PHOTO: Phuket, Thailand courtesy of Mariel Loveland via FLICKR
Continuing my birthday gift to myself by having guest writers for my blog while I take a break, Mariel Loveland is today's guest writer. Mariel is a New Jersey-based writer and an avid traveler. She has been across the country more times than she can count and has definitely taken her fair share of naps on airport floors. You can learn more about her here.
"How to spend your $1,200 stimulus check on travel"
by Mariel Loveland
There’s been a lot of debate about how people should be spending their $1,200 stimulus checks. It’s recommended that before spending it on anything, you should first build up an emergency fund of three to six months worth of expenses or pay down high-interest debt -- but what about if you’re blessed enough to have a steady job, some savings, and limited debt? You have two options: donate to charity or use it to help the economy (i.e. buy stuff).
It’s no secret that the travel and hospitality industry is struggling right now.
With borders closed, flights grounded, and mass lockdowns, according to Travel Weekly, the hospitality industry is expecting to see $180 billion in lost wages. Fortunately for consumers, supply and demand is a real thing and the cost of vacations is plummeting. According to USA Today, some hopeful flyers saw flight prices slashed in half.
So if you can spend your $1,200 stimulus check on travel, where exactly should you go? These destinations will make your $1200 go a long way.
Before you book: think about a backup plan
Times are uncertain right now, and there’s no answer on when this will end, when borders will open, and when it will be safe to travel. If you’re planning to use your stimulus check on a vacation, prepare for the very real possibility that your trip may be postponed. Always read the fine print with both flight cancellation policies and travel insurance. Some do not cover pandemics, but many airlines have relaxed their cancellation and change fees.
If you want to make your $1200 go the furthest, an all-inclusive resort stay certainly helps. TravelZoo is offering up three nights at the SoCo Hotel in Barbados, which Fodors rated one of the best adults-only hotels in the country. A three night stay for two will cost $749, and you can snag a nonstop flight for around $352. Not bad for a relaxing beach vacation.
It’s likely that international travel will be the last type to resume, so you may want to stick stateside. Right now, round trip fares to Hawaii are bottoming out at between $237 to $348, which is about $100 to $200 less than usual. If Hawaii was an out of reach destination before (it’s typically more expensive than sticking within the continental US), now’s the time to go.
Maybe you want to go far -- really far, as far as you possibly can from the home you’ve been quarantined in for months. In that case, you can take a guided tour of Morocco for roughly the entire cost of your stimulus check. This TravelZoo deal -- which includes seven nights of accommodation, airfare, transportation, and two meals a day -- is about half price. On this trip, you’ll get to wander through Marrakesh’s spice market, travel through the Middle Atlas Mountains to the edge of the Sahara, and inhale the sweet scent of the Valley of the Roses, plus a whole lot more.
The Great Smoky Mountains
You don’t have to go all the way to Morocco to see something absolutely breathtaking. The Great Smoky Mountains in North Carolina and Tennessee isn’t just a wallet friendly trip. It’s the perfect for social distancing if you’re the kind of person who likes camping and hiking. Just make sure the National Parks have opened before you go, and consider staying in the town of Gatlinburg, Tennessee, where you can ride on the iconic Alpine Slide.
This 8-to-12-night vacation package from Tripmasters doesn’t just include a stay in Thailand’s bustling capital. You’ll also get to relax on the crystal clear beaches of Phuket and Phi Phi Island. Depending on the city, it’s a few dollars more than your stimulus check, but the cultural experience is worth it.