It’s ‘National Plan Your Vacation Day’ — Here’s how to make your dream trip a reality
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Raise your hand if you actually took all of your PTO in 2020.
Living through a pandemic meant turning your kitchen into a home office, ordering takeout instead of dining indoors and canceling vacations.
Even if you want to take a few days to relax and unwind and take a vacation at home, that’s important. It’s a well-known fact that Americans don’t take enough time off (even without a global health crisis), but the pandemic didn’t make it easier.
More than six in 10 Americans (63%) said they “desperately” needed a vacation due to the pandemic, according to data from the U.S. Travel Association. And 72% of working Americans said they set aside time to plan out vacation days for the coming year.
Planning a vacation may be more important than ever. Whether you want to know the hottest places to travel or the most relaxing place to staycation, there’s a ton of inspiration out there to encourage you to finally book that dream trip.
But just in case you need a little extra nudge, today is National Plan Your Vacation Day. In honor of this most auspicious “holiday,” we’re rounding up some of our favorite tips to help you, well, plan a vacation today.
So, get out your pen and paper and take notes, because the vacation-planning class is in session.
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Be flexible and patient
This is especially true given the pandemic.
Vaccines are being rolled out, and millions have already received doses. Still, there are delays even as COVID-19 cases around the country have spiked, and deaths from the virus are at an all-time high.
I canceled all of my travel for the winter and spring, but I am cautiously optimistic about some form of travel returning by summer 2021, But if conditions don’t improve, these will likely be canceled, as well.
Last year, travel spiked around big holidays like Memorial Day weekend, July 4th, Labor Day, Thanksgiving and Christmas. I expect that will continue in 2021 as well, so if you want to book trips during National Plan Your Vacation Day, you may want to focus on the holidays later on in the year, like Thanksgiving or the winter holidays.
Be aware of change and cancellation policies
Early on in the pandemic, travelers who had to cancel flights were given travel credits instead of a cash refund.
Many carriers have since improved their refund policies, but some travelers struggle to make sense of ongoing changes and claim a refund when it’s due.
When booking your flights, pay close attention to the cancellation and rebooking policies. Many airlines now allow new tickets to be changed or canceled for no fee. If rebooking, you may need to pay a difference between the original and the new fare. If you cancel, you’ll typically get flight credit that can be put toward a new reservation.
However, keep a close eye out on when these waivers expire. Many U.S. airlines are waiving change fees for all new travel booked by March 31, 2021, so make sure you check your airline’s website to see if these waivers are extended.
Maximize your Elite status
One of the best moves hotel providers made during the pandemic was extending elite status. Many hotel programs have extended elite status through winter 2023, giving you almost two years of uninhibited status. If you’re looking to camp out in a suite for a few nights, elite status can get you there.
For instance, I’m planning a World of Hyatt mattress run in New York City (where I live) that will be two-fold: a relaxing staycation outside of my house and to earn Globalist status.
I’m currently an Explorist, but I’ll be a Globalist at the end of my mattress run. That means I’ll be planning another staycation in March, this time at a much nicer hotel in the New York area. With Globalist, I’ll get a slew of perks like free breakfast, club lounge access, and — best of all — suite upgrades.
Having Hyatt Globalist status means being eligible for complimentary space-available standard suite upgrades at check-in. As someone who has been quarantining in a cramped New York City apartment for almost a year, I really value suite upgrades for the space alone.
Globalists can also enjoy suites by securing them in advance using complimentary suite upgrade awards. These upgrades are technically no longer earned just because you’re a Hyatt Globalist, but they still come as a byproduct of earning the status.
So if you’re interested in enjoying a relaxing hotel stay, take a look at your preferred hotel’s relaxed elite status to knock out some nights to earn top-tier status down the line.
Keep an eye out for deals
You don’t have to splurge to have the vacation of a lifetime.
Following us on social media is a great way to keep up with the latest points, miles and cash deals, and if you see one you want, jump on it. Several travel providers are also offering deals to celebrate the day. Remember, you (almost) always have 24 hours to cancel or change a flight from, to, or within the U.S., assuming the flight was booked at least seven days ahead of departure. So, book now and plan later.
Delta SkyMiles are some of my favorite to use for short-haul domestic and Caribbean flights, as well as to parts of South America. I’m already planning my first post-vaccination trip to either Mexico City or Columbia, hopefully in the summer or early fall. That means I keep a close eye on flights from New York to Mexico City (MEX) and Bogota (BOG).
Cash flights to Central and South America are dirt cheap right now — just the other day, I spotted business class flights to Bogota for only $420 on Delta Air Lines. That’s a rare deal for South America, even during the pandemic.
Of course, I booked it. Who knows if I’ll be able to travel by then, but hitting “book now” was the greatest feeling I’ve had in a while. If you have a destination in mind, make sure you’re checking cash and miles rates at least once a day — you might snag an amazing deal as I did.
Ask your friends for help
Buckle up your seatbelts for this one.
Reviews editor Nick Ellis is headed to Bogota in May. He booked flights in business class on Delta using his SkyMiles, snagging a great deal in Delta One for 28,000 miles round-trip.
He’ll spend the first four nights at the Grand Hyatt Bogota in a suite for 20,000 points a night, which he will by transferring Chase points to his Hyatt account and then transfer points to a friend’s Hyatt account to book on his behalf.
That friend has Globalist status (Nick’s an Explorist), which qualifies as a Guest of Honor reservation.
Hyatt Globalists have a sweet perk where they can use their points to book an award stay for someone else, and all of the in-hotel benefits the Globalist would normally enjoy (such as free breakfast, waived fees and suite upgrade eligibility, among others) will transfer.
With flexible change and cancellation policies, you’re at least protected if you need to cancel, which I hope doesn’t have to happen if the pandemic gets more under control.
It can be hard to consider planning travel for 2021, especially if you didn’t take many vacations in 2020. But that’s exactly why you should plan travel. If 2020 taught me nothing else, I learned that life was short and to live up every moment — when it’s safe to do so, of course.
Featured image courtesy of ©thierrydehove.com/Getty Images
Additional reporting by Samantha Rosen.
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