And so to begin...
Updated: May 21, 2020
Welcome to my travel blog! What a time to start; with the effective prohibition on travel, it is hard to know how to begin; but here goes. I wanted to put a couple of different ideas your way to kick off, one deeply practical and one completely frivolous.
The first looks at a term I will call 'cancelability' and how this affected my planning for an up coming trip. The second combines two interests of mine, train travel and American Football, for the ultimate stateside train trip, that I will probably never do; but we can dream…. So, for the NFL/Amtrak travel stuff, including some great vicarious/slow travel online, I will put it on the blog in manageable chunks, then later all together in the articles section of the website. So feel free to skip onto Blog post 2, or read the slightly more serious stuff below first.
Remember how the world was just a few months ago and how booking your travel worked? Flexibility, or changing your travel plans were directly, perhaps disproportionately related to cost, or given as a perk of higher travel classes. You could have it but you were certainly going to pay for it; for anything from airlines, train tickets, ferry tickets accommodation and attraction passes. To the extent that with EasyJet, it could be cheaper to book two or three different flights, rather than the one flexible ticket. If you wanted it cheap you had to book early and stick to your plans.
However, cancelability has to be the number one consideration for any trips you are planning for anything 6-12 months into the future. With the UK's Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) for example, advising against all but essential travel indefinitely, you can't book anything without thinking about the consequences of canceling?
You could wait until the effective travel ban is lifted, but then have to take your chance with the immediate rush there will certainly be, when this day comes. I can see October half term being an issue for families in terms of demand. Flight costs have already gone up significantly in the last week.
You could rely on travel insurance, but is this going to cover you against Coronavirus? You are probably going to have to factor in some kind of excess fee, there is the hassle of claiming and always the stress and uncertainty of whether the policy will pay out. Besides you may not have an inclination rather than a insurable reason not to travel; i.e. it may be permissible to travel again, but beaches, public spaces, attractions etc may still not be open, or despite official advice that it is safe to go, you may not feel comfortable or safe going, again most travel insurers will not cover for this. Let me be clear, I would always recommend that you travel with travel insurance in place, but you might want to think about how much to rely on insurance covering cancellation of your holiday for whatever reason.
However, perhaps there is a third way of approaching the issue; book a trip which is cancel-able right up to the point when you are due to leave, meaning little or no financial risk; i.e. if it can't go ahead; what is the worst that will happen or most I will lose?
If I take my own example, we had independently booked a family holiday to Mallorca for Easter. EasyJet allowed us to re-book the flights to later in 2020 at no extra cost* (or we could have paid the difference if the new flights were more). The same hotel allowed us to re-book for the different dates and even the transfer company gave us a credit note to re-book with. So we were able to lift and shift the whole holiday effectively for no cost, we also feel we are supporting and showing faith with some of the travel suppliers who have given us so many good holidays before.
Crucially, and this applies if we were booking this now as a new holiday, all the elements can be cancelled at 24 hours notice at no cost, or moved onto Easter 2021 instead. Lots of airlines, hotels are tour operators are currently offering, what would have been up until now unthinkable flexibility, i.e. minimising your risk. So why not book a cancel-able trip now, give yourself something to look forward to and put yourself at the front of the queue for when the world restarts.
*I do sympathise with people who need to get a cash refund from airlines and have had issues with this.