Travel Agents Offer Up Advice for Pandemic Travel

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DES MOINES, Iowa — Many people had trips or vacations they were looking forward to in 2020, which of course were canceled or postponed due to the pandemic. Travelers are quickly learning that 2021 may not be the year to stamp their passport either.

Pandemic or not, this is the time of year people are wanting to pack their bags, hop on a plane, and fly somewhere warm. Many probably thought they would be able to, especially after receiving travel vouchers from last year’s canceled flights and plans. Local travel agents say that may be easier said than done.

“We are actually on our third round of rebooking a lot of our clients, mostly the clients who have booked cruises,” Jody Valentine, a wedding navigator with Allied Travel, said. 

“A lot of deadlines seem to be around the end of 2021, which at the time was, we thought, plenty of time,” Valentine explained. “But really by the end of 2021, we’re not even sure that things are going to be different enough that people are going to feel comfortable traveling.”

If you have a travel voucher, agents advise reading the fine print for deadlines. Each one is different, depending on the supplier you bought it from and when the trip was originally booked.

“It depends on who the supplier is and that’s part of the challenge because there’s no blanket answer,” Mary Phillips, general manager of International Travel Associates, said. “I wish it was easier and we can say, ‘well, every trip is going to be good until 2022 and you can use the whole value towards your next trip,’ but that just isn’t the case.”

They advise travelers to be flexible, book with a travel agent, and purchase cancel for any reason trip insurance.

“Don’t be afraid to travel,” Phillips said. “Just be aware, be aware of what’s happening, and know that if you book your trip today, for two months from now, you better keep checking what the new restrictions are because they change so much.”

The two travel agents think people are realizing the value of their occupation because there’s a lot of things to think about: safety procedures and protocols, different country’s restrictions, travel insurance, the list goes on.

Both travel agents said they’re booking quite a few trips to Mexico because that’s the only destination right now that doesn’t have any restrictions to enter the country.

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