Once it makes sense for all of us to start traveling again, it’s going to be like we’ve never seen it before. But will it be more expensive than it used to be?

Let me level with you: there’s no one answer to this question, and it will depend on where you’re flying from, where you’re flying to, when you’re flying, what kind of destination it is, the extent to which it’s “open” to travelers and any national restrictions either at your end or the destination’s end.

Let’s work through those issues one by one.

Editor's note: during COVID-19 there are restrictions on travel and opening hours may vary. Check the latest guidance before planning a trip, and always follow local health advice.

Should I book with a low-cost airline for a summer break? 

As a general rule, if you’re looking for a couple of chilled out weeks in the sun somewhere that’s a relatively normal place for folks to travel to from where you live, that’s likely to be pretty possible and pretty reasonably priced.

This might be the time for northern Europeans to book two weeks to explore the temperate rainforests in the central mountains of Gran Canaria, say, rather than aiming anywhere much more long-haul or off-the-beaten-track. Holiday and low-cost airlines are already taking bookings and the usual holiday destinations have the infrastructure to be able to support early opening — and incoming travelers.

Betancuria village on Fuerteventura island
European travelers might be better heading to a Canary island like Fuerteventura.  ©RossHelen/Getty Images

In terms of timing, there’s always a price spike around the school holidays, and that’s likely to be the case this year as well. Also, expect a spike immediately after any relaxation of restrictions from your home government.

Think too about how open your destination is to leisure travelers as well. As a rule, travel domestically or within neighboring countries is likely to open up first, with other travel following later. That will also create a spike as folks who’ve been banned from visiting friends and family make a much-needed visit.

Travel to countries that remain closed – like Australia and New Zealand, for example – is likely to be on a repatriation or exceptionally urgent travel only basis, with mandatory managed isolation quarantines, and overall numbers are likely to remain capped for some time. Oh, and if you’re concerned about price, those managed isolation quarantines are at your own expense, so perhaps strike them off your list.

Finding cheap flights for summer 2021 

If you’re as keen to travel as we all are, you’ll want to make sure that it’s reasonable and safe for you to travel, and that you’re following guidance from public health authorities both at home and abroad to not put yourself, anyone at your destination, or anyone en route at risk.

Also, remember it’s not just the cost of the flight: it’s the cost of having your money potentially tied up for months or refunded in airline vouchers if it’s canceled, which could possibly stop you from booking a replacement trip – which could itself be more expensive.

Once you’ve made a “go” decision, take a look at some of the “where can I go from my home airport” websites, like Google Flights, and see what routes are available on the days or even months you’d like to travel. Do prices look reasonable for your budget?

Parents with two children walking into the water at the beach while the sun sets.
If you have school-age kids, you need to be smart about where you travel to © Rawpixel.com/Shutterstock

See if you can travel against the grain. If you’re constrained by dates and times, as many folks with school-age kids are, you may need to be smart about where you’d like to travel to. It may even make sense to do a family road trip or rail trip rather than taking to the air for the next few months.

If you can travel before or after the school holiday periods, or even midweek-to-midweek, that’s likely to be a much better deal. Similarly, if you can avoid having to book for immediately after lockdown lifts, you’ll avoid that price spike.

Overall, though, my top tip for the next six to nine months: sit tight for now, wait and see where you, your home country and your proposed destinations are in terms of vaccines and COVID-19 levels, and once it’s safe and sensible for you to travel, be flexible around what last-minute deals are available.

John Walton is an aviation journalist who writes regularly for Lonely Planet and a variety of aviation publications. He welcomes questions and discussions on Twitter, where he’s @thatjohn!

You might also enjoy:

Europe to consider a digital health pass to help restore travel
Greece aims to welcome back travelers starting in May
Poland will allow some vaccinated travelers to enter without quarantine

This article was first published Apr 16, 2020 and updated Mar 12, 2021.

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