There are a lot of questions right now regarding travelling during coronavirus, also known as COVID-19. As a professional travel advisor, I’m fielding questions daily, as are my colleagues and supplier partners. And unfortunately there isn’t one cut-and-dried answer. Whether or not you choose to be travelling during coronavirus is a very personal decision and one you need to make alongside your travelling companions and doctor. However, I can provide the best resources and advice for you to make that decision.
Travelling During Coronavirus
Coronavirus first reared its ugly head in December 2019, in Wuhan, Hubei, China, but wasn’t a global concern until mid-January 2020. For the last few weeks, there’s been an increase in concern for spring travel.
Airlines are offering waivers, tour operators are postponing trips, and cruise lines are rerouting ships. But should you postpone your trip? And what do you need to consider if you have travel plans?
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Should I Cancel My Trip?
Cancelling a trip is a personal decision. Here are some things to think about when you are considering your travels.
Make a Plan
First off, consider your personal health. The majority of affected people are above age 45, and many have underlying health concerns. That’s not to say if you’re 65 you need to cancel, but if you have a history of respiratory illness or have an auto-immune disorder, you may be safest postponing your travels.
When is your trip? If you are travelling in May or June, or October, you should consider waiting to see how the situation unfolds. COVID-19 is evolving rapidly, and we have no idea what it will look like in a few weeks, let alone months.
WHERE are you travelling? If you’re supposed to be going to Wuhan, China, on business, I suggest staying home and video conferencing. But if you planned to spend spring break in Spain, that’s a very different ballgame.
(Pssst. Need to set up a last minute video conference or virtual keynote? Check out my friend Jill, the Dynamic Communicator, who also hosts virtual conferences.)
Know your financial facts. What have you prepaid? Are suppliers offering the chance to postpone your trip without penalty? If your trip is within the next few weeks, you may be in the penalty period for any pre-payments. Create a spreadsheet. Write out how much you paid per company, and what each company’s cancellation policy is.
- Related: Need to Change Your Travel Plans?
Reach Out to Travel Suppliers
Reach out – or have your travel advisor reach out – to each provider to see if they will credit that payment, or a portion of it, to a future date. Suppliers understand the caution and concern about travelling right now, and many are making extraordinary exceptions to their cancellation policies.
If your trip is later than a month away, ask if you can either hold off on final payment or postpone any penalty charges for a few weeks. I can’t guarantee anything, but it’s always worth asking, right? If you are in penalty and no one will budge – and you won’t lose any money – hold off to see it anything changes. My colleagues and I have been able to extend cancellation penalties and freeze funds to use for future travel for our clients.
Next, check airline policies. Many airlines have waivers in place for affected areas and these are changing daily. If your destination is on the list, you may be eligible for a refund without penalty. And once again, if your trip is more than a few weeks from now, wait. If there isn’t an airline policy in place now, you could be charged a steep penalty if you cancel. But if you wait, a waiver might be put into place, allowing cancellation or rescheduling for no penalty. *Sometimes you’ll have to pay a fare difference, so read each waiver carefully.
What You Need to Consider When Travelling During Coronavirus
If you plan to travel, there are some things to consider. First, be proactive! Make sure that you are safe while you travel. Register with your embassy and check trusted sites for information. Here in the US, that includes the CDC, WHO, State Dept information pages, and the Smart Travel Enrollment Program (STEP).
Determine if you took out a travel insurance policy and what the policy is: each company is different. If you are going to travel, make sure that you are covered for illness while you travel. Wondering if your travel insurance policy will cover you if you cancel? Fear of something is not a valid reason to cancel (unless you have a Cancel For Any Reason policy upgrade). So before doing anything drastic, make sure you have the right information. Read the fine print and reach out to the insurance company directly with any questions.
Didn’t get trip insurance but used a credit card that offers it? Always check what exactly their coverage entails. It might not cover you if you get sick while travelling abroad. Out-of-pocket expenses – depending on where you are – could be high.
Practice responsible travel. Please. If you’re sick – a cold or cough – understand that you are going to be subject to extra scrutiny. The CDC recommends that people who are sick stay home, and they’re not just talking about coronavirus. People with the flu, common cold, or other sicknesses that can spread are urged to stay home. (But we never do, do we?)
Destinations and authorities are going to be stricter these days. Depending on where you are travelling or transiting through, you might be required to pass through a heat sensor, meaning if you are battling even a small fever thanks to a cold, you could be stopped and possibly even quarantined.
So on that note, make sure that you have a contingency plan in case something does go wrong. Perhaps bring your computer so you can access work files, or leave a password to your email for a colleague to access if you can’t get back right away. If you have pets, have a plan for who will take care of them if you get stuck. Same for any children you left with grandma and grandpa. Remember to extend the post office hold on your mail. And so on.
Finally, rest assured that those of us in the travel industry understand and empathize with you. We know there is hesitation in travelling, and we are working to allay any concerns. Your travel advisor – be it me or someone else – is available to answer questions, advocate on your behalf, and assist whether you travel or not. Do YOU have questions about travelling during coronavirus? I am offering free, 15-minute consultations to anyone who would like advice at this time. Please email email@example.com to set up a time.
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