If you've postponed your vacation because of economic uncertainty or fear of an impending layoff, travel companies are offering "vacation stimulus" deals to give worried travelers the confidence to go ahead and book their trips. The offers range from deep discounts, not seen since right after 9-11, to full refunds if you are laid off from your job.
Princess Cruises, for instance, recently began its "Escape the Economy 2-for-1" savings on select cruises. Holland America's "Vacation Stimulus Plan" reduces the cost of travel for a third or fourth guest in a stateroom and offers 25 percent discounts on pre- and post-cruise hotel packages. Marriott's "Travel Stimulus" voucher entitles guests to receive $100 off the total resort bill.
Then there's travel insurance. Travel insurance has typically included cancel-for-any-reason coverage along with coverage for trip delays and default by a tour operator. Now, some insurers, such as Travel Guard, are offering layoff protection. This new coverage allows you to cancel and get reimbursed for airfares or vacation packages, if you are laid off from your job.
Not to be outdone, JetBlue (with its Promise Program), Norwegian Cruise Lines (BookSafe Travel Protection Plan), CruiseOne (CruiseAssurance plan) have launched travel protection plans of their own. To receive a refund, the plans generally require that you show a termination letter from a company for which you have worked at least a year.
Installment payments also make booking a vacation less frightening in the midst of uncertain times. You can book some vacation packages with just a deposit and pay the rest over a period of weeks or months. It gives you time to ponder your decision and back out before the final payment comes due.
Look for tour operators that have reduced their deposit amount requirements and extended windows for canceling a trip without penalty.
Though these options can make a dream vacation a reality, be sure to take steps to protect yourself:
Pay with a credit card: Credit cards offer you more consumer protection than paying by check, particularly if your airline or tour operator goes bust during the economic downturn.
Check the Terms and Cancellation Policy: Many of the recession travel deals and insurance plans come with special terms and conditions. Be sure to review yours. Terms for the new layoff protection plans often require that you purchase travel insurance or pay a fee as well as provide a copy of your termination letter.
Be sure your travel agent and insurance company are licensed: Legitimate travel insurance companies are backed by a regulated underwriter. Check the list of members in good standing on the U.S. Travel Insurance Association Web site. Also, travel agents should be registered as sellers of travel in their states and members of NACTA, ASTA, IATAN or CLIA.