Forget the threats and predictions of a global pandemic … now it’s a reality. And no matter where you are in the world, it’s probably safe to say that there’s no part of your daily life that hasn’t been impacted by the coronavirus epidemic.
Travelers are one of the key ingredients in this perfect storm of disease spread; the prime movers, so to speak. Health experts and governments alike have advised everyone to cancel travel and stay home – which unfortunately, is exactly what we’ve done.
For the past few months we’ve been planning a month-long trip to South Africa with a swing through Brazil on the way. But a few days ago we decided that it wasn’t feasible, or advisable, to carry on with the trip now. We aren’t nervous travelers, and we’ve had experience traveling under less-than-ideal circumstances, but there are times to reconsider. This is one of those times … and we’re not alone.
We know that the coronavirus has also impacted the travel lives of many of you out there.
- Sue and Dave made the hard decision to cancel their trip to Hawaii based on the Canadian Government travel advisory not to travel outside of the country.
- Janet delayed the trip of a lifetime to Israel and Jordan, with the added treat of seeing her son in Germany.
- Juliann should have been in Brussels right now for a training program, but instead, she’s going to focus on local travel and social distancing.
- Bea, based in Italy, writes about what it’s like to experience life in Rome during the coronavirus lockdown.
- Peta and Ben share their experiences in Vietnam during the pandemic – and a health scare!
- Meanwhile, Gilda and Brian are traveling throughout Thailand and Vietnam, telling tales of having their temperatures taken.
- After consideration, Alison has decided to get on the plane to Oklahoma to go see her Mom.
- Rusha and Bert have some great suggestions for how to hunker down and weather this storm.
There are all sorts of emergencies that can cause trip cancellation, but this worldwide contagion taught us a few unique lessons to take forward. We learned we had to:
1. Face the harsh realities of airline cancellation fees. Delta, American, and a few other airlines have been magnanimous in waiving cancellation fees, but not all companies have been so forgiving. Our flight through Brazil and onward to South Africa is on Chile-based LATAM Airlines, and the fees to change and reschedule our flights are a painful and exorbitant $1,000. Double Ouch!! If you’re listening LATAM, we are not happy!
2. Read the fine print in our travel insurance policy. Normal travel and trip interruption insurance provides good peace of mind under many circumstances, but it doesn’t cover cancellations due to concern over the coronavirus. The AIG Insurance website says:
“Trip cancellation for concern or fear of travel associated with sickness, epidemic or pandemic, including Coronavirus, is not covered.”
Fortunately we were within our cancellation window for our policy. Whew! For future reference, we learned that we need “Cancel For Any Reason” coverage which costs 40-50% more than regular coverage – not cheap, but something to consider. However, before purchasing, read the fine print to make sure, and run the numbers to decide.
3. Accept that pre-paid lodging reservations can be a double-edged sword. It’s almost impossible to plan travel without hotel or apartment reservations, which often require up-front money commitments. And when we find that “perfect place” it’s tempting to go ahead and put down a deposit. However, after a few costly experiences, our approach has been to avoid non-refundable reservations as much as possible, and cancelling this trip was a good reminder. Fortunately, we were only penalized our first night of lodging.
4. Know when to pull the plug. All travelers have different risk tolerances, and it’s important to know your personal level. For us, we had less concern about actually catching the virus than being caught unexpectedly in a lengthy quarantine. We waited as long as possible to cancel, but when the European travel ban was put in place the risk of being detained went through the roof, and we cancelled.
“Pandemic” is a frightening word that most of us have only experienced in the fertile minds of writers of dystopian novels. Since we’re all dealing with it first hand, it will become part of our lives for the foreseeable future.
The situation is changing rapidly, so it’s paramount to stay informed with the facts … and don’t panic. (And stop stockpiling toilet paper … you know who you are!) The crisis will pass, and the medical community will establish procedures to best deal with COVID-19. But hopefully, once the storm has passed we’ll all take some time to think about lessons learned and make our travel lives better going forward.
Happy Trails and Be Safe,
James & Terri