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10 Questions to Ask Yourself Before You Travel
First of all, I am not a doctor, nurse, or have any medical training whatsoever. I am not going to give you medical advice. However, I travel much more than the average person and would like to share my personal insights on the Corona Virus and whether you should keep your travel plans.
I am currently debating whether I should keep my travel plans or change them because of the Corona Virus. In a few days, I am supposed to fly to Berlin to attend the largest Travel Fair in the world: ITB Berlin. They expect over 160000 visitors from over 180 countries. After that, I am flying to Catania, Sicily to attend TBEX, the largest Travel Blog Conference with up to 700 travel bloggers attending. They just confirmed three Corona cases in Palermo, Sicily. Next up, I am flying to Paris for a Press Trip and explore for a few days, and then I am visiting my family in Germany.
This whirlwind tour of Europe is something I do every spring and I love it. I get to see many of my friends and colleagues, make essential new connections with travel companies and destinations that keep my business afloat, visit some exciting places and see my family. I am also a very well-traveled and pragmatic person that does not overreact to hysterical news and media hype. But the news about the Corona Virus is making me feel uneasy and I am seriously considering altering or even canceling my travel plans because of the Corona Virus epidemic.
I can’t take away the decision for you to go or not to go. However, here are some of the points that might increase or decrease your risk factors and other things that might be of concern for you.
Where are you traveling?
Right now, the majority of infections are in Mainland China. However, in today’s interconnected world, cases are popping up all over the world. Italy now has over 300 cases and 10 deaths. South Korea has the second largest number of cases and many airlines are considering canceling flights there.
Unfortunately, the situation seems to be getting worse, not better at the moment, so there are no safe countries. Also, ask yourself if you feel comfortable potentially being treated at the local hospitals in the country you are visiting? How is the health care system in this country? Do they have adequate resources to treat an outbreak and give you the best medical attention you can get?
Are you considered a risk group for the Corona Virus?
This is something to discuss with your doctor. Depending on your age, medication, pre-existing conditions, and general health you could be more or less at risk. While most people do not suffer serious health risks from the virus, some people who are part of a risk group might experience serious symptoms.
I would suggest talking to your doctor and getting an assessment of whether you are considered a risk group for the Corona Virus and what your doctor recommends.
When are you traveling?
If your travel plans are still a few weeks or months out, I would not worry too much. The situation is changing on a daily basis and it is impossible to predict how the situation will be in a few weeks. However, if you have certain dates by which you would get a refund, I would mark them in your calendar, so you don’t miss them. When those dates are here, see how the situation changed by then.
If you are traveling in the near future, take a look at the recent development in this area. How many cases are there? Do you feel the governments of these countries are handling the situation appropriately? Is it a country that allows free press coverage and you can access up-to-date information that is not government censored?
Are you sick or have flu-like symptoms?
Do not travel when you are sick. Even if you simply have a common cold or even sever allergies, it could get you flagged during your travel. Also, it will probably make your fellow travelers around you very much uncomfortable.
Are you flexible in case you get stuck?
This a serious consideration. The quarantine for the Coronavirus is 14 days. Some countries have shut down flights and border crossings. Can you afford to get stuck for prolonged periods of time? Will your boss be ok with you missing extra time from work? Will you still get paid? I would suggest planning for the worst and hope for the best in this case.
If you think you might lose your job over being stuck in quarantine or because of canceled flights, you might want to reconsider your travel plans.
Does your health insurance/travel insurance cover you?
The Coronavirus outbreak was declared an epidemic on January 22, 2020. Unfortunately, most travel insurance excludes coverage for epidemics in their fine print. However, there are some plans that do give cover for Corona-related issues, especially if you bought the insurance before January 22, and made travel plans before that.
If you plan to travel, make sure that you check with your travel insurance to check if your bookings are covered, in case you need to cancel or change things.
Do you have a backup plan?
If you travel during a turbulent event like the Corona outbreak, you should always have a backup plan. Are you a flexible and experienced traveler that is ok to deviate from your original plan? Are you ok to stay put in one place, in case travel becomes restricted or move to another country, if that seems the safest option?
No-one really knows how this epidemic is going to play out at the moment. Things are changing super fast and yesterday’s news is already obsolete. Ask yourself, if you and the people you travel with are comfortable with this kind of flexibility and uncertainty.
Are you ok with attractions being closed or events canceled?
The Carnival in Venice has been canceled, many museums and attractions in certain areas are closed. Are you ok with going with the flow and changing your plans? Is this your “once-in-a-lifetime-trip” where you’d be utterly disappointed if things are closed and plans are interrupted? If this is a return trip, you have seen the main sights or mainly plan to soak up the atmosphere, it might be a different story.
What kind of travel do you have planned?
Are you going on a cruise, where infections are notorious for spreading easily? Or maybe you travel in a large group with close contact? Or maybe you travel for business and go to a conference, where you meet hundreds of people a day, who in turn also meet hundreds of people a day and people have traveled to from all over the world?
This is a different case scenario than traveling by yourself or in a small group, renting an apartment or a hotel room and avoiding large crowds. How you travel should be a really important decision-maker when you decide if you should travel during the Corona Virus epidemic.
Could you put the people around you at risk after you return?
The incubation period for the Coronavirus is quite long, so even if you feel fine upon your return, you might be infected and contagious. This could put your friends, family, coworkers and other people you might be in contact with at risk.
Are people at home immunocompromised? Maybe a friend or relative is going through Chemo or is taking medication like steroids? What about the people you are in contact with, but might not know about their medical issues? Are you willing to put them at risk? This is a serious consideration that you should take into account before you decide whether you should change your travel plans.
Corona Virus – Helpful Resources
Here are some really helpful websites to gather more information about the Coronavirus outbreak that might help you with your decision to postpone your trip or not.
Airline and Hotel Waivers (very helpful if you have travel planned)
Corona Virus – How to protect yourself
There are several precautions you can take to protect yourself.
- Wash your hands frequently with warm soapy water.
- Use alcohol-based disinfectant gel to clean your hands.
- Cough and sneeze into your elbow, not your hands.
- Use a tissue and dispose immediately.
- Avoid large crowds.
- Avoid close contact with people who are visibly sick (3 feet/1 meter).
- Avoid touching your face with your hands.
- Do not share food, dishes, clothing, bedding and other items with people who are sick.
- Disinfect surfaces you touch often regularly.
- Stay home if you feel sick.
- If you feel sick and need to see the doctor, make sure to call before, so you don’t expose other patients in the practice.
Corona Virus – Should you travel or not?
I can’t make that decision for you. This is a very personal decision and everyone’s personal circumstances are different. To be honest, I have not come to a conclusion yet either and my trip is in less than 1 week. At the moment, I am considering canceling mainly because I don’t want to expose my friends and family and put them at risk. However, I was also looking forward to this trip and seeing my friends and family, and connecting with a lot of potential business partners. I was also really excited about spending time in Sicily and Paris. I will keep you posted about my decision.
Have you altered your travel plans because of the Corona Virus outbreak? What made you decide to do it? Please share in the comments.