Like most people, I don’t think for a second that travel is picking back up anytime soon. Sure, there are a few more flights available and more cities are opening up, but until there’s a vaccine for COVID-19, it’s unrealistic to think that travel is going back to the way it was.
That said, based on the information I currently have, I do think it’s a good time to prepare for your travel plans? Why? Because there are tons of discounts, travel insurance is available for select destinations, and there are some incredible credit card offers. Of course, if you are making travel plans for 2021, you need to go in with the mindset that you may need to cancel your trip. Here are the reasons why I’m planning for 2021 now.
There are more discounts available
Over the last few months, there has been a lot of great discounts on travel. Some of it has been advertised, while others I’ve stumbled upon accidentally. The best deal I found was a flight to Tokyo from Toronto for $700. That’s about $500 cheaper than usual. I should have jumped on it at that time, but COVID was still fresh in my mind so I held back. Now that deal isn’t available anymore.
A few other deals I’ve seen recently which were incredible include:
- 20% off Marriott gift cards
- Get 50% back in Aeroplan Miles when booking a rewards flight
- Book one night, get one night free at select Fairmont properties
- 25% off domestic flights with WestJet
- Get a 50% bonus when you purchase Marriott Bonvoy points
As the travel industry rebounds, I expect to see more offers available. I personally would have no problem buying gift cards at a discount since I know I would use them eventually. I would also consider purchasing a flight if I knew the cancellation policy was flexible.
The obvious catch here is that you’re basically giving these companies an interest-free loan in return for a discount. I personally think that’s a fair trade.
Travel insurance has become available
During the height of the pandemic, no travel insurance provider was providing coverage for COVID-19. Since the cost of healthcare can be expensive outside of Canada, you’d be crazy to travel without travel medical insurance. Well, it seems like this is becoming less of a problem as airlines and some resorts have negotiated individual deals with travel insurance providers.
Both WestJet and Air Canada are now providing travel insurance as a standard benefit to anyone who books a vacation package directly with them. This insurance only applies to select destinations, but the list is quite extensive.
This insurance doesn’t apply to just vacation packages, both airlines are offering insurance for regular flights too. There are some specific eligibility conditions, but they’re pretty reasonable and arguably better than the old standard conditions. Since travel insurance can now be obtained, booking a flight or vacation in 2021 is a realistic goal.
Refund/cancellation policies are more generous
Airlines aren’t going as far as giving cash refunds to all consumers, but they have made some adjustments to their refund and cancellation policies that make me feel a bit better. Generally speaking, if you need to cancel your flight, airlines will allow you to bank the credit for up to two years. Many of them are also allowing you to change your dates without having to pay a fee.
While a travel credit isn’t ideal, I’ll take it for now. It’s worth mentioning that many airlines allow you to cancel your flight up to 24 hours before departure. If they cancel the flight on you, then you’d likely qualify for a cash refund or credit card chargeback. However, if you cancel the flight, you’d need to settle for that travel credit.
A few airlines are also offering a refund in the form of loyalty points. Quite often this can be more valuable as the airlines are giving you additional points if you go this route. This allows them to hang onto your cash, but you get more points that could be used for an even more valuable flight.
As long as you’re comfortable with the options available if you need to cancel your flight, then booking one now for future travel shouldn’t be a huge concern.
The new Aeroplan is coming
When the new Aeroplan launches on November 8th, it’ll benefit more travellers. That said, there’s no denying that the majority of flights will cost you more points. Booking an Aeroplan rewards flight now makes perfect sense since the current redemption chart is being honoured.
The tricky thing about Aeroplan (which has always been the case) is finding seat availability on a carrier that doesn’t have surcharges. Only a limited amount of seats gets released, so they often get snatched up. However, we’re in unusual times right now. Not many people are booking flights so I’m noticing more seat availability.
Without much effort, I was able to find business class seats to Istanbul via. Turkish Airlines. I even found a first-class seat on Etihad from Abu Dhabi to Sydney.
Most rewards programs are waiving any cancellation fees and you always get a full refund of your points. In other words, if you have the points available, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t book a few flights now and see what happens next year.
There are some incredible credit card offers
At the start of the pandemic, many credit card providers reduced the welcome bonus on some of the best travel credit cards in Canada. It was an understandable move since travel was limited, why bother promoting travel credit cards? Instead, a lot of marketing was shifted towards cash back credit cards.
Even though travel is still nowhere close to being back to normal, there have been some incredible offers as of late. The HSBC World Elite Mastercard had an offer of 100,000 points which has a value of $500. They also waived the annual fee of $150 for the first year. The WestJet RBC World Elite Mastercard had an offer of $450. That’s $200 more than the standard bonus of $250.
Remember, Aeroplan is launching soon. TD and American Express have already revealed their new cards. While there’s no news about the welcome bonus that’s coming with the cards, I’m sure they have something planned to make it a successful launch.
Obviously, you want to be careful about travel in the future, but there’s no harm in preparing now. Take advantage of any promotions that are going on, but know that there’s always a chance that you may need to cancel your trip.