One New Expense You Need To Be Prepared For Before You Travel Again

After writing about Ben Schlappig’s reasonable plan to travel to Iceland next month I was asked on Facebook what happens if someone picks up COVID-19 during their travels? They get tested and need to quarantine?

I think it is reasonable for people who aren’t at the greatest risk, and aren’t in coronavirus hot spots, to consider planning travel to places that aren’t coronavirus hot spots. However there are several things to watch out for. If you make travel plans far ahead, circumstances on the ground (where you are, or where you want to go) may change and that’ll mean your plans need to change. Countries may not open up. Airlines may change their schedules. With so many hotels still closed, the one you book may not re-open in time for your trip.

There’s one new expense that you might incur on your travels that you probably wouldn’t have thought of in the pre-coronavirus era and that you should plan for if you’re going to travel now: the extra expense if you need to quarantine at your destination, or if you get stuck there.

If you catch coronavirus you cannot travel (or even leave your hotel room). Some countries may have quarantine facilities for people who test positive. If you’re somewhere that you have a choice you’re not going to want to quarantine in a government facility.

You could find yourself having to extend your trip until you test negative for the virus. That may be a couple of weeks. It could be six weeks. And during that time you’re likely to find yourself on the hook for extra lodging and meal expenses.

Indeed, even if you’re merely traveling domestically you could find yourself having to shelter in place if you get sick. Or perhaps you’re just exposed to someone who is positive, and don’t have any symptoms, you might be asked to self-quarantine for 14 days. Either way this is a new potential expense you could face and should be prepared for. Unless you’re expressly assured otherwise assume that your travel insurance if any will not cover it.

In addition, there’s government policy risk – travel restrictions in many places came quickly and that creates ongoing uncertainty. Travel may open up, but restrictions could come back and come back quickly. As a result you may find yourself needing to make plans on the fly to get back home. This strikes me as a low likelihood risk, but it isn’t zero.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. Not to mention if you test positive but your partner doesn’t, then either they go home without you or you need two rooms (or you let your partner catch it).

  2. Can’t wait for all the PhD’s in Virology from Trump University to comment on this.

  3. @beachfan while close indoor contact is the primary transmission mechanisms and nursing homes and households are primary cluster types I bet you would be surprised how low the infectuon rate for spouses in same household is in many studies.

  4. Ben’s plan isn’t reasonable although it’s kind of you to say so. That said, he can certainly afford to spend six weeks in Iceland a lot better than pretty much any of his readers. It’s a valid consideration, particularly since travel insurance is likely to refuse coverage for anyone who felt like traveling abroad at this time for vacation.

  5. The cost of quarantining could pale in comparison to the cost of healthcare for people who travel and wind up needing medical services. Many health care plans make the insured pay a larger percentage of costs and have bigger deductibles for out of network services. A plan could waive the out of network cost increases but everyone would need to verify with their insurance provider.

    And there is additional cost coronavirus may impose even if we don’t travel. To the extent insurers and their actuaries anticipate that coronavirus will be prevalent next year, expect bigger than normally big increases in health insurance premiums.

    Insurance companies are generally prohibited from raising premiums to cover past losses; however they are permitted to set premiums to cover all costs their actuaries say they may incur in the future. And to the extent covering expenses from the coronavirus this year may have decreased the level of their reserves, insurance companies can hike premiums to get their reserves back to normal levels.

  6. @Jaymar
    Where’s your PhD? Or Gary’s, for that matter? I guess none of us are allowed to comment, including you.

    It’s quite audacious to play the argument by authority logical fallacy if you don’t even speak from authority.

  7. I love when Gary pontificates as a legal professional, scientist, insurance claims expert, insect scientist, and sports analyst (among many more). Is there anything you can’t do, Gary? You are the consummate armchair expert in so many things it’s a wonder you even need to do this blog, lol. You should be President! Trump is good at those things as well so it’s a job awaiting your “tremendous” genius.

  8. I see a huge impediment to international travel will be the new costs for travel insurance, and I would imagine most policies will have a no pay for any pandemic illness.

  9. Next post please. A recap of whether any commonly available travel insurers cover any of this.

  10. @WR2

    Not everyone here lacks a real PhD in virology/immunology/infectious disease disciplines. I have one. I don’t claim to know it all, but I think there’s a lot of misinformation circulating around, including here.
    The whole argument by Gary about “quarantine” is not exactly accurate, in several ways.

    First, a minor point: Gary needs to understand the words he is throwing around before using them:
    Quarantine is restriction of movement of those who were exposed to the pathogen.
    If you test positive or clinically diagnosed with the disease, you will not be in quarantine, but will be in isolation.

    Also, if you end up taking a flight (to Iceland in this case) and if one or more of the passengers test positive at arrival or soon after, the entire passenger/crew population would need to be quarantined, if the local health authorities choose to abide by the best practices. So the chance of being quarantined could be a lot higher than Gary might think.

    And the even more concerning factor is that an asymptomatic and test-negative person could actually infected (and be infectious) and pass the virus to another passenger on the flight, and most likely that recipient of the infection will not test positive at arrival. Also, the incubation period of this virus appears to be highly variable, and possibly longer than 14 days. And the whole honor-system “self isolation” does not necessarily work well. There are numerous reported cases of people who has infected others (unknowingly) because he/she felt well and thought that the quarantine was too inconvenient.

    Finally, the assertion that irresponsible travel only affects the traveler is rather short sighted. This is a highly contagious respiratory virus, and we really should not be doing any unnecessary travel that can potential spread the virus even more.

    This is not to say that the outbreak is not adversely affecting the global travel economy. And it is a problem. I personally hope that we can travel the world freely again soon. However, the start of leisure, non-essential travel this early in the course outbreak, especially when most of the readers live in the hot spot (USA), would be rather irresponsible.

  11. Or even in an advanced country with good (very expensive) health care and they refuse to admit/treat you b/c they are overwhelmed with their own citizens.
    There were reports of this in Japan even with those who spoke Japanese and/or were citizens (I can’t vouch for the accuracy) – but it’s something to consider 🙁

  12. New Rule Everyone! Just came down from the government themselves, so, you know it’s right.

    Don’t do ANYTHING that involves Risk!!
    It’s scary, and it could be expensive!

    Did you know if you got in a car, you might DIE???
    Or, at least on expense you might not have thought of… what if you hit a school bus full of kids??
    Imagine the cost!

    Worse yet, what if you go to work, and someone MUGS YOU!
    In a CITY!! It is possible!!
    It could totally happen

    So, don’t get in a car.
    Don’t live in a city
    Don’t have a job (because, you could get FIRED!!! omg)
    And then, I wouldn’t talk to ANY people EVER
    Don’t do it.

    They could give you Ebola! Or Hep A!

    Oh, and no Sun.
    The sun is out, cancelled.
    You can get skin cancer

    Also, don’t do anything fun. Because, maybe you could get hurt?
    Sports are out.

    Also, don’t get married. What if you get DIVORCED???!

    Also, don’t live in any state that has thunderstorms, hurricane, earthquakes, forrest fires, or LOCUSTS. Do you know about those?
    And BEES. God, they are SCARY.

    You could have RISK. And then, wow, and unexpected expense when a tree falls on your house because you didn’t live in a place with NO TREES.

    So, don’t live ANYWHERE. Don’t!
    Maybe a box on street, but, get a GOOD box. Not the boxes with 5 sides, get one with SIX sides!
    Less risk!

    I used to be worried that people weren’t traveling.
    Now I’m glad.
    We don’t need you psychos ruining it for the rest of us.

    Please stay away. It’s much safer NOT traveling.
    Please, don’t do it.

    Ever again.

    Because…. RISK!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  13. @George, I stay home all the time because I am terrified of risk, but there could be an earthquake, so I always stay under my bed.

    You have a point that everything we do in life has risks, and sometimes we do a bad job of assessing it since it is so commonplace. I really wish we did have more information on the efficacy of the commonly recommended safety measures for coronavirus. Can we cut down the risk dramatically with a few common sense practices? Is the risk still high even if we practice them? Why do some people have no symptoms and others die? We frustratingly don’t know enough yet to make informed decisions, so caution is still appropriate.

  14. “I see a huge impediment to international travel will be the new costs for travel insurance, and I would imagine most policies will have a no pay for any pandemic illness.”

    You have to see what kind of policies you want. Cancel for Any Reason for CFAR policies may be expensive and must be purchased right when you book your flight.

    Once on the trip, medical evacuation insurance isn’t that expensive but it’s unlikely they will fly you back to the US for COVID-19. Some of these policies require preapproval from the insurer and some of them will do it on demand. Obviously the latter would be more expensive but a standard medical evacuation with $100k or even $250k coverage by itself isn’t that expensive.

    A lot of policies have trip interruption or trip delay insurance. But not clear if those policies would cover a quarantine situation.

    Best to ask the insurer BEFORE you enroll.

  15. Good point about the travel insurance companies – – are they even going to offer any insurance? Will the companies cease to exist? What happens if you are going into a country that requires you have travel insurance, or you are going on a cruise ship that requires that you have trip insurance, but you can’t obtain any? Will the cruise ships start offering their own travel insurance? Are they going to have exclusions for pandemics? What’s the point of getting travel insurance if you can’t be covered?

    Most countries are going to want to have tourism, and understandably, they won’t want to cover the medical costs of the tourists. But if no travel insurance exists to cover these costs, then what? The tourists aren’t going to want to nor be able to fork out several thousand dollars, or more. I see this is a huge dilemma that has to be resolved before tourism returns to normal.

  16. I have a couple of friends come down with it, and it was brutal. I would not want to be far from home and dealing with this. Though perhaps better not to infect loved ones. Day 6 is apparently when it really starts showing serious symptoms.

  17. Leisure travel won’t be back for many especially if their company is like mine and has a quarantine rule for travel. I can’t go anywhere outside the region for the foreseeable future because of a mandatory 14 day quarantine upon return. If you are driving and going to see healthy family or something urgent (few people involved) and practicing social distance you are fine. But any other mode of travel or attending events/places that put you at high risk of exposure would require quarantine before returning to work.

  18. I’m retired, live to travel, have all the time in the world and can easily afford an unplanned stay in any country (and any associated medical costs) so looking forward to getting on a plane as soon as Europe opens up (have a trip to Germany already booked for November).

    Not to diminish the virus but we will all die of something so, IMHO, you can’t live your life afraid of things. At least I don’t plan to!

  19. Got even a better thought, how about getting tested in a country that may have faulty test equipment or ones maintained by the TSA! How about getting tested and you get a false positive, that later on recheck ( lets just say a week later) is negative. Who is footing the bill for THEIR lack of capabilities?
    How about your an overweight guy, worked in the hot sun all day, got sun burned late for his flight and in a hurry, you do not think his temperature will be elevated? I am sure the TSA or whomever is checking is not going to consider a sun burn a reason why your radiating heat.
    If they are going to making the decision not to let a travel fly they better be damn sure of what they are testing and that their equipment is fully inspected and working properly. I can see the hundreds of lawyers just salivating at the number of suits that will be filed and won because the airline are instituting a process that they or the TSA know how to maintain or operate properly.
    No, I do not have an Virology degree either, but I sure as heck hope that common sense comes into play, the government, media and others have started this snowball down the hill without even considering the consequences.

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