Planning a Future Trip? 3 Tips to Book Safe and Smart Amid the Uncertainty
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Planning a Future Trip? 3 Tips to Book Safe and Smart Amid the Uncertainty

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Coronavirus has been relentless. Trips have been canceled for the foreseeable future as countries (and even individual states) lock down and block out travelers. And with all that uncertainty, even planning travel far out in the future can feel like a gamble.

But that doesn’t mean it’s time to give up on a future trip. Airlines, hotel chains, and other travel companies have given travelers more flexibility than ever to book flights or hotel stays risk-free. Cheap fares and hotel rates make it a good time to score a deal as far out as June 2021. And right now, we all need a future trip to look forward to.

But that doesn’t mean you should throw caution to the wind and book an entire trip for the fall or even 2021. There’s no telling when all this will end. And even when it does, smart planning will ensure you book with little to no risk.



1. Always Use a Credit Card to Book Flights

It’s always sound advice, but especially now. Use a credit card to book your travel – not a debit card.

Why, you ask? It’s one of the best ways to protect yourself if – travel gods forbid – your airline were to collapse before your flight. If that happens, the easiest way to get your money back is to initiate a chargeback through your credit card company.

Curious how it works? Here’s how to do a chargeback when an airline goes kaput, as I did a few years ago when Primera Air went bankrupt just weeks before my flight.
cancel fight voucher

A handful of small regional airlines have already fizzled out due to coronavirus. Many more have filed for chapter 11 bankruptcy. As the travel industry gets hammered by coronavirus, more carriers could collapse, too.

It is possible to request a chargeback on a debit card, but the process is much more challenging and complicated. So using a credit card is the best way to make sure you can get your money back if the worst occurs.

If you can, use a credit card that will get you additional travel insurance like the Chase Sapphire Preferred or Platinum Card from American Express. While this insurance won’t cover if you decide to cancel your trip down the line due to coronavirus, it comes with plenty of other trip delay or disruption coverage that will be nice to have. And you’ll earn more points on your purchase, too.


2. Book Directly with Your Airline (With Free Change/Cancellation)

This is another big lesson – something that’s important in the best of times, and even more important in the worst.

Whenever possible, book directly with the airline rather than with third-party sites or online travel agencies (OTAs).

Major airlines have made the process of changing or canceling flights easier during these trying times. You can change or cancel any flight booked bu July 31 without paying a fee, getting a voucher for future use. While wait times have been long, it’s relatively easy to make a change. You can even message the airline via Twitter and get a response rather than wait on hold.

Read more: See exactly how major airlines are waiving change/cancellation fees on new tickets and upcoming flights.

And if your airline eventually cancels (or significantly changes) your flight – something that’s becoming more and more common these days – it’s even better: You’re legally owed a refund.

But when you book through OTAs like Expedia, Priceline, CheapOair, and hundreds of others, it’s a bit different. Sure, they may promote slightly cheaper deals. But if something goes wrong or your plans change, you need to go through your agency to change or cancel your flight.

Bigger OTAs might be just fine. The smaller ones can be an absolute nightmare – especially now.

If you want the best customer service possible in case you decide to scrap your trip, the solution is simple: book directly with the airline. Trust us, it’s a lifesaver.


3. Wait to Book Big Accommodations or Excursions

This is the big one.

There’s no telling how long this may play out or when it may be safe to travel again. And while it may be safer to speculatively book flights in the future, that’s not always the case for lodging, excursions, or other activities.

Don’t lock yourself into any non-refundable expenses. Unfortunately, many travelers got burned on this end for travel in spring 2020 as coronavirus wreaked havoc.

Now is a great time to book future travel, as we’re still finding some of the cheapest flight deals we’ve ever seen to many destinations for travel from through March 2021 and beyond. And there’s never been a more flexible time to book airfare.

Fortunately, many hotel chains are offering equally flexible policies to lock in reservations now and cancel later for a refund, if need be. Unfortunately, the same can’t be said for all homestay bookings and excursions.

As things evolve, hold off on booking nonrefundable accommodations or excursions. It’s best to wait until your travel date is closer and you’re more certain of travel before booking.


Bottom Line

Don’t be afraid of booking future travel – but be smart. If you follow these tips above, you’ll be well-positioned to get your money back and avoid the unnecessary hassle if travel plans change in the meantime.

Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

Disclaimer: The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser’s responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

3 Responses

  • While I agree with using our Sapphire Reserve card to book, you should add that the accompanying travel insurance does NOT cover airline cancellations. Your article infers it does. To quote from Chase’s site, “Not covered: travel arrangements canceled or changed by a common carrier, tour operator, or any travel agency unless the cancellation is the result of severe weather or an organized strike affecting public transportation.”

  • I booked air and a land tour to Ireland through Gate 1 Travel for Nov 8 2020
    To date Gate 1 has canceled all tours through October 12 2020 and will probably eventually cancel through March 31 2021
    Can you clarify New York State rules with regard to refunds when tour operator cancel a tour that includes land and air?
    Their original terms and conditions indicate that if they cancel refunds are due
    Shouldn’t that include the air portion of the tour they canceled as well.?
    Gate 1 has been placing updates on their website offering their clients the opportunity to accept future travel credits for those trips they have already canceled as well as for those the company has not canceled to date (Oct 13- March 31.)
    But they are indicating that they are not responsible for the air portion on their land/air packages they booked and canceled
    I know that if I had booked my own air and they canceled the land portion they would not be responsible for the associated air penalties but if they book the air for you and then cancel the associated land tour shouldn’t they be responsible?
    Thank you in advance

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