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What You Need to Know Right Now to Plan Your Post-Pandemic Travel

This time last year, air traffic in the U.S. plummeted, with 95% fewer travelers passing through Transportation Security Administration checkpoints in April 2020 compared with April 2019.

NBC Universal, Inc.

This story originally appeared on LX.com

If you're like most, after a year-long lockdown you're thinking about taking a trip this summer. Perhaps it's a trip that you were forced to reschedule from 2020. Or maybe it's a brand new outing after being in lockdown for so long. Either way, you're planning a well-earned and much-needed vacation.

This time last year, air traffic in the U.S. plummeted, with 95% fewer travelers passing through Transportation Security Administration checkpoints in April 2020 compared with April 2019. This reduced demand led to a corresponding decrease in airfare prices.

Scott Keyes of Scott's Cheap Flights joined NBCLX and shared that anyone looking to get the best bang for their buck needs to act immediately as the pent-up demand for travel is likely to be huge.

Air Travel Costs Are Only Going Up

Many people might wait until they are fully vaccinated to begin planning their summer travel. "If you do that, chances are there are not going to be any cheap fares left," says Keyes. "Instead if you book your flight now for the summer and lock in some of the extremely cheap flights we've been seeing...that's the ticket for getting a cheap flight and doing so before everybody else does."

Read the Fine Print on Your Travel Vouchers

If you had travel planned last year but were forced to reschedule because of COVID-19, you likely received a travel voucher. If so, you're going to want to check a few things immediately if you haven't already. First, check the expiration date. Then check the limitations on the voucher. Does it have to be used for the same destination that was originally booked or is it good for any destination? Lastly, check for a customer service number and don't be afraid to give them a call.

"Airlines are being far more accommodating than they used to about giving extensions. But generally only if you ask," says Keyes. "So find that customer service number. Give them a call and explain to them why you may not feel comfortable traveling for the next few months. You might be surprised how willing they are to give you a six or 12-month extension."

Book Your Hotels Now

Hotel prices dropped during the pandemic, but just as with airfare, they're set to be on the rise again as people emerge from their homes. NerdWallet reports that February room rates in New York City were down 37% year-over-year according to Hopper’s data. This pattern is expected to reverse as vaccinated travelers flock back into metropolitan areas later in 2021, driving prices up.

Seniors Citizens Are On The Move

And if you do find yourself on an airplane in the immediate future, don't be surprised if your flight is full of the 65 and older crowd.

"One of the first groups that got vaccinated were senior citizens," says Keyes. "And if you look at the charts of who is booking flights right now, senior citizen bookings are off the chart. It's four times higher than it was for trips last summer. They are getting their vaccines and then getting on a flight."

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