- Get updates from Gov.uk & FCO travel advice.
- Ensure you have travel insurance in place & understand claim restrictions.
- Stay in touch with your provider.
- Get GP advice if you are concerned about any pre-existing medical condition.
- Follow NHS hygiene advice.
- Make informed choices.
UK universities will be adapting how they deliver education this Autumn and the same will true of other universities across the world. What we may well see is a mixture of online and face to face learning, with not everything requiring students to be on a campus. It’s also possible that more students will decide to take a gap year and seek out further work, training, and travel opportunities.
The latter may not be possible until late 2020 or into 2021 but travel will still be one of the most valuable things you could do in terms of personal development and feeling better prepared for university or work life on your return. Our member organisations will currently have reduced services but most will still be able to discuss ideas with you and we know some students have already provisionally booked programs, whether that be snow sports over winter or conservation volunteering next spring.
Perhaps a good use of some of your time now is to think about what Sept 2020-Sept 2021 might look for you. What is really important to you? What are your ambitions for learning, work, travel etc? How flexible can you be? Could you travel and study? Can you work and study? What sort of programs might help you fulfil an ambition? What life skills could you learn? What research can you do now to prepare and be ready to act, when the opportunity comes.
And finally, who can you discuss this with? e.g. Parents, friends, brothers, sisters, careers advisors, admissions tutors, gap year specialists. They will each have a different perspectives, concerns and of course hope and wishes for you and your future. Working through these will help you make a decision that is best for you.
Be hopeful, be ambitious, stay connected and know that you are loved and that there are many people out there ready to offer you support.
This is for travellers of any nationality and you should of course follow the latest advice from your government.
Most of you will experience disruption to plans, likely to include cancellations or re-scheduling. Those planning ahead to later in the year will have uncertainties to consider.
Our members will be doing their best to support you and will of course be under considerable pressure themselves. They will help you by keeping you up to date, offering to re-schedule and giving re-funds where applicable. They can also talk you through programs for future planning.
You can help them, by being patient about reply times, giving re-scheduling serious consideration, having travel insurance in place and speaking with your insurer so you know where you stand. Also use some of this time to consider any travel ambitions for 2021 so that as and when situations improve you are ready to book and go.
We may all need to adapt to a new kind of normal, so being flexible and understanding of individual situations will be important for us all.
Many of you and no doubt the parents amongst you will have concerns about the Coronavirus in general and more specifically if you and/or your family have travel plans. Be assured that regardless of this particular virus, our members always have your safety in mind. It’s worth noting that younger people without underlying health conditions have a very low risk of developing severe symptoms if they do get it. However follow protection measures (good personal hygiene), which are the same if you are at home, in a workplace, or on a train or plane.
Whilst the situation is changing daily, this virus like others will eventually become more manageable. In the meantime, there may be some tough choices to make or decisions taken that are out of your control. If you have already booked with one of our members, you shouldn’t hesitate to contact the organisation concerned to understand how they keeping abreast of the situation, how it is currently affecting their programs and their contingency plans going forward.
If you were planning to travel later in the year, then you can still book now. Ensure that you purchased your travel insurance as soon as make a booking and read the booking conditions for your program so you understand what might happen if you or the company have to alter plans in future. Speak to the provider to discuss the program you are interested in and any concerns you have about deposits, refunds, forced cancellations and what happens if virus related issues present themselves whilst on your program.
We know that is the young adventure traveller who is likely to keep travelling and will be the first to start travelling again, once the current situation has abated. By doing so, you support people, their livelihoods and good causes at home and abroad. We thank you for that and look forward to sharing many more adventures with you.
- Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO)
- Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
- National Travel Health Network and Centre (NaTHNaC)
- World Health Organisation (WHO)
Many countries have reported cases of the virus but nevertheless there are precautions you can take to minimise the risk of you catching it. The video below provides some good information about the virus and how to manage your persona hygiene in this respect. The links we have provided are all useful sources of information and you should refer back to those regularly as there are likely to be daily or weekly updates for a while yet.
Information from Martin Lewis at Money Saving Expert
Martin: The global spread of the Covid-19 coronavirus strain is prompting huge concern. Reports on the still-sketchy early data seem to indicate higher contagion and mortality rates than normal flu. The overwhelming concern is for the health of older people and those with weak immune systems, lung conditions and other medical vulnerabilities.
Yet even for healthy under-50s, where for most it’s hopefully likely to bring only very minor symptoms, there’s a potential impact from possible protective measures to slow the spread of contagion. These may be put in place to reduce the peak of infections, to lessen the impact on health infrastructure and to protect the vulnerable.
We all need to hope for the best, but plan for the worst. The current worst-case scenario includes school and workplace closures, bans on mass crowd events, and restricted movement.
We already know overseas travel is impacted and likely to get worse. As that’s a core area we can help with, the team and I have been working flat out to answer your questions in our new full, constantly updated Covid-19 Coronovirus Help guide, with key points below.
And of course, we all need do our bit. While some shops’ hand-sanitiser stocks are running short, regularly washing your hands with soap, under running water, is the best thing to do anyway. And if you think you’ve symptoms, use the NHS 111 coronovirus tool to decide what to do.
IMPORTANT: The situation is fast-changing. Many airlines, hoteliers and insurers haven’t set stances yet. What we’re telling you is based on the best info we have, but please understand, nothing is 100% set in stone.
THE KEY TIP: Sort travel insurance ASAB and ASAP
We always urge you to get your travel insurance ASAB (As Soon As you Book), and this has never been more important. It’s because if you leave getting insurance until just before you travel, you’re not covered for anything that happens before that which stops you going – thus you’ve waved off half the value of the cover.
Right now that call is even more urgent. Insurance policies that will cover cancellations to official no-go Covid-19 areas will only pay out if you got the insurance BEFORE the country is ruled off-limits. So the earlier you get it, the safer, if – as is likely – formal guidance changes.
It’s worth adding, if you can’t go, you should always contact your travel provider (eg, airline or tour operator) first as it may give a refund, depending on your booking. Insurance is for when all else fails. Whichever insurance you go with, it’ll cover you if you get ill while abroad and have medical bills – even for coronavirus – unless you travel against a Govt warning (see below).
Note from Year Out Group: If you you are planning a multi-destination trip, that lasts for several weeks or months you need to consider Backpacker type Insurance. You’ll need to check their terms and conditions as they may be different from regular travel insurance.
The key trigger for travel insurance is FCO advisories
The key trigger for travel insurance covering you cancelling your holiday is if the Foreign & Commonwealth Office (FCO) advises “against all but essential travel”, or the even more serious “against all travel”, to your destination, even if your flight and hotel are still available.
Currently, FCO travel advisories due to Covid-19 only cover China (not Hong Kong or Macau), two South Korean cities and a few towns in northern Italy, but it’s likely to grow.
- Top-pick travel insurance that covers FCO Covid-19 advisories. Most (but not all) travel insurers will cover key costs you can’t recover from the airline/hotel/tour if you cancel for this reason. Below we’ve the cheapest ‘NO-FRILLS’ insurers – which have told us in writing they will provide cover. These are solely based on price, provided they meet our min cover levels.
- – Top annual policies from £9/yr: These are best if you go away 2+ times in a year. Coverwise Bronze* and Leisure Guard Standard* tend to be cheapest for under-65s, eg, a 30-yr-old individual in Europe pays £9, a family worldwide £72.
- – Top single-trip policies from £6/yr: Leisure Guard* and Coverwise* tend to come up cheapest for most simple options. Expect to pay from £6 for a seven-day trip to Europe for an individual and from £38 for a family with worldwide cover for a week.
- – Over-65s and pre-existing conditions: If you’re over 65, it depends on your age. If you’re 66-75, packaged bank accounts are likely to be cheapest esp for worldwide cover. If you’re older, try Leisure Guard*, Coverwise Silver* and Insure & Go Silver. For full help, see the Over-65s’ Travel Insurance guide.
- For pre-existing conditions, you’ve got two things to think about – your condition, and the cover. See full help in our Pre-Existing Travel Insurance guide.
- Top-pick travel insurance that covers FCO Covid-19 advisories AND other cancellations. Some airlines are cancelling flights due to coronavirus, even in areas the FCO hasn’t advised against travel to. Some hotels are doing the same. If that happens the airline/hotel should refund you, but what about the other costs (eg, if you cancel your hotel because your flight is cancelled).
- To get that covered you need what’s generally, but not always, known as travel disruption cover. Yet bizarrely in our research so far, we’ve found those that cover hotels if a flight is cancelled, and those that cover flights if a hotel is cancelled, but just one that covers both:
- Note: we’ve included prices for annual policies but these also tend to win on single-trip cover.
- – Covers both from £29/yr. Choose the AA (Silver) cover policy and it will cover you if your flight or hotel is cancelled. This costs about £29 for a 35-yr-old individual’s annual European policy, £141 for a family worldwide.
- – Covers flights if a hotel is cancelled (case-by-case the other way): A limited choice, but as an alternative to the AA, Direct Line or Churchill are the two picks for single and annual trips and over-65s and pre-existing conditions.
- They will cover your flight if the hotel is cancelled, but judge on a case-by-case basis, depending on your circumstances, whether your hotel is covered if your flight is cancelled. Because there is a chance, we’d probably hedge for these. These cost around £48 for a 35-yr-old individual’s annual European policy, £113 for a family worldwide.
- – Covers hotels if a flight is cancelled: The standout for single trip and annual is Axa Silver. It costs £32 for a 35-yr-old individual’s annual European policy, £92 for a family worldwide. It may also cover over-65s and those with pre-existing conditions (these links will give more info).
- – What about cover for unexpected costs if you’re stuck away in quarantine? We haven’t yet got a clear answer on this. Some insurers may cover you under ‘travel disruption’ cover, but it varies.
- Cover all the family’s travel (and mobiles) for £13/mth. Our top-pick packaged bank account Nationwide FlexPlus covers all a family’s trips away worldwide for £13/mth, so £156/yr(up to 31 days per trip). It also insures all a family’s mobile phones, and gives policyholders European breakdown cover. A family counts as parents or couples and children under 18 (or under 24 if in full-time education) provided they’re living at home.
- The insurance covers Covid-19 and its natural disaster element will cover your flight costs if your hotel is cancelled. If your flight is cancelled, it says it’ll consider your circumstances on a case-by-case basis. For full info and more options, see Top Packaged Bank Accounts.
I’ve already got travel insurance – will it cover me?
Most insurers will cover you for cancelling a trip if there is an FCO advisory for your destination. We’ve rough info in our insurer-by-insurer list though this will vary by policy and can change over time. Also check your insurer’s website – many now list their coronavirus cover. If not, or the policy terms are too tricky, call up or use online chat. The two key questions we’d ask are:
1) Am I covered if the FCO later warns against ‘all but essential travel’?
2) Am I covered if there’s no FCO advisory, but my flight or hotel is cancelled and I can’t travel as a result? If so, what’s covered (flights, hotels, car hire etc)?
If you don’t have the cover you need then ask if you can get an add-on/upgrade to your existing policy. If not, consider buying another policy. Of course, this may feel like throwing money away, so you have to weigh up the extra cover versus cost.
What if my annual cover expires before the trip I’ve booked?
As long as an annual policy is currently active, it will cover you if something happens now to stop you going in future, even if that future holiday is after the policy has lapsed. An example will help…
Imagine you’re going in October, and have an annual policy that covers you now, until July. Then you’ll get a new one in July. If the thing that stops you going happens in June, it’s the first policy that covers you.
Importantly, if your annual policy lapses before the trip, we’d try to get an annual (or single-trip) policy in place now, for cover that starts the day after your current policy expires. We’ve found many policies that you can book up to 90 days ahead.
You usually AREN’T covered if you just no longer want to go
This is important to understand. If there is no FCO advisory in place, nor anything else to stop you going (such as a flight cancellation), it’s just that you’ve decided you don’t want to travel – formally known as ‘disinclination to travel’ – then you won’t be covered. This is even if the area has a growing number of coronavirus cases.
This applies even if you’d booked travel to go to a big sporting event (eg, the Olympics), concert or conference that’s cancelled, so you no longer want to go. (Though if you bought that as part of a travel package, the package operator may refund you.)
There is a rare exception that if you’ve a related pre-existing condition, and your GP recommends you don’t travel, some policies may cover you. For more, see pre-existing condition help.
My travel insurer is unfairly turning down my claim
Insurance is about unexpected eventualities. Within that there are the usual likely known eventualities, such as illness or lost luggage. Then there are the unknown eventualities, such as Icelandic volcanoes or coronavirus (possible) pandemics. Therefore it is very difficult to predict whether insurers will pay out in different circumstances.
Yet it’s important to understand insurers are covered by the financial ‘treating customers fairly’ rules, which mean if you don’t think it has been fair you can make a formal complaint. After it replies, or after eight weeks if it doesn’t, you can go on to the free Financial Ombudsman to adjudicate. Eight weeks may be a long time in this case, so if your situation is really financially pressing, tell the ombudsman.
I was about to book my holiday – should I still do it?
This is a judgement call, so here’s Martin to talk you through it…
It’s still early in the Covid-19 outbreak, so uncertainty is rife. Hopefully with hindsight we’ll say, for those in the UK at least, this turned out to be a storm in a teacup. But it’s plausible this will have a substantial impact on world health, travel and the economy across 2020. So if you’re planning to book, ask yourself:
– How far away is the trip? The sooner it is, the more certainty you have. If you’re planning to go soon to a country with only limited Covid-19 cases, there’s less of a risk.
Further out is trickier. Summer holidays are four months away – the first Covid-19 case was only reported to the World Health Organisation two months ago. This shows the situation can change quickly and many more countries may be off limits in summer.
– Would you be disinclined to travel? Less demand may mean holiday prices drop. Yet ask yourself how would you feel about going to an area with growing Covid-19 cases that isn’t on the Foreign Office exclusion list.
If you wouldn’t go, then the further away the trip, the more cautious you should be about booking now – as if things got worse and you decide not to go, you’re not covered. Of course you can mitigate the risk by either booking a trip that allows free cancellation later (many hotels allow this), or simply waiting to see.
If you think you’d go anyway (one logic says, there’s as much risk of catching it here as there) then book, but ensure you’ve appropriate travel insurance in place, in case it is added to the Foreign Office’s list.
– Are you vulnerable to coronavirus? A man whose wife has the chronic lung condition COPD asked me on Monday’s Radio 5 Live Ask Martin show: ‘We paid a deposit and we’re looking to go away in May – what should I do?’ They of course will be strongly disinclined to travel to a coronavirus-affected area due to the exacerbated medical risks.
As he didn’t have insurance, the first thing to do was check for any pre-existing conditions travel insurance he could get that would cover the condition and Covid-19 in their circumstances. If not, I simply wouldn’t book. Even if he finds it, it’s a tough call. If you are vulnerable, think about where you’d prefer to be treated or quarantined (to protect you catching it).