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How to Plan a Trip with the Unknowns of Covid-19: A Guest Post by Finn Pierson:
The COVID-19 pandemic has been a moving target when it comes to traveling. No one knows how long it will be around, which areas are going to be affected next, or when things may get back to some sense of normalcy. The actual time frame for cases to diminish is still unknown. Even after a reduction occurs, you have to keep in mind that the virus may return.
If you are planning to travel, one of the best things you can do is purchase travel insurance for your trip. This ensures that if your plans have to be canceled for COVID-19 related reasons or something else, you can receive a refund.
It is also important to know about the potential hazards you may face and how to keep yourself safe.
The Top COVID-19 Travel Dilemmas
There are several issues that travelers may face right now.
This is obvious. You could catch it before you depart or while you are away. Being sick with COVID-19 is not fun and something you have to take seriously. While the risk of the disease being fatal for most people is low, it is still real. If you are a senior or have existing medical issues, your risk of this disease being deadly is much higher.
While this is true, TSA has changed the liquid amounts allowed for hand sanitizers if you need to fly. This means you can take more of this substance to help protect yourself.
If you have to travel, you may face a quarantine of 14 days. If you are one of the lucky ones, this quarantine will be at home. However, you may also be quarantined in the city you have traveled to. Right now, many U.S. citizens who are traveling home from some of the affected areas are being sent to 13 airports for screening and then quarantine is recommended.
As mentioned above, travel insurance provides you protection against this. However, if you don’t purchase this, you may face huge cancellation penalties. While this is true, there are many hotels and airlines that are providing travelers with much more flexibility to change their plans than what is usual. To help consumers, the U.S. Department of Transportation has also issued a warning to any airline refusing to refund travelers due to canceled flights.
Important Travel Related Considerations
There are some countries that have halted some flights and others that have closed their borders altogether. Right now, there are no specific dates from these areas when things will get back to normal for travelers. The U.S. State Department has assigned a Global Level Four Health Advisory for any international travel in the U.S. and made the recommendation that Americans do not use cruise ships at this time.
There are many areas that have taken other steps to help deter tourism. For example, large public gatherings, like the Tokyo Olympics, have been postponed or canceled. In some areas, 14-day quarantines are mandated for anyone who comes into the country while other areas have stopped fulfilling any request for a visa. It is essential to check with the State Department before making travel plans to see what the restrictions for that area currently are.
COVID-19 Response from the Travel Industry
If an airline happens to cancel your flight, regardless of what they offer, you have the right to receive a full refund for the ticket you purchased. However, if you have a ticket for a flight in the future that hasn’t been canceled, or that you have not purchased a ticket yet, most of the international and domestic airlines are offering some type of postponement option or refund option.
While each airline is different, some of the cancelation options you will see include:
- Rebooking your ticketed itinerary with no penalty, but at the current fares for up to 12 months.
- Rebooking your ticketed itinerary with no penalty, but for rescheduled departures within a few months.
- Waiving of all change penalties for any newly booked tickets with the new booking times ranging from several weeks to a year.
- Waiving the charge penalties for a current ticket but only for a flight scheduled within the coming weeks.
The deadlines to make these changes are currently rolling. This means they change regularly depending on the progression of the pandemic. There are some hotel chains that will also provide refunds for travelers, but if you purchased your accommodations through a third-party site or service, you will likely have to go through that service to get your refund.
How to Handle Travel Plans During COVID-19
If you have not made payments yet or set up arrangements for travel this summer, it may be a good idea to wait. Thanks to the increased risk of COVID-19 for elderly individuals or those with any existing medical condition, it is best to stay at home if possible.
If you are still planning to travel, even if your travel plans are domestic, even with the pandemic, you need to take steps to protect yourself. This includes things like practicing good hygiene, like washing your hands regularly, trying to avoid large crowds, wearing a mask, and remaining aware of your surroundings.
To protect yourself financially, try to avoid any nonrefundable bookings. If you do opt for these, be sure that you have a booking with a company that has agreed to waive any change penalties. Also, you should try to book directly with the airline or hotel you plan to use, rather than going through an agency. This is going to make it easier to change your plans or to get a refund if necessary.
There is no question that the COVID-19 pandemic is an unprecedented event. It is something that has affected the entire world, with virtually no corner of the globe untouched. While this pandemic will affect travel now and in the foreseeable future, you can still travel and protect yourself. Be sure to keep the information here in mind to do just that. Being informed is the best way to protect yourself and others.