Mike Gnitecki had an ambitious trip to Italy planned for this summer - a two-week tour of Rome, Milan and Florence. But halfway through booking his first getaway in more than a year, he decided to cancel it.
“Airline ticket prices are abnormally high,” says Gnitecki, who works for a fire department in Tyler, Texas. Flights in economy class from Dallas to Rome this summer are pushing the $2,000 mark, which is roughly twice as much as he is used to paying. Even though Italy recently announced it would allow tourists back, Gnitecki felt the timing was wrong.
Gnitecki isn’t alone. Andy Smith, a retired IT specialist from Charlottesville, Va., had mapped out an ambitious road trip for this summer to visit friends and relatives in Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona and California. But high hotel prices and predictions of once-in-a-generation summer crowds gave him second thoughts. He decided to hold off for a few months.
“I’m waiting until after Labor Day, hoping things will have calmed down by then, as children return to school,” Smith says.
There is no one-size-fits-all answer to the question, “Should I cancel my summer vacation?” “Travel is definitely a personal and private choice,” says John Lovell, president of Travel Leaders Group. “Each consumer makes their own decision.”
“There are so many variables to consider,” says Cathy Udovch, a travel counselor with TravelStore in Irvine, Calif. Crowds and high prices can be considerations, but she says most of her clients are worried about health - specifically, covid-19 infection rates.
“If there’s a spike in cases, or a new variant emerges that may make the vaccine less effective, that would be a reason to cancel,” she adds.
Experts say you should monitor the situation at your destination closely. If you are traveling domestically, check local covid-19 infection rates or state tourism websites. Internationally, consult the State Department website for reliable safety information.
And if you opt to cancel? “Make sure you understand the terms and conditions of the company you booked with,” advises Guy Young, president of Insight Vacations and Luxury Gold Vacations. “Many companies have been more flexible in allowing guests to reschedule their trips.”
Few travelers take the time to read the fine print on their tour agreement or cruise ticket contract, so they don’t find out what is in it until they want to cancel. That is a mistake. The contract spells out when you can cancel and whether you are entitled to a refund or a credit.
Carolyn Paddock, owner of the luxury travel advisory service In-Flight Insider, recommends making a cancellation decision as soon as possible, so you don’t lose your deposit. She has been keeping track of the time for one family with a scheduled tour of Grand Teton and Yellowstone national parks. Instead of canceling, she rescheduled the trip for 2022.
Also, beware of new cancellation fees.
“A number of hotels, airlines and vacation rentals have raised their cancellation fees because of the volume of cancellations and refunds they had to deal with in 2020,” says Andrew Williams, a travel adviser with Ovation Travel Group. “Make sure you check each vendor’s cancellation and refund policy before submitting your request.”
How do you ensure you don’t lose part or all of your trip if you decide to cancel your summer vacation? Careful planning can help, according to travel professionals.
“There are a wide variety of risks when traveling,” says Jeremy Murchland, president of the travel insurance company Seven Corners. “If you’re concerned about the potential need to cancel a trip this summer due to anything from sickness to restrictions or high prices, it’s a good idea to have a plan in place that will save you some of the expense.”
That means having an exit strategy before you book your vacation. If you think you might cancel this summer’s vacation, know whether you can rebook the same vacation next summer and potentially also keep your full credit.
Also, consider travel insurance. Most travel insurance covers named perils, which means it only applies in certain specific circumstances. A “cancel for any reason” policy, which costs about twice as much as named-perils insurance, removes most if not all restrictions on cancellation, but you would only recoup 50 to 75 percent of the cost of your trip.
If you’re not working with a travel agent, you may have to negotiate directly with the travel company for a credit or a refund.
“I recommend contacting properties and vendors and asking your questions directly,” says Marci-Beth Maple, a marketing manager for Zicasso, a site that matches travelers with travel advisers. “With so many variables in play and differences from state to state and country to country, go to the right source to get clear answers. One of the biggest mistakes I see is travelers comparing notes online, because individual circumstances are unique, and so are the right solutions for each traveler.”
If you like to avoid crowds and high prices, this may be the summer to cancel your vacation and reschedule for fall, winter or later. Most predictions are calling for the busiest summer for travel in years. And the situation remains unpredictable when it comes to covid-19.
But if you’re thinking of canceling your summer vacation, consider postponing instead of asking for a refund. Travel companies are far more willing to offer a credit than a refund, and will often do so without a penalty or a change fee. But getting a full refund is hard, especially now. You’re better off canceling your summer vacation when you’re still in the planning phase.
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Elliott is a consumer advocate, journalist and co-founder of the advocacy group Travelers United.