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Traveling during coronavirus? Here’s what you need to know [Updated]
The scoop on restrictions in the US and abroad.
If you’d planned to travel in March or April, your arrangements may be up in the air due to the coronavirus outbreak. It’s recommended that older adults and people with severe underlying medical conditions do not travel during this time to avoid exposure to the virus.
Healthy individuals may also want to consider postponing their plans.
Travel restrictions within the US
As of March 23, travel within the US has not been officially restricted — except in states that are under orders to shelter in place.
However, a set of guidelines released by the White House on March 16 recommend that all people “avoid discretionary travel, shopping trips, and social visits” for the next 15 days — basically through the end of March. As part of the nationwide effort to quarantine and stop the spread of COVID-19, consider whether travel is essential right now and shift your plans accordingly.
International travel restrictions
On March 19, the US Department of State issued a global level four health advisory, stating that it “advises U.S. citizens to avoid all international travel due to the global impact of COVID-19.” It also urged US citizens who are currently in foreign countries to return to the states immediately, “unless they are prepared to remain abroad for an indefinite period.”
In response to the pandemic, countries around the world are enacting quarantine and border restrictions, while airlines cancel flights. So traveling internationally at this time not only puts you at risk of spreading or contracting coronavirus, but you may also end up in a foreign country, with no way to get home.
If you are a non-US resident visiting, or planning to visit, the United States in the next few months, plan for your plans to change – you may want to see how to change or cancel your upcoming trip.
Travel restrictions to and from Europe
On March 11, President Trump issued a proclamation prohibiting foreign nationals in the Schengen Area of Europe from entering the US. And on March 14, he extended the restrictions to Ireland and the UK. The ban doesn’t apply to US citizens or immediate family members.
The restrictions apply to the following countries with mutual borders:
- Czech Republic
US citizens who traveled to the Schengen Area must fly into select airports that’ve been equipped with specific coronavirus-screening measures. These airports are:
- Boston-Logan International Airport (BOS)
- Chicago O’Hare International Airport (ORD)
- Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport (DFW)
- Detroit Metropolitan Airport (DTW)
- Daniel K. Inouye International Airport (HNL)
- Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport (ATL)
- John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK)
- Los Angeles International Airport, (LAX)
- Miami International Airport (MIA)
- Newark Liberty International Airport (EWR)
- San Francisco International Airport (SFO)
- Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (SEA)
- Washington-Dulles International Airport (IAD)
How to cancel or postpone your travel plans
The good news is that most travel companies have relaxed their terms and conditions in light of the coronavirus outbreak. Many airlines have canceled flights and waived change fees. Likewise, most tour and cruise lines are allowing passengers to postpone their travels. Exact policies vary, so you’ll need to research the updates issued by each provider to cancel or reschedule your plans.
Does travel insurance cover the coronavirus?
It depends on the details of your policy. However, regular travel insurance doesn’t typically cover coronavirus, since it’s considered to be a pandemic. On the other hand, if you purchased CFAR insurance, your chances of receiving a refund are higher.
Still, each travel insurance company has its own policies. So be sure to understand exactly what those are before making any decisions.
If you do travel, take care of your health while away
If you find yourself in a position where you must travel, consider packing a coronavirus travel kit. This should include essentials like hand sanitizer and disinfectant wipes — plus convenient extras like a reusable straw and spare underwear. Be sure to disinfect all surfaces that you come into contact with, and avoid person-to-person exposure, like shaking hands, as much as possible.
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Ways to cope if you have to cancel your travel plans
Canceling long-awaited travel plans is a bummer no matter the situation. Here are some ideas to help keep spirits as high as possible while we hope for the curve to flatten:
- Be a tourist in your own backyard. While the White House has advised against dining in restaurants and bars, many still offer takeout. And in cities like New York, establishments can even deliver alcoholic drinks. Not only can this add a little flavor to your quarantine days, it also helps support local businesses suffering from sudden closures.
- Stream TV shows about travel. Watching somebody else explore other countries may not be as satisfying as taking the journey yourself, but it can help scratch the travel itch and keep you inspired until you can visit on your own two feet. Start off with Salt Fat Acid Heat (Netflix), which follows chef Samin Nostrat through Japan, Italy, Mexico and California. Then check out Eat the World with Emeril Lagasse (Amazon Prime) — the Havana episode offers insight into a country that’s been restricted for US travelers since early 2019.
- Stay close to loved ones over video chat. If you were planning on traveling to visit friends or family, it may help to schedule regular video chat sessions with them instead. While this can’t replace the pleasure of being with each other, it can help create a support network until you’re able to see each other face-to-face.
Depending on your situation, it may be best to postpone travel arrangements. The long-term goal of quarantine is to help stymie the spread of coronavirus so regular travel can resume before too long.
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