You can officially say hello again to Peru, Ecuador, Colombia, Bolivia, and very soon to Argentina and Chile! As South America’s borders open up once more, tourists are dusting off their bags, and we are ready! Getting back into international travel is incredibly exciting and still a bit nerve-wracking after the rocky year and a half we’ve all navigated. And flexible travel has become an essential component.
So, for booking a personalized travel experience to South America in this “new normal” of travel, we know that protecting your trip is your number one priority; it’s ours too, considering the daily ups and downs of the novel coronavirus pandemic. Therefore, we want to make sure all of our new guests feel entirely at ease booking a trip, knowing they are covered in the event of any emergency.
In this article, we highlight all of the reasons why flexible travel and booking with a flexible travel agency like Kuoda is more crucial than it’s ever been. Furthermore, we cover what you can do to make sure your itinerary is as flexible as possible during the planning process and what we are doing to build every curated journey to South America with this in mind.
Why do you need flexibility on your next trip?
We all remember the days of scouting the best deal on an itinerary, a flight, or a cruise because, after all, those days aren’t so far behind us. And finding those deals was exhilarating. But the catch was that these special rates usually included some sort of “limited time offer” or condition, which ultimately limited flexibility.
Can you imagine being locked into a trip of this nature during a global pandemic? We can’t either, and we really don’t want you to have to imagine it. To fully enjoy and relax into a trip to South America in this context, booking something flexible and custom-designed is invaluable. In addition, having the assurance that dates can be moved without penalty in the event of an emergency out of your control is priceless.
What is “flexible travel” about?
First and foremost, we can’t talk about flexible travel without mentioning the traveler’s frame of mind. A flexible headspace goes a long way when it comes to planning a trip, especially right now, considering all the valuable lessons we’ve learned in this pandemic. For instance, we’ve learned that a perfect or memorable vacation can look several different ways; and maybe even radically different from how you initially imagined it.
If your first choice of activities or destinations is still not open yet in South America, you can still find so many other options you might not have considered the first time around. Instead of bumps in the road, you can think about these changes as happy accidents. After all, such deviations could turn out to be an even better choice for your travel party, making room for more authentic experiences along the way.
For instance, the coveted 4-day Inca Trail trek only just re-opened in July 2021. However, the 2-day Inca Trail hike has been open since the second half of 2020. This last leg of the Inca Trail is just over 6 miles (compared to the 26-mile 4-day trek), only takes about 6-7 hours to complete, and its highest point measures 8,924 feet above sea level (compared to the whopping 13,780 feet above sea level on the 4-day Inca Trail).
Therefore, those who had their heart set on climbing the 4-day Inca Trail and opted for the 2-day Inca Trail were still able to savor unparalleled and sweeping Andean views, explore fascinating Inca ruins, and arrive triumphantly at the Sun Gate overlooking Machu Picchu, all while avoiding the harsh effects of super-high-altitude trekking. Freeing up those two extra days also makes room for more destinations in your itinerary, like the Peruvian Amazon or the Sacred Valley.
Another vital aspect of flexible travel means making sure the Terms and Conditions are clear before booking. We recommend reviewing the Terms and Conditions policy before putting down any sort of deposit and also talking with your travel designer on the phone, if possible, to clarify any details about postponement or cancellation where necessary.
How can you maximize flexibility during your trip?
Travel insurance is a must. Some travel agencies offer travel insurance plans directly; however, we’ve found this isn’t the best option for our clients because those plans are usually limited to whatever will yield the best commission for the agency. So, you will actually be able to find the most competitive deals and more flexible options by booking a travel insurance plan separately.
And even though we don’t provide travel insurance, our travel experts can help you navigate different plans and give as much guidance as possible. For instance, in this “new normal” of international and luxury travel, we highly recommend booking a “Cancel for Any Reason” travel insurance package.
You also want to be careful when booking your international flight. Look for airlines that are sticking to their coronavirus pandemic flexible policies through 2022, at the very least. For instance, Delta Airlines currently does not charge any cancellation or change fees for both domestic and international flights leaving from the U.S.
Finally, consider including hotels or accommodation with more personalized service and care. We only work with the top 3*, 4*, and 5* properties in each destination. So, if you book a trip with us, you know that all of your hotels will be up to date with the necessary health and safety protocols, as well as flexible postponement policies until the pandemic is declared over.
What types of trips are the least flexible?
Cruises tend to have the strictest postponement and cancellation policies, which is mainly tied to keeping set departure dates and maintaining a sustainable profit. And although this is mostly the case with longer week-long cruises, this is also still the case with Galapagos and Amazon cruises in Ecuador and Amazon cruises in Peru.
The good news is that you can still travel to the Galapagos or the Amazon jungle, have a deeply meaningful experience, and avoid booking a cruise, at least until the pandemic is more uniformly under control. In the Galapagos, there are some fabulous hotel options and Island-Hopping programs, and incredibly unique and eco-conscious luxury jungle lodges in the Amazon.
Lastly, try to minimize the number of domestic flights or layovers built into your trip because, depending on the airline, those flights might be difficult to change at a moment’s notice. And depending on the location, a full-day road trip can add some exciting local flavor and character to your trip. You will be able to make meaningful stops in local communities and connect with local culture.
Another benefit of prioritizing land travel, either in private transport or even train travel, is that you ultimately produce a lower carbon footprint during your trip. Because along with flexible travel, eco-friendly travel is here to stay, and our planet will be much happier for it in the long run if we all do our part in any way we can, big or small.
We may be dealing with this pandemic for a few years yet, but the great news is that we are now fully equipped to keep traveling in the meantime. And making wonderful memories on a private journey to South America is the best cure for pandemic blues.
Contact us today to learn more about our flexible booking policies and start planning your private travel experience in the “new normal!”