Oh my, what a year 2020 was! But now it's behind us and we're into January, the month when most people plan their travels for the coming year. It's time for a crash course in Travel Planning 2021.
The world is not the same as it was last January. What will this year bring? Does it really make sense to plan a solo trip right now? If so, when and where?
With the vaccine now being distributed, the notion of safe travel this year is more likely than it has been in the last ten months. So, maybe it is time to start planning. Keep in mind that trip planning for 2021 takes more thought than usual. There are more issues to consider and details to address.
Now May Be the Time to Book Travel in 2021
According to Christopher Elliott, author, advocate, journalist, and the person we rely on to interpret the data and solve problems in the travel sphere, patience may not be the best idea right now when it comes to planning and booking travel.
In his words:
We've seen very aggressive discounts at the beginning of 2021, such as Southwest Airlines' $29 fare sale. But those low prices will soon yield to reality, which is that in a post-vaccine world, people will be paying more to travel, including higher nightly rates for their vacation rentals. It's just a matter of time before hotel rates, car rental prices, and yes, even cruise fares, catch up.
Elliott is not suggesting you travel right now, but his bottom line is this: “Don't wait too long to book your next vacation. Patience doesn't always pay.” Read his full article here. We will know that the travel industry's recovery is well underway when prices begin to rise.
In the next few sections I'll discuss group tours. Below that I'll focus on independent solo travel.
Why a Group Tour or Cruise May Be the Right Choice for Solo Travel in 2021
An escorted tour has its advantages, especially for solo travelers, when travel is complicated. I saw this first hand when I was trying to get home from Morocco in March. Those who booked their flights with the tour company had the easiest time. Those who booked through a travel agent/advisor had to get in touch with them but did have their support for getting home. The few who booked online were left to their own devices in the chaos of that time.
Given that travel planning in 2021 will inevitably be complicated for the coming months (if not a year or two), taking a group tour with the support of a tour manager on the ground, a local tour guide, and people in the home office will make sense for many. Should your destination suddenly become unavailable due to a COVID-19 outbreak, you'll have only one company to deal with rather than an airline, hotel, car rental company, and possibly more. Check out our exclusive list of tours for solo travelers here.
Questions to Ask Before Booking a Tour or Cruise in 2021
For the last ten months, tour companies have been working on the issues around group travel from a health and safety perspective as well as a financial one. Here are a few questions you'll want to ask that are specific to travel planning in 2021 before putting your deposit down.
- What are the cancellation terms in case you have to cancel your trip?
- What are the terms if the tour/cruise company cancels or reschedules your trip?
- In both of the above cases, have the company point out where this information is in your purchase agreement.
- Are travelers being screened to ensure that they are clear of COVID-19, that they have had the vaccine, or both?
- What health precautions are being taken on the trip?
- Who is in charge of ensuring that the health precautions are being implemented? What will happen if they are not?
- What health and safety protocols will you be required to follow?
And, of course, in these times your own room, preferably with no (or a low) single supplement is very important.
For more general details on how to select the right tour for you, read How to Choose a Tour: Top Tips for Solo Travelers.
Now May NOT Be the Time to Plan an Independent Solo Trip
While an escorted tour has its advantages, it is not for everyone. Some like the flexibility and freedom of traveling solo independently.
As Christopher Elliott indicated, flights, hotels, car rentals, and other travel costs could all get more expensive in the coming months. It may be time to book. But if you do, be aware that changing plans made with multiple providers with different policies and deadlines will be more difficult than dealing with one tour company. It could also be very costly.
With the challenges of changing plans in mind, the second wave that is currently underway, the fact that the vaccine roll-out is just getting started, and that things change so quickly, I have decided that now is not the time to suggest how you can effectively plan a solo trip in 2021. I can't predict the questions you need to ask or the caveats you need to watch for. I'll update this post when I think it more reasonable to do so.
Two Essential Travel Resources for 2021
Whether you are planning to travel on an organized tour or independently, I strongly urge you to get travel insurance. Read the terms of the insurance carefully before you buy. There are many policies that cover COVID-19 to some degree, but not all will have terms to your liking. It's also important to buy your travel insurance as soon as you’ve put money down on a trip. You’ll then be covered for any pre-trip events which may cause your trip to be cancelled, such as non-refundable deposits.
If you are planning to travel independently, I suggest that you use a travel agent/advisor to help you with your bookings so that, should things need to be changed, you'll have their support to get it done. And at every step, with every purchase, no matter how tedious it is, your 2021 travel planning mantra should be: always read the fine print.