Ask Clark: Should I Book a Summer Vacation Right Now?

The coronavirus pandemic all but obliterated the idea of leisure travel for the last couple of months. Now that more states are reopening for business, you might be wondering if it's a good idea to book summer travel.

Money expert Clark Howard knows the travel industry as well as anyone: He used to own his own travel agency, and he's still a true globe trotter.

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In this article, we’ll tell you what Clark is thinking about future travel right now, and we’ll offer some suggestions for summer trips you might not have considered.

Here’s When Clark Howard Plans to Travel Again

Clark says that no one wants to travel afraid. It takes all of the joy and relaxation out of a vacation.

“My wife and I are holding reservations for travel for our 25th wedding anniversary in October. I booked a really fancy trip,” he says.

But Clark’s wife Lane says their final decision to go — or not — will depend on whether the virus has abated and whether she feels safe. “We were so excited about this trip, but it’s not worth the risk for me if it hasn’t,” she says.

To protect themselves, Clark says everything he booked is refundable up to 14 days out. “And it’s not just that we can change the date on the travel: I booked everything fully refundable,” he says.

Clark recommends that if you do book travel now, consider buying a "cancel for any reason" travel insurance policy, which almost always covers supplier default.

“If the airline or whatever supplier you’re going to use does go bust, your money is protected by the insurance,” he says. “It’s an added cost, but trips are so much cheaper right now to book that it’s really not as big of an expense as it used to be to insure a trip.”

Clark says that basic trip insurance has proved to be a big disappointment to some people recently because it doesn’t usually cover pandemics.

“Cancel for any reason” policies typically help you recoup only about 75% of your trip costs, but you will be covered even if you just decide not to travel because of the coronavirus.

Alternatives to Traditional Summer Vacations

"People are starting to ask me: 'What do I do about summer vacation?'" Clark said on a recent podcast. "We're just weeks away from when a lot of kids will be out of school, and people are going to want to get out and about. They've got itchy feet after being locked up, particularly if they have kids."

But the world has changed over the last few months, so it only makes sense that the ways we travel will change, too — at least in the short term.

"As a practical matter, how people get away this summer is going to be very, very different," Clark says.

So how does he see Americans spending their vacation time in the coming months? Here are a few of his predictions.

Private Rentals, Not Hotels

“One of the businesses in the United States that’s been devastated is Airbnb,” Clark says. “But I believe a lot of Airbnb properties in the U.S. are going to have a strong comeback in the latter half of May and through August.”

The reason, he says, is that “people are going to feel more comfortable renting somebody else’s place for a week than they are staying in a hotel, where they don’t know who’s been there and they have to pass other people in the hallways.”

Driving, Not Flying

“A lot of people are going to want to go on a vacation where they drive and not fly,” he says. “People don’t have confidence that it’s safe to get on an airplane right now. So, we’re going to get in our vehicles and we’re going to drive somewhere.”

The good news, according to Clark, is that the low gas prices we’ve seen recently will likely remain in place through the summer vacation season.

The Rise of the RVs

Speaking of hitting the open road, Clark believes that recreational vehicles will enjoy unprecedented popularity this summer.

“We’re going to see that people renting RVs is going to be a really preferred way of doing things,” he says. “I think we’re going to quickly hit maximum demand on RVs — and there will be shortages of them as we go through the summer vacation season — because that’s how people are going to feel comfortable.”

And Clark predicts that people will be most comfortable visiting natural locales like beaches and mountains — everywhere but major metropolises. "People are not going to travel to big cities this summer," he says.

Don’t Overlook State Parks

Clark has another good tip for you if part of your travel plan is to avoid big crowds.

“You’ll find that a lot of areas have state parks adjacent to national parks, and the state parks will be less crowded than the national parks,” he says.

If you’re still looking for a place where you’ll have plenty of your own space, he recommends you check to find lesser-known state parks.

“That’ll be a way for you to have more potential isolation from others,” he says.

Final Thought

There are plenty of options out there for travel this summer. Just remember that if you’re not comfortable, it won’t be relaxing at all. Make sure anything you book is refundable in case you decide not to go. For maximum protection, buy “cancel for any reason” travel insurance.

“Whatever your travel plans, make sure you have the ability to cancel without too much hit to your wallet in case there’s another surge with coronavirus or you lose your job. After all, you don’t want to add insult to injury,” Clark says.

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