Do we really need a crystal ball?

I can’t blame anyone for asking me to look in my crystal ball. That one that has insight into the world of travel amongst the wilderness that is Covid. After all, don’t we all want to know when we can expect to be lounging on a beach, enjoying that long overdue reunion with overseas family, or finally ticking No. 3 off the bucket list?

If I got a pound for every time someone asked me when I think is the right time to book that holiday they’ve been longing for, I’d be in a very different place to the refund-heavy/commission-payback situation in which I’ve found myself for the last 9 months.

However, I can stick my neck out and make a few observations as someone close to the coalface, compared to what we knew even a few weeks ago….

There has been yet another grounding of holidays, cancelling of flights and issuing of government advice against travel. Yet more re-bookings for later dates, holding of deposits to be re-booked in due course, and credits & vouchers issued. On top of the Everest-sized pile of such secondary bookings already in existence, there lies another stash of demand on supply taking up hotel rooms and flight seats that almost every single human being would give their right arm for when the time is right. Either that or those recently amended bookings have turned into refunds which will, in turn, likely turn into re-bookings essentially adding to the number of people who are intending to book those items.

So what happens when “the time is right”? ie. When restrictions lift, or look pretty certain to, and people get their confidence back? Envisaging the olden days of the Next Sale on the first morning or Harrods on Boxing Day won’t even come close, even if it is all virtual and you won’t have to relinquish those newly-learned social distancing skills you’ve been polishing throughout 2020.

Ask yourself which booker you are….

Are you the booker who will have enough leeway on your budget that the anticipated 14-20% increase in prices won’t make you shudder and you’ll be in a financial position to accept the hike, pay the difference and swan off to the top of the wish list you’ve been adding to on a monthly basis throughout the last year of anguish.

Are you the holidaymaker who is comfortable enough with the risk of a £59pp deposit to get a seat on a plane and a bum in a bed at near-to 2019 prices, even if it you’re not 100% convinced you’ll end up able to take the trip or need to accept the quarantine rules on that chosen destination at the time?

Are you the risk averse (not meant with any hint of judgement, believe me) traveller who will only board a plane when masks have been removed and no anxiety over Covid-test results will spoil your well-earned break, but happy to accept that prices may not be the same for years and palm trees on Torquay’s promenade may be as exotic as you get for the coming few years?

It honestly doesn’t matter which you are, but I would urge you to consider what a holiday means to you. Is it imperative you get somewhere worthy of the cover page of Conde Nast Traveller in the next year for the sake of your mental health although budgets, quite frankly, still matter? Or is it essential you feel wholly comfortable with the world of international travel and everything it means on the shores of a global pandemic before committing (or part-committing, in the context of low deposit travel) to a future trip?

The tips I will insist on giving you ALL, and where I don’t need a crystal ball to do so, are:

  • Work with a GOOD operator / travel agent, not a virtual online robot. Make sure you can pick up the phone to someone and have a conversation, so that should anything happen at any point, you can have a conversation with a human being. Ok, they won’t always know the answer immediately (let’s face it, even the PM doesn’t) but they WILL always find out and WILL always help you.
  • Ensure you get as comprehensive a travel insurance policy as you possibly can. There are policies that do include Covid-related issues so do your homework.
  • Book a package. Unless it’s super low budget and you’re happy to risk it, the days of booking separate elements should honestly be put on hold if you want reassurance in the knowledge you’ve got as many layers of protection you possibly can have.
  • Shop for holidays with your eyes wide open, think outside the box and assess your risk. (Or ask someone else to!)

As an independent travel consultant running the most precarious of businesses alongside events organisers (and hospitality to a certain extent) I have been conscientiously listing operators with whom I endeavour to work with for the foreseeable future alongside those who I have sadly black-listed due to unacceptable behaviour amidst the surreal realm of cancellation and refund claims in 2020. I am very happy to look at any holiday ideas you may have, along with any quotes you may already have received, to ensure that you are as covered as I feel you possibly can be.

When you travel again, enjoy every moment. You’ll be travelling in masks, you’ll be socially distancing at airports, you may be quarantining while awaiting results, but if this has become mainstream enough in your life to not be a big deal, then don’t let it. Otherwise, allow yourself to continue to revel in what is on your own fair shores until your heart is telling you it’s time.

No crystal ball required, it’s entirely your call.

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