So Your Dream Trip Was Just Canceled

Now What?

Like many of you, it’s taken a while to accept that travel is off-limits for the foreseeable future. As a travel writer and coach who believes that visiting new parts of the world ultimately makes it a better place, I am all too aware of the personal and collective pang that comes with having to suddenly cancel that dream trip you spent months, or maybe even years, planning. First, I’m sending you a gigantic virtual hug. Second, during this period of community support, I wanted to share some practical advice and mindset tips that can help you recalibrate your travel plans without giving up on your next big adventure—whenever that might be.

Put the cancellation in context
At this moment, you might feel guilty about being upset over canceling your travel plans, given the seriousness of COVID-19. But taking a little time to wallow is natural. In fact, I encourage it! Drink that bottle of wine. Punch a pillow. Go for a run. Sit on the couch and binge-watch Tiger King. The bottom line? Be nice to yourself, whatever that looks like. When you’re finally feeling ready to move past your travel blues, consider some of your previous disappointments and how they made other things possible for you (in my case, not traveling right now has given me time to create a program to mentor other women on travel entrepreneurship). This mental shift can help you move into a problem-solving frame of mind.

Know your travel rights
There’s no two ways about it: Rebooking travel right now feels a bit like battling a Rubik’s cube. While each trip will vary and information will continue to change as the COVID-19 crisis evolves, it’s important to know that numerous airlines, hotels, and tour providers have created special cancellation policies to address it. That being said, if you’re hoping for a full refund, unless the airline, hotel, or tour operator has canceled your trip (and even then, it’s all about the policy’s fine print), you’re probably not going to get one. More likely, you’ll be offered a future travel credit that’s valid for the next 12 to 18 months. AFAR has a ton of information on the most up-to-date coronavirus-related changes and cancellation policies.

Channel your frustration into research
Dealing with a canceled trip is plenty frustrating, but those feelings can actually be harnessed into productivity and help make your eventual trip even more special. Had an epic honeymoon to Greece that’s suddenly been postponed? In addition to taking time to learn everything there is to know about the island of Mykonos, why not take time to study a few Greek phrases as well? Bonus points for learning how to say I love you in 10 languages.

Identify alternative ways to celebrate (for now)
For any trip you were planning, there are alternative ways to honor the activities you were looking forward to without leaving your couch. From learning to make homemade pasta with an 84-year-old Italian grandmother via virtual cooking classes, to a sommelier walking you through Nappa’s finest wines, to watching white storks hatch in Hyogo Park in Toyooka City, Japan, and even catching a free show at the Royal Opera House, new virtual opportunities continue to surface daily. This creative couple even brought the Eiffel Tower to them after their engagement trip to Paris was canceled.

Keep the destination on your radar
The truth is, as of now, we have no idea what the future holds, but that shouldn’t stop you from not only daydreaming about your next adventure, but proactively planning for it as well. Along with closely monitoring the advice of the CDC and the World Health Organization, I recommend setting a Google Alert for the destination and enrolling in STEP (Smart Traveler Enrollment Program) so you can continue to get up-to-date information on safety and security as it unfolds. Lastly, don’t forget to wash your hands and repeat these magic words: Life is all about the journey.


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