I have a question for you? When we’re out of isolation where is the first place you want to fly to? I want to get together with my family somewhere we’ve never been before. Maybe Big Sur? Any suggestions?
Planning your honeymoon during COVID-19 can seem limiting. I collaborated with Jordan of Journey Bound Travel Co. to bring you his 5 Tips To Save Your Honeymoon. Thank you, Jordan for telling us we will travel again!
It’s an unusual and challenging time for everyone. How do you not feel paralyzed, wondering what’s next and how long this will last? My heart goes out to anyone directly affected by COVID-19. Especially those still going out there every day, on the front lines fighting this virus for the rest of us. Most importantly, my heart goes out to the medical staff who are working tirelessly to test, treat, and triage patients in an unprecedented time of unknown and chaos. But also those working for the essential local businesses who are still out there putting themselves at risk for the sake of others. You know who you are. THANK YOU!
My heart also goes out to the brides and the grooms who have been planning their wedding and looking forward to their honeymoon for months (and maybe years!). These uncertain times are forcing brides and grooms to cancel and postpone weddings and honeymoons at a pace we have never seen before.
So, here are the big questions during this challenging time:
We understand this industry inside and out and have formed strong relationships with travel suppliers worldwide. We have also been paying close attention to global CDC advisories, WHO guidelines, and travel supplier cancellation policies to make sure we are up to date on the latest.
We’d like to offer 5 tips on navigating this unprecedented and unpredictable travel landscape. You’ll learn how to plan your honeymoon without putting thousands of dollars at risk while doing so.
One of the biggest questions we’ve been getting is related to timing. For couples who have not planned their honeymoon yet, they want to know when it will be safe to travel again. For couples who have planned their honeymoon and it’s been impacted or is at risk of being impacted by COVID-19, they want to know how far out they should push their trip to be safe.
Yes, we will travel again and travel will be back stronger than ever. But, these are difficult questions to answer because of the implicit unknown of this virus. No one has a crystal ball. All we can do is follow the guidelines detailed in this article and weigh these factors against your own risk tolerance.
To help with your decision process, let me shine some light into how some of our existing clients are handling things. Most of our honeymoon aged couples who had trips on the books for May through August have not cancelled yet. They’ve decided to wait it out and see how things progress since we still have some time. That being said, May is starting to look increasingly more at risk as each day goes by. For June and beyond, there is more hope that we might be able to resume domestic travel or travel to certain low risk international destinations.
The other factor is that as of today, most travel suppliers (e.g. airlines and hotels) have not yet updated policies for cancellations or postponement beyond May 31st. This means if you have something booked for June 1st and beyond, there is not a cancellation waiver yet. So if we were to cancel or reschedule those trips right now, we would likely be subject to cancellation fees or penalties. In these cases, it’s best to wait and see what happens. As we get closer, if travel is still at risk, most suppliers will update their waiver periods to include these dates and we can cancel or postpone without being penalized.
For new bookings, it becomes increasingly difficult to confidently recommend a date when it will be safe to travel. There are a number of factors, including how flexible the couple is with their timing and how high their risk tolerance is. If they are flexible enough to hold off on their trip until August, September, and beyond, that’s probably the best choice. But, this isn’t always the case. They may have limited availability based on their job, kids, or otherwise. In this scenario, we move forward and make sure to work with suppliers with flexible cancellation policies given the circumstances.
Lastly, to add some rough data to the mix, most of our new honeymoon inquiries have been for September and beyond. Additionally, many of these couples are more inclined to consider a domestic honeymoon than they would have been under normal world health circumstances.
There are so many moving pieces right now and a lot of misleading information being portrayed in the news. Given the unknown of this virus, the best we can do is make educated decisions and put ourselves in the best position for success. Our go-to resources for reliable global guidelines and notices related to health and travel continue to be the CDC and WHO:
Use these resources when making decisions on where to go on your honeymoon and where to avoid. This includes little details like connecting airports. For example, you might be deciding between two destination countries. One might be at a “Warning Level 3” according to the CDC and the other might not show up on the CDC travel notices website. In this case, you might want to think twice before booking anything to that Level 3 country or flying through a connecting airport in that country.
It is also important to pay attention to your own country’s travel and border policies. For example, for American citizens, on March 19th the US Department of State issued a Global Level 4 Health Advisory. Here is a clip of the advisory from the US Department of State website:
The Department of State advises U.S. citizens to avoid all international travel due to the global impact of COVID-19. In countries where commercial departure options remain available, U.S. citizens who live in the United States should arrange for immediate return to the United States, unless they are prepared to remain abroad for an indefinite period.
In summary, use these resources to make educated decisions on where to go for your honeymoon. Also consider paying more for direct flights or traveling domestically. These will avoid complications with flight connections and will put your mind at ease if there is still concern about traveling internationally.
To be clear, online travel agencies (OTAs) are mass-market companies like Expedia, Priceline, and Orbitz who offer travelers low priced packages for flights and hotels. These packages can be easily booked online without having to speak with anyone.
The problem with going this route, especially during uncertain times, is the exact reason they claim to be so easy to book a vacation. You are not dealing with a real human! So when it comes time to cancel or reschedule your trip, it can become near impossible to make any progress or get in touch with someone. No human touch means no empathy and no advocate to get your money back or rebook to make the most out of an unfortunate situation.
While the COVID-19 outbreak is an extreme case, you should see the horror stories travelers are experiencing when trying to get help from these companies. Customers are literally being told not to call because they cannot handle the volume. Bookit.com straight up folded and left travelers completely stranded without any support. This is a direct quote from their website:
In response to the Coronavirus (COVID-19) Crisis now unfolding, BookIt.com has paused normal operations, and the international destinations we service have closed their borders to arrivals.
Due to the nature of this unprecedented pandemic, we have had to close our call centers in Florida, Jamaica, and El Salvador. This, effectively, means that we will be unable to provide agent assistance in cancelling any upcoming trips.
Here are some other eye opening articles about how OTAs have been “handling” the overwhelm. There’s a clip from each article under each link:
While airlines, hotel companies, and online travel agencies (OTAs) are telling customers, “Don’t call us, we can’t handle the volume of calls,” and in some cases disconnecting callers after hours on hold, consumers who use traditional travel agents are not only getting advice. They’re getting rescued. They are getting rebooked. They’re getting home. And in some cases, they’re even getting a shoulder to lean on, and a bit of daydreaming, chatting about where they want to go after the COVID-19 Coronavirus crisis recedes.
For travelers who booked their vacations with online travel agency (OTA) Expedia, the experience is compounded with frustration and anger as they struggle to get a hold of someone on the phone, and worry about potential money lost.
On social media, customers complained of excessively long call times and being unable to get through to a representative, leading to travelers being unable to make any changes to their travel plans or start refunds. Some people said they could not get a hold of someone for as much as 24 hours and one person said they called over 30 times. At one point, Expedia said “we are currently experiencing technical difficulties and can’t take your call right now.”
Many folks book on online websites because there is a perception that it is cheaper or faster, which most of the time is no longer the case when you work with a qualified travel consultant that understands you and your requirements.
We all go to our favorite barber or hairstylist, not because they are the cheapest but we know that we trust them and they will take care of us. Why would you do any differently for a multi-thousand dollar experience for you and your family?
“We always follow the policies of our travel partners. Please check your airline’s cancellation policies for your flight.” […] And for hotels, it simply asks that you contact the hotel directly and to call Priceline if the online cancellation does not work.
We use the term “handling” very loosely when discussing how these companies are handling the overwhelm. In other words, they are not taking any responsibility and have proceeded to encourage their customers to figure it out themselves. And good luck getting in touch with the OTAs directly!
If you are going to book your honeymoon on your own, book direct and with reputable suppliers. This means hotels, airlines, tour operators, transfer companies, etc. And pay close attention to what they are offering for cancellation and postponement. Pay particular attention to the following:
Many reputable travel suppliers are being much more flexible than normal given the circumstances, but it is still important to pay close attention to the details and terms of what they are offering.
Cancel for any reason (CFAR) travel insurance is the ultimate security blanket for risk averse travelers, especially during uncertain times like this. Yes, it is more expensive than a normal travel insurance policy that covers things like illness and injury that prevent you from traveling or end your trip early. But, with CFAR coverage, you can literally cancel for any reason up to 48 hours before your trip.
Your premium generally costs about 10-15% of the total trip cost. Insurance premiums are quoted based on a combination of age, destination, trip length, and trip value. The younger you and your travel companions are, the less expensive your coverage will be.
There are two important caveats for CFAR coverage:
Given the widespread impact of COVID-19, some reputable travel insurance companies, like Travelex and Allianz Travel, have suspended or redesigned their CFAR product. Others, like TravelSafe, continue to offer this product just as they have in the past.
While this coverage is not for everyone or every scenario, it should be something you consider during these uncertain times.
Taking into account everything we’ve discussed in this article when planning your honeymoon is a lot to handle. Especially for someone who does not know the ins and the outs of the travel industry. And we haven’t even talked about actually designing and planning your honeymoon, aka the fun part! Oh, and you also have that wedding to plan…
Planning a honeymoon is overwhelming and time consuming during normal circumstances. Add to that the chaos and uncertainty of a global pandemic, and a wedding to plan at the same time while navigating the same uncertainty and risk. It seems like an insurmountable feat! This is where a professional can help.
Travel advisors can help you navigate everything we’ve talked about in this article and make recommendations in your best interest, based on what would make you feel the most comfortable. We know this industry inside and out, and we have formed strong relationships with travel suppliers worldwide.
We are your advocate and we always have your best interests at the forefront. Unlike OTAs who are leaving customers high and dry in dire times, we will get in touch with the right people and vouch for you! You can feel at peace knowing that your financial investment in your honeymoon is protected during these unprecedented times. Most importantly, we will get to know you as a couple and design an awesome honeymoon for the two of you.
Your honeymoon is more than just another trip. It’s a once in a lifetime opportunity to take as long you want and go wherever you want on the most epic trip of your life. We all go to our favorite barbers and work with financial advisors. It’s not because they are the cheapest, but because we know them and we know they will take care of us. When investing so much time and money into this once in a lifetime vacation, why do it any differently?
To learn more about Journey Bound and how we can work together on your honeymoon, visit us at www.thejourneybound.com/honeymoons/. We look forward to the opportunity to get to know you as a couple and start designing the honeymoon you’ve been dreaming of!
Take the FREE and start planning a wedding that feels uniquely you.
The truth is I hated planning my own wedding. I felt like I was going it alone and was surprised by how hard it was to find partners who embraced my vision. Thankfully, the guy was worth it and that experience is what led me to become a wedding planner. After a decade of planning luxury weddings I am bringing my process to you.