Spending

The safest way to travel this summer can also be hundreds of dollars cheaper than the alternative

Twenty/20

Buying travel insurance is an easy way to make sure you don't lose money if the coronavirus pandemic disrupts your travel plans. Yet travel insurance comparison site Squaremouth has seen a 90% decrease in policy purchases this summer. 

Although this drop might indicate that more Americans are opting out of vacation, it could also signal that many are taking trips that require no travel insurance or less coverage, says Squaremouth representative Kasara Barto.

"With domestic trips accounting for 48% of all planned summer travel, travelers remaining in the U.S. may need little to no medical coverage from their travel insurance policy, as most health insurance can cover travelers while in the U.S.," Barto says. This may be welcome news, as the effects of the coronavirus pandemic have disrupted Americans' income and their ability to travel.

Keeping your summer vacation local, or at least domestic, is a great way to save money and, at the same time, avoid environments where you'd have a higher risk of contracting the coronavirus. That's because, experts say, the safest type of trip is also the most budget-friendly. A road trip is even cheaper than it was last year, as gas prices are a full 70 cents less per gallon than they were at this time last year, according to AAA. In all, driving instead of flying to a destination can save you hundreds of dollars.

Here are two tips for taking a budget-friendly and safety conscious vacation this summer. 

Drive 

Driving is safer than flying, Dr. Nathan Grubaugh, an epidemiologist at Yale, recently told Grow. The virus most likely spread through high-touch surfaces, such as railings, of which airports have many. In a car, you can disinfect the interior and control how many people are touching the surfaces. 

"Driving in your car, in itself, is safe, at least as far as the virus is concerned," he says, "versus going to an airport where it's almost impossible to social distance."

Travelers remaining in the U.S. may need little to no medical coverage from their travel insurance policy.
Kasara Barto
Squaremouth Spokesperson

Road trips typically don't require travel insurance. If you need to cut a trip short for any reason, you can simply drive back and don't have to deal with the refunding of plane tickets. And most hotels offer refunds if you cancel between 24 and 72 hours before your reservation.

Plus, gas is cheaper than it usually is around this time of year. The national average price for gas is $2.05 per gallon, according to AAA. Last year at this time it was $2.75 per gallon. 

If you were driving a 2018 Toyota Camry, the price of gas from San Francisco to Los Angeles, round trip, would be $58, according to AAA. Round-trip flight prices for this same route on the last week of July hover around $100 per ticket. If you are a family of four, you could save more than $300 by driving.

Gas costs for a trip from Chicago to Detroit and back in a 2018 Honda Odyssey would total $45.10. Airfare for this route is also around $100 round trip, meaning a family could save about $350 by driving.

Stay outdoors

"Things that are outside are better than things that are inside," says Grubaugh. Still, he says, you might want to skip crowded beaches and avoid water parks altogether, as they have many high-touch surfaces.

Instead, see if there are any state parks or hiking trails within driving distance. It will be easy to social-distance at these locations, and many hiking trails are free. Do research on sites like AllTrails.com, which notes trail difficultly along with trail length and worthwhile landmarks. 

Simple activities like hiking also typically don't require travel insurance, unlike complicated tours, cruises or resort stays where you could lose money for canceling at the last minute.

If you want to stay overnight, campgrounds are also much more affordable than hotel rooms. In Charleston, rooms for a three-star hotel range on 4th of July weekend are between $120 and $240 per night on Hotels.com. But a campground at James Island County Park in Charleston is $54 per night

Whatever you do, remember to frequently wash your hands and be mindful of what you touch and who you are with. 

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