My Year of Travel Is Destroyed. Is It Time To Start Planning Travel Again?

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When to Start Planning Travel Again
Shinjuku Central Park from Park Hyatt Tokyo

When to Start Planning Travel Again

This was supposed to be an epic year of travel for my family. With Ellie starting Kindergarten (now virtual Kindergarten) in 2020, we had a nice set of plans for a series of trips before she was more tied down. Of course those plans are all gone now, but when/where/how do I start rebuilding our travel plans.

I started my travel career as a backpacker. We spent a year and a half only a step or two ahead of ourselves. That meant we often arrived in a city without a hotel and booked transportation at the last minute. Because of these roots I have struggled to plan ahead when traveling. Sometimes that has backfired, but in many cases it is a positive thing. It definitely helped with COVID, because I had far less to cancel.

When to Start Planning Travel Again
Paris is one of our favorite cities. We had planned a return there for 2020!

Plans For 6 Continents

Nonetheless this year we had plans to hit six continents. Gone is the 1+ month long road trip through Europe or the two week family trip to Japan. Gone is the roller coaster trip with friends to Korea and Japan and so much more. I know many of you are in similar circumstances and that isn’t new, but how do we rebuild?

As someone who doesn’t like to plan ahead I have been hesitant to book anything. I don’t mind grabbing a flight at the last minute or a hotel room same day, but I hate having to book, change and/or cancel plans. I’m all for grabbing a mistake fare or a great deal ahead of time, but right now I just don’t want to book anything else.

In our Facebook group and elsewhere I see many people have moved on. They are planning their 2021 trips and some are even booking full pre-Covid like trips for 2020. Optimism is a great thing, but is it warranted here? Is the excitement of getting something “on the books” worth the time, effort and sad feelings when you do have to cancel?

When to Start Planning Travel Again

Travel Is Our Life

Perhaps I should elaborate a little more on why I am writing this. I know for myself and many of you travel is a part of our lives. A deep part of our lives. When I look at the totality of the world right now I am even more grateful for my past travels and all of the blessings in my life. I don’t even for one second feel sorry for myself for having to cancel my trips. That doesn’t mean I’m not trying to figure out where to go from here.

On the flip side though being at home has been productive and nice. We have tackled many of the projects our many trips prevented us from completing. Mark and I have both talked about the lifestyle creep of this hobby and the negative impact it can have on life. No doubt current events have allowed a bit of a reset with that. So I don’t necessarily want to go back to the way it was, but I do want to move on when I can. But is now the time to start booking?

At least this year wasn’t all a loss for travel. I did have my epic disaster of a visit to Atlantis earlier this year!

Let’s Talk About It

This post is less to preach and more to have a discussion. I’ve learned over and over in life that what works for me might not work for others. My way of doing things has lead to some incredible successes (in travel and life) and many failures too. Enough failures to remind me that I should listen to others.

So what I am getting at is when do we start planning? Do we just book stuff and deal with the disappointment and frustration of canceling if necessary? Do we just lay low and jump on a trip last minute when it feels right? What other considerations are you making when booking travel? Have you booked a full pre-Covid like calendar for next year or are you holding off?

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  1. My issue is trying to plan a wedding and honeymoon for my daughter. They’ve been engaged since December and want to get married next summer and venues are booking up like crazy but it feels nuts to give a venue a huge non-refundable deposit. And I’ve dreamt of being able to plan an amazing honeymoon for them and now even Hawaii may not be feasible. This stuff is difficult because these things really do need to be planned in advance.

  2. M biggest frustration is the way countries slam their borders shut at the drop of a hat. I read that Birtish people traveling to Spain were caught out last week. And now m country – Australia which was beginning to open up is closing up again with severe restrictions on everyone in Victoria. Not to mention forced 14 day quarantine from anyone who arrives overseas $3000 at your own expense in a hotel. Why can’t we just quarantine at home with ankle monitors? Hopefully the other states won’t be so severe. It just seems to me that certain draconian restrictions are killing LIFE by purporting to keep us “alive”. No one knows how long we have on this planet, we could die tomorrow of anything. Sure, maintain social distancing, wear masks or stay home if that makes you feel safe.

    My parents and grandparents are long gone. I am no spring chicken and like another poster above I reckon I have maybe 5-6 years left I can do the active “flashpacking with miles and points” I usually do before my stamina deteriorates. I would rather have 5 happy years than 20 mundane years. I am in the minority. Most Australians, even those who were formerly active travelers support the restrictions. They probably have vulnerable family members. But people like me with no vulnerable family members who have no intention of interacting with vulnerable people are being caught up in this draconian era for no fault of our own. I have heaps of miles and points and places I want to go. Cash, no so much but I travel cheaply anyways. I just want my freedom back!

  3. I appreciate the article and the well worded comments. We retired last year and had a total year of travel planned. I am not only sad about not travelling but some days feel like my time on this globe is just wasting away (like many, we had Big plans). We are lucky to have a family lake house and are spending time there, along with a small road trip in the UP (MI). We are considering a road trip out West (from KY) this fall, but part of that was for the balloon festival (cancelled). We wait and watch. We did buy a one way ticket to PR (refundable) for winter, and hope to spend a few months there as snowbirds. My husband is from there and we will also investigate buying property, but who knows if we can go? We also transferred cruise credits for October 2021, but again, who knows? It’s all a wait and see, last minute type of situation it seems. I agree that the planning is much of the fun for us. Since we don’t have the time constrictions of having to stay somewhere 14 days, that opens up some things, but again, I question if we even want to do it. So, for now, we accrue points, and even have a ‘travel’ savings account now. We are doing more research on places we want to stay for a month or more and spending more time at the lake in MI. It’s just a hurry up and wait type of situation. I try to remain positive but realistic.

  4. Why not just travel in the U.S.? do you make your money here in the U.S.? ,why not spend it here and help our workers right here in the U.S. recover, I’m actually very happy that Europe is not allowing the U.S. to go there ,let them suffer the economic impact of it also.My family and I will be flying all over the U.S. in the coming months , and I’m sure it will be very enjoyable

    • I definitely don’t have any problem traveling here and I think many people are. I’ve done quite a few cross country road trips and have been to every state except Alaska multiple times. (RIP to my Alaska cruise this year to get that 50th state!) I actually have a booking at Miraval in Tuscon I can drive to and will see how the rest of the year goes. As for flying being enjoyable, I’m not sure about that part, but I’m sure you’ll have a great time on the trips. Where are some of the places you are heading?

  5. Reading all of these like-minded posts is at least making me feel a little less depressed! I’m finally swimming in points and at least I’ve been able to treat a few family & friends to some hotel nights (trips they had to take anyway). I have a convention in Australia in 2024 & am hoping things will be safer by then. In the meantime, we might have to take a medical-related trip and we’re thinking about renting a RV, so we can avoid public restrooms, restaurants & hotels.

  6. Because of my age, I am grieving (a little bit) because I don’t have that many years left where I will be strong enough to travel like I do today. I was looking forward to going all out these next five years, but I lost this year, maybe next year, and hopefully not the year after that. So for some of us who can’t count on another 20+ years of good health it is truly a big loss. Some of us might not even be alive in 2 years. So the loss of time is very real for some of us.

    • My dad is in his 70s and has had some health issues. He is doing much better now partly because he has been able to stay home and take care of himself. With that said, he is so eager to get out and do things so I totally understand this. Hopefully this doesn’t drag on too long and you get to take some incredible trips while you can.

  7. We’re seniors in reasonably good health and fitness. We always took a couple of trips every year, but the past few years since we retired we finally started taking longer trips of 3-5 weeks, including sometimes being on cruise ships for part of the time. I’m the travel planner and it’s my passion. But we had a fantastic 3 week trip wiped out in June, and haven’t bothered to even think about the trip I was going to plan for November. We moved a 4 week Asian cruise scheduled for March 2021 out to March 2022 and we aren’t even thinking about it anymore. Who knows if we will go on that. Not ready to plan anything beyond the “dreaming” phase and we’re OK with that. Travel conditions now and in the foreseeable future just don’t seem comfortable, enjoyable, or safe. Travel should be fun, not stressful, and there’s too much uncertainty right now for that to be the case.

  8. While I have some ideas for next year, they’re not really up to the level of planning. Once some vaccine results come in, I’ll go farther.

    • Yeah I’m kind of in the same boat. Formulating ideas for trips I’d like to take, but I’m comfortable waiting to pull the trigger until I can be more certain.

  9. No plan for at least a few years. The management of this virus has been a horror show, and really not interested in traveling for work or pleasure for a few years at least. Will be driving to nearby locales for long term stays, but that’s it (no airplanes for some time). In the meantime, I’ve burned 1.5M chase points to zero with their cash out option, and I’ll be hitting the reset button on ‘loyalty’ in a few years, when this thing is either under control or has run its course. What a mess!

  10. No plans at all. I am willing to plan and cancel, my wife feels differently, so we won’t. As a physician myself, I am a pessimist on this topic. I don’t think a level of disease safety with travel to satisfy my wife will be achieved for at least five years (and perhaps schools will be closed to our kids for that time as well the way things are going) so we are potentially looking at 2025 (or later) before any serious travel. Even if I wanted to travel for work, New Jersey will make you quarantine for 2 weeks for travel to most of the US (even Delaware for a time) and I can’t afford to miss 2 weeks of work. I hope I am wrong.

  11. We had to cancel a Wine and Food tour of northern Italy, the epicenter of the coronavirus in May and a Viking River Cruise in June. At this time, I don’t see us planning any new trips until there is a vaccine for this disease before we even consider traveling again. We do have a Viking River Cruise booked for Eastern Europe for May of 2021 but we are seriously thinking about canceling the cruise. Unfortunately, there is too much uncertainty in traveling with this virus and traveling just adds to that worry.

  12. No planning in the sense of booking, but I may start researching destinations in areas I assume will be safe in a couple of years. But it’s sad.

  13. Not planning at all. I used to spend a lot of my spare time daydreaming options for my next trip. I just don’t want to deal with cancellations and disappointment. One of the trips I had planned for September the resort booking was moved to next September. But I’m not holding my breath that will even happen. I still have a a plane ticket for Paris over Thanksgiving but I’m not even going to bother researching it. I’ve done a local backpacking trip and would like to do another before summer is up. Not something I would ever waste my vacation on before but it was great. Visiting cities just doesn’t seem appealing right now.

    • I agree about not wanting to deal with cancellations and disappointment of losing a trip. I lost so many trips this year that I don’t want to get excited until I can go. I’m sure my first big trip will be something I book last minute when I feel it’s safe and otherwise makes sense to travel.

  14. I have already had to cancel my rescheduled trips and I’ve found the planning aspect just isn’t fun for me anymore. I was one of those who loved to plan as much as I loved to travel, but it seems so foolish for me to even entertain the thought that a vacation in 2021 will go off without a hitch. Patience has never been a strength of mine which is why I had already rebooked all of our canceled trips. But I’ve learned my lesson that thinking even a month ahead in this pandemic is not productive. We are a family of four- two teachers and two young kids with lots of at risk loved ones. We aren’t as worried about getting sick ourselves, but would rather be part of the solution and not part of the problem.

    • I feel the same way Jessica. Just trying to be part of the solution and trying to help keep my elderly father and other loved ones healthy plus I am in no rush to catch this thing either. Brutal that you had to cancel rebooked trips. That’s rough.

  15. My wife and I have recently started traveling again, all domestic. We don’t have kids and our parents and grandparents are long gone. We have booked things for the fall and even Winter this year and starting to think about next year.

    If any of our plans change or have to be cancelled, we’re not going to sit around the house and pout about it as we knew it’s all a gamble at this point anyway.

    I understand this may be different for those who have to make their company aware of vacation advance or if they have kids and have to plan vacations around them then it’s understandable to not rush into putting anything on the calendar at the moment. Also if you know that you have those who are at risk (which now it seems like everyone is not just the elderly) in your daily life then it wouldn’t be in the best interest to start gallivanting around the country anyway.

    While I agree that a vaccine is important and certainly would help ease the mind of those who want to get back to a sense of normal, my wife and I decided that even if one were available next month that we wouldn’t take it. If it normally takes a couple of years for testing for a drug to be brought to market I certainly don’t want to partake of something that has been whipped up in a couple of months time. That’s just our personal take on it.

    We will keep plugging away as long as cancellation are flexible with the airlines. There’s a lot to see in America that can be done without large gatherings of people or the need to be inside. Our Canon and Nikon has become great travel companions and we love to photograph the change of seasons.

    I will say thought that we have since switched from staying at the traditional hotels for more of the TownePlace Suites/Hyatt House where we can at least shop locally at the grocery store and cook within our room if we don’t want to deal with restaurants.

    Here’s to all of us getting back to some sense of normal and trying to live a productive and active life in the meantime.

    Great post Shawn and definitely interested to see the approach of others as it relates to future travel plans.

    • Thanks for the comment Randy! “There’s a lot to see in America that can be done without large gatherings of people or the need to be inside.” This is so true. America is full of amazing places to see and many of them are compatible with distancing. Some of my greatest memories are the few cross country road trips I have done. Might have to do another at some point soon.

  16. No planning. Just saving money, collecting points taking care of the mortgage and waiting for the right time.

  17. I am planning for Europe in 2021 but won’t book anything that is not refundable. If it works out, it works out, if it doesn’t, it doesn’t. Planning is fahlf the fun for me, I am planner, so I am going to plan!! I am hoping for a vaccine but I won’t hold my breath.

    • There is nothing wrong with planning! I think for me the pain of cancelling is outweighed by the joy of planning. I know that’s very different for others. Having something to look forward to isn’t a bad thing either.

  18. As a total planner, we have just started rebooking for Next Year. 4 trips cancelled this year, all about to be reworked and rebooked. With the refunds and AirMiles piling up, we NEED to start looking forward with optimism. If they get cancelled again so be it. Part of the joy of travel for us is the planning and getting back to doing this has brought a sense of me back.

  19. Covid is to stay for years. Leisure travel probably in 2025. Prior to that – work hard and extra payments towards mortgage and life insurance. I consider this an equivalent of war. To Carl’s point, until there is a pronounced victory (i.e. proven and safe vaccine established for 1-2 years), no planning, no points, nothing. Just cash.

    • I definitely see the logic and value in your approach just as I do with the people who want to plan and hope for the best. Taking care of finances at a time like this is so important and using this hobby to do it isn’t bad either. Thanks Bram!

  20. Well, to try to contribute more, what I am doing is waiting, period. I won’t book anything until the place I go either allows people in (Much of Europe, Canada, Mexico, etc.) or I won’t have to Quarantine (Hawaii, etc).

    One thing I have been able to do is that by using free nights, points, etc., less, is treat some family members who DID travel (road only, nobody in the family is flying) to some savings by springing for a hotel night here and there. I can earn the points easier than they so it helps out.

    Meanwhile, here I sit, not going anywhere. 3 surgeries this year (so far, likely at least one more) and nowhere to go, or at times, ability.

    I’ll start planning as soon as the doors are wide open, but not until then. It’s a crazy world out there right now.

    • That’s awesome that you were able to help family members. I hope all goes well with future surgeries and your health continues to improve so you can take many incredible trips when this is all over!


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