Stuck at home: How to plan your travel for when the coronavirus crisis is over
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The coronavirus pandemic is taking its toll on people and industries across the globe. From those of us who are locked down at home to airlines that have been forced to suspend entire operations as a result of the virus, it’s a challenging time for all.
On a personal level, I am hard-wired to explore and travel. Be that in my local vicinity, around the U.K. or across the globe. Travel is something I love, and exploration keeps me grounded and sane.
Quite rightly, regardless of how much I miss it, this is not the time for globetrotting. The less we move around, the less likely the virus is to spread. However, this does not mean we can’t look to the future and keep our minds in check by focussing on that light at the end of the tunnel.
READ MORE: TPG’s hub page for coronavirus coverage
At the end of the day, this won’t last forever. And when the world returns to normal, the airline and travel industries that many of us cherish will need our help to stay afloat. I’m using this time to look ahead in two ways. Firstly, by getting my points and miles in order by continuing to rack up points from home. Secondly, I am thinking about future trips in a sensible way in order to make the most of the world when the situation returns to normal.
Rack up points and miles from home
There are plenty of ways to continue earning points and miles from home. If you’re a newbie to the points and miles hobby, then our beginner’s guide will help you. If you’re a step ahead, here are some of the things you can use this time to think about.
Streamline credit cards
Credit cards are the backbone of any points-earning strategy. If you haven’t yet got yourself a decent rewards credit card, now could be the time. There are still great offers on some great cards in the market. For example, American Express recently increased the welcome bonus on the Preferred Rewards Gold Card to 20,000 Membership Rewards points. This welcome bonus alone could be worth up to five one-way flights in Europe with British Airways.
Remember that rewards credit cards only make sense if you’re able to pay off the bills in full, on time, every month.
If you thought credit cards were good, airline shopping portals are next level. It astounds me how few people are aware of their existence, but they can prove to be incredibly lucrative — especially when you’re at home and not travelling. While you might regularly earn 1 or 2 points per pound on a credit card, airline shopping portals could see you earning tens of points per pound spent.
For example, if you’re going to be making an Uber Eats purchase during the lockdown, be sure to do it through an airline shopping portal. As of time of publication, the British Airways eStore is offering 500 bonus Avios for placing an Uber Eats order. Based on TPG U.K.’s most recent valuations, those bonus Avios are worth £6. Earning points for eating food — it’s a win-win.
Remember that when you make online purchases via a shopping portal and pay with a credit card, you will double-dip on your earning by getting points both from the portal and the credit card.
American Express regularly runs what it calls Amex Offers with a wide range of retailers. With them, you can earn bonus points on your purchases or save money in the form of a statement credit.
Related: Your ultimate guide to Amex Offers
There are many active deals that could prove to be useful at the moment. For example, you can get 10% back in the form of a statement credit on your next Morrisons food delivery.
Plus, double-dipping could become triple-dipping when you utilise an Amex Offer, purchase through a shopping portal and pay with a credit card. In other words, you’ll save money or earn additional points on each of these three.
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Sensible trip planning and booking
As you continue to grow your points balances, you will inevitably look to use these and your hard-earned cash on future trips. There are incredible deals cropping up all the time, and we’re seeing availability for award flights with some frequent flyer programmes opening up at a delicious rate.
We will continue to cover any sensible deals, and it’s worth signing up to our newsletter to ensure you get the best of these deals straight into your inbox every morning.
There are, however, a number of very important things to consider before making any bookings at this time.
First, think carefully about the region that you’re wanting to travel to and about the complexity of the trip you build. A very complex trip will require far more unravelling if global issues continue. Now is the time to keep it simple!
Second, it’s best to book as far in advance as possible. Since the world is unlikely to return to normal in the next couple of weeks or months, I would only be thinking about travel in autumn and beyond.
Third, only book tickets that you are able to cancel without paying fees. Most award tickets can be cancelled subject to small fees. For example, Avios bookings through the British Airways Executive Club can be cancelled and you will be credited all the Avios, taxes and charges, less a £35 fee per ticket.
Related: Is my airline waiving change fees?
Finally, think about the stability of the company you are booking with. You might be in trouble if the airline, hotel or third-party service doesn’t make it through the next few months. If there is any concern when it comes to package holidays, protect yourself by ensuring the company you book with is ATOL protected. You should also make all bookings on a credit card to help protect yourself if a company does go bust where ATOL protection doesn’t apply (for example, with a flight-only booking).
Like everything in the world, this too shall pass. If planning a trip will help you get through some dark days, go for it, but with care, consideration and the comfort of knowing you can change or get your money back easily whatever happens in the coming months. Stay safe!
Featured photo by Nicky Kelvin / The Points Guy