Coronavirus: Should you travel to Europe right now?
Photo by Anthony DELANOIX on Unsplash

This post was written on February 27th. Today (March 15th) the answer is NO! Don’t go.
Read line above. The hot topic on everyone’s mind (I’ve been getting calls, texts, emails, private messages, tweets, you name it) is of course coronavirus, or COVID-19 to be more exact. People are wondering about many things, including whether and where international travel is safe. I canceled a RTW trip that would have taken me to affected parts of Asia, but Europe is a different story. Should you travel to Europe right now?

Below is one of the many emails on the subject I got from readers just yesterday. It’s a great question, and a great example of the kind of questions I’ve been getting, so I deleted some of the personal info so I could share it—with my response—here:

Dear Johnny – Can you write an update in your newsletter about what to do about traveling? I’m supposed to fly to France March 10, but I don’t know if I should travel LAX-CDG-RER-Métro to [a friend’s] flat and then go around Paris spreading my personal microbiome amongst my friends and their children.

The short answer

First, that’s very considerate. I can relate to the houseguest part of it since I just traveled to Florida to visit my dad, and while I was away we had a houseguest fly in back home. Here’s my short answer: As of February 27, the CDC advises not canceling trips to Europe (except to the towns in Northern Italy that are under quarantine). When you go, you should just remember to wash your hands often and keep your hands away from your face. I’d add that houseguests and really all travelers should consider taking a shower when they arrive. This way they can not only freshen up but also change their clothes and throw their travel clothes in the wash before hugging/kissing friends.

The long answer, including how to stay safe

Now here’s the long answer, mainly straight from the CDC’s mouth, via email (sign up for CDC emails here) and this page:

Where should you not travel right now?
“CDC recommends that travelers avoid all nonessential travel to the following destinations”:

“[The below] destinations are experiencing sustained community transmission of respiratory illness caused by the novel coronavirus (COVID-19). The virus can spread from person to person. Older adults and those with chronic medical conditions should consider postponing nonessential travel.”

How can you limit your exposure to coronavirus?
Here’s more on how to limit your chances of getting coronavirus from the CDC:

  • Avoid contact with sick people.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, or mouth with unwashed hands.
  • Do not travel when you are sick.
  • Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces using a regular household cleaning spray or wipe.
  • Clean your hands often by washing them with soap and water for at least 20 seconds or using an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at 60%–95% alcohol. Soap and water should be used if hands are visibly dirty. It is especially important to clean hands after going to the bathroom; before eating; and after coughing, sneezing or blowing your nose.
  • If soap and water are not readily available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol.

Should you wear a facemask while flying?
“CDC does not currently recommend that the general public or travelers wear facemasks or respirators to prevent spread novel coronavirus if they are healthy. Although facemasks are commonly worn in many countries, little evidence supports their use in a community setting. People sick with respiratory symptoms (coughing, sneezing), however, can consider wearing a facemask to prevent the spread of germs to others. This is especially important if seeking care in a healthcare setting, such as a hospital or clinic.

“The use of facemasks is crucial for health workers and people who are taking care of someone in close settings (at home or in a health care facility). Take everyday preventive actions to help slow the spread of respiratory illnesses.”

What should you do if you don’t feel well after traveling?
“If you do not feel well after your trip, call your doctor and tell them where you traveled and your symptoms.”

More coronavirus stories and resources


6 Comments On "Coronavirus: Should You Travel to Europe Right Now?"
  1. Peter Coates|

    All you have to do is look at the stock market this past week. Do they see the coronavirus as a real threat? They are very concerned about the worldwide threat and the possible risk potential here. Sports and functions are cancelled overseas.Terrific idea to travel in a confined space such as an airplane or a ship. Are you swimming there?
    How about getting quarantined there or upon return back.. That would be the ideal extended vacation, that is if you survive,
    Good luck to you and your family, I pray your choice is wise.

  2. Antonio|

    Johnny, like you I have 2 kids, one is currently 7 months old and the older one is 4. My older one is turning 5 in April, and he wants to go to Legoland in California and Seaworld. Im traveling from the Bay Area (OAK) to San Diego and I already got my flight tickets and my Airb&b reservation.
    Have you heard anything on Theme Parks? Thousands of people visits them, Im worry to take both of my kids, specially my 7 month (he’ll be 9 months in April).

    1. Johnny Jet|

      Hi Antonio,

      Congrats! Tokyo Disney closed today for two weeks but I took my kids to Disneyland a couple of weeks ago and taking my son to Legoland next month. Should be fine just wash hands often and teach them to keep hands away from their face.

  3. Dean|

    Never that simple. Viruses can be spread through a person’s mucous membranes (eyes, ears, nose, mouth). Without thinking people rub the corner of an eye, tough their lips, etc. Removing viruses from your hands is not as simple as a quick 20 second hand washing like most people do.
    The odds are in your favor, you or your kids will not get infected but the other side of coin is it worth the risk? As they say, “An ounce of prevention is worth of pound of cure!”

  4. RoFu|

    it is extremely reckless of you to be giving advise on this world wide pandemic . You are not expert on this matter other than you knowledge of travel deals and airline rewards.

    1. Johnny Jet|

      This post was written on Feb 27. I just added a line at the top to make it clear I do NOT advise people going to Europe (or anywhere) right now. The information I gave was passed down from our misinformed government.

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