travel during coronavirus


“A chance is what you take before you think about it. A calculated risk is what you take after you have evaluated all possible factors and have determined that risk.” Craig Elliott

Many of us are wondering whether we should cancel or postpone travel due to the coronavirus outbreak.  As there are currently no official limitations on travel to most parts of the world, that decision is largely left to us.  Clearly, there is no one-size-fits-all answer; instead we should be monitoring public health updates and weighing in personal circumstances in making that decision.

Here are the 5 “W” QUESTIONS to Ask Yourself when Traveling during the Coronavirus Outbreak:

1. WHERE am I traveling?

COVID-19 live map

Is the area affected by the coronavirus, and if so, how severely? For Accurate up-to-date information check official sources such as Center for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) and the World Health Organization (WHO).  For country-specific information visit the State Department page on COVID-19.  You can also track the outbreak on a live map.

As of March 10, 2020, 104 countries have reported cases of coronavirus, but that statistics keeps changing daily. Out of those China, South Korea, Iran, and Northern Italy have been hit the hardest.

In addition to the severely impacted areas, keep an eye on the cities that are at highest risk of experiencing a pandemic based on the number of air travelers predicted to arrive from the affected areas. In January 2020, researchers flagged Bangkok, Hong Kong and Taipei as top three at-risk cities.

2. WHO is at risk?

Virologists point out that many people will not have serious symptoms even if they contract the virus.  However, some of us, namely the elderly and people with pre-existing conditions such as asthma, heart disease and immune deficiency are at a higher risk of being severely affected by it.  If none of the above applies, do we have family members or friends in the At-Risk group?  If so, can we effectively isolate ourselves from them upon return?

Who is at risk during the coronavirus outbreak?

3. WHAT is my safety net?

Do I have health insurance?  Does my medical travel insurance cover illness caused by the Coronavirus?  (Make sure to read the fine print – many travel medical plans will deny coverage if a travel warning for your destination is in place at the time of purchase.) Do I have enough cash in case of an emergency? You may still want to go ahead with your travel plans, but think these things through.  No matter what, you should always be able to evacuate and have access to medical care.

4. WHY am I traveling?

traveling during coronavirus outbreak

What is the purpose of the trip?  Will I be able to enjoy it despite potential closures and restrictions? As the infection is becoming more pandemic, many venues close and events get canceled.  If you are not sure you will be able to enjoy yourself on your trip, you should probably postpone.

5. If not now, WHEN?

As much as we hate canceling and losing money, our financial concerns should never outweigh safety.  With that being said, presently, it may be easier than usual to cancel or postpone travel without incurring a loss.  As the Coronavirus is spreading globally, travel companies are relaxing their policies to accommodate travelers.  Many tour operators are allowing cancellations and itinerary changes without penalties.  Cruise lines are letting passengers postpone travel.  Airlines are suspending change and cancellation fees, and in certain cases, waiving fare differences.  Hotels are forgoing cancellation fees.

Find out if temporary waivers apply to you, and if not, be sure to negotiate nonetheless.  These are extraordinary circumstances, and if you ask, most travel companies will meet you half way, especially if you agree to postpone your trip rather than demand a full refund.

Travel Responsibly! Travel Safe! 

For more information about the Coronavirus, see COVID-19 Situation Report.

Leave a comment