Yes, Ben Schlappig Should Travel To Iceland In June. Why Do You Ask?

Ben Schlappig, known as Lucky from the One Mile at a Time blog is contemplating a trip to Iceland next month and the way he frames the discussion, and the ensuing comments, are a fascinating sociological study in how people are reacting to the coronavirus pandemic and travel.

There are some people who should certainly isolate themselves – anyone that’s elderly and especially with pre-existing health conditions is at greatest risk from the SARS-CoV-2 virus for instance. And there are places that you shouldn’t travel to, current coronavirus hot spots like the New York area (still), probably Chicago and Los Angeles, and certainly Russia, Brazil, and Turkey.

However what Ben is describing is incredibly safe, at least compared to the various risks we’ve incurred on a daily basis like driving in cars and eating fatty foods. He’s talking about visiting Iceland – which plans to welcome visitors starting June 15, with COVID-19 testing on arrival. He shouldn’t be sheepish or apologetic about this.

  1. Being outdoors in Iceland is very low risk, lower risk than going to the grocery store near his home in Florida.

  2. While he could well fly with someone who has the virus, and there’s a chance that person could spread it and Ben or his husband would be one of the people that catches it, since everyone on the plane is getting tested on arrival they’re likely to know very quickly if they were exposed to someone with COVID-19 during travel and can self-quarantine in Iceland for two weeks.

  3. If they did get the virus they’re are at low risk of the most serious challenges from the virus because they’re young. To be sure there are outlier cases of younger people without pre-existing conditions who wind up with real problems but those are rare, if you lived avoiding that level of risk you wouldn’t drive to the grocery store in non-COVID times.

  4. The reason for them to take measures to avoid getting the virus is less to protect themselves as much as to avoid spreading the virus. However they’ll be tested on arrival, limiting the likelihood they’ll be asymptomatically spreading it in Iceland. And Ben says he plans to self-isolate on return. So the risk of spreading it back in Florida is very low as well – less than going to the grocery store at home.

You can create a story where he picks up the virus inside of Iceland (where the virus is almost non-existent today) but wouldn’t have picked it up at the grocery store or the Florida beaches. And you can further suggest that he spreads it on the flight home. That could happen, but we’re not living in total lock down in fact much of the country is opening up.

My barber shop in Texas is re-opening. Gyms and exercise studios (Orange Theory!) re-open on Monday. The governor is expected to announce a plan to re-open bars next week. What Ben is talking about is far lower risk. He should take the trip – and do so without apology.

While there are readers who advocate ‘no travel until a vaccine’ even a vaccine isn’t a panacea. Like the flu shot it may not be completely effective. We may see a vaccine that prevents 30% of people from contracting the virus, and that reduces severity of the illness for some who do catch it.

Indeed to the extent that hospitalizations remain at manageable levels we should continue to experiment to find ways to live life while avoiding virus spread, recognizing that catching it later is better than catching it now because of the speed at which research on treatments is progressing. It is time for some people to start planning travel to some places.

It’s far to stay inside and fair to argue from a principled position for total lock down. However travel is already off the bottom. We’re seeing that in passenger numbers and hotel occupancy (this week ends five straight of increased hotel stays). I’m seeing it in forward air bookings as well with plenty of reduce schedule flights filling up in July. Car rentals are up, too.

What’s important is to travel responsibly, for some people to avoid it altogether, and to engage only with those businesses you trust to follow the very best protocols.

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 »

More articles by Gary Leff »



  1. @naoyuki
    You said “I don’t expect the general public to Adequately understand this”
    That’s all we need to realize you are a pompous asshole, and I say that without any sarcasm

  2. Ah no.

    Check back in a few weeks when the rate of spread and deaths are both on the rise.

  3. “since everyone on the plane is getting tested on arrival they’re likely to know very quickly if they were exposed to someone with COVID-19 during travel”

    um whut?

    So a rapid test on arrival will reflect whether you got COVID-19 during your plane flight, is that what you are implying, Gary? That would be false.

  4. “So a rapid test on arrival will reflect whether you got COVID-19 during your plane flight, is that what you are implying, Gary? That would be false.”

    No, but the person who gave it to him should test positive.

  5. Hey Honger. I know you’re feeling all muy macho about this, but just to clarify, it isn’t living my life I’m personally afraid of.
    It’s dying my death a lot earlier than necessary. No one is a tough guy on a ventilator.

  6. Yes because we all know how trustworthy Americans are. Pretty good odds some Einstein with the virus will get on that plane to iceland. Is it too hard to wait for the US to get the situation under control by having adequate testing/contact tracing before engaging in non-essential travel and putting others at risk (you know like have all states with declining cases instead of some up, some down and some the same week after week?). Texas with the highest single day increase today, so yea lets open up the gyms and bars. That seems like sound policy. Iceland can get tourists from more responsible countries. I would say its pretty good odds that some of the people that are looking to bolt to Iceland the very moment they open the doors are part of the back to work no matter the costs crowd, some of the same people who don’t believe in socially distancing and walk around without a mask. Yea, I want to be on a plane full of that group of people. The biggest risk is not the people of Iceland. The biggest risk is the other tourists. Oh yea not only can this virus cause strokes and who knows what else in otherwise healthy people, but how bright is it to risk exposure while in a foreign country? Questionable how much coverage they may or may not get from their insurance coverage. Isn’t the official US advisory to NOT engage in international travel still?

  7. Isn’t this the same schleppe that just 2 months ago said that he and his significant other were not not going to travel for rest of this year. He will flip flop in another month.

  8. Things will be better in early 2021, Hong. Just as soon as we get competent people who give half a damn about the other 99 percent of this country. Now run off and play Russian roulette with your lungs, tough guy.

  9. Having Ben go to Iceland is a no brainer. It’s like west Texas in that nobody lives there, per say. Plenty of space.
    If he wants to show the way…go to Europe, make a few stops and come back with a compendium of information that we need to know. That would be helpful. All this other talk is silliness.

  10. @Bill Dwyer I guess you must be around 75 or so? Because the chances of being on a ventilator or dying if you’re 44 or under are next to nil unless you have a pre-existing condition. Science says you don’t have to be a tough guy, just not ignorant of the facts, which you seem to be.

  11. I’m 68 and very healthy, Mitch. And I’d been out of the country for nearly six months when the Coronavirus hit. I’m also very up on all the facts, unlike you. The problem isn’t you or me becoming infected- it’s passing it on to others who are far more vulnerable. This is an extraordinarily contagious virus, and we have little medical defenses against it at the moment. Quarantine has been proven to the most effective defense. As for not worrying about catching the virus because you’re less likely to DIE, that just shows you’re the one ignorant about the threat of this disease and what it can do to a healthy person’s body (ask all-pro linebacker Vonn Miller about it). I hope people disregard your post here and exercise caution, both their sake and for the sake of others.

  12. It’s far more easier to quarantine those who are vulnerable than the population writ-large. And that’s what should have been done to begin with. You’re actually NOT up on the facts at all. Even in NYC, one of the worst hotspots in the world, the rate of infection for those 44 or younger is around 2,200 per 100,000. Deathrate for that same group? Less than 20 per 100,000 infected. Hospitalization rate? A few hundred per 100,000 infected. So no, this was never something that needed to shut down the worlds’ economy. Since that same age group makes up over half of the working population, keep them working. Provide the resources to assist and quarantine the vulnerable. My god you can’t legislate risk from life completely. Millions of people die throughout the world every single day. Try not being afraid, it’ll do you wonders.

  13. You’re just wrong on the data, Mitch.The problem isn’t fear. It’s the lethality of this virus and the foolishness of people like you. If you knew anything about the facts of its transmission you wouldn’t be so cavilier. To everyone else, I just say, stay tuned. It’s going to hit the fan again because we’re re-opening things up too quickly.

  14. Except I’m not wrong on the data. It’s right from NYC government.

    So I’m being cavalier WITH the facts. You’re just spreading fear with no truth. You don’t like science or statistics much do you boomer? To everyone else, just do basic research of the publically available data. Don’t be a Karen.

  15. Oh and Bill, there were 2 (TWO) deaths in NYC on the 16th. Look at the graphs I just referenced. And again, this is one of the worst spots in the entire world.

  16. Not mine, but this captures the idiocy of people blathering about the Coronavirus not being anything to be concerned about:

    People screaming to end stay at home orders are like somebody who jumps out of a plane and realizes that are floating down peacefully.
    As they drift in the sky, they are amazed at their ability to survive, and decide it wasn’t so dangerous after all.
    So they unhook their parachute.

  17. LOL @ Bill.

    Surprised you’ve ever traveled at all with your attitude. For some reason I guess Gary doesn’t like links in comments. But my data is wrong? It’s right from the NYC gov statistics page. Don’t let facts ruin your opinion though Billy. Keep going by all means.

    Like your little story there. For probably 60% of the worlds population this is more like: hey, 1% chance every jump out of the plane you won’t have a reserve chute. The main will fail .01% of the time.

  18. I would disagree that all of Los Angeles is a “hotspot”.

    Even though the county of Los Angeles is the largest county population wise in the United States and covers 88 incorporated cities, and a number of communities that are unincorporated – there are many areas where the number of Coronavirus cases are much lower than say the city of Los Angeles itself.

    In my immediate area, luckily, the reported case numbers are very low. I continue to slut around to my stores. I am wearing a mask – and inside my stores, I use gloves whenever I touch anything. I’m not flying – no trips to New York, Florida, or northern California and the Hawaii vacation has been postponed.

    Since the middle of March, I have made two road trips to northern California – Butte County/Chico and the hotel I frequent is open, but for both trips the hotel is running in the 20’s percentage wise for occupancy – not good for their cash flow.

    At my c-stores. gallons of fuel sold are way down (even with lower fuel prices) along with sales inside the stores – in the toilet. I can probably sustain an additional 18 to 24 months before I have to plead “uncle”. To add more fire to the rate of cash being burned, Los Angeles County has another increase to the minimum wage on July 1 – it’s not being suspended or postponed!

    So, in closing, to avoid Los Angeles is wrong – it just depends where in Los Angeles you are traveling to. I had to laugh the other day when one of my employees who has a season pass to Magic Mountain forwarded me an e-mail that states you will need an advance reservation to visit their park – and as of today, no re-opening date has been announced. Thinking about it, they probably can’t re-open Hurricane Harbor either in the new operating environment.

    So, if a tourist really wants to come here, virtually all of the touristy things are closed.
    What are they going to do? Unless they are visiting relatives or maybe walking along the beach – and you can’t stand, lie down or sun bathe – the sheriff’s deputies chase you away!


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.