While I’ve long been a fan of last minute travel planning, in the coming weeks and months I’ll be planning any trips I take even more last minute than before, and in this post I wanted to take a closer look at why.
The types of places I’d consider traveling
We’re seeing more and more countries outline plans to once again welcome tourists. As you’d expect, not all plans are equally well thought out — some countries are doing widespread testing and contact tracing, while other countries hope prayers are the answer.
As we learn more about how countries plan to open to tourists, I’m increasingly considering various options for summer travel. I think that soon enough it’s reasonable to travel again, if taking the right precautions. As I view it, this includes only traveling to places:
- That are actively welcoming tourists
- That have a good track record for containing COVID-19
- Where testing is possible and encouraged (or ideally mandatory)
- Where social distancing is easy, meaning traveling to places with a focus on the outdoors
Why my travel planning will be very last minute
I’m leaning towards going to Iceland when the country opens in mid-June, but I haven’t actually booked anything. As a matter of fact, I plan on waiting as long as possible, both for planning this, and for planning anything else that may come up. Why?
Rules are constantly changing
Quite a few countries plan to open to tourists in the next couple of weeks, but despite that haven’t actually published finalized details about who is and isn’t allowed to visit, as well as the precautions that will be taken.
Even though Iceland is working hard to get organized for welcoming tourists as of June 15, there are still some important questions:
- How exactly will testing on arrival work?
- As of now Iceland only plans to offer free testing on arrival for two weeks, so what happens after that?
- What flight schedule will Icelandair operate, since the airline is currently just publishing flight schedules at most a few days in advance?
In the case of Greece, we saw the country outline one plan for welcoming tourists this past Friday, and then a completely different plan on Saturday.
I only want to commit to a trip when I fully know what I’m getting myself into, and this applies here as well.
We’ll have more information as time goes on
One of the biggest challenges with the current pandemic as it relates to travel is the information disadvantage we’re at. That’s another reason I only want to plan last minute:
- We don’t know how this pandemic will evolve, if cases will spike again, or what
- In general I feel most comfortable traveling somewhere shortly after they open to tourists, rather than several weeks later, since we don’t really have a sense of how problematic travel will be; for example, I’d feel safer going to Greece on June 15 than on August 15, based on what we know as of now
- If I’m not going to go right when a country opens, then I want to be able to hear the experiences of those who have gone, get a sense of what COVID-19 cases are looking like at that destination, etc.
- We’re starting to see some airports make COVID-19 tests readily available, and if visiting multiple destinations planning around that could make a lot of sense
Planning travel is kind of annoying
Generally speaking a lot of the enjoyment we get out of travel comes from the process of actually planning it. I’d argue that’s not really the case right now.
While many travel brands have generous booking policies at the moment, I’d argue that planning travel in advance at the moment is kind of annoying:
- Expect to see lots of airline schedule changes, as airlines continue to optimize their schedules
- In situations where you need to contact a travel brand and can’t self-service your booking online, expect really long hold times
- We’ve seen all kinds of airlines and hotel brands play games when it comes to refunds, and you probably don’t want to essentially be giving a long-term loan to an airline or hotel
Miles are ideal for this kind of travel
Ordinarily planning last minute travel would be costly, though the way I view it this is the beauty of miles and points:
- There’s lots of award availability on many flights this summer, and often the best time to redeem miles is just a couple of days before departure
- In general hotels are pretty readily available, given that we’ll ultimately still see a huge reduction in the number of travelers, while in many destinations hotels will be operating at normal levels
- When redeeming points for flights and hotel stays you’re generally not tying up any cash, and you’re less likely to have issues getting a refund
While I’m optimistic that responsible travel will make a significant return in the coming weeks, personally I’m waiting as long as possible to actually book anything. Rules are constantly evolving, and I think there’s significant value in being able to make a split-second decision about your comfort level going somewhere.
While planning summer travel last minute can usually be challenging, I don’t see that being the case this summer. Miles are perfect for last minute travel planning, and I’m also largely finding hotels to have lots of points availability.
Now, let me be clear — none of this is stopping me from generally mapping out what I’m considering. I’m just not booking anything yet.
If you’re intending any travel this summer, what’s your approach to planning it?