Booking Flights in Advance: How Early is Too Early?
By: Cree Robinson It’s no secret that 2020 was one heck of a year, and I’m sure for a lot of us, one of the most unpredictable of our lifetime. For the majority of us, 2020 was spent on lock down, inside our places of residence wondering when life would return to normal. Now that 2021 has finally graced us with its presence, many of us travel addicts, wanderlusters, and busy bodies
are beginning to experience what feels like a glimmer of hope that we may be able to travel again...soon.
Now, the question is “when”? As more and more vaccination rollouts are underway, when can we actually look forward to laying out on the beaches of Jamaica, posing for pics for the 'gram? According to travel experts, things are expected to slowly begin opening up this year, however until that happens, there is still a lot of uncertainty around when it is actually safe to travel and many parts of the world are still advising against it (although, the CDC has recently released an update that those who have been fully vaccinated are safe to travel after 2 weeks).
However, that doesn’t mean we can’t begin booking our flights for future trips. Even though there are some restrictions, most airlines are still offering bookings to various destinations. There are some important factors to consider though when making the decision to book your flight early or not, namely, flight cancellation policies and entry restrictions.
If you do decide to book your trips in advance, reviewing the cancellation policies before doing so is an absolute must if you want to avoid losing money. Last year, I had to cancel a total of 4 trips, 2 for which I had already bought tickets for and 1 for which I was able to get an unrestricted travel credit.
What I mean by unrestricted travel credit is that the credit could be applied towards any type of flight as long as it is used within 2 years of the purchase date. Thus, the one trip that came out unscathed, was a girls’ trip to Cancun and we will be able to book our same plans down the line.
The second trip was supposed to be a 2.5 week long stay in Kinshasa, DRC in December 2020. However, when my partner and I cancelled that trip our options were 1) to use the flight within a year of purchase (by May 2021), or 2) receive a credit for the full amount of the ticket, but lose the ability to apply the credit towards flights booked through a partner airline. At the time, we knew that we would not be able to travel freely by May, so we chose option 2. Unfortunately, we didn’t realize that half of our trip would be carried out through partner airlines, so we will now only be able to apply our credits towards half of the trip and will be forced to pay for the other half of the trip out of pocket.
The difference between the two scenarios is that the Cancun trip was booked before the start of Covid in February, and the Kinshasa trip was booked during the peak of Covid in May. Thus, be sure to review how the timing of your purchase may affect your ability to receive an unrestricted credit.
The second most important factor to consider is the strictness of entry rules of the destinations you are traveling to. While some countries like Dubai are open to travelers, they require a negative Covid test no more than 3 days before entry. Other countries like New Zealand have kept their borders completely closed to travelers. Make sure to visit your destination’s embassy site to check that their borders are open, and if they are, ensure that you have met all of the necessary requirements, or you will be prevented from entering the country.
All in all, we’re not out of the woods yet when it comes to safe travel, but we’re getting there, and booking trips in advance doesn’t seem as risky as it did 6 months ago. As long as you are doing your due diligence and taking the necessary precautions, I’d say it’s perfectly reasonable to grab your favorite drink, snuggle up on the couch, and facetime your friends as you browse through hotel options for your next adventure; which, could happen much sooner than we think.