Should I Travel During the Coronavirus Outbreak?
Edit: Updated 4/17 with new Coronavirus Change/Cancellation Fees Post
Coronavirus has dominated the news over the past few months and for good reason. The virus continues to spread worldwide, already affecting dozens of countries and millions of people. Since I've been asked how this will affect many of my friends' trips in the coming months, I wanted to put together some thoughts and tips to help guide people in this uncertain time.
Should I Travel During the Coronavirus Outbreak?
Short Answer: No
Spread of the virus is a real thing, and non-essential travel during this time puts you and those you love at home at risk. On March 19th, the State Department issued a Level-4 Advisory for travel abroad, saying:
The Department of State advises U.S. citizens to avoid all international travel due to the global impact of COVID-19. In countries where commercial departure options remain available, U.S. citizens who live in the United States should arrange for immediate return to the United States, unless they are prepared to remain abroad for an indefinite period. U.S. citizens who live abroad should avoid all international travel. Many countries are experiencing COVID-19 outbreaks and implementing travel restrictions and mandatory quarantines, closing borders, and prohibiting non-citizens from entry with little advance notice. Airlines have cancelled many international flights and several cruise operators have suspended operations or cancelled trips. If you choose to travel internationally, your travel plans may be severely disrupted, and you may be forced to remain outside of the United States for an indefinite timeframe.
President Trump also has announced that foreign nationals visiting the following countries are barred from entry into the US from Friday, March 13th for 30 days:
Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, the UK, and Ireland.
American Citizens are green card holders are exempt, but there are only certain airports you'll be routed through to your home.
Finally, there are dozens of countries that are shutting their borders or requiring a 14-day quarantine. You do not want to travel abroad and deal with getting stuck in a country, or not being able to get into your intended destination.
What Airlines, Hotels and Cruises Are Doing
Short answer: lots. Read our in-depth post for more.
Now is the time for caution, not panic if you're planning to travel domestically or internationally. Monitor daily updates from the CDC (Centers for Disease Control) for warnings. I wouldn't cancel your trip voluntarily until the CDC warns not to visit a destination. You will be more likely get your money back if that occurs rather than canceling early. The US Government has advised against non-essential travel to South Korea, China, and Italy, and banned travel to Iran. They've also banned travel for European citizens to the US for 30 days.
If the uncertainty of the coronavirus is of concern, consider more risk-adverse destinations and experiences for your vacation in March such as exploring national parks, camping sites or hiking trails. Solitude is a plus during these times.
Prices will begin to drop as tourist destinations fight to attract visitors... thus allowing you greater flexibility of your budget when planning ahead. We haven't seen a major drop in prices yet, but if the crisis continues, we expect them to drop quickly.
Should I Get Travel Insurance?
If you are hoping that travel insurance will save you from a coronavirus-related trip loss, it will only help if you had already purchased the insurance before the outbreak was a "known event." Allianz, a major travel insurance provider, named this a "known event" on February 3rd. Even so, many plans do not include epidemics as a covered event.
However, you can cover your future trips with 'Cancel For Any Reason' travel insurance, which typically costs 10%-12% of your covered trip amount. This is truly 'cancel for any reason,' but you'll obviously be paying for the privilege.
If you have already bought travel insurance for a trip booked before the outbreak occurred, it will likely cover you. Just check the terms of your individual plans for coverage information, as they vary widely.
Unfortunately, travel insurance through your credit card won't help you much here either. Under the policies I checked, a viral outbreak is not a covered reason.
What We Don't Know
The virus continues to spread around the world, and we can't predict how it will affect travel in the coming weeks and months. My personal advice would be to not book international trips or domestic air travel until this crisis has concluded, and watch the news closely for the latest updates on your particular destination.