Should I Cancel My Trip Because Of Coronavirus?

Mary Ann Hanna has already changed part of her upcoming vacation to Europe because of the coronavirus epidemic. But now she, like thousands of other Americans, is wondering if she should cancel her entire trip because of the coronavirus.

“I had wanted to go to Verona, Italy, for a few days,” says Hanna, who plans to stay in Innsbruck, Austria, with her extended family. “We booked an apartment, a cooking class, a Romeo and Juliet tour and the trains. We canceled all of this yesterday in light of the outbreak in Italy as well as anticipated difficulties getting there.”

Many travelers are asking the same question as Hanna. Should I cancel my trip because of the coronavirus?

Related: Buy Travel Insurance For 2020

Coronavirus is spreading at an alarming rate. There are currently 81,109 confirmed coronavirus cases worldwide and 2,761 deaths, mostly in China, according to the World Health Organization. Health officials have not issued any broad recommendations to the general public about limiting travel that would trigger a wave of vacation cancellations, at least for the moment.

“The question of whether it’s appropriate to cancel or change travel plans in light of the spread of the coronavirus is largely a personal decision that travelers must make after weighing all the facts at hand,” says Paul Metselaar, the CEO of Ovation Travel Group. “That is because – for the vast majority of the world – there are no official limitations on travel.”

Travelers are worries that they will be infected by coronavirus when they are on the road. But … [+] should they cancel their vacations?


Questions you should ask before canceling your trip because of the coronavirus

  1. Is your destination affected by the coronavirus outbreak?
  2. Are you part of a group that is at risk of a coronavirus infection (older people or those with pre-existing medical conditions).
  3. Do you have travel insurance? If you cancel, will your travel insurance cover your costs?

“The world is a big place and there are still plenty of destinations to visit that haven’t been impacted by the coronavirus,” said Daniel Durazo, a spokesman for Allianz Partners USA.  “Travel advisors can be a great resource when looking for a destination that checks all of the boxes on a traveler’s wish list. If you’re nervous about booking a trip, talk to your travel advisor to find a trip that everyone can look forward to.”

Many travelers are avoiding destinations such as Hong Kong because of the coronavirus.


Where are you going?

The most important criteria for a coronavirus cancellation is your destination. You can consult with several sources for the latest information.

Check the latest State Department travel advisories to see if it’s still safe to travel. For example, the State Department on Feb. 4 issued a Level 4 “Do Not Travel” advisory for travel to China because of the outbreak. However, the government hasn’t advised against travel to Italy yet.

Don’t rely on one source. Experts also check the Canadian government advisories, which sometimes helps them make a more informed decision. The U.K. travel advisories are also a good source for up-to-date health information. Note that you’ll sometimes find contradictory information between these advisories, but it’s better for you to be fully aware of the risks of travel to your destination. 

Carrie Pasquarello, the CEO of Global Secure Resources, also consults another source: Medjet. If the medical evacuation company suspends coverage in a country, that’s a dealbreaker. “It’s my tripwire,” she says.

On Feb. 5, Medjet suspended operations in China, Hong Kong, Taiwan and Macau.

Should you cancel your trip because of coronavirus? It depends on your health.


What’s your health?

If you’re thinking of canceling your trip because of the coronavirus, your health is an important consideration. 

“Are you elderly or have a chronic medical condition or are immunocompromised?” asks Nadeen White, a physician and travel blogger who focuses on health and travel issues. “Do you care for someone elderly or immunocompromised? And will you be spending a lot of time in crowded public spaces or sharing rooms in hostels?”

If the answer to any of those questions is “yes,” you might want to consider canceling, she says. 

Joseph Garcia had planned to visit Japan next month to see the cherry blossoms with his two-year-old daughter but decided to cancel. He says he likes Japan because it’s peaceful and civilized, but with reported coronavirus cases and deaths, he’s afraid it will be nerve-wracking.

“We want to travel and relax in comfort and safety,” says Garcia, who edits a review site for baby accessories. “Not in a precautionary state.”

Garcia made the right call. A long overseas trip can stress out a young child. Add the risk of infection, and the possibility of the coronavirus spreading, and making this trip doesn’t make sense. Even if the trip went off without a hitch, Garcia and his daughter might not be able to relax and enjoy the cherry blossoms.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s latest risk assessment on coronavirus does not explicitly mention the age or physical condition of a traveler. However, a breakdown of the fatalities in China suggests that travelers over 80 with a pre-existing medical condition are most at risk. Concerned parents who are traveling with young children can breathe easy, at least for now — there have been no fatalities among children under 9.

“The criteria for canceling a trip is a personal decision, and what that looks like will be different for everyone,” says Stan Sandberg, co-founder of, a travel insurance site. “However, if you don’t think you will be able to enjoy yourself for a large portion of a planned vacation, it’s likely a good sign that you should postpone.”

If you have the right kind of travel insurance, you might be protected against a coronavirus … [+] outbreak. But read the fine print carefully.


Do you have travel insurance? 

Travel insurance may or may not help. But experts warn that it isn’t a magic bullet.

“In order for coverage to apply, the event impacting their trip must be listed within your insurance policy certificate,” says Kasara Barto, a spokeswoman for Squaremouth. “It is very important that travelers review their policy to make sure their concerns can be covered by their policy. The main reason claims are denied is because travelers file a claim for something that is not covered by their policy.”

Squaremouth just posted a helpful guide on traveling and the coronavirus, which offers a few details on what is — and isn’t — covered.

What about your credit card? Don’t count on it covering your cancellation, either.

“Travel insurance offered through credit cards and other providers is unlikely to grant you a refund if you simply changed your mind about traveling,” says industry analyst Ted Rossman. “Many airlines and hotels are canceling reservations and offering fee waivers in the most affected areas,” he adds. “That’s probably going to be your best option for getting your money back.”

A “cancel for any reason” policy can offer a partial refund if you decide to call off your vacation. But that insurance costs about twice as much as the standard “named perils” policy Barto was talking about.

“Though cancel for any reason allows you to cancel your plan for any reason, it increases the plan cost,” notes Jeremy Murchland, president of Seven Corners, a travel insurance company. “Also, it’s important to understand the requirements for cancel for any reason.”

Here are the requirements for a cancel for any reason policy

  1. Purchase a cancel for any reason policy as soon as possible after you make your first trip deposit. It’s typically only available within a set number of days — usually within 15 to 20 days.
  2. Make sure you insure all your nonrefundable and prepaid trip expenses.
  3. Be prepared to cancel your trip at least two days before your scheduled departure. 

Bottom line: If you’re planning a vacation — but haven’t booked anything yet — you still can do something. Find a “cancel for any reason” policy from a reputable travel insurance source. You can purchase a policy through a company like AIG Travel, Allianz Travel Insurance, Arch RoamRight, Generali Global Assistance, Travelex or through a travel insurance site like G1G Travel, Seven Corners, or Squaremouth.

Related: Buy Travel Insurance For 2020

Also, consider additional coverage through a company like Medjet or an insurance plan that covers a medical evacuation.

“You should invest in emergency medical and medical evacuation coverage,” advises Sherry Sutton, vice president of marketing at Travel Insured International. “These benefits can help provide reimbursement in the event you are hospitalized or seek medical treatment while traveling abroad.” (Travel insured also has a practical guide to travel insurance and the coronavirus.)

Should you cancel your next vacation because of the coronavirus? Here’s what other travelers are … [+] doing.


Should you cancel your trip because of the coronavirus?

Many travelers say they’re sticking to their plans. Hanna, the traveler headed to Innsbruck, is among them.

“I’m not canceling,” she says. “We leave next Thursday and a lot can change by then. But, so far, there are no travel restrictions from the CDC, State Department or Lufthansa and fingers are crossed.”

Instead of taking the train to Verona, she’s heading to Vienna, Austria, which will hopefully be virus-free when she’s there.

Donna Manz, a travel agent who specializes in Europe, says that’s the right call. She has clients booked on European cruises this June, and for them, it’s still full steam ahead.

“Nobody’s fears should be discounted or disparaged,” she says. “If towns are on lock-down, if flights are canceled to my destinations, those issues are out of my control.”

She’s advising clients in high-risk categories – people with compromised immune systems, those on steroids, travelers with asthma or other respiratory conditions, and the very old and the very young — to stay home.

But she’s sticking to her travel plans. “If I am quarantined somewhere, I can still work, I can still communicate with my clients,” she says. 

I had to make a similar decision, too. I’m scheduled to travel from Madrid to Rome by train in early March. One of my stops in Northern Italy is perilously close to the latest cluster of infections. And like everyone else, I had to ask: Should I cancel my trip because of the coronavirus?

I’m sticking with my plans. I’m traveling with three healthy teenagers, and I’m in decent shape for a guy my age. I’ve covered every viral outbreak in the last three decades, and I’ve seen this kind of panic before. 

I’m not swayed by it — at least not yet.

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