Should You Book Holiday Travel Now?

In the age of the coronavirus, travelers are invariably skittish about planning vacations, and that, of course, extends into the Thanksgiving and December holiday season.

a view of a city at night: Frankfurt Christmas Market

“I think everyone is in a holding pattern at this point, wondering if there will be a resurgence of the virus in the fall,” said Sandy Pappas of Sandy Pappas Travel, a Travel Experts agent. “Hopefully, there will be a treatment soon then and then people will feel more comfortable, and the floodgates will open.”

Not all travelers, however, are putting their holiday travel plans on the backburner.

“The one exception is a stable level of new bookings for Christmas Market riverboat sailings,” said Richard of Turen of Churchill & Turen. “There is a feeling that the Germans, the Austrians and the Swiss will have issues resolved long before our own country.”

Holly Lombardo of Classic Travel Advisors, a Travel Experts agent, said that, at least for now, all of her holiday bookings have remained intact.


“It is quite likely because they are waiting it out before final payment and penalties begin to kick in,” she said. “I intend to try and renegotiate terms of final payment/cancellations depending on what is happening in August and September.”

All things considered, travel agents were mixed on how to approach the subject of holiday travel with customers, with some avoiding the topic altogether, and others finding politic ways in which to do so.

“I think it is appropriate, as long as it is done in an appropriate manner. When I have brought [holiday travel] up, I did so with as little pressure as possible,” said Claire Schoeder of Elevations Travel, adding that clients who usually travel during the holidays have asked her about it as well.

“I simply have a conversation that I start by mentioning my holiday plans and ask if they are looking at any plans for this year. I use a conversational tone and do not bring up any ideas for travel, but focus on what we might do when this is over – more dreams than solid ideas.”

Laura Madrid of Resort to Laura Madrid, a Travel Experts agent, said she is very much open to discussing holiday travel with clients who express an interest.

“But I am definitely not actively checking with my clients on their plans at this point, as nobody knows with any degree of certainty where the virus will take us in the next two months – much less in the next six to 12 months.”

Never one to mince words, Turen had this to say: “We are currently urging our clients to avoid all pleasure travel until Thanksgiving at the earliest. Anyone who tries to ‘sell’ travel in this current environment is either insensitive or ought to be in the used-car business.”

Added Angela Turen, also of Churchill & Turen: “If clients trips have been affected by the virus, we will discuss all of their options for 2020 and 2021,” she said. “Most seem to be moving over to 2021.”

At VIP Vacations, there is a ray of hope when it comes to holiday travel. “As someone who is handling wedding groups and group travel, I have been working with a lot of group leaders about rescheduling – and a lot are asking about the holiday season,” said VIP’s Ryan Doncsecz.

For her part, Pappas had a client inquiry about a trip to Sicily during the holiday season.

“But both Belmond hotels in Sicily were unable to tell me if they’ll be open at this point, and the DMC I use for Sicily suggested we wait a month or so until we know more before booking anything,” she said.

Schoeder noted that her clients who usually travel over the holiday period would have already booked by now or been narrowing their options in the pre-corona virus world.

“These days, they are looking for more assurance than is available right now,” she said. “Health officials say this virus could be a regular illness now, and some of my clients are wondering how that will affect future travel plans,” she said.

Churchill & Turen’s clients who book trips occurring over the holidays are typically intrepid travelers who opt for such destinations as Asia, Africa, and Antarctica, according to Richard Turen.

“We have normally strong bookings during the first quarter of next year, including several around-the-world journeys with an extremely low cancellation rate, but the fourth quarter this year is, of course, down approximately 40 percent,” he said. “In a majority of cases, it is our team urging our clients to cancel rather than the reverse. They need to trust someone to give them honest advice.”

On an up note, holiday travel may benefit from the fact that many airlines are offering discounted airfare, which some experts believe will continue to be available during the holiday season – thus generating bookings. If hotels follow suit with attractive discounts, travelers may very well decide to book holiday travel sooner rather than later. Of course, only time will tell.

But one thing remains certain, being stuck at home is creating quite the pent up demand and itch to travel again. 

In fact, a recent survey showed many Americans are still optimistic about traveling again in 2020.

If borders are fully open, it would not surprise us at all if this holiday season sees record travel numbers.

However, booking right now is all about your personal choice, and while it’s a tough call for some, the best approach is to use a travel advisor to help guide you through the whole process. 

WATCH: Earn frequent-flyer miles during COVID-19 without flying (provided by Buzz60)

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