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Should You Cancel your Upcoming Travel Plans?

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Common-sense resources, tips and advice to stay healthy if you have to travel
With the increasing concern over the spread of the Coronavirus (COVID-19), I'm frequently asked by my readers if they should cancel their upcoming travel plans. The full impact of the panic, hype and fear I've been hearing about became all too evident to me when I went to Costco and the grocery store this week. All the basics were gone from the shelves from toilet paper to laundry detergent! The canned soup aisle was cleaned out as well. Yikes! 
Yes, it's scary times, especially if you've made travel plans. So, let's drill down to the facts and keep the panic and fear out of this:
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The virus and pandemic: what it is -  Coronavirus is a respiratory condition that spreads from person to person. This is a new strain of the virus. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), a pandemic is a global outbreak of the disease. Pandemics occur when a new virus emerges to infect people and can spread from person to person. So for example, if you're in a crowded area and someone who is infected coughs or sneezes, you're at risk. Because there is little to no preexisting immunity against this new virus, it spreads worldwide. Symptoms can range from mild to severe. Most people will experience mild symptoms. The most susceptible populations are people over the age of 60 and those who have underlying health issues with compromised immune systems. Young children do not seem to be adversely affected but could still be carriers.
The importance of cleanliness - I guess it takes a pandemic to cause better cleanliness and overall personal hygiene. This is just common sense to me but it still bears repeating:
  • Wash your hands frequently. 
  • Maintain social distancing - stay at least 3 feet away between yourself and someone who is coughing or sneezing.
  • Avoid touching your face.
  • Cover your mouth and nose when you cough or sneeze. Use the bend of your elbow or a tissue. Dispose of the tissue immediately after.
Traveling - If your plans include air travel, consider postponing your plans until the end of April, or even longer. It's possible the threat of the virus may well extend into late spring and summer. Being on an airplane in close quarters to your seatmate increases your risk for Coronavirus or any other airborne illness such as the common cold or flu.
Many countries are on lock-down, so if you must travel out of the country,be aware that you may have difficulty returning to your homeland and may be subjected to a 14-day quarantine. If you do have to travel, the CDC has the most current Travel Health Notices searchable by country. As of this writing, U.S. domestic flights remain unrestricted but you'll want to check with your airline first before heading to the airport.
If you do travel, here are a few tips to help keep you healthy:
Air travel:
  • Wipe down all surfaces with disinfectant wipes. For airplanes, this includes the tray table, seat armrests, seat belt and buckle, windows, and headrest. 
  • Direct the air vent downwards toward your chest.
  • Do not use the seat back pocket. 
  • Don't touch the in-flight magazines.
  • Choose a window seat as you will have less contact with the traffic going up and down the aisles.
  • Don't use the lavatories if at all possible.
Although airlines have stepped up their cleaning processes recently, you should still disinfect as much of your seating area as possible.
Rental cars:
Many rental car agencies are increasing their disinfectant and cleaning processes as a result of the pandemic, but that doesn't mean you should skip your own disinfecting:
  • Wipe down the steering wheel, the ignition, the key fob, the shift knob and the seat belt buckles.
  • Wipe down the door panels and the dashboard (how many times have you seen people in a car with their bare feet resting on the passenger side of the dashboard?)
  • Wipe down the inside and outside door handles.
  • At the rental counter, avoid leaning against the counter. Use your own stylus or pen to sign your rental agreement if possible.

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Ground or public transportation:

The closer in distance you get to other people, the greater your chances of getting sick. So, if you can, avoid crowded public transportation such as buses, trains and subways. If you can't, hold hanging straps, handrails and grab rails with a tissue or disinfectant wipe and make sure to dispose of the tissue/wipe immediately after disembarking.

Taxis, Uber, Lyft and private limousine company drivers are just as concerned about getting the virus as their passengers. Most of these companies are monitoring their employees for illness and most are increasing their vehicle disinfecting but that may not be enough. Take your own precautions when using a driving service. Don't touch surfaces with your bare hands and never touch your face. Use hand sanitizer when entering and exiting the vehicle.

Hotels:

Use disinfectant wipes on all surfaces that you will touch in your hotel room. This includes door handles, sink faucets, counters, night stands, toilets, lights, refrigerators and microwaves, chairs, desks and remote controls. Wear socks or slippers on carpets and floors.

Travel Insurance - Although I always recommend that you purchase travel insurance for expensive trips and vacations, you may be surprised to find out that your insurance may not insure your trip for Coronavirus. That's because travel insurance is meant for a potential but not imminent situation. Make sure to check your policy coverage.

Air travel cancellations and changes - Most airlines are allowing flight cancellations and changes, but this is subject to change. You should check with your airline for their specific policies. If you need to change your travel plans, try to do it online as opposed to calling. I've been seeing reports where the phone systems are overloaded and wait times for customer service are running into several hours on hold.
Resources:
Here are links to various government agencies with up-to-date information on COVID-19
Wrapping it up
Nothing I have written here is new. It's just common sense advice. Do your best to keep yourself healthy, don't panic, and be nice to people. And don't forget to relax a bit with a glass of your favorite wine! Safe travels!

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