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Should I Cancel My June Trip? Take a Flight Credit?

SmarterTravel

Should I cancel my June trip? We answer this question and ones on Disneyland refunds, social distancing on flights, and more in this month’s edition of our travel advice column, Check Your Baggage.

Q. “Should I cancel my trip? It’s to Europe in late June.” – CS

A. I wish I had a one-size-fits-all answer to this question, and I wish that this answer were a definitive “No, don’t cancel.” What we know about COVID-19 changes by the hour, and it’s impossible to predict what the travel situation will look like by the end of June.

The state you live in could affect your answer—some states may be allowing travel by the end of June while others could still have shelter-in-place orders or mandatory quarantines for travelers. Consider whether you would be able to completely quarantine yourself for two weeks upon return from your trip, if necessary.

The European country you’re traveling to would also change the answer. Italy, one of the hardest hit countries, seems highly unlikely to be ready for tourists in June, but a less-impacted country might be. Think about whether you would still want to take your trip if a country is technically open to travelers, but attractions and restaurants were still closed.

Before you make your decision, take a close look at the terms and conditions of your trip. If you’re able to get a refund on your tickets/accommodations right up until your departure date, than there’s certainly no harm in waiting until closer to June to reevaluate. However, some companies may require you to cancel your trip before a certain date in order to receive a refund or credit, in which case you shouldn’t wait if you’re having doubts.

Remember, the decision may wind up being out of your hands anyway if the airline cancels your flight or if borders are still closed by June. If you can’t stand spending the next few months stressing over the uncertainty of your trip, go ahead and postpone or cancel. 

If you can postpone rather than cancel, I urge you to do so. The travel industry desperately needs your help, and, for many hotels, having bookings postponed rather than canceled can mean the difference between reopening and shuttering for good.

Q. “Should I fight with the airline for a refund on my canceled trip, or just take the flight credit?”– AR

A. If the airline canceled your flight, you are legally entitled to a cash refund rather than a credit. Having the cash in hand is always the better option, as you won’t be restricted to using the same airline if you rebook the trip, and you won’t have the time-crunch of an expiring credit.

However, hundreds of thousands of other flyers are fighting for refunds right now, and airline customer service teams are swamped. You’ll need to weigh whether you want to spend hours of your time waiting on hold/for a callback or repeatedly emailing the airline against the simplicity of accepting an automatic credit.

If you don’t need the money right now, and you’re certain you’ll use the flight credit before it expires, there’s certainly no harm in just taking the credit. If you do opt for the credit, set a reminder in your phone/on your calendar to use it before it expires.

Q. “If I need to fly in the near future, are airlines practicing appropriate social distancing on flights?” – ST

A. Most airlines are encouraging social distancing on flights by taking steps such as blocking off middle or aisle seats, reducing the number of passengers on flights, and changing the boarding process.

Delta, for example, is changing its boarding process to load passengers from the back to the front, thereby minimizing the risk of flyers having to walk in a narrow aisle past those who are already seated. Boarding will happen in groups of ten.

Almost all airlines are now allowing flyers to switch seats in order to create more distance between passengers, if there is space available.

However, note that even if middle seats are blocked off, in economy class, it’s unlikely that there would be six feet of space between yourself and the person ahead of or behind you (especially if the person in front of you reclines), unless entire rows are empty. But, with most flights operating at minimal capacity for now, there should be enough space to stretch out. Airlines like Alaska Airlines are allowing customers to rebook or cancel their flight if they feel they aren’t able to practice proper social distancing.

Q. “Some travelers (me among them) have travel vouchers from airlines that we’re unable to use due to travel restrictions. Are any airlines extending the expiration dates on these?” – MG

A. Some airlines are automatically extending voucher expiration dates, some will if only you ask, and others are evaluating requests on a case-by-case basis. The Points Guy has a comprehensive list of voucher extension policies here. When in doubt, reach out to your airline directly for an extension.

Q. “I wonder if you have any thoughts or knowledge on reimbursements from Disneyland. We bought tickets but the park will be closed on our travel dates. I was not able to find anything about refunds.” – AW

A. Unfortunately, the Mouse has no sympathy for you on this one, and Disneyland is not offering refunds on tickets. Single day and multi-day tickets will remain valid until the expiration date indicated on the ticket.

Annual passholders may choose to receive a partial refund on their tickets, or have their passport expiration date extended.

If you booked a vacation package directly through Disney, Disney is waiving any charges and cancellation fees up to the date of check-in for arrivals through June 30, 2020.

Click here to read Disneyland’s complete policy on the park closure.

Q. “Where’s the first place that you’re going to travel with the lockdown is lifted?” – KC

A. I spend a lot of time daydreaming about this question. When restrictions start to ease, I’m going to book an impromptu trip as soon as possible—something easy and within driving distance. I’m picturing: booking a quaint cabin rental in the mountains, hopping in the car with my road-trip playlist blasting, and heading north to New Hampshire’s White Mountains. When I get there, I’m going to do a hike where I’ll see minimal people and spend the entire day outdoors, being active, and not looking at a single screen. In my dreams, the weather is a perfect 70 degrees, the sun is shining, and everyone is healthy.

Got a burning travel question you want to see answered in next month’s column? Do you vehemently disagree with my answers to this month’s questions? Comment below or send me an e-mail at editor@smartertravel.com with the subject line: Check Your Baggage.

Editor’s Note: Submitted questions have been edited for clarity and length.

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Caroline Morse Teel is a Senior Editor at SmarterTravel. Follow her on Instagram @TravelWithCaroline for photos from around the world. 

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