Traveling During the Corona Virus Outbreak | Should You Still Go on Your Trip?

If you’ve been watching the news, then you
know that the coronavirus, or COVID-19, which is the official name for the virus, continues
to spread. While most of us outside of China have not
been affected, the spread of the virus does affect those who may have travel plans to
the region. Hey, it’s Ernest from Trip Astute. In this video, I’m going to cover what you
should do if you have an upcoming trip that is affected by the coronavirus and share some
general tips to stay healthy while traveling. First off, I want to express my solidarity
with those directly affected by the coronavirus. I can only imagine how scary and frustrating
it must be, and I empathize with those who are in or close to the epicenter of the outbreak. Secondly, I want to say that while the coronavirus
is spreading and is considered a major health threat, it’s important to have some perspective
on it, especially those of us in areas that have not seen an outbreak. According to the CDC, more people are infected
every year by the influenza virus, also known as the flu. During the 2018 to 2019 flu season, the CDC
estimated that 35.5 million people were infected with the flu and over 34,000 people died. And it wasn’t even a severe flu season. I say all this because there is a lot of fear
and anxiety generated by all the news of the coronavirus. And while I don’t disagree that it is a
serious medical threat, it’s important to understand that the common flu is more likely
to cause harm and disrupt your travel. Of course, it’s what we don’t know about
the coronavirus that makes it so scary. Scientists are learning more about the virus
every day, including effective treatments. But not knowing how the virus is mutating
or exactly how it spreads makes many people uneasy, and I don’t blame them. So, what if you have a trip planned in the
near future to China or other areas experiencing cases of the coronavirus? Should you cancel your trip? Does your credit card or travel insurance
cover a disruption caused by an outbreak? I’m hoping to help answer these questions
in this video. Let’s tackle the first question: Should
you cancel a trip to China? The answer is, yes. I would avoid a trip to China or even one
that routes through an airport in China. Part of it is because the State Department
has issued a Level 4: Do Not Travel advisory for the country. Secondly, if you do travel to China, you’re
likely going to have issues entering other countries, or even returning back to the US
without additional screening and potential quarantine. For me, it’s just not worth the risk and
hassle. Some of you might be less risk-averse, but
if you want my honest opinion, I don’t think you should travel to China right now. If you’re in this situation or even have
a trip just a few weeks away, you could wait to see if the virus is better contained. Though I suggest contacting the airlines to
see what can be done. Rather than just canceling or forfeiting your
trip, you may have to pay a change or cancelation fee. Though many of the major airlines have suspended
or reduced their flight service to China, so it’s likely that the airlines will work
with you. You might also consider redirecting your flight
somewhere else for now while the outbreak stabilizes. Since many of you that watch this channel
are avid travel credit card users, you should be aware that most credit card and travel
insurance policies exclude outbreaks. The general rule when it comes to travel insurance
is that they will cover what happens to you, but not what might happen to you. American Express and Chase, for example, will
not allow you to use the trip cancellation because you are worried about getting infected. However, if you can get your physician to
document that your trip is not medically advisable, you may be able to exercise your travel insurance
option. You’ll still have to file a claim and wait
for a decision, but from what I have read online, it seems like your best chance of
getting your coverage to kick in. Now comes the more complicated scenario. What about surrounding countries that may
be experiencing some localized outbreaks. This is where it gets a lot more confusing. The answer for this situation is “it depends.” For example, with new cases being detected
in areas like Southeast Asia, I know a lot of travelers are worried about it. In fact, just this week, an American passenger
from a cruise ship that deboarded in Cambodia was found to be infected with the coronavirus
when attempting to connect to another flight in Malaysia, meaning that they may have accidentally
spread the virus while in the country. Again, it depends on how risk-averse you are
with your travels. If it were me, I would probably avoid under-developed
areas that seem to be experiencing outbreaks. Most of the developed countries in region
have the infrastructure and protocols in place to screen for the virus and quarantine if
necessary. But I’m less confident about some developing
countries that may just lack the infrastructure and organization to control the situation. I know the risk of contracting the virus is
low, especially if you’re traveling outside of China. However, I worry that if an outbreak worsens,
then you may have problems reentering your country of origin or face a quarantine. That being said, I have a friend right now
who is traveling in Japan and doesn’t seem to be affected at all. If you decide that you don’t want to travel
to your destination, it may be harder to get a refund on a flight. Though there is the possibility of changing
flights. Also, keep in mind that you can often cancel
flights if your itinerary has changed, especially if the schedule shifted by more than two hours. The rules are different for every airline,
so you’ll want to research your airline’s policy and see if others have similar experiences
and data points to share online. Lastly, if you’re scheduled for a cruise,
you’re more than likely safe. There’s a lot of coverage of cruise ships
in Asia with infected passengers which might lead you to believe that cruises are dangerous. However, when you consider how many people
take cruises every year and the number of cruise ships out there, it’s safe to assume
that cruising is safe. And if you happen to be scheduled for a cruise
in Asia, then you might want to contact the cruise operator to see what precautions are
in place. Cruise companies seem to be well prepared
for these types of situations. Also, since many ports in Asia are turning
away cruise ships, I wouldn’t be surprised if the companies decided to refund or reschedule
passengers onto trips elsewhere. And if you’re still traveling or planning
to travel, and wondering how you can reduce the risk of infection, here are some tips
to keep in mind. 1. Consider booking fully-refundable tickets:
While this is usually not the most cost-effective solution, it might be worth considering if
you are planning a trip in the next couple of months. I don’t typically recommend booking these
types of tickets because of the price, but in this scenario, it may be worth the extra
cost. And if you happen to be flying business or
first-class, you’ll likely have an easier or less expensive experience trying to change
your flight. It varies by airline, but most major airlines
will allow business and first-class passengers to change their flights for free or a lower
price than economy passengers. It might be something to consider if you’re
debating between an economy or a more premium class seat. 2. Don’t wait until the last minute to change
or cancel plans: If you think you’ll need to alter your travel itinerary, I would do
sooner than later. You’ll likely find more options available,
especially if you decide to reroute your trip to another destination. 3. Practice good sick hygiene and sanitation:
Airports and airplanes aren’t the cleanest places in the world, so make sure you wash
your hands regularly and cover any coughs and sneezes. It probably goes without saying too, but you’ll
want to avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth to reduce the chance of infection. Also, you probably don’t need to wear a
face mask. Most doctors seem to be in agreement that
just washing your hands is the most effective way to reduce infection. I personally like to also wipe down my tray
table, headrest, and armrest with sanitizing wipes when I get to my airplane seat. It may be overkill, but I’ve been doing
it for years. I just want to minimize the chance of getting
sick when traveling, especially when I’m using precious vacation time from work. Also, the wipes come in handy whenever I visit
a public bathroom where there isn’t running water or soap. 4. Get up-to-date with your immunizations: Again,
you’re much more likely to contract the flu when traveling, so I think it’s a no
brainer to get the flu shot every year, especially if you’re a traveler. Even if it doesn’t guarantee that you’ll
be 100% resistant to the current strain, it’s been shown to help those that contract some
version of the influenza virus with their recovery. And if you’re traveling to a developing
country, make sure you review the recommended immunizations. Some of the immunizations require a lead time
to be effective, so you’ll want to plan accordingly. I recommend visiting the CDC website and seeing
what immunizations are necessary and talking to your doctor about any potential risks. 5. Sign-up for the Smart Traveler Enrollment
Program (STEP): Also known as STEP. This is a free service provided by the State
Department that keeps you up-to-date with any hazards or notices when traveling abroad. I used it years ago when I was in Southeast
Asia and got a notification from the State Department of a potentially violent protest
in the capital of Cambodia due to a political assassination. The program can also help the local embassy
contact you in case there is an emergency or situation where you need their help. I think it’s a great service, and one that
you should use if you’re a US citizen. We actually did a video on it when we first
started the channel in 2017, so check it out for more information. If anything, you might get a good laugh from
how rough the video was compared to where we are now after years of experience. I honestly can’t even watch our old videos
without cringing. Again, I don’t to freak anyone out with
this video. This isn’t the first time we’ve seen an
outbreak affect travel. Even just a few years ago, a lot of travelers
were worried about the zika virus in tropical locations with mosquitos. Now it seems like no one is talking about
it. I expect that the coronavirus will eventually
be contained as well and that scientists will find standardized effective treatments for
the virus. Though if you’re someone who has an upcoming
trip that is affected by the outbreak, I empathize with your situation. But I encourage you to see it as a potential
opportunity to travel somewhere where there is less of a threat. I know it’s cliche, but traveling isn’t
about the destination, but instead the journey. Ok, I know that was super cheesy. But it’s true. Have your travel plans been affected by the
spread of the coronavirus or another outbreak? If so, how are you dealing with the situation? Please share your experience in the comment
section below. We hope you enjoyed the video and found it
useful. If so, please give us a thumbs up and consider
sharing the video with others. It may not seem like much, but it really helps
us with growing our channel and community. As always, we appreciate you checking out
our channel and video. Until next time, travel safe and travel smart.

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