Information and Flexibility are Key
Every day I get calls from clients worried about the coronavirus wanting to know what I recommend about upcoming travel. The first is to think rationally without panic. Suggestions then depend on the status of the rapidly changing coronavirus situation, your age and health condition and just how much tolerance you have for risk.
Here are some trends I’m seeing:
Know your Facts
I use multiple sources of news including international media so I don’t get just one viewpoint or piece of the story. This website provides a good overview of some of the best COVID-19 tracking maps. Know what are effective versus hyped safety measures. Don’t buy up supplies that will be needed by health professionals and those who are ill.
Know and heed warnings by the CDC and State Department. Don’t travel to high-risk countries/areas such as Italy and increasingly other areas of Europe if not essential. Be aware of places with mandatory arrival quarantines, such as Israel. India has suspended incoming visa applications. Be prepared to self-quarantine if necessary upon your return.
Until further notice, defer cruises, particularly if you have an underlying health risk.
The CDC says most viruses don’t spread easily on airplanes because of how the air circulates and is filtered. And planes are increasingly being disinfected. But still bring those wipes, avoid hand contact, wash your hands, and when in an airport find as secluded spot as possible avoiding areas with a lot of people like restaurants. Some friends who are doctors include airline VIP lounges. Here is a recent CNN piece on traveling in the age of coronavirus.
Things are Fluid
Understand that you don’t need to make a decision now about that summer trip to Portugal or fall cruise down the Amazon unless you have a payment due soon. If you have an upcoming trip, work with your travel advisor to fully understand the cancellation/change policies of each part of your trip. And not just what they were when you booked. Things are changing rapidly. As virus impacts change, so are travel policies.
I’d like to give a shout out to the unprecedented moves the travel industry is taking to be flexible during one of the most challenging moments in its history. Companies are changing policies and just being open to negotiation. I’ve seen many suppliers postpone final payments; offer vouchers for future travel so clients don’t lose deposits, even final payments; waive change fees; and more. For example, Viking has offered cruise cancellation with the application of your fare to any future cruise in the next 2 years. Your travel advisor can seek creative options to help you through your travel decisions. But be realistic, travel advisors will do their best but can’t guarantee a supplier will offer any particular scenario.
Changing Insurance Rules
All of a sudden everyone wishes they had purchased cancel for any reason (CFAR) travel insurance as coronavirus spreads. Fear of coronavirus isn’t a covered reason for standard insurance policies. Many companies are now limiting or disqualifying coronavirus as coverable under CFAR — applicable to future and even already purchased policies. Travel Guard has just limited its CFAR coverage to 50% of trip cost with a max payment of $25,000 per trip. Travelex has stopped offering CFAR to New York residents. Again, your travel advisor can help with the latest news and any policy adjustments.
Assess Risk & Reward
Go through the scenarios of your proposed travel. How will you minimize your exposure? If you are traveling internationally and need to be quarantined for 2 weeks upon your return, can you do that? What do your gut and head tell you? What might the ramifications be? In the addition to the chance of risk what is the potential magnitude? How much greater is the risk traveling is to low-infected countries vs staying home. Be honest about your health condition. Are you a closet smoker? Do you have underlying health risks?
Whether to travel is a very personal decision and too often there aren’t clear cut answers.
In any case let’s be supportive of each other, smart and cautious while prudently moving forward with enjoying the amazing beauty and nature of this world!
Please note: These are my opinions based on the most current information available at publication.