are smarter than that (I hope).

    The denial is centered on beliefs about how quickly and easily we move on from this. And maybe a misunderstanding of global economics, which have just experienced perhaps one of the most bizarre and profound shocks ever. We’ve had vicious wars before, to be sure, but never have governments actively and bluntly forced their populations to *not* work on such a massive scale. We really don’t know what’s going to happen – but we do know that shutting down an economy is almost universally a disaster in any society.

  83. Re travel : “Just because you can doesn’t mean you should” a wise sage said.
    He might have also mentioned that the USA is the very last place you should visit in 2020/21.
    The coronavirus isn’t finished with the US yet!

  84. There are many unknown variables right now. When is the country of residence opening up again, when the destination country, when the transit point(s)? Is it a temporary relieve, because more infection waves are to come? What are the schedules? Which airlines and hotels are still in business?

    That’s why I have decided not make any bookings for now. But this does not mean I’m not planning any future trips. And once there is an indication, I will try to make bookings asap.

    However, there is another factor to consider: My employer has already made it quite clear that we may not be able to take leave once things open up, because we’ll have to work like crazy … So I guess short trips are more likely to go through, as compared to long holidays.

  85. Look at two business trips in August (one or both will be cancelled) one in October. Also looking at visiting the grandkids in Europe in about a year. Maybe see family in November/December.

  86. There are some travel vendors offering a TRUE cancel for any reason travel protection policy. If you can cancel, getting 100% back, and you normally purchase travel protection….why not?

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