The flexibility of the hotel varies. So read the fine print
Meanwhile, most major American chains have re-established their pre-Covid reservation policies for reservations before a certain date (that has come and gone) and for travel by a certain date (that has come and gone). However, some companies are still flexible: Hilton has always had a generous cancellation policy, and Four Seasons has always been straightforward with changes and cancellations during the pandemic.
Travel industry insiders have found flexibility in independent hoteliers as well.
“We feel that small, family-run luxury properties are actually faster than some of the big hotel chains,” said Louisa Gehring, owner of Gehring Travel, a subsidiary of Brownell, a virtuoso luxury travel agency. “Instead of firing everyone or pointing out an overarching corporate cancellation policy, they had the flexibility to keep teams going, work with clients on a case-by-case basis, and really stay up to date.”
The guidelines vary by property, she added, but even some of the stricter guidelines now include exemptions for Covid.
One thing to watch out for is the flashpoint between credits and refunds: even if a hotel doesn’t swallow a deposit or prepayment right away, will you get a cash refund or be asked to rebook? Last year Greece and Italy passed laws allowing hotels and other travel companies to issue credits instead of cash refunds for canceled bookings. Although vaccines, willingness to travel, and pandemic fatigue can make the idea of a loan less hideous than it seemed last spring, always ask about the specifics of the policy, including power outages and expiration dates.
Realize that Paris doesn’t look exactly like the Paris you remember
The Palace of Versailles is open and President Emmanuel Macron is drinking espresso in front of the Parisian cafes. However, the nightclubs remain closed even after the nationwide curfew in France ended in June. In restaurants and bars in Madrid, groups are limited to four people inside and six people outside. Germany and the Netherlands remain closed to American tourists.
“Of course, we will not go back to ‘normal’ immediately, and travelers need to be aware of health measures and comply with the rules at the destination,” said Eduardo Santander, the executive director of the Brussels-based European Travel Commission, which serves the national tourism associations across the world Represents the continent. “All of us – destinations, businesses and guests – cannot abandon the watch too soon, both for our own health and for the safety of those around us.”
In short, every trip to Europe this summer will amount to living up to expectations.
“Save the trip to Europe for a bit later when all the new protocol kinks have been fixed,” said Ms. Gehring. Even so, you can still have an unforgettable experience.