Travel experts weigh in on when to cancel upcoming trips, book future vactions

Posted at 6:40 AM, Mar 27, 2020
and last updated 2020-03-27 07:49:01-04

KANSAS CITY, Mo.  — If you have an upcoming trip, you may be wondering when you should cancel it.

Yet another question top of mind for the wanderlust is when it's safe to book a future vacation.

The 41 Action News Investigators went to experts at two top travel sites to find answers.

"The demand for travel has fallen off a cliff basically," Clint Henderson, Senior News Editor at The Points Guy, said.

Both Henderson's outlet and Scott's Cheap Flights, a site that sends flight deals to subscribers, are in a unique position.

They're recommending against any travel right now in order to stop the spread of COVID-19.

When to cancel trips

The Points Guy and Scott's Cheap Flights advise waiting until the last possible moment, even 48 hours before, to cancel your trip.

That's because you may not have to be the one pulling the plug on your getaway.

"The best case scenario is that the airline cancels your flight," Scott's Cheap Flights Founder Scott Keyes said. "And the reason why that's the best case scenario is if the airline cancels your flight, then you get a cash refund."

As Keyes pointed out, that's cash on hand to use at the grocery store or the gas station.

However, if you have some cash to spare, think about accepting a voucher from an airline or hotel instead. You could come out ahead.

"American Airlines, for example, will give you a voucher for future travel as much as you paid plus 20 percent, so you're actually getting a bonus if you don't take it as a cash refund," Henderson said.

If your flight is not canceled, but you don't feel comfortable flying, Henderson recommends calling the airline and explaining the situation.

"Most airlines, most hotels, most cruise ships are being really generous right now in their waivers in a way that's unprecedented," he said.

All of the cancellations are keeping customer service lines busy. If you're in a pinch and facing a long hold time with an airline, Scott's Cheap Flights recommends calling one of the airline's offices in another country. Agents abroad have the same capability to change or cancel flights, as long as you're willing to foot the bill for an international call.

Booking your dream vacation

There's at least one silver lining to all of this for avid travelers.

"We think once this crisis passes, there's going to be some incredible opportunities for you to save a ton of money and go to those dream destinations," Henderson said.

The Points Guy recommends taking this time to make a travel bucket list and plan on booking for late fall or early next year.

After hearing complaints from travelers about third party sites, Henderson also advised booking directly with airlines and hotels.

Scott's Cheap Flights is only highlighting deals past July, with an emphasis on flights with free cancellation or change fees.

Keyes is already reporting deals like $225 round-trip to Hawaii and less than $150 to Cancun.

"You can say I'm going to book a great deal now, lock in the price and know that if things are still really bad when that trip comes up, I can cancel it and not be out any money," Keyes said.