Spring break is a great time to travel. As the gloom of winter gives way to sunshine and warmer temperatures, a vacation is the ultimate reset. And, with many spring break travel deals out there, now is a great time to book your vacation.
Regardless of whether you’re planning to go abroad or across the country, here are five reasons you may want to get to booking your flights and hotel stays now.
Most flights can now be changed for free
There aren’t many silver linings to the Covid-19 pandemic cloud we’ve been living under, but one of the few bits of good news is that the major US airlines — American, Delta and United — have dropped their change fees on most domestic tickets and many international itineraries departing from North America. (The exact policies differ by airline, so be sure to do your research on your airline’s no-fee rules.)
The one exception is basic economy fares — both Delta and United say that no basic economy tickets are eligible for their no-change-fee policies. American Airlines says that any basic economy ticket purchased on or after April 1, 2021, is non-refundable and non-changeable.
(Also, let’s give credit here to Southwest, which has never had basic economy or change fees in the first place. If you’re looking for a passenger-friendly airline, Southwest continues to have some of the best policies of all the US carriers, including easy-to-change tickets and free checked bags.)
Now, that doesn’t mean all airline tickets are suddenly refundable. There’s a big difference between “changeable” and “refundable.” Basically, the new policies mean you can change your ticket before departure and not have to pay an extra fee. But unless you specifically pay more for a refundable flight, you still can’t get your money back on most tickets unless there’s a cancellation by the airline itself.
And while there are no longer fees for changing your flight, you’ll still have to pay any difference between the original fare you bought and the price of the new ticket if it’s more. Conversely, if the price of your new flight is lower, both American and Delta will give you a credit for the difference. (United just pockets it, so keep that policy in mind when you’re choosing an airline.)
Still, the new rules offer a lot more flexibility and make it more attractive to go ahead and book since there’s no risk of losing your money if you can’t end up traveling for spring break. It also means it’s worth locking down a great deal for the future if you find one. Speaking of which…
Great deals are everywhere…for now
After a major increase in travel over summer 2021, demand ratcheted back down in the fall, so airlines are eager to get people back to booking travel again. And even if you may not be ready to jump on a plane right this moment, you can take advantage of deals now for trips in the future — for summer this year or perhaps even for spring break 2023.
What kinds of deals can you get? Well, just as an example, as of this writing, New Yorkers can get themselves to sunny Miami (MIA) for a week over the spring break period for just $83.20 round trip. And for those on the West Coast looking for a getaway to Hawaii, there are nonstop flights around the spring break period from Los Angeles to destinations in the Hawaiian islands from $199 round trip with American and United.
With a number of international borders now reopen and several countries welcoming fully vaccinated Americans, you could even consider a trip abroad. As of Feb. 11, England no longer requires a quarantine or any kind of Covid-19 testing for fully vaccinated Americans. (Unvaccinated Americans will be required to take a pre-departure test and a PCR test within two days of arrival in England.) Right now we’re also seeing round-trip fares from New York to London in March from $469.17 with JetBlue.
To find cheap airfare, use either Google Flights or an online travel agency to search for trips, or sign up for notifications from a deal site such as Scott’s Cheap Flights or Thrifty Traveler. Or try a data-driven app like Hopper to find the ideal time to book.
And if you’ve been sitting on a stack of frequent flyer miles, now could be the time to use them. While award availability is generally more open than it has been in years as airlines try to fill seats, you may have more trouble finding availability around the spring break period. Before committing to buying a ticket outright using cash, we recommend checking to see if you can find availability for those points and miles. Put aside some time to search the airline’s website and see what sorts of mileage deals appear.
Demand for travel to the US has picked up — and will continue to do so
Since late last year, noncitizens coming from Europe, the UK, Ireland, China, Iran, Brazil, South Africa and India have been allowed to enter the country. As a result, the US saw a massive influx in tourists, especiallly coming from Europe.
While that demand slightly dipped in the winter months as new variants and other developments led to confusion and hesitation, that demand from abroad is expected to pick up again this spring and summer. According to the 2022 Deloitte travel outlook, international tourists are expected to head to top-tier destinations first in the US before heading off the beaten path.
Just because there’s expected to be more demand for traveling around the US doesn’t mean deals will completely disappear — industry leaders are projecting that business travel, which is the most lucrative part of the market for airlines, won’t fully return for several years. But planes are likely to be more full than they are right now.
Travel credit cards can protect you if you get sick
Even with changeable flights, there may still be some aspects of a trip that are difficult or impossible to change, and you don’t want to lose money if you get sick and can’t travel.
You could buy a travel insurance policy to cover you in case the worst happens, but they can be expensive, and not all of them will cover claims related to the pandemic. Fortunately, a cheaper and better way to protect yourself might already be in your purse or wallet: your credit card.
Many travel credit cards include various forms of travel protection, such as trip cancellation and interruption coverage, travel accident insurance, emergency evacuation coverage and more. While these protections generally don’t cover you if you voluntarily cancel your trip due to the pandemic, they often do cover you if you personally get sick from the coronavirus or can’t travel due to unexpected restrictions put in place by a governmental authority.
Every credit card offers different levels of coverage, and some don’t have any travel protections at all, so it’s important to check the fine print before you book your trip with a specific credit card to know exactly what you’re being protected against. But if you want to be sure that your travel investment is safe, choose the right credit card to book your travel for spring break.
Give yourself something to look forward to
After the past two years, with many stuck at home and not ready to travel just yet, spring break could be the perfect way to relax. Whether you’re reuniting with friends for a week-long hotel stay on the beach or driving to reunite with family at a cabin in the mountains, a vacation is the perfect thing to look forward to.
By booking yourself a trip now, you’ll have something to look forward to between now and spring break. Taking care of your mental health is just as important as taking care of your physical health, and the idea of an upcoming trip may help get you through the slog.
And even with all of the above in mind, if you just don’t feel comfortable booking future travel at the moment, don’t feel bad about that either. Many people don’t have a flexible-enough family or work schedule to allow themselves to book speculative travel with so many unknowns still out there.
If that’s you, there’s one other thing you can do while waiting for travel to resume: earn extra travel rewards on your credit card. Many cards are offering high sign-up bonuses to new card holders, including up to 130,000 bonus points and free nights on Hilton credit cards and 100,000 on American Express’ premium card.
Those bonuses alone can be enough to book a trip when you feel comfortable getting back out there. Plus, you can use a credit card to earn rewards on the everyday things you buy while you’re staying at home.
So, if you aren’t ready to book spring break travel yet but want to make sure you have enough frequent flyer points or miles to go somewhere great when you finally are, check out our list of the best travel credit cards and see if one of them might be a good fit for you.