5 Holiday Travel Tips for 2021

Plane Flying Over Sunrise

The holiday travel season is upon us! Fortunately, traveling this 2021 holiday season, whether for Thanksgiving, New Year’s, or Christmas to see family, friends, or both will be a lot more accessible and safer than last year.

Trying to plan a vacation around the winter holidays can be stressful even under the best circumstances. But no matter what, if you’re looking to travel this holiday season, the process may be time-consuming and expensive.

But traveling doesn’t have to be such a pain. Half the fun of a trip is the journey, and we believe that journey starts the moment you begin planning. If you want to travel for the holidays this year, here are our best tips to do it safely and frugally.

1. Book Wisely

Some of the oldest travel tips in the book still apply in 2021. For instance, the earlier you book airfare and hotel, the cheaper the prices will be generally speaking. Scoring cheap flights is less likely this time of year but not impossible. If you’re traveling directly around Thanksgiving or Christmas, try your best to avoid the peak travel days.

For Thanksgiving, those are the day before (Wednesday) and that following Sunday. For Christmas, peak days are usually the day before Christmas Eve (December 23rd) and the day or two after Christmas Day (December 26th-27th).
If you can swing it, we recommend traveling on December 22nd or earlier or after December 27th. Better yet, if you can travel back home after New Years Day you’ll be even more likely to avoid crowded airports and congested highways. I mean who doesn’t want to save money on holiday travel!
In addition, your destination matters. If you aren’t sure where you want to go yet, we have a list of some of the best affordable winter getaway spots.

In addition, your destination matters. If you aren’t sure where you want to go yet, we have a list of some of the best affordable winter getaway spots. 

2. Safety First

In addition to the typical caution you may take while traveling, there’s certainly still a need to take caution against COVID-19. While the risks are certainly lower this year, we aren’t out of the woods just yet.

Before getting to the airport or even finalizing plans, review the COVID-19 guidelines of the state you’re in and where you’re traveling to. Additionally, be sure to check the CDC’s COVID-19 Travel Recommendations by Destination Page if you’re considering traveling to a foreign country. This tool informs you about the level of COVID-19 in each country as well as the requirements for entry. In addition, you can use CNBC’s COVID Travel Tracker to see which countries are allowing U.S. citizens to enter and which aren’t.

The situation is still ever-changing, and the rules are too, but you should at least know what you’re walking into! Also, expect to wear a mask while in transit, and having hand sanitizer nearby is always smart. Airlines and hotels have taken measures to make environments as safe as possible, but it can never hurt to take some measures of your own.

Travel insurance is highly recommended, especially when traveling abroad. If you happen to run into any hiccups regarding COVID-19, you’ll want to be sure you have coverage to pay for nights of quarantine at a hotel, the cost of extra meals, etc.

Although, don’t worry about change or cancellation fees. According to The Points Guy, most major airlines have waived these fees indefinitely; take a look at the list here. Whether you receive a positive COVID test result before leaving home or your destination decides to bar you from entry, you should have no issue being fully refunded for your airline ticket or hotel room.

3. Limit Your Time at the Airport

If your family is anything like mine, you’re probably used to getting to the airport hours before your flight takes off. While that’s a safe way always to board your plane on time, loitering around a busy airport is a different task in the age of COVID. There are ways to make sure you’re through security and at your gate as quickly as possible and avoid the hassle.

Registering for TSA Precheck is a smart move, as it usually allows you to jump in a shorter security line. Moreover, you can download your boarding pass to your phone in advance, eliminating one more thing to do at the airport. You should always give yourself enough time to make your flight, but it’s a safe and smart idea to plan ahead and avoid unnecessary extra time at the airport if possible.

4. Compare, Compare, Compare

Shopping around before booking travel and amenities is always smart. With the current surge in travel, it might be tricky to get a good deal but not impossible if you’re willing to put in the work.

Comparison shopping for flights could land you serious deep discounts, so it’s always a good idea to use sites like KAYAK and Orbitz. Additionally, take advantage of Google Flights’ price indicator graph which tells you if the price for your current search is low, typical, or high. Flying on those off-peak days, combined with lots of research and using travel tools, can land you a major holiday travel discount!

5. Weigh the Risks and Benefits

Based on current numbers, the coronavirus is much more under control in the U.S. today than a year ago. In fact, according to the Mayo Clinic, the current U.S. figure for fully vaccinated individuals is 57.7%.

The circumstances you book your trip under this year will likely be more relaxed but it’s also important to weigh the pros and cons of travel at the moment. If something feels unsafe, there’s a good chance it might be, and it’s up to you to weigh the importance of your trip against the risk of taking it.

Read more: Four Affordable Vacation Destinations For Those On A Budget This Winter