Last year, we planned a trip to Iceland during the time when they opened up to fully vaccinated visitors, with no testing requirements. This was our first trip that included flights since February 2020, but we still had two road trips planned, with stays in Airbnbs. After our experiences on the Iceland trip and our return to Texas in August, we were more comfortable returning to our previous style of traveling.
That meant flying instead of driving, and staying in hotels instead of Airbnbs. While we learned a lot over two years of road trips staying at cabins/apartments, it was nice to get back to our “normal.”
I hoped we’d soon be back to our usual traveling schedule, which meant getting away every 4-to-6 weeks, usually for long weekends. However, that won’t be the case this summer and into the fall.
I was concerned about what would happen when COVID restrictions were lifted but I wasn’t expecting these problems to keep us from planning more trips, particularly short weekend getaways:
Sky High Prices
If you’ve checked prices for travel this summer or even into the fall, you undoubtedly discovered that prices are higher than in recent memory. With most programs using some form of dynamic pricing model, booking with miles or points doesn’t provide a considerable discount.
I was looking for a short trip to New York this August. These were the best prices I could find for flights but the flight times are horrible.
The prices are at least double if I’m looking for a mid-morning departure time.
For hotels in New York, forget about finding anything less than $200 a night before additional fees and taxes are added. With points, even the budget properties, like the Moxy, are going for 50,000+ Bonvoy points/night.
The Hyatt Grand Central is going for 20,000 World of Hyatt points.
To put this in context, I could travel to New York for a weekend if needed, but these prices make a fun weekend trip a poor value.
There’s another reason I’m not booking any quick getaways:
When you’re going away for just 1 or 2 nights, any trip delay significantly decreases the amount of time at your destination. That’s not even mentioning if you’re traveling to see a show or a concert.
Every airline is having operational challenges that show no signs of easing. While some are doing better or worse than the others, there’s no sure bet when it comes to being sure you’re going to get to your destination on time, or at all.
When we’re making a quick trip, it’s usually for a specific reason. If I really need to be somewhere, I’m planning extra time in case of delays or cancellations. If I can’t manage the extra time, I reconsider whether the trip is worth it.
Over the past 2 years, many of our travel decisions were based on the risk of contracting COVID-19 during the trip. Thus our preference for road trips and staying at Airbnb locations for much of 2020 and 2021. While we have no doubts that COVID isn’t gone, attempting to avoid 100% of the situations where we might meet someone contagious isn’t our primary concern anymore. Instead, we’re thinking about the consequences of getting sick before or during our travels.
Airlines and hotels have removed most of their COVID-friendly travel policies. Gone are the cancellations with no-questions-asked and full refunds and we’re back to non-refundable bookings and travel credits. Therefore, you’ll have a heck of a time trying to get all of your money or miles and points back if you test positive just before your trip. I’ve seen plenty of Tweets with fully vaxxed people getting sick and testing positive over the past few weeks.
Sure, you can take our travel insurance to cover your non-refundable expenses, but that’s an extra expense on top of the already elevated prices. Is all of this hassle worth it for a quick weekend getaway?
When we’re getting ready to go on a big trip, I go back to my routine of staying away from crowded places, masking everywhere and limiting my time around others. It’s worth it to limit my risk of having to cancel the entire trip.
Finally, there’s always a risk of catching COVID (or any other sickness) during your travels. With most restrictions lifted, many people think it’s OK to go back to how they acted in 2019, including traveling if you’re sick. If you didn’t see it, an online poll found that 25% of people think it’s OK to get on a plane even if you tested positive for COVID. WTH?
That might not be a real-world number, but I’ve also seen numerous posts from people who travel often saying how people on their flight were sniffling or coughing and not wearing masks. Traveling is a risky behavior, so the reason I’m going somewhere needs to be worth it. Getting away for a day or two isn’t worth the risk involved with traveling.
Before you go and say that I need to stop worrying and live my life, know that we have plenty of travel planned for this summer. We have several trips planned, including our first cruise in about 5 years, so it’s not that we’ll be staying home. It’s more that we have to consider if the cost is worth the benefit. I don’t mind if we get in a few hours or even a day late for longer trips. I also don’t mind being careful before the trip to make sure I’ll be able to travel.
However, when it comes to the quick getaways, we’re going to avoid the flights and stick to road trips where there’s less hassle about canceling last minute, if necessary.
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