With winter coming to a close and spring just a matter of days away, you’re likely suffering from a case of cabin fever and are looking forward to warmer temperatures and a trip somewhere. Late March and April are big travel seasons and spring break for many who are in school or college, but this year, COVID-19, or the Corona Virus, may be threatening your travel plans.
The Corona Virus has monopolized headlines and has left many wondering whether it’s overhyped or being underplayed. To date, there have been more than 121,000 confirmed cases of the Corona Virus worldwide and of that number of confirmed cases, 4,300 deaths. Major tourist destinations including China and Italy have been hit hard by the Corona Virus, which was recently declared a pandemic by the World Health Organization (WHO). The United States is not immune to his virus–the first reported cases of COVID-19 within the U.S. was in the state of Washington on Jan. 21, 2020.
On March 11, 2020, President Donald Trump announced a temporary 30-day travel ban to and from Europe (excluding the United Kingdom) that goes into effect on March 13, 2020. Many states within the U.S. have instituted their own policies and recommendations that have limited or in some cases banned large gatherings in hopes of limited the spread of the Corona Virus. This has led to many sporting events being postponed or cancelled including the NBA, NHL and college basketball. Big events and festivals including SXSW, Coachella, E3 have all been postponed to a later date. If you were planning to travel anywhere in the next month or two, it’s highly likely that the Corona Virus has or will force you to change your plans.
WHO recommends you cancel any trips if you are currently feeling ill, have a fever or a cough as these are symptoms of COVID-19. If you feel like you have the flu, you should seek medical attention immediately. Ignoring these symptoms could lead to bigger health issues if you are suffering from COVID-19, including respiratory or even kidney-related issues. Practicing basic hygiene, including washing your hands regularly and covering your mouth and nose when coughing and sneezing are good preventive measures. Also, avoid crowds and sanitize surfaces and your surroundings as Corona Virus continues to spread.
If you are planning to travel in the near future, what should you do? First of all, if it’s an event you’re planning to attend, you should check whether or not its still happening as scheduled. Though you should have done this when buying that ticket to the event, check to see what the cancellation policy is. Some events, like Coachella, have a policy that will leave you out of luck and out of money with the cancellation of the event. Others may honor the ticket but at a later time. The CDC has issued warnings for where not to travel to, including China and Italy specifically, two countries that have experienced the most cases of COVID-19.
When it comes to airlines, many have special policies in place to help customers maneuver around the Corona Virus. Delta, United, American, JetBlue and Alaska airlines are all waiving change fees for upcoming flights, with many of those policies applying to all destinations, not just those being impacted by the Corona Virus. Southwest Airlines is another company that has a great policy that allows customers to change their reservations without a big fee or penalty. For any of these airlines, changing your reservation online is easy though in some cases you may need to call the airline directly and seek the help of a representative.
Travel insurance could help cover any impact the Corona Virus may have on your upcoming trips. Travel insurance is best purchased at the time of booking and though it can be purchased after booking, the closer to the trip the travel insurance is purchased, the less benefits you typically receive. Some travel insurance policies do not cover trip cancellation due to sickness, epidemic, or pandemics; others will issue you a refund or will help you reschedule your plans to accommodate new dates. A travel tip going forward is to look for a travel insurance policy that will allow you to cancel for any reason, though these plans typically will not provide you with a full refund.
Need more information on COVID-19, including how the virus is impacting travel? Visit https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/index.html for all the latest recommendations and information from the CDC.