The upcoming holiday season is sure to be an interesting time as travelers continue to navigate what many had hoped would be post-pandemic travel. Just as restrictions were being lifted and borders were opening up again, along came a new variant with unknown consequences.
Most of the country had been assured by experts that they could enjoy spending time with fully vaccinated family and friends without worrying about spreading the virus. Some experts told the public that getting together with those who were unvaccinated might be ok if they observed proper precautions such as staying six feet apart, wearing masks, using hand sanitizer and getting tested.
Whether all of that has changed with the Omicron variant remains to be seen.
If you are still planning to visit family and friends or are just taking a well-deserved break from what has been a stressful year, here are eight tips for traveling safely this holiday season:
- Get vaccinated. If you’re open to it and eligible to be vaccinated and still haven’t received the jab, schedule an appointment today. If you have concerns about getting the vaccine because you’re pregnant, have underlying health conditions, have had adverse reactions to vaccines in the past, or for any other reason, let your doctor know about your concerns and follow their advice. Travel options are becoming more and more limited for those who haven’t been vaccinated.
- Have a conversation. Talk to the people you will be spending time with over the holidays. Communicate what you need to feel safe during your visit and listen to their concerns. If someone is uncomfortable with the potential level of exposure to the virus, what accommodations can be made? Will there be friends or family members around the dinner table who are immuno-compromised? Or small children who aren’t eligible to be vaccinated yet?
- Do your research. Look into what precautions are being taken at your destination and check local guidelines. Are masks required? What are the vaccination requirements? Will you have to quarantine when you arrive? Where can you schedule a PCR or antigen test if you need one on arrival or before returning home? What safety protocols are in place at your hotel or Airbnb?
- Assess your risk. Traveling in a car with vaccinated family members is obviously less risky than taking a bus with strangers who may or may not have been exposed to the virus. It might seem like traveling on a plane would be extremely risky, given that you are seated in close proximity to other passengers, but fresh air is circulated throughout planes and masks are required. Modern trains are more likely to have a better air filtration system than older ones. On a ferry ride, you can often go outside on the deck which minimizes your risk.
- Be prepared. Leave plenty of time to renew your passport if it’s about to expire. Pack your vaccination card or recovery certificate and make copies in case it gets lost or damaged. Follow pre-boarding instructions to make sure you have all of the documentation you need for your trip. Bring enough extra masks, hand sanitizer, and disinfecting wipes for you and everyone traveling with you.
- Be flexible. While it seems like things are changing on a day-to-day basis, you’ll feel more in control if you have a back-up plan. If your original travel plans don’t work out, be ready to pivot. If your vacation destination suddenly goes into lock-down, where will you go instead? If indoor dining is not an option because you’re not fully vaccinated, have a restaurant in mind that has outdoor seating. If trains are no longer going from one country to the next, check out the bus schedule or book a flight.
- Be creative. You’ve probably heard about the shortage of rental cars given the number of people who have chosen road trips over taking the train or flying during the pandemic. That shortage drove the cost of renting a car sky-high and some out-of-the-box thinkers realized that they could rent pick-up trucks from their local home improvement store for the day for far less money than they would have been charged by the car rental companies. In what ways can you make an end run around the obstacles that will potentially come between you and a happy holiday season?
- Buy travel insurance. With all the things that could go wrong despite your best efforts to plan for every contingency, buying travel insurance is one of the best things you can do for you and your traveling companions. While your credit card or even your homeowners insurance may offer some protection for you and your belongings while you’re away from home, the benefits are limited when compared to what a comprehensive travel insurance policy offers.
The final tip bears repeating. Buy travel insurance. While buying travel insurance is always a good idea, it’s particularly important this holiday season. We’ve all seen recent videos of people whose unwillingness to wear a mask caused their flight to be delayed. Rules have changed overnight, stranding travelers in a country far from home. Quarantines have been implemented for those who have been exposed to the virus. Delays in test results, false positives, or lost vaccination cards have kept passengers from boarding cruise ships. All of these are solid reasons to find a travel insurance policy that will reimburse you in the event that one (or more) covered situations happens to you during your holiday travel.
Coverage for trip interruptions or cancellations is included in most standard travel insurance policies. With this type of coverage, you would be reimbursed for any unused pre-paid, non-refundable expenses in the event that you are unable to go on your trip or if your trip is interrupted for a covered reason. Trip cancellation coverage is typically in effect from the date of purchase through the date of departure. Trip interruption coverage picks up where trip cancellation coverage ends. A trip interruption policy would take effect at the time of your scheduled departure and provide coverage until you arrive safely back at home.
While most travel insurance policies include general trip cancellation and/or trip interruption coverage, policy add-ons like exclusion waivers may be worth the additional cost depending on your needs. Exclusion waivers are offered for conditions and circumstances that may not be covered under a standard policy such as pre-existing medical conditions.
Even the exclusion waivers might not be enough to meet your travel insurance needs this holiday season, though. With the uncertainty that the pandemic has caused for domestic and international travelers, CFAR (cancel for any reason) coverage will give you additional peace of mind. This supplemental coverage entitles you to a partial refund of prepaid expenses when you have to cancel for any reason that isn’t covered by a standard travel insurance policy.
The easiest way to find a policy that will cover all of your needs is to use a comparison site like TravelInsurance.com. Here you’ll find great coverage at great rates from top-rated companies like Generali Global Assistance, Trawick International, John Hancock, IMG, and more. You’ll be able to compare the costs and benefits of policies offered by these companies and choose the one that is right for you, at the guaranteed lowest price.
Whether you’re cruising around the world or staying closer to home this holiday season, a comprehensive travel insurance policy is the best gift you can give yourself. Happy holidays from TravelInsurance.com and all of our trusted providers!
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