That is the question.

By Heidi Kerr-Schlaefer

The past year has been tough on the travel industry, and it has been tough on travelers. COVID-19 ruined carefully laid plans and, with so much uncertainty, most potential travelers did not make new plans. We were in uncharted waters, and it paralyzed the travel industry.

We are not out of the woods yet, but with vaccines being administered, the world is becoming more relaxed when it comes to travel. It does seem, however, that the guidelines and mandates are always changing.

The easiest way to understandthe rules and regulations surrounding current travel is to work with a travel advisor. We used to call them travel agents, but those who remain after the world of Internet travel exploded are more than agents.

A travel advisor helps clientsdecide where to go on a vacation and when to go. They also have lots of information about different locations either because they have been there, or one of their clients has been there. Sometimes advisors are fee-based or work on commissions paid by the suppliers such as a cruise line, and often they do a mix of both. Right now, in these times of uncertainty, a travel advisor can be priceless.

Last March, travel advisors, like Kina Palmer of Travel Hound in Berthoud, were spending all their time canceling and postponing travel for their clients. Palmer has been in business for 23 years and has hundreds of clients. She spent hours on the phone on their behalf.

During those first few months of thepandemic, most people got a refund for travel, even those who opted out of travel insurance. Palmer appreciates that during unprecedented times the suppliers put the clients first. In today’s climate, however, travel insurance is imperative. Travel advisors like Palmer recommend it and will walk clients through the various options.

While Palmer does not like the word “deal” and prefers “value,” there are good prices in the travel world today. For instance, while this year’s spring break may look nothing like 2019 or 2020, there are still people willing to travel.

For those amenable to traveling abroad, Mexico is offering an array of well-priced packages, plus big-name resorts and cruise lines have set up COVID-19 testing on-site. This is to help travelers be compliant with the regulation that passed at the end of January that states everyone coming into the United States must get a negative COVID-19 test 72 hours prior to arrival.

A package example would be thevacation being offered by Secrets Aura Cozumel in Mexico. This five-star resort is offering a seven-day getaway for $1,082 per person, including airfare and transportation in March. According to Palmer, this package would normally be around $1,500 per person during spring break. For those who wish to turn their work or study into a vacation abroad, longer stays can save a traveler up to 60 percent at an all-inclusive resort in Mexico or the Dominican Republic.

For those who are hoping to rebook that once-in-a-lifetime trip to Europe they were forced to cancel in 2020, Palmer would advise waiting. Countries like Italy and Germany are currently closed to United States citizens, as are others.

TravelandLeisure.com has a page dedicated to updating where Americans can travel abroad currently. Reach it by going to the website and typing “where can Americans travel” in the search bar.

Airlines are operating and well-priced flights abound. In fact, right now there are no change fees, but keep in mind that the airlines will not give credit on the unused portion if the new ticket price is lower. For instance, if the ticket was $500 and the flight is canceled and rebooked, even if the rate on the new date is $250, there will not be a refund or credit.

Another challenge when bookingairfare? Some airline companies are filling planes with fewer passengers and, with fewer planes in the air, this can make it difficult to find a seat on a specific flight.

“Right now,” says Palmer, “everyone has to be open to change. We have to reassess and rethink how we are doing travel.”

Currently, cruise lines are on pause in the United States but are booking for later in 2021 and into 2022 and 2023. The cruise industry has been proactive, and according to Palmer, cruising is great for multi-generational travel because there is something aboard for everyone in the family.

The fact is, cruise ships are still being built, and while hundreds sit in port now, some will sail the high seas starting in May 2021. Instead of offering a “sale,” they are offering perks, according to Aaron Saunders for CruiseCritic.com. These perks range from discounted deposits to packages that include “everything from complimentary gratuities, Wi-Fi internet plans, beverage packages and more.”

Staying close to home is perceived to be safer and, therefore, domestic travel is on many agendas this summer. If the plan is to travel within the state, Colorado.com is a tremendous asset. Colorado.com is the Colorado Tourism Office’s website.

On National Plan for Vacation day, Jan. 26, the Colorado Tourism Office released a sampling of offers available to summertime travelers. Offers range from a $200 resort credit to Garden of the Gods to 30 percent off a six-night stay at Beaver Run Resort in Breckenridge. In addition to the stay discount, Beaver Run is throwing in a $60 gift card that can be used at any onsite restaurant or the in-house spa. See all the deals at Colorado.com/national-plan-vacation-day.

Last year, the Colorado Tourism Office’s COLO-Road Trips were more popular than ever. At Colorado.com/colo-road-trips visitors can browse by city, activity, region, trip length or season. COLO-Road Trips has itineraries like the pet-friendly “A Southern Colorado Road Trip,” which takes the visitor on a three-night jaunt from farm markets in Pueblo to hot springs in the San Luis Valley to the newest brewery in Salida.

COLO-Road Trips suggests what to do, where to stay and even has dining options. It is the perfect accompaniment when planning summer vacations around the state.

If it is a far-flung island or a destination close to home, it is more important than ever to know the rules regarding travel. Even from state to state and town to town the guidelines change. Knowing what to expect and what is expected is advisable.

 

Heidi Kerr-Schlaefer is a freelance writer from Loveland. She is the founder of HeidiTown.com and covers travel, festivals and The West. To comment on this article,emailletters@nocostyle.com.