What to expect as a first-time pandemic traveler

As vaccines go into arms, more and more people are expected to do something they put off last year due to COVID-19: travel.

According to a survey done by travel company Expedia, almost half of the 2,200 people surveyed in December said widely available vaccines would make them comfortable traveling.

Forty-two percent of Americans said news about vaccines makes them more hopeful about traveling this year, with some already choosing to book trips.

When people arrive at airports or train stations, what they can expect is a much different travel experience than they remember before the pandemic.

“The reality is that travel has changed quite a bit over the past year,” Melissa Dohmen, a travel expert with online travel agency Travelocity, said.

Dohmen said the first thing you’ll probably notice will be a lot more options to complete typical travel tasks in a contactless fashion.

“A lot of moves toward contactless check-in,” Dohmen said.

From plane tickets to getting a rental car to booking your hotel stay, Dohmen said the development and arrival of that sort of technology have accelerated over the past year. Dohmen also said your smartphone can now be an even bigger part of that equation, getting you on your plane, into your rental car, and even into your hotel room.

As you plan your travel, booking sites, such as Travelocity, now have new filters that can help you search based on COVID-19 precautions and cleanliness.

Dohmen said you also should expect a lot of information on COVID-19 rules and practices to study that come your way from the companies with whom you book the different parts of your trip.

Travel bookings are up, according to Dohmen, and one thing being noticed is that many travelers are choosing options they might not have in the past, from booking business class airplane seats for more space to renting hotel suites to have a full kitchen at their disposal.

“We are seeing people make those trade-offs in choices,” Dohmen said.

Also, companies that depend on travelers are making big changes to get people booking again, Dohmen said. This includes some airlines, hotels, car rental companies and others offering free cancellations or the ability to change a reservation for free.

As for the role technology is now playing in the travel process, Dohmen said don’t expect it to go away anytime soon.

“You are minimizing the amount of time you’re waiting; you’re not having to kind of queue up as you have had in the past in a lot of places,” she said.


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Looking for more information? D.C., Maryland and Virginia are each releasing more data every day. Visit their official sites here: Virginia | Maryland | D.C.

Mike Murillo

Mike Murillo is a reporter and anchor at WTOP. Before joining WTOP in 2013, he worked in radio in Orlando, New York City and Philadelphia.

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