Is now the right time to fly? What to know before booking your winter vacation

MADISON, Wis. — While millions of Americans are expected to return to airports this month, excited to celebrate the holidays with family and friends, the decision whether or not to travel remains very personal and not necessarily straightforward, Is now the right time to travel? If I book a trip today and get sick, will I be able to get my money back?

AAA Wisconsin says travelers are coming to them with a long list of questions, and the answers vary, depending on where you’re going, which airline you’re flying, and what your vaccination status is.

Communications Director Nick Jarmusz recommends always buying travel insurance and working with an agent.

“That’s not always going to guarantee under every scenario that you’re going to be able to get your money back if you have to cancel, but it certainly makes it easier,” he said.

The pandemic has also established what Dane County Regional Airport Communications Director Michael Riechers calls a new, new normal for the airline industry. Riechers says the pandemic has made most airlines more flexible and likely to work with you. In order to stay competitive, major companies including United and American often eliminate change and cancelation fees.

MORE: What to expect while traveling, a breakdown of requirements for various types of travel

Airports have also become more flexible about flights they’re offering. While it used to take one or two years to add a new route in cities like Madison, it now takes 6-8 weeks. Dane County Regional currently offers 16 direct routes, three fewer than spring 2020 but six more than this time last year.

“People still aren’t traveling as much for business because they can Zoom,” Riechers explained. “But they are traveling for beach vacations because you can’t Zoom to the beach.”

The number of daily passengers at Dane County Regional is back up to 5,000, just 1,000 shy of pre-pandemic levels.

“We thought everything was clean pre-pandemic, but we also thought everything was safe before 9/11,” said Riechers. “What we used to clean two or three times a day, now gets cleaned two or three times an hour.”