To Travel or not to travel. That is the question.

We’ve all been following the news of the spread of the Coronavirus. It is hard not to. With the overload of information coming out online it is hard to ignore it and also at times hard to not fall into the media hype and worry. What makes matters worse is that every single day the situation is changing and there is a tremendous amount of uncertainty about how this will all play out. The shelves at the store are running bare of hand sanitizer, hand sanitation wipes, canned goods, and even toilet paper. Doctors’ offices and clinics are resorting to hiding their once free face masks since people are running out the door with them. Grocery stores are passing out hand sanitizer wiped down grocery carts, and the list goes on.

The World Health Organization warned that panic buying and market manipulation are depriving health workers with the supplies they need to fight the virus while others are profiting by buying all the supplies up and making money off the panic by selling marked-up face masks on eBay.  Life in the age of coronavirus has become for some people clear pandemonia and for others a wait and see approach. While the situation is alarming, I am tending to lean more towards the wait and see how this all unravels before stocking up my basement with supplies and going off the deep end of fear. I also am doing my homework and reading good, reliable articles on the situation so I can remain educated and informed.

So what do we do when it comes to travel? Obviously, I’m not going to go to a place that has a large outbreak however I’d be lying if I wasn’t the slightest bit concerned about getting on a long haul flight or a cruise ship with a bunch of strangers. Fifteen years ago I caught full-blown influenza from the passenger next to me who was slouching in his seat and coughing all over the place. It was the sickest I have ever been to this day but I recovered. No one in my family got it. I never wore a mask. I didn’t wipe down the house. But I washed my hands and stayed home in bed, away from people that I could spread it to (which was my biggest fear). Since that day, I have always gotten my flu shot, washed my hands frequently and followed basic hygiene that you always should do regardless of an epidemic.

As of now, I’d get on the plane and fortunately (or unfortunately depending on how you want to look at it) we have an international flight approaching soon for Spring Break. But it is hard to know how I’ll feel this summer as we have a cruise booked leaving from Rome in June. Do we panic and cancel now? Of course not. First of all, it is hard to know what will happen. No one knows. It could all simmer down with warmer weather or else it could become a lot worse and a lot will change. Second of all, if we canceled all our travel plans now, we would lose an awful lot of money and things may be fine to go by the time the trip comes.  While we purchased trip insurance (I always do for every trip)  I did not purchase “cancel for any reason” which I have sometimes booked in the past. Cancel for any reason is the only travel insurance that will cover something like coronavirus.

So for now, all I can do is “keep calm and travel on”. The future like with anything is uncertain.

Instead of reading the “Breaking News” headlines, I stay connected to real news and have found these resources very helpful for keeping informed of this constantly changing situation. Here are a few of the best resources out there:

  1. Centers for Disease Control and Protection (www.cdc.org) is always my go-to resources when it comes to travel. Since the outbreak, the CDC has been closely monitoring the situation and updating the latest news on where the virus has spread, travel advisories, and more. They even have a geographic risk assessment map where you can get up to date transmission risk information on a country by country basis. 
  2. US Department of State Travel Advisories: Similar to the CDC, you can check to see which countries have travel advisories or warnings. As a general rule of thumb, I always check this site before traveling to a new country.
  3. Skift.com: Skift is a great resource for the travel industry and recently began a live blog on “Coronavirus and the Travel Industry” which helps you stay on top of the latest travel news and impact in the travel industry.
  4. CruiseCritic: A Cruise review and news source has been gathering all the latest news from the industry and updating the latest changes and cancellations daily at Coronavirus: Updated Cruise Ship Policies and Cancellations.
  5. Most major airlines have created a page on their website informing customers on the actions they are taking to keep their planes, staff, and customers healthy, as well as change fees and cancellations. Since I live in Minneapolis where Delta has a hub, I have been following their updates on Coronavirus (COVID-19).

Informative articles I’ve read on the facts:

  1. Afar Magazine: “Travelers’ Coronavirus Questions Answered” is an excellent article providing information and advice on such topics as travel insurance coverage, keeping healthy when traveling and making informed decisions on where to go and where to avoid.
  2. WSJ ” All Your Coronavirus Travel Questions Answered” is yet another fact-filled piece with a lot of good information.
  3. Wanderful, an amazing community of women travelers, hosted a Facebook live Q & A with Dr. Nadeen White, Physician & Travel Blogger at The Sophisticated Life. , “The Truth About Coronavirus and What Travelers Need to Know” where I learned a ton about the virus, how it spreads, and more.  It was very good and worth watching or else you can also read Dr. White’s piece on her blog.
  4. Conde Nast Traveler: “Editor’s Letter: Why We’re Still Traveling. Jesse Ashlock, the U.S. Editor of Condé Nast Traveler, on our approach to travel in the midst of the coronavirus. The solution isn’t avoiding trips—it’s being smart about them.” Is another great piece.
  5. A fabulous post written by Emily, a registered nurse and traveler blogger at Two Dustry Travelers is an excellent, factual piece: Coronavirus Travel Safety: Facts Over Fear.
  6. Coronavirus: “Here’s What You Need To Know About Cruise Refunds and Cancellations”.
  7. I also really liked Intrepid Travel’s “Coronavirus Travel Advice: Should you Travel?” While I feel like I already know most of the information inside of the article after all of the research I’ve done, my favorite part of the piece is at the end, written by the editors and says:

“Even if you haven’t been directly affected by coronavirus (as most of us haven’t), no one would blame you for feeling exhausted and anxious in the midst of all this. Our 24-hour news cycle, the sheer accessibility of it, and the media’s clicks-at-all-costs mentality mean we don’t just carry the world’s problems in our pockets – we feel the burden of those problems more profoundly, too.

As such, we feel a responsibility to share a few thoughts on this very global, difficult and complicated issue:

–  Please be kind to yourselves during this strange time. Limit your exposure to screens and 24-hour news cycles, spend time with the people and things that make you feel good.

– Now is a time for unity, community and togetherness, not fear mongering and sensationalism.

– Go outside, please”. 

So I am going to heed their advice. I’m going to try my best to stop reading those catchy headlines and take a breath of fresh air especially now that I got all this information off my chest.

I debated whether or not I should write a post about Coronavirus. It has caused a lot of anxiety and worry and is changing constantly. However, when faced with fear knowledge is the answer and is empowering. More so, I’m a wanderlust and if I’m going to write about travel well I can’t avoid the unpleasant topics. In such an innerconnected world, I am sure this will not be the last outbreak or pandemic we face. What we need now is knowledge and to act. (P.S. Thanks Bill Gates again for speaking up and telling world leaders the “five things they must do right away in the fight against Coronavirus”.). Let’s hope they listen.

Until then, stay calm and travel on.

P.S. Just after I published this I saw “Breaking News” that the state where I live – Minnesota – has its first case. Time to heed my own advice. 

 

 

20 comments

  1. Thanks Nicole for a well written and informed post and for all of the links you’ve included. I agree that we can all be careful but not paranoid and buy into the hype and fear mongering that much of the media is perpetrating. Good articles like yours here are what’s needed. Here in Australia there’s a lot of panic buying (toilet paper and flour in particular, go figure). Whilst I want to stay informed I’m also limiting the amount of information I read on line and watch. It’s a crazy world out there at the moment. Stay safe and good luck with all of your travel plans this year. Let’s pray that this settles in time and a vaccine is found. 🙏

    1. Thanks Miriam for the comment. Yes, the fear-mongering is really unbelievable. I blame our 24/7 media hype. They want the clicks to get the money but it causes so much panic and distress on so many levels and so many topics. Many days I wish I could just get rid of my iPhone and off social media but that is part of my job. As for panic buying, it really says a lot about society. I read online that 8 million people die a year of starvation. When you put that into perspective that about 3,000 have died from CV (which of course is sad but that is what is front and center on the media compared with people dying every day from lack of food, safe water and more) it really makes you realize how much power media has over us. To be out of flour is insane! Anyway, I’m glad to open up this topic for conversation as I think it is a much larger societal issue. Right after I published this post, I clicked on our local newspaper and say “Breaking News” in big red bold letters that the first case had come to Minnesota. Schools are canceling trips and supplies are drained. It really is nuts as the flu season has been going as well but still people didn’t freak out about that. Oh well. Yes let’s stay calm and carry on my friend. The best we can do! 🙂

      1. You’re right Nicole, this is becoming more of a societal issue and I think it’s good to open up the conversation. I know exactly what you mean about social media and the desire to sometimes ditch our mobile phones. But like you I need my phone for my business so, from my perspective, all I can say at this end is that, yes we need our mobile phones and we need to stay connected but we can certainly choose what we put our focus on. For me I prefer to focus on healing and the fact that our world lives and operates in cycles. Yes, this is a crisis but it will pass. xx

    1. Thank you! That was my intention. To get some good factual unbiased information all in one place. I have caught myself getting wrapped up in it all so it felt good to get some knowledge for my own piece of mind. 🙂

      1. Yes. Our family is scheduled to go to Costa Rica in 2.5 weeks. Our flight is direct and I honestly read through a lot on Delta’s website about how they are cleaning the plane. Honestly, I am not so worried about catching it but about the quarantine or else passing it on to someone with a compromised immune system. But then again, when I put it into perspective that our flu season alone is very dangerous, and I never have changed my plans because of that, I take a breath and relax. 🙂

      2. I keep thinking… By the time I go away it will probably be everywhere. What’s the difference where I catch it, if I do? I can only try my best to keep clean and hope that, like you, the teavel company is doing what they can. We constantly susceptible to virus. Sure, I wouldn’t plan on going anywhere where there are severe problems. I thinking keeping an open, but informed mind, is best.

      3. Yes very true. I am also hoping that it is similar to the seasonal flu and calms down with the warmer weather. I guess we will have to wait and see.

    1. Thank you Tannie. I debated about writing it but it has been on my mind so much lately (hard to ignore all the media attention) so I thought it would be good to get the resources and facts together in one place. 🙂

  2. Glad that you have included these excellent links so folks can get up to date advice. We have a family trip booked in two weeks to Hawaii. Planning to go at this point.

    1. Oh Hawaii sounds so incredible Sue. I would love to go there again. We are heading to Costa Rica in 2.5 weeks. I am really really looking forward to it and especially getting a break from the internet. 🙂

  3. I am also nervously waiting to see if a trip to Europe in Aug will pan out for me. Flying via Asia. Flights were booked before coronavirus in media but couldn’t afford insurance at the same time. Bought it now but they won’t cover for cancellation related to pandemic of known event prior to taking out policy so at risk of losing a lot of money (although I’m more upset about the prospect of not being able to see my family) if I can’t go. Selfish thoughts, I know, but a real worry for me.

    1. Yes I think we are all worried. It is a very unusual time for so many. And seeing family is so incredibly important.

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