Thanksgiving: 50 million Americans will travel for the holiday – any words of advice?

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50 Million Americans expected to travel for thanksgiving might sound like a lot, but triple-A reports it’s the biggest anticipated drop since the great recession in 2008. So what are anxious Americans looking into and what are the trends as we head into an uncertain holiday season full of sanitizer and social distancing…

1. People are clearly planning on traveling.  For many it might be their first experience since the beginning of the pandemic: what are some recommendations whether it’s a road trip or a flight?

Plan ahead. Have a strategy; think about exactly where you’re planning to go, how you’re planning to get there, and what you will do once you arrive. Pack snacks, drinks and an emergency roadside kit to minimize stops and reduce contact with others. If flying, minimize taking off your mask, clean your hands frequently and pack your own food. No matter your mode of transport, don’t forget your driver’s license, registration, and insurance cards. It’s also wise to bring face coverings, gloves, and disinfecting wipes.

2. Some people use the holidays to get away from the traditional hustle and bustle.  They may not be with their families or may want a tropical getaway: are those happening this year?  What are the options and what are some of the best deals you’re seeing?  (Abroad?  All-inclusive resorts?  What about cruises?  what measures being taken to keep travelers safe?)

For those who want to go abroad, especially to a beach, there are several countries open to Americans right now. Saint Lucia in the Caribbean, for example, has dozens of hotels with great holiday rates, and are making Covid safety a priority. All travelers are required to have a PCR test within seven days of arriving. What’s also great is that they have “Covid-certified” their hotels and dozens of activities from zip-lining to scuba diving to hiking. American Airlines is offering roundtrip fares there for around $500, now through 2021. Now for those who want to go further afield, Costa Rica re-opened to Americans on November 1, and people can explore the jungle, surf world-class breaks, enjoy beautiful beaches and lap up the outdoors with confidence. For example, you can find resorts like the Tierra Magnifica resort in Nosara, which reopened last week and is about to unveil eight new luxury suites that overlook the tropical jungle and the ocean – which is just what you might need from a vacation after Covid isolation!

3. What about staycations, or those who want to get away but also avoid major travel?

Right in North Carolina itself there are some really fantastic staycation options. For example just two hours away is the hip yet historic Winston-Salem area – it has a great downtown filled with breweries, restaurants and a fun arts district. And this is a great place to get into the holiday spirit, with tonnes of events like their drive-through Festival of Lights at Tanglewood (with more than 1,000,000 lights used in displays), and loads of Christmas shopping options. It’s also THE place to get a tin of those hand-rolled Moravian Cookies which make a great stocking stuffer!

4. Any big surprises in the travel outlook?

I don’t think it’s a suprise that people are going to start traveling again, however I would say that if you told people back in 2019 that their 2020 holiday plans would still be impacted by this, they wouldn’t believe it. Now depending on your mode of transport over the holidays, there are some silver livings to look out for. For example, airfares are said to be at their lowest in three years and I predict they will stay low for a while. I also think we will see people traveling again to ‘winter sun’ destinations like Costa Rica or the Caribbean as mentioned.

Should we stick to road trips this summer? WRAL asks Francesca Page

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1. Air travel is starting to climb back up.  With the highest numbers reported over the weekend than we’ve seen in months.  What trends are you seeing as people start to think about booking air-travel again and how are the airlines responding?

I think inevitably people will be prioritizing travel – including air travel – to see family and to make the most of the summer. Given that most international travel is still suffering from restrictions, domestic travel is obviously going to be more popular. We know that both major and low-cost carriers in the U.S. are bolstering their summer service offerings. American Airlines for example is gearing up for summer by restoring 55 percent of its domestic schedule and almost 20 percent of its international schedule in July 2020, as compared with last year. The airline also announced on Friday that it will no longer be capping the number of seats sold on flights amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

2.  The costs can be appealing to travel addicts.  Have we reached a point where people are starting to plan trips for months out with the hope things will continue to pick back up?

Yes but this is also dangerous. There is still so much unpredictability around the virus, so when it comes to planning ahead – particularly if you are looking at any non essential international travel, I would hold off as long as you can. I think a lot of people learnt the hard way in the past few months, that cancellation and rebooking policies can vary and be stressful to handle. Speaking of which, I would also suggest looking at travel insurance policies when it comes to planning for future travel. It can make a huge difference in the long run.

3. Let’s talk about cruises… most have now been canceled through the end of September.  This industry has taken a big hit.  Should bargain hunters roll the dice,  take advantage and book cruises this fall and winter or do you think it’s going to be stalled until 2021?  

I personally think that booking a cruise this year is both financially and medically very risky.  Only weeks ago we were talking about the  40,000 cruise ship workers  stuck at sea because of concerns about the coronavirus. Everything that you may be concerned about with flying, is heightened on a cruise. It’s hard to predict in those situations how much you’ll be able to socially distance from other passengers and employees – even if cruise lines make efforts to minimize close contact. Eating and drinking in a confined space presents its own challenges too – the more you’re around unmasked people with uncovered noses and mouths, the riskier it gets. In my opinion, comparing of all modes of transport, this should be your last option.

4. When we had you on last time, early in May, you predicted road trips were going to be the theme of the summer.  Are we seeing that play out?

Absolutely –  mainly because driving allows people to choose WHO they travel with and allows them more control over the situation. Like I have said before, if you’re able to keep a safe, six-foot social distance from others in rest areas, wear a mask, and practice good hygiene, there is little risk since the coronavirus is thought to be mainly transmitted directly from person-to-person. Just avoid stopping at crowded rest stops if you can, wash or sanitize your hand regularly and be sure to use a glove when pumping gas. Also have a strategy; think about exactly where you’re planning to go, how you’re planning to get there, and what you will do once you arrive. Because all 50 states are reopening at different rates, be sure to factor that information into your choices.