Do you have upcoming travel plans, and you're unsure of what to do during the current COVID-19 outbreak? If you cancel or interrupt your travel, will you get your money back? When it might be safe to reschedule? Whether you're wondering if it's safe to travel or you have travel plans you need to cancel, these travel help and resources can guide you during an uncertain time.
Travel During the COVID-19 Pandemic
Is travel safe right now? It may depend on who you ask, but with restaurants, attractions, events, and hotels closing along with social distancing protocols in place around the world, even safe travel may not be feasible or enjoyable at this time. However, if you must travel for some reason, there are some things you need to keep in mind before you go.
Airlines Are Canceling Flights or Modifying Schedules
Many travelers are cancelling their travel plans, so airlines and transportation companies are adjusting their flight schedules accordingly. Check with your airline, transportation company, or travel agent a week or two before your scheduled travel as well as within 24 hours of your scheduled flight to ensure your plans are still a go.
Travel Bans Are in Place
In some countries and areas, travel bans are in place, so travel to certain countries may not be feasible during the COVID-19 pandemic. Currently within the United States, travel advisories are in place, and the situation evolves daily. Likewise, there are bans on international travel between the United States and certain countries including all of Europe. Canada is also closing its borders to international travel except for Canadian citizens and permanent residents, or in certain special circumstances for non-citizens. As containment efforts continue, these recommendations, advisories, and bans are likely to evolve. While the travel bans are temporary in an effort to contain the worldwide spread of COVID-19, they may be in place for weeks to months depending on how well the containment efforts work.
Cruises May Be Canceled
Ocean-going departures from American ports have been temporarily suspended, so cruises may also be canceled. Check with your travel agent or cruise line about whether departure is a possibility as well as their cancellation policies so you can make an informed decision.
Travel May Not Be Safe
The CDC has issued a list of considerations before you choose to travel within the United States. It is important you consider all safety risks including the COVID-19 status of where you are going, the people you are traveling with, your personal health status, and how severe the COVID-19 outbreak is where you currently live. Before, during, and after traveling, take necessary safety precautions to minimize the risk of contracting or spreading COVID-19. Consider packing something like travel Lysol spray to protect your helath.
Plan for Screening Delays
If you do plan to travel, be aware that screening for COVID-19 may cause delays. Therefore, leave even more time than you normally would for screening so you don't miss your flight or travel connections due to screening delays.
Canceling Your Travel Plans
As the situation continues to evolve, it may be necessary to cancel your travel plans. If you don't have travel insurance, you will need to check with your travel agent or the specific airlines, transportation companies, cruise lines, hotels, car rental agencies, and other organizations about their refund policies. Some in the hospitality and travel industries are waiving standard cancellation fees and allowing for full refunds, while others may be unwilling to offer refunds or are allowing partial refunds. Others may only be willing to allow rescheduling of flights or other accommodations without issuing refunds at all.
Plan to Spend a Lot of Time on the Phone
The travel industry is swamped with people calling about canceling upcoming travel plans or inquiring about travel safety. Some organizations are offering online travel cancellation, but others still require a phone call. Set aside a block of time to cancel your travel plans; hold times may take an hour or longer, or you may need to keep calling until you get through. Be patient and expect that if you have complicated travel plans involving making multiple phone calls, it's going to take quite a while. Plan accordingly.
Travel Insurance and COVID-19
If you have purchased travel insurance, there's a good chance your travel insurance policy will not cover trip cancellations or interruptions related to COVID-19. Travel insurance policies list specific events they will cover if you need to cancel, and it is unlikely pandemic is listed in the coverages. This may give the travel insurance company a legal "out" unless you've purchased a cancel for any reason (CFAR) policy. Some policies exclude pandemics specifically, while others may set a date where the pandemic was "foreseeable", and your chances for cancellation coverage will depend on that date and when you purchased your policy. Check with your travel insurer and read your policy thoroughly for more information.
Trip Cancellation and Pandemic Fears
If you are canceling or interrupting your trip because you fear contracting or transmitting COVID-19, it is unlikely you will be covered by your travel insurance unless you have purchased a CFAR policy that doesn't specifically exclude pandemic.
How to Make a Travel Insurance Claim
Contact your specific travel insurance agency to discover their process for filing a claim if you do need to interrupt or cancel your trip. Most will have you fill out a claim form. Before canceling, check your policy to ensure you are meeting the covered reasons for cancelation, and provide all required documentation so the claim won't be denied. These requirements vary by policy, so thoroughly read and understand your policy and what it covers before canceling a trip.
When Is It Safe to Reschedule Travel?
Experts warn that social distancing measures may remain in place for several months, so there's no set time where things might return to "normal." Therefore, it's impossible to know exactly when it will be safe to reschedule travel plans. Your best bet is to take a wait and see attitude as you continue to monitor the evolving situation.