Should You Still Travel During the Coronavirus Outbreak? | Tips to Protect & Prepare


A few weeks ago, I did a video on traveling
during the coronavirus outbreak. At the time, the outbreak was mostly limited
to parts of Asia, so my advice tended to lean toward canceling trips to Asia, but still
traveling everywhere else. Two weeks later, things seem to have gotten
worse. Hey, how’s it going everyone. It’s Ernest from Trip Astute. In this video, I’m going to be revisiting
the coronavirus situation and discussing how you might alter your travels and prepare yourself
for what may be ahead. Again, I want to start this video by expressing
my solidarity with those infected and directly affected by the COVID-19 virus. I can only imagine how scary and frustrating
it must be, and I empathize with those living in areas experiencing an outbreak. The coronavirus situation seems to be constantly
evolving. At the time I am recording this video, there
are large outbreaks of the virus in Italy, Iran, South Korea, and Japan. The cases in China have slowed down, but we’re
now seeing the virus spreading to other parts of the world. Even in the US, we’re seeing more cases
of community transmission, which means that it’s likely in more places than we would
like to believe. While there is a legitimate fear of the coronavirus,
I also think it’s important to keep in mind that most people are able to fight off the
infection, and many are also minimally symptomatic. Those that are most at risk are older folks
and those with pre-existing conditions. I don’t mean to say that you shouldn’t
be worried about it. But I do think that it’s easy to get sucked
into the fear and grim projections. If anything, we need to be getting ready to
fight this outbreak and protecting ourselves, our family, and our community from what may
be ahead. In my previous video, I emphasized that every
person should understand their risk tolerance in order to determine whether they should
travel. That’s still the case. Whether you decide to travel during this time
is a very personal and subjective decision. Based on what we’ve seen in the past few
weeks, I personally have more reservations about traveling, particularly overseas. While the risk of contracting the virus during
air travel is still low, I’m primarily concerned about being stranded somewhere far from home
if outbreaks continue to grow. There are obviously a lot of factors to consider
when deciding to change or cancel your travel plans. For those of you with travel itineraries where
canceling a hotel stay or flight may result in a significant financial loss, I recommend
postponing your trip rather than canceling it. For example, many hotels will charge a fee
if you cancel your reservation after the official cancel date. However, you can often postpone your reservation
for little or no fee, and sometimes even cancel later since the reservation cancel date has
moved. The same goes for airfare. You can often change your flights for a fee,
but it’s better than just canceling your flight outright. And some airlines, like Southwest, won’t
charge you a fee. Other airlines, like American, Alaska, Delta,
JetBlue, and United Airlines, are starting to change their policies in reaction to passenger
concerns over travel. Also, if you do need to or want to travel,
then you may want to consider driving instead. I know that may not be possible for some,
but I think it’s a better way to go to reduce your exposure to large crowds, particularly
at the airport. It also allows you to still travel in the
event that air travel is limited due to control measures. For example, we were supposed to be on vacation
in Maui right now. However, since we are expecting a baby this
summer, we decided to postpone our trip. I was less concerned about contracting the
virus. My primary worry was being stuck in Hawaii
if there was a large outbreak or if air travel were to stop. In most places in the US, we could still rent
a car and get home. But being on an island means that we would
have to wait. Being stuck in Hawaii probably wouldn’t
be the worst thing, but since Fiona is pregnant, that changed our risk equation. If it was just the two of us, then I think
we would have taken the trip. Honestly, we were also concerned about the
financial impact that we would incur for canceling our trip. Luckily, postponing our trip didn’t cost
us much money. If we had canceled our hotel reservation,
we would have owed about two nights worth as a penalty. Instead, we rescheduled our trip to October
at no cost. We did cancel our flights, but since we used
points, we were refunded the point balances and charged about $25 per person for the change. That seemed more than reasonable since we
were so close to the departure date. I say all this not to freak people out. I honestly thought things would be trending
toward more control and containment, especially since that was the outcome for previous outbreaks
like SARS and MERS. But this time seems to be different. While we can all worry about things, I think
it’s just more productive for us to figure out ways to do our part to help stop the spread. We will all get through this difficult and
scary time. The best thing that we can do is get prepared. In addition to reevaluating your travel plans,
here are some steps that I recommend you take based on what we’ve learned from others
in the center of the outbreak. 1. Wash your hands often and properly: I have
to admit that I didn’t know until recently that there is a “proper” way to wash your
hands. I was one of those people who would wipe my
hands with soap for a few seconds then rinse. However, according to the CDC, you’re supposed
to use the following process: Wet your hands with clean, running water. It doesn’t have to be hot water either. Lather and scrub your hands with soap for
20 seconds. This was completely new to me. 20 seconds is a long time, especially if you’re
used to just wetting your hands for a few seconds. If you need a reference, humming the happy
birthday song twice should get you to about 20 seconds. You’ll want to scrub your hands and get
between your fingers and under your nails. Also, you don’t have to use anti-bacterial
soap. In fact, using regular soap might be safer
and more healthy, since it doesn’t kill the good bacteria on your body can help fight
off infections. Rinse your hands under clean running water. Avoid reusing standing water. Also, you don’t have to use a paper towel
or your elbow to turn off the faucet. Dry your hands with a clean towel or air dryer. And it probably goes without saying, but don’t
just wipe your hands on your clothes to get them dry. 2. Carry hand sanitizer: While using hand sanitizer
isn’t as effective as washing your hands, it’s definitely a step in the right direction. I recommend carrying some with you, especially
if you’re traveling. I carry some in my car since I work in healthcare
and often find myself at hospitals for meetings. Also, I find it useful for situations where
I might be handling something that gets a lot of exposure, like when I pump fuel at
a gas station. Using hand sanitizer can help reduce the potential
spread of the virus. 3. Avoid touching your face: I do this all the
time, and I’ve only recently caught myself in order to start changing the habit. This is particularly the case for those of
you traveling. You’ll want to avoid touching your eyes,
nose, and mouth since this is the primary way to become infected. 4. Wipe down surfaces: I mentioned this in my
other video. If you’re on a plane, I suggest wiping down
your seat, armrest, and tray table with sanitizing wipes. This also applies to staying at a hotel. You’ll want to do a quick wipe down of some
of the surfaces. I’ve also heard the recommendation to avoid
the top comforter since it’s usually not washed between every stay. In addition, people tend to put objects on
top of the bed like their suitcase, so it might be wise to pack some warmer pajamas
and removing the comforter. A few people also commented in the last video
with additional tips like wiping down things that we touch every day like our phones, computer
keyboards, and doorknobs. You also want to make sure that you’re using
wipes that are anti-bacterial rather than just moist. 5. Use contactless payments when possible: Payment
transactions are places where there are high amounts of touch and traffic. If you’re not already using mobile payments
or contactless cards, then I suggest setting it up. It’s an easy way to reduce touching and
spreading pathogens in your daily life. 6. Stock up on essential supplies: This doesn’t
just include non-perishable foods, water, and medicine. I also recommend thinking about other items
that you use every day, like soap, toothpaste, toilet paper, and pet supplies. This is a good practice regardless of the
virus, especially if you already live in a place that is prone to natural disasters. Based on what we’ve seen in places that
have already experienced major outbreaks, these types of supplies can quickly become
scarce, so it helps to get stocked now. Also, I recommend buying things that you will
consume to minimize waste. For example, we’ve stocked up on oats and
rice since we know that we consume these items regularly, and they tend to have a long shelf
life. 7. Consider taking local road trips: While I
don’t recommend traveling to crowded places, you might consider taking a road trip somewhere
secluded and enjoying nature. It might not replace your previously planned
trip to see the Great Wall, but it might help alleviate the frustrations of postponing your
big international trip. Again, we’re going to get through this period. Rather than worrying or being consumed by
fear, we need to all get prepared and do our part to minimize the spread while our scientists
determine the best way to deal with the virus. The faster we can contain this virus, the
sooner we can get back to traveling and experiencing new sights and cultures without worries. I truly believe that this is one of those
events that we will always remember, so let’s not dwell on how this virus is ruining our
lives and travels. Let’s focus on getting through this situation
as strongly as possible. I feel like I should queue the scene from
Braveheart, but you know what I mean. We’re all in this together. What are you doing to prepare? Do you have any other tips to share? Please let me know in the comment section
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