Is it safe to travel? That is the question everyone is asking, given the novel coronavirus pandemic.
The answer, however, depends on several factors.
Obviously, anyone with symptoms of COVID-19, as coronavirus is also called, or anyone in the highest categories of risk shouldn’t travel under any circumstance. Period. Stay home and take all reasonable precautions.
The same is true for anyone who had been considering a visit to destinations in countries or regions hardest hit by the pandemic. This would include Italy, one of the most popular countries for American tourists.
Beyond these factors I have no problem traveling within the United States, provided reasonable judgments are made about the specific situation in the given destination. For now, I probably wouldn’t travel outside the country, at least beyond Canada or the Caribbean.
Simply put, it would be hysterical to say don’t travel, absent any specific facts and science to the contrary.
I have flown over a dozen times since late January with no issues whatsoever. Only one of my booked trips — to and from Southeast Asia — was canceled due to travel restrictions imposed after the initial outbreak in Wuhan, China.
Obviously, things can change quickly, which makes it a distinct possibility that domestic or other international travel restrictions could be necessary at some point in the near future. But, as of now, none of my trips through May are impacted whatsoever. I also wouldn’t cancel any travel previously booked for summer.
In fact, if you’re a budget-conscious traveler you may want to take advantage of incredibly low airfares and make speculative bookings.
Worst case scenario: If you have to cancel you will get either a refund or future credit toward travel, depending on the policies of the specific airline. Best case scenario is things move toward normal and you end up having a fabulous vacation for a lot less money.
Speaking of policies, almost every major airline and hotel chain has implemented customer-friendly policies allowing cancellations, refunds and rebooking. The lone exception is United Airlines, which has changed policies three times. At one point it was even sticking it to customers in a desperate attempt to hoard cash for operating expenses.
If you do travel between now and summer book with the biggest airlines, as there is tremendous uncertainty over the viability of smaller airlines — think low-cost Norwegian Air or the all-business-class airline La Compagnie — the longer international restrictions remain in place.
Of course, you could also take a family-friendly road trip by staying within the United States. After all, you don’t need to go to Europe to discover old churches, incredible museums, striking architecture, and rich history and culture.