WEST FARGO — Instead of putting together a packing checklist for an upcoming vacation, travelers are navigating how to go about their already scheduled summer trip during the coronavirus reality.

As people scramble to reschedule, restructure or cancel their long-awaited summer getaways, it’s been a hectic time to work in travel, but that hasn’t stopped agents from helping their clients achieve the best outcomes.

“A lot of our clients have had their vacations affected by the virus, so we’ve been trying to work around the situation to make sure their investment is protected,” said Olivia Clennon, owner and travel agent at Liv Travel in West Fargo.

It’s a good time to understand the original terms and conditions the trip was booked under, as well as the new rules and offers being put in place by travel companies to handle the situation, Clennon said.

In many cases, travel companies are offering either vouchers for future travel or refunds to travelers whose vacations have been affected. It's important to understand the travel companies' specific policies when making decisions and looking for compensation, she added.

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Olivia Clennon of Liv Travel LLC in West Fargo plans and services domestic and international vacations, to many destinations she’s visited herself, like Grenada, pictured above. Photo special to The Forum
Olivia Clennon of Liv Travel LLC in West Fargo plans and services domestic and international vacations, to many destinations she’s visited herself, like Grenada, pictured above. Photo special to The Forum

Most travel insurance isn’t covering the pandemic or any pandemic-related issues with travel or cancellations, Clennon said. However, for trips that aren't canceled outright, vouchers are being offered for people who still wish not to travel, in most cases.

Clennon said if travelers can have patience, she’s seeing that often leads to better outcomes.

“If you're hoping to reschedule or cancel a trip but you’re currently facing a penalty to do so, waiting it out may open up your options in some cases,” Clennon said. “For example, an airline ticket that would incur a charge or cancellation fee if canceled now may be eligible for a voucher or refund closer to the time of travel as things change.”

For those who want to get away this summer, Clennon is seeing more of a trend toward domestic travel and booking with companies that have flexible policies. But in general, she’s seeing more cancellations and people hoping to postpone trips to get away at a later time.

Olivia Clennon, owner and travel agent at Liv Travel LLC in West Fargo. Photo special to The Forum
Olivia Clennon, owner and travel agent at Liv Travel LLC in West Fargo. Photo special to The Forum

Some international destinations are reopening to tourists, but Clennon has some advice on global travel.

“I think if anybody is going to consider traveling internationally, they should really think about how the experience might be affected and how the restrictions in place when they get to their destination might not match up with what they were hoping for out of a trip,” she said.

Clennon said it may be best to look at places within driving distance so travelers don’t have to worry about airfare, as well as places that have outdoor and low crowd activities.

“If you’re depending on eating in restaurants and doing more crowded activities, you might not be able to get that full experience this summer,” she said. “Lake resorts and things like that might be the best place to go.”

Owner and travel agent at Liv Travel LLC in West Fargo, Olivia Clennon lived in Turkey, pictured above, for some time. Photo special to The Forum
Owner and travel agent at Liv Travel LLC in West Fargo, Olivia Clennon lived in Turkey, pictured above, for some time. Photo special to The Forum

For future travel, booking with trusted travel companies or a travel agent that will help navigate the details of when and where it's best to travel, and what to do if plans need to be changed is the best way to avoid disappointments or difficulties, Clennon said.

Carrol Juven, the owner of Juven Tours and Travel in Fargo, knows just how hard the travel industry has been hit during the pandemic.

“For us, it’s a disaster. There’s no planes flying, you can’t sell a ticket,” Juven said. “There’s nothing. It’s totally hopeless.”

It will be the first summer in 51 years Juven won’t be in Norway as the tour operator for his group travel business. Juven Tours canceled five trips slated for this summer, one of which had 34 people already booked. Juven has had to refund everybody, working routinely with airlines.

Carrol Juven, of Juven Tours & Travel, was awarded Saint Olav’s Medal at the Norsk HostFest in 2015.
Dave Wallis / The Forum
Carrol Juven, of Juven Tours & Travel, was awarded Saint Olav’s Medal at the Norsk HostFest in 2015. Dave Wallis / The Forum

“We send them a 100% refund. It has been massive work,” Juven said. “There were always some little gimmicks there that you had to work around, but it always works out,” he said. “One way or another they got their money.”

So far, Juven Tours has canceled everything for the year except its domestic tours in Branson, Missouri, Nashville and Minneapolis, happening in the late fall and winter.

When things resume, Juven's tours will look a lot different than they have the last 51 years. If the current CDC social distancing guidelines remain, people will need to be spaced 6 feet apart — on the bus and in the airplane. And what will the air ticket prices look like? Juven said more pricey.

“People need to try to get their airline back doing its thing and use it and enjoy it. That’s what it’s all about — the pure joy of travel and the experiences of being with other people and visiting other countries, seeing how they work and how they play,” Juven said. “It’s a wonderful experience. There's nothing better.”