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9 Important Holiday Travel Tips for 2021

SmarterTravel

Summer has barely ended, but it’s already time to start planning your holiday travel for 2021. The pandemic adds a complication to this already hectic travel season, but here are nine tips that can make your holiday travel cheaper and easier this year.

Book Early

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Holiday travel will only get more expensive the longer you wait. According to travel site Hopper, you should book no later than Halloween to score the best prices for Thanksgiving travel. Starting in November, domestic airfare prices are estimated to increase by about 40 percent. 

For Christmas travel, Hopper recommends booking no later than Thanksgiving, in order to avoid the biggest price spikes. 

Be Flexible With Travel Dates

Take advantage of flexible work-from-home policies and extend your holiday trip if possible. You’ll save a lot of money if you can avoid flying on the most popular travel dates like Sunday November 28 and Sunday December 26. 

Use Google Flight’s calendar feature which will show you airfare prices for an entire month at a glance, letting you easily see which dates are the cheapest to fly.

Prepare for Long Lines

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The TSA has suffered from staffing shortage this year, and with a high volume of travelers predicted for holiday travel, you can expect long lines at airport security. Staffing shortages have impacted nearly all aspects of the travel industry, which will likely cause long lines at all points of the travel process, like rental car counters and hotel front desks, so be sure to leave plenty of extra time for car returns and checking out. 

International travelers should also be ready for long lines at airport check-ins. As many destinations (including the U.S.) require COVID-19 tests and forms to be verified before boarding, the days of online check-ins for international flights are pretty much gone. Leave plenty of time to check-in in person, and know that the process will take much longer as documents are manually evaluated.

Invest in TSA PreCheck

Even if you’re fully-vaccinated, you should still make an effort to social distance wherever possible—which isn’t an option in a crowded airport security line. Minimize your time spent in line by signing up for a TSA PreCheck membership now.  

Reserve Your Rental Car Now

Need a rental car for your holiday travel? Book it now—but hedge your bets with a refundable reservation. According to Expedia, average rental car rates for the holiday time periods are currently trending downward, but historically, prices have increased closer to the holidays. If you book a refundable rate now, you can keep an eye on rental car prices and rebook if prices continue to drop—but you’ll also have that low rate locked in if prices spike.

Consider Travel Insurance

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Travel insurance probably won’t be economical if you’re only protecting a $200 domestic flight, but if you’re splurging on a pricey international vacation, travel insurance is a good idea this year. Just make sure your policy will cover your trip if you have to cancel due to illness, changes in entry requirements, or if you get stuck abroad due to a positive COVID-19 test. 

Pick Flexible Fares

A growing number of airlines are offering free changes on even basic economy fares, so try to book with one of those carriers if you can, even if it means paying a little more than the competition. This will give you much-needed flexibility in case your holiday plans have to change this year. With free changes, you won’t need a reason or any kind of documentation to make a change to your ticket. 

Always Check Travel Requirements

Keep an eye on travel requirements at your destination up to the day that you depart, as regulations are constantly changing. You don’t want to find out at the airport that you needed a negative COVID-19 test to travel. Check the U.S. State Department website as well as the website of the airline you’re traveling on to find the most up-to-date requirements. 

Follow CDC Travel Guidelines

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently released their guidelines for holiday travel. The guidelines are:

CDC recommends delaying travel until you are fully vaccinated.

  • If you are not fully vaccinated and must travel, follow CDC’s Domestic Travel or International Travel recommendations for unvaccinated people.
  • If you will be traveling with unvaccinated people, such as children younger than 12 who are not eligible for vaccines, follow recommendations for unvaccinated people and choose the safer travel options.
  • Everyone, even people who are fully vaccinated, will still be required to wear a mask on public transportation.
  • If you are considering traveling for a holiday or event, visit CDC’s Travel page to help you decide what is best for you and your family.

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