How to Travel Safely and on a Budget in 2021
by Maurie Backman | Updated July 21, 2021 - First published on Jan. 27, 2021
Here's how to get out and see new things -- without spending a fortune or compromising your health.
Many people saw their 2020 travel plans fall through due to coronavirus concerns, quarantine mandates, or a glaring lack of money. But now it's a new year, and you may be itching to get out and explore a bit. While travel may become an easier, safer prospect once coronavirus vaccines become widely available to the public, we're not there yet. And we may not get there until summertime, fall, or beyond. If you're eager to travel in the near term, here are a few tips for making your trip as safe and affordable as possible.
1. Travel by car
Not only can taking a road trip be a cheaper alternative to flying -- especially if you're talking about a family vacation -- but given the state of the pandemic, it can also be safer. When you travel by car, you don't run the same risks as when you're forced to wait in airport security lines and pack into a plane. Car travel also gives you more flexibility. If the COVID-19 outbreak takes a turn for the worse at your destination, you can always cancel your trip at the last minute. Flights, on the other hand, are trickier to cancel without suffering some sort of financial loss.
2. Focus on outdoor activities
The risk of contracting coronavirus is said to be significantly lower outdoors than inside, so as you plan an upcoming trip, focus on destinations that allow you to roam freely in open air. National parks are a good bet. Not only do they charge low entry fees, but they're so large that spreading out shouldn't be hard, especially if you go at off-peak times. Keep in mind, though, that some national parks only open during certain months and are closed the rest of the year when weather can make access roads undrivable. Do some research so you don't plan a trip around a park you can't get into.
3. Stock up on safety gear
The last thing you want to do is find yourself on vacation with a shortage of face masks. Before you head out to travel, make sure you have plenty of supplies for your family, from masks to hand sanitizer. These items may be in short supply in some parts of the country, so you can't count on being able to replenish your stock once you're away from home.
4. Use credit card rewards to your advantage
Many people saw their financial circumstances deteriorate in 2020. Even if that didn't happen to you, general economic uncertainty may prompt you to spend more conservatively on a vacation this year. To that end, it pays to see what benefits you can eke out of your credit cards. If you're flying somewhere, aim to use your air miles rather than pay for flights in cash. You should also look at opening a travel rewards card with money-saving perks, like free checked bags. If you're taking a road trip and aren't flying, you can cash out your rewards balance and use the money to pay for things like fuel, meals on the road, and lodging costs at your destination.
Of course, it also pays to use the right credit card during your travels. If you're taking a road trip, for instance, find a card that offers generous cash back at the pump so you can bank extra rewards points.
A lot of people can't wait to travel more in 2021, and it may become less challenging as the year progresses. Whether you're hoping to explore different parts of the U.S. or go abroad, make sure you can truly afford the trip you're planning. The last thing you want to do is rack up costly debt at a time when the country as a whole is supposed to be recovering financially.
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