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In my recent post, I’ve mentioned that as of now, I have no plans to cancel our trip to Japan at the end of May. However, I would be lying if I said that the events of the last few weeks aren’t making me nervous.
The number of confirmed virus cases in Japan (not counting Diamond Princess mess) has been increasing steadily, with no apparent links to China. CDC has just raised travel alert for Japan from 1 to 2.
Some medical experts believe that Japan is on the cusp of a full blown epidemic. Whether that will come to fruition remains to be seen. I hope not, for the sake of Japanese people.
It is something I will have to watch closely because the situation is constantly evolving. In addition, my in-laws told me they will likely cancel if the outbreak is not 100% contained by April. It makes perfect sense and I support that decision completely.
My mother-in-law is 75 (always catches every virus that is going around) and my sister-in-law has asthma. They fall into demographic that is most vulnerable to this disease. After losing my father-in-law last month, the last thing we want to do is take risks with MIL’s health. We also plan to keep our distance from them for two weeks after coming back, just in case. They aren’t canceling yet, but it’s looking likely.
I was happy to see that current statistics indicate that children don’t seem to be as susceptible to Coronavirus as adults. That could change, obviously, but given what I know at the moment, I would still feel comfortable going to Japan as long as the outbreak is mostly contained.
We probably won’t cancel unless CDC issues Level 3 advisory for Japan, or if number of infected cases keeps increasing exponentially. At that point the airlines will start canceling flights to Japan anyway, and the decision will be made for us. We will also have to consider the odds of a potential quarantine upon arrival in US and decide if it’s something we want to mess with.
While my job (aside from occasionally writing on this blog) is seasonal, my husband’s is not. Im hoping that in a few months I should have a clear answer, but for now we still plan on going. I want to be clear that this is NOT an advice for others, but the decision me and my husband made for our own family.
That said, I feel that it’s only prudent to come up with a contingency plan in case the situation deteriorates further.
A medley of redemptions
The biggest issue is that I didn’t book roundtrip tickets for our trip, but rather used various mileage currencies. See related post We are supposed to fly to Hawaii, stay there for four nights, and then continue on to Japan. Here is a screenshot of the map to give you an idea on what I’m talking about:
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Assuming Hawaii isn’t going through the widespread epidemic (entirely possible), we could simply stay there and cancel the Japan portion.
As long as I close the “loop” and be there for my Delta flight from LAX to Orlando, we wouldn’t lose a whole lot in penalties. I also purchased a separate travel insurance policy that has “cancel for any reason” add-on. I would get 75% of my re-deposit fees back, even if airlines don’t offer waivers at the time. Btw, I’ve reached out to the company and they confirmed that Coronavirus-related medical expenses in Japan would be covered. I encourage you to do the same.
Of course, since it’s a backup plan I hope to never implement, I don’t want to book anything that has steep cancellation fees. Fortunately, I had some Southwest Rapid Rewards that would be perfect for this kind of situation.
Avios program is great as well because you only lose what you have paid in taxes, which is $5 for domestic routes. In my case, I didn’t have enough Avios for all four tickets from Hawaii to LAX, and didn’t want to transfer MR points speculatively.
At the moment, Southwest doesn’t fly from Hawaii to LAX non-stop. The airline does, however, fly to Oakland. So I got an idea. We would fly to Oakland and spend two nights in San Francisco. I want to take my kids there anyway.
At first, I figured we would fly from Oahu to Kauai, followed by a stay on Big Island. But then I’ve decided to drop the Big Island and extend our stay in San Francisco instead. Perhaps we will do a day trip to Yosemite National Park, a place I have wanted to visit for a long time.
Our return flight from LAX to Orlando doesn’t leave until 2 PM, so we could simply book a flight from SFO to LAX in the morning. Yes, there is a chance of missing the connection, but we will deal with it when the time comes. I used Chase Sapphire Reserve to pay airline taxes, which should protect us in case of a delay.
Of course, if I decide against Japan, I will try to reach out to Delta and see if we can cancel that flight without penalties and book one from SFO to MCO instead. But it’s a bit early for that.
Fortunately for me, the price of Southwest flight from Kauai to Oakland was only 9,000 points per person. The route from SFO to LAX was 5,000 points. I also booked a flight from Oahu to Kauai for 3,200 Rapid Rewards per person. So, I used a total of 69,000 Southwest points for everything. If I have to cancel, I will get all of my points back. I may or may not lose $60 in taxes.
I did get an option of credit card refund (rather then travel funds) when I decided to cancel the flight from Kona to Oakland, but not sure how it will play out in the future.
Either way, losing $60 isn’t a big deal considering how much time and energy I’ve put into planning this whole trip. And I will definitely feel better knowing my flights are taken care of in case I need to change plans at the last minute. I just hope I can remember to cancel everything!
Ironically enough, this trip originally started out as a Hawaii vacation.
Car rentals and hotels
I went ahead and reserved a car rental in Kauai via Discounthawaicarrental No credit card was required, and there is no penalty in case I need to cancel. As far as lodging goes, I wanted to use my Wyndham points at Kauai Coast Resort at the Beachboy that I’ve mentioned in my recent post
Unfortunately for me, the website returned an error. I thought about calling but based on my previous experiences, Wyndham agents are usually clueless and can’t find a solution when the website is being “temperamental” ( the term one of them used).
I’m not sure yet where we would stay in Kauai, but I’m really tempted to book a few nights at Grand Hyatt Kauai Resort and Spa. The cost is 25k Hyatt points per night, though we may end up coming during peak season, which will increase the rate. Giant resorts aren’t usually my thing, but it seems like a great place for families. I’m not crazy about sharing one room with our kids, but we will survive for a few days.
The pools do look amazing and I would be able to attach club access certificate, which would save us a ton of money on food. The resort also has complimentary laundry facilities, a big plus in my book.
Unfortunately, I can’t book this hotel speculatively since doing so would require canceling our reservation in Tokyo. So, I will have to take my chances and hope that Hyatt in Kauai is still available if/when my visit to Japan falls through.
And if not, maybe I can use Hilton points on Garden Inn Kauai The cost is 50k points per night, and my husband’s Diamond status may give us a suite upgrade. It doesn’t look as fancy as Grand Hyatt, but it has a pool, a hot tub and beautiful ocean views. What more do we need?
We might even use AirBnB and stay in Princeville, the northern part of the island, for few nights. When you join AirBnB via my referral link, you will get $40 towards a rental, and I will get $20.
For San Francisco, I was able to use a Go Fast rate for four nights in The Donatello. Originally, I tried to book another Wyndham vacation rental, but the website once again wouldn’t let me. The cost for studio suite at The Donatello was $160+3,000 Wyndham points per night. I’m not sure whether I will keep it, but canceling the reservation is free as long as I do it three days in advance.
Either way, I feel confident that I will be able to scrape something together a few weeks before the trip. My biggest concern is the flights, and they have been taken care of.
I really hope things in Japan will stabilize by the end of May, but I’m not counting on it. Life is unpredictable and we have to roll with the punches. Japan will still be there in the future and in the meantime, we will hopefully have an epic vacation in beautiful Hawaii+Yosemite. How can I complain? Having Southwest points on hand proved to be invaluable in giving me peace of mind in this very uncertain situation.
P.S. For the latest Coronavirus developments specific to Japan, you may want to follow this Japan Travel Reddit thread
Opinions expressed here are author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, hotel, airline, or other entity. This content has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of the entities included within the post.
Leana is the founder of Miles For Family. She enjoys beach vacations and visiting her family in Europe. Originally from Belarus, Leana resides in central Florida with her husband and two children.