Thinking about booking future travel? We all need a trip to look forward to.
Many flights are as cheap as ever for trips as far out as fall 2021. And major airlines are giving travelers unprecedented flexibility to change or cancel flights free – even for travel far in the future.
That gives some needed comfort to travelers to book flights and trips amid all this uncertainty. But choosing the right airline to book with has never been more important.
Here are a few things to keep in mind before you hit “book.”
Airlines with Flexible Change & Cancel Policies
Before booking a cheap flight for future travel, make sure you're protecting yourself. Most major airlines are offering fee-free changes and cancellations in exchange for an airline voucher. This eliminates the need to purchase travel insurance for most flights. And it gives travelers some peace of mind when trying to plan a trip.
Here are a few of the major U.S. airlines' policies on future flight bookings:
- Alaska: All future travel booked by Dec. 31, 2020 can be changed without fees or canceled for a voucher down the road. Fare differences may still apply. Read more on Alaska’s policy.
- American: Any ticket booked by Dec. 31, 2020, can be changed or canceled without paying a fee – so long as rebooked travel occurs within a year of the date the tickets were originally booked. Fare differences may apply. Read more on American’s policy.
- Delta: Any ticket booked by Dec. 31, 2020 (even for travel in the far future) can be changed or canceled for free, and receive a voucher for future travel in return. Read more about Delta’s waivers.
- JetBlue: Any JetBlue flight booked through Feb. 28, 2021, can be changed or canceled without a fee. Canceled flights will get a travel credit for JetBlue. Read more on JetBlue’s policy.
- Southwest: All Southwest tickets can always be canceled or changed without incurring a fee, though fare differences may still apply.
- Spirit: Spirit is waiving change and cancellation fees for any travel booked by Dec. 31, 2020. Travelers can also cancel a flight and get the value back in a voucher that must be used within 12 months. Read more on Spirit’s policy.
- Sun Country: Sun Country always waives change and cancellation fees for all flights at least 60 days ahead of departure. Read more on Sun Country’s policy.
- United: All domestic and international United flights booked between March 3 and Dec. 31, 2020 can be changed without a fee. Read more on United's policy.
Thrifty Tip: Curious about award bookings and international airlines? Read more on some of their fee-free changes and cancellations.
Perhaps more than ever, it's best to book direct. Instead of booking with an online travel agency (OTA), book directly with the airline to get the best customer service and quickest service. We like to use Google Flights to search for cheap fares among all airlines, then book directly on the airline's website.
And although many major international airlines are also offering free change and cancellation, you'll want to focus on certain airlines.
Thrifty Tip: Be sure to book with a credit card, not debit. That's your best protection in case your airline fizzles out before you fly.
Airlines You Can Put a Voucher to Use With
This is the key to booking future travel right now. While most airlines may allow you to cancel for free, you won't get a cash refund unless the airline eventually cancels your flight. Instead, you'll get a voucher.
So you need to think ahead. If the situation doesn't improve and you need to cancel a flight, will you be able to put that voucher to use? And keep in mind that most vouchers will only last for a year from the date you originally booked your flight.
That's why you should book future travel with airlines you can easily use a voucher on. And for many of us, that means sticking largely to domestic airlines like United, Delta, American, Southwest, and others.
Read our guide with tips for using airline vouchers!
For example, LATAM may have a hot deal on flights to South America. But if you need to cancel that flight for a voucher, your options to use it from your home airport may be limited. If instead, you book with a major U.S. carrier, you've likely got tons of options to use that voucher.
That said, there are exceptions that may make it easier to use your voucher. You might be able to use a voucher from one airline on many different partner airlines or codeshare flights.
For example,Virgin Atlantic, Air France, and KLM's policies state: “Your travel voucher is valid to use within 1 year after the date of issue and can be used on KLM, Air France, Delta, Virgin Atlantic, and Kenya Airways flights.” Similarly, Qatar Airways and Aeromexico allow their vouchers to be used on flights that they codeshare with other airlines.
Before you buy, be sure to check your airline's voucher or travel credit policies to see what your options may be.
Book Cheap Flights!
This is a trick answer because this applies to most airlines right now! But our point is simple: Airlines are slashing prices to due decreased demand.
So don't book a fare that's priced as normal. Wait for that wild flight deal to crop up, and book that low fare! If you're looking for cheap domestic flights, you're in luck. We post the hottest flight deals within the U.S. daily on our website and in our free daily newsletter.
Curious about the insane international flight deals we've been seeing this past month for future travel? Trust us, you'll hardly believe your eyes.
From mistake fares to Chile and Australia, to sub-$300 flights to tropical escapes and more, we've got you covered with our international flight deal alert service. We find flight deals from over 140 U.S. airports (plus Canada!) and instantly alert our Thrifty Traveler Premium members! Try it out for just $5.99 a month!
Want to see just how cheap we're talking? Check out the flight deals we found in the last few weeks.
When looking forward to future travel, there are a few things to keep in mind. Booking with the right airline can ensure you'll get the best deal, cover you for possible cancellations, and ensure you have options if plans change.
I have a SWA flight from MSP- Kansas City nonstop for July 13th. In early March I got a voucher for $30 as the fare dropped. If Ike’s Museum doesn’t open (purpose of trip) by July 4th AND flight has not been canceled, I am thinking I could cancel, get a voucher and rebook for less for a Sept or early 2021 trip depending on conditions. That flight today for Sept is only $99 RT non stop which is half what I paid for my current ticket. Then I would use the two vouchers to book another SWA trip in 2021 as they will expire in Feb 2021. Obviously, I would need to monitor cancelations and ticket price.
Sounds like you’ve got a good plan!