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Should you change your European travel plans in light of Russia's invasion of Ukraine? 

March 06, 2022
6 min read
St. Sophia's Cathedral in Kyiv Ukraine
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Each day, it seems that the residual coronavirus restrictions slink deeper into the rearview mirror.

But Earth can’t seem to retain a sense of harmony for long — tragic headlines concerning the war between Russia and Ukraine now drench our newspapers and social media feeds. Can U.S. citizens carry on with travel as normal? And if we can, should we?

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This isn’t a tone-deaf subject; few sensible people consider themselves “inconvenienced” by the war in Ukraine. We’d prefer a resolution to war over an international holiday. But the issue is that many would-be travelers have already booked European trips in light of evaporating COVID restrictions — and they’re now (understandably) hesitant to follow through with their plans.

Whether you’re currently booked for a trip to Europe or you’re thinking of booking, there are a handful of rational inferences we can draw from the conflict between Europe and the Kremlin.

Fewer travelers (probably)

(Photo by Dominic Dähncke/Getty Images)

There are many, many travelers who feel the same as you; reluctant to book travel across the Atlantic because of the implications of war.

Several good things come from fewer travelers. You’ll find cheaper flight and hotel prices, and likely more award availability. TPG regularly publishes flight deals to Europe. Just a few days ago, we found round-trip economy flights from several U.S. cities to Spain starting at $356 or 32,000 Delta miles. We do not expect sales like these to diminish any time soon.

Additionally, fewer tourists often means a more moving experience. There’s something beautiful about having a stunning attraction almost entirely to yourself.

Unadulterated sights

Coronavirus restrictions have kept mass tourism at bay for years. Stunning natural wonders which had previously been screaming for respite from heavy foot traffic have been able to recover and regenerate.

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You’ve probably heard stories of Thailand’s famous Maya Bay indefinitely closed in 2018. It was so beautiful that it was drawing overwhelming crowds, and its fragile ecosystem was being destroyed. Maya Bay has recently reopened — and its circumstance is a microcosm of many beautiful areas around the world.

Retribution on Europe from Putin?

The war in Eastern Europe isn’t really only between Ukraine and Russia. The vast majority of the planet has shown support for Ukraine — with several countries supplying the Ukrainian underdog with weapons.

As Germany swears to bolster its military efficacy in response to a volatile Putin, more of Europe than just Ukraine may find themselves in the crosshairs of the Russian Bear. That’s something to consider before emptying your credit card rewards (or bank account) on a bucket list trip to Europe.

Monitor national travel advisories

Odds are you’re not traveling to Russia or Ukraine. Those regions have never been on the tourism top 10 list.

However, as Greg Pearson, chief executive of risk management company FocusPoint International, told The Washington Post, anyone with travel to a country even bordering Ukraine may want to postpone their trip.

It’s wise to stay on top of travel advisories issued by the U.S. Department of State. This is an efficient way to quickly assess the political and civil temperature of your desired country.

Tips for booking European travel

Booking award travel is usually more flexible than booking with cash

Whether you’re booking airfare or hotels, award travel is almost always more forgiving when your plans change.

For example, when you book a hotel with points, you can often cancel your hotel a couple days before arrival and instantly receive your points back into your account. This is wildly more flexible than booking a prepaid hotel rate — and booking a flexible cash rate with similar change/cancellation policies to an award stay costs a lot more.

Also, if you book an award flight, you can usually cancel the trip and have your airline miles redeposited to your account for no fee. Had you purchased your flight with cash, the best you may get upon cancellation (unless you booked an exorbitantly-priced fully refundable flight) is flight credit for a future trip.

Capital One Travel Portal’s cancel-for-any-reason coverage

The Capital One Travel Portal will soon roll out cancel-for-any-reason coverage as an option when booking airfare. For a small fee at checkout, you can buy the ability to cancel your flight and get 80% of the cost back.

Related: Everything you need to know about cancel for any reason trip protection

Consider third-party travel insurance

Most travel credit cards come with travel insurance that often includes trip cancellation/interruption insurance and emergency evacuations insurance for when disaster strikes. However, they almost always exclude war. If you book a trip to a volatile area, you’re tempting fate — perhaps more so than just financially.

You may find a solution in a third-party insurance agency, however. For example, World Nomads has been known to offer evacuation coverage for transportation expenses resulting from civil or political unrest in the country you visit. Also, any change in U.S. travel advisories will not void your policy.

Related: Best travel insurance policies and providers

Bottom line

It’s understandable — U.S. citizens have cabin fever from years of coronavirus restrictions. But in light of the active war between Russia and Ukraine, is now the right time to visit Europe?

That’s ultimately up to you. At the moment, however, travel to most of Europe seems completely safe. You’d be wise, however, to book refundable travel and stay away from countries bordering Ukraine.

Featured image by (Photo by Sean Gallup/Getty Images)
Editorial disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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TPG Editor‘s Rating
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
4 / 5
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Annual Fee

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Recommended Credit

740-850
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Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

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  • 10,000 bonus miles (worth $100 toward travel) each account anniversary.

Cons

  • The $395 annual fee might be expensive for some, but this card’s benefits provide much more value than that.
  • If you don’t travel frequently, this might not be the best card for you.
  • Earn 75,000 bonus miles when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening, equal to $750 in travel
  • Receive up to $300 back annually as statement credits for bookings through Capital One Travel, where you'll get Capital One's best prices on thousands of options
  • Get 10,000 bonus miles (equal to $100 towards travel) every year, starting on your first anniversary
  • Earn unlimited 10X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel and 5X miles on flights booked through Capital One Travel
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  • Use your Venture X miles to easily cover travel expenses, including flights, hotels, rental cars and more—you can even transfer your miles to your choice of 15+ travel loyalty programs
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  • Earn 10 miles per dollar when you book on Turo, the world's largest car sharing marketplace, through May 16, 2023
Best card for premium perks while traveling
TPG Editor‘s Rating
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
4 / 5
Go to review

Rewards Rate

10XEarn unlimited 10X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel
5X5X miles on flights booked through Capital One Travel.
2X2 Miles per dollar on every purchase, every day
  • Intro Offer
    Earn 75,000 bonus miles when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening, equal to $750 in travel

    75,000 bonus miles
  • Annual Fee

    $395
  • Recommended Credit
    Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

    740-850
    Excellent

Why We Chose It

The Capital One Venture X card is one of the best all-round travel credit cards ever launched. Not only is it offering a tremendous welcome bonus, but cardholders can earn tons of miles on everyday spending and receive a 10,000-mile anniversary bonus to boot. Its annual fee is $395, but cardholders can count on up to $300 in statement credits toward travel booked through Capital One Travel each year and other valuable benefits like access to Priority Pass lounges and Capital One’s own growing family of airport lounges.

Pros

  • Excellent welcome offer worth 75,000 miles after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months.
  • Up to $300 in annual travel statement credits toward bookings make through Capital One Travel.
  • 10,000 bonus miles (worth $100 toward travel) each account anniversary.

Cons

  • The $395 annual fee might be expensive for some, but this card’s benefits provide much more value than that.
  • If you don’t travel frequently, this might not be the best card for you.
  • Earn 75,000 bonus miles when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening, equal to $750 in travel
  • Receive up to $300 back annually as statement credits for bookings through Capital One Travel, where you'll get Capital One's best prices on thousands of options
  • Get 10,000 bonus miles (equal to $100 towards travel) every year, starting on your first anniversary
  • Earn unlimited 10X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel and 5X miles on flights booked through Capital One Travel
  • Earn unlimited 2X miles on all other purchases
  • Unlimited complimentary access for you and two guests to 1,300+ lounges, including Capital One Lounges and the Partner Lounge Network
  • Receive up to a $100 credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck®
  • Use your Venture X miles to easily cover travel expenses, including flights, hotels, rental cars and more—you can even transfer your miles to your choice of 15+ travel loyalty programs
  • Named editors' choice for "Best New Credit Card of 2021" by The Points Guy
  • Earn 10 miles per dollar when you book on Turo, the world's largest car sharing marketplace, through May 16, 2023