How to overcome the fear of travel after the pandemic

fear of travel

Travel is a little scary. But how bad is the fear of travel right now? It’s so bad that even people in the travel industry are staying home.

Annie Gofus, a Washington, D.C., travel agent who founded the site Wunderbird, isn’t going anywhere. She’s worried not just for her own safety, but also for that of her customers.

“I’m afraid of a client falling ill while traveling, or spreading coronavirus while on vacation,” she says. “As eager as I am to start planning travel again, I don’t think I’ll be totally confident until we have a safe vaccine for covid-19.”

Who else has the fear of travel?

If you’re afraid to travel this summer, you’re in good company.

Lum Kamishi is afraid to travel, too. He says the pandemic threatens to create a rift between visitors and suspicious residents. “I’m afraid I’ll be seen as an alien — an outsider by the locals,” says Kamishi, who is based in Kosovo and works for a travel news site that specializes in visa information.

Carlos Chilin, the general manager of AirportParkingReservations.com, doesn’t expect consumer confidence to rebound until next year. But there could be some hope for 2020, he says, “if travel operators listen and take action to satisfy travelers about their number-one concern, health and safety.”

Afraid to travel? Here’s a reality check

First, a reality check. The virus continues to spread, and many states still have restrictions in place. “It is reasonable to want to avoid a threat to your safety,” says Robert Quigley, a physician and regional medical director for the Americas at International SOS, a travel security firm. “While many areas are starting to reopen, covid-19 is still a large health threat to the world. But there are still ways to travel and enjoy a summer vacation.”

Juan Fernandez, the operating partner at Virtuoso-affiliated Elli Travel in Larchmont, N.Y., says travel has always come with risks. “The difference this time around,” he says, “is the fear of the unknown.”

The travel industry wants you back — now

The travel industry hopes that reassuring travelers will help them overcome their fear of travel. For example, VisitPortugal in April unveiled an initiative called Clean & Safe. It’s a government certification to distinguish tourist activities that are compliant with hygiene and cleaning requirements for the prevention and control of covid-19 and other possible infections.

In May, the vacation rental company Vrbo introduced a new program to both help customers filter for close-to-home properties and allay anxiety about the cleanliness of its rental homes. Its guidelines advise owners to disinfect high-touch surfaces, build in times between bookings for thorough cleaning, and stock hand soap and hand sanitizers for guests. Jeff Hurst, Vrbo’s chief executive, says his company took the steps “to help guests feel safe when they’re ready to travel again.”

D. Alexander, a high-end vacation rental management company, is marketing its luxury homes by highlighting features such as remoteness and isolation.

“Safe travel today boils down to a handful of basic questions,” says Alex Allison, the company’s managing partner. “How many people would I come in contact with? Do I know what safety and hygiene practices are in place? Can I be certain they’re being followed?”

How much does safety cost?

The safety comes at a price. A month on Florida’s Emerald Coast will set you back $18,000. A 30-day isolation in the red rocks of Sedona, Ariz., costs $19,000. Maybe not in everyone’s budget, but they have the right idea: Get away to somewhere safe.

Those who opt for less solitary options will have their fellow travelers to consider. “How do we protect ourselves from others?” asks Robert Yeager, a retired military contractor from Tucson who enjoys cruises. “What about passengers who fail to use the hand sanitizers prominently located just outside of eating areas? And those that handle food and serving utensils recklessly? How about the people who don’t wash their hands after using the bathrooms?”

Concerns like Yeager’s are among the reasons experts recommend local getaways that limit exposure to those outside your household. (Here are a few gadgets that can also help.) Road trips to state and national parks are summer favorites for travelers who want to avoid exposure to covid-19. Summer travelers are avoiding planes, cruises and any activity where people are in proximity.

Manage expectations when treating your fear of travel

Even in the best of times, travel anxiety can be difficult to manage.

“Overcoming the fear of travel requires tolerating the fear,” says Anna Diamantis, a psychotherapist based in Stamford, Conn., who specializes in anxiety and grief counseling. “You ultimately need to face your fear head-on and stay in the feared situation until the anxiety comes down on its own. Continuing the avoidance — or partial avoidance — will only continue or amplify the fear.”

And the sooner, the better. Travel-related phobias are notoriously challenging to treat because most people travel only occasionally, according to Jessica Borelli, an associate professor of psychological science at the University of California at Irvine.

“Anything we do infrequently is a prime target for anxiety buildup,” she says. “If we want to gain control over that anxiety, we have to do it more. The answer is always doing something more frequently, not less frequently if you want to feel less anxious about it.”

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Christopher Elliott is the founder of Elliott Advocacy, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that empowers consumers to solve their problems and helps those who can’t. He’s the author of numerous books on consumer advocacy and writes weekly columns for King Features Syndicate, USA Today, and the Washington Post. If you have a consumer problem you can’t solve, contact him directly through his advocacy website. You can also follow him on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn, or sign up for his daily newsletter.

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Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by AirportParkingReservations.com

With nearly 20 years in the industry, over 128 airport covered in the U.S. and Canada, and over 1,000 Hotel and Parking Partners-we provide travelers the best options on how to get to the airport when flying. Whether you want to; drive yourself and park near an Airport (Airport Parking), stay the night before your flight at an airport hotel and leave your car (Hotel and Parking Package), or take a shared Shuttle/Private Car/Limo to the Airport- we got you covered. The best deals can be found online, and booking a reservation has never been easier. You can explore all of our options by visiting us at AirportParkingReservations.com, ParkSleepFly.com, AirportParking.com, and ShuttleFinder.com.

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Global Rescue is the world’s leading provider of medical, security, evacuation and travel risk management services. Founded in 2004, Global Rescue has exclusive relationships with the Johns Hopkins Emergency Medicine Division of Special Operations and Elite Medical Group. Global Rescue provides best-in-class services that identify, monitor and respond to client medical and security crises. Learn more about Global Rescue.

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Generali Global Assistance has been a leading provider of travel insurance and other assistance services for more than 25 years. We offer a full suite of innovative, vertically integrated travel insurance and emergency services. Generali Global Assistance is part of The Europ Assistance (EA) Group, who pioneered the travel assistance industry in 1963 and continues to be the leader in providing real-time assistance anywhere in the world, delivering on our motto – You Live, We Care.

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Seven Corners has helped customers all over the world with travel difficulties, big and small. As one of the few remaining privately owned travel insurance companies, Seven Corners provides insurance plans and 24/7 travel assistance services to more than a million people each year. Because we’re privately held, we can focus on the customer without the constraints that larger companies have. Visit Seven Corners to learn more.

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Travelex Insurance Services is a leading travel insurance provider in the United States with over 55 years combined industry expertise of helping people dream, explore and travel with confidence. We offer comprehensive travel insurance plans with optional upgrades allowing travelers to customize the plans to fit their needs. Compare plans, get a quote and buy online at Travelexinsurance.com.

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An independent provider of low cost CDW/LDW insurance for use with rental cars. Up to $100,000 cover with no deductible. Policies available on a per day, per trip or per year basis. Also works with overseas rentals. Try  Insuremyrentalcar.comnow.

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The nation’s fifth-largest cable operator, serving the smaller cities and towns in the Midwest and Southern regions of the United States. We are a high-performance broadband, entertainment, and communications company that brings the power of modern technology and quality customer experience to life inside the connected home by combining ultra-fast gigabit speeds with personalized local and over-the-top entertainment choices that fit your lifestyle. Details at  Mediacomcable.com.

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Arch RoamRight is one of the fastest growing, most-highly rated travel insurance companies in the United States. Travel advisors love working with us, and travelers feel protected with our trip cancellation and travel medical insurance coverage. We also make it easy to file a claim online with our fast, paperless claims website. Learn more about RoamRight travel insurance.

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VisitorsCoverage is one of the world’s most trusted providers of travel insurance for millions of global travelers in over 175 countries. Working with top-rated travel insurance partner providers, VisitorsCoverage’s award-winning search, compare and purchase technology simplifies the travel insurance process and finds the best deals for the coverage you need to explore the world with confidence. Get insurance for your next trip at VisitorsCoverage.

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Medjet is the premier global air-medical transport, travel security and crisis response membership program for travelers. With a MedjetAssist membership, if you become hospitalized more than 150 miles from home, we will get you from that unfamiliar hospital all the way home to the hospital you trust. All you ever pay is your membership fee. MedjetHorizon members add 24/7 personal security and crisis response benefits. Elliott.org readers enjoy discounted rates. Travel safer with  MedjetAssist.

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Travel Leaders Group is transforming travel through its progressive approach toward each unique travel experience. Travel Leaders Group assists millions of travelers through its leisure, business and network travel operations under a variety of diversified divisions and brands including All Aboard Travel, Andrew Harper Travel, Colletts Travel, Corporate Travel Services, CruCon Cruise Outlet, Cruise Specialists, Nexion, Protravel International, SinglesCruise.com, Travel Leaders Corporate, Travel Leaders Network and Tzell Travel Group, and its merger with ALTOUR. With more than 7,000 agency locations and 52,000 travel advisors, Travel Leaders Group ranks as one of the industry’s largest retail travel agency companies.

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Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Generali Global Assistance

Generali Global Assistance has been a leading provider of travel insurance and other assistance services for more than 25 years. We offer a full suite of innovative, vertically integrated travel insurance and emergency services. Generali Global Assistance is part of The Europ Assistance (EA) Group, who pioneered the travel assistance industry in 1963 and continues to be the leader in providing real-time assistance anywhere in the world, delivering on our motto – You Live, We Care.

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