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South Coast Travel Expert Says COVID-19 Creating Fall Travel Deals, But Costs Will Ramp Up For Holidays

Santa Barbara Airport reported a surge in traffic this summer.

U.S. business destinations, Mexico and Europe current top bargain spots.

The pandemic has been disrupting travel, and vacation plans for more than a year and a half now. Arnie Brier and Jill Feldman of Santa Barbara put a planned trip to Italy on hold.

"We had planned a trip a year ago, and of course, cancelled that," said Brier. "We decided several months ago to try it again, and then as the delta variant picked up, we were very hesitant."

Feldman says they were very worried, and realized there were a lot of hoops to jump through. But, they did jump through the hoops. They are fully vaccinated, but still had to get tested. Brier and Feldman are now on vacation in the Alba region of Italy. They say despite the COVID-19 safety concerns, their trip is great.

"We're comfortable. In Italy here, they are very cautious," said Brier. "Everyone is wearing masks."

Jill Feldman/Arnie Brier
Santa Barbara residents Jill Feldman and Arnie Brier cancelled their planned vacation to Italy last year because of the pandemic, but they are there now. They say with all the safety measure in place, they feel safe.

A travel expert says after COVID-19 related reopening in the spring and summer, travel boomed, but that the delta-fueled surge led to a slight cooling trend.

"When we look back at summer, there was an unprecedented demand which did catch the industry, particularly airlines a little by surprise," said Gabe Saglie, who is Senior Editor for Travelzoo, an online hub for travel and entertainment deals. "But, the delta variant did begin to dampen demand as we moved toward the end of the summer season."

Saglie says while leisure related travel normally drops in the fall anyway, the situation is creating some bargains for those in a position to hit the road. He says there are major deals for European travel, as well as to Mexico.

Saglie says you have to do your homework on international travel, because entrance requirements vary from country to country. The Westlake Village based travel expert says the good news is that there is still some unprecedented flexibility in making travel plans.

"The airlines are still not charging you $200 if you need to change your travel dates, or alter your travel," said Saglie. He says you may not get your money back, but you will get a credit that's good towards a future flight. Saglie says many hotels and resorts are showing flexibility.

Saglie says business travel is still significantly off due to the pandemic, which is creating some domestic leisure travel opportunities. He says there are great deals right now on flights, and accommodations for cities like New York, Dallas and San Francisco.

But, Saglie cautions that many current low fall fares won’t translate into the holidays. He says if your holidays include travel plans, you should book sooner than later. Airlines have been reducing the number of flights to fill planes, and increase their profit.

Cruise ships are back in operation, but business is off. The Centers for Disease Control is recommending that you be fully vaccinated if you want to take a cruise. Saglie says there are some deals, because the cruise industry’s comeback could be a slow one. He says the industry won't be back at pre-pandemic levels until 2024.

But, Saglie says the bottom line is for those willing to do their homework, travel safely and the fact many are staying home can make it a nice time to get a deal, avoid crowds, and have a memorable vacation.

Lance Orozco has been News Director of KCLU since 2001, providing award-winning coverage of some of the biggest news events in the region, including the Thomas and Woolsey brush fires, the deadly Montecito debris flow, the Borderline Bar and Grill attack, and Ronald Reagan's funeral.