With the coronavirus outbreak popping up in new areas seemingly every day, travelers are left with many unanswered questions. For example, should you cancel a preplanned trip? Should you plan future trips? If so, what kind of travel insurance should you purchase?
The following tips will help answer these questions and ensure you continue to be a savvy traveler, even amidst a global pandemic.
Check with airlines and cruise operators about previously planned trips. As the number of coronavirus cases rises, travel to and from some destinations, such as China, Iran and most of Europe, has been restricted. But even if your destination isn’t on that list, you may still be hesitant to make the trip. In either case, check directly with the company you made travel arrangements with. Although you may not get a full refund for your trip, many travel companies are willing to waive rebooking fees and change trip dates.
•Consider your risk. Research has shown that those most at risk for being severely affected by the virus are people over 65, people with a compromised immune system, or those with underlying health conditions. If you are in the higher risk group, you may want to cancel your travel plans, even if this means losing out on money you’ve already spent.
•Research travel companies’ cancellation policies before you buy. If you were hoping to travel somewhere later this year, be sure to find out what kind of cancellation policy is available for the tickets you would like to purchase. In light of the coronavirus pandemic, cruise companies and airline cancellation policies are rapidly changing. Make sure you understand whether or not you can cancel and get your money back if the pandemic continues long-term.
•Consider buying travel insurance but read the small print. Travel insurance is a great way to receive a full refund if you need to cancel a trip, but not all policies have the same coverage. Read the fine print of any plan you are considering before you buy. Most policies won’t cover a cancellation simply because you are now afraid to go. Purchasing a policy that allows you to “cancel for any reason” is the best way to ensure coverage in this rapidly evolving situation.
•Consider hiring a travel agent. If finding travel insurance, contacting airlines and cruise companies, and making last minute travel plans doesn’t suit you, consider hiring a travel agent. A good one will be able to do all the legwork for you.
•Think twice before buying a bargain ticket. As the coronavirus restricts travel for many, flight and cruise deals are popping up everywhere. If you want to take advantage of these deals, keep in mind that, realistically, any destination could become compromised as the virus continues to spread and you may need to cancel or reschedule your travel plans. This could result in your paying additional fees and make your trip less of a bargain.
•Watch out for scams. In addition, scammers are never below taking advantage of a crisis, so make sure any deals you consider are legitimate before paying or offering up your personal information.
To stay up to date on travel restrictions and the spread of the virus, visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s travel page at CDC.gov. For more general tips on travel planning or any other topic, visit BBB.org. You can find more coronavirus tips at BBB.org/Coronavirus.
Kelvin Collins is president & CEO of the Better Business Bureau serving the Fall Line Corridor, serving 77 counties in East Alabama, West Georgia, Southwest Georgia, Central Georgia, East Georgia and Western South Carolina. This tips column is provided through the local BBB and the International Association of Better Business Bureaus (IABBB). The Better Business Bureau sets standards for ethical business behavior, monitors compliance and helps consumers identify trustworthy businesses. Questions or complaints about a specific company or charity should be referred directly to the BBB at Phone: 1-800-763-4222, Website: BBB.org or Email: email@example.com