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Travelers’ COVID-19 Questions Answered

Ever since the coronavirus outbreak, officially referred to as COVID-19, landed on our collective RADAR early this year, it’s been an emotional roller coaster ride to say the least. At first, it appeared like it would be contained to China, but as clusters of cases emerged in South Korea, Italy, Iran, the United States, and elsewhere around the globe, it became clear to VacayDaze, to global markets, and to travelers that this is a global health crisis.

As COVID-19 continues to spread, concerns are growing over whether or not travel should be canceled or postponed. Although there are ways to safeguard yourself against illness, such as washing your hands and disinfecting spaces, some people could also be wondering if it’s truly enough. Not only is the status constantly changing with the virus cropping up in every continent except Antarctica, it’s hard to know what the next few weeks or even months will look like.

Although airport screenings for COVID-19 are in place, there are restrictions that fluctuate from country to country and the International Air Transport Association (IATA) has a detailed list of those restrictions. Meanwhile, a number of the busiest airports around the world have implemented extra precautions including separate gates and additional screenings.

Should you cancel your travel?

This can only be answered depending on where you’re going and how essential it is to you. At the time of this article, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) list of travel recommendations associated with COVID-19 includes avoiding nonessential travel to China and South Korea while enhanced travel precautions are recommended for Italy, Iran, and Japan. The World Health Organization (WHO) Health officials have yet to issue any broad recommendations to the general public about limiting travel that might trigger a wave of vacay cancellations, at least, not at this time (see the latest WHO COVID-19 travel advisories).

If you’re scheduled to visit any of these regions with enhanced travel precautions, contact your airline to check what options you may have. You may be able to get a full refund if you’re scheduled to visit a destination that has had an epidemic, but this varies by airline and by region. Additionally, American, Delta, and United aren’t flying into China and now offer travel waivers for South Korea and Italy. Air France is allowing people traveling to Italy or China to reschedule flights.

There’s no reason to avoid flying altogether as long as you’re taking all the same precautions you would to avoid getting the flu or the other communicable diseases. Wash your hands regularly and disinfect surfaces like armrests and tray tables before you come into contact with them. Of course, attempt to avoid contact with anyone who appears sick or is coughing and / or sneezing.

Infectious disease experts have stated that, apart from those seated near to you, a sick passenger elsewhere on the plane isn’t a threat because of the vertical circulation of air on airplanes. The larger risk comes from crowding, like the person to person pileups at the boarding gate.

The U.S. State Department, on 3/8/2020, recommended Americans avoid cruise travel amid the coronavirus outbreak. Per the U.S. State Department website, “U.S. citizens, particularly travelers with underlying health conditions, should not travel by cruise ship. CDC notes increased risk of infection of COVID-19 in a cruise ship environment. In order to curb the spread of COVID-19, many countries have implemented strict screening procedures that have denied port entry rights to ships and prevented passengers from disembarking. In some cases, local authorities have permitted disembarkation but subjected passengers to local quarantine procedures. While the U.S. government has evacuated some cruise ship passengers in recent weeks, repatriation flights should not be relied upon as an option for U.S. citizens under the potential risk of quarantine by local authorities.” You can read more about Cruise Ship Guidance from the CDC here.

Finally, ask yourself how important the trip really is and if travel is truly necessary. If it’s a business trip, is it essential or can it be done by some other means? Perhaps it may be done virtually via a teleconference. Alternatively, if it can wait until later within the year, consider rescheduling.

What about travel refunds?

If you’re worried about the COVID-19 virus but aren’t traveling to a region with a confirmed outbreak, there is a good chance you won’t be able to get a refund. Unless you bought a travel insurance plan that allows you to Cancel for Any Reason (CFAR), you won’t have many options.

However, due to the constantly changing situation, it is best to contact airlines, hotels, insurance companies, and even your credit card company if you used it to purchase your travel, in order to ascertain what your option are.

Also, if you have a weakened immune system or other underlying health conditions, you may try explaining your concerns. If you cannot negotiate a refund, inquire about a credit for travel at a later date. Also, if you’re concerned about going somewhere that’s near to the affected region, ask if you’re able to change your destination and either pay the difference or pay any fees for the change.

What about travel insurance?

If you still are compelled to travel, it’s worthwhile to buy travel insurance that permits you to Cancel for Any Reason (CFAR). Purchase airfare and hotel stays that are refundable. Make sure you check all policies and ensure you get as much as possible documented in writing.

In regard to the present COVID-19 outbreak, travel insurance companies consider it to be a known event as of January 21st, 2020. Therefore, travel insurance purchased before that date will cover disruptions resulting from the outbreak, but any travel insurance purchased subsequently date won’t, apart from the Cancel for Any Reason (CFAR) optional travel insurance upgrade. True to its name, this additional option allows you to cancel your trip for any reason.

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If you have a trip planned or are planning one to a destination that’s experiencing or could experience a COVID-19 outbreak, which are many at this time, you may still cancel your trip and recuperate a large portion, if not all, of your costs with CFAR coverage.

So, in short, purchase the additional insurance although make certain you read up on all the limitations of CFAR. CFAR generally costs around 5 to 10 percent of the entire trip cost therefore the price is based on the cost of the trip and also the age of the travelers.

Will my medical costs be covered if needed?

In order to ensure your medical costs will be covered when you are abroad, you need to make sure you either have an International plan as a part of your health insurance coverage, or you can purchase medical coverage either as a stand-alone travel insurance option or as an additional option to an overall travel insurance policy. For the most part, medical costs should be covered regardless of whether or not there’s a pandemic.

For those destinations currently on the travel advisories lists and any others that wind up having a health-related advisory issued, you should contact your health insurance provider to find out whether your medical costs would be covered.

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Make certain to read the fine print about what types of medical expenses are covered, because depending on the insurance plan, certain costs are going to be covered and others might not be. If you do decide to travel, it’s recommended that you at least get the flu shot, practice good hygiene, and keep away from those that are ill.

How to stay up to date on travel advisories?

If you’ll be traveling later this year to a region that hasn’t been restricted as yet, it is important to stay informed on what’s happening within that region. Follow official organizations like the World Health Organization, the U.S. State Department, the Canadian government advisories and the U.K. travel advisories to keep informed of the latest for that region.

Also, be prepared for disruptions as, despite whether you travel internationally or to the closest major city to you, it seems that we can only expect disruptions and delays in travel. With additional screenings and flights being moved around, plan or providing yourself additional time.

What about the likelihood of COVID-19 contact and quarantine?

Whenever you travel, you run the risk of coming into contact with someone who has been to an affected area with COVID-19. Are you able to afford to be quarantined? Do you have adequate vacation days from work if needed? Consider these questions and others to help decide whether or not the travel is important to you enough to run those risks.

If you do decide that it’s well worth the risks, it’s recommended you pack extra clothing and medications for a possible extended period. Since affected people are being monitored for at least 14 days, it’s suggested that you bring enough of your essentials for an two extra weeks, at minimum.

Currently, the only travel-related quarantines within the United States are for folks arriving from COVID-19 affected regions with Level 4 travel restrictions. Those coming back from other destinations where there are high cases of COVID-19 are being allowed to self-monitor their condition at home for 14 days, if quarantine is required and not requiring hospitalization.

Given the ever-changing nature of this outbreak, there’s no way to know whether there’ll be additional quarantine measures instituted by the government, but quarantines aren’t taken lightly or instituted unless deemed absolutely necessary.

Those who are quarantined in the United States, in order to stop the spread of communicable diseases, are required to comply by law, “for the benefit of society,” per the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Breaking a Federal quarantine order is punishable by fines and prison time.

So what are some options?

VacayDaze will continue to inspire our readers to travel, whether that means destinations closer to home for now, like crowd-free national parks, or to places considered less at risk like Antarctica. You may also decide to simply plan for future travel as, eventually, travel destinations like Asia, Italy and other travel restricted destinations, are going to be safe from COVID-19.

Of course, there’s the Staycation or ‘Staycay’ option, where you can be creative in finding fun things to do while you vacay at home. Taking a vacay at home isn’t always easy, especially if you don’t take the time to plan upfront.

We don’t know how long this outbreak will last, but VacayDaze hopes that the places we write about, the stories we unearth, the cultures we cover, the cuisine we tempt you with, will always offer ideas on where to vacay next, whether that’s in the short term or a little further out.

So for now, keep the faith and visit VacayDaze often to learn more about places to get away and daze…for days…then book your travel.

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