How to decide if you should travel during the coronavirus outbreak


(CNN) – With new cases of new coronavirus reported daily in countries around the world, many travelers wonder whether they should cancel or delay existing plans and keep booking trips.

"Should I cancel the trip to Rome and Florence?" a CNN reader is wondering. "What is the threshold for reassessing domestic travel plans?", Asks another.


Unfortunately, there is no answer of all sizes.

It is very much an individual calculation, experts say, and takes into account a number of factors – the traveler, their companions, the destination and more -.

In a situation that is unpredictable and rapidly evolving, solid information is key.


"Find a very small number of sources of information that you trust, and you trust them both because they are competent and because you think they are working on your behalf," advises Baruch Fischhoff, a psychologist and professor in the Department of Engineering and Public Policy at Carnegie Mellon University.

Regularly updated advisors

Monitor these "carefully and regularly," advises Dr. Henry Wu, director of Emory Healthcare & # 39; TravelWell Center.

At this time, travel to China and South Korea is strongly discouraged, and precautions should be taken when traveling to destinations such as Italy, Japan, Iran and Hong Kong.

"In the absence of specific advisors, travelers should still consider that situations may change rapidly," said Wu, who is assistant professor of medicine at the Emory University School of Medicine's Infectious Diseases Department.

Investigating your destination and paying close attention to restrictions or other public policy on coronavirus adopted by these countries will also help inform decisions.

"In general, travelers should always consider the importance of a trip as well as their personal risk tolerance for health hazards and problems," Wu said.

Personal risk assessment

That is exactly what Fischhoff, a decision-making professional by profession, does about a trip he has planned to the UK in March.

Since the virus will emerge is quite unpredictable, he has accepted that each site has a certain level of risk.

But if the risk was not greater than it is now, he said, the probability of dying is "very, very low" and the probability of getting sick is "vanishingly small."

The likelihood of being seriously inconvenienced – stranded by a closed border or quarantined in a hotel or ship – is "significantly higher," Fischhoff said. "Right now, it's still pretty low in absolute terms, and it's not clear how fast it's moving."

Fischhoff will continue to assess the situation as the tour approaches, he said, but he is willing to walk away from lowered costs if he decides not to go.

He encourages the same framing for other travelers: Would you rather walk or not walk, regardless of the cost?

Factors at stake

Older travelers or those with other conditions should consider that they may be at greater risk of complications of infections, Wu said.

For Angel Wilson, her mother's age is a factor in her travel decision right now. Wilson leaned against canceling a trip to Japan in March with her daughter and mother.

"It really doesn't make sense to go now when we can always postpone it and go later when we know everything is safe," said Wilson, an Indianapolis-based travel consultant at Dream Journeys.

A traveler's responsibility at home is also a potential factor in their decision, Fischhoff said. Those caring for young children or older parents may have a lower tolerance for unexpected delays in returning home.

And some people worry more than others. If you expect the situation to drain the joy of a leisure trip, it may be worth changing your plans, he said.

Protect your trip

Wilson has also considered the possibility of being stranded in Japan if the situation there worsens and travel stops. Japan had more than 900 cases of coronavirus as of February 27, with eight deaths reported.

American Airlines has agreed to waive the loyalty fee return miles Wilson used for his plane tickets to her account.

Some of her clients have not been so lucky. While Wilson specializes in Caribbean, Hawaii, cruises and all-inclusive vacations, a couple of her bookings have been affected by the outbreak.

A sail on Sapphire Princess in Asia was canceled on March 1, and although her cruise costs will be reimbursed, her clients are out with non-refundable airfare and hotels.

At this time, Wilson encourages travelers to pay more for refundable airfare and hotel rooms. She also advises clients to pack another two weeks of medication, just in case.

She recommends buying cancel for some reasons insurance. It is the only type of travel insurance that applies in this scenario, she said.

Coverage tends to be about 30% more expensive than other types of travel insurance, according to Wilson.

Sellers have their own rules on how their policies work. Some offer back up to around 80% cash back, while others may only offer future order credit.

Some vendors are starting to update their policies. AmaWaterways now offers a Travel Waiver Plus to give customers more soul when booking, Wilson said.

"They offer this to guests who are already booked as well as new bookings," she said.

Health precautions

Whether from coronavirus or influenza, travelers should always take precautions to protect themselves from infection.

"I am not aware of any documented cases of COVID-19 acquired during flights, but I would advise travelers on flights to take the usual precautions to prevent respiratory illnesses, including hand washing and refraining from traveling while ill," Wu said.

Flu vaccines are recommended as flu also spreads, and flu prevention can also prevent symptoms that will cause new coronavirus problems, Wu said.

Ultimately, each traveler's risk calculation will be different.

"A trip can be good for some travelers, while the same itinerary can cause significant worry and stress for others," Wu said.

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