It’s been a…funky couple of years for travel.
Trips got postponed and canceled. Families embraced road trips and the outdoors. We wore masks on planes (if we took planes). Some clans embraced roadschooling. And on and on…
Normally the start of the year is a time to map out your travel for the year. But because things haven’t quite straightened out yet, we suggest also prepping for uncertainty. Our checklist will help save you time, money, and stress in 2022.
Renew Your Passports
In 2021, a crush of passport applications in the U.S. caused massive processing delays. Things are better now, but when it comes to the vagaries of bureaucracy, it pays to think ahead. Even if you’re not planning to travel internationally this year, check your passports and renew any that are close to expiring. That goes double for the kids–don’t forget that their passports are only valid for five years.
Check Your or PreCheck (and Global Entry)
PreCheck and Global Entry can save you tons of time going through airport security and U.S. passport checks. But some people have learned the hard way that the Department of Homeland Security can take its time on applications and renewals. If your status is set to expire in the next six months, start the paperwork (or website work) now. Ditto if you’re considering signing up for these programs for the first time.
Hunt Down Those Travel Credits
If you canceled a trip because of Covid over the past two years, you may have received travel credits. And if they haven’t expired yet, they probably will this year. Dig through your email and files, check their validity and start planning how you’re going to use those credits—or how you can transfer them to someone else.
Track Your Rewards
The same goes for any travel loyalty programs you participate in. Because of the pandemic, airlines, credit card issuers, hotel brands, and other companies gave customers extra time to use their points and credits. But time is running out for many of those extensions in 2021. Make sure you use any free nights, points or other rewards that are set to expire in 2022.
Reconsider Your Budget
Fuel prices are up, more people are traveling,and hiring is difficult. And that likely means that travel costs will continue to go up—and hit families especially hard. Even ride shares are more expensive; Lyft and Uber have continued their pandemic policy of restricting passengers to the back seat. If your group is larger than three, you have to book an XL car, which can cost twice as much. If your budget is inflexible, make sure to factor higher prices into your plans.
Evaluate Your Credit-Card Portfolio
Used wisely, rewards credit cards can earn you hundreds of dollars worth of travel benefits—sometimes more. The start of year is a great time to survey your spending and decide whether it’s worth changing cards to get more/better rewards, or add a new card to your wallet. We’re fans of Gigapoints, a site that automatically calculates the cards that will pay the most rewards based on your spending. Airline cards typically aren’t the best bet, but can be worth getting if you’re planning to do a lot of flying with one carrier.
Plan Ahead—But Stay Flexible
As people around the world feel more comfortable traveling they will…well, travel. Destinations will get more crowded, and flights and hotels will fill up faster. Planning ahead can help you avoid disappointment (and higher prices). But since we’re still not sure what 2022 will look like, it may be wise to book refundable fares, rooms, rentals, etc. You can check out some tips for flexible travel here.
Speaking of crowded destinations, overtourism became a serious problem before the pandemic. Tourists overwhelmed many beloved spots, forcing small businesses to close, pushing out locals whose homes were replaced by vacation rentals, and more. We don’t want it to come roaring back next year. Consider traveling off-season and visiting lesser-known destinations. And always be considerate on your travels!