But do not worry. There are solutions.
Perhaps the best advice is to have a little patience. As vaccines continue to be distributed, travelers should expect the problems with covidies to slowly subside. Last week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention revised their recommendations for those vaccinated, essentially giving them the green light to travel again.
It’s just the beginning. Soon, refunds for canceled reservations will start to progress faster. Flight schedules will be a little less mercurial. And maybe travel will become less of an uncertain thing.
Until then, here are the common travel problems and solutions:
Problem: Obtain a refund for a canceled trip.
Solution: Persistence – and a reliable credit card.
Unfortunately, many travelers are still waiting for refunds. If you are among them, you already know that persistence is important. Gentle – and especially polite – pressure can usually work. But not always. If a travel agent has promised you a refund for six to eight weeks, consider a dispute over your credit card. Under the Fair Credit Billing Act, you can ask your credit card issuer to deny travel service charges waived by the provider.
Problem: An involuntary rescheduling.
Solution: The terms and conditions.
Unintentional rescheduling “is an inevitable problem,” says Maya Hanna Saad, travel consultant at Bluewater Travel, a company specializing in diving travel. Fortunately, many carriers offer customers some form of free rescheduling to keep them happy. But you have to be prepared to accept credit, as opposed to a full refund.
“If your operator cancels your trip and doesn’t offer any compensation, contact them first and say exactly what you’re looking to achieve,” says Saad. Keep everything in writing, Saad says, and bring in someone higher up, like a vice president or CEO, if necessary.
Ultimately, your right to a refund is found in the terms and conditions of your purchase. But here’s a pro tip: Some travel companies have tried to change their terms and conditions retroactively to avoid having to pay full refunds during the pandemic. Do not search for terms online; instead, check the fine print of the agreement you signed when booking your trip. (If you book online, make an impression.)
Problem: Not knowing what might happen when you leave.
Solution: Research, research, research.
Everything is on hold for travelers like Elaine Deutsch. She booked a week at a resort in Kauai, one of the Hawaiian Islands, for this spring, but says there are too many uncertainties for her to afford the plane ticket. “Who knows what’s going to happen?” said Deutsch, a docent at the Oakland Zoo. She’s also scheduled a week in Palm Desert, Calif., For later this year, but that too is on hold. “I would like to think we can take another trip at some point,” she said.
The fix is more research. The pandemic has complicated health-related travel rules – more likely to change from place to place and from day to day. You need the tenacity of a librarian to master them. But the travelers do the job. “People are becoming better informed and understanding entry requirements and travel restrictions,” says Christina Tunnah, Managing Director for the Americas at World Nomads, a travel insurance company.
Problem: Other travelers.
Solution: Action plan.
Travelers who refuse to mask themselves or practice social distancing are a significant concern for people with future travel plans. You can do everything right while coming home sick.
Erica James, a Nashville travel agent, has just returned from a business trip to Jamaica. The resorts where she stayed required guests to wear a mask when ordering at the bar or buffet. But elsewhere, there were no rules, and the guests behaved like it was still 2019. But James had a plan.
“The best way to handle a situation like this is to protect yourself and take care of yourself,” she says. “That’s all you can do. If people reach my six feet of space, I move to another area. If I am in line and someone is too close to me, I have asked the person to please give me my six feet.
Her advice: figure out what you’re going to do with others before you go.
Let’s get one thing straight as we enter the 2021 travel season. “The biggest travel problem is covid-19,” says Heather Hatcher, director of charter management at IYC, an international yachting company.
No wonder travelers are now planning their 2021 trips in great detail or are consulting professionals. But as more and more people get vaccinated, this year will start to look a little more normal – and a little less scary.
Elliott is a consumer advocate, journalist and co-founder of advocacy group Travelers United. Email him at [email protected]