ITALY: Talk about throwing a monkey wrench into travel plans, not only for travelers but suppliers as well. The Coronavirus (Covid-19) is wreaking havoc on tourism as concerned travelers try to figure out whether to go, postpone or cancel.
Here are some things to consider before canceling your plans as outlined in the online version of Conde Nast Traveler.
Check U.S. government websites:
A better resource than relying on media or hearsay is to check government websites at home and at your final destination(s).
The U.S. Department of State (DOS) tracks current outbreaks and regularly updates their travel advisories when they believe travelers should cancel trips, reconsider travel or exercise increased caution in certain destinations due to the virus.
For the moment, the DOS is only suggesting “do not travel” (Level Four) to China or “reconsider travel” (Level Three) to Mongolia and to South Korea. Other countries that have experienced outbreaks, including Italy, are at “exercise increased caution “(Level Two).
Advisories can change quickly so it’s wise to make frequent checks the closer you get to your departure date.
The Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) is an excellent source of information because they send you updates if the situation in your destination changes.
The Center for Disease Control Control and Prevention’s (CDC) website has an entire resource center devoted to travelers and issues their own destination warnings.
Currently China, and South Korea are at warning level three (“avoid all nonessential travel”) while Italy, Iran, and Japan at alert level two (“older adults and those with chronic medical conditions should consider postponing travel”). Hong Kong is at watch level 1 (“CDC does not recommend canceling or postponing travel”).
Important note: DOS travel advisories weigh a multitude of factors in assigning warning levels, whereas CDC designations refer solely to disease-related concerns.
Visit government websites of countries you will visit:
If you plan a trip to a country that has had an outbreak, the biggest risk is not so much that you will be exposed to the virus, but that you could face travel delays, inspections or possible quarantine when you return home or enter a second destination.
To minimize hassles, be sure that you are aware of these policies with the added caveat that procedures and conditions can change quickly.
Another great resource is the CIA Factbook travel facts. A great resource for every traveler, the CIA Factbook is being updated with Coronavirus information.
Check with your airline:
There may be costs involved when changing or canceling a flight. While fees to some destinations affected by Covid-19 may be forgiven, you will likely be on the hook for any costs relating to changing your flight to other non-affected destinations, unless you’re covered by travel insurance.
Visit your airline’s website or, better yet, talk directly to their customer service department about current policies regarding changes. Stopovers or layovers en route to your destination could cause delays so be sure to visit the websites of any airports you will be passing through. Not a bad idea to check the status of the layover country as well.
Currently, U.S.-based airlines have continued service to all countries that have experienced outbreaks of Coronavirus except China. Some airlines have reduced service to Japan. Several U.S. airlines have waived change fees for travelers with upcoming travel to cities in China and South Korea.
Both Delta and United have announced they will waive change fees for flights to Italy meaning you can cancel or postpone your trip without additional fees, based on the destination and airline.
Contact your hotel(s):
If you have hotel reservations in an area with an outbreak, especially areas currently on lockdown, you may be offered a full refund.
If you are visiting several destinations, inform each of your hotels about other destinations in your itinerary to ensure that you won’t be subject to any quarantine policies upon arrival.
Usually, your hotel can also be a great source for practical and useful insights into the situation at your destination.
Contact your cruise line:
Some cruise lines, which in many ways are large sea-going cities, were caught by surprise by a sudden Coronavirus outbreak. Consequently, some shipping lines are allowing guests to rebook or postpone upcoming cruises due to concerns over infection or interruption to their trip.
If you are already booked on a cruise, reach out to the cruise line directly for details on their policy. Many cruise lines are prepared for a broad range of disruptive contingencies so they will very likely have a plan in place.
Check your travel insurance policy:
Travel insurance is always a pain to deal with when you have to layout that extra cash. It’s painful that is, until you need it.
Much of the above information may fall under your travel insurance policy. Of course this depends on the type of insurance you purchase. Policies with a “cancel for any reason” provision will have your back. Read the fine print of the policy you bought and contact your provider for clarification.
Read Also: Travel insurance: Protecting your vacation investment from weather, illness or interruption
If you didn’t purchase travel insurance, you may discover that your trip is protected through your credit card. Some cards include travel insurance as a perk, though coverage may vary greatly.
Visit your credit card’s website or contact them directly for more information.
Consider the dates of your trip:
Your date of departure is a key factor in the decision to go, cancel or postpone. If your trip is within the next couple of weeks, follow the above steps to understand what your options are as soon as possible.
If your trip is three months from now, don’t worry yet. Keep monitoring various sources of rock-solid information, and develop contingency plans as you go. A situation that can literally change overnight makes it impossible to predict when and what will be affected several months down the road. You might want to find out if travel insurance is available for your trip.
Base your decision on what makes sense for you:
Like so many aspects of travel, deciding what to do has numerous variables to consider in order to determine which options are best for you.
Consider the above information, and weigh those hard costs and potential inconveniences against your personal risk, based on your health history and destination.
If you experience symptoms of the virus, like a fever or a cough, even if they are related to other illnesses, consider that you may be flagged at checkpoints or asked to quarantine depending on where you are headed. That alone could significantly impact your trip.
Many health professionals have warned that it’s not a matter of “if” Covid-19 will spread within the U.S. but “when.” It’s just difficult to know where the next outbreak will crop up given its unpredictability.
The worst thing you can do, however, is to panic.
Follow general health precautions at home and abroad:
Regardless of your decision to be a road warrior or a couch potato, be sure to wash your hands frequently, disinfect regularly touched objects and take the steps you normally might to prevent the flu.
According to Dr. Richard A. Glimp, the chief medical officer at Providence Little Company of Mary hospital in Los Angeles,
“Focus on keeping a good diet, getting sleep, keeping your immune system up, avoiding excesses and practicing good hygiene. Just use common sense in dealing with it. Be cautious, but not panicky.”
More information on how specific destinations have been impacted by the Coronavirus is available at the comprehensive coronavirus travel explainer at the online edition of Conde Nast Traveler
About the Author:
Bob Taylor is a veteran writer who has traveled throughout the world. Taylor was an award winning television producer/reporter/anchor before focusing on writing about international events, people and cultures around the globe.
He is founder of The Magellan Travel Club (www.MagellanTravelClub.com)
His goal is to visit 100 countries or more during his lifetime.
Editors Note: Support Bob’s GoFundMe to give him a hand up