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Feb. 24, 2021, 11:34 a.m. EST

Start planning now: 4 tips for booking the vacation of your life

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Beth Braverman

This article is reprinted by permission from  .

Retirees Liz Miller and Lou Hoyos, of Long Branch, N.J., had planned to spend two weeks vacationing in Spain last April: Barcelona, Madrid, Toledo and Malaga. But like millions of others, the couple’s plans got postponed, and then canceled, as the pandemic spread across the globe. But Miller isn’t giving up on the dream.

“I had done everything and created this amazing trip for two weeks,” she says. “But now I’m thinking, ‘Nope, we’re going to stay for a month, and I have 12 more places I want to go.'”

Miller has spent her pandemic researching additional destinations and expanding their original trip to include Rioja and Altamira, in northern Spain, and Portugal, too. Miller is hoping she and her husband can go this fall, but is waiting to book the trip until they’ve received their COVID-19 vaccinations.

One reason Miller and Hoyos think they’ll be able to stay longer than originally planned is that they’ve increased savings over the past year by eliminating travel and eating nearly all meals at home. They’re not alone.

Half of Americans said that they spent less in 2020 than in 2019 , according to a survey by Travis Credit Union.

And nearly a third of Americans say they’re  planning to splurge on travel  or dining out after they get vaccinated, according to the personal finance site Lending Tree. Almost four in 10 told the American Hotel & Lodging Association they plan to travel more in 2021 than in 2020 and 56% of those surveyed say they’re likely to travel for leisure or vacation in 2021.

An added bonus: The process of thinking about, and planning for, a big trip — even one that’s months away — can make you happier now than spending your money on tangible things.

“Planning experiences in advance increases the amount of time that you can spend savoring or positively looking forward to future consumption,” says Amit Kumar, a happiness researcher with the University of Texas at Austin. “It gives you more time to imagine what you might do and increases the amount of time you can spend positively looking forward to your future consumption.”

You may want to consider using this time to start planning a trip you’ve been longing to take when the time is right. The deals can be pretty great. For instance, there are American Airlines /zigman2/quotes/209207041/composite AAL +2.17% flights from New York City to San Francisco this summer for $331 round-trip.

Since COVID-19 is still spreading throughout the U.S. and many parts of the world, however, travel experts still recommend avoiding nonessential trips in the near-term.

Ready to begin planning your bucket list vacation? Consider the following four tips:

1. Think about where, when and how you could travel safely

While no one knows when COVID-19 infection rates will fall precipitously or when more governments will begin lifting travel restrictions, experts offer a few tips and precautions.

Michael Barnish, an infectious disease specialist with the Jefferson Health New Jersey care network, suggests travelers consider domestic trips, not international ones, this summer.

Warmer weather will let you spend more vacation time outdoors, which is safer from the coronavirus than indoors.

And domestic travel avoids potential obstacles in other countries. Barnish says overseas travel may be more difficult in the near-term, as many countries still require pre-arrival COVID-19 tests (regardless of whether you’ve been vaccinated) and may have other restrictions on travelers.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, for example, currently requires that all travelers coming into the U.S. (including residents returning home) show proof of being negative in a COVID-19 test taken three days before flying home and quarantine for a week after; it’s unclear how long that policy and others like it will remain in effect.

In addition, Barnish says, the type of vacation can impact its level of risk.

“If you plan on taking a hiking trip out West or going to the National Parks, the risk is very small,” he says. He thinks owners of hotels and lodges there are likely to take proper precautions for their guests.

You might like: A Roman goddess inspired this couple to leave Seattle and retire to Italy, where you can live on $3,000 a month

Traveling on your own or with a group of less than 10 vaccinated people is also safer than vacationing with a tour group, says Manisha Juthani, a Yale Medicine infectious disease specialist and an associate professor of medicine and epidemiology at Yale School of Medicine.

“I would not recommend cruising as your first vacation at this point,” she says. “Once the pandemic is under control, cruising could be safe again.”

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