It might be referred to as a trip wish list. Perhaps you’re making plans for the upcoming year. Or perhaps you’re just anticipating what comes next. The wonderful thing about a new year is that it seems like there are endless options in life. Seven Corners can assist you in preparing for any travel-related wishes you may have.
How to Plan a Vacation in 2023
As we plan our 2023 vacations, most of us are focusing on four things: saving money, maximizing convenience, staying safe, and getting a full experience.
While these might be on your priority list every year, how you achieve them in 2023 could look a little different. Here are your top travel tips for planning a new year with new adventures.
1. Reduce the impact of travel disruptions.
We’ve seen more flight cancellations and delays, and more lost bags, in the last year than ever before. These travel disruptions have us thinking more creatively about how we travel.
There are steps you can take to reduce the headaches that sometimes come with travel and to boost that convenience factor. If you’re flying, look at airlines’ track records for getting people to their destination on time. Flightaware has a report that shows how many flights an airline has cancelled in the last week.
Factor in the airline’s reputation when choosing a flight. It might be worth it to pay extra to fly with a more reliable carrier.
Is there anything more disappointing than missing a flight because you were still in a long security line? You were so close! Get TSA PreCheck for next time.
According to TSA, 93% of passengers with TSA PreCheck only spend about five minutes waiting in line at a security checkpoint. Yes, the membership comes with a fee, but it lasts for five years and can save massive amounts of time waiting.
Plans for handling disruptions
As you plan and book your trip, know what to do when travel disruptions do happen. For example, if your flight is cancelled, what rights do you have with the airline? What benefits will be covered by your travel insurance? If a travel company, like a tour operator or cruise line, offers a refund, will you get money back or do you get credits to use with the company in the future?
Understanding the fine print of what you purchased, whether that’s an airline ticket, a rental car agreement, or travel insurance, is key to minimizing the impact of a disruption.
When it comes to trip protection, know that you can only be reimbursed for situations that are covered by your plan. You need to be familiar with what those instances are and what is excluded so that you know if you could be reimbursed for an extra night in a hotel when your new flight doesn’t leave until the next day, or if you can get your money back for a prepaid excursion at your destination if you don’t arrive on time.
Here’s an example to make this clearer. Let’s say you’re returning home from a Caribbean vacation and your flight is delayed. In order to be reimbursed under the Trip Delay benefit, your flight must be delayed the length of time and for one of the covered reasons listed in your plan document. So if your flight was for 8 p.m., but inclement weather — a common covered reason — delayed it until 6 a.m. the next morning, your travel insurance could cover the expense of the unexpected hotel stay. If, however, your original flight was delayed until only 9 p.m., any claim you might make would not be covered.
If this seems overwhelming, talk to a licensed travel insurance agent when you purchase your plan. They’ll be able to explain how the benefits work, review your plan document with you, and answer any questions. Knowing what to do when your trip is disrupted goes a long way toward your peace of mind.
2. Make flexible travel plans.
Staying flexible when we plan a vacation can save us money.
We know that sometimes you have to travel at a specific time. The date and location of your cousin’s wedding is what it is. But if you can, be flexible and you just might reap the rewards.
Start with where and when you go. Let’s say I want to go to Vermont in mid-September. A flight from my home base in Indianapolis costs about $600. However, I could be more flexible and say I want to go somewhere fun in the fall. Suddenly, I have the freedom to choose the time and place that is most economical and still enjoy my trip.
Visiting Vermont in the fall would be beautiful — all those leaves! — but I could enjoy a trip to Charleston, South Carolina, just as much. It just requires a shift to a more flexible mindset.
Try a site like Kayak with its Explore option where you pick your starting point and then compare a variety of destinations and dates without limiting yourself too much.
You can take the same flexible approach to booking where you stay — hotel or rental, camping or RV — and what you do. Maybe you don’t book any specific activities until you get there and see where the deals are. Perhaps a tour will have a last-minute cancellation that lets you join at a discounted price, or you find a coupon at a rest stop along the way. Staying flexible lets you take advantage of these spontaneous moments.
Travel insurance for flexibility
Even when your plans are more fluid, you still want to protect the money you spend for your trip. Travel insurance, of course, can help with that. You might also consider adding the optional Cancel for Any Reason (CFAR) benefit to your trip protection plan.
CFAR adds a layer of flexibility to your coverage you wouldn’t otherwise have. Like we said above, your travel insurance benefits only protect you for certain, covered reasons. With a standard trip protection plan, if you need to cancel your trip, it must be for a covered reason in order to be reimbursed.
However, if you add CFAR, you can cancel your trip for any reason you wish and still be reimbursed for up to 75% of your prepaid, nonrefundable trip expenses.
Let’s go back to my example above. Because the price is so good, I’ve booked my trip to Charleston for October, even though it’s several months away. And because I know a lot of things can happen between now and then, I also decided to purchase travel insurance with CFAR.
If I get closer to my departure and realize that this isn’t the trip I want anymore — maybe I’ve simply changed my mind — I can receive a portion of my prepaid trip expenses back because of CFAR. My decision to add CFAR gave me the flexibility to book a trip and then change my mind without forfeiting my entire investment.
3. Minimize the risk of sickness and injury.
Border restrictions and mask requirements have relaxed, and we’re glad that it’s easier to travel again. We still need to be aware of health and safety risks when we travel, though. Yes, this includes COVID, but there are also many other potential incidents to prepare for.
Travel medical insurance
Even if COVID isn’t a concern for you, remember that we can still get the flu and break bones. You can still catch a stomach bug or suffer altitude sickness. And if you’re traveling internationally, you still need protection to help pay for medical expenses when you seek treatment.
Seven Corners Travel Medical Insurance provides coverage if you get sick or hurt while traveling abroad. Your domestic health insurance does not always provide coverage when you travel internationally, and if it does, that coverage is typically less robust than what you get from travel insurance. If you want to be certain about what your health insurance covers, contact your domestic health insurance provider directly.
In addition to benefits that can cover hospital visits and treatment for an illness or injury, look for travel medical insurance that also provides emergency medical evacuation.
Travel medical insurance typically won’t cover expenses for preventive medical care. However, it’s still a good idea to check with your doctor to make sure that you’re physically fit for travel and find out if there are any extra precautions you should take when you’re on the road.
Especially if you’re going on a long trip, such as for several months as a digital nomad, you’ll want to take care of your routine appointments before departure. Get your annual physical, schedule an appointment with your eye doctor, and visit the dentist so you don’t miss anything during your trip.
Finally, if you take any prescription medications, make sure you have enough of a supply to last your entire trip plus a bit more in case your return is delayed.
4. Find creative cost savings.
How to travel on a budget is one of the most frequently asked questions out there. It’s on even more people’s minds as the cost of living fluctuates — mostly upwards — and travel gets more expensive.
Direction from priorities
Step one is to determine your priorities. Once you know what’s most important to you — accommodations, proximity to major attractions, time with family, attending a particular event — it’s easier to decide where you’re going to invest your money.
For example, if your reason for travel is to spend quality time with your family, to disconnect from technology and be more present for great conversation, your money might be better invested in the ideal vacation rental home rather than a hotel near the top tourist attractions. We don’t care how many great reviews the hotel has or whether it’s within walking distance of great restaurants. If it doesn’t fit your vacation goals, it’s not worth the money.
The next step is to do your research. This isn’t just about finding the cheapest prices, though. Consider value as much as price. In our example above, even if the hotel is less expensive, if it’s not what you want, it has less value to you than the perfect rental house.
After you’ve weighed the value of a potential purchase — whether it’s a hotel, excursion, or flight — make sure the deal is as good as it seems. All too often, there are added fees and hidden expenses. Or you discover that the great deal you found on a flight can only be had if you travel at certain times. Or, and we see this on Black Friday all the time, the so-called sale price isn’t actually a significant markdown. They label it a “sale” in hopes that you’ll put it in your shopping cart without thinking about it too much.
Loyalty among travelers
Finally, consider joining a rewards or loyalty program. Some of these programs are free, and others cost money. Depending on your situation and style of travel, however, even the ones that require you to pay a fee could work in your favor.
Again, research the ins-and-outs of these programs. Make an educated decision about which, if any, can help you save money.
5. Seek rich experiences.
Sometimes unwinding lazily on the beach is exactly what the doctor ordered. Some people, however, have decided to grab the travel bull by the horns and make the most out of every experience. Rather than revisiting the same destinations every time (or the same as everyone else), they’re actively seeking out trips that give them a full experience, living like locals, seeing below the surface, and getting to know the soul of a destination.
There are a few ways to get that richer travel experience. One is by volunteering at your destination. Voluntourism often gives you an inside look at how people live, which is often very different from your own everyday existence. It can be an incredibly eye-opening and rewarding experience for everyone involved.
Another option is to choose slow travel. This isn’t necessarily about being a beach bum. It’s about giving yourself permission to slow down enough that you can really take in the world around you. When you aren’t destination hopping and cramming in stops at as many attractions as possible, you have the time to observe and be more aware of your surroundings.
Choose your destination based on the experience you want. A traveler who wants to see a show every night and enjoy fine dining would probably be much happier going to New York City than New Berlin, Wisconsin (population: 40,000). Someone who wants to read a book before a relaxing walk on the beach would likely prefer South Manitou Island, Michigan, over Santa Catalina Island, California.
Ultimately, having a rich travel experience is all about identifying what makes you feel most alive and connected. For some, that could mean time in nature. For others, it’s immersing themselves in the art scene. Or it could be slowing down and simply seeing what your destination has in store for you today.
6. Be a responsible traveler.
Making the most of your experience shouldn’t come at the expense of someone else. When you’re planning for 2023 vacations, make responsible travel a priority. That could include eating at eco-friendly restaurants, choosing culturally sensitive tours, or booking minority-owned rentals.
Researching travel companies’ commitments to sustainability, human rights, and other issues can be more time consuming than if you simply booked the least expensive option you can find. However, the effort is worth it when you consider the impact your decisions have.
When you’re looking at a company’s website, you want to find evidence of their actions, not just talk. Simply saying they’re committed to the environment rings a little hollow unless they also show how their restaurant composts its vegetable scraps or only sources from local farms. Conde Nast Traveler recommends looking for hotels that prioritize decarbonization, not carbon offsetting.
Similarly, a company saying it’s committed to supporting the local economy should be supported by information about job training for women and minorities, or feeding tourist dollars directly into the community rather than sending it back to a corporate headquarters based elsewhere.
Be a savvy shopper and verify that you’re supporting businesses that share your values.
7. Give bleisure a shot.
To save money and add convenience to your travels, try to combine a vacation with a business trip. Combining business with leisure — bleisure — can be a great way to have your employer pay for your transportation to and from your destination and to sneak in a little extra away time without using all your paid vacation time.
Start by finding out your employer’s policy on travel and what kind of flexibility you have when it comes to extending your trips.
In a previous job, I attended a three-day conference in California. After making sure my company would pay for my return flight if I came home via a different airport, I extended my trip by a week. As someone who lived in Indiana, this was incredibly convenient. I was able to fly on company time and get reimbursed for a cross-country flight, even though most of my time away was actually spent visiting family.