For most people right now, even for the jet set celebrity crowd, the answer is a resounding Do not. People around the world are encouraged to stay home as much as possible, public schools are closed, nonessential companies have been ordered to close their doors, and if by chance your favorite restaurant is still open, delivery and takeaways are your only options.
Although everyday life has been reversed everywhere, you can feel especially upset if just a couple of weeks ago you had some kind of travel plan involving flights, hotels, theme parks, sporting events, museums, other countries … well, almost anything, unless you plan to head alone into the forest. In which case, you're probably already there.
No one needs extra stress right now, including the guy who comes hand in hand with postponing, canceling, or rescheduling a trip. Or, maybe so risky, maybe you to have go somewhere, and you really wish you hadn't.
If any of that includes you, and you're not sure what to do next, or what your first step should be, we've got some tips, courtesy of Condé Nast Traveler Contributing Editor Mark Ellwood and Travel Expert Brian Kelly, Founder and CEO of The Points Guy:
(These interviews have been edited for their content and clarity).
Mike Pont / Getty Images for The Points Guy
ME! News What recommendations do you have for travelers who have been affected by the coronavirus to save their plans if they need to reschedule or completely re-plan their trip?
Brian Kelly: Don't panic. The good news is that most major national airlines and hotels have implemented incredibly broad travel exemptions, so you most likely don't have to worry about losing money if you cancel or change plans.
Be patient. Please check with your airline or hotel directly, and if your destination or itinerary is not covered by an exemption at this time, please be patient as the situation is changing very rapidly.
ME! News: What are the best tips when approaching a hotel and airline to reschedule or cancel plans?
Kelly: If the trip is imminent, try to contact the airline or the hotel before scheduling the trip. It is much easier for an airline or hotel to issue a refund for a trip that has not yet been completed. That being said, if you still have time before your trip, please wait to contact a customer service representative to avoid waiting on hold longer than necessary.
If you're having trouble communicating with a customer service agent over the phone, try communicating through social media. Most brands respond very well to customers through methods like Twitter.
ME! News: Is it more advantageous to cancel the trip and try to recover lost costs or reschedule your trip for a future date?
Kelly: Since no one knows where this situation will end, we recommend recovering lost costs rather than trying to reschedule it. Companies are offering extensive cancellation policies at this time, but they may end at some point.
If you decide to reschedule, consider purchasing a Supplemental Cancellation Travel Insurance Policy (CFAR). Although most basic plans come with eligibility restrictions for trip cancellation coverage, there are more expensive CFAR plans that offer much more flexibility.
ME! News: Is now a good time to book a trip for the future? If so, how far in the future should travelers look to book?
Kelly: We do not recommend booking future trips at this time given the uncertainty of the situation. If you see a deal you can't reject, book with the understanding that you can run out of that money when the time comes. Or consider buying travel insurance. Generally, you will get 75 percent of your trip (expenses) and you can cancel it for any reason within a set period of time. I only know that these can be expensive policies.
ME! News: Is there any guidance currently on when people might want to start planning their trip again?
Mark Ellwood: We are not trying to tell people to "get back on the horse,quot; because the government has said that they should withdraw their travel plans at this time … What you will find is that most hotels, cruise lines and airlines are being very lenient with your penalties. They are being very flexible. They are working with people.
So I would say to people, contact your supplier or the airline (etc.) and I would say "When can I re-book this, what are you advising me on?" and let them roll with it. You will find that they want to keep you as a customer. They recognize this is a very, very difficult time, and I think they realize that if they behave well towards you, they will remember it when they can travel more easily.
ME! News: Do you find in your experience, in general, travel agencies, hotels are being accommodated on cancellations and refunds?
Ellwood: Yes, they are being very accommodating. I could tell you where they are standing right now and tomorrow everything could change. For now, everything, especially cruise lines, are being super flexible. They are allowing people to rebook, because it is a huge challenge for the industry. But in general, all policies are being broken.
ME! News: Where are you in exchange for reservations versus refunds?
Ellwood: Rebook if you want to support the travel industry right now which is great. When we are on vacation, we forget that many other people work on (our trips), because vacations are really fun. You want to keep them in business. You can buy those coupons and say, "I'm going to help your cash flow right now."
ME! News: If you have to travel now, whether for family reasons, there is something pressing in your professional life, what are your best tips?
Ellwood: Again, you must follow the instructions, we are advised not to travel in a non-essential way. I think there are many (people who see) Naomi Campbell in the hazardous materials suit. (Campbell chose to wear a full suit and mask on a flight recently.) That is not what we are telling people to do. It's about keeping your hands clean. My travels, for example, I just got back from Europe, and I had a little bottle of hand sanitizer that I kept in my pocket that I wouldn't normally have, and periodically on the plane I washed my hands and then washed my hands again.
Everything else, if you have to travel, is about approaching it the way we approach everyday life right now, which is really clean.
ME! News: Do you see that the travel industry is recovering from this eventually?
Ellwood: Look, we all love to travel. It is a very important part of our economy. You have to recover. So the travel industry will recover, because it has to. Again, we have to be aware, we also have to contribute (to efforts to stop the spread of the coronavirus), and when it is wise to travel again, we have to be brave enough to say, "Hello, me." I'm going to take that trip. "
When it's okay to get back to normal, take that trip or vacation to your favorite place.
For the latest updates on the coronavirus pandemic and tips on how to prevent the spread of COVID-19, visit the Center for Disease Control and Prevention at https://www.cdc.gov.