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I try to be thankful every time a trip goes off without a hitch, because when dealing with family travel there are just so many things that can go wrong. That said, things still usually go right…usually. School ends for us this week and that means it is time for our first family trip of the summer. With the kid totally unscheduled during the day, we might as well pack up and head out of here a few times over the next few months as opposed to bouncing off the walls at home. As luck would have it this time, we all got sick starting about a week ago. At the time I didn’t think much of it as our trip was still more than a week off, and this cold/flu/respiratory crud usually is much better within 3-5 days. Well, a week later we aren’t better, and I’m convinced this crud came straight from some bio-weapons lab. To put it another way, our trip is in real jeopardy.
So, since my mind is on what to do when you are sick right before a trip, here are my thoughts and advice on the subject.
- Go to a doctor. I’m not at all someone who runs themselves or their kid to the doctor at the first sign of every sniffle, or mild fever, or even moderate illness. However, the scales tip to heading to the doctor when a trip is involved, as there can sometimes be things that can be done to lessen the severity and/or reduce the duration of some mild to moderate illnesses. While I might not normally head to the doctor for a mild to moderate respiratory/head cold mess, I absolutely will if getting better quickly matters. There may be nothing they can do outside of what you could do for yourself, but it’s worth finding out. It’s also worth documenting you were sick and potentially advised not to travel if it comes to that. That may help you later.
- Check cancellation policies. Even if you haven’t given up hope on your journey, check the cancellation policies of your hotels, car rentals, airfare, and activities. Most often your airfare will be the least inflexible, but that all depends on what type of fare you bought, whether you are on miles, have elite status, etc. In my case 2/4 hotel nights are refundable until the day of check-in. The other two are at a small non-chain property are already well passed their official cancellation date (though always call and see if you can negotiate something). Our airfare is on dollars, so no easy mileage redeposit, but it is with an airline we have elite status with and can do a free “same day change” to delay the trip a day or so if that might make a difference in going. Be aware of all your options and what penalties or lost points/dollars will be involved in not going so you can make an informed decision.
- Look at your trip insurance coverage, if any (and don’t forget credit cards!). I don’t buy extra trip insurance for the majority of my trips, but if you have some then it pays to look at it and see if your issue may be a covered loss if you can’t travel. Don’t forget to look at the coverage provided by the credit card you might have used to book the trip as there can be some coverage found there as well. For example, if you paid with a Chase card that is issued as a Visa Signature then the online benefits guide discusses Trip Cancellation Insurance and reimburses you or your immediate family up to $5,000 for each covered trip if a covered loss prevents you or your immediate family from traveling on or before the departure date and results in cancellation of the travel arrangements if you paid using that card. It goes on to say that a covered loss includes “Accidental bodily injury, Loss of Life, or Sickness experienced by you, a traveling companion, or an immediate family member of you or a travel companion.” I’m sure there will be hoops to jump through and some things may not be covered, but if a doctor is saying you shouldn’t travel, I would imagine you have a good shot at it being covered. Rapid Travel Chai has a good listing of some different benefits guides from Chase. Of course, I stupidly used an Amex card for 3x on airfare which doesn’t come with any coverage for trip cancellation. Lesson learned, no more being points greedy – 2x on the Chase Sapphire Preferred will do just fine until Amex can come up with some better trip coverage benefits. Some of my other portions of the trip are on a Chase card, so I’ll be testing out that coverage if it comes to it.
- Think about what it would be like to go vs. not go. In my case this sinus issue is so bad that not going would be a very easy call if the flight were today. Not only is it miserable, so having fun would be very, very hard, but flying with bad sinus issues is just a very bad idea. I’ve done it before with a more moderate issue and had ear problems for quite a while as a souvenir. There is no way I would voluntarily do that again. A mild runny nose would be fine for me with some OTCs and ear pressure techniques, but full blown problems like we have now would not be fine. If going will make your condition worse and/or make enjoying the trip impossible then it is important to factor that highly into the equation. Of course whether or not you are contagious should factor very, very highly as well…as in, don’t go.
- Try to get (some) of your money back. Even non-refundable airfare can sometimes be salvaged via a credit to use on a future flight with a small penalty if you have a documented and covered illness. Heck, I’ve even heard of airfare getting refunded completely due to unforeseen medical issues when it was technically a non-refundable ticket. So, it is always worth a shot, but don’t get your blood pressure boiling if the rules won’t be bent for you as much as you would like. Just consider it a victory when it does work out in your favor.
- Don’t sweat it. Being sick is hard enough. Stressing over whether to go somewhat sick on a trip because of the money or points you may lose will just make it worse. We are all in this hobby to make travel more affordable and attainable, not to make it more stressful and cumbersome. If you just can’t go, you just can’t go. There will be another trip and hopefully your losses will be minimal thanks to credit cards, redeposits, change fees, etc. You may get hit with some penalties for not going, but health has to come first.
We’ll see if these shots and meds can fix us in time. If not, there will be another time for this trip. We’ve made the wrong decision before when it came time to decide if we were all healthy enough for a trip, so we’ll try real hard to make the right call this time. We’ll get as much in expenses back as we can, and do our best not to obsess over the rest. In the meantime, I’d love to hear your thoughts on what to do if you are sick when it comes time to travel!
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