Travelers face a lot of uncertainty right now when thinking about future international trips: When will my destination reopen its borders? When will there be no quarantine upon arrival? When can I know that my flight there won’t be cancelled as airlines cut service? While some of you have told us you want to wait for a COVID-19 vaccine before flying internationally again, others of you point out that there may never be a vaccine and that you’d like to travel as soon as it becomes feasible and safe enough, as you want to be among the first travelers to enjoy the world’s legendary sights before tourist crowds return.
Either way, we have some good news: WOW List travel specialists have been working hard to eliminate, or at least greatly reduce, any financial risk when they design a future itinerary with you. We’ve compiled the most generous and flexible approaches we’ve learned of, from fully refundable deposits to delayed final payments to date changes with zero penalty. There is a rare opportunity now, while these travel specialists who are normally in such high demand have a little down time for an in-depth conversation with you, to fine-tune a custom-tailored itinerary with them and take advantage of these relaxed policies. (These new policies are only applicable to new bookings and cannot be retroactively applied to existing reservations.)
We’re updating this page continually, so bookmark it and come back to check the new offers as they come in.
Argentina and Chile
Many of you are dreaming of Patagonia, what with its wide-open landscapes, lodges ideal for social distancing, and plenty of fresh air. (While Argentina’s and Chile’s cities are still working to flatten their COVID-19 curves, most of the regions that make up Patagonia have very low caseloads.) Since the bulk of Patagonia’s visitors arrive between November and April, and some people who were scheduled to travel there earlier in 2020 have postponed their plans, availability during this upcoming season may not be as easy to come by as you would expect. If you book by July 1 for a trip with Chile and Argentina specialist Jordan Harvey, your financial risk is reduced because the 10% deposit is refundable until 95 days prior to your departure date.
Austria, the Czech Republic, and Germany
After meticulously tackling the virus and seeing relatively few deaths as a result, Austria, the Czech Republic, and Germany may achieve a “New Normal” relatively soon. When you plan a trip with Central and Eastern Europe specialist Gwen Kozlowski, you can put down a small deposit—usually $500 to $1,000—and change your dates with no penalty up until one month before your departure, when the balance of your trip cost is due. (These terms are only available if you contact Gwen via the black button below.)
Start a safe, smart trip to Austria, Czech Republic, or Germany. You’ll be marked as a VIP and get a trip like this.
Cambodia, Thailand, Vietnam
Though Thailand was the first country outside China to record a case of COVID-19, the region has fared surprisingly well; as of May 16, Vietnam has reported no deaths, and Cambodia no active cases. When you plan a custom-designed itinerary with Southeast Asia specialist Sandy Ferguson, no deposit is required. Your first payment is due two months before departure (three months if you will be traveling during the Christmas/New Year’s holidays) and ranges from $2,000 to $10,000, depending on the trip. The balance is due 45 days before departure. If you’re forced to cancel, he’ll provide a future travel credit for whatever amount you’ve paid that is not reimbursed by your travel insurance policy, up to 25% of the trip cost. (Cancel For Any Reason insurance covers you for 50% to 75% of your trip cost, and this travel insurance covering pandemics reimburses even more.)
Restrictions on travel to/from China could last a long time, so China specialist Mei Zhang‘s new policies are especially lenient: No deposit is due until three months before your trip. At that time, a $500 deposit is needed to secure hotels, private guides, and the like. The balance is due two months out, and if you decide to change your travel dates, any payments you’ve made will be 100% transferable.
While Costa Rica was the first country in Central America to detect COVID-19 within its borders, the government’s quick response has kept its caseload low. If you plan a getaway with Central America specialist Pierre Gedeon, a 10% deposit is required, but the balance is due just 10 days before your departure; you can also cancel up to 10 days out and receive a full refund or 100% credit toward new trip dates.
Yes, U.S. citizens can still travel to Cuba legally. It’s an island that’s seen relatively few COVID-19 cases and deaths, that has renowned doctors and a high standard of medical care, and that is less than a three-hour non-stop flight from New York City or Atlanta. So Cuba might just become an option for travel this winter. Every trip planned by Cuba specialist David Lee includes Atrio Travel Assist’s cancellation insurance at no additional cost; this policy allows the traveler to cancel up to 24 hours before departure for a full refund, if the traveler is concerned about the risk of COVID-19 on the trip.
Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania
The Baltic states have taken a mass-testing approach to COVID-19, which has allowed them to trace contacts and isolate the infected; this will likely continue to serve them well as restrictions are lifted. When you plan a trip with Baltics specialist Greg Tepper, you can put down a small deposit—usually $500 to $1,000—and change your dates with no penalty up until one month before your departure, when the balance of your trip cost is due. (These terms are only available if you contact Greg via the black button below.)
Italy was hit hard by the pandemic, and you can follow updates about its plans for emerging from Europe’s longest lockdown at the website of the U.S. embassy in Rome. We’re relieved that Italy specialist Maria Gabriella Landers is allowing travelers to change their dates up until one month before departure, with all payments you’ve made applied to the new travel dates.
Sicily has half the population of Lombardy (the region of northern Italy that was worst hit by COVID-19) but to date has seen fewer than 5% as many cases. (You may have heard about a possible subsidy for travelers to Sicily that was leaked to the press; the scheme has yet to be approved or funded by Rome, and many more questions than answers remain on how it would be distributed, if approved.) You can plan a 2020 trip with Sicily specialists Marcello Baglioni and Matteo Rota without putting any money down until 30 days before the trip. If you decide to postpone your trip within those 30 days, 100% of your payments will be transferred to your new dates. For 2021, Marcello and Matteo will work with you to find an arrangement you’re comfortable with.
Some of us have New Zealand on our wish list right now, given how the country was the first to near elimination of the virus.
If you plan a trip with New Zealand specialist Donna Thomas, you need only put down a $300 deposit to reserve the itinerary that you dream up with her. Any trip payments you’ve made are refundable up until 35 days prior to departure. Click here to be marked as a VIP and get a trip like this.
If you plan a trip with New Zealand specialist Jean-Michel Jefferson and there are any travel restrictions in place at the time you are due to travel, you can rebook with no penalty. Click here to be marked as a VIP and get a trip like this.
Norway and Denmark
Norway has had far fewer deaths per capita than most of Western Europe, and Denmark is one of the seven-country group that has made such progress in containing the pandemic that they’ve banded together to allow tourism among themselves. You can plan your trip with Scandinavia specialist Jan Sortland and cancel up until 21 days prior to your departure for a full refund; for now, this policy applies to trips booked before June and taken in 2020.
COVID-19 hit Portugal later than it did nearby countries such as Spain, France, and Italy—which likely contributed to its quicker lockdown and far lower death rate. When you’re ready to consider a trip there, a 500 Euro fee is all you need to solidify plans with Portugal specialist Goncalo Correia. If you later decide to change your travel dates, any payments you’ve made will be 100% transferable.
United Kingdom and Ireland
Britain has ordered a 14-day quarantine on arriving travelers, starting June 8, and the official roadmap for reopening the U.K. and the timeline for reopening Ireland both show restrictions for many months. So, for travelers thinking about 2021, United Kingdom and Ireland specialist Jonathan Epstein will use your credit card to reserve your hotel accommodations—so you’re only beholden to the hotels’ policies, which usually allow you to postpone or cancel your stay with no penalty up until anywhere from 24 hours to 7 days before arrival. You can cancel the private drivers and guides whom Jonathan reserves for you up to 30 days out for a full refund, and in some cases even closer to arrival. Jonathan’s $450 planning fee is nonrefundable, but you pay it only once, even if you postpone your trip.
Be a smarter traveler: Read real travelers’ reviews of Wendy’s WOW List and use it to plan your next trip. You can also follow her on Facebook, Twitter @wendyperrin, and Instagram @wendyperrin, and sign up for her weekly newsletter to stay in the know.