The Biggest Challenges to Expect When Traveling This Summer — and Expert Advice on How to Handle Them
With flight delays, staff shortages, and record bookings expected to disrupt travel this summer, here's how to keep your vacation plans running smoothly.
If the upcoming summer travel season fills you with equal parts excitement and anxiety, you're certainly not alone. With some airlines already reporting record bookings, searches for summer travel surging on booking platforms like Expedia, and the FAA expecting a 45 percent increase in flight delays due to staff shortages in major airports across the East Coast, it's clear that another messy travel season is on the horizon.
"Travelers have been cooped up for the last two or three years pretty much traveling domestically. But now I think they're just ready to start hitting their wish list of places," said Christina Tunnah, general manager at World Nomads, a travel insurance company, in an interview with Travel + Leisure.
World Nomads' policy sales indicate that most travelers (44 percent) are heading to Europe this summer, with Italy, the United Kingdom, France, and Spain topping the list.
About 15 percent of travelers are heading to Africa, mostly to Tanzania, Egypt, and South Africa. And lastly, destinations in Asia account for about 11 percent of World Nomads' policy sales. "When we were crawling out of the pandemic, [Asia] was still a trepidation for people, but now we're seeing Asia really come back up, and a lot of that is driven by Japan," Tunnah explained. Nepal and Thailand are also trending this summer. And most travelers plan to visit multiple countries during their trips, which average two to three weeks.
Of the insurance claims filed with World Nomads last year, the company saw the most claims for trip interruption, trip delays, and baggage delays, all of which are also expected to cause travelers significant challenges this summer.
So what can you do to make your travels go smoothly during the busy — and expensive — season ahead? Read on for Tunnah's insight and best tips.
Arriving at your final destination without your luggage is never a pleasant experience. According to World Nomads, baggage delay claims rose by 77 percent between 2021 and 2022, with Spain, Greece, and Iceland leading the way in terms of where luggage got lost.
To minimize the possibility of baggage delay or loss, Tunnah recommends traveling with a carry-on only.
"Pack light. What you need for two weeks is pretty much what you need for one week with maybe one run at the hotel laundromat or hotel laundry services," she said.
And if you're attending a special occasion, such as a wedding for which you might need additional outfits and footwear, instead of taking up room in your carry-on or bringing a separate suitcase, research the local shopping areas and hit the stores once you arrive at the destination. "And then check [your] bag on the way home because it's not as impactful if it doesn't arrive," Tunnah said.
Book Experiences in Advance
While you don't have any control over your flight getting canceled or delayed, you can make sure that, once at your destination, you can see and do all the things you have planned by making theater, museum, and restaurant reservations in advance.
"Everything is now bookable online," Tunnah said. So, instead of traveling to a famous landmark or restaurant in a foreign country and being unable to experience it because tickets are sold out, get online as soon as possible and purchase entry passes or book a table.
If you are attending a wedding or getting on a cruise, plan to arrive at least a day early. That way, you have some extra time in case you run into any travel issues, such as flight cancellations or delays. Even if that doesn't happen, you'll have time to recover from the trip, adjust to the new time zone, and explore the area.
Sign up for your airline's automatic push notifications or use apps like FlightAware to get notified if your flight is delayed or canceled. That way, you can quickly address any flight changes with the airline as soon as you learn about them.
Keep a Copy of Important Medical Information
Having a medical emergency abroad is as scary as it is stressful. To ensure medical personnel has quick access to all the information they need to treat you or a family member, have a list of all your medical conditions and medications available digitally.
"Put your medical information somewhere in the cloud, anything that identifies you, anything that you might need in an official capacity, [send] it to yourself in an email or keep it in a secure, password-protected spot," Tunnah recommended. "It makes your situation much smoother and less harried if you've prepared for the worst."
Choose the Right Travel Insurance
"Every traveler is unique, so there's never a one-size-fits-all in terms of a travel policy," Tunnah said. So how do you find what's right for you?
She recommended narrowing down your choices by deciding what aspect of the trip you'd most like to protect — your investment, your health, or your belongings.
"If you're more cautious, and you've invested $8,000 for everything so far, then you're going to want to tip the hat toward the plan that has a heavier loading on your trip cancellation," she explained.
Next, consider all the adventure activities you will be doing on your trip, and see what plans cover them. "So you just want to go through your own mental profile of what's important to you on a trip, what are the kinds of things that you're going to be doing, and that helps eliminate a lot of the plans," Tunnah added.
Since travel insurance is heavily regulated, taking the time to read the policy and find out what's covered is Tunnah's top piece of advice.
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