Should you change your European travel plans in light of Russia’s invasion of 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)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 photo by Sean Gallup/Getty Images.
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