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So, here we are.
Unless you’re living under a rock, you already know that the WHO has declared the novel coronavirus outbreak to be a global pandemic. Additionally, the Trump Administration has suspended entry to the United States of “…most foreign nationals who have been in certain European countries at any point during the 14 days prior to their scheduled arrival.” Effectively, this temporarily bans EU citizens from entering the U.S., although U.S. citizens will be allowed to come home.
Here’s some more bad news: Viking Cruises has canceled all ocean and river cruises through April 30, 2020. Princess Cruises has also suspended global cruise operations for the next 60 days. If I was a betting man, I’d wager more cruise lines will follow.
So, what does all of this mean for you? Should you cancel your travel plans? Can you even get your money back? What are your options? If you’ve already got travel planned or are thinking about booking travel soon, here’s how to handle your travel plans during the coronavirus pandemic.
Should I Cancel My Trip Right Now?
I’m in a number of online travel groups (you can join ours here!!!) and the one question that keeps popping up is “Should I cancel my travel plans?”
If you plan to travel to China, Iran, or the EU in the next 30-60 days, think again. You should probably cancel your travel plans if you haven’t already. Further, if you have a cruise booked next week and you’re over the age of 70, the CDC recommends that you don’t go.
At this time, the CDC does not recommend a complete suspension of domestic or international travel. They have, however, issued a “Level 2” health alert for the entire globe. This means, regardless of where you are traveling, travelers who are at higher-risk for severe illness should consider rescheduling non-essential travel. Those with lower risk profiles should exercise caution and practice good hygiene. Of course, the situation remains fluid and is subject to change at any time.
Should I Cancel My Travel Plans This Summer?
If your travel plans aren’t until later this year, don’t hit the panic button yet!
Canceling travel plans for June, August, or November is likely premature. In fact, it could cost you a whole bunch of time, stress, and money. Plus, you may miss out on a wonderful trip you’ve been planning for months!
While I understand the concern, the fact is that we have no idea how long issues with the coronavirus could last. Sure, it could get worse and be months before everything is straightened out; but, with warming temperatures, the end of cold and flu season, and proper precautions, the pandemic could slow dramatically within in a number of weeks. We just don’t know yet.
Even if you have the option to change your plans right now, chances are you may only receive a credit for travel in the future. Those credits often come with a deadline to be used. However, if you hold off on changing your plans, it may be fine for you to travel later this spring and into the summer. Or, your trip could get canceled by the airline/cruise line/etc. – in which case, you’d likely be due a refund rather than a credit that includes restrictions.
At this time, our family is employing a wait and see approach. We’ve got about 16 more weeks of travel planned for the year, so we’re literally reassessing our plans on a week-to-week basis. Although we’ve already changed some of our plans for March and April, we’re hoping this summer will be fine. In the meantime, we’re creating contingency plans in case we’re unable to travel to our intended destinations. Most importantly, we’re relying on official government websites for accurate information about the virus.
Listen to Local and Government Health Officials
If you haven’t noticed, many people are really nervous about the coronavirus – and for many, rightfully so. While those who are young and healthy may be mostly afraid of a potential quarantine, for those who are at risk (including older adults and people with compromised immune systems), the coronavirus has proven it can be deadly. And, of course, nobody wants to expose their elderly parents or grandparents to something that could potentially kill them. That is simply exercising reasonable caution.
With that said, when people get scared, they have a tendency to panic. (Just head to your local supermarket or pharmacy and check out the empty shelves of disinfectants, medicines, and toilet paper for proof.) Panic leads to the spread of misinformation, and – as can be expected – there is a ton of misinformation out there about the disease and the travel industry’s response.
For legit information about the coronavirus, resist the urge to follow clickbaity headlines or debate your neighbors on Facebook. Instead, check out the coronavirus guidelines straight from the CDC.
At this time, some of the most important things you can do are to wash your hands frequently, cover your mouth and nose when you cough or sneeze, stay home if you feel sick, and disinfect surfaces that are used frequently. These are all things we should be doing to promote good health anyway – although, I admit I’ve been a little more vigilant since the outbreak began.
On the travel side of things, the CDC recommends those who are at increased risk of severe illness from the coronavirus should avoid cruising and non-essential air travel. As for travel within the U.S., the CDC has not released specific travel advisories or restrictions but does offer some things to consider before going – including whether or not the disease is spreading where you are going, whether the disease is spreading where you live, whether you’ll be in close contact with other travelers, and more.
Understand Your Options
Believe me, I know how disappointing it is to cancel a trip you’ve been planning for months. (Holly and I canceled a trip to the U.K. next week – a trip I got her as a birthday gift.) Although canceling your travel plans may be the most prudent course of action, you’re likely still concerned whether your decision to cancel will cost you money.
Again, that depends.
If you’ve already planned a trip or need to book a trip in the very near future, it is important to understand your options. This includes the possibility of changing or canceling your trip altogether.
Most travel providers are taking the COVID-19 pandemic very seriously. As such, many of them are waiving fees for customers wishing to change or cancel their travel plans.
The terms of these waivers vary greatly by company, so it is important you check with each travel provider to understand what your options are. We also have a current list of airline cancellation and change fee policies here.
Consider “Cancel for Any Reason” Travel Insurance
If you are hoping your travel insurance covers the coronavirus, you’re probably out of luck. In most cases, travel insurance does not cover travel losses due to an epidemic or pandemic.
With that said, many travel insurance companies offer upgrades which allow you to cancel for any reason. If you added this option, you should check with your travel insurance company on how to submit a claim.
Thinking of booking a trip for later this year? Consider purchasing a travel insurance plan with a “cancel for any reason” option. This may help cover all or part of your trip costs.
Travelex is one of our favorite companies who offers “cancel for any reason” travel insurance. You’ll need to purchase their Travel Select Plan to add it on. It is a little more expensive than their Basic Plan, however kids under 17 are also included on the Select Plan for free. Follow the link above to read our full review or get a free quote here.
Wait It Out and Grab Great Deals
Obviously, the coronavirus is terrible news for the travel industry. Travel companies will be navigating extremely rough seas over the next several months, and the economic repercussions of this global pandemic may be felt for years.
While I feel for my friends in the travel industry, this could be extremely good news for you and your pocketbook. Once this thing passes, travel companies are sure to be fighting for your travel dollars. We’ll likely see huge sales and great deals on everything from flights to cruises.
So, sit back, relax, and start shopping for those unbelievable travel deals. As travel companies begin slashing prices, you may be able to take that trip of a lifetime at a fraction of the cost!
Do you plan to cancel your trip because of the coronavirus? What are your travel plans for the future? Leave your thoughts in the comments below, and don’t forget to join the discussion in our Frugal Travel Facebook Group!