© 2019 How Dare She
Before we go any further, I am not a medical professional. I am a trained journalist with significant travel experience (109 countries, interacting with embassies and consulates, etc.). This piece includes resources for decision-making and any advice I include is based on my personal experience with travel and navigating tough travel decisions.
My goal with this piece is to do my part using my platform to help flatten the curve, as well as provide resources for decision-making. I’ve even made a special layout for this post, removing my sidebar and other recommended posts because this isn’t about traffic, it’s about reinforcing the message of flattening the curve.
Ok. So maybe that’s too “simple” of an answer. Expanded, the answer is, all unnecessary travel should be avoided/canceled (per WHO, CDC and many other authorities on the matter). This is because it isn’t just about the traveler, but because travel increases risk for everyone.
Jump ahead to resources, if that’s what you’re looking for.
What does “unnecessary travel” mean? Let’s go through some scenarios…
How about a cruise? Those leave mainlands where the virus is…
What if it’s a vacation I’ve been dreaming of for years?
It’s my honeymoon!
HAVE YOU SEEN HOW CHEAP FLIGHTS ARE???
Tempting, but still, no.
I’m going somewhere where there aren’t any cases.
But I’m not sick and I wash my hands.
(Jump ahead to resources, if that’s what you’re looking for.)
Whether you are showing symptoms or not, you could be infected or carrying the disease. All unnecessary travel increases the risk of the disease spreading. By reducing travel, you are doing your part to “flatten the curve.” You can learn about that in the Washington Post’s excellent piece on what it means to flatten the curve here (it’s worth the long read).
“Fortunately, there are other ways to slow an outbreak. Above all, health officials have encouraged people to avoid public gatherings, to stay home more often and to keep their distance from others. If people are less mobile and interact with each other less, the virus has fewer opportunities to spread.“ Washington Post
The long and short of it is that all travel increases risk, not only for the traveler but for everyone with whom the traveler interacts (at the airport, on the train, in the destination).
(Jump ahead to resources, if that’s what you’re looking for.)
You’re right, it’s easy to tell people to stay home, but that’s not always reality. Some people are already traveling, have to travel for work or medical/family reasons. People who are traveling as medical providers, parts of important supply chains and so on should not be travel-shamed. There is a huge difference between leisure and non-leisure travel.
Leisure travel is not necessary. Having already spent the money is not necessary. Because it’s something you’ve been planning a long time is not necessary.
What if I’m already traveling?
This is really tough and every situation is unique. My advice is to use good, primary, fresh sources of information to make decisions on what to do next, but those options shouldn’t include further leisure travel (you likely need to decide between staying where you are or going home, if you have one).
You can consult WHO’s travel advice and, depending on where you are from and where you are, you should be able to reach out to your country’s consulate for official advice and resources. Embassy Pages is a good resource to find embassies and consulates for each country in each country.
You may need to find information on border closures and requirements to be able to clear borders (even repatriating). Check with your travel insurance provider to be very clear on what is covered moving forward.
What if I’m not traveling for a few months?
Another tricky scenario. Current advice (as of March 18, 2020) is that gatherings of 50 or more should be canceled for the next eight weeks. That puts us into mid-May **if** nothing changes. If nothing at all changes in that time, that means mid-May will be things just getting back on their feet. This isn’t a situation in which eight weeks from now, a switch is flipped and the lights are back on.
If it were me, I would take a look at cancelation options as soon as possible. Keep in mind that cancelation policies may change and you may have a lower chance of getting money back the longer you wait. Personally, I have no travel plans at all at present and would be canceling/deferring anything through at least July.
What about my money?
Each booking situation is unique. Consult cancelation policies of where you booked directly. You can also look at what your travel insurance covers (though I hear that many people are having a lot of trouble with claims). Don’t forget about what your credit card may cover – many credit cards have protections in place for travel booked using the card. Call your provider to see what your options are.
All three of direct booking, travel insurance and credit card policies will likely point you at each other (from personal past experience), but take a lot of notes, ask for the official documentation and keep at it. Ask when claims need to be submitted or for any other important dates. If you can, it may behoove you to wait as long as you can (check claim periods) so that volume dies down. The risk in waiting is also that as the number of claims increases, the potential for insurance to go out of business increases. There is a lot of uncertainty, so best to do your due diligence and collect as much information as possible so you are prepared.
There is A LOT of information flying around – some of it is quality, well-researched and cited, some of it is copy/pasted, not researched or lacking context. Some of it is also quickly out-of-date as the situation changes.
Please go directly to the primary sources for direction in decision-making. In this situation, it’s also important to check the dates of the information you’re consulting – what the WHO or CDC advised in January is very different from what they are advising today. Further, do not mistake a lack of updates or denouncement of prior advice as evidence that out-of-date advice is still sound.
PRIMARY sources for Coronavirus information:
(This may lead you to ask why I’m publishing a piece on it, as someone who is not a medical professional. You are right; I am not a medical professional. As stated above, I am employing my degree and experience in journalism to provide information and sources. I’m adding my travel experience and observations in my travel network for color and tone.)