As we enter month five of quarantine, the number of canceled trips continues to grow. What’s more, while some of us may have been optimistic about the possibility of autumn trips back in March (like when I moved my plane tickets to Paris from April to September), those hopes have since been dashed. Nevertheless, even as most international excursions are completely off the table, domestic travel is slowly resuming — even resulting in some attractive offers, deals, and other incentives.
Last week, I received an email from Expedia. It informed me that, as a valued Gold member, they were gifting me the equivalent of $50 in rewards points. If used at a VIP property, the value of these bonus points would actually be $100. It’s a very nice and appreciated gesture, to be sure, but it’s not without some restrictions. Most notably, these points must be redeemed for a booking by February 28th, 2021.
On the one hand, that date seems far enough away that it could be doable — especially since you seemingly only need to book by that date, not travel by then. Yet, with no guarantees of a vaccine by then and plenty of other unknowns ahead, it could very well be that February isn’t much more promising than today is (ugh, sorry for even suggesting such a horrible thought).
I should mention that, considering how Expedia and several other loyalty programs have already taken the initiative to extend customers’ status for various amounts of time, it’s possible that the company would give users extra time to use their bonuses if things don’t look much better in the new year. Nevertheless, this experience made me wonder if some frugal flyers might push themselves into traveling prematurely just to take advantage of a deal.
Of course, this is far from the only example I’ve seen of businesses in the travel space looking to bring back customers. A few weeks ago, a Southwest-sponsored Twitter campaign promoted their all-too-appropriately-named ‘Wanna Get Away’ fares. Meanwhile, I’ve also come across some tourist destinations boasting special limited-time offers. That said, some of these are directed solely at local markets, such as Universal Orlando’s Florida resident deal that gives them unlimited access to the resort’s theme park through December 24th for the price of a one-day ticket.
It’s really no mystery why these companies would be promoting such offerings: they’re hurting. Although the Transportation Safety Administration (better known as TSA) reports screening more than 800,000 passengers this past Sunday, that’s still down 68% from last year. Additionally, with new coronavirus “hot spots” cropping up on a weekly basis, travel figures have ebbed accordingly. Thus, airlines, hotels, attractions, and even businesses in tourist-dependent cities have been struggling.
With that in mind, I’m not suggesting that there are no responsible ways to travel as there may well be. In fact, I’m constantly getting updates about the steps that various transportation options and other venues are taking to keep their guests and staff safe (killing your customers is really not good business, after all). However, I’m merely suggesting that those who are on the fence about traveling shouldn’t let the chance to save a few dollars off the retail price sway them into doing something that makes them uncomfortable.
For those who are willing to follow the various safety regulations and rules imposed by airlines, businesses, and municipalities and feel safe traveling, thousands of workers could certainly use your support right now. Plus, as an added bonus, you may be able to save some money along the way. As for those of us who aren’t quite sure, in my opinion, it’s probably best to pass up these often alluring offers for the time being. After all, who wants to spend money on a vacation that you might not even enjoy? Just something to consider as we strive to regain some sense of normalcy in a pandemic.