Dear Jen is a new series from TripIt that asks Jen Moyse, vice president of product for TripIt from Concur, for her best advice when it comes to travel these days. Jen spends her time focused on solving problems for busy travelers, and as an avid traveler herself, she is intimately familiar with the current state of travel and how to best prepare for the ever-changing landscape.
Check out her latest tips, including how to approach international travel, travel insurance, road trips, sustainable travel, and more below. Need advice? Submit your questions for Jen at the end.
DEAR JEN: It’s been a while since I’ve traveled, and while I’ve kept up somewhat on COVID-19 protocols, things seem to be changing again. What do I need to know before my trip in May? – IT’S BEEN A WHILE
Dear It’s Been a While: Masks are coming down, and many places are starting to lift COVID-19 mandates, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t any restrictions at all—especially for those who are unvaccinated. You should still check the status at your destination and keep an eye on things like infection rates, as new variants could cause spikes in some regions. Depending on your personal comfort level, you may still want to take precautions, like bringing masks and tests, or getting another booster if you’re over 50.
And while the risk of getting severely sick from COVID-19 is lower than a year ago, especially for those who are vaccinated, there is still a chance you could become sick before, during, or after a trip, and you’d be wise to have a backup plan for all scenarios. Long before COVID-19, this was of course the reality, too – no one should get on an airplane if actively contagious with any kind of illness.
I certainly hope we will not go back to the state we were in at the worst of the pandemic, but things will continue to change, and you should remain vigilant to make sure your trip goes as expected.
DEAR JEN: I’m thinking about booking a trip to Mexico, and I’m so excited to think about taking my first international trip since the pandemic. But I’m totally out of practice! What should I add to my planning list? – READY TO JET-SET
Dear Ready to Jet-Set: The very first thing you need to think about is your passport. Many people let their passports lapse during the pandemic, and the wait times for renewals are still longer than usual. Even if you don’t have a trip booked yet, but vaguely have international travel on your radar, update your passport now! Remember that you don’t need to wait until your passport fully expires to renew it. If your passport is expiring within a year, I’d just go ahead and renew.
Similarly, check all the other travel tools you typically use and make sure you haven’t let them lapse, too. Lines at the airport are also longer than usual, and you will be grateful to have CLEAR and/or TSA PreCheck (I’m a fan of the combo!), or Global Entry if you’re traveling internationally.
Extra super pro tip: If you update your passport, be sure to also update your Global Entry information to match! I can tell you from experience that not doing so will prove very frustrating.
DEAR JEN: I have a vacation booked for July, but I’m wary of new variants popping up that could impact my trip. Should I think about purchasing travel insurance? – FEELING ANXIOUS
Dear Feeling Anxious: During the pandemic, a lot of airlines dropped their change fees, so unless you have something else booked as part of your trip, like a tour or some type of excursion, you probably don’t need extra travel insurance. If you do have some additional costs associated with your trip, it’s certainly worth looking into. Just be sure to review the clauses closely to make sure they cover some of the things that could come up for you and your travel party. Also check out what your credit card might cover in terms of travel insurance – many have their own coverage.
Speaking of change fees, I don’t see airlines reimplementing them in the same way they were pre-pandemic. However, I do see airlines recouping costs in other ways, like charging more for luggage or for certain seats.
DEAR JEN: I’m finally getting back to business travel and really looking forward to seeing my favorite clients again. Any tips for booking my first business trip since 2020? – ROAD WARRIOR
Dear Road Warrior: A lot of flight routes and frequencies have changed during the pandemic, so plan and book ahead to make sure you get the flight you want. You might have been used to flying a certain nonstop route at a certain time to see your client, but that route may no longer exist. We know that business travelers want flexibility when they travel, which can mean waiting to book until the last minute, but that could be a recipe for disaster.
The good news is nearly all travel managers from an SAP Concur survey say that their organizations have taken steps in the past 12 months to prepare for a potential increase in business travel in 2022, including investing in new travel tools and technology, adjusting travel policies, and providing additional travel-related training to employees.
DEAR JEN: As we approach summer in the United States, do you think road trips will continue to be a popular vacation? – TRYING TO AVOID TRAFFIC
Dear Trying to Avoid Traffic: During the pandemic, road trips came out on top. We consistently saw rental cars in high demand, especially during the summer holidays. Travel photographer Max Loew told us, “During the pandemic, what my usual trip looked like changed quite a bit. At the beginning, travel mostly meant road trips and camping in order to avoid others and stay safe.”
However, recent survey data from TripIt shows that more travelers are planning to travel via airplane than car, and that’s the first time we’ve heard that since the pandemic began. I think we will see the road trip trend slow a bit this summer if gas prices continue to rise, which many are predicting they will. Another factor that could lead to a slowdown in this trend are environmental considerations. We might see more travelers considering train travel, for example.
DEAR JEN: What advice do you have for those looking to travel with sustainability in mind? – GREEN TRAVEL MOM
Dear Green Travel Mom: Start small. When you think about supporting the environment, the details can feel overwhelming; the magnitude of our climate issues can paralyze some of us. If you’re not ready to pick your flight based on environmental factors, like its carbon footprint, then think smaller. Bring a reusable water bottle and coffee mug. Instead of a taxi, consider taking public transportation, opting for a bike share, or walking. Not only do these small behavior changes help contribute to fewer emissions, but they’re also a great way to explore and experience a new place.
Another option to reduce carbon emissions is to stick close to home. Plan a camping trip at a nearby campground or park; it could offer you peace of mind for the carbon emissions saved from transportation and energy usage.
Remember: If you can't do one thing, you can always do another. Can’t pick the most sustainable excursion? That’s ok, don’t beat yourself up! Find another way to make a positive impact. You could eat less meat, use solar energy, or drive an electric vehicle. These aren’t meant to be exact “trades,” just examples of how to look at the role you play. Though the issues can sometimes seem insurmountable, we're all in this together.