Photo: Vrbo

After countless weeks at home, canceled plans, and postponed festivities, some families still want to salvage their summer vacation plans. And while the decision of where and when to travel again is unique to each family, there’s no doubt that they will prioritize safety and comfort on their next journey. To help families stay properly informed and empowered as they make travel plans, Vrbo is sharing the top questions we’ve heard the most from families:

1. Is it safe to travel this summer? And where can I go? There won’t be a moment when all travel is magically declared safe again. My comfort level for my family is driving to a lake house and staying with another family we know has also been social distancing. Another family might have a different set of standards, but all families should check the current situation at the destination before traveling. With COVID-19 cases continuing to fluctuate across the country, it will be hard to predict whether area attractions, restaurants or amusement parks will be open or closed. When booking your summer vacation, consider vacation homes that are a destination unto itself in case area attractions end up being unavailable. There are plenty of short term vacation homes that provide amenities that can entertain the whole family, like a pool, backyard fire pit, game room or home theater. 

2. What about flying versus driving, what’s safer? We’re seeing a jump in demand for Vrbo vacation homes within 500 miles of home, so it’s clear that most families feel more comfortable taking a road trip. It makes sense that driving in your own car to a private vacation home is the way to go in order to avoid crowds and practice social distancing. The beauty of domestic travel is that there are drivable destinations to explore no matter where you live. And a lot of those lake, mountain, or beach destinations don’t have resorts, but they do have entire homes available to rent. Everyone is looking for the silver lining these days, and for me, it’s discovering the lakes near where I live in Central Texas, that I confess I passed over in the past for places a lot farther away.      

3. What about the vacation rental versus hotel debate—which is cleaner or safer? Everyone expects anywhere they stay to be clean and safe. The best thing you can do is to review your accommodations’ cleaning guidelines. Both hotels and vacation homeowners have stepped up their cleaning protocols—brands like Vrbo have rolled out new cleanliness guidelines that advise homeowners to use enhanced cleaning and disinfecting methods, have antibacterial soap and sanitizers available for guests, offer contact-free check-in and make their homes unavailable for a gap between stays. If the information isn’t clear on what’s been done to clean your accommodations, ask!

4. What happens if there is another flare-up of COVID-19 and I want to cancel my trip?  It’s all about knowing the cancellation policy. People renting vacation homes for the first time need to know cancellation policies can vary among homeowners. Some offer no refunds after booking, some offer refunds with a 30-day notice, and some offer refunds with a 14-day notice. Before you book, review the property’s cancellation policy to see what specific date you can cancel by penalty-free. When COVID-19 began, the vast majority of vacation homeowners and property managers made generous exceptions to their existing cancellation policies and offered refunds and credits to their guests because the pandemic was such an unprecedented situation. Now travelers know to expect the unexpected and they’re looking for properties with those more flexible cancellation policies. Vrbo is making the cancel-by dates very clear on the site and app.

5. Is it safe to return to amusement parks or major tourist attractions? Will that affect how families travel? We predict that travelers will want to take their next vacation to see and spend time with their loved ones who they’ve been missing. After weeks of sheltering in place, people want to reconnect with their extended families, grandparents, and close friends. Even though some theme parks are beginning to reopen, families may be hesitant to return to crowded, high-trafficked places right away. That’s why vacation rentals in mountain, lake, and beach destinations are appealing. Families can enjoy a change of scenery and spend much-deserved quality time together. Also, as COVID-19 rates ebb and flow, I’d rather know the amenities of the house I’ve chosen to rent are enough to entertain my family rather than choosing the destination based on area attractions.