Dreaming about your next trip? You’re not alone, but this time it’s different

If you’ve already canceled your summer vacation, you’re probably dreaming about your next one. It’s OK. So are a lot of people.

Rob Hall is one of them. He skipped his family cruise to Italy this summer but is optimistic that the worst of the COVID-19 outbreak will be over by fall. He’s planning to fly to Maui for a few days in October – at least that’s his dream. 

“We so badly need to get away,” says Hall, a retired financial services manager from Walnut Creek, California.

He’s not the only one. A survey of travelers by Qtrip finds plenty of pent-up demand for travel. A surprising 40% of respondents are planning to travel this summer. Another 23% are waiting until the fall or winter, and 7% are holding off until spring. (And the remaining 30% say they don’t have a clue when they’ll travel again.) 

“We were surprised to see how many people were undaunted and planning to get out there right away,” says Qtrip CEO Jeff Klee.

This is uncharted territory for travelers. But these future trips are different from the ones we used to take. Our travel dreams are bigger and richer. We’re also buying travel insurance and relying on the continued flexibility of airlines, hotels and other travel suppliers if we want to make schedule changes.

The travel dreams are bigger this time

What happens when you sit around and think about travel all day? You make big plans. According to Virtuoso, a network of travel advisers, the top dream destinations for its users since April are South Africa, Italy and Australia.

Julie Kandalec just booked an “epic” adventure next year with her father and brother: a February cruise to the Antarctic. She figures the rates would never be better, and that it will be the safest possible vacation

“The ship is small and won’t be filled to capacity,” says Kandalec, an expert on nail art who lives in New York. “It’s 100 crew and 200 guests maximum, so that’s key.”

Travelers are not thinking small this summer. When it comes to future trips, they’re spending a lot more. The average domestic trip cost has increased by 18%, to $3,587, according to the travel insurance site Squaremouth.com. And the average international trip cost has grown even more – by 24% – for an average trip cost of $4,588.

They make sure they’re insured

Another thing that’s different this year: travel insurance. A new survey by NerdWallet says 45% of travelers are likely to purchase travel insurance for future leisure trips after COVID-19, more than twice as many as before the pandemic. And travelers aren’t buying the cheapest travel insurance  – they’re going for the pricey cancel-for-any-reason policies, which allow them to call off their trip and receive a partial refund.

Doreen Welsh, a high school guidance counselor, is among them. She plans to buy the “best” policy for her late-December trip to Aruba. 

“We know things can happen,” she says. And Aruba, for all its natural beauty, has a health care system that makes her a little nervous. She says guests with medical issues may get flown elsewhere, depending on the issues. So she’s not taking any chances.

What does the future hold?

There’s also the uncertainty of the future. It was particularly difficult for Ian Marcus, who was scheduled to travel to Greece for his honeymoon in May. Marcus, a real estate appraiser from Rochester, Michigan, decided to reschedule his vacation for next May.

“But now we have to plan with the knowledge that it could get canceled again, or that there might not be as many attractions or restaurant options available,” he says.

That’s a valid concern. When a country goes on lockdown, all bets are off. Everything could be open one day, and then the next day, everything’s on lockdown. That’s life during the pandemic, and you’d better get used to it.

Is international travel allowed? See reopening dates for Canada, Mexico, Maldives and other spots

Fortunately, travel companies have remained flexible with their refund and change policies as the outbreak lingers. That gives travelers planning an upcoming trip a little peace of mind. 

“Luckily, airlines have been honoring their policies about canceling trips and not charging customers extra to do so,” says Andre Boyer, a filmmaker based in Los Angeles. He also plans to visit Maui, Hawaii, this year and wants to visit Europe with his girlfriend as soon as it’s allowed. 

Not yet: EU extends travel ban on Americans amid spike in US coronavirus cases

Plan carefully, my friends

It’s OK to dream about your next vacation. But here’s the reality: Travel in the second half of 2020 is fraught with as much peril as opportunity. Some trips will be cheaper, but they’re also riskier. Plan them with care. And remember, the safest trip may be the one you don’t take.

The top 10 dream destinations

According to Virtuoso Wanderlist, a new online trip planning tool, here are the most dreamed-about destinations of 2020. The destinations are based on Wanderlist trips users have been compiling under their profiles since April. 

  1. South Africa

  2. Italy

  3. Australia

  4. France

  5. Japan

  6. United Kingdom

  7. Greece

  8. Argentina

  9. Kenya

  10. Botswana

Christopher Elliott is a consumer advocate. Contact him at [email protected] or visit elliott.org.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Coronavirus travel: Pent-up demand leads to big trip dreams