“With Europe supplying arms to Ukraine, we thought there might be retaliation from [Russian President Vladimir] Putin,” says Raabe, a long-term care planner from Green Bay, Wis.
As the invasion continues, many American travelers have similar apprehensions.
“As things were getting back to normal after the relaxation of covid rules, the conflict in Ukraine added a lot of uncertainty,” says Mahmood Khan, a professor in the department of hospitality and tourism management at Virginia Tech. “Many travelers have already booked flights and cruises because they felt comfortable after a long stay under restrictions.”
Greg Pearson, managing director of FocusPoint International, a risk management firm, says you should reconsider your summer vacation plans if you’re visiting Ukraine, Russia or any other country bordering Ukraine.
“If you’re going ahead with your travel plans, I would advise you to do so with a lot of caution,” says Pearson. “Be sure to stay up to date with any changes in threat dynamics that could impact personal safety and the ability to move freely.”
“Many insurance plans won’t provide evacuation assistance during times of terrorism or political unrest if your destination has a Level 3 or 4 warning before you depart,” Cronin says.
Some tour operators have already changed their itineraries to avoid the conflict. Ride and Seek, a cycle touring company, normally offers two bike tours that feature Eastern European destinations: the “Napoleon” from Paris to St. Petersburg and the “Iron Curtain” from Berlin to Budapest.
“With tensions rising in Ukraine in the run-up to Christmas, we have changed the [‘Napoleon’] terminal in Tallinn, Estonia,” says founder Dylan Reynolds. “We still drive to the Russian border, but then we take the shuttle to Tallinn for the last evening.”
Travelers avoid countries at war, at least for now. Greg Tepper, founder of luxury tour operator Exeter International, says business with Russia has “fallen to zero”. But at the same time, the tours in the rest of Europe are selling very well.
“Business to the Czech Republic, Austria, Germany and Switzerland is booming with pent-up demand,” says Tepper. “Travelers are starting to worry about a possible refugee crisis in Poland, but we don’t imagine refugees interfering with leisure travel – even in Poland – this summer.”
Eman Abdur-Rahman plans to travel to Albania this summer despite the uncertainty.
“I don’t think the conflict will reach Albania,” says Abdur-Rahman, who runs a remote accounting firm in Gaithersburg, Maryland. “The only hesitation would be if other military forces decide to join Ukraine. They tend to travel through Albania, as it has a port which historically has been used to reach this part of the continent.
When should you consider canceling your summer vacation? If that gets you anywhere near invasion, says Michael Embrich, author of “March On: A Veterans Travel Guide.” Belarus, Moldova and eastern Poland could quickly be drawn into the conflict, he says.
But he doesn’t think it will spread to the point of affecting his European travel plans. “I’m going to Rome this summer and I don’t intend to change my itinerary,” he adds.
Alan Fyall, associate dean for academic affairs at the University of Central Florida’s Rosen College of Hospitality Management, predicts a tourist migration to Western Europe this summer. “This will benefit traditional big city destinations such as Barcelona, Paris, London and Amsterdam,” he said. “Cities like Prague, Budapest and cities in Poland will be quieter than normal.”
How do you ensure that your trip is not derailed by military conflict? First, get the right travel insurance. A standard policy with named perils will not cover fear of travel, says Narendra Khatri, director of Insubbuy, a travel insurance company. “‘Cancel for any reason’ travel insurance will be a smarter idea for traveling in Eastern and Central Europe this year,” he says. It will refund between 50-75% of your non-refundable prepaid expenses if you decide to cancel.
Another tip: make sure you can cancel your vacation in Europe with as few penalties as possible. That’s what Suzanne Spadafora, a dermatologist from Richmond, did before booking her summer vacation in Romania. She paid for her airfare on Turkish Airlines using frequent flyer miles and ensured the rest of her stay had flexible cancellation terms.
“My hotel reservations and land tours are also cancellable,” says Spadafora.
Look for flexible reservation policies that allow you to reschedule. For example, JayWay Travel, a boutique tour operator, has an “always flexible” booking policy that allows you to reschedule a trip or request a different itinerary. This way you can choose a destination where you feel safer.
Raabe, the Green Bay city planner, says he will stay closer to home this summer. He plans a road trip with his daughter through the Midwest. The move made sense to him. He received a full refund of his cruise deposit and will use the credit from his tour operator to plan a river cruise in 2023.
I’m going to Europe soon too. And, like many travelers, I feel a little uncomfortable. My tentative itinerary will take me to Greece and Turkey next month. It’s far from the conflict, but close enough that a sudden shift in the geopolitical winds could sweep me into uncharted waters.
Prospective travelers should consider local and national public health guidelines regarding the pandemic before planning any travel. Information on travel health advisories can be found on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s interactive map showing travel recommendations by destination and on the CDC’s travel health advisories webpage.