Perhaps you've noticed the number of travel deals that hotels and airlines are encouraging for travel in the late summer and early fall. If you had to postpone any of your business travel plans recently, these deals can be tempting to book. But as the coronavirus pandemic continues to spread, knowing whether or not to book these deals can be a tough decision to make.
Because there are more cancelation waivers and exceptions being made during this time, it's alluring to book that end of summer travel deal but then cancel if things haven't improved by then. However, as we wait for business travel to be safe, there are several factors to keep in mind. To help you decide whether or not booking business travel is a good idea, consider the following.
Where you are hoping to travel?
If you are looking to travel internationally, you will need to consider the country you'd be flying to. What are their restrictions now? You may also want to check what systems they have in place to check for Covid-19. You may be required to present medical and travel history and undergo temperature checks.
Because the United States now has over a million confirmed Covid-19 cases, consider that there may be a travel ban to leave and/or enter other countries. Additionally, consider the likelihood that the country will be able to handle travelers. For instance, if a second wave hits, hotel rooms may be needed for medical personnel.
Consider that you may still have to shelter-in-place for 14 days after arrival. You'll need to plan ahead as having a short business trip may not be possible. Additionally, consider the cost of getting back to your home country should there be an unexpected travel ban. If you were to get sick, do you travel insurance that covers health expenses abroad?
If you are traveling domestically, you should still take into consideration the different effects your travel might have. As each state and even county has different measures in place, you may have to adjust your plans accordingly. Depending on the destination, you may still be required to self-quarantine for 14 days.
If you plan on driving, know that there might be limitations. While you are free to travel throughout the country, some states and counties have border checks from law enforcement that will ask you to shelter-in-place. You may have to fill out a form with an address of where you'll be staying so an official can follow-up on your whereabouts. Not complying with orders can result in fines and even jail time.
In some places, there have been police checkpoints blocking nonresidents from entering, mainly because there are limited medical resources in the community. Even if you can travel, consider if restaurants and other places you might need will be open.
Regardless of where you travel, you should still shelter-in-place for 14 days after you return to your home. Be sure that you will be able to work in isolation during these 14 day periods.
What precautions should I take?
If you do decide to book travel, carefully check to see what the cancelation policies are for the airline, hotel, rental car, and any other travel mediums that you will need. If the cancelation policies are flexible and you know you'll have the flexibility, you may want to book and reevaluate as the travel dates get closer. Policies do vary and may not be as good as they seem, so you'll need to check the fine print.
Take into consideration the possibility of an airline or hotel going belly up. Budget airlines may be offering fantastic deals but they may not make it, depending on when it is safe to travel again. Therefore, I always recommend purchasing your travel on a miles credit card because it comes with protections.
However, an airline or hotel going bankrupt may not be covered. Because things are so uncertain, I recommend buying travel insurance with coverage in the event of an airline going bust (it's sometimes called Scheduled Airline Failure Insurance). Note that this insurance can be costly but in uncertain times, it can be worth it. It's best to weigh your options.
All that said, the information regarding the coronavirus pandemic is constantly being updated. It's nearly impossible to know what the next few months will look like, including economically. To be safe, have a backup plan in mind, check cancelation policies, and buy travel insurance while you monitor the situation. The travel industry is hurting right now, so if there are options to postpone rather than cancel, you can help keep them going.