Coronavirus shook the world full force, just as my mom and I were in the middle of finalizing our upcoming Switzerland & Northern Italy trip in May. We had purchased our airline tickets months ago. Additionally, we had just booked all of our accommodations and had just begun to buy travel insurance. The odds of our trip happening really isn’t great, so I’ve begun to do some extensive research on canceling and getting refunds. I am in no way shape or form a medical or government professional giving legal advice. These suggestions are based on my own research for problematic circumstances concerning the virus and travel.
At what point should you consider canceling your trip?
That is really only up for you to decide. As I am writing this post in early March, I would personally cancel my trip if it was before April 3rd. Unfortunately, the likeliness of this virus getting cleared up in less than a month is slim. Early April seems to be the ambitious deadline for the Northern Italian quarantine, and airlines to consider flying to those heavily affected areas. However, if the pandemic is not clearing up by then, I’m sure those deadlines will extend.
Other factors to consider to make your trip is how heavily effected is your destination, your age, your immune system, and if you are able to dedicate two weeks to self-quarantine upon arrival to your home country.
I know people who have already canceled their trips for September. Personally, I think this is rather sudden. Nobody knows if this virus will live through the warm summer months.
How to get refunds.
Debit or Credit?
If you booked your trip with a credit card, you may be in luck. Bonus points if it’s a travel credit card. I always use my Capital One Venture One card for everything as they can assist with disputes. I contacted their customer support team to voice my concerns about my situation. My representative informed me of a few different options. First, he recommended that I contact my bookings directly and ask what can be done about the refund. If the booking is unwilling to issue a refund, then I can file a dispute with Capital One and they will open an investigation for the refund. Try googling your card you booked with and see what it covers. My credit card even covers car rental insurance abroad.
Google the specific Airline you’re flying and see if they have special circumstances for your destination due to the Coronavirus outbreak. This may save you hours being on hold to speak to customer support. For example, just type in “American Airlines Coronavirus” and I can almost guarantee some of your questions will be answered. Recently, some airlines announced they are issuing refunds if your flight was purchased between a certain time period. If your airline isn’t willing to refund, ask if they’ll allow you to change the dates and waive change fees.
No luck with refunds? Try playing the waiting game. My logic is if the virus is quite bad in the destination you’re heading, that destination will likely quarantine or ban travel temporarily. This means no airlines will be able to fly there, meaning they will have to issue a refund. If you already know they won’t give you a refund if you try to cancel, what do you have to lose by waiting just a bit longer?
Accommodations terms are all different just like the airlines.
AirBNB has just released an extenuating circumstances policy as well for bookings that you can find here.
Hostelworld’s new Coronavirus policy can be found here.
If you booked directly through a hotel or different website, again, just try googling their terms.
Most travel agencies have been canceling for their clients, issuing full refunds. This is definitely the biggest benefit booking with a travel agent rather than on your own. Independent tours can be more difficult to get a refund, as some are locally operated. Try asking for a voucher to use in the future for a different date if you aren’t able to get a refund.
When to reschedule/plan your trip.
If I had not already booked my trips, I would be holding off on making any non-refundable decisions until this pandemic clears globally. It really stinks to put your life and travel plans on hold for a situation like this that you have no idea how long will last. However, it will be even more unfortunate if you are out thousands of dollars if you don’t just wait.
Final thoughts on Coronavirus & travel plans.
I understand just as anyone who has travel plans, how frustrating this is. You’ve asked off work. You’ve created a whole Pinterest board. You have spent SO much money, that you may not get back. It’s incredibly unfortunate and inconvenient. Maybe you’ve been saving up for years for the trip of a lifetime, and now it’s completely ruined. I am so sorry, I really am. Don’t let anyone tell you that it’s not a big deal, because it is. You’ve worked so hard for this, and it’s been taken away from you because of a sudden global catastrophe, that nobody saw coming.
However, at the end of the day, you are (hopefully) safe and healthy. Some people work in the travel industry and are losing everything from this. People have died. Some have missed weddings, births, deaths, graduations, and more. It’s such an awful situation that we can only hope will clear soon with everyone’s participation.
In the meantime, I will be staying up to date with current news and travel restrictions regarding the virus. I’ll continue to save money, add to those Pinterest boards, and hope for the best. Because that’s all we can really do.