Should you cancel your trip when there's a travel advisory?
Posted by George Hobica on Friday, August 9, 2013
The U.S. State Department recently issued a worldwide travel alert cautioning travelers, particularly in the Middle East and North Africa. The alert expires on August 31, 2013.
In addition, there are current "travel warnings" (which are a higher state of advisory) to many countries, most of which are ongoing. Mexico, for example, had a revised warning on July 12, 2013 (these travel warnings "recommend that Americans avoid or consider the risk of travel to that country." That's a pretty dire warning, yet thousands of Americans travel to Mexico every year for work and pleasure.
So what should you do?
In reality, the chances of an American citizen being killed or injured in a terrorist or other attack anywhere are extremely slim. The number of U.S. citizens reported to the Department of State as murdered in Mexico was 113 in 2011 and 71 in 2012 (these were not terrorist attacks, by the way). But how many were killed or injured in the United States in those years?
Some things to consider:
Airlines won't let you cancel or rebook a non-refundable airfare when there's a travel alert. If there's an actual terrorist incident (such as in Mumbai in 2008) that's a different story. You would probably be able to rebook at a later date or choose a different destination. When the Nairobi Airport international terminal burned down earlier this week (although there's no indication it was an act of terror), cancelling flights, British Airways allowed passengers to book flights to alternate destinations or delay their trips. And if a flight was actually canceled, refunds were offered.
Travel insurance won't help you unless there's an actual terrorist incident in your destination within 30 days of your arrival, or unless you've bought a more expensive "cancel for any reason" insurance policy. And if the destination is a known "no go zone," with a history of terrorist attacks, you may not be covered either. Also, travel insurers have definitions of "terrorism" that may not correlate with the U.S. State Department's—or your own. So read the fine print. Compare policies at Squaremouth or Insuremytrip.
My advice? If you're skittish about traveling to international "hot spots" like Yemen or Egypt, no one will fault you for visiting a U.S. National Park instead. You probably haven't seen them all. And really, you have a greater chance of drowning in your own bathtub or dying in a car crash than you do being a victim of a terrorist attack, even in Yemen.
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