5 Essential Things to Do When Booking Travel During the Coronavirus Outbreak

I think we can all agree—it’s a weird time. On the one hand, there’s an apocalyptic eeriness, with bars and restaurants shuttered, stores running low on supplies, and empty streets. On the other hand, it can feel normal, with work and life continuing on at its typical speed. With things changing every day, it’s hard to know how to plan for the future. Should you plan to attend that wedding in the fall? What about visiting your family for Christmas? What happens to that holiday you planned for early summer? If you need to secure plans for the coming months, here are some tips for booking travel during the coronavirus outbreak.

5 Essential Things to Do When Booking Travel During the Coronavirus Outbreak

Book directly through the airline

Don’t book with a budget provider or travel service—in the event of a flight cancellation or regional quarantine, you’ll want the official airline terms, assistance, and customer service. If you can, even try to book by telephone. It seems quite old-fashioned, but airlines sometime prefer this option the most. It also lets you speak with a real person, to better gauge the situation and ask any questions that occur.

Read up on your airline’s terms in advance

Different airlines have different terms in case of the “worst case.” Many airlines are waiving fees, offering vouchers, and treating booking travel during the coronavirus outbreak differently than they typically would. That said, not all are doing this—so it might be worth paying a bit extra for the service and security, rather than risk it. As a recommendation, refer here for real-time updates on all airlines as you consider your future travel plans.

Look for flexible accommodation booking options

If your travel has been cancelled or rerouted, the last thing you want is to be stuck with an accommodation booking you can’t cancel. Bookings.com and Hotels.com offer cancellations (typically up to 24 hours before). Airbnb has also updated its terms. Again, it’s probably worth the uptick in price to book something you can later cancel, rather than go with the budget option. 

This is not the time to go budget. It’s worth the uptick in price to book something you can later cancel, rather than go with the cheapest option. 

Consider travel insurance

But read your terms carefully! Not all insurances will cover cancellations.

Manage expectations

Yes, we want to go on our trips. Whether it’s a special celebration, a well-deserved holiday, a chance to meet up with family or friends who live far away, or because travel is simply something we love to do. But right now, the health crisis is bigger than all of us, and just because we might personally be in low-risk subsets, doesn’t necessarily mean we should move forward with the trips we want to take. I suggest booking any future travel with low expectations, and conditioning yourself (and your travel companions) for disappointment should it arrive. The best thing we can do now is hunker down and wait it out—both for our safety, and for everyone else’s. 

Hope for the best, but prepare for the worst.

To be honest, booking travel during the coronavirus outbreak is risky. Everything is changing on a day-to-day basis, and we cannot predict how the coming months will look. When I look at the coming months—when I have weddings, birthday celebrations, visits home to California, and trips I’ve been looking forward to for months, if not years—I keep one thing in mind. My mom loves to say, “Hope for the best and prepare for the worst”. That’s all we can do right now.