5 On Your Side

Need to get away? What to consider before traveling

Posted February 1, 2021 4:12 p.m. EST
Updated February 2, 2021 10:20 a.m. EST

Have you been dreaming of an escape or a vacation like everyone used to enjoy?

“I cannot wait for things to get back to normal,” said Thomas Pouzel, of Morrisville.

Experts say it depends on your comfort level for when that can happen.

“As we look at 2021, we’re really looking at it as the tale of two years," says Chip Rogers, with the American Hotel and Lodging Association. "The first half of the year is going to be terrible. In fact, it may be worse than what we saw in 2020, but [in] the second half of 2021, we believe there’ll be a significant recovery.”

A recent survey shows just 14 percent of Americans have booked an out-of-state trip for this year.

"So people are kind of still in a holding pattern when it comes to planning a vacation," said Christopher Elliott, a Washington Post columnist. "They’re waiting until they can actually get the vaccine, some of them, and a lot of them, even if they do have the vaccine, they’re still feeling a little bit nervous about traveling for spring break. So they’re postponing their trips until the summer or even until the early fall.”

Early in the pandemic, Raleigh resident Ayrieal Clark and her family took trips to the mountains and beach. Then, she tested positive for COVID-19.

“Experiencing it and seeing everybody that’s going through it now and dying, it’s hard," said Clark. "You have kids, and you just have to take the safest route.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend against most international travel. If you do leave the U.S., to return you’re now required to have a negative COVID-19 test within the last three days.

So, if you book that Caribbean resort, book a Caribbean COVID-19 test, too.

“I guess once we see how we’re doing with getting more and more people vaccinated, and once we see the numbers start to come down, maybe then we’ll start to feel like it’s a little safer,” said Dr. Amy Stallings, a Duke University Health System physician.

“Once you feel as a consumer that it’s safe to travel, there is no better time than right now," said Rogers. "First and foremost, the prices are going to be the best that you’ve ever seen and maybe the best you ever will see."

Elliott said people’s uncertainty about travel plans are keeping crowds low and helping to drive those prices down.

“They’re waiting to the last minute. A lot of the hotels and airlines are going to start discounting their products to get more people to book,” said Elliott.

“I’m hoping [to go] by my birthday in March, but I doubt it,” said Clark.

All travel, whether by air or on the road, presents risks for contracting the virus. Terminals, hotels, restaurants and restrooms expose you to people outside of your bubble.

An incentive to book now, beyond the low prices, is that many hotels and cruise lines now offer refunds if you change your mind. Many airlines also dropped change fees.

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