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Should I purchase this leg of a trip now?

Our trip to Italy is in September. I’m growing increasingly pessimistic that it will happen, but you never know.

Our son, who lives out of state, is traveling with us. He’s flying home the day before and the 4 of us are traveling together to Italy and back. When the trip is over, he’s flying back from our hometown the next day.

His round trip ticket right now on Southwest is $200! Normally it’s anywhere between $300 to $600. Since SW has no change fees if we need to cancel, I think we should just go ahead and purchase, don’t you?

Posted by
6060 posts

Southwest will only give you a credit for future travel, not a refund when purchasing the lowest class of fares. So you're essentially spending money now to potentially hedge against prices in the future, which no one can predict. And by buying a ticket now, you're (however lightly) committing to travel in the near future which may or may not come to pass. Plus, there will be a fare difference factor anytime a ticket is changed.

I don't know about anyone else, but my biggest worry is a massive recession the likes of which we've never seen before, so spending money on non-essentials (including discretionary travel) is not something I'm personally willing to do at the moment. My advice is to look at the big picture and evaluate travel in general for your family in the context of an economic downturn that may last quite a while - if you can easily afford it, then of course you should do what's best for you - only you know your own situation. I don't mean to cause fear but I am trying to look way out into the future at all scenarios, and be overly cautious. There is no good news at the moment (except I guess the economic stimulus which may not be enough), only some harbingers of what's to come.

Posted by
322 posts

Good points! I’ve thought more about it since I posted my question and think I’ll purchase. He’s home several times a year and the $200 can just be put toward Thanksgiving or Christmas.

Yes, the recession. My youngest will graduate and be trying to find a job during it.

Posted by
112 posts

Southwest has no change fee, yes, but the time limit on using the credit/voucher starts from the date of purchase, not the date of travel. I like Southwest a lot, and this is a good policy, but I once ended up losing the credit on tickets I had bought far in advance that I cancelled last minute, and I had no other use for the credit in the time that was left. No big deal.

I would hold off, personally. I doubt you will be going to Italy in September - my opinion - FWIW. I am booked on a RS tour for September (Turkey) and I am highly skeptical that this tour will go on, and even if it does, I doubt that I will risk it, personally. I have not bought any plane tickets, only have the tour deposit at risk, so I am lucky in that way.

Posted by
6060 posts

If I were to buy any airline ticket (and I wouldn't unless it was really necessary), it would only be Southwest because they have the best policies out there for changes and cancellations. They are a great airline, and I would love to support them with my money (but can't right now).

Posted by
5537 posts

No. He will still have to pay the difference of a new flight’s cost. Why tie his money up? It is one thing if you have to cancel a flight for other reasons, but not to save money on a future flight because it doesn’t work that way!

Posted by
20553 posts

I am in Wally' s camp. Lot of pessimism up stream. I would do it since you will have many other opportunities to use the credit. It is important to watch the date as the year runs from the initial purchase date and not the travel date or cancellation. We are also booked on a Italian trip in early October. Just no way to make an informed judgement at this time. You have to assume things will be better. Just a question of how much better. November cannot come too soon.

Graduation would be a concern. Our younger son graduated in engineering at the bottom of the last recession. Not a happy time. Now in the SF high tech area with a start up company in lock down with a million dollar mortgage.

Posted by
322 posts

We missed our oldest son winter graduation a couple of years ago due to an ice storm. We all decided to watch him walk the next May. He was already working, and didn’t particularly want to go, but knew better than to make a fuss. So he walked and said afterwards he was really glad he did.

I already told my son who is set to graduate in May, that we will see if we can attend the winter one this year. He really wants to walk, so I hope they let him.

Yes, my son who lives out of state comes home frequently, so the $200 won’t be wasted.

Posted by
20553 posts

The University of Colorado announced a couple of days ago that the May graduation ceremony is cancelled. Classes are still in session but who knows for how long. The president may want to gaslight us about a recession but the point is that we are there so the question is how long will it last. It is the ripple effects that kills you in this situation. Why we may return to "normal" in a few years, that doesn't mean we may not have a new normal. Our older son who is a high level senior engineer often travels to met with clients either for current or future project is now doing most his work with video conferencing and presentations. Working far better than initially expected. This could well be their future normal -- these goes all of his fflyer and hotel points. Change is coming.

PS I understand that the definition of a recession is two quarters of decline GNP.

Posted by
1834 posts

I would be doubtful for September. I have been known to say that many seem to think there will be a "big green button" that when pushed, this will all be over. But, there will be no "big green button."

Likely it will persist to some level or another........a peak, then waves of peaks and valleys.........until ultimately a vaccine is effective.

I personally would not count on a trip to Italy in September (and oh how I sincerely hope I am WRONG). If things are somewhat improved in Italy in September, the US could be further behind in the development/recovery. That could potentially mean Europe would not want Americans entering.

Too uncertain....no one really knows.

That said, it's only $200...why not?

Posted by
1093 posts

Has anyone else noticed that collective common experience logic is failing to predict events very well? The New York Times is today reporting that a US government pandemic report expects lasting effects for as long as 18 months. I wouldn't buy the ticket because it's cheap by past standards. You can't predict what travel in the US will like in September, much less in Italy.

Posted by
6060 posts

Has anyone else noticed that collective common experience logic is
failing to predict events very well?

Yes! I have argued that people don't have enough information to make even short-term decisions at the moment. And you can't make any predictions without a lot of data, which is lacking. This is a novel event. We still don't know the prevalence of the virus in the US since we haven't done enough tests yet. Looking at the trends in Asia and Europe displayed and updated on the Johns Hopkins website (https://coronavirus.jhu.edu/map.html) should give anyone some pause and humility (it's shocking, for example, to see the cases in Italy go from ~ 17k to ~ 21k to more than 35k in a matter of days). For that reason, I think it's premature to assume anything, including how long this disruption will last.

It's well known that people make bad decisions under conditions of extreme stress, during major crises, and when it's particularly hard to evaluate risk. Folks on this forum are biased toward traveling no matter what (ignoring sunk costs) and have a very hopeful outlook which may not pan out. I think this is a good time to step back and not hurry any decision. Remember, travel is discretionary...it can be postponed, if need be.

Posted by
6060 posts

This is the report Mike was referencing. It's Trump's own response team that put this together. Of course, it's built on certain assumptions (see Page 4) that may be incorrect, and it states that clearly. I don't see anything wrong with the press for putting it out there for anyone who wants to read it and judge for themselves. Bottom line: Don't shoot the messenger if you don't like the message.

https://int.nyt.com/data/documenthelper/6819-covid-19-response-plan/d367f758bec47cad361f/optimized/full.pdf#page=1

https://www.nytimes.com/2020/03/17/us/politics/trump-coronavirus-plan.html

Posted by
322 posts

So, I pulled the trigger and bought his ticket, $189! Part of me thinks I bought it just because I can’t believe it was so low! I honestly think there is a 20% chance this trip in September is a go. If by some miracle it happens, then great. If not, the $189 can be used for a trip home that we know he’ll make.

Perhaps I also purchased because I just can’t give up the thought of cancelling yet.

However, if we have to I already told the boys we would look towards May 2021. So, whatever happens, happens. The most important thing is for our world to heal as quickly as it can.

Both DH and I have coughs, he has a fever too. But sneezes like a cold. Do we have it? Who knows? Reports say now 60% of us will probably get it. So we are doing our part in not spreading it quickly. I already am retired, so don’t feel the cabin fever like many who don’t.

Posted by
20553 posts

I don't see anything wrong with your decision. You have absolutely nothing at risk. At most it is a few pennies of potential interest on your $189. I would have done it without a second thought. There will be an end to the present situation.

Unfortunately a cough and fever is not good, especially the fever. To best of our knowledge our surrounding area has not been hit. However, a very different story with our ski areas. This will be the first season since '65 that I have not skied. Who knows, I may have made my last run.

Posted by
322 posts

My H runs, has done a couple,e marathons but a few decades ago. He’s been training for the Indy mini-marathon and actually thinks he would have had his best time ever, at age 60! Boy, was he disappointed when they cancelled last week.

Posted by
4050 posts

September is six months from now and from all that I read, things should be better by then.

However, Italy is probably the country right now with the worst coronavirus problems.

Certainly, there will not be a vaccine by then, but not sure how open Italy will be at that time.

If you or anyone in your group is elderly or has a major health issue, it might be better staying home.

We have a safari in East Africa in July, still not sure about that.

For you, not sure where your son has to come from to meet you.