coronavirus pandemic

Vacation Planning in a Pandemic Puts San Diego as a Top Spot

NBC 7 Responds talked with travel experts about this year's summer travel season

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Summer vacation plans were largely put on hold because of the coronavirus pandemic. While it hasn't ended, right now people are trying to figure out what to do for the summer.

"So many people have saved up vacation days, saved up a lot of money, and are looking to try and use those days and money on future vacations," said Scott Keyes of Scott's Cheap Flights. "We can't ever get 2020 back, but we can take more of those trips that we had hoped to take over the next 12 or 24 months."

Keyes says the airline industry was hit hard by the pandemic. Some airlines reported a 60 to 70% drop in fliers compared to pre-pandemic demand.

"Airline executives are really hoping that by this summer we're going to see a huge surge in travel as that pent up demand starts to be realized," said Keyes.

There are a few areas that will likely open up first. As more people are vaccinated, Keyes thinks travel will pick back up in just a few months.

"I think for domestic travel we're going to start to normalize possibly as soon as later this spring," said Keyes. "For international travel I think you're probably looking at a little bit further out."

One way international travel could open up more quickly is by using a "vaccine passport" system to show who has been vaccinated against COVID-19. Keyes says he thinks countries like Australia and New Zealand will stay locked down for longer, but countries like Spain may open up earlier.

"I think it's reasonable to assume that by June or July you'll be able to take those international trips to most places," said Keyes.

For now, most people will be limited to domestic travel. Keyes says he thinks it will open up very quickly once it is safe.

"This is a real cash cow for the travel industry," said Keyes. "They're going to move heaven and Earth to allow for as much tourism as possible, especially after the past 12 months."

Warm weather destinations are expected to be the most popular, with places like San Diego at the top of the list. Keyes thinks that cities such as Chicago and New York will not have the same bump in tourism.

Popular flights out of San Diego are to tourist destinations like Hawaii, Belize and Costa Rica. Right now, Keyes says the airline prices are low but expect the prices for international flights to jump quickly as the summer arrives.

"Book those summer flights to Europe now," said Keyes. "Chances are you'll do so at a fare that is much lower than if you do so closer to summer."

If it isn't safe to travel this summer, Keyes says you can move your flight.

"The airlines have said, across the board, for all new bookings we will waive change fees," said Keyes. "So you can change your dates without having to pay penalties to do so."

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