Coronavirus Makes Travel Cheaper, But Should You Book? | WSJ

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(soft tense music) – With headlines like these, you’re probably where I am, at home. For a travel columnist, being
stuck inside is not ideal, but I’m learning that
it does have its perks. The coffee is close, no need for headphones, and the travel deals are big. In August, you could fly
New York to San Francisco for $255, and that’s round trip Los Angeles to Chicago, $104,
and you get to come back. Washington DC to New Orleans, $133. Before you get excited,
now is not the time to be dumb and dangerous. You shouldn’t travel during a pandemic just because fares are cheap,
but the bargains extend beyond the forecast sheltering periods. So the question is: Should you buy? Well, it depends on what you’re booking. Let’s start with flights. According to booking app Hopper, domestic air fares for
summer and fall trips were down 36% compared to
the same period last year. Some, like this $41 Boston to Orlando round trip in June were
even better than that. And while it’s hard to know
what will be happening in June, the cheapness of domestic flights make them worth the gamble. Airlines are currently
selling these tickets without cancellation or change fees, meaning, if you do end
up unable to travel, you’ll get a voucher for a later trip. The trip may not work out for
you if the crisis extends, but you won’t have much
money tied up in the ticket and you can apply it to later trips. If you do get to go on
that $41 fare, you win. The risk isn’t worth it
for international travel, at least not this year. Sure, seeing a $280 round trip from New York to Paris is tempting, but international travel restrictions may remain in place for some time. And even if they’re lifted, consider how far from home you want to be, as there could be yet more local outbreaks of the coronavirus. So wait on your international trips and be flexible when you do book. Airlines are dropping lots of routes, and those schedule changes may
force you to travel earlier or later than expected. As for cruises, this one is simpler. You should wait. Coronavirus shut down
the three big operators for at least 30 days, possibly longer. Even after they’re back on the water, I expect there will be a long-term concern about cruise ships and
the possible recurrence of viral outbreaks. Ultimately, it will depend on
your personal comfort level. The news of the Diamond Princess and the Grand Princess dominated headlines and showed how a viral outbreak can spread in a confined space. If you’re looking for a hotel, however, now might be the time to book,
as long as it’s refundable. Occupancy rates are way down. Marriott says it has lost 90%
of its bookings, for example. That means hotels are
dropping prices to fill rooms. Even luxury hotels, which
try to avoid discounts, are offering fourth and
fifth night free deals and waiving prepayment
and cancellation penalties according to travel sellers. No matter what, don’t book
anything with cancellation fees. We just don’t know how
long the coronavirus is going to keep us homebound. On that point, it’s just fine to wait. Travel experts say, when this is over, there will be huge sales to
get people traveling again. (soft music)

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