The Extra Holiday Travel Costs You’ll Need To Budget For This Year

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LordHenriVoton / Getty Images

Traveling during the holidays is notoriously expensive and this year, if you’re planning to hit the road or skies, you’ll likely have to spend even more than usual to travel safely amid the pandemic. From PPE to mandatory testing, here are some of the extra costs you may have to factor into your budget.

Last updated: Nov. 9, 2020
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Face Masks

All major U.S. airlines are requiring passengers to wear face coverings, so you’ll have to stock up on masks for yourself and your family if you’re planning to fly anywhere this holiday season.

Fortunately, this shouldn’t be too much of an added expense. At Target, you can find two-packs of adult face masks for $5 and two-packs of child face masks for $4.


Face Shields

If you will be flying, you may want an extra layer of protection outside of the mandated face masks. You can find a two-pack of standard face shields on Amazon for around $8. And if you want even more of a protective barrier, you can opt for a shield-balaclava combo for about $22.

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Travel-Sized Disinfecting Wipes and Hand Sanitizer

If you’re flying, you likely won’t want to lug a full package of Clorox wipes with you and large containers of hand sanitizer probably won’t make it past the TSA check. Having travel-sized wipes and hand sanitizer can help you stay safe while flying, especially since you may want to wipe down your seat and tray when you board and use hand sanitizer before removing your mask or eating.

You can get a to-go pack of Clorox wipes for around $1 and travel-sized hand sanitizer for around $2.

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COVID-19 Testing

Depending on your destination, you may have to take a COVID-19 test before and/or after you arrive. Within the U.S., COVID-19 tests are available at no cost nationwide at health centers and select pharmacies, even if you are uninsured. However, if you are traveling abroad and are required to take a COVID-19 test upon arrival, you may need to pay out-of-pocket. For example, Americans traveling to Bermuda are required to take a number of COVID-19 tests upon arrival and the fee for these tests is $75 per traveler, The New York Times reported.

More Changes: Retailers Make Big Pre-Holiday Shifts To Accommodate Online Shopping

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Flu Shots

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention strongly recommends getting a flu shot this year “to protect yourself and the people around you from flu, and to help reduce the strain on healthcare systems responding to the COVID-19 pandemic.” Since you’ll likely be exposing yourself to more people while traveling than you normally would be, you may opt to get a flu shot before you leave.

The cost of a flu shot can range from free to $50 or more, depending on where you get your shot and what kind of vaccine you receive, according to GoodRx.

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A Hotel Room for Quarantining

If you’re traveling to see loved ones who are in a higher-risk group, you may opt to quarantine before seeing them in-person. According to the CDC, when you travel, you may be exposed to the coronavirus and not have any symptoms. If you are exposed, “you and your travel companions (including children) pose a risk to your family, friends and community for 14 days after you were exposed to the virus.” To be extra safe, you may spend these 14 days at a hotel or Airbnb — which will obviously add a huge expense to a trip. A $100-a-night hotel stay would amount to $1,400 over the recommended quarantine period.

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Road-Trip Costs

For longer trips, flying is usually cheaper than driving once you add up the costs of gas, hotel stays, food, tolls and vehicle maintenance, with gas typically being the largest expense, Forbes reported. But this year, you may opt to drive to places you would normally fly to in order to reduce the risk of being exposed to the coronavirus. This can add to your overall holiday travel costs. Exactly how much it will add depends on how far you are driving, how many miles you plan to cover each day and how much mileage your car gets per tank of gas.

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Pandemic Fees

If you book your travel through an agent or tour operator, you may get stuck paying a “pandemic fee” if your trip gets canceled due to travel restrictions, USA Today reported. This means that even if you get a refund, the booking agent or tour company may hold onto a percentage of the refund as a fee.

“We’ll continue to see an increase in pandemic-related fees from tourism and hospitality businesses,” Jan Louise Jones, a professor at the University of New Haven’s hospitality and tourism management department, told USA Today. “Many are struggling to keep up with the new health and safety standards and are incurring increased pandemic-related costs.”

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COVID-19 Surcharges

Canceled travel fees aren’t the only extra fees you may encounter. People tend to go out to eat more when they’re out of town and this could end up costing more than usual this year, due to COVID-19 surcharges. Some small businesses, including restaurants, have been adding this fee to your bill to offset the cost of personal protective gear for employees or sanitation supplies.

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Missed Work

If you end up getting sick during your travels, you may have to miss work when you return. Depending on your position and your company’s sick leave policy, this may end up costing you in terms of lost income.

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