How To Budget and Plan For a Vacation in 2021

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AleksandarNakic / Getty Images

For many of us, 2021 seems like the light at the end of a long tunnel. We’ve been chilling (primarily indoors) since March, and though it may not yet be the safest idea, many of us have already started thinking about the possibility of a vacation next year. Just a few nights away from home would be nice.

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But is it safe to start thinking about a vacation? And when should you start planning? Here’s what you need to know when thinking about your next vacation.

Last updated: May 18, 2021
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Start Discussing Options Early

While many believed that COVID-19 would be gone by summer, we’re deep into November and there’s no sign that the pandemic will let up anytime soon. There’s no evidence that we’ll be rid of the virus in 2021, either, so you should really sit down and think about whether a vacation at this time is worth it.

These aren’t conversations to be taken lightly. Aside from budgeting concerns, you’ll also want to consider how you’ll be quarantining before and after your vacation and whether the place you’re visiting is at least relatively safe for travel.

Some areas of the country, especially where masks and social distancing haven’t been enforced, are experiencing surges in COVID-19. And many countries aren’t accepting tourists at this time.

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Research COVID-19 Restrictions at Your Desired Location

Where are you planning to go and what do you want to do while you’re there? These are questions you need to ask yourself before you book a plane ticket or hop in the car.

It’s always good to have a plan, but it’s even more important when some destinations — including major theme parks, tourist spots and restaurants — are closed due to COVID-19.

Las Vegas, for instance, has closed down all of its big-budget shows and almost all of the small ones. Broadway has similarly closed down theaters until May 2021. The best place to visit may be one where there’s a lot of outdoor space and fewer people.

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Make Sure To Set Aside Money for Travel Insurance

At one point, living on the edge (read: not opting for travel insurance) was an acceptable option for vacations that you were reasonably sure wouldn’t be impacted by an emergency, but those times are over.

If you’re traveling during a pandemic, you’ll definitely want to make sure that whatever trip you’re taking is insured and that COVID-19 is covered. As some people have learned at the beginning of the pandemic, it isn’t always.

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Pay Extra for Refundable Rooms

It may be tempting to take a small discount on hotel rooms as long as you agree to not ask for a refund, but at a time of uncertainty, that’s not for you. Who knows if your flight will get canceled or the place you really want to visit shuts down? Or what happens if you or someone in your family gets ill? It’s important to be prepared — the peace of mind will be worth the cost.

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Designate a Specific Amount To Put Into Vacation Savings Each Month

Now is a great time to start saving. While there haven’t been many benefits to the pandemic, one thing that might be considered a positive is the fact that many people are saving more and spending less. Some of that money you’re putting aside could go toward a room upgrade or a really fancy dinner. But…

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Look Closely at Unexpected Travel Expenses

Make sure to think about the unexpected expenses of traveling right now. You’re likely going to have to invest in extra masks and travel-size cleaning products, and have fewer choices about where you spend your money. So if you were planning to have something cheap for dinner but the only place open close to your hotel serves soup that costs $15, you may end up spending more than you’d like.

Take that into consideration if you’re planning on ordering room service, too.

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Stay Close to Home

Though it might be tempting to take advantage of cheap flights during the pandemic, you’ll want to consider whether spending hours on an airplane is a great idea during this time.

What could you do instead? Find someplace a little bit closer to home. Maybe a rental in your area. That way, if anything happens you can just turn around and head back to your house. And a change of scenery is still a change of scenery, even if it’s only five minutes away (or literally in your own backyard. Hey, camping’s fun).

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