Posted: March 16, 2020
From newspapers to television to social media, it seems everyone is abuzz with information – and misinformation – about coronavirus. And, the situation is evolving at light speed, which makes it hard to keep up. If you’re overwhelmed, please know you’re not alone.
Extraordinary challenging times can drive us to a default mode of fear and over-reaction while what the world needs now is a thoughtful response fueled by understanding and common-sense. We at Adventure.Travel believe that informed travelers make better citizens of the world so we remain committed to bringing you up-to-date information on the issue as it relates to responsible travel.
Perhaps all the headlines and noise have you asking yourself some big questions. Is travel safe? Should we cancel? Should we reconsider booking that trip for summer? What do I do if my travel is disrupted? How do I stay healthy?
As adventure travelers, we are naturally more resilient and able to ‘go with the flow’, however, these are very personal decisions and there is no correct or one-size-fits-all answer. No matter what you decide or what happens, panicking won’t help; whether you’re around the corner from home, or all the way across the globe, we hope the following tips help you remain the calm, confident traveler you are, and guide you to continue making smart, logic-based decisions.
Remain Calm & Travel On—We encourage you to respond to COVID-19 in a measured and consistent way. We believe travel makes the world a better place so rather than retreat, we urge you to seek connection in ways that feel right for you. Don’t avoid travel, but be smart about how you go about it. That means traveling intentionally and with awareness while showing respect for the place and people you’re visiting, like you always do. However, in these times, it means going even a bit further; we hope the rest of our tips are a start.
Trust The Experts—It’s easy to become obsessed and panicky when there are new developments each day (or even each hour). Balance your need to keep current and informed (knowledge IS power) with staying sane by focusing on information from the experts. Follow recommendations from your local health authorities and the World Health Organization, which is publishing regular updates on international travel and health. Consult travel health notices from the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) and State Department travel advisories (or the equivalent in your country).
Prepare for the Unexpected—Sometimes in adventure travel, the most unexpected situations – like unforeseen detours or additional unplanned time in a destination – actually create the best memories and stories. Be prepared so that if the unexpected happens and you are delayed returning home due to events out of your control like quarantines or border closures, you have what you need, including peace of mind. Before departing, make a back-up plan to ensure care for your home and any living things, like pets or plants, left behind. Pack extra prescription medications and any other necessities like contacts or contact solution.
Follow Proper Protocols— First, don’t travel if you’re sick. Even if it’s just a cold, you risk arriving at a destination and being quarantined for weeks so better to wait until you are symptom free if possible. If you have a suspected or confirmed coronavirus infection or if you are caring for someone with the infection, seek medical attention and wear a mask. If you travel to any of the countries affected, please follow the proper protocol when you return. Observe any imposed quarantines so you do not put others at risk. If you become ill, seek medical attention. Alert your doctor, emergency room, or medical facility about your recent travel and exposure PRIOR to your arrival.
Know Before You Go: Read the Fine Print—Is my ticket refundable? Will travel insurance cover me if I decide to cancel? Will medical treatment be covered abroad? Avoid unwanted surprises by doing your research at each step of the way in the booking and traveling process. Know the limits of both your travel and medical insurance, and completely understand cancellation policies and restrictions for tours, flights, and lodging.
Coronavirus became a known event globally as of January 21, 2020. Therefore, if you purchased travel insurance before that date, it will cover trip disruptions resulting from the outbreak. If you bought it after that date, it will not cover coronavirus-related disruptions, unless you bought the optional Cancel for Any Reason (CFAR) upgrade, which could cover up to 75 percent of your trip costs, but will also cost you between 5 and 10 percent of your total trip and needs to be purchased within a few weeks of booking. If you’re just planning a trip, buy travel insurance. Make sure it includes medical evacuation and consider a “cancel for any reason” policy. Learn more about CFAR and other travel insurance options here.
Check your health insurance to see if you are covered when abroad in case you need medical care. Educate yourself about cancellation policies and refund options by calling airlines, hotels, and tour companies prior to your travel dates. If you decide to postpone or cancel your trip and a refund isn’t available, ask for credit towards a future trip.
Practice Excellent Hygiene—The CDC recommend preventive actions, at home and abroad, to help prevent the spread of respiratory diseases including:
- 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.
- 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. In between or if soap and water aren’t 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.
We know this is a serious subject, but a little bit of levity goes a long way to alleviate anxiety. Check out these videos – one from Ellen Degeneres and one from dancer Quang Đăng for solid, rhythmical, and comical info about how to wash your hands. For a round-up of the best hand-washing PSAs, check out this piece from NPR.
A note on masks: 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).
Read full hygiene recommendations for travelers from the CDC.
Lead By Example—In this time, when information – so much information – is at our fingertips 24/7, it takes discernment and actually reading beyond the headlines and the tweets to figure out what’s true and what’s worth sharing. Whether you have 1 million followers or 10, whether you’re talking to one friend or a room of 10,000, please be mindful of how you talk about this situation, avoid fueling fear around it, and only share reliable information from experts.
Finally - Treat Fellow Travelers & People with Kindness and Respect—An unfortunate side effect of the coronavirus has been a growth in xenophobia and anti-Asian racism as evidenced by attacks and incidents reported around the world since the outbreak started.
Bottom line here is: the coronavirus does not discriminate and we shouldn’t either.
This paragraph from a recent article in Time, including a quote from Miri Song, professor of sociology at the University of Kent, sums up the truth:
And while the outbreak started in Wuhan, its global spread has reached far beyond mainland China, infecting people in dozens of countries, making it impossible to attribute the virus to somebody on the basis of their racial identity. “As soon as you’re dealing with a globalized world, where people are traveling, and are so numerous and impossible to track, it’s clearly wrong to be targeting people simply on the basis of their appearance,” says Song.
Recently, Michelle Bachelet, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights acknowledged a “disturbing wave of prejudice against people of Chinese and East Asian ethnicity.” She urged member states to combat discrimination triggered by the virus; we believe this starts with each of us.
We are all doing our best to deal with the uncertainty this situation brings. Don’t allow fear or panic to guide your actions, especially when it dictates how you treat fellow human beings. Instead, treat others the way you’d want to be treated.
For a few more resources, check out What We're Reading.