There are all sorts of reasons why somebody might have to cancel a trip: hurricanes. A sick family member. And yes, even global outbreaks.
We totally understand that it can be tough trying to decide what to do because we've been the ones making those same tricky decisions, too.
But, over the years we have learned a few things that help us travel with more confidence and in some instances, a little less worry.
This advice is good information for all travelers (no matter when you're traveling!), but it is especially important for ones that are feeling a little nervous right now.
Here's what you need to know.
First of all, let this serve as a disclaimer that we are not doctors, we have never been doctors, we haven't played doctors on TV and, if we are totally honest, we are terrible at the game Operation.
This isn't a post about medical advice or whether or not you should travel.
What it is, though, is solid advice about the steps and things you can do to protect your financial investment in your vacation.
So, whether you're pondering booking a cheap cruise during hurricane season or stressing about traveling during a world-wide outbreak, here are some things to consider:
One of the best things you can do to protect yourself is to purchase good, reliable, travel insurance.
Yes it is an extra expense, but it really can be worth the peace-of-mind it will bring you.
Keep in mind that not all travel insurance is created equally, though.
Policies from one company to another may be similar, but we highly recommend you do your research.
Never, ever, EVER assume that something will be covered.
Instead, you'll want to do a deep-dive into the policy; pick it apart. We know that doesn't sound like a lot of fun but trust us on this.
You know your family - and yourself - the best. What is that "thing" that gives you anxiety about travel?
Your goal is to find the policy that is going to cover all those anxiety causing situations (and more) at a price point that works for your budget.
Here's some things to consider when exploring travel insurance policies:
- How are the reviews for the company? Keep in mind that just like with any online reviews, it is easy to find ones that touch on the extremes (either super positive or super negative), but your best bet is to look for patterns of complaints. For example, if a company has 300 people complaining that their customer service is terrible, that's probably a good one to stay away from.
- What is the purchase window? Most travel insurance policies differ depending upon when you purchase it. Typically, more things are covered if you purchase it within a few days of booking your vacation, but you can still get some things covered even if you purchase it much later.
- Are pre-existing conditions covered? This one is a biggie for lots of people. Make sure you understand exactly what medical conditions are covered, how and when they are covered, and for whom they are covered.
- How do you access your benefits? Do you pay out of pocket and then be reimbursed? What if you need to go to a hospital or see a Dr. while on vacation? How does payment work? What if a family member dies and you need to cancel a vacation? Don't wait until you're in an emergency situation to understand what the procedures are. Sure, if you need an ambulance you should call that first BUT the more you know ahead of time the easier it is to make informed decisions.
- What things aren't covered? Shiny pamphlets and fancy websites can make it seem like no matter what, you'll be covered. But, the truth is there are usually lots of loopholes. Make sure you seek those out because sometimes it can be easier to understand exactly what you are buying if you understand what isn't covered vs. what is. That fine print at the bottom of the screen? Read it.
If you're just getting started, a website like InsureMyTrip.com can help you compare a bunch of different policies.
Lots of airlines, cruise lines, and even Disney offer insurance, too. It can seem easier to just use theirs, but, in our experience, those policies aren't the best bang-for-your-buck.
Note: the link below is an affiliate link, meaning we receive a commission if you decide to make a purchase through it. We would not share this link unless it was a product we used and loved ourselves. If you prefer, however, you can review the information and purchase outside of the link by searching for the company name in your favorite web browser.
When purchasing insurance for ourselves, we use Travel Insured travel insurance. This is the same company that the agents at Perfect Story Travel use and trust for their clients, too.
Understand cancellation policies
Even when things are great, in our opinion, Disney has a very liberal cancellation and change policy for guests:
|RESERVATION TYPE||WHEN TO MAKE||HOW||CANCELLATION POLICY||CHANGE POLICY||DEPOSIT REQUIRED|
|Disney World vacation package||Reservations can be made once they are released for the year you're traveling (usually released in late june or July the year prior), up to 499 days ahead of time.||You can make reservations online, by using an agent, or by calling (407) 939-5277.||Packages canceled 30 days or more in advance will allow you to get a full refund (except for travel insurance or airfare if you purchased those through Disney). Packages canceled 2-29 days beforehand will result in a $200 cancellation fee. Packages canceled a day prior will be charged in full.||Changes made after your final payment are subject to a $50 change fee and a processing fee of $15. Note: typically, those fees are only applied if your changes result in your price dropping, such as when you add a discount code or reduce the number of nights.||$200 deposit required within 7 days (if booking online, the deposit is due immediately) and insurance is due immediately if you add it. Full payment is due 30 days before your trip begins. Payments can be applied until then if you'd like to pay as you go.|
|Room-only Disney resort reservation||Up to 499 days beforehand||Call Disney World at (407) 939-5277 (just be careful that the phone rep doesn't try to upgrade you to a package if that's not what you want) or booking through an agent is the way to do it if resort rates for your travel dates haven't been announced yet. Once room rates are announced, you can also book online.||Can cancel up to 5 days beforehand without paying any penalty (up to 6 days if booked online).||Can make changes up to 5 days beforehand without paying any penalty (up to 6 days if booked online).||1 night's deposit due within 3 days if booking by phone, deposit due immediately when booking online. Final payment is due when you check in.|
|Memory Maker||Anytime, but must purchase at least 3 days beforehand to receive the pre-purchase discount||On the WDW site||Non-refundable unless purchased as part of a Magic Your Way package||Non-refundable unless purchased as part of a Magic Your Way package||Full payment due when booking or you can book it as part of a package and then the package rules apply|
|Magical Express||Anytime, but highly suggest making it at least 10 days beforehand (preferably at least several weeks beforehand so you can receive all of your information by mail)||On the ME site or by calling (866) 599-0951||None||None||None|
|Stroller and ECV/scooter rental||If renting from Disney, you can reserve in person (ECVs have very limited quantities). If booking through a third-party company, it will vary.||If renting from Disney, you need to go in person to the rental places in the parks. If booking through a third-party vendor, you'll need to contact them directly.||Varies by vendor||Varies by vendor||When booking from a third-party vendor, your card will usually be charged at the time you book.|
In times of national and international emergencies (think hurricanes or pandemics), Disney, along with many other travel providers, may adjust (and loosen) their change and cancellation policies even more.
When that happens, oftentimes travel providers will communicate the information with guests that have booked vacations via email and/or through information on their website.
In regards to the recent news, Disney has also added information to their operations to their website.
Your best bet to make sure you don't miss any important announcements is to be proactive in staying informed.
Don't assume that just because you haven't heard anything, stuff is hunky dory.
And, don't go getting your information from unofficial sources or from your best friend's cousin's neighbor on Facebook.
Instead, search out official information directly from where you are planning to travel and from the vendors through which you purchased your travel components (flights, resorts, rental car, etc.).
If you have a travel agent, they will be keeping their ear to the ground for updated information and travel alerts, too.
They can't make the decision on whether you should go or not for you, but they can help provide you with the information so that you can make the best decision possible for you and your family.
Be smart when booking flights
For most people, price is one of the most important factors when choosing flights.
But in some instances it can make a lot of sense to book your flights based upon how easy it is to change or even cancel them.
Our personal preference for most domestic travel is Southwest Airlines simply for how easy they make it when plans change.
On Southwest, not only can you change your flights for free, if prices drop you can re-book them and bank the difference in travel funds to use on future flights.
Other airlines have different policies, so make sure you understand what they are.
In many (if not most) instances, the cheapest fares will have the most restrictions. So, if those restrictions cause you anxiety it may be worth it to choose an airline like Southwest that offers more flexibility OR choose a more expensive ticket option that does the same.
Consider a travel agent
If things get rocky, it is always good to have an expert in your corner helping you out.
A good travel agent can get you a quote and help with the purchase of travel insurance. And, they will be able to help you navigate things if you need to cancel and re-book or assist you if something happens while you're on vacation.
There's lots of reasons why it might make sense for you to book a vacation with a travel agent. In fact, we have an entire post that talks all about it.
Want to connect with a travel agent for your next trip?
We recommend Perfect Story Travel.
Before you walk out that door...
We are huge proponents of being prepared, so there are a few easy things you can do before you even leave home to help ensure your travel is as stress free as possible:
- Make sure you have easy access to travel documents, including all of your insurance information. Keep in mind where you are traveling to because sometimes having paper versions makes sense. If you are planning to only have electronic versions, make sure they are saved in a way that doesn't require internet.
- Store important phone numbers in your phone. The last thing you want to do is hunt around for a phone number. Add your travel agent, your travel insurance company, the location of where you're traveling, etc. all as contacts in your phone. And, whenever possible, include email addresses for your important contacts (if you don't already have them saved somewhere else).
- Understand what the experts say. Check official sources for the most up-to-date travel information and recommendations.
The bottom line is we understand that for many people, a Disney World trip is a once-in-a-lifetime type of vacation.
Families save up years and years to go and when scary stuff happens, it makes the decision on what to do even trickier.
There is definitely a balance between simply being prepared and being so overly prepared that you're too stressed to enjoy a vacation, so your goal is to create a situation where you are leaning towards that former category.
We've always found that one of the best cures for fear is knowledge and understanding, and that counts for travel, too.
So, if you're feeling worried about all the what-could-happens, now is the time educate yourself on all the options so that you're ready for whatever those may be.
Seek out reliable sources, follow the advice of professionals, and most importantly, do what is right for you and your family.