PORTLAND, Ore. — With spring break only weeks away, many families are rethinking vacation plans. Airline tickets, hotel rooms and car rental were often booked long before the coronavirus outbreak.
Currently, if you’re traveling inside the United States you don’t need to cancel your plans, according to the Centers for Disease Control, but it is a fluid situation. We don’t know what the full impact of the outbreak will be.
So, what do you need to know to protect your spring break vacation? And, if you decide to cancel, can you get a refund?
Hotel reservations are the most refundable part of your vacation.
“The industry standard is a 48-hour cancellation notice,” explained Marie Dodds, public affairs director for AAA Oregon/Idaho. “Some hotels will let you cancel or change your plans within 24 hours before you arrive.”
The risk is if you paid up front, at a discounted rate. Some special room rates are non-refundable.
Airbnb, Vrbo and Short-term rentals
If you booked a short-term rental on Vrbo or Airbnb, there’s currently no refund available for guests staying in the United States due to concerns over coronavirus. The situation could change, so check with the booking websites and your property host.
International guests may be eligible for a full refund on their Airbnb home reservation or experience if their trip is covered under the website’s extenuating circumstances policy.
Car rental companies have flexible policies, if you cancel early. Typically, you can cancel a rental car reservation up to 24 hours before your scheduled pick-up for a full refund.
Most passengers who booked the cheapest airline tickets, including economy or basic economy, are not eligible for a refund. An upgraded ticket allows passengers to cancel or change reservations.
Some airlines including JetBlue, American and Alaska Airlines are offering to waive fees to change an itinerary or cancel a flight due to concerns over coronavirus. It is important to note these travel waivers apply to new bookings, not existing reservations.
Kasara Barto of the travel insurance comparison site Squaremouth, said travelers concerned about coronavirus shouldn’t purchase a policy for an existing trip because this type of outbreak typically won’t be covered.
“We are hearing from customers, their primary concern is wanting to cancel a trip just due to fear or uncertainty,” explained Barto. “Unfortunately, that’s not something that is ever covered by a standard travel insurance policy.”
There are “cancel for any reason” travel policies available, which means just that- travelers can cancel their plans for any reason and receive a refund up to 75% of the prepaid trip.
This type of insurance is much more expensive than standard policies and must be purchased shortly after you begin booking travel plans.
Credit Card Coverage
Some credit cards, including American Express or Chase offer travel protection. You need to contact your credit card company to see the exact terms of coverage.
To put the coronavirus numbers in context, millions of Americans get the flu every single year and there are thousands of flu deaths annually. Since October 2019, the CDC estimates around 32 million Americans have gotten the flu. That’s one in every 10 Americans. Since the coronavirus outbreak began late last year, there have been around 80,000 confirmed coronavirus cases in China. That means those cases account for just around .0056% of China's population.