Would I be insane to travel to Paris next month?
March 12, 2020 7:22 AM   Subscribe

I saw a headline about how, with flights incredibly cheap because of COVID, Millenials are taking the opportunity to travel. My first thought: oof, bad idea. My second thought: wait, how cheap are we talking?

Shopping at the Paris flea market has been a longtime bucket list item for me. Flights to Paris in late April are currently under $300. I own a vintage shop, so this would be a work trip in a sense.

Would I be totally nuts to buy a ticket? I have been dreaming of hunting for vintage clothing and jewelry in Paris for literal years. I am unlikely to be able to afford full-price tickets any time soon, I'm 34 and healthy, and there's a chance the worst of COVID will be past in a month and a half. Do I take the chance?
posted by nonasuch to Travel & Transportation around Paris, France (50 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
 
How long can you afford to stay in Paris? You may not be able to return for some time.
posted by meaty shoe puppet at 7:27 AM on March 12, 2020 [16 favorites]


Will those still shops be open? Italy just closed all their stores, and the rest of EU is trailing the Italy's infection rate by a week or two.

You may end up spending your trip hanging out in your hotel room & local parks.
posted by jpeacock at 7:34 AM on March 12, 2020 [11 favorites]


I'm buying some domestic tickets for June, but, I'm definitely getting travel insurance in case I feel like I need to cancel.
posted by trbrts at 7:34 AM on March 12, 2020


I think based on your risk factors, I would consider it an acceptable risk. I would do the same and in fact I have. We have tickets to Asia in June which were bought last year, and I see no reason whatsoever to change our flights (we are 30-year-olds with lots of vacation time and two young children).
posted by moiraine at 7:38 AM on March 12, 2020 [1 favorite]


A thought to consider is that you may weather any exposure fine, but may wind up carrying the thing to others who won't.
posted by jquinby at 7:45 AM on March 12, 2020 [60 favorites]


Just a reminder that even if a virus isn't lethal to you, you can still transmit it to vulnerable people, so that should be part of the calculus.

Personally, I would not take the risk of getting stuck in quarantine, especially if you have a small business that depends on you being there.

Is late April the furthest out reservation you can make? For that price, it might be worth buying it and paying for a change fee for a more opportune time (assuming the airlines aren't restricting this kind of thing, which they might be)
posted by Think_Long at 7:45 AM on March 12, 2020 [16 favorites]


Okay, you go, you pick up the virus, you spread it on the plane, you spread it to the grocery workers when you get back and need food, 10% of those people end up in the ICU or dead if they don't meet triage standards because the US health care system is going to be in complete collapse like Italy and Iran in a few weeks.

How do you feel about that? Go home and stay home, don't be a vector.
posted by Frowner at 7:47 AM on March 12, 2020 [88 favorites]


Nona don't do this thing.
posted by Mizu at 7:50 AM on March 12, 2020 [14 favorites]


> How long can you afford to stay in Paris? You may not be able to return for some time.

This "travel ban" does not apply to US citizens at all.

nonasuch, I am sorely tempted as well. I think April is a bit soon, and would probably aim for later in the summer (but not so much August, when many businesses are closed anyway!) Definitely look into various options for travel insurance.

Also, I know that if I do this, I'm just not going to mention my plans to friends and family right now to avoid listening to them panic on my behalf.

Obviously you will need to plan to self-quarantine when you get home.
posted by desuetude at 7:52 AM on March 12, 2020 [1 favorite]


You should consider that by then you may be too sick to go or that Europe may ban flights from US. The world we know now may not exist then. But I might consider it if I was sure I could self isolate when I returned.
posted by night_train at 7:54 AM on March 12, 2020 [2 favorites]


there's a chance the worst of COVID will be past in a month and a half

There's also a chance that in six weeks France could be where Italy is today. The experts I've been listening to have consistently been saying that this will last 3-6 months at least, and possibly longer.

Trump's European-travel-ban-but-not-for-US-citizens went from nothing to reality in the span of hours. I think any confidence in the travel situation more than 72 hours in the future is unrealistic.
posted by daveliepmann at 7:56 AM on March 12, 2020 [9 favorites]


From experience living through and travelling after 9/11, which wasn't a pandemic, this hit to the travel industry is likely to last a while. Although you might not see $300 again, I am willing to bet that there will be good fares for a while.

Personally I would not want to take the responsibility of potentially being a vector -- frankly FROM the US to France, if you are indeed in the US -- but I would put that $300 in the bank, add $20 to it a week if I could swing it by staying home during this period, and keep an eye on rates and the news and buy that dream trip in the sweet spot between "good public health news/vaccine is deploying" and flight prices zooming up.
posted by warriorqueen at 7:56 AM on March 12, 2020 [24 favorites]


I lived in Guangdong China during the SARS epidemic, and traveled quite a bit during those months because flights were cheap, and my employer told us not to show up for work (with the hope/expectation that we would stay home). I enjoyed my trips, but kind of regret them now, I feel like I was abusing my privileged position (having more money, time, and freedom than the average person in the affected area). I didn't feel like I was at risk, since I was young and healthy, but my own risk wasn't the whole picture. If people in general cut back on non-essential travel, the spread of the virus will slow down and there is less of a threat of it overwhelming medical resources. Just slowing down the spread seems to be a pretty important thing that we can all participate in.

I don't see anything wrong in buying tickets now for some future date and then reevaluating when things get closer, but if things are not significantly better, I wouldn't do it (and I am in a position where I could, and have been briefly tempted).
posted by skewed at 7:57 AM on March 12, 2020 [16 favorites]


I have taken advantage of cheap flights and accommodation after a terrorist attack (Egypt, if it matters) made the place undesirable to many. I was young and healthy, and thought I'd be alright. This airborne virus fear is not that fear. Bombings aren't contagious.

You will be endangering others if you do this.

Please do not do this.
posted by pompomtom at 8:04 AM on March 12, 2020 [16 favorites]


Last post for me, and I'm not trying to add a moral dimension to a complicated topic, but I am a firm believer in doing the best we can for our community and I think limiting optional travel is one of the easy things we can do in that spirit.

Secondly, if you've ever lectured someone on the importance of vaccinations, then ignoring the herd immunity / vulnerability theory in this specific case is a bit hypocritical in my opinion.
posted by Think_Long at 8:07 AM on March 12, 2020 [36 favorites]


(Have already cancelled a huge trip to Europe that was meant to be the highlight of the year - long service leave and everything.)
posted by pompomtom at 8:11 AM on March 12, 2020 [1 favorite]


Please. This person with asthma who has a spouse with lung function problems (both of us already pursuing extreme social distancing, but there are no guarantees) asks you politely not to spread the disease. You may not die (though there are no guarantees even for younger people, who have also died) but others will. This is just a chance for the world community to pull together.
posted by Peach at 8:14 AM on March 12, 2020 [25 favorites]


I'd going to suggest looking at this a different way (ignoring the human factors everyone else has mentioned.) You can book the ticket now for a good price. Is this money that you can afford to gamble with such that if you couldn't travel in a month and a half and lost this money, your life is not really affected other than some serious disappointment?

If this is money you're willing to gamble with, go buy the ticket now, reassess in 6 weeks whether or not you're going to be able to travel (see all the reasons above mentioned by other commentators). If travel is no longer possible in 6 weeks, you may or may not be able to get your money back, but assume not -- I cant imagine anyone booking a ticket today would be eligible for a refund knowing the risks we know today vs months ago. Is losing that money an ok situation for you?
posted by cgg at 8:22 AM on March 12, 2020 [1 favorite]


Traveling to Europe next month would be insane. Those flea markets you want to shop at might not even be open!

However, purchasing airfare for a flight during the mid-late summer, when the virus is much more likely to have gone away (I'd think along the lines of flu season, but extended somewhat due to the unknown), and life will hopefully have returned fairly to normal -- that, I would consider. A lot of airlines are waiving change fees for flights purchased now through a certain timeframe, so if the impacts end up lingering to the point it's still not a good idea to travel months from now, you'd be able to get a credit for the airfare and travel elsewhere.
posted by DoubleLune at 8:24 AM on March 12, 2020 [4 favorites]


Sorry to harp but the answer to "Would I be insane to travel to Paris next month?" is "Maybe not, but you'd definitely be selfish, and may cause the deaths of others."
posted by pompomtom at 8:26 AM on March 12, 2020 [15 favorites]


The Paris you've dreamed of visiting will not be that Paris next month. Save money and wait for this to be over.
posted by missmobtown at 8:31 AM on March 12, 2020 [33 favorites]


Yeah, I flew across country in late September 2001 and it was absolutely glorious, but THIS IS NOT THAT. I sure wouldn't be going to no big city right around now. If I had the means to safely go anywhere, it would be to a forlorn mountaintop. Or the bottom of the sea. Or the moon. Stay home and read Death in Venice. The flea markets will still be there after this monster blows through.
posted by Don Pepino at 8:38 AM on March 12, 2020 [2 favorites]


I should probably also note: because I work in a retail setting, the odds are fairly good that I will have already caught and recovered from coronavirus by the end of April. If I was remotely likely to be contagious at time of departure, I would stay home and eat the cost of the tickets.

Right now I am leaning towards ‘wait and see, maybe book tickets for late May if prices keep dropping.’
posted by nonasuch at 8:41 AM on March 12, 2020


To bolster what other people are saying about the risk of spreading it to others, an article I've just seen in the Guardian: Most infections spread by people yet to show symptoms, scientists have found.

Me, I wouldn't do it: whether any harm actually came of it or not, I think the anxiety it would provoke would get in the way of enjoying the experience. I'm putting my own travel plans (I want to make the most of my final year of free movement in the EU) on hold till things settle down.
posted by ManyLeggedCreature at 8:41 AM on March 12, 2020 [7 favorites]


The latest data about Coronavirus in Paris indicates that it is spreading very rapidly. They've already closed the Louvre, and are likely to close other places - the flea markets are almost certainly places that they'd close in a wider lockdown.

Look at it this way - say you do spend that money under the assumption that you finally have a chance to go to the flea markets, but then when you get there the flea markets are all closed. You've now just wasted that money, yeah?

Save up and wait. Literally the most I would do is see if there are any restrictions on the ticket when it comes to when you can use it and push that as far in the future as possible (i.e., the requirements say that the latest you can book the ticket for is sometime in August, so then you'd buy a ticket for August). If it has to be a ticket for right now, I wouldn't do it.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:45 AM on March 12, 2020 [5 favorites]


An anecdote: we have a friend who is a US citizen and lives in Paris. She had plans to come back to the US for a brief visit this weekend (which had been scheduled for quite some time). At the airport, she was told that should she fly to the US, she would be put into quarantine upon arrival and that she may have trouble returning to France.

Please take this into consideration. You may be able to get to France, but getting back to the US, even if you are a citizen, might require additional time and money that you may not have budgeted for.

Also, I co-sign with everyone else: it's in everyone's best interest to limit our travel right now and even if you go to Paris, you won't be able to do much if everyone else is social distancing as well.
posted by chara at 8:48 AM on March 12, 2020


Telling people to stay home, practice social distancing, and canceling events is about protecting people from getting ill. It's also about slowing the spread of disease, which protects other at-risk people, as well as avoiding overwhelming the health care system, which is showing plenty of vulnerability. Because testing has been so limited, people in the US really don't know the actual scale of the outbreak.

the odds are fairly good that I will have already caught and recovered from coronavirus by the end of April. This is not a thing you can know. You also can't predict what France will be like, if anything will be open, and if people will be hostile to travelers. Shit is getting real, fast.

Buying a ticket for May and getting Cancel for Any Reason insurance makes somesense, on the unlikely chance things clear up fast.
posted by theora55 at 8:48 AM on March 12, 2020 [3 favorites]


I'm definitely getting travel insurance in case I feel like I need to cancel.

If you're depending on travel insurance for cancellation, pay close attention to the exclusions on the policy.
posted by zamboni at 8:49 AM on March 12, 2020 [11 favorites]


As of last night, the whole Schengen zone is under a CDC Level 3 advisory, avoid non-essential travel, if you must travel, you must self-isolate for 14 days on returning home. There is no indication of when this will be lifted, and it's likely to get worse before it gets better. As others have said, there is a high probability that you would be stranded in France with limited ability to repatriate.

Do not expect this to improve by spring or summer, the way flu does. SARS, the coronavirus closest to COVID-19 (aka SARS-CoV-2), worsened dramatically in the spring.
posted by basalganglia at 8:51 AM on March 12, 2020 [1 favorite]


I returned with just a thought - you said you work in retail and that money is tight. Please keep in mind that Italy closed all its stores today. You may want to hold onto the cash.
posted by warriorqueen at 8:52 AM on March 12, 2020 [9 favorites]


Choose your airline carefully; one with recently-loosened rebooking policies.

Then, book, and postpone the trip to fly later in the year (maybe Fall?). This way you lock in the insanely low-cost tickets, but do not have to deal with all of the various risks involved in travel right now.
posted by aramaic at 8:52 AM on March 12, 2020 [2 favorites]


the odds are fairly good that I will have already caught and recovered from coronavirus by the end of April.

It's not entirely clear yet that if you get it that you are protected against getting it a second time. There have been at least rumours of people testing positive again after being regarded as recovered.

Please don't do this.
posted by scorbet at 8:56 AM on March 12, 2020 [8 favorites]


Choose your airline carefully; one with recently-loosened rebooking policies.

Then, book, and postpone the trip to fly later in the year (maybe Fall?). This way you lock in the insanely low-cost tickets, but do not have to deal with all of the various risks involved in travel right now.


Sorry, I don't mean to derail this, but this isn't how the waivers are working right now, at least the general waivers on the US airlines. US airlines are waiving change/rebooking fees but not fare differences.

In other words, normally if you pay $375 for a ticket and need to change it to a new one that costs $500 and there is a $200 change fee, you need to additionally pay $325 ($200 change fee+$125 fare difference).

What's happening now is that that change fee is being waived, but not the fare difference -- so if you buy a $375 ticket and then later want to change to a ticket that costs $500, you don't have to pay the $200 change fee but still need to pay the $125 in fare differences.

(Of course, if the new ticket at the time of rebooking is the same price as the old ticket, then there's no fare difference. But you can't "lock in" the value of the ticket, e.g. you can't buy a $300 Paris round-trip for April and then change to pay that same $300 for a December flight if December Paris flights cost $900 -- you'll be out an additional $600.)

United's language: For tickets issued March 3 through March 31, 2020, customers will be permitted to change free of charge to a flight of equal or lesser value up to 12 months from the original ticket issue date. If the new flight is priced higher, the customer may change for no fee but must pay the fare difference. If the new flight is priced lower, the customer may change for free but no residual value will be given.

Delta's language: The change fee will be waived, however fare difference will apply for new travel dates and will be collected at the time of booking the new ticket.

American's language: If you purchased a ticket on American Airlines between March 1, 2020 at 4:30 p.m. CT and March 31, 2020 at 11:59 p.m. CT, you may change your flight once without paying a change fee....Any difference in fare will apply.

(All emphasis mine)
posted by andrewesque at 9:06 AM on March 12, 2020 [5 favorites]


I think the risk of getting stuck there or having many activities there shut down is unacceptably high.

As for the moral issue, there's a bit of a kneejerk reaction here. The question is whether traveling will meaningfully increase your chances of contracting the virus (or of your meaningfully increasing the risk of people at your location contracting it), and that depends on your ordinary level of exposure and the prevalence at your destination. Obviously going to Wuhan would do so for almost everyone. But I went to Boston last weekend and didn't feel bad about it. I live in NYC and I take the subway to work every day in a building with thousands of people working in it. Going to another big city where the virus is already present isn't going to change the risks for anyone in a meaningful way. Now, if my employer should decide to have us work from home, I will gladly do so, and then I'll probably not go out much at all. That would change my calculus. But your moral responsibility hinges on the predictable consequences of your behavior. As long as I'm having to go to work every day, I could (as far as we know, anyway) just as easily contract the virus on the MTA and spread it locally as on the T.
posted by praemunire at 9:06 AM on March 12, 2020 [1 favorite]


consider whether you'll think you're a fool 6 months later for taking a trip to paris to walk through (in a best-case-scenario) crowded flea markets immediately after a pandemic.
posted by Geckwoistmeinauto at 9:12 AM on March 12, 2020


Is it really worth it to you to put your self interest of finding good flea market deals above the potential of infecting other people if you become a vector, whether or not your health is impacted significantly or not?

Also, we don't know what the long term impacts of COVID19 are, even for people who have recovered. Viruses are tricky like that. My cousin had a viral infection that induced OCD. it's rare but it does happen. Just something else to consider.
posted by erattacorrige at 9:16 AM on March 12, 2020 [7 favorites]


I should probably also note: because I work in a retail setting, the odds are fairly good that I will have already caught and recovered from coronavirus by the end of April. If I was remotely likely to be contagious at time of departure, I would stay home and eat the cost of the tickets.

First of all, you can't accurately measure your likelihood of being contagious. You can't know if you have very recently interacted with a contagious (possibly asymptomatic) person, and you can't know if you have a new infection yourself. So don't kid yourself regarding your ability to make this calculation.

Second of all, what of the risk that you bring the virus home from your travels, and infect your local community?

I don't mean to be unkind, but your update suggests that you are being a bit cavalier despite the cautions upthread. Taking unnecessary trips, especially international trips, is selfish. It puts you and your community at greater risk. Even if you personally are likely to make a quick recovery, the same cannot necessarily be said of your neighbors, colleagues, loved ones, and others in your community.

Please don't take this trip. It's actively bad for others in a deeply problematic way.
posted by shb at 9:23 AM on March 12, 2020 [25 favorites]


As for the moral issue, there's a bit of a kneejerk reaction here. The question is whether traveling will meaningfully increase your chances of contracting the virus (or of your meaningfully increasing the risk of people at your location contracting it), and that depends on your ordinary level of exposure and the prevalence at your destination.

Social norms matter. A lot. In the absence of perfect information about risk (which we don't have, can't have, and won't), one should consistently model respectful social behaviors. Even if one is at low risk, it's nonetheless important to be seen doing pro-social behaviors, so that folks at higher risk are empowered to make responsible choices themselves.
posted by shb at 9:30 AM on March 12, 2020 [6 favorites]


Last year I bought a sub-$200 ticket to return from Paris at the end of March, and I've been checking every day for the last few weeks to see if the airline has preemptively canceled so I don't have to call them. I believe the flight will be canceled in the next few days. Even if you do get a ticket, the airline may cancel the flight later, which means you effectively loaned the airline money with no interest.
posted by ziggly at 9:32 AM on March 12, 2020 [1 favorite]


Also. Is Paris going to welcome you with open arms? Did you happen to catch Trump last night? Americans traveling around Europe are possibly not going to be the most popular tourists there. Assuming the fleamarket is open, what if the fleamarketers hear your accent and close up shop?
posted by Don Pepino at 9:33 AM on March 12, 2020 [5 favorites]


Please read this Newsweek article by an Italian doctor. I think it is relevant to your situation.

YOUNG AND UNAFRAID OF THE CORONAVIRUS PANDEMIC? GOOD FOR YOU. NOW STOP KILLING PEOPLE | OPINION

posted by whitelotus at 9:59 AM on March 12, 2020 [16 favorites]


I’m in Vietnam right now. I have a high risk tolerance. I probably wouldn’t buy them unless they were refundable. Things are mostly ok here, with very few cases, and I feel safer than if I were in the states, but even so a lot of attractions are shutting down, transportation is getting interrupted or not offered to foreigners. It’s tolerable now but I assume Paris is or will be a lot worse. If they are refundable you could wait and see what the situation is but I’d say there’s a good chance in 6 weeks the markets might not even be open.
posted by sillysally at 10:23 AM on March 12, 2020 [1 favorite]


I wouldn't. You're essentially buying a $300 lottery ticket - who knows what the state of things will be then? I have a plane to ticket to Vegas for the end of April that I bought before all this started and it looks like I'm going to have to eat the cost.
posted by Ragged Richard at 10:27 AM on March 12, 2020 [1 favorite]


My sweetie has a subscription to the Scott's Cheap Flights emails and we've traveled to Paris and Denmark in the last few years for ~$330 each and there wasn't even a pandemic. Bide your time and you'll get to travel without the layer of stress that you'd currently have.
posted by zem at 10:58 AM on March 12, 2020 [20 favorites]


I can't with this. I deleted a bunch of stuff. The answer is obviously no.
posted by less of course at 11:36 AM on March 12, 2020 [10 favorites]


President Macron just announced that all schools were to be closed starting on Monday, and all workers who can work from home will have to. There's a non-zero chance that the Paris' flea markets will be closed for weeks on end. Stay at home, incubate the coronavirus where you are, and we'll keep our own here.
posted by snakeling at 1:25 PM on March 12, 2020


Traveling to Europe next month would be insane. Those flea markets you want to shop at might not even be open!

Here in Spain flea markets are already closing, as are museums and most public events. Don't expect for anything but groceries and pharmacies to be open in the next two or three months, as it is already the case in Italy. If we are lucky.
posted by sukeban at 1:35 PM on March 12, 2020 [1 favorite]


The only way I’d consider travelling is if you already had the virus, recovered, aren’t spreading it and can still take advantage of the fares. You’ll also have to be fine with being locked out of returning home and able to manage your business while all of this is going on. I think a large portion of us will end up catching this and getting over it and fares will still be cheap so there’ll be opportunity to travel after anyway. Don’t rush and put yourself or anyone else at risk.

On edit, I just read that’s apparently you can get the virus again! In that case, it’s a no from me.
posted by Jubey at 1:43 PM on March 12, 2020


Even if you can't get the virus a second time (I think the jury's still out on that), I presume you can still help it spread by e.g. touching poles in the Metro then picking things up to look at them at a flea market...
posted by ManyLeggedCreature at 1:51 PM on March 12, 2020 [1 favorite]


Yeah, I'm holding off. I do recognize that this was never a great plan, I was just wondering if any part of it might be feasible. If flights stay cheap into May and June, and COVID starts to die down, I'll reevaluate.
posted by nonasuch at 3:23 PM on March 12, 2020 [4 favorites]


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