Seven tips to smart travelling in a COVID-19 climate

Explore editor Peter Lynch gives his Magnificent Seven pieces of wisdom on travelling in today's ever-changing COVID-19 world.

As we all contemplate a world of social distancing and supplanting handshakes with an elbow bump, holidays look more and more tempting. Who wouldn't want to get away from the relentless headlines and supermarket queues?

But if you've already booked your dream holiday, should you cancel or should you go? And should you snap up the bargains that arrive by the hour in your social and email feeds?

Welcome to a world of travel dilemmas. Here's our guide to what you should do now - and how you should handle future trips.

1. If you've booked a foreign holiday, examine the cancellation policy

Many have changed recently as companies try and hold on to your money by offering postponement without penalties. If it's your dream holiday, hold that dream - Italy may be the seat of a pandemic, but it's still a truly beautiful destination. But prices have also changed radically and that same holiday might be secured for less. Can you cancel and rebook? But watch out: our dollar is down, down, down. Make sure you check currency exchange and think about costs once you get to your destination.

2. When should you rebook?

Richard Fain, chair of the cruise line Royal Caribbean, said when pausing sailings: 'We are asking our passengers to make a call which even the world's best doctors can't make". Most in the travel industry is betting on June for a return to international travel. But, (as every press release that comes across the Explore newsdesk says) "with an abundance of caution" we think June will see some light and September looks relatively safe, depending on the destination. Keep a close watch on our favourite website: smartraveller.com.au. And if you are a cruiser, check out cruisewatch.com. They lock in cruise itineraries and alert you to price changes.

3. Snap up a local deal right now

There are a few no-brainers in today's travel market then his would be one. Drive holidays, even local flights, now you know there are fewer foreign tourists on board, look good. Prices are really special - your Aussie dollars aren't depreciating and you are helping a local business. Explore features a series of bargains for now, and some are truly amazing. As the team at Hawaii Five-0 would say: Book 'em Dano.

4. Buy flights which airlines will move or cancel

If you've decided you want to go to Europe in September, make sure you use an airline that allows for flexible bookings. Singapore Airlines, for instance, has waived all rebooking fees for tickets issued on or before 15 March 2020, for travel up to 31 May 2020.

5. Cruisers, take particular note

If you're booked on a cruise, some lines are offering huge incentives to keep your booking. They are all saying you can cancel now their ships are docked. Many are saying you can rebook at 125% of the value or your cruise and P&O is offering an amazing 200%! Yep, that means you can rebook two cruises or trade up to the best suite. But best wait until May or June.

6. Use a travel agent

I know, sounds like something your Nana would do, right? In this climate, you're mad if you don't avail yourself of all the protections and wisdom a travel agent gives you. Most of the big brands have price guarantees. We love travel agents.

7 . Get good travel insurance

The Australian Government advice is 'Do Not Travel overseas' - meaning you're not covered if you go against this advice. Suddenly, travel insurance is both essential and difficult to get right. Don't bother with the usual credit card insurance, because in today's complex travel world it just doesn't cut the mustard. Get advice - see No 6 - and ensure you are covered if your holiday is cancelled or you're stuck overseas due to travel restrictions. Don't skimp.

Keep reading Explore - and safe travelling

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