By Alicia Doyle
Sunday Signal Staff Writer
While the pandemic continues to present a range of challenges, planning a vacation in 2022 shouldn’t be one of them, even if it means booking in advance to ensure your preferred price range and dates are available this year and beyond. .
“People think they can’t travel and that’s just not the case — travel has always been open and always will be open,” said Tiffany Grummer, owner of Travel with Tiffany in Santa Clarita.
“Be smart about it, though,” Grummer advised. “Read the guidelines of that country and read the informational emails that your travel agent and airlines send you. Please be patient – with guidelines that are constantly changing, there may be longer wait times.”
The constant changes in COVID-19 guidelines have created many problems for the travel industry, and the uncertainty has led many people to opt for domestic travel, said Shayna Anderson of the Anderson Girls’ Adventures Travel Agency in Santa Clarita.
Anderson conducted a survey in November to find out what people will do in 2022. Of the 28 people who responded, 60% already had vacation plans for 2022 and 10% said they had plans for 2023; only 10% waited for restrictions to be lifted and a further 18% said they could not afford to travel. Of the 60% who planned to travel in 2022, 43% will travel internationally, 32% said they had no problem booking internationally, and 3% said Hawaii and Mexico were due to less restrictions.
“Of all 28 people, 50% are fully vaccinated and planning to travel; nearly 18% said they travel domestically to avoid travel restrictions; only 14% are unvaccinated and hope to wait things out; and only 7% were hesitant to travel because of the uncertainty of how to do that,” Anderson said. In addition, “40% said they would book a cruise, only 3% said they would wait for the COVID restrictions to go away, and 30% said it just doesn’t appeal to them.”
As we enter 2022, “uncertainty has held back many travelers,” Anderson said.
This uncertainty has put a big brake on travel, especially for international travel — uncertainty about whether countries would be open, whether vaccination would be required or just testing, and how much testing, Anderson said.
“Travelers are concerned about the testing requirements to enter countries, as well as how to get home if they test positive while international,” Anderson said, adding that the constant changes in COVID guidelines have created many problems for the travel industry, and the uncertainty has led many people to opt for domestic travel.
The uncertainty has also led people to plan last minute rather than book in advance, Anderson noted. “However, canceled trips will be moved to late 2022, 2023 and even 2024,” she said, adding that pre-booking is recommended to ensure the desired price range and available dates are available.
Normally, January through March is “golf season” for the travel industry – the busy season when everyone books for the year.
“However, it has been very quiet with not many bookings,” Anderson noted. “Travelers are hesitant to wade through the restrictions. Now more than ever, people need a travel advisor to navigate the guidelines for each destination.”
Local travel agents who can assist you include Newhall-Valencia Travel in Newhall, which specializes in travel including family holidays, culinary adventures, cruises and European holidays. The AAA Santa Clarita branch offers a wide variety of services, including booking hotels and car rentals, providing free maps and travel books to members, and providing information on popular things to see and do in destinations.
If you’re planning a vacation this year, “be flexible and use a travel consultant,” Anderson emphasized again, adding that a travel consultant “isn’t someone who just books a trip for you.”
“A travel consultant will have more knowledge of what is happening on the trip right now,” explains Anderson, adding that the COVID guidelines are constantly changing and can be very confusing.
“Hawaii, for example, has changed their COVID guidelines every three months,” Anderson said. “In addition, many companies offer great values - no discounts – which means that in the end you get more bang for your buck. Let a travel consultant do the research for you so you can enjoy your vacation more.”
Above all, “have fun – don’t worry,” Grummer emphasized. For those thinking about traveling internationally, she added that “Americans support so many other countries…if we don’t travel, people in other countries don’t eat. Support them, go on holiday, support tourism, they need you.”
Don’t let uncertainty stop you from traveling, Anderson said.
“This world is an amazing place with incredible locations to explore,” Anderson added. “This year is the best time to travel, especially as there are fewer crowds on international trips. This means you can explore more with the time you have. Everyone is looking forward to the day when restrictions are lifted. When that happens , we see a huge increase in travel, as we saw in the spring of 2021 with all its challenges. Now go and enjoy exploring the destination much more.”