We answer this question and ones about destinations no longer permitting U.S. visitors, where to use your vacation time, and more in this month’s edition of our travel advice column.
Q. “Earlier this year, I booked a non-refundable trip for this fall. I no longer feel comfortable traveling. Am I out of luck, or can I get any money back?” – TS
A. The terms of non-refundable trips are usually pretty strict, and don’t offer any sort of refund or credit if you cancel a trip. Read through the fine print on the trip that you booked—some may at least allow you to change the trip date to a later date (although often at a fee) if you’re no longer able to travel.
Omar Kaywan, co-founder of Goose Insurance, also recommends checking with the credit card you booked the trip on. “Some credit cards offer trip cancellation protection if you have purchased your entire trip cost on that credit card,” says Kaywan.
Q. “Are there any options for travelers if they booked a non-refundable flight to a destination that is no longer allowing visitors from the U.S.?” – DS
A. Many airlines are still waiving change fees (even on non-refundable flights), so it’s worth seeing if you can at least push your flight date out. If your ticket is non-refundable and no changes are allowed, there’s no point in cancelling your ticket yourself. Instead, wait it out and see if the airline changes or cancels your flight (which is likely if they don’t have any demand for a destination that’s not letting in American travelers). If the airline is the one to cancel or change your flight, you’ll get a refund even if your ticket is non-refundable.
Q. “I have vacation time that I have to use or lose before the end of the year, but I’m at a loss at where I can actually go. Any advice on how to pick a destination?” – KT
A. Don’t let that vacation time go to waste! There are a few things to consider when picking a vacation destination this year. Think about the level of risk you’re comfortable with (do you want to stick to road trips only, or are you okay flying?) If you’re fine with flying, take a look at Google’s Explore feature which will show you flight options for flexible dates and let you filter by flight time, number of stops, and even by interests. If you’re flying, I recommend choosing a nonstop route (which prevents stress over canceled/delayed flights and dealing with COVID-19 rules at multiple destinations).
Next, consult the U.S. State Department’s website to see the COVID risk level at the destination you’re considering. Finally, take a look at the embassy website for the country you want to visit to see what entry rules are (so you can decide if your trip is worth quarantining or COVID testing). The embassy website will also tell you what kind of restrictions you can expect on your vacation—for example, if restaurants and indoor attractions will be open.
Q. “I’m fully vaccinated and plan on traveling to Europe soon, but I keep seeing mentions of a vaccine passport over there. Will my U.S. vaccination card be accepted abroad?” -JD
A. Member states within the European Union (E.U.) have adopted the E.U. Digital COVID Certificate, a tool that easily shows proof of vaccination. Unfortunately, American travelers are not eligible to get the certificate.
Acceptance of the U.S. vaccination card varies by country, with some countries allowing it as proof of vaccination and others not accepting it at all. Check with the embassy website for the country you’re visiting to find out what you’ll need to bring for proof of vaccination.
Q. “I’m planning a bunch of fall hiking trips and need a jacket that I can pack without taking up all the space in my carry-on. Any suggestions?” -CM
A. My Patagonia Nano Puff Jacket has lasted me through years of hiking and is still going strong. This ultra-packable jacket is incredibly lightweight but offers an impressive amount of insulation. It’s water-repellent, so it will keep you dry in a summit drizzle or snow flurry. This is the jacket I reach for when I’m short on packing space but need a decent amount of warmth.
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