With everything in flux seemingly by the hour, how can you realistically plan for travel? Even though you may not be able to nail down the specifics of your future travel plan, there are some things you can do now to make traveling more affordable down the road.
Book Hotels Now With No Risk
Because hotels understand how fast the situation is changing, many of them are waiving cancellation fees. Most hotels have made their cancellation policies more lenient, so you can book your summer and fall vacations now with no risk should you have to cancel. For instance:
- Hilton is allowing existing reservations, even those described as “non-cancellable” (“Advanced Purchase”)—that are scheduled for arrival on or before June 30, 2020 to be changed or cancelled at no charge, up to 24 hours before your scheduled arrival day. New Reservations. Any individual reservations, even those described as “non-cancellable” (“Advanced Purchase”)—that are booked between today and June 30, 2020 for any future arrival date can be changed or cancelled at no charge, up to 24 hours before your scheduled arrival day.
- IHG is allowing all bookings globally, even non-refundable ones, to be canceled, for stays through April 30, 2020. Beyond that date, guests who change or cancel their reservation one to two days prior to arrival get the “best flex rate.” Changing the date on any reservations through their Best Flexible Rate may result in different pricing and terms, but there is no fee for making changes. They also implemented a Book Now, Pay Later policy.
- Hyatt is allowing all bookings, even non-refundable ones, to be canceled, for stays through April 30, 2020; on top of that, for advance purchase rates confirmed before March 9, 2020, and for stays through June 30, 2020, World of Hyatt members can opt to receive 10,000 World of Hyatt points in lieu of a cash refund.
- Marriott is allowing all bookings, even non-refundable ones, to be canceled, for stays through April 30, 2020. For guests making new reservations for any future arrival date, including reservations with pre-paid rates, between today and April 30, 2020, they will allow the reservation to be changed or cancelled at no charge up to 24 hours before your scheduled arrival date.
- Migis Hotel Group, which includes such destinations as Maine’s Higgins Beach Inn, is offering a $20 voucher with every $100 gift card purchase.
Airlines Waiving Cancellation Fees
If you decide to book airfare this month, you can cancel with no fees on some airlines. American, JetBlue, and United, are waiving change/cancellation fees on fares booked by April 30 (for travel in the next 12 months with American and United, or by January 4, 2021 with JetBlue), and Delta is waiving change/cancellation fees on fares booked by May 31 (for travel in the next 12 months). Be sure to read the fine print closely. If you book and later cancel, you’ll get a full refund in travel credit to be used within 12 months from the ticketing date. You won’t get your money back in cash, unfortunately, but if you can get some deals now, your vacation could already be paid for when you decide to take it.
Restaurant Gift Cards
With restaurant dining rooms closed across the country, restaurants know they have to do something more to get you to order takeout form them. Many are offering bonuses, which means you can buy a pre-paid card now, and have a bonus later when they reopen and you are ready to use it. Either use it in your home town, or take it on your next road trip and know that at least some of your meals are already paid for. Check your favorite chain or local restaurants for deals. Here are two we found.
- Black Angus: Spend $50 on cards, get $10 bonus bucks
- PF Chang’s: 15% of every gift card will go to help employees needing assistance (this isn’t a bonus for you, but it could make you feel better about buying them)
Do Some Virtual Tours
If you want to decide on a destination, take advantage of the many museums and destinations that are offering virtual tours. Check out some free online exhibits. that can help you decide if you want to visit in person when travel restrictions are lifted.
- The British Library has made its Harry Potter: History of Magic Exhibit free and online
- Our article “Virtual Tours While You’re Stuck At Home” outlines several other free online museum and destination tours, and other free resources.
If you are purchasing gift cards or other travel essentials such as luggage, try using a money back service such as Rakuten. As of the time of this writing, Rakuten was offering 1% cash back on purchases made from Hotels.com. Under normal circumstances, Rakuten offers cash back from online stores such. as Macy’s, Kohls, Staples, and many others, including Amazon. Due to what I’m guessing is an. overwhelming number of people ordering from Amazon in the current situation, Rakuten had turned off the cash back from Amazon, but there were still lots of stores offering cash back on things you are probably already buying.