Raise your hand if you actually took all of your paid time off in 2022.
Even if you want to take a few days to relax, unwind, and vacation at home, it’s still important to set aside time to recharge. It’s a fact that Americans don’t take enough time off (even without a global health crisis), and the pandemic didn’t make it any easier.
Just one-quarter of Americans used all of their earned time off in 2021, according to the most recent data from the U.S. Travel Association. And a whopping 91% of Americans say it’s important to use their paid time off to travel. And nearly one-fourth (23%) of American travelers plan to take a dream trip to somewhere exciting in 2023, according to Destination Analyst’s recent report, The State of the American Traveler.
With that in mind, Tuesday is National Plan for Vacation Day. In honor of this auspicious “holiday,” we’re rounding up some of our favorite tips to help you, well, plan a vacation.
So, get out your pen and paper and take notes because the vacation-planning class is in session.
Be flexible and patient
As we saw with Southwest’s operational meltdown over the holidays, technology, weather and staffing issues contributed to flight delays, cancellations and lost baggage in 2022, well beyond the constraints of COVID-19.
If you want to book trips during National Plan for Vacation Day, focus on booking in advance of the major holidays.
Be aware of change and cancellation policies
During the pandemic, most U.S. airlines waived change and cancellation fees. Although some continue to offer flexibility when it comes to modifying your scheduled flight, each airline has its own cancellation and change policies, and some are more restrictive than others.
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For example, most domestic carriers won’t let you cancel or change basic economy tickets under most circumstances.
Cancellation fees, which vary by airline, are typically charged when you need to cancel a nonrefundable flight. In most cases, the airline will issue a travel credit minus the applicable cancellation fee when you cancel your flight.
Most airlines will not refund your original payment method unless you’re subject to special conditions like a schedule change.
Federal law requires airlines to offer free 24-hour holds or refunds within 24 hours of booking as long as the flight is more than seven days in the future. This can come in handy if the price drops or you are still nailing down some travel details.
Maximize your elite status
Many hotels extended elite status for loyalty members during the pandemic, some of which last through this winter. If you’re looking to camp out in a suite for a few nights, elite status can get you there.
Hyatt Globalist status means you’re eligible for complimentary space-available standard suite upgrades at check-in. Globalists can also enjoy suites by securing them in advance using complimentary suite upgrade awards. These upgrades are technically no longer earned just because you’re a Hyatt Globalist, but they still come as a byproduct of earning the status.
So, if you’re interested in enjoying a relaxing hotel stay, take a look at your preferred hotel’s relaxed elite status to knock out some nights to earn top-tier status down the line.
Keep an eye out for deals
You don’t have to splurge to have the vacation of a lifetime when using points, miles and/or cash deals.
Remember, you (almost) always have 24 hours to cancel or change a flight from, to or within the U.S., assuming the flight was booked at least seven days before departure. So, book now and plan later.
For example, Delta SkyMiles are good for short-haul domestic and Caribbean flights and South America flights.
If you have a destination in mind, make sure you’re checking cash and miles rates at least once a day — you might just snag a fantastic deal.
Thanks to airlines’ change and cancellation policies, you’re at least somewhat protected if you need to cancel. Also, using the right credit card to book your travel can afford even more protection, such as trip cancellation insurance and trip delay reimbursement.
For more information on how to protect your trip, read:
Additional reporting by Vikkie Walker and Samantha Rosen.