Travel is this huge interconnected wonderland, yet there are times when it feels like certain components of the travel experience exist only in their own little sandboxes, and never venture into the big sandbox to play with their friends.
Cases in point: travel trends, travel deals, and travel insurance. The hottest destinations often exist independently of (and sometimes, contrary to) where the deals are. The deals exist independent of the places people really want to go right now (though these destinations aren’t undesirable by any means). And travel insurance and the you-gotta-protect-yourself-cause-something-could-happen marketing that surrounds travel insurance is in a totally different place from either the ideal destinations or the great deals.
As we head into the fall “shoulder season,” that time of decreased demand and increased bargains, it’s a good time to bring these three school chums together and talk about how they can and should get along.
First of all, what are the hot destinations? Mexico and the Caribbean have remained stronger than expected, if you don’t mind a little Zika with your margarita. Cabo, Riviera Maya, and Cancun have maintained their prime spots as go-to destinations for American travelers looking for some beach; demand for Caribbean cruises has likewise been stronger than ever, driven in part by the reshuffling of the Mediterranean cruise scene mandated by the ongoing Turkish political crisis. Cuba as a destination has been everything people predicted it would be, for better and worse. Zika fears aside, Mexico and the Caribbean have been some of the world’s safest destinations, and these days that counts for something.
Europe started the summer as the go-to destination, driven by a combination of the strong dollar, low airfares and a number of high-profile events, including the UEFA Euro championship. Things rapidly got weird, though, as Brexit, terrorist events in France, and political instability in Turkey convinced many on-the-fence travelers to look elsewhere. The result, as reported today by Travel Weekly, was a nearly 1 percent drop in European travel over the summer, with France falling almost 10 percent, Germany off 4 percent, and Turkey and Belgium off 26.7 percent and 21.4 percent, respectively. There were bright spots, though: travel to Spain was up 10 percent, and Ireland and Iceland were also up.
Elsewhere, the Olympics fueled a modest increase in South American travel, and travel to Asia was flat (India, Thailand) to slightly higher (Japan, Singapore) – but not travel to China, which continued a decade-long slide. Similarly, travel to the Middle East and Africa continued its slump, while travel by Americans to Canada was up significantly, as expected.
Okay, so suppose you’re the kind of traveler who likes to ride the waves of hot destinations, and is looking for somewhere to spend a clavicle of your shoulder season. According to our friends at AirfareWatchdog.com, here are some deals that put you in the midst of a hot location for a relative song – and just to stay true to the spirit of this column, we’ll include the top reasons to buy travel insurance for that given destination:
Chicago to Dublin for $483 on American: Dublin is the place to be in Europe right now. It’s scenic and safe and still quite green, your dollar goes a long way, and it’s unpopulated enough that you can teach yourself how to dive on the wrong side of the road without tying up traffic. Getting there from Chicago for less than half a grand is crazy-cheap; throw in some Airbnb-type accommodations and a rental car (with the wheel on the wrong side) for tooling around the countryside, and you have the makings of a great fall vacation for not a lot of spondoolicks. Just make sure to grab some travel insurance with a car-rental-protection option and ample coverage for weather-related trip interruption – something like ExactCare, from Berkshire Hathaway Travel Protection.
LAX to Cancun $272 on Southwest: Despite all the reasons for potentially not going to Mexico, Cancun is as safe as it gets for Mexican travel. The only caveat to traveling to the Cancun region is nonexistent cell service outside of the immediate Cancun area (though as our former colleague, Cole Timm, can report, the Wi-Fi is excellent on the beach, when you’re supposed to be relaxing but are working instead). Pair up an inexpensive airfare with an all-inclusive resort, like the ones suggested by our Cat Zuniga, and you’ve got a great, inexpensive fall vacation with everything taken care of. It is hurricane season, though, and a potentially active one, so you’re going to want the trip-cancellation coverage of ExactCare along with you.
LAX to Tokyo $547 on Singapore Air: Our current colleague, Sayaka Schatzke, lit up when she heard this fare, and not just because she loves Tokyo. Singapore Air is one of the world’s elite carriers, so being able to fly to Tokyo for a little more than $500 is a massive bargain, even after a Southwest fare from wherever to LAX. You wouldn’t expect anything to go wrong on Singapore Air, but just to be on the safe side, protect that flight with BHTP’s AirCare. For less than $50 you’ll get quick-paying flight protection that goes with this flight like chardonnay with lobster.
Miami to Reykjavik $99 (April 6): Here’s one to put on the calendar for the other shoulder season, the one that comes this spring. One of the reasons Iceland is such a hot tourist destination is the continued popularity of WOW Air – popularity that’s only going to get more popular with this fare, a limited-time offer promoting WOW’s Miami service. Heck, spend the $99, add some AirCare, and figure out what’s next when you get to Reykjavik. Cheap airfares enable spontaneous travel, which can absolutely co-exist with travel insurance. And that’s how everyone plays in the same sandbox.