How to Travel During the Coronavirus Outbreak
We’ve had a lot of clients concerned about the rising number of people affected with the Coronavirus this week, especially in Italy. Here’s what we learned:
The tour operators we work with around the world are exceptional. We had one couple arrive in Rome yesterday and were worried about traveling north to Florence to visit their granddaughter. We changed the lodging from Florence to Rome at a slight additional cost. From Rome, the couple are headed to Sicily, where so far, there has been only one reported case. So we can be flexible with the itinerary, depending on the location.
Airplanes will offer travel waivers if you wait long enough, instead of having to pay a change fee. This has already happened in Hong Kong, Seoul, and hopefully in Milan soon. Just this morning, JetBlue reported waiving the change fee on all flights booked for the next 4 months. But realize that JetBlue is primarily a domestic and Caribbean carrier, which hasn’t been hit hard by the virus yet.
Travel insurance does not cover Coronavirus unless you opt for the prohibitively expensive Cancel for Any Reason policy, which is often half the amount of the trip. Even after paying this exorbitant amount, they will only reimburse up to 75% of the trip, and in some states like New York, this policy can’t even be issued. We’re still firm believers in acquiring travel insurance to cover other aspects of your vacation, but we’re not big fans of the Cancel for Any Reason policy. Far more important is the cancellation policy offered by the tour operators, cruise lines, and outfitters we work with around the globe. They all have cut-off dates that you can cancel without penalty.
Book refundable lodging. If you have to cancel, you’re not penalized. This goes out to all you AirBnB lovers, which is often nonrefundable.
Don’t get caught up in the mass hysteria. Media is making this out to be the plague, but is it? Look at the numbers and it seems like the Coronavirus is less dangerous than the flu. That said, those who are elderly or have pre-existing medical conditions are the ones succumbing to the virus, so take extra special caution if you fit into that category. If you don’t fall into that category, this will be a good time to travel. You’ll have the rare opportunity to see Italy without the massive crowds. Not to mention you’re supporting a country that relies heavily on the tourism dollar and they’ll be incredibly grateful that you arrived on their shores. It reminds me of the time I went to Nairobi within a month of the mall bombing. Everyone was telling me not to go, only to have the Masai Mara and those lions and leopards to myself. One of my most memorable trips!