How to plan a spring break trip during a pandemic

Planning a trip for spring break? Here's what you need to know.

Lee Weikert and her husband want to plan a spring break trip during a pandemic. They’d like to visit Phoenix in March for Cactus League spring training. But like many Americans, they are afraid the virus will throw them a curveball.

Instead of flying, the Weikerts intend to make the 12-hour drive from Diamond Springs in northern California. They hope to be vaccinated beforehand. And they most definitely will have a Plan B.

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“I realize that no fans may be allowed at games or that spring training might be postponed,” says Weikert, a retired public welfare policy analyst. “But we’re prepared to go and do other things, such as the Desert Botanical Garden in Phoenix, which would keep us outdoors and allow social distancing.”

The Weikerts are in good company. It may be one of the most difficult decisions of 2021: whether to plan a spring break trip.

And if you do, how?

Why your spring break vacation will be a little different during a pandemic

This spring break won’t be the same old, same old.

“Spring break will look a little different this year,” says Cindy Salik, a travel adviser with Ovation Travel Group. Her clients are taking shorter, safer trips in late February, March and April. Their biggest fear is being stuck on a beach with thousands of other spring break vacationers. They’re looking for quiet places far away from the masses.

“Now, maybe three or four families are getting together to rent a villa or house that can accommodate everyone,” Salik says.

This year, many people will either opt to stay home for spring break (that’s the safest option) or take extra precautions as they plan their trips. Crowded beaches are out. Bubbles are in.

For some people, a spring break trip is out of the question.

“I’m not going anywhere,” says Peggy Blair, a retiree from Folsom, Calif. For people like Blair, the risks far outweigh the rewards. International travel bans, public health warnings, and local quarantines and restrictions all add up. They’re waiting until vaccinations go up, infection rates go down and travel gets a green light from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Others, eager to get away, are looking for low-risk options. Allianz Travel is bracing for travel to increase this spring. Research conducted by the travel insurance company in 2020 suggested that the emergence of a coronavirus vaccine would do the most to make people feel it was safe enough to travel.

Planning a spring break getaway during a pandemic is harder

But planning a spring break trip will take a little extra work this year.

“Assessing risk factors and being aware of your surroundings when you travel will be paramount,” says Daniel Durazo, director of marketing and communications at Allianz. “It’s important to know what travel regulations are in place at your destination, to plan ahead to obtain a coronavirus test if needed and make sure everyone in the family has a quality mask.”

“No one can guarantee the safety status of any destination in 2021,” says Sherry Sutton, the vice president of marketing at Travel Insured International, a travel insurance company.

Now perhaps more than ever, experts are recommending travel insurance. This could include a standard trip insurance policy, a pricier “cancel for any reason” policy, or a medical evacuation membership such as that provided by Medjet. At the very least, these experts say, make sure you have some coverage, even if it’s only through a credit card.

For Todd Brown, a business manager from Gainesville, Fla., safety means getting a vaccine. He hopes to get one before a planned spring break trip to the Spanish (or Puerto Rican) Virgin Islands. Brown and his family plan to charter a boat to cruise off the eastern coast of Puerto Rico for 10 days.

“It’s my understanding that there will be little if any contact with others,” he says.

Take extra precautions when you plan your trip for spring break

Teresa McCombs, a Birmingham, Ala., travel adviser who specializes in Europe, suggests taking other precautions when planning a spring break vacation. For instance, she is only booking trip components, mostly hotel accommodations, that are fully refundable.

“While most of the hotels I have booked do require a credit card guarantee or deposit, I confirmed with each property that we could cancel up to a week before departure without penalty,” she says.

McCombs has handled airline reservations for clients who knew they would travel eventually and were willing to buy nonrefundable tickets that could be changed for future travel without a penalty.

“Other than that, we’re holding off on other arrangements, like transfers and tour options, until we have a better idea of whether travel will be possible come March — if my clients are comfortable traveling then,” McCombs adds.

The pandemic, of course, is a major consideration when deciding where to go. Jacklyn Krol, a photographer from Schererville, Ind., says the typical spring break destinations just won’t cut it for her this year. She’s checking out nearby national parks like Indiana Dunes, where she can put some distance between herself and other guests.

“If you are a fan of nature, consider going camping or renting a cabin where you’re more secluded from other people,” Krol says.

How do you plan a spring break trip? Very carefully

Travelers willing to fly to a tropical location can maintain a decidedly un-spring-break-like distance while on spring break. At least that’s the assertion of Diana Hechler, president of D. Tours Travel. She says resorts in Jamaica, Turks and Caicos Islands, and St. Lucia offer either free-standing cabins or suites with eating facilities and multiple bedrooms.

“If you can create a travel bubble somewhere warm, you should be just fine,” she says. “Whether that’s at a high-quality hotel with separated facilities or renting a small house in the Caribbean”

Yes, it’s going to be a weird spring break. If you go, you’ll need to pay attention to public health protocols and make sure you have adequate insurance. Wherever you go, you’ll need to practice appropriate social distancing.

Hopefully, this is the last spring break where you pack hand sanitizer and masks along with sunscreen and beach towels. And remember, if you run into trouble, you can contact our advocates for help. We’re always here for you.