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Coronavirus and Travel: Everything You Need to Know

We may be staying home during the coronavirus travel restrictions, but our urge to connect to the world is stronger than ever. That’s why we’ve spent the past month sharing dispatches from our contributors across the globe.

In these uncertain times, there are also many questions that travelers desperately need answers to. We’re dedicated to reporting the most up-to-date advice, whether that’s about flight cancellations, international travel restrictions, or what to do about that fall trip you have on the books.

To keep up with the biggest news in the travel world, subscribe to our Daily Traveler newsletter, which comes with a weekly coronavirus round-up. And follow us at @cntraveler on Instagram, where we’re hosting live conversations with our favorite travelers and sharing how our editors travel while staying at home. Keep an eye on the #StillATraveler tag as well—we’ll be rounding up our favorite photos and sharing them on our feed. And finally, bookmark this page—we’ll be updating it regularly to reflect the latest news.

All the travel intel you need

When we’ll travel again

It’s the million-dollar question. And there’s no answer yet, given how rapidly the disease is still spreading. But experts have a sense of what needs to happen before air travel can return—and what changes might be permanent. We also got advice around what to consider if you have a booked summer vacation or fall trip and need to know what to do next. No matter your situation, having the right insurance will make all the difference, for future trips and those you’ve already booked, if and when you do need to cancel.

How coronavirus affects your travel plans

Borders are closed, flights schedules have been slashed, and as we stay home for the indefinite future, many of us are postponing the trips we’d been looking forward to this year. Here’s the latest on the state of the industry, and the changes directly impacting you as a traveler.

Airline cancellation policies

Around the world, airlines have updated their cancellation policies—and completely turned off certain flight routes—in this unprecedented era of coronavirus travel restrictions. Luckily, many are making equally unprecedented accommodations for travelers. Delta Air Lines, for example, has extended rebooking for flights cancelled during the coronavirus epidemic for two years out, giving travelers generous wiggle room. However, as airlines hand out flight vouchers left and right, it’s important to note that they’re often legally obligated to give you a cash refund (you just have to know exactly how to ask for one).

Cruise cancellation policies

Historically, cruise company–initiated cancellations have been a rare thing—but in the COVID-19 era, many cruise lines have relaxed cancellation and rebooking policies to the benefit of travelers. All cruising is on hold until July at the earliest, per a mandate from the Centers for Disease Prevention and Control (CDC), but cruise companies are continuing to help customers with trips booked in and outside of the window.

Hotel and home rental cancellation policies

The cancellation policies of airlines and cruises have largely synced up across each industry, but those surrounding hotels and rentals vary widely depending on the brand and property. You’ll also find different restrictions depending on whether you booked directly with a property, or via a third party. Major brands like Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts are waiving cancellation fees, and many are allowing last-minute reservation changes without the usual penalties. Though Airbnb cancellation policies are typically determined by individual hosts, the brand has released an extenuating circumstance policy to protect travelers right now.

Milan during Italy’s nationwide lockdown


Travel documents and programs

Currently, the U.S. is only issuing new passports in emergency cases, and Global Entry enrollments have been suspended for the time being. On the plus side, the deadline to apply for Real ID, a new federally approved identification all Americans will soon need for domestic travel, has been extended.

Other need-to-knows

Frequent travelers should be aware that many loyalty programs are undergoing changes at the moment. But there’s good news: Some airline loyalty programs, such as those from Delta and United, have extended elite status for existing members for 12 months. Hotel brands like Hilton are making similar extensions. Credits cards like Chase Sapphire Reserve are also throwing customers a bone: In Chase’s case, that means giving certain cardholders $100 back on their annual fee.

How coronavirus is impacting the travel industry

The impact of this pandemic has been felt in every corner of the travel industry. And yet, despite the strain placed on the hotels, airlines, cruise ships, and destinations that are no longer receiving visitors, these players have also been quick to react and adapt accordingly. In many cases, the industry has stepped up to help as well.

Destinations are closed and major events are canceled

As entire countries and cities have closed down, so too have historic landmarks around the world—from the Eiffel Tower in Paris to Disney parks throughout the world. The Tokyo 2020 Summer Olympics have been postponed to 2021, with a new opening ceremony date already announced.

Across the U.S., the busiest streets are now largely empty.


Airlines and airports are seeking relief while helping with the outbreak

A record number of planes have been grounded over the past few months, with more than 70 airlines grounding their fleets completely. Luckily, the U.S. government is offering airlines $50 billion in bailout money—though there are a lot of strings attached. Airports are also asking the U.S. government for aid, given that they are projected to lose at least $8.7 billion in revenue this year as a result of coronavirus travel restrictions and dropping passenger numbers. Despite it all, there are still some planes in the air—many of which are transporting essential workers and supplies—which has forced airlines to implement new sanitation measures to protect passengers. Some flight attendants, many of whom are out of a job, are pivoting to help as medical volunteers, in response to a request made by the U.K. government. And Emirates is pioneering a rapid coronavirus blood test, which it’s giving to passengers before they board.

Hotels and home rentals are housing first responders

Though many hotels and rentals have been left eerily vacant without their usual flow of travelers, a new wave of guests have replaced them. A handful of major hotel brands, including Hilton and Marriott, are turning rooms over to healthcare workers and those needing to isolate from their families. For luxury hotels like the Four Seasons Hotel New York and Claridge’s in London, this has completely changed how their operations. Airbnb is also doing its part by offering free or subsidized housing to 100,000 individuals on the front lines through the brand’s Open Homes initiative.

Cruising is suspended

The cruise industry has completely suspended operations until July at the earliest, leaving many travelers to wait even longer for the highly anticipated launches originally set for this year. But that doesn’t mean these ships are sitting vacant. Carnival Corporation has offered up 15 vessels to act as floating hospitals and temporary housing. Other ships, including those from Princess and Celebrity, are anchoring off the coast of the Bahamas, where the crew living onboard can access essentials.

Staying home is an adjustment for all of us, and a challenging one at that. For expats, home is suddenly out of reach. Couples in long-distance relationships don’t know when they’ll see each other next. Weddings, at home and abroad, have been called off. But if there’s one thing travelers are good at, it’s adapting—and we’ve all found ways to do so, whether that means saving that honeymoon for a later day, pivoting special moments to virtual ones, or even making a destination out of your balcony. We’ve found ways to create goodness, too, for ourselves, and those communities around us—be that apartment-wide bingo games, or meals for those in need.

Ways to travel while you’re at home

If we’re going to be quarantined at home, at least it’s happening at a time when everything is online—and we mean everything. Whether you’re looking to virtually tour the Louvre from your sofa, order that wine you loved on your last trip to Rome, or binge watch the last decade’s best travel films, the entire world is at your fingertips (at least virtually). And, if you want something a little more active, there’s plenty for you, too, from travel-inspired puzzles to free online cooking classes from the world’s very best chefs.

What travelers can do to help

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