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Planning a trip? Why your travel plans should be flexible right now

July 15, 2020
7 min read
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As the travel gradually resumes following COVID-19 shutdowns, TPG suggests that you talk to your doctor, follow health officials' guidance and research local travel restrictions before booking that next trip. We will be here to help you prepare, whether it takes place next month or next year.


We get it, and we're with you: We miss traveling.

It's summertime, also known as "peak travel season". But experts say that the coronavirus epidemic will remain a global threat until a vaccine is developed and tested. As a result, TPG's team has collectively canceled more than a hundred trips in recent months, from honeymoons to far-flung Tahiti vacations, relationships stranded across continents to stymied visits to Iceland.

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Fortunately, TPG staffers have been able to reschedule a number of other trips, and have shared our tricks on how you can do the same. Whether you're seeking a refund for a canceled flight, declining first-class upgrades in favor of social distancing or rescheduling a hotel stay booked on award night certificates, we're here to help you through this uncertain time.

Related: All the major airline cancellation and rescheduling policies

Here are a few reasons why it's imperative to be flexible with your travel plans right now, no matter where you're headed.

You could get COVID-19 (and pass it to others)

Despite countries and states reopening their economies, we're still in the middle of a global pandemic, and the United States is the world's hardest-hit country by a long shot, with more than 3.3 million cases and counting. At the start of the epidemic in the U.S., the State Department issued a highest-risk global travel advisory at Level 4: Do Not Travel that remains in place to this day (although advisories for individual countries reflect their individual levels of risk).

The best way to prevent illness is to avoid exposure to the virus in the first place, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which means that the more you minimize exposure to outsiders, the more likely you are to avoid getting sick.

Keep in mind, also, that you could be one of the lucky people who doesn't experience the symptoms of COVID-19 — but that doesn't mean you can't be a carrier. So just because you don't feel sick doesn't mean you aren't, unless you have the test results to back it up.

Related: 'We felt like guinea pigs': A CDC travel nightmare

Until a vaccine is developed and tested, there's no surefire way to prevent the spread of infection, whether for yourself or for anyone with whom you cross paths. So remember that while you might not get sick, others might — or could spread it to family members and roommates who are immunocompromised.

Related: I tested positive for COVID-19 antibodies: Now what?

If you do decide to travel, make sure you thoroughly research risk at both your destination as well as any transit points along the way. Be sure to consult with your doctor as well to ensure that your health is up to the risk of potential exposure.

You might end up in quarantine

Just because you are allowed to enter a country doesn't mean you can travel as you please upon arrival. If you must travel from a high-risk destination, check local restrictions regarding potential quarantine requirements before you leave home: New York, New Jersey and Connecticut have implemented mandatory quarantines for travelers arriving from high-risk areas, while at least one major city has done the same.

Meanwhile, dozens of international countries still have mandatory 14-day quarantines in place for U.S. travelers — assuming you can even enter their borders.

Related: Reopening soon? A country-by-country guide to coronavirus reopenings

Travel Permissions can change at any time

The U.S. is facing an unprecedented time of travel restrictions as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, and this situation won't change any time soon.

Dozens of international borders are closed to U.S. citizens and residents, and many will not reopen any time soon.

We've seen Croatia add last-minute requirements for negative COVID-19 tests before departure, and Hawaii extend its quarantine terms at least three times since the pandemic began.

TPG special report: Nearly one-third of U.S. travelers feel ready to hit the road this summer

Neither destination is unique: Cambodia, Vietnam, Greece, Portugal, Iceland and Seychelles have all backpedaled after initially saying that travelers from the U.S. would be welcomed upon reopening.

TPG's director of video, Tom Grahsler, planned to visit Southeast Asia with his wife for their honeymoon in early June 2020. But in February as the coronavirus picked up steam in Asia, the couple decided to hold off on booking flights and hotels — a judgment call that turned out to be the right one in the end, as most of their planned destinations do not allow Americans to enter at this time. "We waited on actually booking, and I'm super relieved that we did," Grahsler told TPG.

You might not be able to get your COVID-19 test results in time

Unfortunately, there are very few — if any — locations in the United States where a person in good health can get a COVID-19 test result in under 48 hours. However, that's exactly what you'll need to bring in order to enter a number of countries without undergoing mandatory quarantine. Some destinations, like Antigua and Hong Kong, are allowing travelers to submit to coronavirus testing upon arrival in the country; others, like St. Lucia and the Czech Republic (which only allows visitors from countries within its "travel bubble"), require you to carry proof of negative COVID-19 test results before you board your flight.

Because your destination won't be at its best right now

Some countries like Jamaica are open to U.S. travelers, but implement stringent requirements including a pre-travel approval application, limited range of travel destinations with pre-approved hotel accommodations as well as on-site temperature screenings and face mask requirements whenever in public.

Related: These are some of the most popular socially-distanced destinations to visit during the coronavirus pandemic

Other destinations have closed down important local sights, activities and experiences in order to limit the spread of COVID-19. Even national parks and Disney theme parks have undergone significant closures and limitations in recent months.

Furthermore, many countries that have opened their borders to U.S. tourists have limited hotel availability and restricted local activities or implemented curfews that can greatly curtail your ability to experience the local culture and sights.

So be sure to keep a close eye on your planned destination, and with every change, re-evaluate whether or not this is the right time for you to visit.

Bottom line

Even if you've got all of your flights, hotels and excursions booked to a destination that's open to you, be aware: You may still have to cancel your trip last minute, whether by personal choice or out of necessity. Cancellation and reschedule policies are very lenient right now, and you should be able to get your money back or request future credit on most travel booked during these uncertain times.

Featured image by Royalty-free stock photo ID: 687392107 Woman sad and unhappy at the airport with flight canceled D By David Prado Perucha

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Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
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Rewards Rate

6X6x points at hotels participating in the Marriott Bonvoy® program.
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  • Intro Offer
    Limited Time Offer: Earn 100,000 Bonus Marriott Bonvoy Points after spending $4,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months of Card Membership. Offer expires 11/2/22.

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    Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

    670-850
    Excellent/Good

Why We Chose It

The Marriott Bonvoy Business Amex is a stacked card with a rewards rate that will help you earn bonus points on everyday and business-related purchases. You'll earn 15 elite night credits each calendar year, and receive automatic Gold elite status. Finally, the free night award certificate with a redemption level of 35,000 points or less can get you hundreds of dollars in potential value each year.

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  • Limited Time Offer: Earn 100,000 Bonus Marriott Bonvoy Points after spending $4,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months of Card Membership. Offer expires 11/2/22.
  • 6x points at hotels participating in the Marriott Bonvoy® program.
  • 4x points for purchases made at restaurants worldwide, at U.S. gas stations, on wireless telephone services purchased directly from U.S. service providers and on U.S. purchases for shipping.
  • 2x points on all other eligible purchases.
  • Receive a 7% discount off standard rates for reservations of standard guest rooms at hotels that participate in the Marriott Bonvoy program when you book directly. Terms and Conditions Apply.
  • Receive 1 Free Night Award every year after your Card renewal month. Plus, earn an additional Free Night Award after you spend $60K in purchases on your Card in a calendar year. Awards can be used for one night (redemption level at or under 35,000 Marriott Bonvoy® points) at hotels participating in Marriott Bonvoy®. Certain hotels have resort fees.
  • Enjoy Complimentary Marriott Bonvoy Gold Elite Status with your Card.
  • Terms apply.
  • See Rates & Fees