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2021 Holiday Travel: What You Need to Know

2021 Holiday Travel
Allianz - 2021 Holiday Travel

Americans are desperate to get away for the holidays… but they’re waiting until the last minute to book.

Many people are yearning to go overseas… but they’re sticking to domestic trips instead.

They’re excited to travel… but they’re anxious about COVID-19 surges and restrictions.

The 2021 holiday travel season is full of contradictions and uncertainty. Nevertheless, it’s shaping up to be a busy one, as people make long-awaited plans to see distant family and take vacations. Wondering about the top destinations, busiest travel days, and tips for safe travel this season? We have answers.

Is It Safe to Travel Right Now?

This is the number-one question on people’s minds as they make holiday travel plans. Experts say it’s a personal choice. You have to weigh your own health risks, the risks of your chosen destination, and your own comfort level with taking those risks. A few things to consider:

  • Are you vaccinated? The CDC recommends delaying travel until you’re fully vaccinated.1
  • Do you have underlying health conditions? If you’re immunocompromised or otherwise vulnerable, you may want to rethink your holiday travel plans.
  • What’s the risk level of your destination? Check the CDC’s Travel Recommendations by Destination, which ranks countries’ COVID-19 risk level from 1 to 4.
  • What’s your anxiety level? Mental health plays a big role in travel decisions. If you know you’ll be worried about COVID-19 the whole time, you won’t really enjoy your vacation at a crowded resort. Maybe head to a remote cabin instead?
  • Do you have travel insurance? While it can’t erase risks, a solid travel insurance plan can protect you, your peace of mind, and your travel investment. Most of our travel insurance plans now include the Epidemic Coverage Endorsement, which adds covered reasons to select benefits for certain losses related to COVID-19 and any future epidemic. (Benefits vary by plan and are not available in all jurisdictions.)

Find the right travel insurance plan

As a result of the pandemic, many people have concluded that life is short and the time to travel is now. “With the right precautions, they value their freedom to travel, to explore and most of all to connect with the world,” Jack Ezon, founder of luxury travel agency Embark Beyond, tells AARP. “And right now there are great values and most places aren’t overcrowded.”

What Are the Top 2021 Holiday Travel Destinations?

American travelers are craving sun and sand, it turns out. Expedia’s data shows the top five travel destinations for the winter holidays are Orlando, FL; Cancun, Mexico; Riviera Maya, Playa del Carmen and Tulum, Mexico; Oahu, HI and Punta Cana, in the Dominican Republic. The same destinations top the list for Thanksgiving travel 2021, with one exception: Nashville, TN replaces Orlando.2

Pent-up demand could make it difficult to secure hotel rooms and airline tickets for popular destinations, however. A recent survey by PWC found that more than half the survey respondents (52%) said they plan to travel for the 2021 holidays, compared to about a third of people in an average year.3 Domestic vacation rentals are way up compared to 2020.4

What Are the Busiest Holiday Travel Days in 2021?

Everyone knows that the Wednesday before Thanksgiving is always the busiest travel day of the year… except this year, it isn’t! Data from Priceline predicts that Monday, November 15 will be the busiest Thanksgiving travel day. Wednesday, November 24, comes second.5

Why the sudden shift? Experts attribute it to the number of people who are working remotely, and thus have more flexibility in when they travel.

The trend holds true for the Christmas holidays, too. While December 23 is usually the biggest day for pre-holiday travel, the most popular travel day before Christmas in 2021 is Wednesday, December 22. After Christmas, the most popular travel day is Tuesday, December 28.6

Tips for 2021 Holiday Travel

Book early. Many travelers are waiting until the last minute to buy tickets because of uncertainty about COVID risks and restrictions. It’s better to make your travel decision now, if possible.

Don’t wait to buy travel insurance. The best time to buy travel insurance is as soon as you make your travel arrangements. That way, you maximize your coverage window.

Give yourself some wiggle room. “Flexibility is a very important point to keep in mind this holiday travel season,” Ovation Travel Group adviser Vibha Dania Dhawan tells The Washington Post.7 She advises checking cancellation policies and opting for refundable tickets over the cheaper nonrefundable options.

Expect to pay more for your rental car. High demand for rental cars is only expected to continue as more travelers opt for domestic trips over the 2021 holidays. If you’re renting a car, buy the Rental Car Damage Protector ahead of time. You’ll get up to $75,000 in protection for covered loss, damage, and theft, with no deductible, for less than the rates at the rental counter.

Opt for less-traveled destinations. If everyone else is heading to tropical islands and ski towns, maybe you’d rather strike out in a different direction.

Read up on COVID-19 travel requirements. Check COVID-19 travel restrictions for your destination more than once, because they can change frequently. If your destination requires a negative COVID-19 test within a certain window, be sure to schedule an appointment — for the right kind of test — well in advance. For some destinations, you may need digital proof of vaccination.

Get the TravelSmart app from Allianz Global Assistance. This free travel app helps you manage your policy as well as tracking flights, getting travel alerts, reaching emergency services overseas and connecting with 24/7 Assistance.

 Pack like a pro. It really is possible to pack peace of mind! In addition to the usual toiletries and wrinkle-free shirts, think about everything you need to reduce anxiety and keep yourself safe as you travel. This can include disposable face masks, face lotion to reduce mask irritation, hand sanitizer, sanitizing wipes, and a refillable water bottle with a straw.

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