Selfie of a group of friends jumping into the swimming pool

If you can’t stop dreaming of lounging on secluded sandy beaches, visiting your newborn niece across the country or going on a culturally rich adventure, we hear you. More than one year into the pandemic era, you’re likely itching to leave your house and do what you couldn’t last summer: travel.

But even as the cravings intensify for a getaway (and that gelato you ate in Venice five years ago), you may still have some uncertainties, from the safety of riding on a plane to officially putting down the deposit for your next trip. You can always wait to get back out there, but if you’re vaccinated and feel comfortable, the choice to getaway is available. So, before you map out your summer travels, follow these tips for how to navigate an unpredictable travel season and keep your money protected while you do.

Check (and double check) cancellation and change policies

Before you reserve an airplane seat, hotel, activity or rental, make sure to read all the fine print. Watch for things like change fees or airlines that only provide travel credits or vouchers instead of refunds. Currently, most companies continue to offer flexible change and cancellation policies due to COVID-19. But you should always check to confirm they apply to your booking’s dates, ticket status (i.e., economy vs. premium), etc. You don’t want to find out the overnight excursion or plane ticket you reserved is non-refundable after you’ve already made the purchase. Because many airlines and hospitality companies are updating their policies frequently (and voucher conditions vary widely), check in periodically to stay up to date with the latest rules and COVID-19 safety regulations.

Get away while staying familiar

If your goal is to get out of town but you don’t have a specific destination in mind, consider finding a friend or family member to visit. As long as you both feel safe and comfortable seeing each other, this could be a great way to go somewhere else and have a place to stay — without having to deal with hotel check-in desks, crowded elevators and lobbies or the expense of lodging. Plus, you’ll have the added bonus and comfort of being with someone who already knows the area’s Covid status and rules.

Be creative with points and miles

You probably didn’t worry about your frequent flyer miles sitting idle the past year as most airlines put expiration dates on pause. Now that some are being reinstated, you may need to use your points so you don’t lose them. If you’ll feel more comfortable traveling later this year, book a flight or hotel for the future or, if travel is not in the cards for you, use them for other purchases so you don’t miss out on the rewards you’ve racked up. You may even be able to donate your points to your favorite nonprofit. Similarly, if you have a travel voucher from cancelling a flight earlier in the pandemic, check its expiration date — you don’t want to lose your travel credit before you’ve had a chance to get away.

Book far in advance

If there’s one thing we learned last year, it’s that you never know what might happen tomorrow. As you plan your post-pandemic adventures, give yourself plenty of time to reschedule or change your itinerary if you need to. (Oftentimes, the closer you get to your booking, the more expensive it is to change or cancel it.) The earlier you book, the more money you’ll likely save as airline prices are expected to steadily increase throughout the year. Who says you can’t book your summer 2022 vacay today? Plus, once you’ve marked the dates on your calendar, you’ll know just how much time you have to hit the savings goal of your Ally Bank Online Savings Account vacation bucket.

Prepare for potential COVID-19 restrictions

Life probably won’t return to pre-pandemic normal for a while, so it’s best to be in compliance with any health guidelines or other restrictions imposed by travel companies or local to your destination. Stay on top of rules so you know whether you should factor in a quarantine period or provide proof of a vaccination or negative test, as sidestepping guidelines could result in a fine or even force you to cancel your trip last minute. And because some regions may still require restaurants, shops, parks, etc. to operate at limited capacities, you might want to plan your itinerary, make reservations in advance, and prepare for COVID-related surcharges or required deposits when booking.

Don’t rush into travel insurance

Depending on where you’re going and how much you’re paying upfront, travel insurance can certainly be a smart option. Before purchasing, read the policy in full to look into what it protects you against — and what it doesn’t. For example, standard trip-cancellation coverage probably won’t help if you want to cancel your week-long cruise due to cold feet. A cancel-for-any-reason (CFAR) policy will, but they are typically pricey to purchase.

Stay safe and bon voyage!

After a year of backyard campouts and travel-themed movie nights, getting masked up and hopping on a plane to a faraway place sounds pretty great. But while the immediate future of travel is still up in the air, it’s best to play it safe while planning and booking your next vacation. And remember, if you’re keeping your travel plans on pause, now’s the time to grow your getaway fund for when you do take the trip you deserve.

Saving for a trip? Getting there is half the fun with our Ally Bank Online Savings Account buckets.

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