Coronavirus Travel Cancellation
We were supposed to have landed in Vietnam today.
Months and month of planning our two and a half week trip backpacking through Vietnam, canceled.
This is not the first time we had to cancel a trip before. We canceled a Disney trip in September 2017 due to Hurricane Irma and planned a very last minute trip to Portland, Maine where we had a fantastic time. But this was different. This was our 2020 adventure.
Coronavirus (COVID-19) has warped into a massive travel ban that is driving me bonkers. How do you compensate for all the lost time, money, and joy? Is this a dramatic approach? Some may think so. But traveling has become my passion, my happy place. This blog has turned into my favorite job, documenting every detail as a memento and helping others plan their dream trips. At a time in my life where everything is failing, travel was my sanity, my sanctuary. For me, this trip was far more than simply “we will do it next year” (which we will), but my breakdown after the most difficult months of pain, stress, and anxiety. I know many people do not understand as literally everyone I know urged me to cancel this trip amidst the hysteria, but I held on to Vietnam for dear life.
Ultimately, the decision was made for us when our flight was canceled.
Leading up to the trip in the beginning of 2020 as the virus was emerging in China, I bought several items to prep for travel and protect us from getting sick. COVID-19 spreads through contact, which is why face masks are not effective. If anything, you constantly touching your face to fix your face mask increased your contamination risks!
Hand washing is the ultimate weapon to protect yourself and backpacking moving from place to place does not always present with the facilities to perform this on demand, particularly before eating.
I purchased these Kleenex Germ Removal Wet Wipes. I chose this over traditional Purell because it is not just the chemical action of killing the bugs but the mechanical action of wiping the germs away that is critical. Plus, the wipes do not add to my carry on liquid limit. These are individually packed which means we do not need to lug a container with us everywhere and instead can shove a few of these into our pockets.
As the virus continued to spread forward in the Southeast Asia region, I had a feeling those wet wipes would not be enough. I recalled Clorox has a healthcare product line with stronger disinfecting agents for bigger, badder bugs so I made an additional purchase of Clorox Healthcare Hydrogen Peroxide Cleaner Disinfectant Wipes (amazon link coming once it is back in stock!). These wipes would be used for cleaning the plane seat, train, etc. They have the same benefit of the hand wipes – individually wrapped and no extra liquids.
With a few pairs of gloves and face masks, along with as many medications I could find for the inevitable traveler’s diarrhea, we were ready.
The weeks leading up to the trip were showing COVID-19 continuing to spread but Vietnam remained “safe” with their 16 patients “cured” and no new outbreaks. Every country requiring a layover to Vietnam from NYC was the problem – China, South Korea, Japan, Paris – every one was having issues. Vietnam put forward a robust restriction – if you fly through these COVID-19 spots, you were quarantined – great. Our friends from Boston turned San Diego Sunshine left mid February getting out right before the virus really started to blow up and threaded the needle just in time to get back before more restrictions were levied.
We waited as long as we could to make a decision for a few reasons. If we canceled the flight, we were have to pay a hefty cancellation fee with the airline. If the airline canceled the flight, we would get all out money back. For the money we already put down on Airbnbs and excursions, the cancellation penalty was the same if we canceled two weeks before or the day before we left so again, there was no incentive to cancel ahead of time. I use World Nomad’s traveler’s insurance and their website explicitly reported they will not cover “fear of travel” cancellations – only if you get coronavirus (dumb, but I get it).
There were many changing variables, including which countries Vietnam was quarantining on arrival. We were flying through South Korea which continued to have exponential growth in cases so the odds were growing that the decision would be made for us. Ultimately, the airline canceled the flight a week before our scheduled trip since South Korea flights were pretty much banned from going to Vietnam.
If there was a direct flight to Vietnam, this would not have been a question. I was not afraid of getting sick, I was afraid of getting stuck. Either stuck in Vietnam, stuck in Seoul’s airport, or stuck at home in self quarantine. Not to mention getting stuck in a hospital somewhere if we actually got sick. Work continues to increase travel restrictions for both Kevin and I – feel like a bird with clipped wings.
Because the flights were canceled by the airline, we were eligible to receive a full refund. The flights were definitely the most money spent out of pocket ahead of the trip so this was a big win. Most of the companies we were utilizing for excursions required deposits ahead of the trip – many have been flexible in refunding us the full amount and we are still waiting for hear back from others. The overnight train to Sapa could not offer a full refund but instead offered free change of travel dates even out a year to reschedule. The flights within the country have still not returned our messages, as well as the travel insurance, probably due to the overwhelming demand to talk to a representative. Most travel insurance is not covering these types of trip cancellations so I am trying to get a refund for the policy itself since I am not using it. Airbnb refunds were very easy and luckily the host’s policies were such that full refunds were issued upon cancellation. All in all, not bad for last minute cancellation of a large trip and could have been much bigger of a financial loss.
The hysteria is quite amazing. I hope this is a reality check to the world about the power of hand hygiene and vaccines. Simple concept of hand washing is so powerful! That all the diseases we have vaccines for were once rampant like COVID-19 – measles, mumps – hell we do not even need to vaccinate for small pox anymore cause it is eradicated! Isn’t that amazing? That we have figured out a way to literally eradicate a disease?! But it does not work if everyone doesn’t get the vaccine. The flu still kills thousands of people a year due to low vaccination rates. When an eventually COVID-19 vaccine is created, I do not want to hear the cries of anti-vaxxers. Do you part. Wash your hands. Get your shot.
As things get worse here in the US and Vietnam has increased precautions due to a surge of cases from British travelers, it was the right decision. Vietnam, we will see you next year.
I will be planning an alternative adventure for 2020, perhaps some where that no people exist to keep my odds of cancellation low. As I stare at the globe, where to go next?