UPDATED: MARCH 25, 2020
The threat of coronavirus (or Covid-19) quickly spread worldwide since its appearance in China in Dec 2019. The World Health Organization Coronavirus Disease 2019 page has reported as of today, March 25, 2020, that the virus is now in 197 countries. As the whole world joins together to flatten the curve and practice social distancing, travel is completely on hold for everyone. So many questions emerge in this scenario:
- Can I cancel and get a refund?
- If I am being forced to use my ticket by a certain date, is that date safe to travel?
- What regions are safe to visit in the short-term, like for the Easter break and/or Memorial Day weekend?
- Is it a good idea to postpone travel to some time further away if I can like winter break of this year?
- When will cruise lines be safe to board again?
- If I fall into a category that is high risk due to an underlying health condition or advanced age, should I stay home anyway even if I don't get my money back?
In this ever changing environment, this post has been retooled. It used to be a question of how to prepare for potential quarantine when traveling with kids and/or a food allergy. Right now, the question becomes how do I plan for rebooking travel with kids and allergies in the time of Covid-19?
So.....what, when and how do you rebook that vacation your family had planned before the worldwide lockdown began? And, if you are being forced into booking in a relatively quick timeframe (like my family), is it safe to travel in the next 1 to 3 months with kids and an underlying medical condition? And, if you do go on that family vacation, should you take the same kid and allergy precautions Kid Allergy Travel recommended before the whole world closed their cities and towns to stop the spread?
Here are some tips for how to prepare for the next time you travel with kids and allergies in the time of the Coronavirus pandemic.
Please note: I am not a medical professional and am not making any recommendations based upon medical knowledge or understanding of the covid-19 corona virus. This post is simply to share my personal preparation steps in order to help guide you to make your own decisions about traveling right now with kids especially if you are traveling with someone who must eat gluten free.
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How to Rebook or Cancel Travel
Country travel advisories are fluid right now and depending on where you live and where you are planning on going the costs associated with canceling or rebooking vary. The general rule of thumb is contact the company you purchased your trip from whether it was direct or a third party.
This post from Million Mile Secrets is continually updating advice regarding what to do if your travel plans are impacted by coronavirus.
If you are one of the millions who have cruise tickets in hand and are wondering what to do with them, check out Bankrate's guidance on cruise refunds and cancellations.
But, like everything out there, it isn't always clear cut. Some companies only allow cancellations and rebooking without a change penalty for travel through a certain period (like Dec 31, 2020 for ex) or from one year from the date of original purchase---whichever is sooner. Some airlines have even requested you don't call them so as not to tie up their lines for the guests traveling within the next 72 hours.
Those looking for a full refund instead of a travel credit might want to opt for the "wait it out strategy" to see if the airline actually cancels your flight. There is a good chance that anything scheduled before May 1 might actually make significant enough changes to warrant a full refund.
Is it Safe to Travel in the Near Term?
Well, with the July Olympics in Japan being officially canceled, I think we all know the answer to this one. Let's try and curb all travel in the short term everyone.
Yes, that might mean like in our case, you might lose hard earned cash on unused tickets. But...if we are all really trying to make an effort to flatten the curve, we should stay put for a while for the greater good.
Check out Fodor's Should you Change Travel Plans Due to the Coronavirus for more really great arguments about why you need to just cancel that family vacation for right now.
How about Travel in the Long Term?
We know that airline companies, tour operators and cruise lines are putting the pressure on and have given you a drop dead date for when you can rebook your ticket without penalty. Most of those dates right now seem to be sometime around winter 2020. But...the question still remains. Will it be safe to travel by then?
Honestly, it is sorta anyone's guess right now. Check out the interview by Time Magazine with one of The Who's top advisers Dr. Aylwayn for more on what he thinks about the future of this coronavirus.
If you fall into one of the high risk categories the answer for you, even in the long term, might be that you should just stay put.
Not sure where you fall? For information about whether or not you are at a higher risk of having a severe reaction to Covid-19, check the CDC Are You at Higher Risk page along with the Celiac Disease and Covid-19 Page for a breakdown of how an underlying medical condition could impact your risk factor for something like coronavirus. It might also be a good idea to contact the medical professional knowledgable about your particular health history to give you some clear guidance about whether or not it is a good idea to engage in nonessential travel in the coming months.
Have you already determined you fall into a high risk category? We recommend getting backup to state your case. For example, Kid Allergy has a rare auto-immune condition called EoE. We reached out to Kid Allergy's pediatrician to get written documentation from a medical professional proving that our particular family situation is impacted by a chronic medical condition that makes it less than ideal for our child to travel in the middle of a worldwide pandemic.
Is Coronavirus the New Normal?
It seems like research all points to yes on this one. Covid-19 doesn't look like it's going anywhere right now and will probably be yearly impacting our lives just like influenza.
So, when we actually do choose to take that next trip with kids and/or food allergies, how should you prepare for travel in the post #coronapocalypse world?
We recommend focusing on meticulous organization and instituting some important things that we learned right before the virus rocked the world.
Look to Local & World Health Organizations
Check the CDC website if you are an American (or your country equivalent) for updates on the country you are visiting and the current travel recommendation level. In the U.S. the CDC breaks travel warnings into 3 groups: Level 3 don't go unless necessary, Level 2 increased risk so please use caution, or Level 1 which isn't a recommendation to cancel travel but simply be on heightened alert when visiting there. Check this website DAILY to make informed decisions before attempting any travel.
Call you pediatrician. Discuss your doctor's professional medical recommendation for your family based upon their specific knowledge of your child's health history.
Purchase travel insurance to cover medical expenses.
*REMEMBER: currently all travel insurance exclude disruptions because of corona virus.
That means what? Quarantine because of corona isn't included in trip disruption coverage. Rebooking flights back and paying that $200 change fee after being released from quarantine doesn't fall under the trip delay portion of the policy either. Only the medical costs associated with having the actual corona virus while on the designated dates of vacation will be covered.
But, travel insurance is still valuable because you are, after all, traveling with kids. Travel insurance will help pay for that flight rebooking fee if you get the flu or chicken pox. It'll also cover trip disruptions due to breaking a bone for example. Go for the more expensive version like the Travel Select Policy from Travelex that includes cancel for any reason and $500K worth of medical evacuation & repatriation to make sure you are fully covered.
How much do you need to input as the total trip costs for your trip? Whatever you wouldn't get back if you canceled the day of departure. For example: museum tickets, private boat rental, hotel cost, plane tickets, etc.
Remember, if anything is unclear regarding the travel policy you are looking at booking and how it works, phone the travel insurance provider before purchasing.
Why did I mention Travelex? We used this company for our trip to Southeast Asia last summer and although we did not have to make any claims while traveling, we are happy enough with their service levels to book using that company again this time around. We also priced the policy around and found this company to be reasonable for the amount of coverage offered. Travel safe, travel smart, Travelex Insurance!
Make sure to bring plenty of hand sanitizer that is made up of 60% alcohol or higher. Buy travel sized hand sanitizer bottles if you are planning on traveling with a carry on sized bag only. Either the gel pump sanitizer or the flip top version of hand sanitizer should work fine.
Make sure you have some bleach wipes available to wipe down surfaces like these Clorox disinfecting wipes. It has been recommended to do a quick wipe down of surfaces on your mode of transportation like airplane, train, rental car, or bus seats. You also might want to invest in one of those reusable seat covers that many allergy members in our community use if they have severe skin contact allergic reactions. We have read good things about Seat Sitters and this 3 pack comes with a face mask, tray table cover and the seat cover. Either way, remember to gently remind the kids that they need to keep away from stashing anything in the seat pocket in front of them and the goal is to stay completely away from touching the foldable tray table if they are traveling on an airplane.
Allergen Free Soap, Lotion & Shampoo
Kid Allergy can't use just any products because of his wheat allergy and if we are stuck somewhere or our travel is disrupted we need to have allergen safe products for him on hand. Purchase full bottles of gluten free shampoo & soap products that are gluten free. It is also a good idea to bring along a Neutrogena facial bar that can double as something sensitive enough to wash our face but also act as additional soap if you happen to be in a bind. Also bring a gluten free hand lotion with a pump to make sure that you can moisturize to counteract the dry skin caused by constant hand sanitizing and hand washing.
If you are quarantined, you will most likely not have any housekeeping or laundry services available. Make sure to bring travel sized laundry detergent that can keep your sheets and clothing clean via sink washing and good old fashioned hanger drying.
If you are heading to a country that does not have reliable access to filtered water, make sure to take along a method for water sterilization. We already had two of these methods on-hand from our travels this summer to Southeast Asia. You can use either chemical tablets, bottle purifiers, and/or uv light steripens. Our three favorites that we have personally used successfully for travel: American Red Cross Steripen because it charges via a USB port and Katadyn BFree purification cartridge along with a Hydrapak Seeker Collapsible Water Storage Bag.
Read about the differences in types of filtration products here from REI to see which on is right for you.
High Protein Gluten Free Food
According to Epicurious.com, children between the ages of 4 and 13 are said to need between 20 to 30 grams of protein a day (depending on age, weight and gender). If you are preparing for travel nowadays with potential delays of multiple weeks, you must pack enough high protein gluten free food to last: 1) the entirety of your scheduled trip 2) an additional 14 days for quarantine 3) an additional week (at least) while waiting for arrangements to be made for your return home.
We used the following gluten free foods during travels for a little under a month in Asia this summer and recommend these items per our positive experience with taste and compact size for portability.
I individually packaged powder in ziplock baggies by week. We liked that you can have a healthy and filling meal by just having a 12 oz reusable water bottle along, some bottled or filtered water, and a reusable plastic spoon. These brands are ones that we have actually used and range in protein from 13-21g per serving.
Easy to pack and full of protein. You can find between 5-6g here per serving.
These take up very little space and provide enough protein to pack a punch. You can find between 4 and 21 grams of protein in the gluten free bars here.
Other ideas can be seen here during my first grocery haul:
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Preparing for travel with kids in the time of corona virus is tough. But....throw in a food allergy & your anxiety doubles! —— Pictured first spring break preparation haul @tomthumbtx in Fort Worth, Texas. —— Notice I don’t have any hand sanitizer? They ran out of stock! 😬 —— In times where resort guests are being quarantined (think Tenerife) and governments are adding additional segregation time for returning vacationers, the need to over prepare for travel nowadays with kids and a food allergy is important. #thestruggleisreal —— Read about how I am preparing for our next 7 night vacation here: http://kidallergytravel.com/how-to-prepare-for-travel-with-kids-with-corona-virus-spreading-worldwide/ ——- #travelinthetimeofcorona #glutenfreetravel #kidallergytravel #travelingwithkids #quarantineprep #travelingwithfoodallergies #glutenfreeblogger
I recently read Gay Courter's article in The Atlantic and she recommended bringing salt. When she was quarantined during her time on the Diamond Princess, they omitted all butter and salt to meals delivered three times a day. It wasn't something I originally thought about but I can see the value in wanting to make food a more tasty experience when you feel like you have very little control over your surroundings. I recommend saving those small packets of salt that come with food you are ordering right now from those local small businesses offering carryout and curbside service while you are doing your part to flatten the curve and social distance.