As the coronavirus pandemic intensifies around the world, many travelers are canceling trips and hunkering down at home while cruise lines from Princess to Viking are suspending operations, Disney World and Disneyland are closing and airlines are slashing routes. But the savviest travelers are seizing this opportunity to take advantage of cheap travel deals on hotels, airlines, cruises and more—or just looking for ways to escape from reality. “I might as well be somewhere having fun,” one California college student told NBC News, and a Bachelor contestant tweeted, “Flights are so cheap [right now] I might risk coronavirus.”
Here, we take a look at how consumers can benefit from the shifting travel landscape, then round up some of the best travel deals.
A note: When planning a trip, travelers should consider travel warnings from the U.S. State Department and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and be prepared for any quarantines or restrictions. Travelers should also consider risk factors like age and existing health issues before taking a trip.
Jack Ezon, founder and managing partner of Embark, a luxury lifestyle and travel planning business that caters to a high-net-worth audience, is advising his clients: “Any good buyer knows to buy when a market is weak—as we like to say, ‘Don’t waste this crisis.’”
“We are not looking to be altruistic, opportunistic or insensitive to the situation,” says Ezon. “But with so many people around the globe reacting strongly to the developments, prime space at hotels all over the world is suddenly available. Airline costs have plummeted.” According to Ezon, there are deals on both economy and business class tickets, and it’s possible to use points to destinations that are typically never available, like Bali. If a client is still nervous about traveling now, Ezon is encouraging them to lock in low rates on future trips.
Roger Block, president of Travel Leaders Network, the largest network of travel agencies in North America, is also encouraging travelers to snap up deals. “Recognizing that travelers are looking for more flexibility at this time, many travel providers—including cruise lines, airlines and tour operators—have revised policies making it easier to change your plans after you’ve booked a trip. At the same time, we are seeing some very attractive offers, particularly on spring cruises,” says Block. “Prices will dip in the short term, but likely rebound as we come out of this.”
For instance, at Atlantis, Paradise Island in The Bahamas, which is easily accessible from most major US cities, the resort has rates as low as $189 a night with up to $300 resort credits for travel booked by March 22, 2020 for travel through April 30, 2021. Topnotch, a 120-acre wooded estate nestled among the Green Mountains in Stowe, Vermont, is seeing more and more guests looking for close-to-home staycations, and the property is throwing in perks like one free 50-minute spa treatment per night as well as $50 per night resort credit that can be used toward spa, dining and tennis.
Getting Away From It All
Travelers are also looking for escapes. “We’re finding an increased interest in individuals and families wanting to get away from crowded cities to work remotely in a comfortable environment and find controlled activities for their family due to school closures,” says Curtis Bashaw, founder and managing partner of Cape Resorts, which operates eight classic American resorts in Cape May, New Jersey and Sag Harbor, New York, as well as private beach and farm cottages and condominiums with full kitchens. “Cape May and Sag Harbor have always been great retreats: small towns with fresh ocean air, many outdoor activities and drivable for many Northeast cities. And our programming will let the kids run free with fun outdoor activities.”
In response to the coronavirus crisis, Cape Resorts is reducing tables at some of its restaurants to follow CDC guidelines of six feet of personal space and have also opened cottage inventory for weekday/working remotely stays and extended spring breaks due to unexpected school closures. Plus, the Cape May properties and Baron’s Cove are offering spring break deals that are perfect for families seeking a home away from home.
Domestic Versus Long Haul
Daniel Hostettler, president and group managing director of the luxurious Ocean House, set right on the Atlantic in Watch Hill, Rhode Island, says the property is picking up guests who are canceling long-haul trips. “We’re seeing a trend of guests and groups swapping exotic, long-haul holidays for luxurious stays a little closer to home,” says Hostettler. “This is an opportunity for guests to enjoy their favorite destination or new getaways this spring with increased flexibility.” In addition, the property—which rarely discounts its rates—is offering 30% off two bedroom suites now through May 8.
The Cruise Industry
When it comes to the cruise industry, people are still cruising and taking advantage of deals, despite the sobering headlines. “Many travelers are seeing the news and some are fearful of travel, but we encourage them to think logically,” says Michelle Fee, CEO and founder of Cruise Planners. “Sit tight, don’t cancel your long-awaited vacation, many cruise lines have modified their cancellation policy drastically allowing you to cancel up to 48 hours before sailing without penalties.”
Fee also points out that cruise lines have been implementing strict policies as well as working closely with the CDC and WHO to ensure the health, safety and comfort of guests and crew. “There are hundreds of ships and thousands of passengers around the world who have cruised recently without contracting COVID-19,” says Fee.
As of press time a number of lines have also announced that they’re temporarily suspending service. Colleen McDaniel, editor-in-chief of Cruise Critic advises that travelers keep an eye on the evolving situation and cancellation policies. “Globally, the situation continues to change frequently, so the best piece of advice at this time is to keep in close contact with your cruise line as well as your travel advisor.” says McDaniel. “Familiarize yourself with the latest travel warnings and restrictions, and follow those closely—as updates continue to be made, often several times a day.
Experts are also saying this 2020 will be a big year for outdoor vacations, especially to national parks, which will see an uptick in bookings. “We’re paying close attention to sites like Yosemite, Grand Canyon and Yellowstone as we are forecasting that national parks will be big winners this summer. People are generally wanting to stay away from the major crowds, but also want to take advantage of the low cost of travel right now,” says Tim Hentschel, CEO of HotelPlanner.com. “We are predicting many last-minute bookings, based on the great deals we’re seeing to major outdoor national parks across the United States.”
And some travelers are also still looking to travel farther afield. According to Vanessa Subramaniam, global director of customer support at TourRadar, some destinations are doing surprisingly well. “Understandably, many people are concerned about travel right now. However, we have seen a few bright spots. In March, overall bookings to Argentina, Mexico and Ecuador have actually seen positive growth compared to last year,” says Subramaniam. “Of course, these numbers could change quickly based on each destination’s current climate but I think they show how powerful the desire to travel really is.”
Aspen Meadows Resort – Aspen Colorado
This chic, Bauhaus-style resort nestled on 40 acres in Aspen’s West End neighborhood is far from the crowds and a great base for spring skiing and spring/early summer hikes with a lovely lap pool and hot tub for relaxing in nature. The hotel is offering deals for spring from $139 a night (40% off) with its “Stay 3 and Save” promotion, while the “Closing Day” package includes craft beer/rosemary nuts, “pit viper”-esque skier sunglasses and a fanny pack (a necessity for celebrating in style) included in the already low rate of $146 a night.
The Allison Inn & Spa – Willamette Valley, Oregon
Now through April 30, take advantage of the “Spring Stay & Taste” package with 20% off spa services, up to $250 resort credit, exclusive wine tastings at local wineries and more.
Bequia Beach Hotel – St. Vincent and the Grenadines
Often dubbed the Caribbean “the way it used to be,” Bequia is a sun-drenched little island in St Vincent and the Grenadines that offers an abundance of natural beauty. Bequia Beach Hotel, a tucked-away family-owned luxury resort is offering complimentary inter-island flights (normally priced at $1,100 for two passengers) from Barbados to guests staying at least a week between April 1 – Aug. 31, 2020. Book here.
Chatham Bars Inn – Chatham, Massachusetts
As an unexpected spring travel destination, Chatham Bars Inn boasts a myriad of engaging activities from seasonal cooking classes and mixology lessons to a weekly art series and interactive literary weekends. Now through April 30, guests booking three night stays will only pay for the price of two. Valid on new reservations on select dates through April. Rates start at $250 a night plus tax and resort fees. Book here.
Emeline – Charleston, South Carolina
Emeline, a new hotel concept in Charleston, will open next month in the city’s historic district and is offering a grand opening special promotion. The “Captivate the Senses” package will include a $60 food and beverage dining credit at Frannie & The Fox, Clerks Coffee Company or in-room dining, hotel accommodations with a complimentary upgrade to the Traveler’s Suite and more. Book between now and May 31, 2020 for a two or more night stay between May 1 and Dec. 31, 2020.
Moxy Hotels – New York City
Moxy has launched a ‘Micro-Cation’ package at its New York properties that encourages travel from nearby cities as well as staycations that answers consumer desire to take shorter and closer-to-home “micro-vacations”—a vacation no longer than four nights and often domestic in an effort to cut out long haul flights. The Moxy Micro-Cation – Go Green Package is available at Moxy Times Square, Moxy Chelsea and Moxy East Village and includes $25 off your stay if you travel to Moxy by bus, train, car or if you live in NYC. This package is available now through Dec. 31 2020.
The Varden – Long Beach, California
This historic 35-room boutique hotel centrally located in downtown Long Beach, within walking distance to the waterfront is offering 30% off its Best Available Rate through May 31, 2020 with a room upgrade to include complimentary parking, continental breakfast, evening wine tasting and wifi (based on availability). Call to book and use the promo code CAESCAPE.
Wild Dunes Resort – Charleston, South Carolina
Wild Dunes Resort occupies 1,600 acres of oceanfront paradise with a variety of accommodations ranging from the Boardwalk Inn and the Village at Wild Dunes to private condos and luxury home vacation rentals. The resort is currently offering a “countdown to summer” promotion with up to 30% off hotel stays and a resort credit with the best deals when you book sooner rather than later.
Wyndham Grand Rio Mar Puerto Rico Golf & Beach Resort – Rio Grande, Puerto Rico
A short flight from most major cities on the east coast, Wyndham Grand Rio Mar is situated on the east end of the island on two miles of pristine beach with nine restaurants, and three pools. The beachfront oasis is offering an inclusive package, which includes F&B, daily use of tennis equipment, one complimentary round of golf per room and 10% off spa treatments. Rates start at $399 a night based on double occupancy and include taxes, gratuities and resort fees. Valid on stays of at least three nights. Offer ends Dec. 31, 2020. Book here.
Travel Leaders offers access to more than 1,700 of the world’s most distinguished premium properties with competitive rates and a value-added amenity program offering VIP-worthy privileges to craft memorable and authentic experiences. Booking with a Travel Leaders travel advisor also comes with very lenient cancellation policies, in most cases somewhere between 72 and 24 hours before check-in, so you can book with confidence knowing that you are not locked into reservations.
Spring is a great time to visit Greater Williamsburg. Busch Gardens opens on March 15 with the debut of Pantheon, the fastest multi-launch coaster in North America. Travelers will also enjoy historical sightseeing cruises and romantic sunset voyages, farmers markets and music festivals, farm-to-table and bay-to-table dining, new beer, wine and other spirits from Tasting Trail partners and new exhibits and attractions at Colonial Williamsburg, The American Revolution Museum at Yorktown, Jamestown Settlement, Historic Jamestowne and The Watermen’s Museum. Kingsmill Resort has a “Serenity at Kingsmill” package that includes overnight accommodations in a resort guest room (or upgrade to a spacious condo with living room and kitchen) and homemade breakfast.
Lake Placid, New York
Lake Placid offers plenty of outdoor adventures (fat tire biking, skiing, snowshoeing, serene landscapes, fresh mountain air). Plus, this is sugaring time, with local maple-infused cuisine, sugar house tours, workshops, samples of freshly made syrup, pancake breakfasts and more during New York’s Maple Weekends, March 21-22 and 28-29. And there are some great spas (and packages) at Whiteface Lodge, Mirror Lake Inn, High Peaks Resort.
The city of New Orleans is letting the good times roll with plenty of hotel deals. Old No. 77 has a stay longer and save up to 30% deal. Kimpton Hotel Fontenot, a new boutique hotel, is offering a Crescent City Comeback Package to celebrate its grand opening on March 13. The package includes 15% off the best available room rate, 1,500 IHG Rewards Club loyalty points and more. The hotel will also donate $15 from every booking to local non-profit The Roots of Music, which empowers NOLA youth. Book through April 30 using code “IDKTP” for stays through Aug. 31. The Town & Country Package from J Collection Hotels and Resorts includes two nights at Bourbon Orleans, The Jung Hotel, Audubon Cottages, Melrose Mansion, Hotel Mazarin or Hotel Le Marais, welcome cocktails for two, one-night luxury accommodations at Nottoway Plantation, private car transportation to the plantation and more.
The island of Saint Lucia has some appealing March/April deals at more than 20 hotels, resorts and villas—many with up to 65% off accommodations and activities. And as an added bonus, travelers who pre-register online will receive a themed “Saint Lucia Exploration” bag with everything from local spices to rum and hot sauce (a $60 value). Some examples: Boucan by Hotel Chocolat (romance and rest package, 25% discount off the package price for stays through May 31) and Fond Doux Plantation & Resort (30% off room rates for travel through April 30). There’s more info here.
The American Countess, an upcoming 245-passenger paddlewheeler, will debut in April 2020. The fourth paddlewheeler in the AQSC fleet will sail the American South and heartland and feature four decks, including a sun deck, and 123 staterooms in four categories. Through March 31, guests can save up to $3,500 per stateroom ($1,750 per person) on select 2020 voyages.
Through March, the line is offering 30% Off Every Guest + Kids Sail Free. The booking window is through March 31, 2020 for all sailings departing on or after April 4, 2020.
The market leader in small ship cruising, Windstar Cruises operates a six-ship fleet of small sailing and all-suite ships. The line recently introduced a new Travel Assurance Policy to help take away risk, allowing guests to cancel up to 15 days in advance of a sailing and receive a future cruise credit. Rates are just $3,999 per person for the 11-day Islands & Inlets of the Inside Passage (Sept. 5-16, 2020), a roundtrip voyage from Vancouver, B.C. through the Tracy Arm Fjord of Alaska and more.