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What has coronavirus done to travel plans? Readers share heartbreak and hope

(Kimberly Salt / For The Times)

Japan. Italy. Mexico.

Spring break, wedding plans and family trips.

These are but some of the places and plans that had Times Travel readers packing and anticipating. Now, the novel coronavirus has derailed some of those plans.

But not all.

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We asked readers about their plans, and they responded generously with their stories. Travel, for many, is not just a respite; it’s a way of life. Their stories remind us of the joy of travel — and the hope that the world will reopen to them in the coming months.

Dreams deferred

Our family had planned a Make-a-Wish trip to Japan. Our 17-year-old had bone cancer last year and completed chemotherapy in August. He is now six months cancer-free. His wish was to go to Japan when he got better, and the Make-a-Wish Foundation had planned a family trip for him.

Unfortunately, three weeks ago we were notified that the trip is postponed until further notice. I actually felt relief when I got their email. I had been monitoring the situation with the virus, and things seemed to be doing worse.

Our biggest problem right now has been to get a full or partial refund for our oldest son. We bought his ticket so he could join us on our trip. After all, this was a family trip. We have been calling the airline, the online booking company and the insurance company. No one wants to help. They do not want to refund the trip or give us travel credit. The insurance company cannot even find us in their system. It has been discouraging.

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Even with all of this, I am thankful not to be overseas and possibly get stuck there. But losing that money sure hurts our pocket.

Teresa Casas

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How is the coronavirus affecting my travel plans? Let me count the ways:

• Weeklong, self-styled Southern literary tour of the Deep South: canceled

• Family reunion in New Brunswick, Canada: canceled

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• San Francisco weekend celebration of a friend’s 70th birthday: postponed

• Monthlong tour of Mongolia and Russia: off the table.

Plan B? A fall camping/road trip to a half-dozen U.S. national parks.

Lynne Friedmann

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I’m 68 with an immune disorder. The wife is 73. We had a trip booked at the end of March. We would fly to Atlanta to see family, then Key West, Fla., for several days of sun and fun. Canceled. I don’t have any worry about being on the plane. But schlepping through the Atlanta airport with all those people from distant places seemed not the most prudent way to protect our health. Now to see how much pain the airline will inflict on our cancellation ... .

G.D. Morris

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My fiancé and I had our wedding planned for March 21 and just made the call to postpone it to next year because 80% of our guests would be flying into Texas from even more affected areas, including New York City and the Bay Area.

Three weeks ago we were optimistic and even drove far out of our way to find enough travel-sized hand sanitizer to supply at the wedding and were strategizing how to serve our family-style dinner in the safest way. But as things developed and the cancellations started to flow in — the writing was on the wall.

Illustration for a travel story in which readers share their plans that have been affected by the coronavirus pandemic.
(Edwin Fotheringham / For The Times)
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Although that has affected the travel plans of our 80-plus guests, we had also booked a short trip to Sedona, Ariz., for right after our wedding, with plans to go on a longer honeymoon to New Zealand in the fall. Now both travel plans have been disrupted. If things do get better by the fall, we might even go on our honeymoon before our wedding to take advantage of the lower fares.

Initially, we thought we could still go to Sedona even after canceling the wedding (I even canceled and rebooked our flights to try to take advantage of the lower fares) but at this point that seems off the table as well. Because we already booked the time off at work (and to be honest, kind of need it after the stress of the wedding postponement), we are exploring driving to a nearby national park as a more isolated alternative.

Sabrina Majeed

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My wife has several health issues that make her more susceptible to infections. So have we reconsidered our travel plans? You’re right we have. We were set to see “Hamilton” this week; canceled. We were set to see the L.A. Kings play this week; canceled. We were set to fly to Hawaii for a short holiday; canceled. Dodgers; canceled.

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The bottom line is this: In these uncertain times, am I willing to risk my wife’s life over a trip, sporting event or play? The answer is a resounding no. It may be a pain, and we might get awfully bored over the next few weeks or months, but boredom sure beats critically ill or dead.

Michael Bornman

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We have been counting down the days from over 400 to just a few days left as of this writing until our helicopter wedding on a mountaintop in New Zealand. The impending quarantines from either side of the border are making us even more nervous about the wedding.

It’s just us, not a wedding party. They will let us go, right? Possibly, but there’s a 14-day quarantine on either side which would be 30 days minimum of isolation. This is supposed to be our epic weddingmoon.

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Natasha Helm

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My daughter’s wedding is March 21. Some guests have canceled because their doctors have advised them not to fly.

Tasneem Watts

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My wife and I planned to leave on March 26 for an 18-day tour of Morocco. We recently canceled the trip, booked through a tour company. The company, which has now canceled all tours, was most helpful. They merely charged us a $50 per person cancellation fee.

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At this time, it appears as though the airlines will charge us a $300 per person cancellation fee, although that is subject to change. Our remaining payment must be used within 18 months to book another tour or we will lose the balance.

Robert Lentz

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My wife and I were supposed to go to Italy for three weeks in April and May and are in the process of canceling hotels, flights, tours, etc.

Denny Salvaryn

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My wife opted out of a planned fall 2020 trip to Slovakia and Croatia. We were also considering a train trip in the U.S., but COVID-19 uncertainty put the brakes on it.

Scott Shimatsu

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Illustration for a travel story in which readers share their plans that have been affected by the coronavirus pandemic.
(Edwin Fotheringham / For The Times)

I am diabetic and concerned about COVID-19. I had three trips by airplane that I have canceled. One was a conference where they now say one conference-goer, possibly four, had COVID-19. I was to travel to the Bay Area for dental work and to meet family and friends; I will put that off. I had another car trip planned for early April (I had volunteered to write a grant for a nonprofit); it will now be done remotely.

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Planned on one additional trip to the Midwest or East Coast, one a month from April to July, I will put those off for the duration. Not going to a smaller conference scheduled in Phoenix in July. Two more conferences in September, now likely skipping. Does not include short trips to San Diego, Los Angeles or Las Vegas. I figure it’s at least $10,000 in travel.

Peter Green

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Thanks for the risk-assessment article. My husband and I used it last week to decide whether to cancel a trip to Norway.

We decided to postpone, and this week, looking at the worsening world situation, I’m glad we did. I’m sleeping (a little) better.

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Carroll Lachnit

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After the last four years vacationing in California, it looks as though the current virus scare has curtailed any vacation planning for this year. Hopefully, normalcy will return to this country with safety and pride on the forefront to living in this great country.

M. Hall

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Illustration for a travel story in which readers share their plans that have been affected by the coronavirus pandemic.
(Edwin Fotheringham / For The Times)
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My wife and two teen daughters were to fly to Florida for spring break. Canceling the flight was easy, but a proposed drive to stay at Grandma’s idle condo presented a quandary. Despite assurances they would eat meals in the car and the condo and only visit the beach, I nixed it.

Mean Old Dad thinks a national state of emergency indicates imminent danger and should be respected. Now the girls are seething as they see all the fun and silly vacation pics posted by their friends, who traveled as planned. I told them to be patient and see who ends up happiest in the long run.

Bruce Jones

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We will probably not tour any national parks, which is something we do every year.

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Sally Helmerich

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I am extremely bummed. I am supposed to go to Las Vegas for a week for my birthday, and now I think I need to cancel. I hate this virus.

Sherrie Peters

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We planned to take our granddaughter to New York City for her 13th birthday — Broadway, museums, sightseeing, shopping, eating. She has been so excited about this trip. We were anxious about going because we are in the “older” category and were being told to avoid crowds.

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Fortunately, New York made the decision for us and made it easy to cancel everything and get refunds. It’s been a real class-act response. We hope we get to make this trip up to her in the near future and wish the people in New York who will be affected by the economics of having to close will be up and running and healthy again soon.

Karen Loewenstern

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Illustration for a travel story in which readers share their plans that have been affected by the coronavirus pandemic.
(Edwin Fotheringham / For The Times)

My girlfriend and I are huge motorcycle fans, so we bought tickets to see the Italian MotoGP and Catalunya MotoGP in May. We found killer airfare, were going to rent a motorcycle in Rome, ride to the Italian race and then ride from Italy to Spain for the Catalunya race.

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Best trip ever. We’ve been planning this for eight months. And just like that, MotoGP season is ruined and travel to Italy seems impossible in May. It appears neither the flights nor the race tickets will be refunded. Heart broken.

Javier R

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My best friend and I have been planning a two-week trip to Japan in April for the past year. A few weeks ago, we were still comfortable making the trip. Now, both of our companies have stated that we will have to work from home for 14 days upon returning. That’s a month away from the office and a lot to consider. Getting stuck in Japan is also a huge risk.

It is definitely tempting to still make the trip with all the hotel discounts I’m seeing and the thought of smaller crowds, though. We are both young and healthy and not very concerned about being infected ourselves or the severity if we are, but how could we live with ourselves if we brought back the virus unknowingly and it seriously affected someone else?

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We were willing to toe the line, but there are some lines we can’t bring ourselves to cross. Thankfully we used airline miles to book our flights and are able to cancel our accommodation at no charge. We are hopeful that we can reschedule and that we can do our part to “flatten the curve.”

Emily McGeary

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I postponed a monthlong prepaid trip to New Zealand until November.

Mark Kotch

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My trip to Algeria, Tunisia and Malta at the end of the month was just canceled. My trip insurance does not cover the cancellation. One airline does not want to deal with me yet, and I have not been able to get through to the others.

I do not know how much, if anything, I will recover. I also have prepaid flights and a deposit on a June 1 trip to the South Pacific. Have to pay the balance the first week in April. Have no idea about that trip either.

Linda Vogel

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Had a China cruise planned for 21 months. Canceled. Switched to a Caribbean cruise. Canceled. Next one is scheduled out of Italy in July. We’ll see if Italy opens back up by then.

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Jeffrey Diamond

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Our trip to Iceland was to occur this week. We have postponed the trip because we are more concerned about being caught in an uncertain bureaucratic morass than we are about getting the virus.

Timothy Sales

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I was to fly to Kathmandu, Nepal, on March 14. On March 12, Nepal closed its borders, and eight months of training and planning for my Annapurna trek were wasted.

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Kevin Young

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We are a family of four with 9- and 5-year-old girls. We haven’t been out of the country for about five years, and we were so excited about Morocco and Spain. We’ve been following the numbers for several weeks now and had resorted to the likeliness that we “shouldn’t go” and then the realization that we can’t go.

Our Tangier, Morocco-to-Madrid flight was easily refunded. Our hotel reservations in Marrakesh and Essaouira in Morocco and in Madrid have been more difficult to get sorted out. We’ll see what happens. We’re glad that we were leaving some of our time unbooked and don’t have to reschedule or renegotiate, but rather can reimagine for when we take this dream trip again.

I hope we can rebook the flight once we are all safe from COVID-19. There’s such a beautiful world and incredible communities to experience. Here’s to hoping that the riads, hotels, restaurants and people survive and thrive.

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Cori Eldridge

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We were supposed to go on a long weekend trip to Zihuatanejo, Mexico. Seeing the situation overall deteriorating around us — people going crazy in supermarkets buying stuff they will throw away in a few weeks, businesses closing left and right, all major events being canceled —we’re doing a staycation at home.

Our daughter came home from college to take her online classes from here. We’re actually quite happy as this may be more relaxing than our vacation in Mexico would have been.

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Hanno Basse

Why not travel?

As I sit in a half-empty, high-end resort in Arizona with the staff tripping over themselves trying to make me happy, I can only say what a wonderful time to travel by auto. Intelligent precautions, yes, but mindless hysterical fear, no.

You can stay in your toilet paper igloo behind your locked door, but I am carefully enjoying the world.

Mike Post

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Illustration for a travel story in which readers share their plans that have been affected by the coronavirus pandemic.
(Edwin Fotheringham / For The Times)

I just came back from Japan. We were going on a cruise but quickly abandoned that idea after the ship was quarantined in Yokohama. Because we already had plane tickets, we decided to spend two weeks in Japan instead. We had a great time and places weren’t as crowded.

I feel so bad for all the hotels, airlines, cruise lines, etc. that will be losing money over the next six months. I would love to take advantage of some of the deals that will be coming around, but I’m afraid the locations I want to visit will have limited access. So we are staycationing and seeing local places that we haven’t seen yet. New Mexico is full of state parks and little-known places to explore.

Good luck with the next few months as travel crawls to a stop ... darn it.

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Shelley Takeuchi

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With all of the concerns regarding airline travel because of the spread of coronavirus, I am instead considering taking a domestic road trip to different national parks and domestic cities.

Michelle Cabalu Zaslav

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We will be traveling by car from Arkansas to Arizona for spring break. My husband and I practice impeccable hygiene and are not “large crowds” type of people. We will be spending most of our time in the sunshine and will be doing outdoorsy things.

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We have spent the past week beefing up our immune system by getting plenty of sleep and eating healthfully. Of course, we will be bringing our own disinfectant wipes and sanitizer for the hotel rooms, but we will be OK. I won’t let fear dictate our lives.

Jennifer Whittle

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We originally planned to travel for nine months, and thus far we are not quite two weeks out. We are in Portugal and have a four-week stay reserved in Porto. My hope is we’ll be quarantined there and will have to stay forever!

I’m just hoping we’ll be able to find food in grocery stores. We don’t know if we’ll be allowed to cross the border into Spain, and then on to France before we head to the U.K. We’re determined to travel as long as possible!

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Risa G

Illustration for a travel story in which readers share their plans that have been affected by the coronavirus pandemic.
(Edwin Fotheringham / For The Tim/Edwin Fotheringham / For The Tim)

A different way to look at the situation

For a moment, put away your deep anxiety over what is happening. The tightening in your chest over the uncertainties. Celebrate with me the fun and safe things you can still do in this crazy time. Here is a list to get you started:

• Go on a bike ride. Enjoy the wind on your face and the complete control you exert over where you go. Find a 7-Eleven on the way and buy an individually packaged ice cream and give a struggling local business your business.

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• Take a hike. Did you know there are places you can walk in Los Angeles that put you higher than the power lines (Kenter Canyon)? Exalt in that. Did you know there are waterfalls in this town (Eaton Canyon Falls)? Find them. Strip down.

• Play “What room in your house are you calling from?” on video chats with co-workers. Sure, some people have nice home offices with self-portraits and fireplaces in the background. But the rest of us are hunkered down in corners of our bedroom or closet. Deftly muting and unmuting to the barking dog, whining child and Amazon delivery. Also, take advantage of the “business on top, sleepover on bottom” fashion you can get away with only when working remotely.

• Think up new sections for the L.A. Times. The Sports and Entertainment sections are going to be quiet for a few weeks, so let’s give them some new ideas! How about a style section on “What’s the oldest clothing item in your drawer and what’s its backstory?” For the L.A. Affairs section, a spread of best and worst fights with your loved one after working together out of your home for too long. Or stories of people who met and fell in love in times of crisis. Because it happens, my friends, oh, it happens (especially if you are skinny-dipping in a Pasadena waterfall).

• Mini-golf in the back yard. Wipe down one good club and ball and play your way through. If you are doing this right, or you swing as I do, you should already be 6 feet away from anyone else. And now none of those expert golfers can pressure you to go fast by creeping up on you.

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• Board-game time. Some of us never forgot about board games. Welcome back! You can go with the many classics and their endless spinoff progeny, including Monopoly “Cheaters Edition” which marries the capitalist greed of the original edition with the unethical practices it was missing; or, the Game of Life, which has a “Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” edition that is terrific up until the third season you play it. Or you can explore the frustrating world of deck-building or the myriad strategic eurogames that for some reason all involve collecting hay bales. You will rediscover your childhood and, more important, your children. Where have they been all these years?

• Slime 2.0. Speaking of kids, if you have any, you recall the incredibly annoying and woefully unoriginal chemists they all became last year making slime (and you are likely still working your way through tubs of Elmer’s glue, post-fad). Get those little Marie Curies back to work. Hand sanitizer is scarce, but you can replicate it at home using rubbing alcohol, aloe vera and water. Hours of fun and much more useful than pink goop still stuck in the sofa cracks.

• Discover the airwaves. The whaaat? That’s right. Gather ye ‘round a device that plays music, podcasts, radio and … listen. Put down everything you are reading. Yes, everything.

• The ocean. Is there more to say? Have you forgotten we have it? Drive left, until you can’t anymore. Then get out of your car, inhale deeply, and stare. It is one of the wonders of the world and ready to embrace you.

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• Above all — and this is the most fun thing — love each other. Share the love. The longer we go without touching, the greater the distance our love must travel. The most salient learning from this whole crisis is just how interconnected we all are and how interdependent on one another for health, happiness and love.

Jessica Kurzban


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