Update: This article was updated on March 15 to reflect the latest travel advisories.
With the coronavirus present in over 90 locations around the world—including the U.S.—many are left wondering whether they should change their travel plans, especially their honeymoon, to avoid contracting the potentially deadly respiratory disease. Considering the potential disasters we’ve seen happen when travelers DO decide to go on their vacations (this cruise ship debacle is reason enough to make you want to stay home), or the growing number of countries considering regional lockdowns, you might be ready to hit ‘cancel’ on your honeymoon tickets and road-trip across the U.S. instead. Or better yet, take a few days off and stay at a local hotel. But should you?
While we need to all remain vigilant when it comes to preventing the spread of the virus, travel and health experts agree that a “wait and see” approach is best before changing your plans. In fact, the World Health Organization recommends against travel restrictions to areas with outbreaks. According to the WHO, “evidence shows that restricting the movement of people and goods during public health emergencies is ineffective in most situations and may divert resources from other interventions.”
Instead, travel and health experts recommend staying informed and being smart about your travel plans. By following the steps below, you can be sure that you’re ready to make a decision about whether or not to go on your honeymoon. Read on for their advice on what everybody wishing to travel should do:
Monitor Current Travel Bans:
As of March 16, 2020 at midnight there will be a travel ban into the U.S. from U.K., Ireland, and the 26 countries in the Schengen Area free movement zone: Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, The Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland.
The ban does not apply to U.S. citizens or their family members, however you might be directed to fly to a designated airport and could have to undergo additional screenings or isolation.
If you have been in China or Iran the past 14 days, you would also be required to fly into a designated airport and be subjected to health screenings and isolation.
Check the CDC website for the most up-to-date travel advisories
The CDC’s Travel Information section is a great resource for ongoing risk-assessments by country. For instance, the CDC says that depending on your travel history, you will be asked to stay home for a period of 14 days from the time you left an area with widespread or ongoing community spread (Level 3 Travel Health Notice).
Countries that have a Level 3 Travel Health Notice (widespread, ongoing transmission) include:
- South Korea
- Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Monaco, San Marino, Vatican City
Know the symptoms (and how to prevent them)
A fever, cough, and shortness of breath are all symptoms that can result from the coronavirus. According to the CDC, the best way to prevent the spread of the virus is to:
- Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.
- Stay home when you are sick.
- Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.
- Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces using a regular household cleaning spray or wipe.
- Follow CDC’s recommendations for using a facemask.
- CDC does not recommend that people who are well wear a facemask to protect themselves from respiratory diseases, including COVID-19.
- Facemasks should be used by people who show symptoms of COVID-19 to help prevent the spread of the disease to others. The use of facemasks is also crucial for health workers and people who are taking care of someone in close settings (at home or in a health care facility).
- Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after going to the bathroom; before eating; and after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing.
- If soap and water are not readily available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol. Always wash hands with soap and water if hands are visibly dirty.
Talk to your airline and hotel
Many airlines are waiving change fees for a limited period of time, so talk to your airline about your plans (currently booked or otherwise). You’ll also want to talk to them about any layovers that you may have scheduled in at-risk countries (such as China) and if there are any screenings/checkpoints that could cause a delay. Bottom line? Be sure to find out what your airline’s cancellation and rebooking policies are before you make any changes to your trip, as you could be forced to pay additional fees depending on their coronavirus-related travel policies.
Hotels in cities with lockdowns or outbreaks may also be offering refunds if you need to cancel your trip, so be sure to reach out to them to see what their policies are before you cancel. Same goes with any lodging option, such as AirBnb, which is currently offering their “extenuating circumstances” cancellation policy without charge to hosts and guests in impacted areas.
…Same goes for your cruise line
Many cruise lines are changing their cancellation policies in response to the coronavirus, including Viking, Seabourn, and Silversea Cruises, allowing you to delay your trip or cancel a few days before your trip if you’re taking a wait-and-see approach. Travel agents say they have been surprised by the new cancellation policies on cruise ships, so take advantage of them if you’re worried at all about your plans.
Check your insurance policy (or consider one before booking)
Just because you buy travel insurance does not mean your trip is covered for cancellations due to the coronavirus. For instance, “fear of travel” is not covered by most of Generali Global Assistance’s plans, and the company said the coronavirus outbreak “is considered a foreseeable event” for any plans bought on or after January 29. However, if you’re diagnosed or quarantined because of the coronavirus you will be covered.
While it’s too late to buy a standard insurance policy to protect your honeymoon from the coronavirus, you can buy a “cancel for any reason” policy. Even though the cost of these travel insurance policies is more, you will be covered for virtually any reason. But how much more is it? This breakdown shows that for a $8,000 trip for two travelers, a policy with standard trip cancellation would cost $472, while the “cancel for any reason” upgrade would increase to about $660.
Discuss your options
Before booking or cancelling your honeymoon, sit down with your partner and go over all your options for your trip. If your honeymoon is scheduled in the next few weeks or months, come up with a plan after you’ve reviewed the CDC recommendations and travel bans to see if you are able to travel. Also keep in mind that even if you are, museums, restaurants, and other sightseeing spots could very well be closed.
If you can cancel your trip virtually risk free, discuss whether will feel better delaying your honeymoon until everybody has a better idea of what’s happening with the coronavirus. Or, if you would rather go ahead with your honeymoon and take common-sense precautions (like washing your hands, not touching your face, and taking care of your overall health by getting enough sleep and eating well so your immune system stays healthy), you can forge ahead knowing you’re making the best decision for the both of you.
UPDATE: How things can change in one week! As this virus has expanded and new travel bans have gone into place, we are seeing more and more the need to change our travel plans and participate in social distancing. In fact, the trip I mentioned below was postponed to July because the conference I was going to was cancelled. Obviously if you have a trip booked to Europe or the U.K. in the next few weeks, you will have problems getting back in. Because of these new restrictions, your hotel/airline or other travel booking will most likely be reimbursed, so take advantage of these waiver periods and get your refunds or credits and postpone until things are *hopefully* back to normal! Our advice stays the same for all summer honeymoons! Take a wait-and-see approach and go from there.
I’m obviously not a health expert, but as someone with trips planned (within the continental U.S.) in the next few weeks I can tell you that I am not letting the coronavirus change our immediate plans. I would also not change any plans if we were flying to Europe (save for Italy) in the next few weeks. I would reconsider any plans to a country with a lockdown or that is a Level 3 threat, not because I would be afraid of contracting the virus, but because I wouldn’t want to deal with the hassle of being quarantined when we returned (or have our return be delayed). Staying updated on the CDC travel advisories is crucial to anybody planning a honeymoon or vacation right now. Also, being vigilant about washing your hands (which I am anyway) and not touching your face is important no matter what potential pandemic is out there. And no, I’m not going to wear a mask when we fly. The CDC advises against it if you don’t have the virus, so why do it?
If we had a big honeymoon planned for this summer or beyond, I would hold off on cancelling anything for now but would also take out “cancel for any reason” trip insurance for a few hundred extra dollars to cover our bases. I also thing it’s a good idea to plan ahead and call your airlines/hotels/cruise ship and find out what your options are so you’re completely informed.
Just remember that no matter what you choose, your dream honeymoon will happen now OR later, so don’t let it ruin your excitement. 🙂