What Will the Return of Travel Look like?

Authentic Tall Ship Sailing Adventure
Authentic Tall Ship Sailing Adventure

Are you curious about what the return of travel will look like? This question is on my mind every day! Let’s review some current news along with my own predictions. One thing I’m sure of is travel will be a lot cleaner.

My own predictions:

  • Expect to have your temperature checked when arriving at an airport or boarding a cruise – and upon re-embarking
  • Expect air, train, etc. travel to be restarted with capacity controls in place
  • Ocean cruise travel will be restarted in phases.
  • River cruise travel may bounce back quicker
  • Travel to Europe may be delayed until September
  • Travel to Australia may be delayed until next year

Ocean Cruising

U.S. cruises are currently suspended until July. There was a proposed order extending the ban but it was quietly lifted. Now, the order is reinstated here.

Return of travel
Return of travel – Virgin Voyages

But first, a little background on cruise illnesses:

  • The media loves to report cases of Norovirus on cruise ships! Sounds like a floating buffet of doom!
  • Cruises ships are not the only locations where Norovius pops-up.
  • What about convention facilities, resorts, hotels, etc? Do they get cases of Norovirus? Sure! Cruise ship breakouts are just easy fodder for the evening news! (Keep reading – I’m Not beholden to the cruise industry – just to YOU.)
  • The difference is that cruise lines (1) are subject to strict reporting requirements, and (2) cruise ships are also subject to surprise health inspections from the CDC. The other venues listed above are not all subject to the same requirements. Does it ever seem like the same cruise lines wind up on the news for “bad” reasons?”
  • I can personally report that the cruise industry is a leader in certain areas such as requiring you to wash your hands prior to entering a buffet or a dining room. Are you used to the sound of “Washy Washy, Happy Happy?” Cruise line hand washing protocols were far stricter than the finest restaurants in NYC, Miami, or New Orleans. (I’m sure the fine dining industry will figure out a more elegant approach to hand washing.)

Please know that people are booking cruises RIGHT NOW! While the majority are for 2021, people are booking cruises for this year as well. As I write this post, I believe that cruising in Europe will be delayed until at least the end of the summer. Click here for an article on European and Australia travel updates.

Return to travel - Ocean cruising
Return to travel – Ocean cruising

I’ve heard some industry chatter that Caribbean and Alaska cruises will start first. There will also be more US port embarkations to keep itineraries “close to home.” Expect to also see more shorter itineraries of less than 7 days. As mentioned above, Europe will come later. The return to travel for itineraries in Asia will restart even later .

World cruises? As companies like to tell Wall Street reporters – “I’m withdrawing guidance”. This could take a long long time!

Let’s talk about your investment in a cruise. Cruise lines are getting to a point where they’re offering cancel up to 48 hours in advance of your voyage and get a future travel credit for 100% or more of the value you’ve spent. In an act of desperation, cruise lines are doing their best to get you comfortable booking, depositing, and making final payments on your trip. Notice, they’re offering very generous terms but Not a refund of your cash. WHY? Cash refunds 48-hours prior to sailing would send them in a rapid decent toward bankruptcy (not that they’re in good shape at the time of this post).

River Cruising

River cruising is getting more and more popular with each passing year. Unpack once and get into the middle-of-a-country as opposed to just touching-the-edge on an ocean cruise. Further, a river cruise feels more like a land tour with the convenience of an ocean cruise. Most river cruises are now on hold through June.

River Cruise
River Cruise

When Europe has travel restrictions removed, I predict river cruising will return prior to Ocean Cruising in Europe. Here’s my thoughts on why river cruising comes back first:

  • Scale – a lot easier to keep a vessel clean/implement new hygiene procedures with no more than 200 guests as opposed to a vessel with 2,500-4,000 or more passengers.
  • Most processes including embarkation/debarkation, crew wellness, safe-food management procedures, etc. will be easier to manage on such a small scale. Are my predictions correct? We’ll publish a later piece to check on my prognostications!
  • I predict even more stringent hand washing protocols when embarking and entering dining rooms and it may be easier to do this on such small vessels
  • River cruises embark/debark in much smaller ports with a fraction of the people in and around ocean ports – think Basel/Passau vs. Barcelona/Southampton. OK, Amsterdam is the exception in that both ocean and river ships embark/debark in this wonderful city.
  • Interested in learning more about river cruising? Here’s another article.

Resort Trips

All-Inclusive resort trips are a great option IMHO! As you may already know, you pay in advance for air, transfers, and your resort. Check-in and receive unlimited meals, drinks, and a good amount of activities. All-inclusive resorts have also come a long way, and many offer luxurious accommodations and upscale dining and drinks. I should know as I’m a huge fan of their value proposition.

Return to Travel Royalton Riviera Cancun - Main Building
Royalton Riviera Cancun – Main Building

Here’s my thinking on the return of travel to all-inclusive resorts:

  • As most resorts are part of larger brands, they can develop plans for implementing new hygiene standards and use their economies of scale to expand across their portfolio of properties.
  • Gradually scale up resort occupancy. Perhaps start at 30-40% and quickly scale up to 50% percent occupancy
  • As health and hygiene benchmarks are met, have a plan to get beyond 50% occupancy while coordinating with government mandates for resort capacity
  • As airlines have cut capacity, they’ll monitor demand in popular resort locations and scale-up flights.

Escorted Tours

I’ll address mostly European Tours here as I’ll address North America Escorted tours in another section.

European Escorted Tours: pack your bags and join a group of mostly like-minded people and explore one country in depth or multiple countries as you travel around Europe. Let’s do a quick review:

  • Have a tour director with you virtually throughout your entire trip
  • Tour Directors check into the hotels for you
  • Enjoy breakfast and many must-see sites with all of the logistics bundled together in one price
  • You’ll also get some time on your own to take in the local culture or join other optional tours.

This is a great travel option if you feel more secure/comfortable in a group and have most logistics arranged for you without having to make too many decisions on your own limited free time.

My predictions for a return to travel:

  • European tours return no sooner than September
  • Australia /New Zealand tours will commence in 2021

Custom (Independent) Tours

This is the beating heart of what I do for my clients. Give me your wish list for exactly what you want to do and when you want to do it . We’ll work in tight collaboration to get just the right trip for you whether it’s your dream trip to Italy, Australia, or South Africa for your bucket-list Safari trip!

Return to travel genuine Experience in Cinque Terre ItalyPhoto by Linh Nguyen on Unsplash
Genuine Experience in Cinque Terre Italy

You can also take a European cruise you’ve selected and wrap it up in a pre or post cruise land trip with all of the key parts like hotels, transfers, air, train, tours precisely planned-out and booked for you.

Once again, I predict these type of trips will resume no earlier than September.

Airlines and the Return to Travel

Ah, the bad kids of the pack! While cruise lines are trying to ease concerned travelers with generous reboooking polices, airlines are doing everything they can to avoid issuing refunds. Further, airlines are providing future travel credits with shorter rebooking/travel windows than cruise line and land package vendors. NOTE: this situation is in constant flux! The return of travel for airlines will be very interesting along with their ever-changing change/cancel/refund policies.

Return to travel
Return to travel

Here’s an article from Conde Nast Traveler for April 9th; cash refunds get a little murky when booked as part of a package. I analyze each of your bookings to present the options to you. Further, cancellation and rebooking options are constantly changing making this trying time even more challenging!

I predict airlines will follow demand from resort destinations and US based cruises as they come back online. Airlines have cut their capacity so much that they will be anxious to get their planes off of the ground! Expect a gradual increase in aircraft capacity. I don’t predict the typical 100% over-booked planes for quite a while!

Trip Protection/Travel Insurance

I’ve written extensively about trip protection aka travel insurance. You know I’m a huge proponent of travel insurance. WHY is this? Remember, when you file a claim, I’m there in your corner helping you get the best outcome. Your best outcome is in my best interest – getting your claim paid! I don’t want you to lose your money! Read more HERE.

Normally, I’ll walk you through different coverage options while shunning “cancel for any reason polices.” WHY, because cancel for any reason costs significantly more than a standard coverage policy and most of the time I cannot justify the extra expense for you. However, in this environment, it is worth the evaluation of the cancel any reason coverage. This coverage will help you get more money back in case of a cancellation due to the pandemic. Remember, “standard” insurance policies do Not provide cancellation coverage for a named pandemic. Just like you can’t purchase hurricane insurance coverage once the storm is named!

US Return to Travel+

Return to travel
Return to travel

I’ll start off with my predictions for the return to travel in the US:

  • Look for close-to-home drive trips as people start to stay in hotels again
  • Perhaps the return to travel for business travel will restart with small group meetings
  • Vegas and Orlando Theme parks may open under the same capacity plans predicted in the All-Inclusive resorts section
  • US River cruising will get more popular. Seasoned travelers that enjoy International river cruising may consider taking to the US rivers which are already seeing huge growth in new river ships
  • Travel to US National Parks will return perhaps under some type of capacity controls
  • Escorted tours may come next that visit our US National parks and perhaps visit The Canadian Maritimes or Western Canada

Let’s revisit this post down the road and see how my predictions turn out? While you’re here, please continue on to my Unique Travel Experiences for 2020. While many of these trips are currently on hold – you might as well get inspired for your future travels whenever that is possible!

Please click on the yellow box on top of this article to set-up a chat!