We are currently living in unprecedented times. Apart from the generation who lived during WWII and the flu pandemic in the 1980s, most of us have never experienced anything like the coronavirus Pandemic.
Before I say anything else in this post, I would like to extend my profound gratitude to all the brave men and women who are helping with this fight. Because of your efforts in the hospitals, grocery stores, markets, reserach labs, fuel stations, banks and so on, we are going to beat this and would be finally able to return to our normal lives soon. Thank you all so much!
Now, when the year began, Mark and I planned to take a late honeymoon to Turkey and Georgia but you know how that story goes. As mid-March approached, we both knew we weren’t going anywhere. I was desperately in denial as our travel dates got closer and naively hopeful that we would have put the coronavirus pandemic behind us before then. But finally, it was time to cut our losses and cancel our trip.
In the process of cancelling, I wondered how much of our expenses we would get back. We had already booked our tickets, accommodation, paid for visas and were in the process of making train arrangements. We got all our money back, without hassles and here’s what the whole process taught me.
Compare Prices via Local Agencies, Book Directly with the Airline
This is one of my biggest takeaways from this travel season. I usually book my plane tickets with Travelstart Nigeria. Luckily, Mark booked them this time and he did so directly with the airline. When the time came for us to cancel our flight, he got an email saying he would get a full reimbursement in 30 days. If we had used a third party, it might have been a different story.
An example of which is, my colleague’s experience with Travelstart. The agency refused to refund him even though the airline cancelled a leg of his trip in mid-March and the other legs before his travel date. Their response to his calls, emails and onsite visit was for him to reschedule his flight to another time. They agreed to do this for free only if he rescheduled to another date within the next month.
Clearly this was not an option as the airline began grounding their fleet and governments began shutting their borders. Travelstart then gave two other options and none of them included a refund. The first option was to keep the ticket open for a year. This meant he had to pay the difference in fares whenever he was ready to travel. The second option was to pay ₦300,000 to move the flight to December 2020. Apparently, the class of ticket he booked wasn’t refundable.
Going by the times we find ourselves in, this should not have been the case. Airlines everywhere made waivers and were allowing free cancellation of tickets. I wondered why Travelstart wouldn’t refund their customers, especially since some of their counterparts did.
The selling point for booking with Travelstart was the fact that you could pay with Naira and in their early days, they offered cheaper flight tickets. This is not the case anymore. Except when there is an ongoing deal, their prices are usually within the same range as the airlines themselves.
So the point to note here is to compare prices if you have to with local agencies. Where the difference isn’t significant, always book directly with the airline. Although there is very little chance that something like this would happen again, it is better to be safe than sorry.
Use Reputable Companies for Accommodation Bookings
Just like our flights, we made advanced accommodation booking for our time in Turkey. We did this using Airbnb and Booking.com. When I book hotels via booking.com, I usually select options that can be cancelled. However, this time I found a bargain and decided to go for a non-refundable, non-cancellable option. Again, when it was time to cancel, I worried about whether or not I’d get this money back.
It turned out that there was nothing to worry about. The process of cancellation was seamless and straightforward. We were able to cancel right within the apps, without speaking to any customer care representative. We also received full refunds in less than a week. When we can travel again, I’ll make sure to book with these same companies and hopefully, the same establishments as we did before.
By the way, if you’re new to Airbnb, you can sign up using my referral link to get a $25 discount.
Think About Paying for Travel Insurance
While applying for certain visas, some countries force travellers to purchase insurance. For a lot of people (including me), this is the only kind of travel insurance we get. We just expect (and hope) that nothing would go wrong during our holidays. This pandemic has taught me never to flake out on paying for travel insurance. I haven’t dug deep into whether or not insurances cover this particular scenario, however, I want to believe that the best ones do.
The truth is that no one plans for accidents. While there are some things directly within our control, some things are just not. This is where travel insurance may come in handy. I’ve seen a few articles about insurance companies using the small print to get out of settling claims. To be honest, this has always been my fear about insurance companies. However, I’ve decided to look into good insurance plans for my upcoming travels. One of the criteria I’d use to choose would be how well they responded to people who have plans with them at this time.
Finally, There are So Many Ways to Keep Wanderlust Alive
While we all can’t travel at the moment, I find that there are several ways to keep wanderlust alive. These are some of the things I am doing during this time of isolation (apart from working);
- Spending more time physically with my husband and virtually with my friends and family.
- Catching up on episodes from our favourite travel shows and documentaries on Netflix
- Picking up new hobbies and activities. Personally, I am learning a new language in preparation for a possible emigration in the future and I’m doing so via Duolingo. However, this is not my average Duolingo attempt. Every day, I dedicate blocks of time to the lessons and I take notes. I then use this to practice when I am not on the app.
- Learning to swim
- Blogging more. I am writing and scheduling articles for the months of April and May.
- Lastly, I am refining our honeymoon itinerary and this is certainly fueling my wanderlust!
I would love to hear what lessons you’ve learnt, if any, from the times. I’d also like to hear how you’re coping. The President of Nigeria recently announced a lockdown for Lagos and a few other states in the country. How are you faring?
Please obey all government regulations and until this passes, stay safe!