As the coronavirus continues to make headlines, many Americans are wondering what to do about their travel plans. Although the decision to travel is a personal one, AAA is providing information on travel safety and insurance to help travelers make informed decisions.
“This remains a very fluid situation, with things changing every day,” said Mark Peterson, spokesman, AAA – The Auto Club Group. “Travel providers are adjusting everything from policies to pricing, many of which could benefit travelers. That’s why it’s important to stay in contact with a trusted travel advisor, to see what your options are before rushing to make any potentially costly changes on your own.”
Updated March 14, 2020
- Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) announced that as of today (March 14) all ocean-going cruise lines are voluntarily and temporarily suspending cruise ship operations from U.S. ports of call for 30 days. Cruise lines are working to safely return passengers currently at sea onboard ships affected by this decision. Travelers with cruise itineraries impacted by this decision should contact their travel agent or cruise line.
- President Trump today expanded the earlier-announced restrictions on foreign nationals traveling from Europe to the U.S. to include people flying from the United Kingdom and Ireland.
Updated March 12, 2020
AAA Roadside Assistance Policy – Out of an abundance of caution, AAA is taking preventative healthcare measures to limit the spread of COVID-19. AAA service providers may be limiting contact with members during service calls. In addition, if you are sick or have been in contact with someone with COVID-19, please notify AAA at the time of placing your service request.
Domestic Travel – There are currently no official travel restrictions within the U.S., but officials recommend that travelers, particularly older adults and those with underlying health issues, avoid situations that put them at increased risk for more severe disease.
The Department of State issued a global health advisory March 11, recommending U.S. citizens reconsider travel abroad due to the global impact of COVID-19. Many areas throughout the world are now experiencing COVID-19 outbreaks and taking action that may limit traveler mobility, including quarantines and border restrictions. Even countries, jurisdictions, or areas where cases have not been reported may restrict travel without notice.
The World Health Organization (WHO) has officially declared COVID-19 a pandemic, as the total number of global cases surpassed 118,000 in 114 countries, and 4,291 people have lost their lives. WHO notes that describing the situation as a pandemic does not change its overall assessment of the threat posed by this virus.
President Trump announced the suspension of entry of most foreign nationals who have been in certain European countries* in the 14 days prior to their scheduled arrival to the United States. The order excludes travelers arriving from the United Kingdom. U.S. Citizens and legal permanent residents will be permitted to return from the Schengen* area. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) will be issuing instructions requiring U.S. passengers that have been in the Schengen area to travel through select airports where the U.S. Government has implemented enhanced screening procedures. See the DHS website for further details.
*Affected countries include: Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, and Switzerland.
In response to government announcements, travel providers have been reassessing policies and operations. Changes continue to be announced and include additional adjustments to airline change fees, and temporary suspension of certain cruise and tour itineraries. For the latest information, check with specific travel providers’ websites.
Updated March 9, 2020
Travel – Is it still safe?
AAA encourages travelers to make informed decisions about their travel plans.
- Stay alert when traveling and heed all official advisories.
- If you are feeling sick, do not travel. Even if you are not sick, talk to your health care provider about their medical recommendations, especially as it relates to your age and personal health.
- Consult a trusted travel advisor to understand and work through your travel options.
- Utilize U.S. Government resources, including the Centers for Disease Control, U.S. State Department, and Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP), to help develop plans and to stay informed while traveling.
Currently, the State Department recommends Americans avoid all nonessential travel to China, Iran, South Korea and Italy. It also recommends that citizens, particularly those with underlying health conditions, not travel by cruise ship. This advisory is not a restriction, but important information to consider in making travel decisions.
“The personal decision to travel is made more challenging by the evolving situation surrounding COVID-19,” said Debbie Haas, Vice President of Travel for AAA-The Auto Club Group. “AAA travel advisors stand ready to assist travelers in navigating the many options that are evolving daily. Also, by letting our advisors know of your interests, our team can watch for extraordinary values that match your future travel desires and be by your side as you plan your vacations.”
Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) has announced the adoption of new screening policies for its member cruise lines, including denying boarding to anyone who has traveled in South Korea, Iran, China, and parts of Italy within 14 days prior to embarkation. Additionally, cruise lines are conducting enhanced illness screenings for many passengers prior to departure and are using enhanced sanitation practices.
Packing Tips for Peace of Mind
- Travel with all necessary travel documentation, including health insurance cards.
- Pack an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol and disinfecting wipes.
- Pack any extra supplies you may need, including additional doses of medication, in the event your return trip is delayed.
- Know the nearest location of and contact information for the U.S. embassy or consulate. Also, enroll in the State Department’s Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP), so you can be reached if the situation changes while abroad. The STEP program also provides alerts relevant to the areas that you identify as part of your travels.
- U.S. citizens who have been in China in the preceding 14 days who attempt to return to the United States will be redirected to one of 11 designated U.S. airports and undergo enhanced health screenings by CDC staff for fever, cough and shortness of breath.
Travel Insurance – Does it cover the coronavirus?
“Unfortunately, there is no ‘one size fits all’ for this subject,” Peterson continued. “Coverage options can vary based on the type of policy you purchased, when you bought it, and your trip’s departure date and destination. However, there are some travel insurance providers that are expanding their policies to include aspects of coverage for claims related to the coronavirus, such as for emergency medical care or transportation, should a person become ill with COVID-19 while traveling . Contact your travel advisor or insurance provider directly to review your policy and understand what is covered.”
Travel insurance generally excludes epidemics. If you have a trip already booked, check with your travel providers (cruise line, airline, hotel, etc.) to see what waivers they have put in place. If you are planning a trip, connect with a travel agent to understand options. Depending on your situation, there could be some travel insurance options for your needs.
No matter where you travel, make sure you are taking everyday preventive measures to help stop the spread of respiratory diseases.
- Wash your hands frequently with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water are not readily available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol.
- 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.
About AAA - The Auto Club Group
The Auto Club Group (ACG) is the second largest AAA club in North America. ACG and its affiliates provide membership, insurance, banking, financial services, and travel offerings to over 13.5 million members across 13 U.S. states, the province of Quebec and two U.S. territories including Florida, Georgia, Iowa, Michigan, Nebraska, North Carolina, North Dakota, Tennessee, Wisconsin, Puerto Rico, South Carolina and the U.S. Virgin Islands; most of Illinois and Minnesota; and a portion of Indiana. ACG belongs to the national AAA federation with more than 60 million members in the United States and Canada whose mission includes protecting and advancing freedom of mobility and improving traffic safety. Motorists can map a route, identify gas prices, find discounts, book a hotel, and access AAA roadside assistance with the AAA Mobile app for iPhone, iPad and Android. Learn more at AAA.com/mobile. Visit AAA on the Internet at AAA.com.