Want to Get Away? You're Not Alone

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If you've had one too many staycations recently, and you're dreaming of warmer weather and your feet in the sand, you're not alone!

"This is the busiest we've been in 20 years, absolutely," said Kimberly Robbins, who owns Chatham Vacation Rentals with her husband, Richard.

The Robbinses manage about 100 properties in Chatham, Massachusetts, and they say they are getting a lot of early inquiries.

"The trend is that we are booking sooner, so we are about 75% booked," she said. "Last year at this time, before the pandemic hit, we were at 55%."

"People seem to be booking earlier, booking for longer," said Richard Robbins. "Maybe treating themselves to a house they may not have treated themselves to a year or two ago. The demand is just very high."

The Steamship Authority had higher sales this year on opening day than it did last year for people booking their travel to Martha's Vineyard and Nantucket over the summer -- another indication that people are planning their trips earlier.

The Robbinses have conversations with all of their renters and know what they are thinking.

"People are just hesitant to go to different places," said Kimberly Robbins. "Definitely hesitant to get on an airplane."

"They're not comfortable going to Europe," said Richard Robbins. "They aren't comfortable going to the Caribbean or California, or where they might usually go, so a lot more people staying within driving distance. I think it just increases the numbers of people who are coming here that maybe wouldn't come here."

Other factors are also playing into the 2021 rental season. Visitors who came to the Cape last year when their international plans were cancelled liked it and want to return. And some owners who worked remotely during the pandemic and enjoyed peak season have decided to pull out of the rental market this year.

"We're not going to rent," said Michael Davis of New York, who owns a home in Chatham that he has rented for the past 16 years. "Because of the experience we had last summer, we just kind of felt like, 'Let's try not renting this summer.' I'm not saying we would never rent again, for sure, but we're going to try it out and see how it feels.

Davis says Chatham is one of his favorite places on Earth.

"I like being there any time of the year, but it was particularly nice to enjoy the summer more than we ever have in the past," he said.

If you are renting, ask about cancellation options.

The Robbinses have amended their leases to include refunds if there is a government order or other mandate issued by a federal state or local governmental authority that prohibits or restricts the rental due to a pandemic.

Travel advisor Jordan Brady of Journey Bound Travel Co. in Boston says you should be asking questions about cancellation policies no matter where you're going.

"Hotels and tour operators that I choose to work with are offering flexible cancellation policies," said Brady. "Most airlines are still being flexible with their change fees … you need to pay attention and read the fine print and ask questions."

He also says you shouldn't be afraid to ask for flexibility when making a reservation.

"They are, off the record, being more flexible, because they don't want people coming to their property with COVID and risking that it spreads to their staff or their guests," Brady said. "So yes, it's worth asking for sure."

If you are considering buying travel insurance, make sure you know exactly what it covers. The more expensive "cancel for any reason" policies provide the most flexibility for cancelling a trip.

Brady also says it's a great time to book the bucket list trips you want to take in 2022 or 2023. You can take advantage of good availability and lock in low prices and flexible policies before the rush of post-COVID travelers.

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