How to plan travel while social distancing

Eager to make travel plans? Learn how to use the down time to start brainstorming for your next trip.

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Traveling for leisure is on the back burner for the time being, but it doesn't mean you can't use the down time to start brainstorming and planning your next trips. In fact, savvy planners can score some good deals and give themselves something to look forward to without taking on a lot of risk. Here's what I suggest.

Have fun while brainstorming

If you're single, read travel books and watch travel movies. If you have a family, play games and get the kids involved. See what destinations come to the surface and start making a list. Many of you probably already have places in mind.

Pick a date, any date

Right now, it's all about giving yourself something to look forward to and minimizing, or ideally eliminating, the risk involved. In other words, you want to get the fun and enjoyment of planning and booking without the dread of possibly losing a deposit or having to eat the cost of a flight/hotel. Rest assured, in this COVID-19 world, doing so is not only possible, but actually easier than ever. Below, you'll find some advice on how to do so. But for now, pick a date. Any date.

Hunt for good deals and cancellation policies

At this point, many hotels, lodges, cabins and other kinds of properties are very flexible and are anxious to confirm bookings for this summer. Some places, like Latigo Ranch in Colorado, for example, are offering risk-free bookings—if you can't come due to the pandemic, then they will refund your money.

Policies such as this allow you to book something for this summer—thus, putting a little hope on the horizon—but have you covered in the worst-case scenario. Search around in some of your desired destinations and see what's being offered.

Stay on top of the airlines

Once you have your place, you can then look into getting there (or vice versa, depending on how you like to do things). Right now, booking policies are about as easy as they come, with the option to move or cancel your flight without the change or re-booking charges (be sure to read each airline's policy, as they vary slightly). At the moment, airlines have these Wild West policies open through the end of March. With demand as low as it has been since after 9/11, flight costs are down.

Poke around and see what you can find for this summer—it's likely you'll get a great deal and be able to change the flight if you end up not being able to travel. And keep your eye out for other policy exemptions or deeper discounts in the weeks to come.

Stay flexible

As time goes forward, you'll have a better idea about whether or not you'll be able to travel when you planned. Be positive about it. Until then, remember, it's something to look forward to. But if you do find out that a plan won't work, don't panic. The safety net is there. I know, nothing is guaranteed, and the outlook might feel grim at times, but hey, right now, with uncertainty increasing, all we can do is prepare ourselves to get back to normal as soon as humanly possible. Having a plan in place, and continuing to rework that plan as things develop, will go a long way, even if it doesn't seem so now. After all, any travel plans are better than no travel plans.

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