Dear Jen: Tips for Navigating Air Travel to Europe, Holiday Bookings, and More
Dear Jen is a new series from TripIt that asks Jen Moyse, vice president of product for TripIt from Concur, for her best advice when it comes to travel these days. Jen spends her time focused on solving problems for busy travelers, and as an avid traveler herself, she is intimately familiar with the current state of travel and how to best prepare for the ever-changing landscape.
Check out her latest tips, including how to approach air travel to Europe, booking holiday travel, and more below. Need advice? Submit your questions for Jen at the end.
DEAR JEN: I consider myself an experienced traveler, but air travel seems like the Wild, Wild West right now. Any tips to make it less intimidating? – NOT MY FIRST RODEO
Dear Not My First Rodeo: Expecting and preparing for the chaos are the best thing you can do right now (and for the foreseeable future). Book your travel for early in the day and build in buffer days, especially if you have a big event you’re heading to (maybe a wedding), or an appointment to make (like a cruise departure). That extra time will save you lots of stress if there are delays, or even cancellations. Build that buffer time into your layovers as well. While two hours used to be the gold standard, I’d now suggest planning for three or more to be safe. Arrive at the airport early (lines will continue to be long, so also consider CLEAR and/or TSA PreCheck or Global Entry), and try to take everything in stride. Be mindful that airport staff shortages are also contributing to more lost luggage, so keep essentials in your carry-on and know what to do if your bag is misplaced. I know it can be hard to keep your cool, but having a good attitude, respect for everyone, and some patience can go a long way.
DEAR JEN: I know I want to travel for the holidays, and usually wouldn’t book my travel until closer to my trip. But I’m worried about rising costs. Would it be smarter to book now or wait? – NOW OR LATER
Dear Now or Later: If you know where you want to go, then I’d say book your trip now. I can’t predict what will happen with costs, but you’d be safer to have a flight booked than not (especially if airlines continue to cut routes or airports continue to cap passengers). With many airlines doing away with change fees, and some even doing away with travel voucher expirations, booking early is more comfortable than ever. Be sure to add your flight plans to TripIt. If you’re a TripIt Pro subscriber, you will be notified if your airfare drops after you book, in which case you are usually entitled to a reimbursement. If you are open to any destination, then keep an eye on travel deals and book quickly when a deal surfaces. These deals are usually short-lived, but a great way to save big on your trip.
DEAR JEN: Everyone I know seems to be going to Europe right now! What’s the deal? – EUROPEAN WANDERLUST
Dear European Wanderlust: I feel the same way! Three different friends of mine were in Italy last week! As for why, well, we know that Americans have a long love affair with Europe, and especially now, as travelers make up for lost time and lost trips due to the pandemic, more and more have Europe on their bucket lists. Another reason we are seeing people head to Europe is that the dollar is so strong; for the first time in nearly 20 years, it reached parity with the Euro. That basically means that Europe is on sale! Unfortunately, however, Europe is also struggling with the dramatic return to travel amid staff shortages and extreme weather events. Keep that in mind when picking where you visit and refer to my response to NOT MY FIRST RODEO on how to approach a trip there.
DEAR JEN: Travel restrictions and requirements related to COVID-19 seem to be disappearing around the world. Should I consider COVID “over” when it comes to travel? – WHAT’S THE PROTOCOL?
Dear What’s the Protocol: While you’re right that travel restrictions and requirements are continuing to lift, I’m sorry to say that COVID-19 is not “over.” If fact, I think many agree that it might never be. While it’s great that we have the tools to help us avoid severe sickness or death, catching COVID-19, especially while traveling and in crowded places, is still a risk, and one you shouldn’t take lightly. I, for one, will continue to mask on planes and at crowded indoor venues, and believe it or not, many places around the world do still have mask requirements. So my advice is: Don’t be afraid to travel (unless of course you are actively infected, in which case please follow CDC guidelines), just do it smartly–bring and wear masks, pack a few tests in case, make digital copies of your vaccine or negative test records, research infection rates and requirements at your destination (including what happens if you test positive while there), and stay on top of the restrictions and requirements that do exist (and will likely continue to evolve).
P.S. TripIt makes it extra easy to do this!