Should You Book Travel Now For Later In 2021? What You Need To Know

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to rage across the globe, non-essential travel is still off the table. But many would-be travelers are holding out hope for later this year. “Safety has rightly been the top priority for many people during the COVID-19 pandemic, but with news on vaccine readiness and approvals being granted around the world, we see the appetite for travel in 2021 growing,” said Mark Crossey, U.S. traveler expert for Skyscanner. “The events of 2020 have underscored the importance of human connection and quality time with loved ones, and we know from our website traffic and customer behavior that travelers are turning their gaze to later this year,” he added.

“We predict that many customers will prioritize spending on experiences over material goods in 2021, looking to make special memories with loved ones.” But if you’re thinking ahead to potential travel later this year, should you go ahead and book things now ― or wait until you have a better sense of what’s feasible down the road? Below, Crossey and other experts share their advice.

Take advantage of good deals that come with flexibility. With recreational travel at a low, there are some surprisingly inexpensive flight options right now. Crossey noted that “fares are still cheaper than normal seasonal trends.” At the same time, airlines have responded to the pandemic by making their cancellation and rebooking processes more flexible. Because of this, TripScout co-founder and CEO Konrad Waliszewski recommend booking your next trip, even knowing there’s a chance you’ll have to postpone or cancel it.


“If you’re planning any post-pandemic trips, book now,” he advised. “It’s unlikely you will ever see better prices, availability, and perks again ― but make sure it’s a flexible booking you can change for any reason. Travelers who decide to wait until the pandemic has stabilized will miss out on this rare opportunity as they compete with the millions of travelers eagerly trying to satisfy their pent-up wanderlust.” The Points Guy founder and CEO Brian Kelly echoed this sentiment, noting amazing deals. He also advised booking a trip with airline miles, sitting unused for most people over the past year.

“Almost every airline will give you your miles back if you don’t want to take the trip because they’ve gotten rid of redeposit fees, so it’s like booking a refundable ticket,” he said. Although airlines have generally done away with change fees, another reason to book with airline miles instead of dollars is that you then hold onto your cash, which would become airline voucher money if you change your plans. “You can’t pay rent with an airline voucher,” Kelly noted. “So I recommend I book a trip with miles and a refundable hotel, so if you cannot take it, you can get your miles back, and you aren’t out any cash.”

Read the fine print.

While airlines and other travel vendors have generally adopted more flexible cancellation and rescheduling policies over the past year, this phenomenon is by no means universal, so it’s essential always to read the fine print. “Not all airlines are being as flexible, and every airline differs and is constantly updating their policies,” said Jeremy Prout, director of security solutions for International SOS. “I encourage anyone traveling to ensure they have read and understood the most up-to-date airline cancellation policies.

In regards to flexibility persisting for a long time, we are a year into the pandemic, and many of us know the risks associated with travel, which allows airlines and hotels to change these flexible policies, as when you book, you know the risks associated and are still doing so willingly.” Melanie Fish, a travel expert at Vrbo, told HuffPost that their hosts set their own rules, and although many have increased cancellation flexibility during the pandemic, there is a range. Lodging may also be less flexible, so pay attention to your booking terms when you reserve a hotel room or home rental.

“It comes down to personal preference,” Fish said. “One reason to wait could be that local government travel restrictions will not overrule a host’s cancellation policy. So let’s say the beach you’re going to shuts down. It doesn’t necessarily nullify the rental contract for the house on that beach. Some travelers wait to book closer to their travel date to feel confident guidelines from health authorities or local travel restrictions make it possible to travel.”

Fish and Crossey noted that their travel platforms offer flexible booking policy filters in their search functions. If you understand and feel comfortable with the cancellation policies for your trip, there’s little harm in booking it so that you have the option should you feel safe traveling at that point. Still, Waliszewski advised being mindful of which vendors you use, given the economic impact of the pandemic on the travel industry. “Avoid booking with lesser-known booking sites and supplierswithe a higher risk of near-term bankruptcy,” he noted.

Keep up with public health guidance.

“We’ve seen how engaged our community is as behaviors on our site have changed in line with the evolving news agenda and government advice,” Crossey said. “Before planning your next flight, I strongly recommend reading the coronavirus travel advice from your local authorities and governments as well as the guidance from the World Health Organization.”

Suppose you decide to go forward with your travel planning process. In that case, booking flexible flights and lodging in advance gives you more time to conduct in-depth research on your chosen destination’s state of COVID-19, restrictions, and risks to mitigate. As your trip approaches, stay updated with the evolving pandemic situation at home and your destination, and be prepared for adjustments.

“We are amid a pandemic and fighting against a novel virus that we truly still know little about, even a year into it,” Prout said. “This virus is constantly changing and evolving, reflected in the recent news around multiple new and more contagious strains found in parts of Europe and now in the United States. With this, we cannot predict whether certain states or countries will go into another lockdown if restrictions increase in the coming months, and more, all of which can heavily impact travel plans.”

Consider a “fixation.”

“The pandemic has ushered in some interesting new travel behaviors, and many families are discovering new and different ways to get away together,” Fish said. She noted that Vrbo has observed a rise in “flexion,” which combines “work or school with vacation time, taking road trips, and visiting the great outdoors.” Families rent homes for longer periods and mix remote work with vacation time, often in places that offer fishing, hiking, and camping.

“Many people are still working from home, and employers are offering more flexible remote work policies, which means families have the freedom to keep flexcationing and take longer vacations,” Fish explained. Instead of returning to the exact popular locations year after year, she advised looking for off-the-beaten-path destinations. This approach tends to be more affordable, presents fewer COVID-19 risks, and “can be a refreshing experience,” she added.

If you don’t want to book, try planning anyway. Even if you decide not to book any flights, hotels, or outings, it may still be a pleasant experience to spend some of this extended time at home researching travel options and putting together your dream itineraries. Psychology research over the years has found that planning a trip can boost your mental health. Kelly has indeed found this to be true, even during the pandemic. “I recommend at least planning,” he said. “Just planning a trip releases endorphins, at least for me. And I think it’s a great time to research your next trip.”

Tyson Houlding
I’m a lifestyle blogger with a passion for writing, photography, and exploring new places. I started this blog when I was 18 years old to share what I was learning about the world with family and friends. I’ve since grown into a freelance writer, blogger, and photographer with a growing audience. I hope you find inspiration and motivation while reading through my work!