How to Turn Canceled Travel Plans Into Treasured Holiday Memories

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On the fence about whether you should cancel this year's holiday travel plans? We all know how much effort goes into planning, so it can be disheartening when you have to cancel. Many travelers have already had a wrench thrown into their travel plans thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic and it looks like this trend will continue into the holiday season. Obviously your safety and the safety of your loved ones (especially the elderly and immunocompromised) is your first priority during this difficult time. But it’s not the end of the world if you need to cancel. Here are some ways to help minimize the headaches that come with cancellations and tips to make it all a little bit easier to manage.

Request a Refund

First things first, find out if you can request a refund for any prepaid items. Refund requests should be on the top of your to-do list as this may be time sensitive. For a big holiday trip, you may have already booked and paid for different types of transportation as well as lodging. Getting a refund can be a tiresome task and may require different steps depending on what you’ve booked.

  • Airlines: First, check the refund policy of the airline to see what you are eligible for.  Many airlines offer refunds for baggage fees, upgrades, preferred seating, etc. However, refunds for the flight itself may prove more difficult, especially if you are outside the free 24-hour cancellation period. Although a full refund may be elusive, the good news is that given the state of the pandemic in many cases airlines will offer you credit towards future flights in lieu of a refund. Though not always ideal, it is better than just cancelling your flight and getting stuck with the bill.

  • Rental Cars: Again, the first thing you should do is check the refund policy of the service you booked through. Some rental car services allow you to pay when you pick up the rental. If this is the case let them know you want to cancel as soon as possible. If you have already paid you may be asked to pay a processing fee to receive your refund.

  • Cruise: This is another case where time is of the essence. Refund options will vary depending on who you booked with as well as the length of the cruise. Some cruise lines require a deposit which they will keep if you cancel.  Depending on when you cancel they may also keep a percentage of the total cost paid and that percentage will increase as the date of departure gets closer. Within two weeks of departure, there is a chance no refund will be offered. If you want a credit or voucher instead of a refund, that is something most cruise lines will offer you more readily.

  • Accommodations: Many hotel chains, as well as Airbnb hosts, have loosened their cancellation policies and waived fees related to changes and cancellations. Penalties for late cancellations may still be given but the leniency is generous given the state of things.

Postpone Further Plans

As the future of travel still remains uncertain, it may be best to hold off on rescheduling travel plans immediately. As you cancel plans and figure out alternative options, you won’t want to have the same experience again in a few months. If you consider postponing indefinitely, you’ll need to be aware of any expiration dates that may be attached to vouchers or credits from airlines, cruise lines, and other bookings.

Since it is not yet clear as to when things will be safer for travel, your best bet may be to simplify and try an alternative to a big trip with complex and time consuming travel plans. 

Keep It Simple

One thing to consider in these uncertain times is a simple holiday at home. The way to make your home “staycation” feel like a vacation is to have things scheduled that are different from your everyday activities (oh, and get time off from work!). 

There are a number of fun activities that you can partake in within the confines of your own home. Here a a few suggestions: 

  • Indoor Holiday Picnic: Pick a day to try out a new recipe(s) and cook a homemade meal for the whole family. To make it more festive, step away from the kitchen table and turn the meal into an indoor picnic! Set out a blanket, pack the food up in a basket and grab a seat on the floor. This is a fun and simple way to make dinner a special event and bring everyone together for a more intimate family meal. Experiences like this can be the catalyst for a memorable fun-filled evening and future family traditions! 

  • Family Holiday Cards: If you want to keep in touch with friends and family at a distance, putting together holiday ecards may be a fun way to reach out to all your loved ones! Get the kids involved to choose a design that fits your family. Customize with your own personal holiday message and add a family photo to share with loved ones. It’s easy to do and everyone can send and receive right from their phones in minutes!

  • Plan a Day Trip: One of the best things about traveling is exploring new places. We often don’t think to do that in our own backyards. However, you might be surprised what you’ll find when you try. Ask friends and neighbors for suggestions on where to find…

    • Great hiking spots
    • Neighborhoods with the best Christmas lights
    • The best cider donuts in a 25-mile radius
    • Historic walking trails
    • Places to see the perfect sunset
    • Outdoor holiday markets 

Go Somewhere Remote Instead

We get it. Sometimes you just want to get away and given these uncertain times we don’t blame you. But that doesn’t mean you have to risk your health or the health of your loved ones by taking crammed airplanes or staying in crowded hotels. If you still plan to take a trip, why not try somewhere remote and away from crowds? 

Driving to your destination can be a safe and fun adventure. You can listen to podcasts or audiobooks, play games or just talk as a family on the way to your destination. There are many ways to make a long drive exciting and fun. Checkout to see if there are any notable attractions or oddities on your route! 

If you still want to get together with friends and family, camping is a great alternative to other plans! It allows everyone enough space to remain socially distant while still enjoying each other's company. Socially distanced camping activities might include charades, a game of horseshoes, cornhole, storytelling or the sharing of ghost stories. The only limit to what you can do is your own imagination!

Consider a Virtual Reunion

If you decide not to travel, it doesn’t mean you can’t still enjoy time with extended family, too.  A creative solution to keep in touch is to plan a Virtual Reunion! There are tons of great video conferencing software available which offer great ways to reach out to everyone you love and get them together at a distance. You could consider sending out a digital invitation with a link to your family’s reunion! A few notable video conferencing apps are: 

  • Zoom - free calls for up to 100 people but with a caveat being you only can have a 45 minute call without paying. Though other benefits include screen sharing, sending messages within the app and even recording the call for later viewing or to send to those who couldn’t make it! While you can use a browser version of Zoom, we suggest downloading the app version to get the most out of it.

  • Skype - a familiar brand pre-covid, Skype allows up to 50 people per call. It is a reliable and free app that offers solid video quality as well as instant messaging, polling, and screen and document sharing. A pro to this choice is that a lot of family members may already have it downloaded and ready to go!

  • Google Meet - up to 250 participants can be included for free. This choice is also completely browser based so there is no download required. This may be a good option for the technophobes in the family!

To stay organized it’s smart to delegate the responsibility of tasks amongst a core group. Such responsibilities can be host, conversation coordinator (someone to help with the flow of conversations/mute and unmute guests), IT support (for those family members who struggle with tech), a game creator (to create fun activities throughout the reunion), and a photo compiler (to make a family slideshow to share with everyone)! 

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